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Free Solo 360

I spent the winter of 1980 winter camping and backpacking Yosemite's High Sierra from the first day of January to the end of May. Often when back in Yosemite Valley I would go out to El Cap Meadow and lay on my back in the snow covered grass and stare up and look at and watch the climbers on El Cap. Or go to Mirror Lake and watch climbers on Half Dome. I even carried and used a 1250mm Celestron mirror telescope to see the climbers from a view that would be like Mr Spock on the Star Trek;the Motion Picture as he hoved near Capt Kirk in his jet boots. A 1250mm lens makes everything 25 times closer. Plus at times I added a 2x converter and mounted it on my 35mm camera. I used to have hundreds of images of men and a few women climbing  many of the walls in Yosemite. 

I spent much of the winter, backpacking, postholing and camping in my VE24 and sleeping soundly in my EMS -30 degree bag. That bag was toasty! Hard to climb out of on a cold frosty morning at places like Tenaya Lake, on top of Glacier Point, Clouds Rest, Little Yosemite Valley,Olmstead Point, the saddle between Half Dome and Clouds Rest, and many other high country areas I could snow shoe, cross country ski or have to use full boot crampons and a ice ax to cross frozen lakes and ice covered snow in big meadows.

Okay, initially I wanted to ask, to all you climbers out there in Trailspaceland, how does what Alex has done affect you? In the 5 months I lived in Yosemite, I would spend time in the Climber Camp at Camp 4/Sunnyside and listen to them rant about other climbers. They thought I was a crazy 24 year old, wanting nothing to do but wander the high country in the depths of winter. And I thought they were crazy for wanting to climb. 

I'm an ex-climber.  I backed out of the sport because my adrenaline abuse issues were drawing me into projects that had unacceptable levels of objective risk.  Since then I have resorted to technical skills while ski trekking to get past an occasional steep section, but such activity is not central to the purpose of the outing, and is of limited nature. 

I never free climb anything with a drop higher than 15'.  I think free climbing is a form of Russian Roulette.  We all have stumbled over a crack in the sidewalk, or got honked at because we made a careless error on the freeway.  Folks used to point to Ueli Steck as proof that free soloing is not "that" dangerous if you know what you are doing.  But it is.  We all make mistakes and the mountain can create events beyond your control.  Spend enough time doing something like free climbing and odds eventually will turn on you.

I don't have much greater of an opinion of ice climbing.  I've always called it a gladiator sport - look at the weapons the participants wield!  Here, the objective risk is everything that is risky about conventional climbing, plus the vagaries of ice.  I had an acquaintance die ice climbing a few years ago.  He was highly respected in that sport.  He is the only technical climber I personally knew to die from a fall. 


I started developing relatively modest skills of technical climbing sixty years ago and have been using them ever since in varying degrees for recreation, on the job (archeology) and for SAR.  I rarely solo, much preferring the relative safety, camaraderie, and teamwork of belayed climbing.  Technical climbing skills have been handy while caving as well.

Honnold does his thing, I do mine.  What he does, as far as I can see, has no effect on what I do.  I have participated, at times, in the body recoveries of solo climbers.

September 28, 2020
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