Honnold and Ourada, the two faces of ropeless climbing

On April 17, just one day after Alex Honnold announced an incredible solo climbing adventure in Red Rock (Las Vegas, USA), another climber announced equally fantastic news on his social networks: he had survived a fall between 45 and 60 meters (equivalent to a 15-story building) while climbing, also, without a partner or rope.

Josh Ourada had already climbed the route that almost ended his life alone, and he barely managed to explain what happened: “I think my foot slipped and, maybe a hand at the same time, and I fell. I was aware of the whole fall, and tried to hold onto whatever it was or try to slow it down. The result: open fracture of my left ankle, severe cuts in the right, fracture of the pelvis, explosion of the L1 vertebra, broken ribs, collapse of a lung and a broken thumb, “he explained on his Instagram account.

His accident happened in Yosemite, a couple of days after Ourada signed his first rope ascent at El Capitan, the scene where Alex Honnold, a Black Diamond athlete, signed the first full solo ascent of this legendary 1,000-meter wall. feat made viral thanks to the Oscar-winning documentary entitled Free solo.

Paradoxically, on April 16, Alex Honnold signed in the most absolute of anonymity a chain of climbs described by himself as “much tougher than my exercise in El Capitan. “I know that nothing like Free solo, but that does not mean that it does not encounter new challenges and even more complicated than that one ”, he adds. In Red Rock, Honnold chained almost a thousand meters of climbing linking three mythical routes of the place: in his opinion, in terms of physical and mental effort, it was a tremendous day that took him to climb 32 lengths, a third of which presented very difficult difficulties. serious.

In fact, he tried to climb a fourth way, but once in the first third of the route the heat and the tremendous pain he felt in his feet (they swell inside the narrow climbing shoe when the heat hits) forced him to de-climb to return to the ground and walk to the parking lot that he had left 11 hours earlier. Curiously, such activity has barely been echoed in the major North American media, probably because there are no graphic documents that serve as testimony.

The Ourada accident happened five days before Honnold’s last feat, so there is no talk of a knock-on effect. In addition, rope-climbing is a respected tradition in the United States, an exercise that now fascinates the American media, but is as old as climbing.

Errors in solo integral are usually paid for with death, but not always. The case of Ourada is one more with a miraculous ending. While the vast majority of climbers around the planet embrace the more aseptic, playful and social side of climbing, filling climbing walls as if they were attending a session of spinningOthers seek the opposite: the touch of rock, contact with the natural environment, solitude and an experience that has little to do with sports performance. In fact, from his latest adventure at Red Rock, Honnold not only highlights his enormous psychological or physical commitment, but points to everything that the crowds, resin grips or indoor places will never offer him. “On one of the walls, a peregrine falcon approached me, surprisingly, scaring me. When you climb with companions, the noise you make frightens all kinds of creatures, but by being alone, in silence, moving with care and concentration, all I do is awaken the curiosity of animal life. I become another part of the landscape, ”Honnold told Climbing magazine excitedly.

To understand Honnold, it is necessary to know his love for climbing and for its history, his bulimic need to chain walls in a marathon of movements not so difficult, but harmonious, his taste for flowing vertically in settings far from life at ground level. of soil. Here, climbing is much more of a journey of introspection than a concrete goal.

Honnold has released a series of podcasts where he recounts the history of rock climbing, an exercise that has allowed him to see how this discipline has changed in the last quarter of a century. Although there are still adherents of ropeless climbing, such as the unfortunate Ourada, the integral solo, he observes, it is becoming less frequent. The difficulty with the rope, the physical and technical excellence, the Olympic present of climbing and the need for security that has been installed in society make Honnold a rare bird: “my friends who climbed without a rope have either died or had it. they have left ”, she is sincere, while pointing out that it is not necessary to climb without a rope to go out to meet nature, isolation and the experiences in great walls that she is so passionate about. Of course, climbing in adventure terrain requires, first, a desire to live an authentic adventure, and then years of learning and taking the toll of danger.

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