Honnold on the face of El Sendero Luminoso. Photo: Cedar Wright
Alex Honnold started off 2014 with one of his most ambitious and difficult free-solo ascents to date: a sustained 1,500-foot limestone big-wall route called El Sendero Luminoso in El Potrero Chico, Mexico.
The demanding route entails many pitches of technical 5.12 climbing. Parties often take two days to climb this impressive monolith, but Honnold’s ascent took only three hours.
Last week, fellow climber and North Face team member Cedar Wright traveled to Mexico to help Honnold clean and prepare the route, and also to pioneer the final thousand feet of terrain to the true summit.
“I climbed the route four times with Alex, and each time I was struck by how complex and tenuous the climbing is,” Wright says. “There are hundreds of hand and foot moves to remember, and at times it’s just a few millimeters of your fingers and toes that are keeping you connected to the wall. Mostly I just tried not to think about him soloing the route while I was up there because it was so terrifying.”
Honnold says the ascent went as well as he’d anticipated. “It felt pretty straight forward,” he says. “Once I started up, I was like this is awesome. I didn’t blow a single foot—like a ballerina.”
The achievement was documented by Camp 4 Collective for the North Face.
“Alex will downplay the achievement, but I can assure you this is one of the most cutting-edge big-wall solos of all time,” Wright says.