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Solo, Part IV: Alexander Huber
Alexander Huber free soloing Opportunist (5.13d) sportclimbing route, Schleierwasserfall, Tyrol, Austria. [Photo] Alexander Huber collection
8. The rock in the Dolomites is quite friable. Don't you feel that you are stacking up the odds when free soloing on such rock?
As the rock on the Direttissima is friable, I was forced to avoid many questionable holds and instead use many small but solid holds. This made the route harder than its normal grade. Even more, I had to climb three consecutive overhanging pitches in a row, with no rests, since that section is protected by hanging belays. This made the route significantly harder than its guidebook grade, 5.12a.
9. How do you prepare for a major free solo?
The most important thing is self confidence. I try to judge myself, and when I come to the result that I can control the difficulties then this results in the necessary self confidence. I do not need any special meditation to concentrate—the experience is so intense that you automatically concentrate 100 percent.
10. Free soloing Kommunist (5.14a) raised the bar for free soloing. How did you train for this route? How did you know you were not going to fall?
The crux of Kommunist is 10 meters above the ground. It's important to me to explain that I didn't use any fall protection like crash pads or fire brigade rescue equipment. This would reduce the climb to a highball boulder problem, in which a fall is scary but still an option...
I worked on the route until the moment I could perfectly control it under good conditions. I was convinced I wouldn't fall, but like anything in life, you never know 100 percent. This sliver of potential danger is the essence of alpinism and climbing.
11. When free soloing, have you ever dealt with fear, doubt or other negative thoughts?
Up to now, I've kept everything under control: no scary moments, no negative feelings.
12. Do you intend to push the limit even higher?
Not in sport climbing. To control 8b+ [5.14a] high above the ground in a free-solo situation is the limit of what I can control.
13. Have your free solo climbs made you a better climber?
No. It's no help for regular climbing—the movement is so controlled. Having the same focus on a regular climb would decrease my speed.
14. Do you feel that you are defying death on free solo climbs?
I love my life, so I defeat it always with both my hands and my legs (that's a German saying). But since I love my life, I want to make it colorful and rich. I only free solo when I am convinced that I can control it.
Alex Huber free soloing. [Photo] Alexander Huber collection
15. Has free soloing changed you as a person?
To say that it has changed my life would be an overstatement.
16. What would you like to say to young climbers who look up to you?
If you decide free soloing is for you, then be sure that you do it only for yourself, not because you believe others would think it's cool.