yosemite climber

Rock climber makes historic ropeless ascent of California's El Capitan
Alex Honnold, 31, is first to free-solo Yosemite Valley cliff, along 2,900ft-tall route ranked near highest difficulty
By Tom McCarthy

Rock climber Alex Honnold stands atop El Capitan after nearly four hours of climbing alone, without ropes or any other equipment or safety gear. Photography by Jimmy Chin.

Rock climber Alex Honnold training on Freerider for the first ever rope-free climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. He completed the feat on Saturday, June 3rd. The historic event was documented for an upcoming National Geographic feature film and magazine story. Photograph by Jimmy Chin, National Geographic


Alex Honnold has free-soloed El Capitan. The 31-year-old rock climber made a ropeless ascent of the legendary California cliff in just under four hours on Saturday morning, making the summit in time for breakfast.

Honnold is the first climber to achieve the feat and indeed was regarded as the only climber capable of attempting it.

After completing the climb, Honnold tweeted. “So stoked to realize a life dream today :)” he wrote, including a photo of himself ascending along a wide crack near the top of the route.

Free-soloing is the practice of climbing without a harness or rope, leaving zero margin for error. The route Honnold climbed, known as Freerider, is 2,900ft tall and near the top of the ratings system for difficulty, at 5.12d (6b UK).

At multiple points on the route, Honnold was obliged to make off-balance moves on widely spaced holds the width of raisins, with hundreds, and then thousands, of feet of air beneath him.


Capturing Climbing History on the Dawn Wall with @coreyrichproductions

For more photos from the Dawn Wall free climb, follow photographer Corey Rich (@coreyrichproductions) and climbers Tommy Caldwell (@tommycaldwell) and Kevin Jorgeson (@kjorgeson) on Instagram.

“It’s very rare in life that you get to witness people really pushing it to the limit, and to have a front seat,” says adventure photographer Corey Rich (@coreyrichproductions). For the past three weeks, he’s been hanging thousands of feet over the floor of California’s Yosemite Valley, documenting pro climbers Tommy Caldwell (@tommycaldwell) and Kevin Jorgeson (@kjorgeson) as they’ve made their way up the granite face of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall. Using ropes only for safety, the pair made history this week by charting and completing a route that is widely considered the most difficult climb ever attempted.

Tommy has been attempting the climb for the past six years, and Kevin joined him in 2009. Corey began documenting the quest up the Dawn Wall when the project first began, and over time they’ve all become close friends. “There’s something special about photographing the people you really care about and traveling and surfing and suffering and sitting on planes, trains, and automobiles together for weeks on end,” Corey explains. “It makes you close, and there’s overlap in our lifestyles and passions. That’s pretty unique.”

Even though the feat is complete, Corey stresses that the spirit of adventure extends beyond the face of the cliff. “I think if people take one thing away from this, it’s find adventure in your life,” he says. “It’s about unknown outcome, taking calculated risks and trying to make something beautiful out of that. Enjoy that experience, enjoy the ride.”

Tonight, we raise a glass for Graham Hunt and Dean Potter–for the inspiration, for all the jaw-dropping moments, for pursuing lives that were true and rich and genuine.

“I don’t want to die, but I’m ok putting it all out there for the most beautiful expression of my life.” -Dean Potter

Thank you, Alex Manelis, for sharing what has no doubt become an incredibly powerful and meaningful image of Graham Hunt on Taft Point taken just a few days ago. What a view. 


Nice pair of night sky/star trail time lapse shots from Yosemite National Park (watch for the climbers moving their way across El Capitan in the 2nd part).