What better way to end a dreary, soulless day than to write about one of my favorite people on this planet. Here is a legitimate legend - a no-nonsense, take no shit and give no shit, kick-ass person. A person who blazed his own trail and did not heed the world's smart-ass and half-assed notions about being social, acquiring fancy degrees, and spending life behind a cubicle.
If you watch any of his videos on YouTube or read on Wikipedia, you will know why he's such a big deal. Ironically, his friends and fellow climbers call him - no big deal Honnold because he actually thinks that nothing he does is a big deal of any kind, which speaks of a spiritual and mental evolution accomplished by the rarest of the rare. This guy is a free-soloist which means he climbs gigantic rock faces and towering cliffs of thousands of feet with no rope and safety harness - which means if he slips and falls, he dies. If you watch him climb for the first time, I bet you would be gawking and gaping, gasping and cringing - a tiny speck clinging to thousands of feet of vertical wall. You could say, he belongs to a special breed, or he is cut from a different cloth; everything about him is undeniably cool and exotic yet real and solid.
A tall, wiry guy with a smiling, expressive face and bright, poignant eyes. Evocative, profound and philosophical. Charming, elegant and goofy. Intense, strong and calm. An artist and an athlete. A reader and a minimalist. Humble and straight-forward. Awkward and graceful. Atheist and an epic rock-climber. Simple and honest. Friendly and clear-headed. Humorous and sarcastic. His story smacks of epicness at every step of his journey.
He started climbing when he was eleven. At 18, he joined Berkeley School of Engineering. At 19, he dropped out and instead pursued rock climbing as his career path and as a way of life. He quit the conventional way of living life and took a rather uncommon path - he started living in a van, so he could climb full-time. He has a bed that just about accommodates the length of his body, he actually sleeps diagonally to fit himself on his bed in the van. A five gallon water tank, a stove hooked onto a propane tank, few tiny drawers and cabinets to store food, and plenty of storage for climbing, camping and skiing gear - that completes his mobile home. All along, he describes the van life as perfectly comfortable and a smart choice as it lets him travel around to get to his climbing destinations without any hassle. He loves the freedom of not being attached to a job or an apartment or a huge income because that would stand in the way of his climbing. Honestly, who thinks like that? All of the things that we consider as important and crucial and sane to have, he writes them off as mere obstacles on his long road of living a fulfilled life. That, right there, is a piece of cult thinking. Are you choking on it or savoring it?
He stays in Yosemite national park - the mecca of rock climbers because of its many epic and technically challenging walls. He has set several climbing records on the most difficult walls, won awards and sponsorships, been on several national geographic expeditions all around the world, and is a brand ambassador for several sport brands. Today, he is a cult figure in rock climbing and is absolutely unparalleled and unchallenged in his level of achievement. When he started out, he started small and focused on climbing big walls that required endurance and stamina. Slowly and surely, as he continued his mesmerizing and revolutionary feats up the walls, he grew into the phenomena he has become.
His climbs require physical strength and mental tranquility. Without a doubt, its as much a mental sport as a physical sport. He mentioned that when he climbs, his mind is devoid of any thoughts and his entire energy is focused on finding the next foothold and the next handhold. To watch him climb is mesmerizing and calming. There's a certain rhythm and elegance to the way he moves on those dangerous walls without a sliver of fear or anxiety. Watching him hook the smallest portion of his fingers and feet into tiny cracks and fissures on the rock face thousands of feet above ground is a surreal and breathtaking experience, he's almost off the rock and in the air; one tiny mistake and he is a goner. He opens a whole new world of possibilities and contemplation where the frontiers of the body, mind and consciousness are being pushed to a whole new level. All I can say is I wish all of us could be as level-headed, as genuine and as true to our calling and our light as he is.
Before I sign off, I must mention this one exciting fact that makes me super-happy, its childish but its real - his birthday falls on the same day as mine. He is 29 and I am 30. My mind thinks that's a cool fact and that there's still hope for me to live as freely and as purely as he does.