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Honnold Talks Red Rocks

The Original Route (V 5.12b, 1,000′) climbs up the middle of Rainbow Wall, set back and center, Juniper Canyon, Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area, Nevada. Free soloist Alex Honnold climbed this route and Prince of Darkness (III 5.10c, 700′)–both without a rope–in a single day, April 28. To descend from Prince of Darkness, he down soloed another classic, Dream of Wild Turkeys (III 5.10a, 700′). [Photo] Erik Lambert

Editor’s Note: In the May 12, 2010 NewsWire Alpinist relayed initial reports that Alex Honnold had free soloed up Rainbow Wall’s Original Route (V 5.12b, 1,000′) and Prince of Darkness (III 5.10c, 700′), then down soloed Dream of Wild Turkeys (III 5.10a, 700′) in a single day. Honnold recently confirmed the feat and provided additional information, contained herein.

At the end of April, Alex Honnold dropped into Las Vegas for 36 hours. His hopes of finding a climbing partner to join him on Rainbow Country, a 5.12d direct variation to the Original Route on Rainbow Wall, never materialized. Nevertheless, he made the most of his short time at Red Rocks.

Honnold instead embarked on an unroped solo adventure that he had “thought about for a really long time.” On April 28 at the Pine Creek trailhead, he took a few more moments of thought, staring up at Rainbow Wall and psyching himself up while he ate breakfast. “It was so windy that I was undecided,” he said about the moments before departure. “I was worried I might get plucked off the wall.”

Around 10 a.m. Honnold began the hike to the wall alone, carrying climbing shoes, one liter of water and one food bar in a summit pack. He reached the base of the Original Route after 90 minutes of hiking.

“Rainbow Wall is rad–it’s an amazing climb in an amazing position,” Honnold said. “The Original Route is really airy. There are stemming corners that let you look straight down. Perfect edges, flat rails make for cool climbing, but a couple moves seemed a little sketchy. I went up and sussed those sections a few times [during the solo] before committing. It felt like I was onsighting because I hadn’t been up there in years.”

Honnold had onsighted Original Route three or four years before but had not returned since. Though he said he “wasn’t in any hurry” during the free solo, Honnold took just over an hour to climb the route’s 14 pitches. He added that the experience “was pretty chill” overall. But the long hike down amid heavy wind and intense sun was “probably the most strenuous part of the day, in terms of brute strength.”

By about 3 p.m. Honnold was back at Pine Creek trailhead. There he ate some food and hung out before driving to Black Velvet Canyon. He hiked into Prince of Darkness and began climbing “Euro style” up the thin face around 5 p.m. Climbing onsight, Honnold quickly realized that the route has all hanging belays and no ledges bigger than heel-size.

“Prince of Darkness is kind of heinous when you don’t have a rope,” he said. “It’s like doing a 700-foot pitch.”

When Prince of Darkness connected with Dream of Wild Turkeys, he down soloed that route with ease, he said. The route and subsequent downclimb took Honnold about an hour. He found the climbing “thought provoking” and the continuing wind he said “really wore me down.” He was back on the ground around 7 p.m.

Though Honnold’s main goal for the day was to free solo Rainbow Wall, his plan from the beginning included Prince of Darkness and Dream of Wild Turkeys: more than 25 pitches overall. He said that “the hardest part is getting geared up for it–getting psyched–so once you’re done with one you might as well keep going.”

Honnold’s free solo philosophy is available in the June 25, 2008 Feature.

Source: Alex Honnold