May 26, 2018
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REEL ROCK Film Tour to visit Maine, famous rock climber talks about 19-hour climb

Courtesy of Peter Mortimer
Courtesy of Peter Mortimer
Famous soloist Alex Honnold of California climbs The Phoenix in Yosemite National Park in 2012.
By Aislinn Sarnacki, BDN Staff

The seventh annual REEL ROCK Film Tour, a lineup of the latest and greatest climbing and adventure films, will come to Portland on Oct. 18, and Brewer on Oct. 25, on its trip around the globe.

In 2011, REEL ROCK screened in more than 290 locations, bringing gripping footage to more than 65,000 people worldwide.

This year’s tour includes a 23-minute feature film about famous Californian rock climber Alex Honnold and his attempt to do something no one had done before: climb the three biggest rock faces in Yosemite National Park — Mount Watkins, El Capitan and Half Dome — in succession, alone, in less than 24 hours. The film is called “Honnold 3.0.”

At 27 years old, Honnold is known as the boldest soloist of his generation. Raised in Sacramento, Calif., he has broken a number of climbing records and is perhaps best known for free soloing — climbing without a rope, harness or gear — colossal rock faces, including the 2,000-foot Half Dome. In recent years, media has caught on to his extraordinary talent. Honnold has been pictured on the cover of National Geographic magazine, featured on “60 Minutes,” and now enjoys the support of sponsors such as The North Face and Black Diamond.

In “Honnold 3.0,” the three imposing rock faces — commonly known as the Yosemite Triple — add up to about 7,000 vertical feet. Honnold does use some gear, however minimal, in his race against the clock.

On Oct. 9, Honnold answered a few questions for the BDN over the phone while eating breakfast in preparation for a day of climbing in Yosemite:

BDN: Why was the Yosemite Triple a meaningful challenge for you?

Honnold: It’s one of the great undone challenges in the Yosemite. Each generation has one … So doing all three in one day was the next big thing.”

BDN: I’m sure people often ask you about the risk of free solo climbing. Have you figured out how to explain why it’s worth the risk? What drives you?

Honnold: A little bit. There are a couple angles. One, it’s not necessarily risky. It’s not like throwing dice. I don’t go up on things unless I know I can do it. It’s not sheer chance — like a 50 percent chance or something. I don’t do stuff unless I’m 100 percent confident I can do it. If I climb it with a rope and it feels really easy, it’s no problem. I know how I can climb. [Free soloing] is just more demanding.

BDN: For the Yosemite Triple, what was your biggest obstacle to overcome during those 19 hours, and did it show in the film?

Honnold: The biggest obstacle was just fatigue, and yeah, it kind of shows. They needed something interesting about it and dramatic. They show me getting more and more tired. In each route I’m more tired looking, and when I get to the top, I’m sort of slumped over. But that’s exactly what I expected. I knew my times [for each individual route]. I knew I could do all the routes really fast and I could do all three in less than 24 hours.”

BDN: The film obviously can’t capture what’s going on inside your head, which is a big part of the climbing experience. So can you describe a little bit of what you were thinking?

Honnold: Not a whole lot, honestly. All the obvious things you have to think about in order to climb — how I’m climbing, what I’m supposed to do on this part or that part, a little bit of ‘Oh I’m tired,’ registering my actual physical state. There’s not a lot of deep-seated, no deep emotional stuff going on.

BDN: Was there anything else the film didn’t capture?

Honnold: Just little issues that they didn’t show in the film because there wasn’t the footage. It rained a lot the day before, and all three routes were a little bit wet. They didn’t show that at all. They didn’t have the footage for it. I also forgot my chalk bag at the bottom of The Nose [a famous route up El Capitan]. They don’t even mention it. A lot of things like that. It’s a pretty complicated thing, logistically. I use different kinds of gear on different routes and altitudes, and meet different people. One cameraman has shoes for me so that when I get done with a route, I have something to hike down with.

BDN: So what did you do about your chalk bag?

Honnold: When I got to the base of The Nose, I realized I’d forgotten my chalk bag in the car. And the cameraman and my girlfriend had already driven off. But I knew there was a cameraman 1,200 feet up, and I could take his chalk bag. Then about 800 feet up, I met some nice people who gave me theirs. I left it on the top for them to pick up later.

BDN: How did you celebrate?

Honnold: I didn’t even. Everyone that was there to film it and my girlfriend who came out for two days to support me, everyone had to leave that afternoon. We had a little something to eat and then everyone went their separate ways. I actually met up with a journalist from “Esquire” that afternoon and then went to sleep. Then I had to go climbing for the next three days for a photo shoot thing. It was a little anticlimactic. It was cool though.

BDN: Did you ever expect this kind of fame or media attention?

Honnold: Not at all, but I can kind of see — I can rationally understand why it’s happening — just because the type of climbing I do is so easy for people to understand. It’s just obvious. Other climbing is hard to tell what’s easy and what’s hard. But it’s surprising that people are so interested in it.

BDN: So what’s next for you? How can you top the Yosemite Triple?

Honnold: I don’t know. I just have a bunch of medium-size projects I’m working on in Yosemite, nothing super extreme, but a lot of little things that I’ve really wanted to do.

BDN: Overall, what do you think of the film? And what does it mean to you as an athlete to have films showing your major accomplishments to the world?

Honnold: The REEL ROCK tour is super good. Obviously I’m biased, but I think it came out really well — all three features and the short … I think, overall, the tour this year is really strong. The thing is, you have to go to the live shows to appreciate how cool these events are. It brings out the whole community of climbers, all in a theater together having a good time.

REEL ROCK Film Tour was founded by Sports Emmy Award-winning producers Josh Lowell and Peter Mortimer in 2006 in response to the huge demand for adventure film screenings in outdoors communities throughout the world.

In 2011, REEL ROCK Film Tour partnered with more than 150 retailers, university outing clubs and climbing gyms, and the tour raised more than $15,000 for nonprofits. The 95-minute program is broken up by prize giveaways and sometimes appearances by top climbers.

The Portland REEL ROCK event at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 at One Longfellow Square will be a fundraiser for the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. For $5 tickets, visit

The Brewer REEL ROCK event at 7 p.m. Oct. 25 at Jeff’s Catering, 15 Littlefield Way, will be hosted by Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School. Tickets are available at the door for $10, or four tickets for $25.

“Honnold 3.0” will be the last film played at the events. The other three feature films in the program are:

• “The Dura Dura” (23 minutes): Chris Sharma, the “king” of sport climbing for 15 years, and 19-year-old rock climber Adam Ondra battle to establish the world’s first 5.15c route, the most difficult grade yet in the climbing world. (23 minutes)

• “The Shark’s Fin” (23 minutes): The story of legendary alpinist Conrad Anker’s 20-year obsession with The Shark’s Fin, a spectacular unclimbed granite buttress on the 20,702-foot Mt. Meru, in India. In 2008, Anker, with Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk, endured a grueling 18-day push to within hundreds of feet of the summit, only to be turned back. Three years later, the trio makes tough decision to return, despite Anker’s deep family ties, and Ozturk’s ski accident just six months before the trip, which resulted in a fractured skull, a broken neck and serious doubts about going back.

• “Wide Boys” (20 minutes): British off-width climbers (climbers who use a crack that is considered too wide to be a jam and too narrow to be a chimney) Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker travel to the United States to check out the most challenging cracks in the west, including the first ascent of the world’s hardest off-width,known as Century Crack.

For information about REEL ROCK, visit

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