Alex Honnold Wraps Up Antarctica With What He Calls ‘Actual Rock Climbing’

Warning: The following photos may infect you with an irreversible urge to hop on a flight to Antarctica.

Or at least that’s how I felt. It’s easy to imagine the world’s underbelly as an entirely smooth, snow-covered surface. Yet the recent polar adventures of Alex Honnold and Esteban “Topo” Mena are a potent reminder that Antarctica offers some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes on Earth.

Honnold’s latest climbing bromance, this time with Mena, saw him exploring the continent’s highest range: the Ellsworth Mountains.

After bagging a couple of the range’s tallest peaks, the pair has ended their expedition with what Honnold described on Instagram as “actual rock climbing” — versus the snow hiking that appeared to dominate their previous summits.

Honnold and Mena established a new route up Mount Dolence, a 1,950m peak that offered scrambly 5th-class climbing in a stunningly gorgeous alpine environment, as the photos make clear.


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“It took us 12 hours start to finish with difficulties up to around 5.6ish,” Honnold wrote. “It was a good reminder that the thing I love most is scrambling around on rock.”

Second ascent

In his own recap of the trip, Mena said they “probably did the second ascent” of Mount Dolence, which he described as a “fun 20km outing” with about 2,300m of elevation gain.

“I’m so humbled and stoked for the good times shared with this monkey,” he wrote of Honnold. “We all know that he’s one of the greatest athletes of all time, but he’s a better human and it was an honor to go play together.”

The climbing duo started the trip with 4,892m Mount Vinson, Antarctica’s tallest peak and one of the Seven Summits. The first, short expedition made Honnold feel “shockingly bad,” though perhaps that’s not surprising given the pair’s two-day summit push.

According to Mena, the pair actually ended up summiting Mount Vinson twice, the second time via a “previously unclimbed line in the west face of Branscomb Peak.”

Then the trip continued with Mount Shinn (4,661m), which Honnold called “a much cooler summit than Vinson, with much more interesting climbing.”

Let’s hope we get a Reel Rock-style documentary of this trip as soon as possible.

Andrew McLemore

An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is also a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Medellin, Colombia. When he’s not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he’s hanging out with his dog Campana.