Alex Honnold once told me that somewhere in his van, hidden amongst the hundreds of pages of training logs and route journals, he has a list of life goals. On top of that list there are two letters, “FR,” meaning the Freerider, the most popular route up the 3,000-foot granite monolith of El Capitan. The route is far below Alex’s limit, but his goal was to free solo it—to climb it without ropes—which no one had ever done.
I figured that Alex would one day do it, but didn’t know whether I should encourage him to follow through on his plan, or discourage him from taking the risk. Would I be watching my friend perform an act of generation defining mastery or a round of Russian roulette? More than anyone in our climbing community, Alex has brought the conversation of risk into the front of our minds. As one of his closest friends and an El Capitan addict myself, you would think I would have a handle on what it would mean to free solo the Freerider. But I don’t. No one does. Except Alex.