Time for a Rock Climbing Break

Let’s set the stage: Magnus Midtbø is a professional climber and YouTuber who is now retired from competitive climbing. He is referred to as the best climber in Norway.

Alex Honnold is known as the undisputed best climber in the world. His specialty is free soloing, which is climbing without any ropes and protection. Search for his name on my blog and you can find a few posts.

Here he invites his friend Magnus on a free solo trip outside Las Vegas.

Watching the 30 minute video wore me out. My hands and feet were wet with sweat. I did a little bit of climbing when I was a young man, and so I appreciate what is going on here. Being hundreds of meters up on a vertical wall with no way down is, per Magnus, an “insane experience.”

Magnus’ mental fortitude is awe-inspiring. You can tell he is scared. The constant coaching from Alex helps keep Magnus calm and safe. Alex is standing on the wall seemingly defying gravity, holding on with one hand while taking video with the other. At one point he says that most of his friends have either died or retired.

You should watch this terrifying and inspiring video as an example of two men who are the very best in their field, showing how preparation, nerve and will can conquer what seems impossible for the rest of us.

At the end, Magnus admits that he will never do this again.

I invite you to watch the video and get some sweaty hands yourself – but don’t try this at home.

Look, Ma, No Rope

Every few months I am attracted climbing sites and pictures of the sport’s superstars. Some years ago it was Dan Osman. Here he is on a wall, climbed up on that crack without any protection, and felt secure enough to show off with acrobatics I could not pull off in the gymnasium with a mat under me:

No Rope

However, most free soloists eventually die, not due to lack of their own skill, but because something weird happens. A falling rock hits them on the head, or a rock flake breaks off just when they put their weight on it.

Dan Osman died on November 23, 1998 at the age of 35. He was performing a “controlled free-fall” jump (like a bungee jump with a climbing rope) from the Leaning Tower rock formation in Yosemite National Park. Osman had come back to Yosemite to dismantle the jump tower but apparently decided to make several jumps (over a few days) before doing so.

Investigators later concluded that a change in jump site angle probably caused the ropes to cross and entangle, leading to the rope cutting by melting. That was 17 years ago.

The current reigning champion of free soloing is Alex Honnold. I have written about him before on this blog, just search for his name. Here is one post. I cannot watch the video below without my palms getting sweaty – while I am sitting safely at my desk. But there is a reason why there is a category of “climbing” in this blog, so I can’t help myself. I am too old to seriously climb, but not too old to watch.

Here is Alex on El Sendero Luminoso: