Rock Climber Alex Honnold Tells Girlfriend He Has No 'Obligation' to Be Safe for Her

In an exclusive scene from documentary Free Solo, Alex Honnold tells his wife he'll still go against her wishes and climb the 3,000 ft. El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without a rope

Earlier this year, professional adventure climber Alex Honnold scaled the 3,000 ft. El Capitan rock formation in Yosemite National Park — without a rope.

The death-defying climb — and the lead-up to it — is featured in the upcoming National Geographic documentary, Free Solo.

In a clip from the documentary, out Friday, Honnold, 33, has a candid conversation with girlfriend Sanni McCandless about the dangers of free solo climbing — and the risks he’s willing to take despite her presence in his life.

“Would putting me into the equation ever actually change anything?” asks Honnold. “Would you actually make decisions differently?”

Answers Honnold, “If I had some kind of obligation to maximize my lifespan, then yeah, obviously I’d have to give up soloing.”

“Is me asking you — do you see that as an obligation?” retorts McCandless.

“No, no. I appreciate your concerns,” states Honnold in response. “I respect that, but I in no way feel obligated, no.”

Honnold and his girlfriend

Asks McCandless, “To maximize lifetime?”

“No, no. But you saying, ‘Be safer.’ I’m kind of like, ‘Well, I’m already doing my best,’ ” says Honnold. “So I could just not do certain things, but then you have weird simmering resentment because the things you love most in life have now been squashed. Do you know what I mean?”

Free Solo 1
Free Solo

Free Solo — from E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, and released by National Geographic Documentary Film— follows closely as Honnold attempts to achieve what he calls his life-long dream: climbing El Capitan. Honnold became the only person to ever achieve the climb without ropes or safety gear in June, scaling the peak in 3 hours and 56 minutes after a year of training. The successful climb was done on only his second attempt.

“Celebrated as one of the greatest athletic feats of any kind, Honnold’s climb set the ultimate standard: perfection or death,” the press site for Free Solo says.

In a press statement, Honnold addressed the idea that his climbs toe “the edge between life and death.”


“I’ve never been religious or spiritual in any way. I’m not a big subscriber to fate. I see life as probabilities and chance and reality. Fate doesn’t play into my thinking at all. But I definitely do think about mortality and my time being short,” he said. “I’m very aware that I have a limited time here and I should make the most of it and do what I can. I think that the desire to do my best in climbing does stem in part from knowing that I’ll only be here for a certain amount of time.”

Free Solo hits theaters nationwide on Friday.

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