Free Solo Climbers...some of the best athletes around?

Jun 4, 2012
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I have been watching a lot of free solo climbers...these are the people who scale rock faces etc with no ropes, no harness...one slip and they're dead. When you see what some of them have achieved, it is a level of athleticism that is clearly absolutely elite, but more significantly a level of mental focus that is even more astonishing. The strength, dexterity and focus is just mind blowing.

This guy (Ueli Steck) climbed the North Face of the Eiger in 2 hours 47 minutes, with nothing but his ice axes and crampons. To put this into context, it usually takes THREE DAYS with ropes, and even then it is notoriously dangerous. There is an entire book about this treacherous mountain face and the people who died trying to scale it, and the first ones who did it successfully...



Steck did this dangerous, 3 day mission that only the best climbers attempt, on his fucking own with no safety gear and in less than 3 hours. Look at this shit...


And National Geographic have just released a film about Alex Honnold, who (last year) became the first person to ever free solo El Capitan in Yosemite. That's 3,200 feet of almost sheer granite. He did it in just under 4 hours. Again...this is a route that usually takes people with ropes days to do.

Here is the trailer for the documentary...

 

kf3

Jul 17, 2012
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they are amazing. as far as comparing athleticness i'm not sure how to compare because they are so specialised. like what level could they do various gymnastic events to?

the spectacle and understandability of what they do, combined with the lack of competitivness and equpiment really showcases the athlete.
 
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Jun 4, 2012
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they are amazing. as far as comparing athleticness i'm not sure how to compare because they are so specialised. like what level could they do various gymnastic events to?

the spectacle and understandability of what they do, combined with the lack of competitivness and equpiment really showcases the athlete.
I don't know, I guess it is its own thing in terms of athleticism. The forearm strength has to be very high, and the muscular endurance is huge. If you think about 4 hours of climbing up a ladder with intermittent breaks in which your stop climbing but have to tense up the leg or arm muscles to grip onto something...it would be exhausting.

I am sure @mandela or someone on here started bouldering a while ago and found it utterly exhausting. Even regular rock climbing is known to be a full body workout.
 
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kf3

Jul 17, 2012
4,881
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South London
I don't know, I guess it is its own thing in terms of athleticism. The forearm strength has to be very high, and the muscular endurance is huge. If you think about 4 hours of climbing up a ladder with intermittent breaks in which your stop climbing but have to tense up the leg or arm muscles to grip onto something...it would be exhausting.

I am sure @mandela or someone on here started bouldering a while ago and found it utterly exhausting. Even regular rock climbing is known to be a full body workout.
the grip is insane to me. i remember watching a video of the training where they do pull ups but the bar is two balls, and those finger boards are crazy too. i wear gloves to do pull ups on the nice smooth bar in the park(tho it is cold as fuck this time of year).
 
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the grip is insane to me. i remember watching a video of the training where they do pull ups but the bar is two balls, and those finger boards are crazy too. i wear gloves to do pull ups on the nice smooth bar in the park(tho it is cold as fuck this time of year).
Yeah the grip is mad. Their fingers must become conditioned a bit like the shins of a Muay Thai fighter..constant knocks, pressure and so on making them hardened.
 
Jun 4, 2013
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Takes years to hone the body to cope with the stresses they endure hours upon hours. Truly phenomenal athletes I have nothing but admiration for them.

But extremely dangerous all the same.
 
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mandela

CHB Führer
May 16, 2013
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I don't know, I guess it is its own thing in terms of athleticism. The forearm strength has to be very high, and the muscular endurance is huge. If you think about 4 hours of climbing up a ladder with intermittent breaks in which your stop climbing but have to tense up the leg or arm muscles to grip onto something...it would be exhausting.

I am sure @mandela or someone on here started bouldering a while ago and found it utterly exhausting. Even regular rock climbing is known to be a full body workout.
I canny remember if I seen this on here or somewhere else but I was just showing my daughter the trailer for the Honnold climb last night. I started climbing years ago and even when I was consistently going 2/3 times a week I never even got close to single session where there was something I couldn't even attempt to do. The scale of progression even in a public wall climbing place is utterly unfathomable for 99% of people. There's routes in there that just seem pointless and wasted. Watching these guys sclae granite is mind-blowing. I challenge any single person to Boulder for the first time and hang on the wall for more than a minute. 1 minute. Its the most exhausting activity I've ever done. Climbing is much easier as you have the ropes to take your weight at points so there's respite available but that's not the case with Bouldering, it s just you and a wall any rest is still using hands, legs and core to stabalize. That's just the fitness/endurance elements here. Then you have the skill and technique involved. I mean, to me, that puts these guys above 4 minute milers, triathaloners, marathoners, whatever endurance/fitness guys you can think on because it's combining elite fitness with incomprehensible skills and techniques used to scale an almost sheer wall, ffs. Crazy stuff, man. Crazy.

I love these multi event gymnasts. I've always thought they were incredible athletes but I'd probably put these climber above them.

Fuck, haven't even talked about the mental fortitude which would probably render 99.999% of us (not me, obvs) dying from exhaustion with literally no physical exertion even necessary.

Unbelievable human feats here, man.
 
Jun 4, 2012
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I canny remember if I seen this on here or somewhere else but I was just showing my daughter the trailer for the Honnold climb last night. I started climbing years ago and even when I was consistently going 2/3 times a week I never even got close to single session where there was something I couldn't even attempt to do. The scale of progression even in a public wall climbing place is utterly unfathomable for 99% of people. There's routes in there that just seem pointless and wasted. Watching these guys sclae granite is mind-blowing. I challenge any single person to Boulder for the first time and hang on the wall for more than a minute. 1 minute. Its the most exhausting activity I've ever done. Climbing is much easier as you have the ropes to take your weight at points so there's respite available but that's not the case with Bouldering, it s just you and a wall any rest is still using hands, legs and core to stabalize. That's just the fitness/endurance elements here. Then you have the skill and technique involved. I mean, to me, that puts these guys above 4 minute milers, triathaloners, marathoners, whatever endurance/fitness guys you can think on because it's combining elite fitness with incomprehensible skills and techniques used to scale an almost sheer wall, ffs. Crazy stuff, man. Crazy.

I love these multi event gymnasts. I've always thought they were incredible athletes but I'd probably put these climber above them.

Fuck, haven't even talked about the mental fortitude which would probably render 99.999% of us (not me, obvs) dying from exhaustion with literally no physical exertion even necessary.

Unbelievable human feats here, man.
Great post. I thought it was you who had done the bouldering, and yeah...what you're saying mirrors what everyone I have heard say who tried it. It's so draining, so exhausting, but as you say requires massive technique too.

Although Honnold is the star, the first one on the Eiger was even more shocking to me when I found it. I remember reading the book The White Spider when I was about 13, as my uncle was into climbing. The North Face of the Eiger stayed cemented in my head as this insanely dangerous mountain face for even the best climbers. Although I never carried on my interest in mountain climbing, that name and the tales of guys struggling over 3 days to try and best it stuck with me. Guys who had climbed Everest were failing, mountaineers with a decade of elite climbing behind them were dying after days of battling with the North Face.

Then as I am looking at solo climbers, I find a fucking video of some mad bastard polishing that, almost mythically perilous, mountain face off in less than 3 hours. On his fucking own. Without ropes. :lol:

I had to go and double check it was the same mountain, the same one I had read about...and...yup.
 

Jay

May 31, 2012
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best thread on CHB!!!

The new free solo film is supposed to be incredible, can't wait to find a copy.

It takes years of dedicated training to get good at climbing. Free Soloing also requires a mental state you can only partly train. Alex Honnold has been tested and has a really high threshold for response to any shocking stimuli - what normally stuns and shocks people, he's very 'meh' about. It goes a long way to allowing him to do what he does.

His free solo of El Cap is incredible, as it contains a bouldering section that is approx V7 in difficulty. This is an outdoors V7 which is much harder than indoors.

To put it in perspective - 99% of people on this forum would struggle to get their arses off the ground at v3 level after training. Like @mandela said - the difficulty increase is just impossible to explain until you've tried climbing and realise you actually have no strength or skill (and the amount of skill required shits all over most sports) to even do 1 or 2 moves.

He's performing a problem that is amongst the highest grade at my local bouldering gym, for 10 moves or more 1800 feet off the ground. This is how it's described..

The crux of the route, called the Boulder Problem, is about 1,800 feet off the valley floor. There are about ten moves on it, and the holds are small and far apart. Only one of them is something you can pull down on. When everything's facing sideways, if your foot slips or if anything happens, you're shooting off the rock face—no matter how hard you're holding on. It's what makes the Boulder Problem so tough. And then the crux of the crux involves this crazy karate kick into this corner, which requires a high degree of flexibility and precision, because you're kicking at mid-chest height way out to the side, and once your foot's over there you have to bring your hand over. It's just an outrageous sequence.
It's impossible to describe just how hard it is for non-climbers. But it's insane.

@Strike - watch Valley Uprising on Netflix. Cracking film about climbing in Yosemite and the history of it. Some bits about Free Soloing in that one.

We need a CHB climbing meetup!!! @DynamicMoves :D
 
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Jay

May 31, 2012
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As much i admire their physical strenght i question their mental state where they voluntarily put their life at high risk like that.
It's the freedom, the challenge. I've done some (very minor) free soloing, you're in a completely different mental place compared to when you're set up with ropes and stuff.

Each hand movement, foot movement etc. becomes so much more precise, technique is needed. Knowing one fuck up and you're in trouble. It's this wonderful balance of adrenaline rush while being completely calm and relaxed. Hard to describe. Multiply it by 10000000 for what these guys are doing.

Alex has set many free solo records, and is considered a freak amongst the elite.
 
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Jun 4, 2012
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As much i admire their physical strenght i question their mental state where they voluntarely put their life at high risk like that.
There's a long article here about his brain...he underwent MRI scans etc and it is very interesting. The evidence points to him being wired differently in some way. Basically (if you can't be bothered reading it) his amygdala does fire up under stress situations like most humans.

http://nautil.us/issue/39/sport/the-strange-brain-of-the-worlds-greatest-solo-climber
 

Jay

May 31, 2012
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Something interesting though, many of the biggest names in free soloing are dead. The only major one I can think of who died while free soloing is John Bachar. The rest all died doing something else - Dan Osman on some self made bungee jump thing (on his apparent last ever before retiring to look after his daughter), Dean Potter - doing a BASE jump.



 
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mandela

CHB Führer
May 16, 2013
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Great post. I thought it was you who had done the bouldering, and yeah...what you're saying mirrors what everyone I have heard say who tried it. It's so draining, so exhausting, but as you say requires massive technique too.

Although Honnold is the star, the first one on the Eiger was even more shocking to me when I found it. I remember reading the book The White Spider when I was about 13, as my uncle was into climbing. The North Face of the Eiger stayed cemented in my head as this insanely dangerous mountain face for even the best climbers. Although I never carried on my interest in mountain climbing, that name and the tales of guys struggling over 3 days to try and best it stuck with me. Guys who had climbed Everest were failing, mountaineers with a decade of elite climbing behind them were dying after days of battling with the North Face.

Then as I am looking at solo climbers, I find a fucking video of some mad bastard polishing that, almost mythically perilous, mountain face off in less than 3 hours. On his fucking own. Without ropes. :lol:

I had to go and double check it was the same mountain, the same one I had read about...and...yup.
Fuck, man.

Reading that...just ignore the mental fortitude part because some of these guys must be legit fuckin crazy to even try it so the mental part isn't such an issue as it doesn't apply to them :lol:
 
Jun 4, 2012
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best thread on CHB!!!

The new free solo film is supposed to be incredible, can't wait to find a copy.

It takes years of dedicated training to get good at climbing. Free Soloing also requires a mental state you can only partly train. Alex Honnold has been tested and has a really high threshold for response to any shocking stimuli - what normally stuns and shocks people, he's very 'meh' about. It goes a long way to allowing him to do what he does.

His free solo of El Cap is incredible, as it contains a bouldering section that is approx V7 in difficulty. This is an outdoors V7 which is much harder than indoors.

To put it in perspective - 99% of people on this forum would struggle to get their arses off the ground at v3 level after training. Like @mandela said - the difficulty increase is just impossible to explain until you've tried climbing and realise you actually have no strength or skill (and the amount of skill required shits all over most sports) to even do 1 or 2 moves.

He's performing a problem that is amongst the highest grade at my local bouldering gym, for 10 moves or more 1800 feet off the ground. This is how it's described..



It's impossible to describe just how hard it is for non-climbers. But it's insane.

@Strike - watch Valley Uprising on Netflix. Cracking film about climbing in Yosemite and the history of it. Some bits about Free Soloing in that one.

We need a CHB climbing meetup!!! @DynamicMoves :D
Brilliant post and really informative for someone, like me, who has no experience in this world. I am going to see Free Solo on Monday, it is out at selected cinemas, so look and see if it's in your area.

I will check out that film on Netflix for sure. :good
 
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mandela

CHB Führer
May 16, 2013
23,225
10,412
Scotland
best thread on CHB!!!

The new free solo film is supposed to be incredible, can't wait to find a copy.

It takes years of dedicated training to get good at climbing. Free Soloing also requires a mental state you can only partly train. Alex Honnold has been tested and has a really high threshold for response to any shocking stimuli - what normally stuns and shocks people, he's very 'meh' about. It goes a long way to allowing him to do what he does.

His free solo of El Cap is incredible, as it contains a bouldering section that is approx V7 in difficulty. This is an outdoors V7 which is much harder than indoors.

To put it in perspective - 99% of people on this forum would struggle to get their arses off the ground at v3 level after training. Like @mandela said - the difficulty increase is just impossible to explain until you've tried climbing and realise you actually have no strength or skill (and the amount of skill required shits all over most sports) to even do 1 or 2 moves.

He's performing a problem that is amongst the highest grade at my local bouldering gym, for 10 moves or more 1800 feet off the ground. This is how it's described..



It's impossible to describe just how hard it is for non-climbers. But it's insane.

@Strike - watch Valley Uprising on Netflix. Cracking film about climbing in Yosemite and the history of it. Some bits about Free Soloing in that one.

We need a CHB climbing meetup!!! @DynamicMoves :D
Actually a really good point. Even the most difficult problems indoors, those one that are impossible for 90% of even dedicated climbers are literally designed to be climbed. Outdoor walls are not. There are no hand or foot holds at strategic points. There is no 'known' route, regardless of it's difficulty. I can't even comprehend some of the indoor feats but the outdoor shit is other worldly in comparison. I literally can't even imagine so of the holds required here...not even holds but continuous moves. It's like thinking about the infinity of space, ffs :sad5
 
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Jay

May 31, 2012
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Brilliant post and really informative for someone, like me, who has no experience in this world. I am going to see Free Solo on Monday, it is out at selected cinemas, so look and see if it's in your area.

I will check out that film on Netflix for sure. :good
I've looked, it's not available anywhere near me, so I'm stuck waiting for it to be released. It's a shame as I would happily pay to stream/download without hesitation.

If you're in London, I'd check out The Arch climbing wall, pretty decent place. If you dont jumping on a train though, I love Big Rock in Milton Keynes - https://www.bigrockclimbing.com/.

The thing that hasn't really been said yet is the finger strength. One of the first thing that goes in climbing is your grip and ability to hold stuff with your fingers, that's not muscle - that's tendon. It takes YEARS to develop that, and even then they still go quick when pushing yourself. I'm currently climbing at v4-v5 at my highest, and I can't do it for long, fingers just end up going fast even if my muscles are still feeling ok. But then I compare to friends climbing v2-v3, and I can grip and treat tiny holds as jugs (huge, super grippable holds), whereas they can't put their weight on it at all. Then better climbers just do the same with me.

I wasn't going to go climbing today, but now I feel like I have to :lol:
 
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