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Persistence, Preparation and Managing Risk with Alex Honnold

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Persistence, Preparation and Managing Risk with Alex Honnold

The Risk, Fear and Preparation Behind Free Solo


5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Free climber Alex Honnold prepares because he doesn’t want to die. What’s your reason for being prepared?

Editorial Rating



  • Eye Opening
  • Engaging
  • Inspiring


Alex Honnold is best known for free soloing, or climbing massive cliffs without a rope. If Alex had made a false move near the top of his most famous climb up Yosemite’s El Capitan, he would have died in about 14.5 seconds – that’s how long it takes to fall 3,000 feet. Chances are that you’re facing a different set of obstacles, risks and consequences if you fail in your endeavors, but you will definitely still learn from Honnold’s discussion with Andreessen Horowitz executive Peter Levine. The two discuss preparation, perseverance, risk and philanthropy in this inspiring talk from the a16z Podcast.


Preparing physically for a climb is the simplest part; mental preparation is much less concrete.

When discussing Free Solo, the film that chronicles his ascent of El Capitan, Alex Honnold suggests that the entire film bespeaks his fanatical preparation. He regards the physical aspects of getting prepared as the easiest element of his task and describes preparations specific to the configuration of each hand and foot-hold on each pitch of the climb. Honnold broke this immense project down into steps, laying out checklists and milestones. To climb without ropes, he had to diverge from the traditional route, see the problem from a broader perspective and open his mind to unique solutions. Honnold describes the other mental aspects of preparation, including building confidence and comfort, as more difficult to define.


About the Speakers

The host of this episode of Andreessen Horowitz’s a16z Podcast, Peter J. Levine is an ice climber, and general partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm. Alex Honnold is a renowned free climber who summited Yosemite’s El Capitan in 2017.

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