Alex Honnold climbs rock climbs some of the biggest walls in the world, his fingers clinging to tiny holds, all without the safety of a rope.
Honnold is arguably one of the greatest ropeless climbers the world has ever seen. His daring – some would say foolhardy or even suicidal – solo ascents of massive faces in Yosemite and beyond have been viewed millions of times and have elicited responses ranging from shock and fear to downright anger.
Honnold came to St. George Friday to host a meet and greet at the Desert Rat outdoor shop and later gave a presentation about his climbing at the Dixie State University Eccles Mainstage Theater.
Weston Hargis, a junior exercise science major from Chetek, Wisconsin, and an employee of the Desert Rat, said the process of getting Honnold to come and give a presentation in St. George didn’t happen overnight.
“We’ve been trying for a couple years now to have Alex Honnold come down and just kind of give a small presentation,” Hargis said. “We didn’t know he was going to give a book signing until a couple months ago.”
Hargis, who is a rock climber himself, said meeting Honnold was a great moment for him personally.
“I think meeting him was really cool,” Hargis said, adding that Honnold’s bold climbs were inspiring to watch.
Despite his admiration for Honnold, Hargis said he has no plans to solo climb himself.
“I respect that he has the ability to do it, the mental capacity to do that, because not a lot of people could go that far without breaking down,” Hargis said.
Josh Young, a sophomore general studies major from Boise, Idaho, said it was exciting to have Honnold visit St. George, even though he was not able to procure a ticket to either event.
“From everybody I have talked to, everybody’s super stoked about it,” Young said. “From my climbing class, it’s like an extra credit thing, and everybody was scrambling to get those tickets and they went out pretty fast. Everybody is pretty excited about that, just because he is such a big deal.”
Like Hargis, Young said ropeless climbing was not a style of climbing he wanted to pursue. Despite that, he said he had a lot of respect for Honnold.
“He’s just a huge inspiration, the kind of talent that he has, especially how much he dedicates to climbing.” Young said.
Honnold first came to the Desert Rat, where a crowd of admirers waited in line to meet him and get his autograph. He brought 200 copies of his book “Alone on the Wall” to sign, with all proceeds going to benefit the Honnold Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of impoverished people through ecological sustainability.
For an hour and a half, Honnold signed autographs on posters, climbing helmets and books, sometimes posing with dogs and infants. A line stretched halfway around the store for almost the entire event, with some people waiting in line for over half an hour.
“It’s good to know there’s so many enthusiastic outdoor folks,” Honnold said. “I mean, of course in a town like St. George there’s a lot of enthusiastic outdoor folks. It’s impressive to see so many come together. It’s just a little book signing in a gear shop. I can’t believe so many people came.”
Later in the evening Honnold gave a presentation on his climbing adventures to a sold-out crowd in the Eccles Mainstage Theater.
“The event went absolutely wonderfully,” said Bo Beck, manager of the Desert Rat.
Beck said he was very impressed with the presentation abilities of Honnold, who showed stills and videos from his recent trip National Geographic-sponsored to Africa, where he climbed Mt. Kenya.
Honnold didn’t just focus on climbing during his presentation. He also highlighted the native people as well as other aspects of his experience, such as wildlife and the rapidly shrinking glacier on Mt. Kenya.