Alex Honnold Demolishes El Cap Solo Speed Record

The world’s only Oscar-winning free soloist is at it again.

Alex Honnold broke another record on El Capitan, rope soloing the iconic Salathe Wall (5.13b or 5.9 C2) almost fast enough to cut the existing standard in half.

Honnold tagged the El Cap summit just 11 hours, 18 minutes after he left the ground on Thursday, he told the San Francisco Chronicle. In terms of speed, the effort was the equivalent of a moon landing — the previous solo record on the Salathe stood at just under 20 hours.

That mark briefly belonged to Brant Hysell, a Lake Tahoe-based climber who ticked the route in 19 hours, 58 minutes on May 11. His 12-day stint at the top of the Salathe speed pile ended a decade-long reign by Cheyne Lempe, who posted a 20:06 run in 2013.

Game on

Why didn’t Honnold snatch the record sooner? Because Lempe is his friend — but he doesn’t know Hysell.

“When it was my friend who held [the record], it would have felt weird to go and dunk on him,” Honnold explained. “But if it’s someone I don’t know, it’s like, game on!”

The free soloist adds his new record to a growing list of El Capitan benchmarks, including the overall Salathe speed record (4:55 with the late Sean Leary in 2009).

The Salathe shares big swaths of El Cap with the Freerider (5.12d, and the climb from Free Solo, in case you’ve been under a rock since 2017). Honnold attributed his relatively blazing speed on Thursday’s record burn to his familiarity with the wall — he free soloed segments of it.

climber's rack of cams and carabiners

Fast and light on the Salathe. Photo: Alex Honnold


Like his record-setting effort, Honnold’s Yosemite visit was over in a flash. He bailed out of the park on Friday morning, according to the Chronicle, bound for his Las Vegas home after a “big-wall tuneup” trip and a record he said “felt like low-hanging fruit.”

No Big Deal.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson spent his 20s as an adventure rock climber, scampering throughout the western U.S., Mexico, and Thailand to scope out prime stone and great stories. Life on the road gradually transformed into a seat behind the keyboard, where he acted as a founding writer of the AllGear Digital Newsroom and earned 1,500+ bylines in four years on topics from pro rock climbing to slingshots and scientific breakthroughs.