NorCal Man’s Death-Defying Climb up El Capitan Captured in “Free Solo” Documentary

Alex Honnold is a household name in rock climbing. Some have even referred to him as the “Michael Jordan of Rock Climbing.” And now you can see his most dangerous rock climbing achievement up-close-and-personal.



The documentary Free Solo follows Honnold as he climbs up Yosemite’s famed El Capitan. Over the past few decades, a handful of people have been able to achieve the climb, but not like Honnold did. He climbed up the 3,000-foot granite face without any ropes.

The feat was captured by a documentary crew who also put their lives on the line on the rock wall that day and their footage is now being released in theaters.

The term “free solo” or “scrambling” is used to describe a rock climb without any safety equipment. Of course, only the best of the best use this tactic as a way to challenge themselves, as it is extremely dangerous. One little hiccup or gush of wind could send you falling to your death.




It was Honnold’s climb up El Capitan that may forever serve as a monumental occasion for the dangerous sport of rock climbing. Honnold’s friend and fellow elite climber Tommy Caldwell called “the moon landing of free soloing.”

The documentary is being released to the public with limited screenings all over the country this fall (full list of screenings here) and the early reviews are nothing but positive. The New York Times review even said “Alex Honnold’s Free Solo climb should be celebrated as one of the great athletic feats of any kind, ever.”




Honnold’s roots sit firmly in Northern California. He found his climbing enthusiasm in Sacramento, where he was born and raised, before attending California Berkeley for a year. His stint at one of Northern California’s premiere colleges was cut short to become a full-time rock climber.

Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell after breaking the El Capitan speed record

The many rock faces of Yosemite National Park have become a haven for Honnold. He broke the El Capitan speed record with Caldwell twice in 2018 and spends much of his summer months living out of a van in the park, practicing his climbing routes.

His physical abilities are apparent when you watch him climb, but the experts in rock climbing say it’s his uncanny ability to focus is what makes him the best rock climber in the world. Just think about it – he completed a 3,000 foot climb in four hours with no ropes while a documentary crew followed his every movement. Now that’s focus.

The sport of rock climbing remains very dangerous in Yosemite, with approximately 2-3 deaths per year and many injuries. But in the face of danger, Honnold remains the king.

Active NorCal

Northern California's Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine

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