Six days ago, the American climber Alex Honnold pulled off the unimaginable. Among physical tests a human could rise to in a single day, this must — in terms of the sheer brute jeopardy of it — be considered the Big Day to beat all Big Days.
The 31-year-old “free soloed” the granite face of Yosemite landmark El Capitan. In other words, all alone without a rope. “If he had fallen, he would have died,” as J.B. MacKinnon writes in his account of the climb in The New Yorker. Only great climbers attempt El Cap. It usually takes them around four days. Honnold did it in three hours, fifty-six minutes. At one point he spidered around a group of climbers who were sleeping in a hammock anchored to the rock; by the time they registered what had happened, he was gone.
What to say about this? It’s not a feat that’s really fathomable by those of us with a normal fear response. (In that department, Honnold seems to be missing a few genes.) I like to say of this One Big Day project that it’s a forum not for elite performers but for regular folk exploring the limits of their own more modest comfort zones. It’s “Tim Ferriss for the Rest of Us.” Honnold’s climb puts Tim Ferriss in the shade.
But this is just too cool not to salute here. Have a look at this footage shot by National Geographic. You can hear Honnold’s feral breathing. Haunting.
Our job now is to be not daunted but inspired. To figure out our own equivalent of a one-day free-solo of El Cap — even if it’s only, you know, making a really great spaghetti sauce — and go bag it.