- Jun 13, 2017 at 6:08 pm #3473226
“Every single one of those climbers recognized that using a rope was the proper way to approach that route. So no, it’s not just me forcing my opinion.”
The proper way for them. No serious climber would attempt define for another climber the “proper” way to climb. Where does that end? The proper rack, climbing slippers, rope length? No, Jeffrey, in climbing every climber makes their own decisions and lives, or dies, by those decisions. It is the ultimate in personal responsibility.
“All he did was climb recklessly.”
It was far from reckless. He had been planning that climb for years, had climbed it countless times, and even rapped down the route just before his attempt to inspect the critical sections to be sure that nothing had changed and that his chalk marks near critical holds were still there. He is known for being meticulous to a fault. Risky? Sure, but not reckless. Certainly no more than the ascent of Meru by Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk. They used ropes and all the other gear, but climbing at 20,000+ feet with the weather and other objective hazards they encountered put their level of risk in the same category, a calculated risk by gifted climbers in pursuit of an objective never before accomplished. As for other climbers attempting to repeat Honnold’s feat, some of the best of them have said it is probably a one off accomplishment highly unlikely to be repeated. I, for one, take them at their word, even though in the back of my mind I have this feeling that somewhere some awesomely talented youngster, quite possibly a girl, will prove them wrong. Thinking Lynn Hill here:
And, yes, she used a rope. A future Lynn hill may not.
There are points to be considered, as Lester and Doug have pointed out, but they do no, at least IMO, diminish in any way what Honnold has accomplished or him as a person. He has shown, once again, what talent, hard work, careful planning, and the willingness to take a calculated risk can accomplish. Let him be an inspiration to people everywhere, in every field of endeavor, not to accept preconceived ideas or limits on what is possible.
I guess another way of looking at it is that using a rope is an admission of limitations. Honnold and others who free solo difficult routes put their lives on the line to challenge that idea.Jun 13, 2017 at 6:22 pm #3473236
“Let him be an inspiration to people everywhere, in every field of endeavor, not to accept preconceived ideas or limits on what is possible.”
+ 1 to this
There is a joy and an inner peace in Alex that is just something to behold. That does not come from someone that feels indestructible but rather from an awareness of death and how one chooses to live while holding that thought.Jun 14, 2017 at 5:13 am #3473283
Alex HBPL Member
@abhittLocale: southern appalachians or desert SW
+1 to Tom’s comments.Jun 14, 2017 at 10:45 am #3473316
jeffrey armbrusterBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
Here’s an excerpt from Kris Kalman’s essay in Fringes Folly. He expresses far better than me the contradictory impressions he has about this ( which is emphasized more in the full article. My excerpt exaggerates his perspective a bit.) But his motive in writing the article mirrors mine, in that it questions whether unbridled adulation is the only proper response.
“But making that decision properly requires an accurate accounting of the costs and the benefits of casting off from the ground so untethered. I guess I am increasingly convinced that the ability of young climbers to engage in that weighing of the risks and rewards is severely hampered by our community’s portrayal of the heroic nature of high risk climbing.
My gut tells me that what is broken is the way we as a community—as gym rats, boulderers, sport climbers, trad climbers, alpinists, desert rats, friends, family, vanlifers, sponsors, magazines, advertisers, photographers, writers, cinematographers—talk about the risks we take in climbing. Because if we are helping, even in the slightest, subtlest, most remote and seemingly benign way, to push young men and women to a skewed perception of the risks and rewards, then we all have some degree of blood on our hands when they die. We are all, in some way culpable (sigh, I guess I better spell it out again; no, I am not blaming Alex Honnold, in particular, for some past or future climber’s death… nor am I exonerating him. I’m including him, and myself, and you, and everyone else.)
The question any soloist must ask his or herself, at some time or another, is: “Is it worth it?”
My question is, exactly whose voice is it in their head when they hear that self-gratifying answer, “yes.”
I wonder what might happen if the entire climbing world flipped the narrative to one of “no, it isn’t.” And I’m not talking about shaming, or guilting that climber friend in your life. I’m just talking about reminding them how loved they are. I’m talking about suggesting to them that their worth on this planet is not confined and restricted to the special way in which they fondle stone. I’m talking about letting the climbers in your life know that, yes, they are wonderfully talented vertical gymnasts, and for that we love them… but they are also so much more.
Maybe that would help encourage Honnold to finally tone it down (what a novel concept – down instead of up…) a notch.
Maybe Honnold’s greatest achievement – his personal Dawn Wall – will not be free soloing El Cap, but living to the ripe old age of 80, 90, or 123. Maybe it will be his humanitarian work. Maybe it will be knowing when to quit – something so many of his predecessors didn’t seem to figure out.
Maybe by engaging in the conversation a little more deeply, by giving a bit more thought to that question – is it worth it, maybe, just maybe, we can help Honnold and some of our other brightest stars to finally rest in peace…
Without having to die, first.
<hr />Jun 14, 2017 at 11:16 am #3473318
Link .BPL Member
Thank You, Tom, Lester and Doug well written and thought out comments +3Jun 14, 2017 at 1:30 pm #3473329
Lester MooreBPL Member
@satoriLocale: Olympic Peninsula, WA
…we all have some degree of blood on our hands when they die. We are all, in some way culpable…
That’s one way of looking at things that many people would agree with. Here’s another viewpoint –
Alex is culpable for any negative consequences resulting from his own decision to participate in free-soloing. All the rest of us are culpable for the effect on our own individual “psyche” if we condone, support or buy into the climbing community’s supportive portrayal of free-soloing. This viewpoint bypasses the blame/victim/perpetrator model.
If a supportive portrayal of free soloing happens to not be in integrity, then by agreeing with it, one allows it to diminish one’s own integrity to some degree, whether one is aware of it or not. The process is described by Dr. David Hawkins as becoming entrained in an attractor field which is based on a collective societal belief or position. By agreeing to the position, one becomes entrained in its attractor field and is then subject to, or at the effect of the field. That effect can be positive, negative or neutral to some degree on one’s individual overall level of integrity.
Is a supportive portrayal of free-soloing for sport an integrous position? Free-soloing is certainly accepted (with reservations) by the climbing community and admired and glorified by society to at least some extent, but neither makes it integrous or non-integrous. If it is not integrous, then one could choose to respect Alex’s achievement and even be inspired by it, but at the same time choose not to condone the methods used to achieve it (free-soloing for sport). By what standards and by whom should integrity be assessed? Are those standards absolute (universal) or do they change based on viewpoint? Excellent and important questions to ask – ones that we all could ask about our cherished or unquestioned beliefs.Jun 14, 2017 at 3:43 pm #3473344
jeffrey armbrusterBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
Wow Lester–very deep analysis.
Kalman’s statement is provocative. Perhaps it’s meant to make us think as much as anything.
“Free-soloing is certainly accepted (with reservations) by the climbing community”
I’m curious about this. I had a conversation this morning with two climbers–entirely by accident, I’m not pretending that I run with climbers–a married couple. They indicated the opposite. They said the climbers they knew thought Honnold was reckless–their unprompted words. But, they’re married–Honnold to his immense credit has put that off, these climbers said, because of a sense of responsibility. I’m sure that all climbers admire his feat. Then they think….? I don’t know.Jun 14, 2017 at 4:21 pm #3473348
Dave BBPL Member
@dave-bLocale: Los Angeles area
This is not a zero-sum game: one can admire his feat, and still think it was reckless. The odds of death were great. I think if he continues to attempt free solo climbs such as this, the odds are good he will eventually die in a fall. I don’t know if precautions were taken to ensure no one was climbing below him, but I hope so. My biggest fear is that when he falls, he takes someone else off the wall, or lands on someone below. I also think it’s a problem if he gets himself in a situation that requires rescue — rescuers lives are at risk in every rescue they perform. Nonetheless, what he accomplished leaves me in awe.Jun 14, 2017 at 4:52 pm #3473351
Dena KelleyBPL Member
@eagleriverdeeLocale: Eagle River, Alaska
This is not a zero-sum game: one can admire his feat, and still think it was reckless. The odds of death were great. I think if he continues to attempt free solo climbs such as this, the odds are good he will eventually die in a fall.
One thing people aren’t considering is when he falls- and he will fall, if he keeps this up- someone has to clean that up. Basejumpers would occasionally fall to their deaths in Yosemite (as one can read in the book “Death in Yosemite”) and the descriptions of the mess they make on impact is not something one forgets. That’s going to weigh on another person’s psyche. There are strangers that will be affected. And as Dave points out, there’s always the possibility he’ll actually take someone else off the wall or lands on someone. I’m not clamoring for more rules and regulations, I just wish Honnold would have greater respect for his life, his limitations, other peoples’ safety, and the people who will be impacted by his unnecessary death. That doesn’t mean I don’t have incredible respect for what he accomplished- but it doesn’t mean I think he should be doing it either.Jun 14, 2017 at 4:55 pm #3473352
Art …BPL Member
way too much analysis and arm chair quarterbacking in this thread. just let the guy do his thing. is he harming others? physically or emotionally? married? kids? where do you draw the line for perceived responsibility to others? just let him climb. it does not matter what others think.
as someone who has done multiple ascents of El Cap, with a rope, I can say it scares me to watch him climb. but its his business, and I can choose not to watch.Jun 14, 2017 at 5:17 pm #3473360
^^^ with Art.
This thread would have you think we have a good chance of “making it out alive”. We all die.Jun 15, 2017 at 9:31 am #3473444
Cole BBPL Member
@cole-bLocale: The Edge of the Linville Gorge
I’m late to the party, but since the opinions are flying on this thread, I’ll add mine
Jun 15, 2017 at 1:04 pm #3473492
- It’s (still) a free country.
- He was supremely qualified and well prepared.
- He accomplished an amazing feat, which I admire.
- If he had a wife and kids, I would think he was a selfish SOB, but he doesn’t.
- Judging the “fullness” of another person’s life is not possible. All that matters is whether your life is full enough to satisfy you.
- If someone else tries to do the same thing and dies, that’s their fault, not his.
- I don’t think he’ll die of old age.
Dena KelleyBPL Member
@eagleriverdeeLocale: Eagle River, Alaska
way too much analysis and arm chair quarterbacking in this thread. just let the guy do his thing. is he harming others?
Meh. It’s a forum- this is what forums are for. It’s be pretty boring if we were all a bunch of bobbleheads or like those muppets on Sesame Street saying “yep, yep, yep, yep.” It’s not like Alex is here and we’re taking him to task.Sep 29, 2018 at 9:03 pm #3557807Sep 30, 2018 at 12:01 pm #3557852
I had to change my pants just watching the trailer!Sep 30, 2018 at 4:13 pm #3557866
Ralph BurgessBPL Member
Coming to a theater near you this…. erm, autumn.
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