Thursday, March 31, 2016

Free soloing the nose

I have never been a big Star Trek fan. But I might have become one after seeing this clip. I heard Alex Honnold talking about El cap. He mentioned that only person had the skills of free soloing El capitan and that would be Captain Kirk.
His comment made me laugh but than again, I'll lift my hat to Mr.kirk since he had the balls to actually try this risky ascent without a rope.

So there you go: Captain kirk, the only guy to ever free solo El capitan. Although he didn't make it to the top so... it's still up for grabs Mr. Honnold.

Vincent Kneeshaw

Alex Honnold Podcast

A few months ago we had a post where we shared a Paige Claasen podcast. The podcast was one of NausicaaCast's which you can listen to by clicking the link.

Here is another 50 minute podcast but this time in a completely different style. Alex Honnold meets with MtnMeister's host Ben Schenck.

Alex is the most known figure in rock-climbing today.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Ask Caldwell

Tommy challenged Mountain Project forum users to ask him "thought-provoking" questions, then he chose several to answer. His replies are pure gold.  

Here are the top 3 Posts :

 1) Matt Linesby

Your climbing accomplishments to this point are truly inspiring and have an unusually broad spectrum for any one individual: gymnastic difficulty/strength (eg Flex Luthor), Risk management/alpine suffering (eg Fitz traverse), and long term commitment/endurance (eg Dawn Wall). Do you consider yourself an outlier in terms of ability, motivation, and/or attitude? What is your greatest attribute that has allowed you to reach this level?

I like this question because it speaks to the heart of mastery, anyone looking to better themselves ponders these very questions. I believe that the successes I have had do not come primarily from natural ability. Of course I am genetically built to be a pretty good climber (scrawny). But there are thousands of climbers out there with far more natural talent than I will ever have. For me it is more motivation and attitude. I am a die-hard optimist; this means I learn to love what I know. I spend my life in the most beautiful places in the world surrounded by psyched people (my dad, Steve Hong, Chris Sharma) to name a few. That is the beauty of a life of a full time climber, a constant flow of inspiration. I have a deep curiosity to explore limits. But I think my greatest attribute comes from what my friend Jim Collins Calles the 20 mile march mentality. Every day I wake up with the same question, What can I do today to bring me a little closer to my gaol. The goal really is just a focal point and changes from time to time. I am addicted to the chase. My mental well being and general view of the world seem to be directly correspond with how vigorously I am perusing that next goal. All the climbs you mentioned were possible for me because of the cumulative time spent bettering myself as a climber.
Throughout the history of climbing there have been numerous quantum leap advancements: think sticky rubber, cams, form fitting shoes, legitimate belay techniques, dynamic ropes, fixed climbing protection, focus on free climbing, bouldering, sport climbing, climbing as an athletic sport as opposed to means to summit or to have an adventure, climbing as a career. What will it mean for your accomplishments if a substantial "advancement " allows the rest of us punters to run up the Dawn Wall before lunch?

Advances in technology constantly re-define the game allowing constant progression. There is nothing more motivating than that feeling of progression. But, it in no way takes away from the experience of the past. Do you look at Royal Robbins or Warren Harding and think to yourself, “those guys were so light duty”. I doubt it, if anything, the advances in technology serve only to create nostalgia and admiration for the people that managed to climb without that technology. Technology is the reason rock faces like El Cap has been able to constantly reinvent itself for each generation. First as a question of “is it possible to merely climb the thing using any means. To how fast, or how blank of a section of the wall, or can these routes go free. Who knows what the future will look like, but I am excited to see it go down.

Climbing has been accused at times of being a pointless and selfish endeavor, a means with no end. Occasional defenses of climbing involve abstracts such a facilitating self growth, learning about one self, inspiring the masses etc. What has climbing given/taught to you in life besides a career path and a decent living?

I once read a quote from Andrew Bisheret “Climbing is about deriving meaning from the meaningless”. Its true, on a practical level climbing is quite meaningless. But aren’t most endeavors. Like say, typing on a internet forum, or any sporting endeavor, or making money, or having kids. What is truly selfless. I am sure even Mother Teresa derived personal satisfaction from helping others. Having kids is a great example of what many call a selfless. I absolutely disagree. From a environmental standpoint, having kids must be about the worst thing you do. The media event surrounding climbing the Dawn Wall created the opportunity for me to help a bunch of charitable organizations by presenting at fundraisers, (about 25 last year) for now this seems to be the mot effective way for me to give back. Part of the reason I do this is to give back. But I also do it because it makes me feel good. So maybe I am dong it because I am selfish? As climbers, we may be more selfish than most, But I like to think that climbing fosters good things like a appreciation for our natural world (and a subsequent want to protect), comradery, love of life, love of people. To me, these are the beautiful things in life that we need more of. 

 2) Desert Rat

1) Years ago, when you cut off your finger, what were the psychological repurcussions? How long was it before you knew that it wouldn't affect your climbing at the harder levels?

Cutting off my finger had the psychological repercussion of making me realize how much I valued climbing (because I wondered if I would still be able live the life through climbing that I lived) It made me buckle down, train harder. I had to want it more so I wouldn’t loose it. Surprisingly, This became the biggest moment of growth in my climbing. It pushed me in the direction of El Cap and more adventurous forms of climbing (because I knew my fingers would never be as strong as they were for steep sport climbing and bouldering). It turns out I was much better at adventure climbing anyway. Its called Post traumatic growth, its actually pretty common.

2) Has your approach to risk changed since you became a father? When you go after projects like the Patagonia traverse, does thinking about Fitz play a role on the your level of acceptable risk, either consciously or subconsciously?

The big change that being a father had made in regards to risk is that I am much more thoughtful. I heavily consider the risks that I choose to take. It hasn’t really changed my day-to-day decisions though because I always chose to climb things I was relatively sure I would live through. I would say that I am more motivated by climbs that challenge Physical and psychological limits and less motivated by climbs that toy with the risk line. I won’t climb under hanging snow fields or in bad avalanche terrain. I rope up on glaciers; I look for big clean rock faces with little chance for rock fall. I admire hard work over boldness. But I still love a great adventure. Some of this might come from the fact that I am naturally relatively bold but weak. We tend to value the finite. The last thing I want to do as a father is to live in fear. I want to foster in my kids the ability to asses risk so that they will be prepared for a world where a certain amount of risk is inevitable. Climbing provides a great classroom for that.

3) Looking back on the time you were captured by rebel forces while on the wall in the middle east, do you find you have any PTSD left over from having to attempt to kill someone else in order to escape safely?

I will probably never fully understand the psychological effects of the events in Kyrgyzstan. What is PTSD anyway? I know that ever since that trip I have felt the need to live everyday to its fullest. I value family and friendship more now. I had a few nightmares in the months after the trip. My x-wifes Therapist blamed our divorce on a codependency issues that were a ripple effect from Kyrgyzstan. For the most part Kyrgyzstan was a coming of age moment that made the rest of life seem pretty mellow in comparison. It redefined suffering and stress and fear. I doubt I would be where I am today without that experience. 

3) John Sol.

With a career focused around a esoteric pasttime, do you ever feel that you could be doing something more important?

I vacillate between thinking what I do is super selfish and thinking that I am taking advantage of my only god given gift. When you think about it, most artistic pursuits could be put into a similar category. But what would the world look like without art or creativity? I love this question because it reminds me that we should strive to be less self-centered. (I am the first to admit that I am hugely self-centered)

This is not to belittle you or your achievements, but do you ever consider changing to a career that adds societal value?

For better or worse climbing is what I know and what I love. I don’t consider changing careers because I feel incredibly lucky to have the career that I have. With climbing get to be a explorer of sorts. I think anyone that has this opportunity in life should seize it.

What does it look like to you to have a meaningful impact as a climber?

What is meaningful impact anyway? I mean, Climbers aren’t saving the world. We are just doing the best we can with what we know. And it makes for a pretty great life. 

For more, check out the Moutanin Project : Ask Caldwell Forum