Honnold Free Solos Moonlight Buttress

Posted on: April 7, 2008

The north face of Angels Landing, Zion National Park, Utah. Moonlight Buttress (V 5.12+, 9 pitches, 1,200') climbs up and right through the prominent buttress. On April 1, 2008, Alex Honnold free soloed the route in 83 minutes. [Photo] Duncan Murray

Alex Honnold, the upstart who shocked the Yosemite climbing community last summer with his free solos and speedy free ascents (read the October 30, 2007 NewsWire), just completed one of the most impressive free solos ever achieved—Moonlight Buttress (V 5.12+, 9 pitches, 1,200'), Zion National Park, Utah—in an extraordinary eighty-three minutes.

Honnold made the ropeless ascent on Tuesday, April 1, 2008. He had rehearsed the climb four times solo with a spool of fixed static line and a mini-traxion—twice on March 28 and twice again on March 29. "I'd eat lunch between [rehearsal ascents]," Honnold said casually; however, these back-to-back-to-back- to-back rehearsals within thirty-six hours are impressive in their own right: Moonlight is a Grade V climb with sustained difficulties—four of the last five pitches are 5.12a or harder.

"All of it was locker. Really good, solid fingers."

A rainy day on March 30th provided Honnold with two recovery days before going for the free solo on April 1. That morning he found himself so bitterly cold waiting for shade that around 10 a.m. he rushed to the climb, still in the sun. It was far warmer at the base than he expected, but rather than wait, Honnold shed all his layers and took advantage of his "giddy" mental state. "I was super excited to do it but kind of nervous," he said. "I had a hard time sleeping the night before, I was so psyched."


Before this trip, Honnold had been to Zion only once, for a single day two years before. That day he flashed Moonlight with a friend and became enthralled with the climb. Over six weeks this winter at Indian Creek he birthed the idea of free soloing the classic—"I really love fingers—and Moonlight has really secure locker fingers—and you're in a really cool, exposed position," he said.

"The grade doesn't reflect the difficulty because it's pure endurance 5.12c. It's a matter of having the fitness for a general, sustained pump."

Although Honnold said he felt secure throughout the free solo, he admitted that he does not enjoy liebacking. "The entire dihedral was the crux, but luckily it's a combination of jamming and liebacking." The jams were good enough, he said, that the lieback element proved surmountable. He reached the top in an astounding eighty-three minutes.

Honnold also had been in conversations with a friend, Chris Weidner, about linking multiple free climbs, so on April 5 the pair woke up early and quickly dispatched Space Shot (IV 5.13a, 8 pitches, 800') then Moonlight. "We were toying with the idea of doing a bigger link-up, but the routes are not that inspiring and the rock is choss, except for Moonlight," Honnold said. "Space Shot is mostly just dirt. And even if you link three or four routes here, it's not as big as El Cap."

Of these accomplishments, all completed over just a few days, Honnold is most proud of his speed. "What gets me really psyched is that this is surely the speed record [of Moonlight Buttress]," Honnold said. "I don't know if anyone can beat it, either. I turned on my iPod at the beginning, played my Top 25, rocked that to the top, and had a couple songs to spare."

Source: Alex Honnold

To see a topo of Moonlight Buttress, courtesy of www.supertopo.com and Alpinist Correspondent Chris McNamara, please click here.

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I look forward to the next `Alex moment`. The amazing free climbs he continues to make right into 2011 make me feel great, even though I nothing to do with them. These climbs make people feel how lucky it is to be alive. Keep it up Alex!

2011-04-19 15:46:53

I think efforts like this are, yes, inspirational as hell, and congratulations to Honnold for a successful outcome to a sustained effort. Base jumping may be a convenient way to get down, and wheee, its kinda like those rides at the amusement park, wheee!. Base jumping is not climbing, anyone can do it, any fool can take a risk. Base jumping is not interesting.

2008-04-18 11:53:23

I fully support professional climbers doing their best to help society, change the world, combat global warming, feed the hungry and all the worthy things that professional climbers do for the little people. I saw a film clip the other day of a professional climber in a wing suit regurgitating some food to a poor legless chap in a very destitute place (yosemite valley)? If only others could follow the lead of these brave, selfless souls that jump off big rocks to better the world we live in then we wouldn't have to pursue lame careers like nursing or teaching to lend a hand. Way to go professional climbers! I am definitely not a dis-believer in your intentions to stop the ice caps from melting away...

2008-04-17 01:12:52

First, great job Alex.

Second, Steph Davis had her "hissy fit" because of one individual and his power trip. There were other individuals at the same time making their first wingsuit jumps with a similar yet adequate skillset for this than she, and were not being hassled. When the drop zone officer was contacted, he knew she had the ability to begin flying a wingsuit, as did many others, and he gave her the green light.

As for being a professional climber, well, like any profession, in order to get paid, you have to do your job. In a climber's case this requires climbing a lot, and showing what you're doing. If this is unacceptable to you or anyone, then don't be one, and don't support institutions that support professional climbers, like this magazine... or any of the climbing magazines.... or any company that sponsors athletes that are doing their sport in a fashion you believe is unworthy of your attention. Or do it better. This is how we advance and learn new limits- by pushing ourselves and pushing each other.

I'm not trying to be confrontational, I'm just providing a side to your story that you may not have heard. jj fuerst

2008-04-15 01:08:20

What impresses me is how humble this kid is. No film crews. No hype. No anticipated spread in "Alpinist." There is a huge difference between people like Alex, who passed me while third classing Sons of Yesterday back in September, and Steph Davis, who is obsessed with gaining noteriety for her efforts (film crews/photographers) I mean, her solo of the diamond did not need the attention it got. Especially after finding out through word of mouth, that she threw a huge hissy fit over not being allowed to wear the wing-suit around the same time due to an insufficiency of hours. "Do you know who I am?", she demanded. "Do you know who I am? Alex apologized to me for climbing passed me at the belay up on that last pitch. I'll never forget that. Who was that?, I wondered. Later that week, I saw him eating pizza at Curry Village. He looked like he slept in the woods that night. "There's that dude", I said to my partner...... It wasn't until after I got back home, that I found out what this "dude" had done in the Valley weeks before. We all approach what we do differently. But it is how we complete the task that defines us. Good job Alex.

Brian Ivins

2008-04-14 11:29:24


Get this kid sponsored now. Get him some shoes and a big spread in a magazine. Maybe he can get someone video-ing his free-solos and we can get him on Banff. MAybe he should write a book...awesome inspiration for the kids out there. Mini-traxion and all..wow. I'm flabbergasted. Has this kid started base-jumping with a wing-suit yet? Let's get him a free sponsored one real soon.

2008-04-09 10:58:29

We all thought this was an April Fool's joke and it was generally ignored on SuperTopo.com As the days passed into April I think we all started waking up to the fact that it actually happened. Amazing climbing! Very inspiring!

2008-04-07 17:08:24
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