The Risk, Fear, and Preparation Behind Free Solo

Professional rock climber Alex Honnold is best known for his free solo of El Capitan in Yosemite — a feat that required climbing 3000 feet of sheer rock face without a rope or safety gear. In the two years since reaching that summit, he’s focused on a new challenge — spreading solar power to less developed communities. In this interview, he explains what free soloing taught him about persistence, preparation, and managing risk… and how entrepreneurs can apply those lessons to their own ventures.

Highlights
Alex explains why he won’t go ice climbing [0:57]
The preparation that wasn’t in the film “Free Solo”[2:24]
Preparing mentally for something that’s never been done before [3:22]
A failed attempt returned Alex to the route that started it all [4:48]
“If you’re going to do something, you might as well be the best at it.” [5:01]
When Alex goes to a climbing gym [8:09]
Why climbing is more democratic than football [9:07]
Dirtbag climber to world famous athlete [9:25]
The line between risk and reward in rock climbing and entrepreneurship [10:22]
The parallels of climbing and company building [13:01]
Taking the rope off to envision a new path to the top [15:04]
2 hours to the top — speed climbing on El Cap [16:20]
When it’s okay to fall… and when it isn’t [17:59]
The impact of filming on the experience of the climb [19:48]
How climbing gyms have changed the sport [22:55]
Anti-gravity v. gravity assisted sports [26:05]
The Honnold foundation mission of “solar for a more equitable world” [26:05]
“It’s easy to give away what you don’t need when you’re living exactly the way you want” d [29:40]
How the Honnold Foundation chooses projects [30:08]
What living as simply as possible means to Alex [32:28]

Pull quotes
“Actually believing that I could do something like that, that hasn’t been done before, that I haven’t done before, just having the, sort of, self-confidence. That’s a little bit more open-ended, harder to know exactly how to prepare for that.”

“If you’re gonna do something, you may as well do it well. And so I’ve devoted basically my entire life to rock climbing, and if I’m gonna put all my time into it I’m gonna do it as well as I can.”

“And I think that when you’re living exactly the way that you wanna be living it’s easy to give away what you don’t need, because you’re already on exactly the path that you want.”