We had a chance to ask Alex a few questions about the first ascent of the Fitz Traverse that he achieved with partner Tommy Caldwell in 2014.
The reason this was an especially spectacular first ascent of the Fitz Traverse is that while many had thought about it, no one had ever thought of accomplishing what this duo did: they climbed across the iconic ridge-line of and its satellite peaks in southern Patagonia and they did it under very precarious conditions.
A film will drop about this most notable event in the fall, but we wanted to ask Alex to shed a little light on how he felt about the entire experience.
The Trailer for 'A Line Across The Sky '
He’s enroute to Patagonia and will probably be back as of this writing, so we won’t take up too much of his time.
Editor: Alex, you’re famous for soloing the most challenging rock faces in the world.
As a rock climber, what made you consider alpinism for this traverse, even though parts of the rock were dry?
Alex Honnold: The traverse is considered alpinism because there’s ice and snow on it. And it’s above big glaciers, and it’s in big mountains. It’s true that I’m mostly just a rock climber.
But thankfully the biggest challenges on the traverse were rock climbing, so it suited us both pretty well. Tommy lead most of the icy and snowy parts since he’s more of a real alpinist.
Editor: You mentioned in the film that you don’t like getting cold, how cold was it?
Alex Honnold: Despite the pictures, we weren’t actually cold all that much. There were times when we could have been climbing in a t-shirt. The glaciers just add to the scenery. Some places are worth a little hardship though, and Patagonia is certainly one of them. It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Editor: We totally see you pushing yourself to the limit…did you attempt it more because you really liked the idea or because Tommy asked you to go with him? And let’s face it, no one world say no to that incredibly beautiful ridge-line!
Would we err in calling you an alpinist at heart, Alex?
Alex Honnold: Yes, it would be an error to call me an alpinist at heart. But some objectives are too beautiful to pass up, and when Tommy asks to climb something I can’t say no. It was an amazing experience, but it doesn’t make me long for bigger or snowier mountains.
Editor: The weather out there is brutal and everyone knows that going in. Yvon Chouinard mentions that getting caught in one of those storms coming in from the Pacific ocean means "You're in real trouble"). The trailer gave us a glimpse of what that looked like. The full traverse has 7 beautiful peaks: starting with Guillaumet, Mermoz, followed by the immaculate Fitz Roy itself, Poincenot, Rafael Juarez, Saint Exupery, D L’s.
How did you power up day after day till you reached the end? What kept you going?
Alex Honnold: We never really thought about it, we just kept going. I guess we just never had a reason to stop. Neither of us is really willing to give up unless we absolutely have to, and thankfully we never had to. So, we climbed the whole thing. It was an amazing climb.
Editor: The Traverse itself is 4 miles in length, with 12,000 feet of vertical gain, the key was to move really fast…how did you feel about the weather?
Alex Honnold: It wasn’t really that cold. And moving quickly and continuously certainly kept us feeling warmer. But honestly, conditions weren’t so terrible. We’d climb all day until it got dark and then we’d camp. Eat some good food, sleep in a tent. All in all it was a pretty good time :-)
Editor: As you came near the end of your first ascent of the Traverse, it must have felt thrilling to you and Tommy. The camaraderie between you both is wonderful to watch and I think your fans love it.
When a project like this comes long, you’re both able to work in solid unison on the rock.
What do you share in common with Tommy, as far as personality goes?
Alex Honnold: I don’t know if we’re really all that different. We both love climbing, and we both have a pretty low key approach to it.
I think our biggest difference on the traverse was just levels of experience. Tommy has been to Patagonia several times and knows a lot more about snow/ice climbing and glacial travel. I know basically nothing. He was basically the veteran mountain guide and I was more of the over-psyched beginner. But obviously we get along really well and had a great time.
Editor: Congratulations to you and Tommy on your first ascent of the magnificent Fitz Roy Traverse, and we hope to see many more to come! And fans tell me they can’t wait for the film to come out.
Thank you for your time, Alex. Enjoy Patagonia!
Alex Honnold: Thanks. Looking forward to more climbing this year I hope. If the weather allows. . .
Interview conducted by Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.
Editor of the Facebook page: 'An Interview With '.
Editor-in-Chief of ClimbSkiBoulderMagazine.com
Interview © Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.
Screen grab © of the designated photographer and used with Alex's written permission.
Sponsors: The North Face, La Sportiva, Black Diamond, New England Ropes
On the Cover:
Winner of the Piolet d'Or &
Named one of Men’s Journal’s
50 Most Adventurous Men.
Date of Cover: March 2nd, 2015
Screen grab of Alex Honnold from 'A Line Across The Sky.'