On June 3, 2017, Alex Honnold became the first person to ever ascend El Capitan, the 3,000-foot granite wall in Yosemite National Park, without the use of ropes, a harness, or a safety net of any kind. His free-solo feat, long considered inconceivable within the rock-climbing world, sealed his status as the best rock climber who has ever lived.
Last night Honnold reached another pinnacle: Free Solo, the film chronicling his amazing achievement, won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. The accolade will no doubt catapult the 33-year-old Sacramento native to a new level of fame—and it will likely remind legions of filmgoers about Yosemite's jaw-dropping beauty.
We asked Honnold to take the California Questionnaire after his historic feat and he agreed, opening up about his love for the Golden State. The third question in the survey is, "What is your greatest California love?" Honnold did not hesitate in his response.
"The Sierra Nevada. I grew up there and spent my whole life playing in the mountains. The smell of the dry pine forest around Tahoe and the High Sierra—that feels like home to me. There are so many [climbing] opportunities with big mountains, and the rock is so good. The sheer walls in the Sierra are unlike any other mountain range in the United States. The whole Eastern Sierra just drops off with several thousand-foot walls. It’s amazing for climbing."
Although he hails from Sacramento, Honnold considers Yosemite home. "I spend more time in Yosemite than any other place—often three months or more a year," he notes. His rationale for doing so is refreshingly strarightforward: "Yosemite has the best climbing on earth."
Honnold may live a simple life but he is not immune to California's culinary offerings. He raves about the "great food and fresh produce in California," noting the state's high-quality Mexican and Asian food. Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area are his two favorite food-focused destinations, but Yosemite National Park possesses a magnetic force that always draws him back.
We asked Honnold to describe his ultimate dream day and he quickly pointed out that he is already living this dream.
"I wake up in Yosemite, pedal my bicycle down to El Capitan (which is the biggest rock wall in the world), and go climb it. Afterward, I hang out with my friends in the Valley and socialize."