Last week, Alex Honnold blew the minds of climbers across the globe by free-soloing the 1,750-foot limestone face-climb El Sendero Luminoso (5.12d) in El Potrero Chico, Mexico. Honnold's solo shocked the climbing world not only because of the shear size of the route, but also because of the style of climbing found on the majority of El Sendero's 15 pitches--thin, delicate face-climbing on dime-size edges with a sustained grade of 5.12.
"It was an exciting step forward for me personally," Honnold told Rock and Ice. "I think it was definitely one of the hardest big routes that I’ve done."
Rock and Ice contacted Honnold to hear more about this amazing free-solo.
R&I: Why did you decide to free-solo El Sendero Luminoso?
I’ve sort of fantasized about it since I first climbed the route, but in a very general way. Last year I started actively considering it, but the opportunity didn’t really arise. This year I came down to Mexico with that specific goal in mind, though I was still sort of waiting to see how it felt.
R&I: Had you climbed the route before this trip?
Yes, years ago I onsighted it with my friend Chris Weidner. Then last year I climbed pieces of it with two different friends. This year I came back with Cedar Wright and put in a bunch of days of cleaning and preparation.
R&I: Describe the experience when you finally decided to go for it.
I was totally solo, but since we’d been working on the route there were lines hanging off to the side on parts of the route. I would have preferred to have the wall totally clean, but it just made sense to leave the lines up because we went back up the next days to film.
But the actual experience was maybe one of my best solos. I felt really solid and cruised the climbing.
R&I: What was the crux for you?
Pitch 2 was definitely the hardest for me. I thought it felt like 12c-ish. The 11th pitch is also kind of tough, but it was more straightforward climbing so it wasn’t as intimidating to solo. The 2nd pitch is all side pulls and directional feet. It’s really technical.
R&I: How does this solo stack up to your other high-end multi-pitch free-solos?
It’s hard to compare since it’s so different. Sendero is all face-climbing instead of crack-climbing. And because it’s a giant slab you don’t really get pumped at all. But it’s super technical and quite a long route, so it’s still a big undertaking. I think it was definitely one of the hardest big routes that I’ve done, but time will tell. Someone who grew up climbing limestone might find it quite easy, who knows. But it was an exciting step forward for me personally.
R&I: What's next on the agenda?
I’m going to Patagonia with Tommy Caldwell in about two weeks. I’ve never been down there so it should be an adventure!