What is Free Soloing in Climbing (and How Dangerous is It)?

Free soloing or free solo climbing is a type of rock or ice climbing where climbers, or more commonly known as free soloists, climb alone without using safety equipment such as ropes, harnesses, helmets, and the like.
What is Free Soloing in Climbing

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Free soloing is considered one of the most extreme and dangerous forms of climbing as you would have to rely on your own skill and strength to finish a route. Unlike bouldering which has a safe height limit, free soloing typically goes beyond safe heights and can result in very serious injury or death.

What is Free Soloing vs. Free Climbing?

To easily differentiate the two, free soloing is the frightening art of rock climbing without a rope to catch you if you fall. Free climbing, on the other hand, is any style of climbing with protective gear (ropes, harness, quickdraws, bolts, chocks, cams, etc.) but without using any aid to help you go up the wall.

Using the terms “free climbing” and “free soloing” interchangeably is one of the biggest verbal errors that non-climbers and beginner climbers usually make. If you fall while free soloing, you will fall all the way to the ground whereas if you fall while free climbing, the rope which is tied to a harness around your waist will catch you in control of a belay partner.

How Dangerous is Free Solo Climbing?

Free solo climbing is extremely dangerous in the sense that a single mistake can result in almost certain fatality. If truth be told, free solo climbing is considered as the most dangerous form of climbing which has caused many experienced climbers to perish.

Due to the fact that free solo climbing does not involve the use of protective gear, climbers are always at risk of plummeting to the ground since they do not have ropes to catch them in the event that they fall. One of the riskiest activities you can do is free solo climbing. The stakes are ultimately high and there is no room at all for any mistakes.

Why Don’t Free Solo Climbers Wear Parachutes?

First of all, having a parachute on your back is way too heavy to carry all the way to the top. Free solo climbers use very light and minimal equipment because the lighter you are, the easier and safer the climb is. In addition to this, parachuting down will be a hard thing to do since it requires enough height, clearance, body position, and several more factors.

Most importantly, parachuting down defeats the whole idea of free solo climbing. This is why you should be 100% committed to achieving your goal when you go free solo climbing. You must have the physical and mental abilities to undergo such an amazing feat as this is an activity that requires dedication and commitment.

What is the Most Dangerous Free Solo Climb?

Alexander Honnold’s free solo climb of the famous El Capitan located at Yosemite Valley in California is widely regarded as the world’s most dangerous free solo climb. He is the first person to stand atop the renowned El Capitan without using ropes.

This may be considered as the biggest accomplishment of pure rock climbing in the sport’s history.

What is the Hardest Free Solo Climb in the World?

One of the hardest free solo wall climbs ever is the path Honnold chose to reach, the peak of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, known as the Freerider. He prepared for the ascent for almost two years.

He spent his time training his techniques and honing his skills while memorizing each turn and visualizing every step of the way. Most climbers usually take days to climb the popular El Capitan. However, Alexander Honnold free solo climbed his way up the vertical granite wall in less than four hours.

What is the Highest Free Solo Climb?

Alexander Honnold holds the record for the highest free solo climb ever. This was when he ascended the 3,000-foot vertical, granite wall back on June 3, 2017.

He was the first person to climb El Capitan, the world’s most famous rock face, free solo. Alex Honnold made the ascent without using any ropes or any other protective equipment.

Has Anyone Free Soloed El Cap?

Alexander Honnold is the first and the only person to ever free solo climb El Capitan. He made his way up the 3,000 foot (900 meters) vertical, granite wall back in June 2017 with nothing but a bag of chalk and his own strength.

In 3 hours and 56 minutes, Alexander Honnold reached the top of El Capitan after ascending the Freerider line alone without ropes or any other specialized equipment. This is widely recognized as one of the greatest athletic achievements of all time.

What Grade Did Alex Honnold Free Solo?

Back on June 3, 2017, Alexander Honnold climbed El Capitan free solo. Honnold’s free solo of Freerider on El Capitan located at Yosemite, California was 5.13a.

His highest grade is 5.14d (9a) when he ascended Arrested Development on Mount Charleston in Las Vegas, Nevada which was close to his home.

Does Alex Honnold Still Free Solo?

As of December 2020, Alex Honnold still free solo. He also rock engages in a variety of climbing disciplines like bouldering and rock climbing.

He posted a photo on his Instagram on November 14, 2020, and said that he was bouldering in Yosemite a lot this season.

How Many Have Free Soloed El Capitan?

Although a few others have been successful in free climbing El Capitan, Alex Honnold has only been the first person to free solo El Capitan.

Among the many who free-climbed El Capitan who have conquered the Golden Gate route were: Brad Gobright, Tommy Caldwell, Alex Honnold, and more recently, Emily Harrington. She finished the climb under a day at 21 hours 13 minutes and 51 seconds.

Who Was the Guy in the Unicorn Suit in Free Solo?

Forest Altherr was the guy in the unicorn suit in Free Solo. He was introduced to climbing at a very young age, but he only started to have his own identity as a climber when he began living in his car back in 2013.

Alexander Honnold was looking for a water bottle he had stashed on Heart Ledge when he came across a guy in a unicorn suit who was Forest Altherr of Frisco, Colorado. At this point, he was about midway Freerider during his historic free solo of El Capitan in Yosemite.

Was Brad Gobright in the Movie Free Solo?

The late Brad Gobright was not in the Free Solo movie.

However, climbers Tommy Caldwell and Peter Croft were in the movie along with Sanni McCandless and Diedre Wolownick, Alex’s wife and mother respectively.

How Do Free Solo Climbers Get Down?

Free Solo Climbers can get down in numerous ways. Listed down below are some of the most common ways that free solo climbers get back down.

  • Walk off: A majority of the mountains that free solo climbers climb are accessible by hiking routes which means that they can hike back down.
  • Downclimbing: Downclimbing is exactly what you think it is. Free solo climbers climb back down either the same way they went up or through a different route.
  • Rappelling: Threading the rope through a specialized belay/rappel device connected to your harness with a locking carabiner is the most popular method to rappel. Although rappelling is a fun way to get back down, it is also one of the most dangerous ways to descend.
  • Base jumping: Free solo climbers can also use a parachute to descend cautiously to the ground. This method may not always work especially if you do not have enough height to parachute your way down. BASE jumping is actually illegal in a lot of places because it is extremely dangerous.

Do Free Solo Climbers Climb Down?

Downclimbing is one of the methods that free solo climbers do to get back down. Learning how to downclimb can be really helpful especially in sticky situations outdoors.

While climbing down a route has its own unique difficulties, it also comes with a lot of benefits. It is a lot harder than climbing up as it requires good attention to foot placement therefore improving your technique. It also works your normal muscle groups in a slightly different way which makes you an even stronger climber.