Alex Honnold crushed two wicked crack routes, Bushido and Hong Kong Phooey, in the arid southeast desert of Utah, between March 9 and March 11, 2008.
First, on March 9, Honnold knocked out Bushido, onsighting the forming-arch route in a 45-minute push. (In 2004, Noah Bigwood FA’ed this 130-foot King Creek route in a four or five days push, reportedly suggesting 5.13+.) The long, strenuous arch runs the gambit of sizes — commented Bigwood, “It starts with a #5 Camalot and finishes with a .5 TCU – 80 feet of the route is traversing.” Originally, Zach Smith placed the first set of anchors (60-foot first pitch established as Shogun), but stopped when he thought the rock would get worse and decided the route was too dirty. “Noah came along, cleaned it a lot more and extended it,” Honnold stated.
Honnold approached Bushido with the plan of only going to the first anchors, but brought along enough gear for the extension “just in case.” “I just grabbed doubles for the rest, which was more than enough,” Honnold explained. “I probably had a perfect piece every 10 or 12 feet the whole way. It’s a totally safe route.”
On March 11, Honnold made the second ascent of the 320-foot Hong Kong Phooey, the climb established by Dean Potter in December 2006 (see Hot Flashes, No. 258, for more). Honnold says the two cracks are very different: “Hong Kong Phooey ranges from techie face climbing to super-enduro fingers to super-burly finger crack campusing,” he commented. “Bushido is more of a pure-endurance thing.”
And while Bushido seems to be cruxless, Phooey is hardest off the first belay — “[Phooey is] super thin and painful, and it took me the longest to figure out,” stated Honnold. However, the boulder problem below there, at the top of the first pitch, could hold the highest level of pure difficulty. Potter did not rate Phooey, but Honnold noted it’s likely somewhere between 5.13b and 5.14. He offered the following Beta: “Upside-down kneebar on the first pitch, and then just straightforward jamming forever. Also, if you don’t have .5 sized fingers [one inch], it’s not really worth trying. It’s probably impossible if your fingers aren’t fat.”
Honnold sent Phooey on his second day of effort. He led the first pitch on his first try but took six attempts to master the first four moves on the second. Said Honnold, “I didn't know how to do it. Bone crushingly painful on my pinkies. Then I realized I could sort of layback a little to get higher before jamming.” As soon as he cranked the first four moves, he took it to the top. Honnold was able to send the third pitch on his second try.
Climbing for 10-plus years, Honnold is known for such feats as becoming the second person in history (after Peter Croft, in 1987) to free solo both Astroman (V 5.11c) and the Rostrum (V 5.11c) in Yosemite, California; Honnold did so in a single day in 2007. In the same year, Honnold also led a one-day free ascent of Freerider (5.12d, 37 pitches) on El Capitan, with Brian Kimball following every pitch free.
When asked of his desert accomplishments, Honnold responded, “I wouldn’t even call them accomplishments. They’re both beautiful routes, but they’re just another day of climbing. If you don’t put any work into something, it’s not nearly as meaningful.”
Dates of Ascent: March 9 (Bushido), March 11 (Hong Kong Phooey)
Sources: Alex Honnold, Noah Bigwood, Eric Decaria