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Alone on the Wall


Alone on the Wall

"As far as I knew, no one had even thought of free soloing Moonlight Buttress. That's what I was hoping to pull off on April 1, 2008." Alex Honnold’s sports adventure memoir opens with an early morning rush in Utah’s Zion National Park. In telling the story of his unprecedented solo ascent of the 1,200-foot practically vertical sandstone cliff, the American climber describes his practice runs, sequential strategies, mental preparations and angst-ridden visions of every potential mishap, including “breaking a hold,” “bouncing off the ledge” and “rag-doll[ing] down the mountain.”

With a characteristic blend of nervous, slightly giddy determination, Honnold understatedly reports the immediate pleasure of strenuous physical challenges while in “full game-on mode”: "Sticking my first digits into the crack, I turned them slightly into perfect fingerlocks, and I felt bomber. At any given moment, I had only a tiny amount of skin inside the crack --- like half of two fingers --- and my toes weren't on holds, but just pasted to the wall. So little of my body was actually touching the rock. There was air all around me. I felt like I was stepping into the void, and yet it was an amazing sensation. I was one-hundred-percent certain I wouldn't fall off, and that certainty was what kept me from falling off."

"ALONE ON THE WALL is a fast-paced, vertigo-inducing, gloriously wild read chock-full of amped-up adventures and occasional misadventures across the globe."

ALONE ON THE WALL presents a fascinating profile of Honnold’s evolution as an athlete, while chronicling his impressively hard, speed-record climbs ranging from Yosemite’s Triple Crown (Mt. Watkins, El Capitan and Half Dome), El Sendero Luminoso in Mexico’s El Potrero Chico, Borneo’s Mount Kinabalu and Southern Patagonia’s Fitz Traverse. Explaining the 30-year-old climber’s rise to meteoric fame, co-writer David Roberts (the prolific author of 26 books, including THE LOST WORLD OF THE OLD ONES) notes that the free soloist has “pushed the most extreme and dangerous form of climbing far beyond the limits of what anyone thought was possible,” emphasizing, “Free soloing means climbing without a rope, a partner, or any ‘hardware’ (pitons, nuts or cams) to attach oneself to the wall. In its stark simplicity, that pursuit can be understood by the most casual observer. The stakes are ultimate: If you fall, you die.”  

Honnold’s captivating memoir introduces readers to several pioneer and elite climbers, such as Royal Robbins, Jeff Lowe, Mike Weiss, Peter Croft, and the California-based Stonemasters of the 1970s, including John Long and Tobin Sorenson. An especially interesting aspect of the book is the thoughtful passages devoted to individual lifestyle and choices. From the age of 19, Honnold has adopted a simple, nomadic lifestyle, opting to live in a van, in order to travel, pursue his passion and sport. Witnessing extreme poverty for the first time during a climbing trip in Chad, Africa, in 2010 proved transformative for Honnold. In 2012, he decided to redirect his goals beyond climbing and establish a foundation dedicated to funding ecological sustainability projects around the world.

ALONE ON THE WALL is a fast-paced, vertigo-inducing, gloriously wild read chock-full of amped-up adventures and occasional misadventures across the globe. An insatiably curious and inspired Honnold writes, “The mountains are calling, and I must go.”

Reviewed by Miriam Tuliao on January 15, 2016

Alone on the Wall
by Alex Honnold with David Roberts

  • Publication Date: October 4, 2016
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction, Sports
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
  • ISBN-10: 0393353176
  • ISBN-13: 9780393353174