Honnold Free-Solos Half Dome's NW Face


Alex Honnold has free-soloed the Regular Northwest Face (VI 5.12a, 23 pitches) on Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Honnold took 2 hours and 50 minutes to complete the route, which has one short pitch of 5.12a and several pitches of 5.11+. 

Honnold had previously climbed the route five times, including a roped free ascent last year and another free ascent two days before his solo. He carried no rope or harness during his solo, which he completed before noon on September 6. 

Honnold, 23, made headlines earlier this year with his free-solo of Moonlight Buttress (5.12d, 9 pitches). In September 2007, he free-soloed Astroman (5.11c, 10 pitches) and the Rostrum (5.11c, 8 pitches) in a single day. Honnold said that soloing Half Dome was technically much easier than Moonlight, but overall it was a more difficult experience for him because of its length and because much of the difficulty comes at the end, with three 5.11+ pitches, including a tenuous slab, in the last six pitches. 

Alex Honnold receives a 2007 Golden Piton from Climbing editor Matt Samet at the January 2008 Outdoor Retailer show. Photo by Andy Mann.

The Regular Northwest Face, first climbed in 1957, was nearly free-climbed in 1976 by Jim Erickson and Art Higbee, who created most of the free variations and freed all but one pitch near the top. Leonard Coyne found a free variation to that final aid pitch in 1980, completing the first free ascent of the wall. 

Honnold used the Higbee Hedral free variation (5.12a) on the fifth pitch and a circuitous 5.10 variation around the Robbins Traverse on the 10th pitch. 

Date of Ascent: September 6, 2008 

Sources: Alex Honnold, Climbing.com, Alpinist.com

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