Alex Honnold is a professional athlete, whose talk on climbing concisely touches upon the mental and physical preparation that has to go into planning and preparing for the climb of a lifetime. The speaker has been recognized as one of the best rock climbers in the world due to his free-solo ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, California. To achieve this, Honnold needed to be in the best possible physical and mental shape.
The speaker started climbing when he was just 10 years old. The sport has been an integral part of his life for more than 20 years. His talk on climbing briefly explains his transition to free-soloing — a form of rock climbing where the individual is conquering a cliff without the use of ropes. As he grew with experience, the athlete decided to embark on new territory. His first choice was Half Dome — a 2,000-foot wall. His talk on climbing detailedly explains his quest for the summit. Although Alex did manage to climb it, he was disappointed in himself, for he felt like he didn't adequately prepare for it. He was left with a feeling that "[he] had gotten away with something."
The next big step for Alex was to free-solo the incredibly intimidating and dangerous El Capitan — a striking 3,000-feet tall cliff. It was a venture that required meticulous preparation, knowledge about the terrain and mental readiness. For the years leading up to what Alex Honnold describes as the "best day of [his] life," the athlete trained.
El Cap was "the most striking wall in the world." To give it some context, most climbers take three to five days to ascend it. Honnold trained relentlessly. For one, he had climbed El Cap over 50 times with a rope, in order to meticulously choreograph his moves. Everything needed to feel automatic. When you are climbing with ropes, however, it is a largely physical effort. Free-soloing is absolutely strenuous on your mindset and with doubt, comes fear. With fear, it is easier to fail. Failure means death. Through visualization, Honnold reached a mental and emotional readiness where he felt confident in his ability to manage his feelings if he needed to. Through imagining the entire experience repeatedly, the athlete was essentially "rehearsing enough to remove all doubt." The talk on climbing touches upon other methods Alex used to prepare — including climbing up El Cap, gathering lose rocks and descending with a backpack full of them.
On June 3rd, 2017, Alex Honnold completed a free-solo climb of El Captain in three hours and 56 minutes. It was described as a "glorious" experience that "felt like mastery."