Alex Honnold Interview | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast) | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Alex Honnold Interview | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast)".


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Intro (00:00)

optimal minimal this altitude i can not flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking and i'll ask you a personal question now what is it for me? what is it for me? i must have a netting organism living tissue i will never end this color me and i will never show this episode is brought to you by 99 Designs when your business needs a logo, website, business card, thumbnail or any other design i recommend checking out 99 Designs i use them myself, i've used them for many years i use them to create book cover prototypes for the four hour body which went on to becoming number one New York Times bestseller, i've also used them for banner ads, illustrations and much more with 99 Designs you get a variety of original designs from designers around the world give your feedback and then pick your favorite your happiness is guaranteed so check out some of my competitions and designs and some of your competitions and designs from fellow Tim Ferris Show listeners at and right now you can get a free $99 upgrade on your first design so check it out this episode is brought to you by Headspace more than 80% of the people i have interviewed world class performers across the military, entertainment, sports and beyond all have some type of meditative practice i tried for years and years and failed miserably the key is making it simple and you can dramatically improve your life in just ten minutes a day and technology can help you this change comes through guided meditation and headspace is by far the most popular app for this purpose more than four million users its meditation made simple so what i recommend is that you take this practice meditation which is rooted in thousands of years of tradition supported by thousands of scientific studies and try it for ten minutes a day for ten days that's all you need to do you could also check out the founder Andy Putikom's TED Talk which has more than 5.5 million views his last name is PUDDI-C-O-M-B-E if you want to look that up but otherwise download the free headspace app i have it on my phone and begin their take ten program for ten days of guided meditation completely free ten minutes a day that's all it takes you should give it a shot just go to Hello boys and girls this is Tim Ferriss and welcome to another episode of the Tim Ferriss Show where each episode is my job to deconstruct a world-class performer to tease out the habits, routines, tips, favorite books, etc. that you can use whether that is someone like Jamie Foxx or a chess prodigy or a special operations commander and everybody in between this episode we have Alex Honald I've wanted to interview Alex for a very very long time you can find him on facebook .com/Alex Honald H-O-N-N-O-L-D he is a professional adventure rock climber who's free solo that means no ropes, no partner a sense of America's biggest cliffs have made him one of the most recognized and followed climbers in the world if you want to sweat profusely from your palms you can watch videos of Alex and I'll put them in the show notes at Honald is distinguished for his uncanny ability to control fear while scaling cliffs of dizzying heights without a rope to protect him and we really dig into that how he looks at risk, fear, addresses both in training and with these first ascent attempts and so on his most celebrated achievements include the first and only free solos of the moonlight buttress that's a 512 D which means super fucking hard that's 1200 feet in Zion National Park in Utah and the northwest face that's a 512 A of half dome 2200 feet and that is in Yosemite in California right in my backyard beautiful spot in 2012 he achieved Yosemite's first triple solo climbing that means in succession the national park's three largest faces Mount Watkins, half dome and El Capitan alone and all in under 24 hours he is the founder of the Honald Foundation, Environmental Nonprofit and to this day and perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of Alex he maintains a very very minimalist dirt bag climber existence and that's not meant as a slight that is meant as a compliment living out of his van and I think he's done that for the last 10 years or so despite the fact that he has big sponsors and traveling the world in search of the next great vertical adventure so we dig into all sorts of things and with that further due I will let you hear the wide range of conversation that I had with Alex Honald Alex, welcome to the show yeah thanks thanks for having me I have wanted to interview you ever since I first saw footage of you climbing because I trained long ago at Mission Cliffs here in San Francisco and did top roping never have climbed outside except for Castle Rock I don't know if you know I was just a kid that's where I started as a kid really that's one of my local areas so you grew up in Sacramento or by making that up? yeah I grew up in Sacramento and what was your bringing like if you had to describe your childhood how would you take a stab at it?

Life And Career Of Alex Honnold

The origin story of Alex Honnold (05:21)

just normal suburban life good time good time, sack town I haven't spent a lot of time there I mean Mark Bell who's a buddy that is the extent of my exposure to Sacramento it was just hanging out with him and feeling really weak which probably would have been the experience if I had gone climbing with you even in the early days what did your parents do? my parents were both teachers professors what did they teach? the taught language? English was the second language in French were your parents born in the US? were they elsewhere? yeah they were both born in the US though mom was born to Polish immigrants she's born in the US and she's American parents were actually born here too but they were like 100% Polish like fresh off the boat style how did you start climbing? I know it's probably a story that you've told a million times but how did that begin? my parents just read about a gym opening in Sacramento and they thought I'd bike it and so they took me to a climbing gym I mean just like you were saying in the mission cliffs like there was a comparable gym in Sacramento and so I went in there when I was maybe 11 and then just kept going all the time what was the first day like you'd describe? I'd have no recollection I was like an 11 year old and then I probably went to the gym you know three to five times a week from 11 to 18 so it's like it all kind of blurs into like one epic gym session did you know in the early days of going to that gym that you had a predisposition to it? no not particularly I mean I loved climbing and I loved going in there and just playing all the time and climbing as much as I could but I was never like gifted in the way that a lot of people are gifted rock climbers and you know I wasn't like winning the competitions or anything I did some comps on and off throughout my teenage years and I never won you know I was never super strong but I just like loved climbing all the time why do you think you didn't win? I mean what did the... what did the strong... no but strong meaning in what capacity like I like to take into the details so for example I mean this is kind of getting the nitty gritty but so like that's what this is about yeah okay here we go so Chris Sharma is like basically then the best climber in the world for the last 20 years and he was like my hero when I was a kid you know he was one of the people I watched videos of and I was like that guy's the man so he's from Santa Cruz he started climbing when he was 14 and when he was 15 he put up a route called "Nessar Evil" outside of Las Vegas and it was like the first 14c in the country so it was the hardest route in America and he did it after one year of climbing as a 15 year old I mean that's like a prodigy I mean he was like freakishly strong from the get go he could just always pull on really small edges he had freakishly strong fingers he could do one arm pull ups off like anything like that guy's gifted I was not that guy you know actually this season I tried to do that route "Nessar Evil" this winter and I totally fell about it I was like I still couldn't do it and I was like "Oh damn I haven't climbed for 20 years" and I like tried pretty hard you know and I still just can't climb as well as he did after one year well I still can't climb as hard like I'm just not as strong as he was after one year I mean there are plenty of things that I'm probably better at than he is you know it's all relative technique and everything what would some of those things be that you're better at? well I mean not necessarily compared to him but he's never done any alpine climbing he's never really done any big walling he's probably not super efficient logistically but he's very very strong and I'm just not strong like that but I do other types of climbing for those people who are not familiar with the world of climbing can you describe some of the different types of the alpine big wall? yeah so climbing is pretty complicated because it ranges from indoor bouldering which is probably the simplest thing you can possibly do to alpine climbing you know climbing in the Himalaya or climbing huge walls around the world and so that involves like ice and mixed climbing where you're using ice tools and crampons and that kind of gear and then you know there's big wall climbing which is basically climbing huge vertical rock walls where you're on the wall for multiple days then there's I mean there's just a ton of categories and the bouldering so for people who don't

Different types of rock climbing (08:44)

know what that is that's typically it's no ropes yeah it's unrobed it's an easy way to think of it as practice climbing right you know basically practicing movement so you're climbing maybe three or four meters maybe five max you know but you're climbing small small heights that you're comfortable falling off and landing on a pad and you're basically just doing really hard physical moves it's actually an easy way to compare it to the running world between sprinting and ultra running or something like the spectrum of climbing ranges from short and super intense to super super long but obviously low intensity and I've always been more of the low intensity long distance type of guy you know where some people are just freakishly strong and you were attracted to that because of the relative lack of strength or is there something else that appealed to you about that? I don't know I mean I think it might just be one of those things that are sort of naturally gravitated towards the thing that suits me but I don't know I mean I think part of it is just that I've always loved climbing I like doing a lot of rock climbing and so I've always been attracted to high volume I mean I like to like take the roots in my guidebook you know I'd be like oh I climb this and I climb that and so I like to climb a lot of roots so it's just yeah I mean I just I like climbing a lot I think that's certainly clear I wonder what would you think you were going to be or would you fantasize about becoming when you grew up when you were a kid? I mean as a kid I thought I was going to become an engineer or something you know I just thought I would have some normal job and I mean when I was growing up there really wasn't a professional climbing scene like you couldn't really be a professional climber because the whole climbing industry hadn't really taken off and there weren't so many gyms and it was like a different world so I never thought that I was going to be a climber I just thought that I'd have some random job you know I'm going off the internet here so that's a risky business but you ended up at one point at is it UC Berkeley? Yeah planning to be an engineer what type of engineering?

Why Alex was studying civil engineering (11:06)

I'd applied for civil engineering I was going yeah why civil? I mean basically one of my uncles was a civil engineer I was just like that's cool and I love building things and the idea of building bridges or big projects like that I mean it's appealing you know the idea of constructing something cool did you collect anything as a kid or do you? yeah I was way into Legos Legos, okay so no this is like the theme right? so the kind of large structures, large walls how long did you collect the Legos for? I don't know if I first started getting Legos but probably when I was really small and then up until being a teenager basically I had a ton of Legos did you have any like a I'm not Kudagra is not the right expression here I'm looking for your landmark pieces or anything that you remember like I had friends who built like the Death Star at a Legos and that was like the pinnacle of their Lego career no I mean I think I had a few just epic forts and like really cool pirate ships and things and no but I never constructed anything that was like the culmination of my Lego Lego career I don't know the thing is I think I took almost as much pleasure in destroying the things afterward you know because you create like this elaborate city and then my sister now would take like a golf ball or something and just like destroy it and be like oh it started over it's more of the process of building it that was so fun and do you have one sibling or do you have more than one older sister older sister how much older two years older do you talk to her much? yeah we're good friends very sure fair amount yep what is what does she do professionally I don't know it's complicated she basically just like makes the world a better place she's she she's lived in Portland since you went to college there and she's like vegan is never owned a car she's like ultra earth thirsty and she basically does outdoor participation stuff with kids and it's kind of like I mean she's basically getting like at risk it's like a work program for at risk youth or sort of I don't know it's like a whole thing yeah but over the years she's also been like a middle school teacher and she's done like you know bike programs with kids and all kinds of you know wholesome things that make make the community better if you had to pick a fixed location well we're definitely going to get to the van and everything surrounding that story but if you had to pick a place to park up in the US for say five years yeah let's just make it a five year timeline where would you pick at this point? I don't know that's tough that's tough but I mean the obvious choices as a climber would be somewhere like Boulder Colorado or say Salt Lake or Flagstaff or any of the cities that are sort of no or Las Vegas actually places that are known as climbing hubs where you have great outdoor climbing all around them and I could see living in any of those places if I had to or like say you know I got married to somebody to live there or something crazy and like well I could see I could see being happy in any of those cities

A favorite location (13:25)

though honestly I love Portland too though there's no real climbing there and it's not a great place to live as a climber and the climb is terrible with too much rain but as far as progressive cities that go it's like probably my favorite city in the country they've voodoo donuts too unless you're from it yeah I'm not I'm not no I've been there and I was like you know I didn't think it was that great though not the best yeah I was like yeah I was a little underwhelmed yeah could have been my blood alcohol content at the time but do you think so I want to talk about climbing and the ability to climb full time because you touch nothing a really important point which is when you began climbing the prospect of becoming a professional climber just didn't really exist right as a notion yeah I mean there were a handful of professional climbers when I started but it was like such a small there wasn't like a climbing industry it was really small exactly yeah and you have a reputation for or you're well known for living as and this is a term I hadn't heard until I watched a documentary that Yvonne

To climb full-time or be a ‘dirt-bag climber’ (14:35)

Schenard was in dirt bag so living as dirt bag climber can you describe that what does that mean first of all and what is your version of that well so I mean I guess that just means somebody who it like a lifestyle climbing like someone who just lives to climb so it's like the full time on the road you know doing whatever it takes to be a climber I guess I mean being a dirt bag isn't isn't a negative thing in the climbing community just like oh that guy is committed to the cause and I'm sure there's the same kind of term for like the surf community or whatever else you know people who just like live to go mountain biking or surfing or whatever you know taking odd jobs and just like doing their thing just to be able to do their sport as much as they can and it seems I remember years ago I chatted with Steph Davis when I was wearing on the forearm and my body seems like a very semi-monastic lifestyle I mean you're really dedicated it makes me think of like the marathon monks in Japan but instead of you know running every day you're climbing sort of this itinerant lifestyle now you live do you currently you still live in a van oh yeah I mostly live in my car but then I'm overseas a lot more now and then when I'm traveling for work stuff I get put up in hotels or whatever but yeah I mean I'm still focused in the van what kind of van well I just sold my old van so I lived in a van for nine years and then I just sold to one of my cousins because I was just kind of over I felt like I sort of outgrew it now and so now I have a Dodge Pro Master which I can stand in which is a big big upgrade how tall are you? I'm like 5'11" so how have you kitted out this van to be suited to your needs? well so I actually just left it with a friend of mine who built it out while I was on an expedition in Patagonia this winter and so he just made it nice I mean you know a super nice bed and like a kitchen and good cabinetry and you know a refrigerator and yeah I mean it's basically a really small apartment it's super nice and coming back to the industry so are there people who criticize the industry of climbing sponsor influx I'm not bringing that up because I'm critical it's because I've seen for instance in the UFC and MMA when in the very early days it was it was really unfeasible for people to be professional MMA athletes and as soon as sponsors came in and you had that sustainability the level of athleticism and training and competency just went completely through the roof is there something similar in climbing I mean do you feel how do you feel about the so-called climbing industry? I mean I think it's great I mean there is obviously criticism you can find stuff online from you can always find traditionalists and stuff we were like this isn't the way it was when I grew up so I don't think it should be this way we're like oh I feel like it's corrupting the art of climbing or whatever else you know the having corporate money coming into the climbing world is tainting the artistic experience I mean whatever I mean you know you can find criticism for it I think it's great I mean obviously since I'm making a living from it and I'm able to go climbing

Thoughts on the climbing industry and its popularity (17:43)

all the time you know I'm very content with the whole situation but mostly I just feel like it's sort of a natural outgrowth I mean climbing gyms are becoming much more popular because people enjoy climbing you know and so if people are into it and the industry is making money then power to it well it also strikes me as sort of a not a self-fulfilling prophecy but a virtuous cycle in so much as the more people see your exploits Sharma people of that caliber the more they're inspired to try climbing the better the gyms do the more clichey I don't know I do not think that's well that might be true a little bit but I honestly think that part of it is just having the facilities like the more good gyms there are in urban centers the more people just wind up trying it with their friends or whatever you know when you have like a nice bouldering gym next to a college campus like everybody tries it because it's fun it's sociable everybody has a good time and I feel like that sort of like grows the sport so the supply helps create the demand to some extent but I really doubt that any particular climbing film can be responsible for like growing the whole industry you know it has more to do with tons of people like going to gyms and trying it and enjoying it and going more often yeah I guess it depends a lot on a multitude of factors I mean with not to belabor the point or the comparison to the MMA world but like the ultimate fighter was kind of the breakthrough for them and then led to a lot of gyms opening yeah the climbing is never had anything quite that like I don't follow fighting at all but I even heard of ultimate fighter and that kind of stuff so I don't think climbing has really had that you know there's no like big hit reality TV climbing show you know no no actually there have been the pitches but that kind of stuff though which are pretty comical I'd love to see the actual it's aliens meets bouldering or like yeah I know there was an ultimate solo thing that got like pitched to me once and I was like dude you can't just take random people off the street and like train them how to solo for six weeks and then just like set them off up a big wall it's like you know I was like you may as well just have gladiators fighting lions in the pit you know it's like people will literally die on your television show like you don't want people dying on TV like no no no that's exactly what we want it's like are you guys kidding you know because you have to ensure the show and everything like no one's gonna make this because like half your contestants are gonna die straight up that's so messed up yeah we'll have some beer sometime and talk about exploits and television but when you are getting ready to climb something that is going to be challenging I'm not saying like a first descent or something like that but really anything that you're expecting to be reasonably challenging what does

Self-talk for preparing for a challenging climb (20:41)

your self-talk sound like what is your do you have any sort of prep anything you ritual ritualistically say to yourself before you go? no I don't really I don't self-talk like that but normally if I'm planning on doing something challenging I spend the time sort of visualizing what the experience will feel like and what the individual section so I mean with climbing there's a there's a component to just memorizing the actual moves so I'll think through the sequences and make sure that I remember like which foot to move in which order I'm going to be able to do that to move in which order and like how to do everything and then particularly if it's a free solo or something if I'm climbing ropeless then I'll think through what it'll feel like to be in certain positions because some kinds of movements are insecure and so they're just like kind of scarier than other types of moves and so it's important to me to sort of think through how that all feel when I'm up there so that when I'm doing it I don't suddenly be like oh my god this is really scary you know like I know that it's supposed to be scary I know that's going to be the move I know what it's going to feel like and I just do it so you rehearse that fear in a sense or we rehearse the sensation one type of which can be fear and I think through you know how airy certain positions will feel because sometimes you can be all spread out with like the void below you and you're just like wow this is like quite the quite the air around me and so it's good to have like thought about that basically to think through all potential things beforehand so when you're up there there's no like unexpected thing that happens you know we were talking earlier about this this odd looking fellow the white bust over on my counter who is for those of you who don't have a visual is is Seneca the younger which was a gift and of course those view listen as podcast lot know that I'm somewhat obsessed compelled to read a lot of stock philosophy and Marcus really is and so on how would you describe your if you had to stab it I know this is a hard question but you're just like general how does your philosophy or philosophies of life and living differ from most people I don't know I mean I've never really thought of any comprehensive life life philosophy or anything you know

Philosophy and benefits of living simply (22:41)

I don't feel like I have a particular set of principles that I live by though I suppose I'm pretty minimalistic and you know I'm leading a fairly simple life and I mean I guess that's basically how I live I don't know what are the benefits of living simply to you aside from the ease of travel but I would imagine at this point you could probably travel reasonably easily well no I mean that's kind of it is that yeah just the ease of living you know basically it just cuts away everything except for what I want to be I mean because my goal is basically to climb as much as I can and that's what I enjoy most of my office climbing and so everything else to some extent is a distraction from that and so you know I basically just cut away at what I don't mean so I heard a story and this was like a friend of a friend of a friend relaying something they had heard we'll see where this is yeah it's like telephone yeah exactly so who knows yeah but they they told this story about you free climbing and this is free so long problem I'm sorry yeah that's right free solving a big wall where at some point there were some people resting I don't know if they're in a how do you say a bivouac portal edge maybe portal edge the camp thing right yeah and you kind of ducked your head around the corner like hey can I borrow some chalk and they're like sure and give you some chalk and then you're like thanks great and just kind of like continued on your merry way did anything like that happened or is that just yeah no so that is a real story sort of with some details okay can you can you tell the story yeah so I was I was so long the triple link up and you somebody so I wasn't free so long but I was climbing by myself so I had a little bit of I had a small rope and I had to get here I guess this is an important distinction so yeah okay got it so solar climbing is just climbing by yourself yeah free so I means that you're free climbing and free climbing means using your hands and your feet and not using

A funny “soloing” story (24:26)

gear and so if you're free so long it means that you're climbing with just your hands and your feet by yourself like no gear and know anything got it but so in this case I was so long so I had gear and I was so long the three largest faces in Yosemite in the day so Mount Watkins which is like way up at one end of the valley and I'd done that first and then I came down and I was climbing the nose of El Capitan through the night and in the logistical shuffle and the darkness whatever I forgot my chalkbag so I basically climbed the first thousand feet of the nose without a chalkbag and was like which is kind of a bummer I mean that's definitely not ideal it's an interesting it had actually it had actually rained a bunch the day before so like the bottom pitches which are at a lower angle were like fairly wet and I was like constantly trying to dry my hands on my shirt and it was just all kind of scary and so I got up to this ledge called Bolt Tower which is you know about a quarter of the way up the wall and there were two groups bivvied on the ledge and two of the people were just like passed out and the other two guys were like cooking dinner and so I pop over the one side of the ledge and I'm like hey so could I borrow a chalkbag and they were like yeah I mean I guess like no problem you know it's one of the guys gave you this chalkbag it was like completely full of like fresh chalk I was so stoked and then I took his chalkbag and then I climbed to the top of the root and then I left it like tied to the tree on top and I got it back I met him again later and then yeah so they got their chalkbag back like four days later but do you have a particular type of chalk that you like no but I mean any chalk feels amazing when you just climbed a thousand feet of wall with your wet wet you know yeah what is what's the story and I realized a lot of these questions are kind of out there but what is the story that your your family or parents like to tell about you oh I don't know I'll buy us some time and let you think about it so so one that my parents like tell about me is I was completely infatuated with the incredible Hulk when Lou Frigknows doing the TV show so I'd run into the into the living room when my parents had company and rip the cushions off of the couch and throw them on the floor and yell like the Hulk can run out so my mom feels like that's in some way represents like me and my totality characteristic of your yeah which I don't know how to take but that's a story she likes to tell anything I'm doing I don't know I mean mom likes to talk about I always climbing on everything as a kid and how it was such a wild child but though I honestly feel like she's kind of like she talks about that more now that I am an actual professional climber you know I feel like had I become an engineer she would instead focus on stories of like how I always love to play with blocks or do whatever but and my whole family would always tell stories about how I was such a picky eater and how I'd only you know Cheerios and bread and like whatever just thinks I don't know but what do you we were talking just during the sound check about eating and I'd like to talk about that for a second what is your typical breakfast look like generally well so I've kind of gone through two main phases I guess I used to always do like an egg scramble for breakfast and now I pretty much always do some kind of muesli concoction with like fruit and some kind of alternative milk stuff and

Eating habits (27:29)

like flaxseed hemp parts like random things sort of like a wholesome muesli mix and then I asked you about lunch and what do you have to say about lunch yes I rarely eat a lunch per se I pretty much always just snack for the several hours in the middle of the day normally like a couple pieces of fruit maybe some nut butter you know it's a bar or two or something and then I eat like a big dinner I normally do a pretty big breakfast and a pretty big dinner and then just snack throughout the rest why why no lunch well the new lunch thing makes sense when you're up on a wall for the day or if you're like out at the cliff or it's just like a bunch of work to take a real meal so I wasn't gonna get to this immediately this this early this is early for me I'm always pretty sure so what was that I said I'm always premature it's like my friend when he drives we call him a premature accelerator but that's that's that's all a separate story so this is from a friend of mine who's an elite athlete very high level female athlete I'll ask her main question first actually know I'll ask the related question first so the food real hassle so the question was what happens if you have to take a shit on the side of a mountain meaning like so many good poop stories okay we can do a whole podcast on poop stories well let's let's give a preview that could be the round two but yeah let's I mean I was wondering if she brought up I was like holy shit yeah I go

What happens when you have to take a shit on a big wall? (29:01)

straight to my most epic dump story yes please okay so I got two years ago I guess I was free soloing this route called romantic warrior in the needles which is actually a romantic warrior yeah it's like it's actually one of the most striking granite walls like in the world this is totally beautiful route on this crazy spire it's an amazing amazing route it's something I thought about for a long time and it's actually quite difficult and so I was going up there to free solo it was like kind of a big thing for me and I was waist oaked and typically when you get to the base of a free solo like that if you have to poop at all like you have to go like then you know when you're at the base but I was like I don't know it just didn't quite happen and so I started climbing and that route the first four years 400 feet or so. We're like pretty moderate train. And then it goes into like some pretty extreme terrain for the second 400 feet. And so basically right before I got into the real stuff, I was like, oh now we really need to shit. Oh man. You know basically I was like, oh it's about to get real up here and like, now I need to poop. And so I basically hand traversed on this little feature, so I traversed off the root because it was really poor form to like shit on a root. Because obviously people have to climb up. So that hand traversed meaning you're just traveling horizontally. Yeah so I sort of just like me entered to the left 20 feet. And this flake that I was hanging off it was like fairly big. And I had a backpack on me with like my shoes and some water and some food random things that you kind of need for you know going up a long route like that. And I had some TP in it so I like shoved my backpack into the flake. And I just like hung there off of it and basically just took a poop like straight off the wall just like while hanging. And then you know like wiped, tidied up is all good. And then like put my backpack on traverse back in and then finish the route. So no I just want to really dig into this for a second. So I'm just like envisioning. I had bats. I grew up on Long Island. We'd have these bats that would like crap off of the shingles and we'd be like where the hell is that from? And then we'd see the bat kind of perched there. So what's the technique here? So you're hanging off this flake. If your backpack shoved into it like legs straight and straddled. Like a like a semi-seeded crouch you know pushing away from the wall a bit. And you go in like out of the bottom of your shorts you pull on down. Pull on shorts down just like normal. Like you know. Yeah okay. Yeah I mean it was actually totally easy. I mean I'd call it a space dump. Space dump. Yeah I climb would call it like a perfect space dump. It's just like taking a dump in a free space and it just disappears. So what are other challenges of climbing on big walls aside from the yeah. Don't let that give the wrong idea because normally you try to like poo in better places you know preferably a toilet like or at least like bare get probably at the base or you know like being being responsible about it but like from time to time that happens you know. Thanks Abba. Yeah. What are other issues that crop up that people might not think of when you're doing these climbs?

The surprising self-care that is available when free soloing (31:56)

Well people frequently ask like what do you do if you have to pee or whatever because they think I mean I think that people have the wrong impression that free-soling a big wall is just like holding on for dear life the whole time but they're actually all kinds of little ledges like even a ledge the size of say a pizza tray is big enough for you to stand there comfortably no hands right and so I mean that's an easy place that you could take a leak you could you know take a sip of water you can eat a little bar and anytime I'm on a ledge say the size of a sofa cushion or something I'll basically pop my shoes off and relax my toes for a minute because climbing shoes are quite tight so your feet start to cramp after a while. I mean there's a lot more self-care going on up there than people might think. Do you carry for that self-care do you carry any other tools and you like I don't know nail clippers any particular type of like I'm just making this up like a lotion or anything not the other one on your hands but no no I mean I normally just take food water and then a pair of say a pro choose I can walk down afterward what type of food do you bring with you? Typically I just bring you know sports bar type what kind of sports bar I'm all I'm obsessed with Intel's. I don't know I mean I mean I used to be sponsored by Cliff Bar so I do like you know shop blocks and Z-bars I love the Z-bars the little kids Cliff bars mostly because they're kind of half-sized they're like 100 calories and they basically taste like a cookie so I can like always eat them because they're just kind of delicious but now I've been kind of getting more into like nut butters and things though the typical free solos are short enough that you don't really need like a full hardy meal you can kind of get by with like a pack of shop blocks or like one little one sugary thing to just kind of keep you going. It's on like bigger climbs like alpinism or something where you have to take like a lot of you know fatty like higher calorie food. So this this is actually I will be the first person to admit that I actually do not know what alpinism is and but one of the questions that came up this from Kelly O'Shea one of my listeners is ask Alex about his recent achievements in alpinism what was it like as someone who's so accomplished in one discipline to be a beginner again in another type of climbing can you explain what alpinism is and then how you would answer that. So alpinism I guess is basically just climbing bigger mountains or big snowy or icy faces or you know granite walls that are also covered with ice.

Alpinism And Climbing Mentors

Alpinism and what it was like to be a beginner climber again (33:54)

I don't know I mean alpinism is just climbing the things that you see in posters where you're like whoa that looks like a big scary mountain you know because I've always been more of a rock climber which is climbing like vertical dry granite walls. Alpinism is like when you do that in more remote places and like you hike across a glacier you get to the bottom of some huge icy face and then you do all kinds of shenanigans to get at the top. So what mistakes did you make if anyone first starting that type of climbing? Well so basically I mean I haven't done a lot of alpinism and I still I can't ice climb at all I've like never let a pitch of ice but I've actually done a handful of things that are considered like noteworthy alpinus sense now but has more to do with choosing like the right partners because I go with somebody who's like way more experienced than me or just someone who has much more of a plan and then it's sort of about the division of labor you know like someone who's good at one thing and then I'm obviously good at the rock climbing component of it so even though I'm a total beginner with the ice climbing and with all the logistics and the camping and like dealing with living on a glacier all that kind of stuff is totally new to me but at least I know how to do the climbing pretty well so then you know you just find the teammate who compliments the skillset well and then you can go out and climb all kinds of crazy things. So now I probably mentioned this in the intro but just in case I haven't for people listening I'm sitting in my living room we are sitting in my living room and we have a whole like phalanx of people surrounding us because we're filming this now one of the one of the people here has actually been on the podcast before so Jimmy Chin how does your climbing differ most from his? What Jimmy Chin is predominantly a photographer so his climbing it's not really climbing it's mostly just going up behind people take pictures but I'm talking to you Jimmy.

Alex’s climbing vs. Jimmy Chin’s? (35:51)

I mean but so Jimmy's been classically more of a big wall climber I mean Jimmy's never been like the best free climb like you know I mean he's not doing one arm pull ups on small edges and he's not like climbing the hardest sport routes but he's always been able to like get to the top of big walls and then been able to do that in the mountains you know with ice and snow and bad conditions and so he sort of the climbing that he's been good at has been like farther along the spectrum of you know big and badass than the type of climbing you know because I grew up in a climbing gym and then sort of gradually extended to like big rock walls you know and he sort of started on big rock walls and then extended into the bigger mountains. When you were getting started just thinking back to say the first 10 years of climbing how old you know I'm 30. 30. I got that I heard your joints creaking. Yeah I know I feel like you're right now. Who were some of your early mentors in climbing?

Biggest climbing mentors (36:56)

I didn't have a lot of mentors when I mean I kind of just grew up in the gym just climbing a lot so I didn't really have mentors. I mean I definitely had people that I looked up to and people in the climbing community but that's just sort of the typical hero where should be style you know like Peter Croft was a really prominent soloist from the generation before me and I was like oh Peter's the man and you know Chris Charm obviously was like setting all kinds of world record type things when I was a kid and I was just like oh he's so amazing and Tommy Caldwell was also a big hero which has been cool because now I get to climb with Tommy as an adult and I'm just like oh it's pretty cool or I'm still always excited to climb with Tommy but what if you were so I'm going to take like 20 different questions and hopefully wrap it into one question and we can take some time on this but if you were taking a let's just say an athletic rope beginner so someone who's never done any climbing but has a decent athletic background right 20 25 years old and they want to get really good at say bouldering and you were going to kind of lay out give them advice or train them

Important elements to becoming a good climber (37:36)

for like eight weeks what would you what would you happen to do what would the what would the what would that look like I don't know I'd have to think about it a lot because I mean particularly with bouldering it's sort of it's interesting so adults are more prone to injury than than kids to some extent especially with with something like bouldering where it's really heavy on finger like basically it's really easy to injure your fingers and hands because all the connective tissue and like tendons and ligaments take a very very long time to strengthen so I mean there's no real shortcut to to avoiding tendon injury whereas an adult like a 25 year old male would gain muscle mass super fast so really quickly they could exceed the capacity of their tendons then basically just rip their tendons out of their arms you know and so it's like one of those things where I mean if I was trying to train somebody to be a good rock climber I would focus on on movement and technique and footwork and all those kinds of things but if somebody was like in eight weeks I have to be able to boulder like a certain difficulty level I'd be like well I mean just start like training your fingers and hope that you don't get injured but like obviously that's not a sustainable like if you're trying to be a good climber that's not the way to do it it's better to start with like the foundation so if let's talk about the the footwork and technique then because I've I mean you've been to a ton of climbing gyms I've been to mission clips I'm not a good climber I would not say but I can also recognize but not dissect when I see good climbing versus bad climbing right where people are just shaking like a leaf and using a whole arm strength what types of advice would you give someone who want to do it the right way but they're like all right I just I want to focus on the right things what should I really focus on and I would say the right things are movement and technique and so like how you move over the rock it has nothing to do with how well you can hold on or like how hard you pull it has to do with you know knowing where your center masses and like being able to move your body around in the right way is that you can stay balanced over your feet and you can move yourself upward with your feet how do you conserve energy when you're climbing it just so I mean leaving leaving out the the pizza sized pizza box size yeah I'm sorry no I mean the main way is to save energy or to keep keep your weight on your feet which is kind of the same thing to stay balanced over your feet so that all as much weight as possible is on your feet so you're just standing and then to keep

The main ways to conserve energy when climbing (39:59)

your arm straight or to keep all your limbs straight so that you're hanging off your skeleton more than your muscles because if you have your arms bend at 90 degrees like a t-rex or something then you're like totally engaging your bicep and your lats and you're getting tired if you have your arms totally straight then you're only engaging just as much muscle as you need to keep your fingers holding on but everything else is relaxed because you're hanging off your bones so I want to underscore something you said a little earlier because a lot of sort of aggressive dudes listening to this podcast is aggressive dude aggressive means meaning they're like hey wait just like slap on a ton of muscle on my arms and like biceps and lats and go crush this bouldering wall but you made a really important point several one of which was that if you if you pack on a lot of muscular strength you can outstrip your sort of tendon and your neck and tissue striking really quickly what particularly is an adult I mean if you start climbing as a kid then then you gain muscle at the sort of the same you know that's like yeah you're in like hormonal nirvana as a adolescent and this is something that also a guy named Chris summer coach summer underscored for me he is the former national gymnastics team coach for men's and he was saying that unlike many other sports like it's contraindicated to say use antibiotics in gymnastics because all you're going to do is end up rupturing a tendon or a ligament for the same totally yeah totally same as climbing uh what do you worry about when you go to sleep at night if anything like when you worry before you go to bed what kind of stuff do you worry about

What do you worry about? (41:44)

um i was like that's a quick 180 yeah this is gonna be full of all sorts of weird 90 meters keep listeners on their toes you know so that people scrubbing through the podcast get confused yeah i don't want any storyline that they try to skip ahead yeah exactly with um uh no i don't really worry that much when i when i was asleep i mean the stuff that i get stressed about is all like real life stuff with uh you know dealing with email and responding to calls and like you know hustling and i don't know like doing my taxes you know like all the stuff that i'm just like not good at so let me ask this is like partially me turning this into a therapy session for myself but i just wait not oh no how's i gonna lay on this over here i'm getting all sorry uh that's that's usually my second day podcast the pressure but the just relax but the uh the the the question i'd like to ask is why do this when is enough enough to fuel the climbing meaning what do you hope to do with the additional money you make above and beyond what

Personal Queries And Health Concerns

At what point do you stop working to make more money? (42:41)

you need to sustain climbing often because it's not at at a certain point you surpass that pretty easily but you're certainly keeping busy i mean you're you have a number of sponsors you're tremendously good at what you do so what do you want to do i mean that is interesting because uh and i you know thought about this a lot over the years because first say the first five or seven years that i was living in the van my overhead is probably 10 to 15k a year and i now obviously make a lot more than that three sponsorship and just doing like one commercial or something you know i can make many times what i need to to live in the road for a long time and so you know part of that i mean i'm obviously saving for retirement things like that trying to be responsible with money but and then i've also started foundation where i've been giving probably a third of my income now to to uh environmental nonprofit things um but yeah basically i mean honestly the foundation was kind of my my response to that kind of stuff because i was like i just don't need to make more but the thing is it is actually kind of fun to make more you know it's like fun to do the random opportunities like to do a commercial project or to like give some talk to some interesting company or you know whatever i mean it's kind of fun to be able to hustle out money like that but then it's like equally fun to be able to you know use that money for something positive which is you know through the foundation basically what is the name of foundation oh it's just the final foundation but easy to remember yeah it's like kind of douchey but like it kind of made sense but i don't think it's douche i think it's easy to remember just sensible yeah uh so the reason i was asking about the what do you worry about before you go to bed is because there are people i have never seen so many questions about brass balls in my life when i told my readers for questions for you and we've never had an in-depth conversation but i know a lot of people say here in Silicon Valley or other folks who give the appearance of being invincible they've they never worry about anything and it can be kind of demoralizing for people who feel like they need to be superhuman to achieve good things and so what i always like to ask people who are spectacular good at what they do or dig into is like what challenges they've had or what they struggle with so for those people who say like that guy's got everything together he doesn't worry about anything i'm not like that what are some like what what are some of the challenges or dark periods that you've had if any come to mind and if the answer is none then that's that's a fine answer to invincible no i mean um what it's funny you asked me just in the last two months i've had two sort of random injuries that are like super annoying um which i hadn't really had any kind of injuries climbing in in years or like ever really um but like last month in in april i got uh i got dropped on a partner so i got lowered off the end of a rope and i like compression fresh or two vertebrae in my back and i was ultra bruised and so my hips and butt and stuff you know my back's been really tight i've been kind of achy um though that worked out kind of okay it was two days before i was supposed to fly to china for a climbing expedition and um and so i was like well all the travel time will sort of be like good rest i guess and then you know i got there and i was like a creaky old man but i actually did manage to climb the thing that we were hoping to do and it all kind of worked out okay in the end but you know there was definitely it was a little touch and go because i was like at first i mean when i was going to the airport to fly to china i couldn't even lift my double bags because like my back was too sore and everything was too too creaky um and then actually just like two days ago i took a weird fall well actually i took a totally normal fall but i somehow tweaked my hand in a weird way and um actually i mean you can probably see the back of my right hand yeah i was looking at that yeah my right hand is like all messed up right now and um and you know i mean there's definitely a lot of uncertainty there because i mean i i can't even like click the power button on my phone without like pretty serious pain with my right hand right now but you know it's been two days and it's kind of improving and you know we'll see like and the thing is the forecast is rain for the next three days so i'm like well i'll have three days to rest and then you know maybe it'll be okay or maybe it'll be good enough that i can at least work towards some of my other goals for the season and then by the time it's recovered and say another two weeks i'll be like ready to you know do some of the things i'm gonna do i mean we'll see which is kind of how china went i was like well you know i can at least do all the work towards what i'm trying to climb while i'm crippled and then by the time it was ready by the time i was ready to actually try to climb the route and i was like oh well i'm actually feeling good enough by now and i was able to do it do you ever get depressed or have you ever been depressed yeah yeah no i think i mean i think i kind of gravitate towards being a somewhat depressed person i don't know or i don't know actually or i'm just sort of like flat let's stick into that first part and we'll see what we come up with so why do you say that you think i i definitely um oscillate to fairly high highs and reasonably low lows and i've been trying to take the edge like take the 20 top like the top and

Do you get depressed? (47:16)

bottom 20 percent off of those to make it a little more manageable but uh why do you say that you might tend towards you see i feel like i don't have any of the highs and i kind of go from from level to like slightly below level to back you know it's all like it's all pretty flat i feel like and does that when you when you dip does that is that triggered by certain types of things or is it just a cycle that comes with time um i don't know yeah maybe it's just cycle time it's like sometimes you just feel useless you know but i mean in some ways though i embrace that as part of the process because you kind of have to feel like a worthless piece of poop in order to get motivated enough to go do something that makes you feel less useless but then but then ultimately that still doesn't make you feel any less useless then you just actually keep doing more so that's perfect segue to the the the main question from the from the person who asked what you do when you have to take a shit on the side of a wall is there or do you ever see a

Is there always a “what’s next?" for Alex? (48:47)

point where you'll feel that you've accomplished all that you can in climbing or is there always a what's next um i think there's definitely you know i can definitely see a point where i wouldn't continue pushing i mean there is always a what's next in climbing and um you know i mean you can always try to improve in some way or like go to new places or do first a sense or i mean you know there is always something new to be done in climbing though i can definitely see personally a point at which you know i'm like okay i'm satisfied like i've done running to do and um you know yeah we'll see you kind of though i will say climbing um more than most other professional sports has like quite a long career span kind of because of that because there's always more you can do with like trips and expeditions and first a sense and and there's a really creative process to it you know is like come up with interesting challenges and just sort of like do things that nobody's thought up before and so you know i mean you know they're professional climbers in their fifties that are still like getting after it like that when uh when you are about to do a big climb or just a very strenuous um climbing workout i'm not even sure if you do that anymore maybe you can talk about it but how do you warm up if you do um i always warm up pretty pretty gently when i can just so just um i mean it depends on where i am if i'm in a climbing gym um then i just warm up on a handful of easy routes and then and then start the harder ones later um i mean for the last month and a half i've been stretching like every morning every night because of the back thing and because of how tight my hips and and everything feel right now um so doing some stretching and some like light exercise to sort of warm up and then you know when you can't climb uh let's just say you're you're on the road what type of exercise do you do i mean i try to still climb when i'm on the road um i mean there's just so many gyms in different places that you can always do that but um if there's absolutely nothing then maybe i'll run or i'll go hiking or it kind of depends on what opportunities are i mean i'd rather go mountain biking than than other things or i'd rather go skiing if if that's available um but i mean as long as i'm getting some kind of exercise i mean even like stand up paddleboarding or something i'm like well at least i did something today you know a lot of recreational climbers deal with as we've touched on earlier sort of uh hand issues wrist issues elbow issues uh i'm i mean you saw me when when when you guys arrived today i had myself wrapped up in this stuff called voodoo floss because i i my elbows are killing me uh and how have you seen climbers uh keep their elbows and joints in good health is there are there any particular approaches that you think have had no i don't i don't think there's like an easy answer to that kind of stuff i mean i had some elbow issues for a while um now it's like eight or nine years ago or something but i had sort of like chronic elbow pain on and off for almost a year then eventually it just sort of resolved and i

Approaches to improving elbow health (51:16)

mean i think the best way with that kind of stuff is sort of prevention you know like maintain antagonist muscles and just sort of like stay well balanced and everything and just and if you start to feel achiness or pain coming on then to you know take the appropriate rest or or maybe change your training to some extender basically just not to let it become a big problem because i feel like all those overuse injuries like once they're a problem then it's like really hard to deal with so the antagonistic muscles meaning if you're doing a lot of say like flexure work kind of gripping that you're going to use like finger extension and wrist extension and so on yeah though i've actually never done the whole extension stuff with with hands i don't have it but to me um antagonist muscles are more like doing push-ups or random you know or tricep pulls or things to balance out your arms a bit because since you do so much pulling like to be able to do some kind of pushing sometimes um what's in your mind separates a great climber from a good climber and you can answer that however you want um i don't know i mean

Impressive climbers (52:40)

yeah i don't let's look okay i'll ask it i'll ask it differently who impresses you right now as a climber um just one of i'm sure many but uh this kid mark andrew leclerc mark andrew leclerc the student of this canadian guy um he's been doing like all kinds of crazy alpine soul line you're just like whoa what makes it so crazy i don't know it just it just like kind of blows my mind a bit and it's funny because i actually don't ice climb or or alpine climb at a high enough level to quite understand what he's doing even like so it's hard for me to probably appreciate just how hard it is but then a lot of my friends who do climb at a very high level are like whoa that's messed up i'm just like yeah respect i don't know and for those people who want to see visuals on this stuff we'll grab some video and uh links to the one of the interesting things with mark andrew is that i don't know if there are like is video of most of the stuff he's doing yeah i mean he's just going out and doing all this crazy stuff okay you're just like it's um it's pretty full on well i will i will attempt uh jimmy you know this guy you know of him what in your mind makes him impressive as a alpine alpine astra alpine climber but i bet jimmy hasn't even heard any of the stuff he's like recently been doing in the Rockies it's like pretty crazy yeah i mean the stuff is just so good in the the number of faces and yeah it's like so crazy it's just i'll repeat for you guys listening and then level is like extraordinarily high and i think that in climbing there's like people who kind of call you know every generation is an evolution progression this is what you know you saw in the people who are coming that like jump generation yeah i have he's like he's kind of in that state so he means that people aren't considering so he's he's so just to try to paraphrase here so his commitment level is just next level he's sort of pushing everyone else to consider things that haven't been done usually like alpine climbing at that level is the fact that in the level of face-hand is kind of a experience you have and he's very calm though he does have a ton of experience really i mean you know because he's just done so much of it yeah he's been doing like a but i need for like you know normally yeah yeah so the commitment level meaning pushing the envelope is usually predicated on experience level therefore you see the some of the older guys doing it but not even you know you're not seeing all the guys doing because they're all like that's messed up on the on the uh on the danger side um this is a question from paul jones so being the

Responsibility and influencing young climbers (55:05)

first sponsored superstar free selling do you ever have concerns about the influence that you could have on young climbers who um may not put in the mileage and the training to get to a point where they can do it is safely yeah well so the two things one i'm definitely not the first superstar whatever um because there are a bunch of european climbers who are well known for so long who've you know come before me and even in the u.s somebody like john backer was like super well known in the 1970s and he was on all kinds of tv programs it might not have been sponsorship in the same way that we have today because the industry wasn't the same but he was definitely on you know like the eating news and all kinds of crazy things free so long so um i mean i'm definitely not the first by any means um and and it's interesting because you know i was obviously a kid who was influenced by that kind of stuff but then i've gone through you know years and years of of practice or whatever um i kind of feel like soloing is a bit um i don't almost like self-regulating in a way because the thing is is that anybody can watch a video and be like i want to do that but then as soon as they climb 15 or 20 feet off the ground they start to have a very frank discussion with themselves like do i really want to do this you know like if somebody feels very scary because i mean people have like an overwhelming fear response to the prospect of falling to their death you know and so i have an overwhelming fear response just watching videos of it well yeah exactly i mean that's kind of the thing is that hardly anybody sees that film it's like oh i'm going to go do that and then even even if they do once they start trying to do it i mean it is actually quite difficult to climb these walls so it's not as if some kid can just like wander up and do that and then and even if they are strong enough or like you know well versed enough and climbing to climb a little bit then they're also like wow this is really really scary i didn't expect it to be this scary and then they just climb back down um so i mean you know you know i've thought a little bit about influencing kids and like you know wondering if that's a bad thing but in general like you just don't really see copycat things like you see it a lot more and in gravity assisted sports or like action sports so like kayaking or skiing or something where like anyone can just line up at the top of a cliff and be like i'm going to huck this cliff and i'm going to stick it and it's going to be sick you know and then once they sort of commit and start going it's like they're going off the cliff one way or another they can start the music they can't turn it off yeah exactly but with climbing it's like each move that you make upward is like a decision that you're going to continue going upward you have to decide over and over like i want to keep going i want to keep going i want to keep and at certain point you're like i don't really want to keep going like i think i want to go down and then you're just like mommy you know and

Risk Management And Personal Interests

On deciding to turn around and climb down (57:31)

then like yeah i mean have you ever hit that point when it was let's just say over and i've started screaming for mommy go on well yeah it's true for mommy or like hundreds of feet up and you're like i don't want to keep doing this yeah i know i've definitely had a bunch of times following where i'm like i'm nine to this i'm going down and what happens then because i've i've never seen footage of you climbing down well the thing is yeah but that's kind of a practical thing is that if you have people that are filming with you it's like obviously you're doing something that you've rehearsed or or you know a lot about or it's like a you know it's a classic enough route that it's worthy to film on like you have all those epic misadventures on things that like aren't that well known that you know people aren't climbing all the time but no so i've had tons of experiences where um especially when i was younger i didn't really know how to read topos that well the little maps that show you like where climbing route goes so i'd look at it and be like okay i think i'm climbing that big corner and then i'd go up there and be like this isn't even the right route like what the heck am i doing and then i'd start like questing way to the left or right being like well maybe if i traverse 200 feet that way then i'll get to the real route and then you're like oh god what am i doing and then it all starts to go south you know uh and and then you would climb down in an instant slow or i would like quest over to some other route and escape off west over is it is just a traverse yeah or whatever you know there are many couple routes where i've been like especially when i was younger when i was sold on a route and i get up and all of a sudden i'm like oh i'm on a bolted face but this route isn't supposed to have bolts and then i'm like oh no i'm on the wrong route and then you like look over and you see that the real route you're supposed to be on is like 100 meters to the right and then you're like i wonder what route i'm on and then you're like oh i hope it's not hard and then you're suddenly like shit and then you start like pulling on the bolts which is cheating and then you're just like whatever it takes to like get off this wall you know and so you're like pulling on bolts and stepping on bolts and like doing whatever just like get to the top and then later you're like oh i wish i knew how to read the guidebook uh now so this is this is a related question uh from Drew Cordova so there's a video that shows Alex climbing elkap free solo where he said he was freaking

The real story about the Yosemite freak-out moment (59:25)

out you know so that's uh incorrect well there are all kinds of incraption sure there's not but yeah just go on and i'll respond again whereas freaking out on the cliff face at one point i'd like to know from his perspective what it takes to overcome that fear uh okay so the video clip that he's referring to i'm actually free soloing the face of half dome which is a different wall yep um and that's actually complicated because it shows me standing on this ledge on half dome like having a moment being really scared but we shot that film like a year after my actual free solo so i'd gone up there and soloed it by myself nobody around which is kind of the point of free soloing normally and then we'd gone back and filmed on it and when we filmed on it i walked out on that ledge and like had a moment where i was a little bit afraid and then like sorted myself out turn around and and climb back but then they used the voice over of me talking about the original experience when i'd actually been free soloing at the year before uh where i had like a much more significant moment on a section a hundred feet higher which is actually quite difficult climbing because like walking across a ledge is never that scary you know what i mean like in the grand scheme of rock climbing like when you're standing on the ledge like you're not scared um it just happened in that case because i was standing face out which is like a little off balance and a little scary and i was like whoa this isn't what i expected but it's not that big a thing but the actual experience up high it was like one of those things where they caught this moment on film and it kind of went well with the voice over so they're like all perfect yeah exactly and so it made for a great film and it definitely like shares the free solo experience pretty well it was one of those things that first i was like i was sort of annoyed that it's not the literal like this isn't what happened but the thing is like nobody's there when it actually happens so then it does share the experience pretty well so in the actual half dome experience when it was scary even though like you mentioned earlier you've kind of rehearsed what it's going to feel like as you're going up this this route what do you what do you and not to belabor this point but it's it's uh it's something i'm fascinated by what's going through your head and how do you also that particular half dome free solo i actually hadn't rehearsed it that much really um i'd sort of intentionally chosen not to rehearse the route very much because i was like oh that's going to take the adventure out of it i want to just go up there and do it um which in retrospect like wasn't the best idea but so uh yeah on half dome i didn't i hadn't memorized the sequences i didn't really know like exactly what i should do i just knew that i could do it i knew that i'd gone up there i'd done it it was fine and that i was able to um you don't respect i probably should have spent a little bit more time and so why i got so scared was i got up to a certain sequence and i basically like didn't want to trust a specific foothold and i was like oh this feels like my foot's gonna slip and i don't want to fall and then i tried to use some other feet but i was like oh this doesn't these are worse and you know so you're standing there hesitating being like what should i do what should i do and then you start to get all gripped like oh god what if i can't figure it out and like you're obviously getting more and more tired as you stand there your calves are getting pumped and you know yeah it's just it's traumatizing all right go back back in action so during the little break we're just talking about some some past lives and uh it's mentioning that i wanted to be a comic book penciler was an illustrator for period of time paying expenses in college and had this other weird side gig of bouncing which was terrible because i was always the smallest guy uh as a bouncer but what are the what are the best and worst jobs that you've that you had prior to climbing i haven't really had that many jobs i mean i worked at the climbing gym as a kid um just you know cleaning the bathrooms and doing summer camp stuff with kids and then i worked doing

Best and worst jobs and deciding to stop attending Berkeley (01:02:44)

night security at Berkeley for first semester i was there i mean i was only at Berkeley for a year and so for my second semester there i was doing night security i was basically just like walking around campus at night getting paid to like look at buildings but uh when you read Berkeley how did you decide to leave and what was that calculus like i mean i mean i didn't i didn't decide to just drop out of Berkeley it was more that i wasn't really happy there and then um my first year at Berkeley i happened to get second at uh the national but nationals and so i got invited to the youth world cup um which was during what would have been my second fall semester and so i decided to take the semester off and then go do you know youth worlds and then travel a bit and climb and do whatever um and also my father happened to die the summer after freshman year and he was part of the pressure for like going to school and not really pressure but he just sort of like expected the kids to go to college type thing and then when he died it also left life insurance money for my sister and i had to finish school and so you know that sort of allowed me to not just not go back to school and so uh yeah and so just kind of a combination of events just led me to take the semester off and then i just like you know i've just taken the next ten or no like 20 semesters off since then were you uh close to dad um i was fairly close to my dad i mean or we weren't super close in like talking about things and like having having deep chats but he definitely infested a ton of time in me you know he took me to the climate gym all the time he would drive me all over the state to competitions you know he would take a camping take me outside like you know we we would be doing family camping trips in the mountains and stuff um so i mean he definitely put a ton of energy into me to you and i apologize i don't know your status do you want to get married have kids um yeah i think i'd like to have a family someday so that brings up something that i i wanted to talk about and uh hesitated to ask in part because i'm sure you've been asked a million times but is it relates to mortality let's just say that somebody came to you since this is kind of two in one uh they said i have ten million dollars and i'm going to dedicate to you but with the following condition you have to predict how you're going to die accurately and in that case it goes to the cause of your choosing so what would you predict and what cause would it go to um that's interesting and if i predict wrong it just like doesn't go anymore it just disappears okay um i don't know i mean i think i would predict i don't know i'm sort of 50/50 between natural causes just like dying of old age at some point or like climbing accident in the grander scheme of like not necessarily um you know like falling to my death which is what people think with the free sewing but just the random stuff like you know repelling in the mountains or like being swept by an avalanche or like being hit by a random rock because there's a lot of just like random chant or not a lot but there is random chance involved with climbing and just the fact that i am out climbing all the time like it wouldn't be shocking if some random thing just happened to me like that um though i mean that's kind of the the you know price price to play you know like if you're going to be in those places like there is just a random random risk associated with it um so yeah i mean i think and then the cause i would devote it to um i don't know some probably environment i mean basically the stuff that i'm supporting through my foundation which is uh you know any kind of environmental project that like improved standard of living which has mostly been uh like off grid solar projects or like energy access and stuff for off grid solar and energy access for for whom or where for like rural communities i mean i've been supporting a group that does that kind of work in africa which you know makes sense because folks have no access to energy and we've also been supporting grid alternatives here in the states which does uh like home pv systems for like low-income families um basically it's just a way to like help you know folks that need some help and it helps the environment obviously and just when we took a break you were talking about we were talking about books and the fact that you read mostly nonfiction uh what nonfiction books have had an impact on you or the or do you particularly like um i mean in the last several years i mean some of the most noteworthy books i've read i guess um like a people's history of

Favorite books (01:07:02)

the u.s the harris n book totally changed the way i look at politics um and then in the same way uh read a book recently called sacred economics that like totally changed the way i looked at economics sacred economics yeah it was actually totally interesting i forget who the author was now though i didn't know i will we will look it up and put it in the show notes sacred economics is like kind of awesome it like yeah change my world a bit what uh what's what are the what's this kind of basic thesis of sacred economics or is it um i don't know what the author would say with the thesis but um but the things that i took away from it were well i mean basically he's sort of envisioning different systems for like a more just kind of economics you know because i mean current our current style of capitalism basically just concentrates wealth in the hands of the already wealthy you know and that's kind of like by definition the way interest rates work and stuff like if you have a lot you'll just continue to make a lot and that's not a fundamentally fair system because if you don't have anything you continue having nothing but if you already have more than you need you just get more and more and that's just like not the way the world should work i don't think or at least i don't and so one of the ideas that he throws on the book which i thought totally interesting was like negative interest rates so like um if you have a lot it basically just like slowly dwindles away unless you're actively using it for things like investing it into things so you know just by having a lot of money is not going to guarantee that you continue to have a lot of money unless you're allocating it in a certain way exactly unless you're using it wisely to like create value but how do you assess risk whether that's with and you can you can focus on one of these but whether that's on a particular climb on like a business venture a decision to do a versus b how do you how do you think about risk um i don't know that's an interesting question because obviously i spend a ton of time thinking about risk but i just don't have like a clear cut

On evaluating risk and managing fear (01:09:06)

you know like i don't have clear metrics for like all you know this is and because with the climbing so much it comes down to a feeling of like i feel a lot of fear when i think about that obviously it's not for me um yeah i don't know exactly and i've never really had to evaluate business ventures and things so when let's touch on something you just said which is if you're very afraid of something then that's something you shouldn't do so do you then climb say hard routes in an absence of fear or is it present and then you overcome it that's a good question um i generally climb hard routes in the absence of fear i generally don't go up on them unless i feel comfortable and i don't have that fear yes though yeah though i mean it's important to sort of differentiate fear and risk and like all the terms i guess definitely because um you know i mean if there is a high level of risk i mean you should be feeling fear i mean fear is sort of that warning that you know like that there is real danger and so like if there is danger present like i mean you should be feeling fear and so you know and there are times and maybe you should just suppress that fear and and go for it anyway maybe not i don't know but so with the free-soling typically if i'm feeling a lot of fear then um i just you know wait and prepare more or i don't know something do whatever it takes to mitigate that to like to feel comfortable and then and then do the climb when i feel comfortable and do you have a my my my suspicion says no but do you have a a checklist like i have to do this with gear x number of times and then do this y number of times before i'm willing to free-solo this or is it just i don't have a checklist but i definitely have a degree of comfort that i need to feel on the route before i'm willing to solve it what does that feel like what does it just feels like a certain i guess i need to have a certain amount of reserve i guess you know i i need to feel like i can climb the route in a variety of conditions um and and have some extra in the tank just in case you know like if i can climb the route only by the narrowest of like razor thin margins like when that's probably not good enough for free-soling and uh the definitions point is important so for instance i'm involved with a lot of speculative startups or startups whether it's specular or speculative yeah i mean but most would be considered very highly speculative and people say wow that's a really high-risk investment you have a very high-risk tolerance right doing things and entrepreneurship and so on and i've never felt that way i actually feel like i'm focused on risk mitigation at all times uh and uh so for me i thought about it at one point so they're like oh you have a really high risk tolerance risk risk risk and i was like well wait a second like we should try to figure out the definition of this term that we're using before we have a discussion and isn't the thing with startups is that you're sort of willing to lose money on a certain number as long as like exactly so come out right now exactly so i'm so you're sort of just doing the math on the overall picture it's like doesn't matter if some of them fail that's exactly right and what what's important at least in that game right is or that sport and you can look at it that way is following your own rules like if you set rules yeah and you understand say portfolio theory and the math if i'd follow these rules is going to is going to turn out likely this way therefore i need to make x number investments yeah or at least having like a plan that you're willing to stick to and then not start to just get hog wild where you're like well this guy said that and not deviant yeah exactly so so what i realized for myself that risk in my mind is the likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome and if i look at it that way if i do something that fails if i can get back to where i was very easily then that's not a risk it's not a high risk for instance do you uh do you think you relate to risk or think about it differently than other people um no i mean all that's pretty much in line with the way i look at risk i mean yeah i mean with the startup stuff i wouldn't consider up particularly risky because like obviously people make a lot of money off startups it's just a matter of like doing it well i mean in like you know plan the stock market and things like that people obviously make a lot of money so it's not like a fundamentally risky activity just a matter of like how you do it how well you do it and obviously i'm not in either of those worlds that also i mean for me it probably would be dangerous because you know i'd be like well now i have no money but it's because that's not my thing like i don't i don't know anything about it what is the best decision you've ever made not to do something or a good decision that you've made not to do something well i think pretty much any of the free solos that are backed off of and climbed down were probably all pretty good decisions i mean who's to say i mean maybe they all would have been fine and i would have just like climbed to the top and had nice day but you know there's no point in second guessing that stuff i mean if you're not psyched you're not psyched uh but i haven't had any like clear or like near misses where i decide not to climb something and then there's like a huge avalanche that sweeps the whole mountain and you're like thank god i wasn't up there uh you have very minimalist lifestyle uh what is what is something that you spent too much on but don't regret or something that you spend too much on but don't regret or a lot on too much is too judgmental um i don't i don't think it's too much but um when i bought noise canceling headphones i was like this seems really indulgent but it made my life so much better

Music for traveling and climbing (01:14:11)

like i love traveling with noise canceling headphones it's like my favorite possession thing how do you use them i just saw you know i cancel noise with them it's amazing do you use them all the time when you're traveling or are they like sitting in the airport and on the plane i pretty much have noise canceling headphones on the whole time i love it i'll just like listen to soft music and like read my book or work on my computer do whatever you know just hang out but i just like love not having all the crazy bustling noise around me the whole time what type of music do you listen to most often when you're flying um flying i do a lot of soundtracks like so it's sort of like classically type music but you know set to Indiana Jones let's say or whatever brave heart yeah exactly i've never done the very first out check but like last though he can's is a favorite that's a great right soundtrack yeah uh do you ever climb to music um i'll do easy climbing to music for sure um i normally just have my phone in my pocket and we'll just blast it like you know stereo style um but that's only if i'm climbing something where there's nobody around and because i think it's super annoying when you like hike up to people on a trail with like a boom box going because obviously it's like dimension their outdoor experience what do you in those cases what type of music do you listen to i pretty much only listen like modern rock like hate rock and stuff like what i said but like what yeah what kind of events oh i don't know like i was listening like battery legend we listen to Metallica last night on the drive and like you know i'm not shaville or you know tool or random whatever what is something that people and this is in in quotes know about you that is wrong i don't know i mean i think a lot of people i mean certainly online commentary a lot of people think i have a death wish or like have never experienced fear like just don't don't care about my safety i mean the thing is that if you just watch youtube videos you get the impression that i just like walk up to a wall and climb it and like you sort of miss the 20 years of of climbing culture that's behind it you know the fact that i've that there's a huge history behind all these roots and i know a lot about them and i have tons of friends that have climbed them and i can i could like recite half the moves on them from memory you know what i mean like there's a ton that goes into other people like don't see in a three-minute youtube short and you know yeah well it's kind of like you know i had layered Hamilton on the podcast right the sort of undisputed king of big wave surfing and people would it's funny how people look at that and they have a different judgment than when they look at you on a wall even though in practical terms you think i mean don't people look at his big wave surf and be like that guy's crazy he has a death wish well because i kind of do i'm like that's how it looks like so i think that it's slightly the the the frequency with which p i hear people say that is different because they look at a wall and they're like oh i could climb up things but they look at a hundred foot wave and somebody getting towed in on a jet ski and they're like i wouldn't even be able to stand up on the board while getting pulled on jet ski therefore assumption assumption assumption uh what do you think of say free divers who try to break records in free diving i mean i i don't know much about it but it does seem like it's one of the riskiest sports in the world i mean more people die doing that than virtually anything else yeah i mean it kind of goes with wing-sooting or something we're like you know it's fair to say that it actually is quite risky because people do actually die all the time doing it have you ever done any wing suit stuff um no i did my ff so i like learned how to to parachute out of a plane um on the thought that i would maybe eventually learn how to base jump or something and then i was basically just like i'm not into this i'm like i don't think this is cool i don't like it just the just because the risk the downside risk no i mean the downside is to uh um no uh skydiving is not dangerous you know so i mean when you're learning out of the plane like it's not sketchy at all but mostly i was like i just don't like this you know and like i don't want to devote the energy to like learning how to do this and i sort of realized how much it would take for me to to feel comfortable doing that and i was like this is just uh i'm not into it yeah and then as it turns out um you know like one of my good friends and climbing partners died wing-sooting and then last year notably dean potter died wing-sooting and so i mean you know climbing has lost a lot of high-end climbers to wing-sooting accidents it's like yeah i mean it is a very dangerous activity uh you mentioned dean potter do you sli- i mean i think when i hear his name uh i also associate it with sli-sliding exactly sli-sliding you seem to have the like perfect slacklining feet i mean maybe take me photograph it almost over yeah you've got some amazing like functional feet do you slackline functional that's a very kind way of putting deformed but yeah highly functional yes do you sli- do you slackline or what's your pain or like a slackline at like a low level you know i can like walk lines back and forth just because there's so many slacklines and campgrounds and climbing areas and things you know i definitely have done a fair amount of slacklining and i can do some like really easy tricks and things but but no i'm definitely not a slackliner and i've never done any high lines and i'm not like i'm not in the slacklining when you think of the word successful who's the first person who comes to mind for you when

Success And Lifestyle

When Alex hears the word "successful," who comes to mind? (01:19:16)

i hear successful yeah just the word successful i mean when you just said it i thought you learn musk but then like i have no idea you know because i don't know but i don't know that much about business but i'm just like that's red is there uh is there anyone that you would want to model your life after in anyway um probably not but though i do like reading you know biography or something and then sort of like i have some notes on my phone of like lists from random things i've read you know where you sort of choose little lessons out of like a book about somebody and you're like oh like that person did these things well and those are all things that i could apply to my life but you know i wouldn't want to model my whole life on somebody it's more like you know cherry picker and good lessons here and there uh which biographies have produced a lot of notes for you i would just this a few times but so i read um the biography of uh uh brad washburn who was like a big if you know him he was like an oscar explorer photographer he also ran the like a natural history museum in uh boston i think um but so he just had like a wide and varied career and he was like a national geographic explorer type you know he just did a lot with his life and so after i finished reading the book i was like well this guy like gosh it done you know and i don't know you know i respect that and so i just like kind of thought about it what is something that you believe that other people think is crazy that i believe that other people think is crazy well i don't i mean i think that my evaluation of risk and all the things we were just talking about a lot of people think it's totally crazy um but that's because i mean i think it's because they don't have a full set of facts on it you know that they don't quite appreciate it in the same way that i do but i don't know if i have any other like totally outlandish beliefs like that i don't know do you uh i'm sure you've had this question before but would you consider yourself a religious person do you have a particular belief system no i'm like strongly atheist and just like not into religion at all were your parents religious at all i know um yeah mom is at least used to identify as catholic she'd probably still say that she believes in god though there's no evidence of it at all you know like she doesn't go to church anymore or do anything but um yeah so as kids we we were taking a church but at no point did i ever believe anything okay so there was no sort of transitionary period it was just i know it's a day one it's funny like even though we were being taken to church i just always thought it was all a bunch of weird stories you're just like it made no sense to me i'm like why would you believe in some invisible thing that you know i'm like like why would you ever believe any of that like it doesn't make any sense it's weird it's weird there's so many adults believe all that stuff because it still doesn't make any sense there's a lot of stuff that doesn't make a lot of sense that people believe to yeah a lot in the theater politics and elsewhere too i will you know but uh this is going to be a gear shift i mean uh i mean we're shifting a lot of years i'm grinding out the transmission of gears but uh food i want to talk about do you have any particular thoughts on food or how do you think about eating yourself uh not literally eating yourself yet yeah i mean i'm not much of a cook and i don't like love food or food prep or anything you know i mean if

Food preparation and go-to dinners (01:22:26)

i could i would just like take a pill and be like fully fully fed all day every day and just like sweet i don't have to do worry about it but um i don't know i mean in the last couple years of i've gone vegetarian um which has more to do with all like the environmental non-fiction i've been reading it's more just as like one of the few things that i can do as an individual to like really have an impact on the world um but yeah i don't know i mean do you have any uh do you have any go-to dinners like what are your most common dinners what do they look like um i mean for all the years that i've lived in the van one of my go-to dinners was like mac and cheese with with stuff in it you know like adding a vegetable i used to add tuna to it a lot then i've switched just like vegetables or you know maybe some beans or whatever um you're like mac and cheese and chili though now i'm sort of easing away from the mac and cheese too because i've kind of stopped eating dairy but so like you know rice and vegetable stuff or uh like lentils or whatever keeping a simple yeah so many questions so many questions i want to ask do you have any morning rituals like what are the first 60 days 60 days the first 60 minutes of your day uh look like pretty much always just get up and have like a big breakfast and then go climbing that's kind of the standard when is so we'll wake up for the last two months i've been waking up doing some 15 minutes of stretching then eating my breakfast then go and climbing just because of the back stuff but um what

Morning rituals (01:23:38)

time do you generally wake up and go to bed um i generally i'm pretty unstructured so i basically just go to sleep whenever i'm whenever i need to or whenever it makes sense then i just wake up whenever i try to sleep as much as i want to what is that statistically i mean people think they're like oh that four-hour work week guy like i'm asleep three hours a night i try to sleep eight to ten yeah i know i'm all about eight to ten for sure i think last night i mean i was sleeping in front of your house last

Benefits of living in a van (01:24:23)

night i think i slept uh i think i slept nine last night well because you wait a second is that the van yeah yeah that's my car i just went out walking my dog and i was like who's camped out in front of my house yeah that is fucking hilarious okay yeah with like the reflectors in the window i was like who is he trying to kidnap me who is this that's my rape wagon part to burn your house what was it's one of the things like yeah we drove to San Francisco last night and then i'm like well i don't want to park somewhere else then i have to drive here in the morning so i'm like i'm just gonna go park there and when it's sleep as late as possible i'm gonna wake up and i'm gonna come and do a podcast it's gonna be like totally chill you're right from from what that's the thing about living in a car is you're all about like minimizing the waste of time you know there's no point like driving around in circles you just park where you need to be sleep and then do your thing it's awesome amazing all right so high is after and i've lived in the van for like ten years now you know it starts to become a routine it's like hard to imagine like going to a hotel moving all your shit into a room moving it back into your car later moving the car you're just like what a waste of time i just want to like park where i need to be so a lot of people have asked this and i'm kind of curious myself like the logistics of alexanal so if you have a date and the date goes well what then they come back to the van i mean it's a nice van it's like a you call it a little mini home or whatever you don't want to micro home stuff yeah it's like all the tiny homes yeah tiny home yeah a bunch of tiny home books right there you go see i have one up front yeah it's a little home now before you go out on the date you're like just in case this goes well do you put out like like like some rose petals in a bowl of water or like no preferably go back to their place you know it's like a little class here uh do you have any favorite documentaries or movies um i don't know not particularly i guess um i mean my movie taste runs for just straight like a hollywood action movie like total fluff you know like gladiator or something just like fun times um like yeah roger all right we'll keep that it's all pretty yeah it's all just pretty like unimpressive but it's kind of because like movies because i do a lot of like reading nonfiction and stuff i feel like movies fill the fluff category you know like i hate heavy nonfiction or like heavy documentary type films i just like fall sleep so just too much thinking after all the non-fiction computing what movies have you seen the greatest number of times is there anything you've watched like over and over again i have that habit um i've probably seen the star wars movies a lot a lot of times but that's partially just because i started when i was a kid and then i've like re-washed them over the years um i don't know if i've seen anything else like more than that probably yeah i think i have maybe weird numbers because for each of my books i i get very i feel very isolated if i'm writing at night in a dark house by myself so i always put this on certain movies i have movies for each book there usually one or two movies that i'll just put on repeat and i'll put them on mute and then listen to music like the same tracks over and over and over and over again your brain might be like hardwired in some weird ways here well i got it i that's definitely true but i got that's getting tweaky i got it i got the same i like i had a recommendation from this uh very very very uh brilliant and capable entrepreneur and a matt maulin wig who's of great coder and he always he listens to the same single track over and over again almost like a noise machine when he's coding and i thought okay well i'll try that with writing and it worked really really well but the movies end up being really weird because yes so what movies are we talking about so well for the four hour work week it was the this isn't that weird i think these are fine movies but the born identity was the first and then for the four body it was casino rail which i think is fantastic i was hoping you're gonna say like rocky or something so being non-stop training montages well you know there are a lot of fight scenes and the parkour sequence in the beginning uh with the best info yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah so that's yeah that's a whole separate i didn't know that was over oh yes that's cool and then for the four hour chef this is super this is the off theme completely but i was just looking for a movie when i was just getting started and on amazon prime the first movie that popped up was babe like with a pig yeah from a hogget and i watched babe like a thousand times because i just put on repeat and watch it like four or five times a night whoa go figure yeah we could psychoanalyze that um hardcore hardcore aside from the noise canceling headphones what purchase has most positively impacted your life in the last say i mean six months definitely my van definitely a van yeah i mean no question i mean the last van that i you know i bought a ten thousand dollar van and lived in it for ten years and then uh this new van that i bought it's the new

A recent purchase with a very positive impact (01:28:52)

van so it's obviously a bit pricier but it's like pretty awesome and i'll probably live in it for another ten years well maybe not actually live in it but you know i'll be based out of it uh it's again returning to the uh this is this is not directly related to the dating in the van but this is this is a question from michael sipriano uh i've always found climbing to have a large positive effect on my libido do you this lxfine this to be the case well i've climbed for my entire life so i mean maybe to explain just permanent and this libido uh do not i mean is that for real that's a real question like yeah i guess i don't know i mean that's probably true of anybody who's like staying active and staying fit and you you know you're just like it's the way your body's supposed to work yeah uh are there ways that you've seen lessons learned or skills developed in climbing translate to other parts of your life and if so does any any particular examples come to mind um i don't know exactly i mean so i've gained a lot from being a professional climber like having to go and give talks

Lessons learned from climbing (01:29:56)

and like do the whole work side of climbing i mean that's really like help me grow as a person and feel comfortable doing public speaking and all that kind of stuff though i think from the actual climbing itself maybe the most useful thing i've gotten has been sort of being able to differentiate you know risk and consequence and fear and like all these different things and sort of being able to separate my feelings from what's actually happening you know like oh i feel fear but is that fear justified because i'm actually in danger or is that like totally irrational fear that i should just squish and like move forward with something and i don't i mean i feel like climbing has sort of helped me understand like the different things that are going on there you know where's i feel like a lot of people are just like oh i'm afraid and then they're just like oh god i'm afraid you know but sometimes like i mean fear shouldn't necessarily control you any more than anything else you know desire or fill in the blank well yeah i'm like hungry you know when you're really hungry you're not like oh god i'm hungry i'm hungry i'm hungry you know you're just like oh i'll eat lunch in two hours you know i feel like fear to some extent should be the same way where you can just register like oh i'm feeling fear right now but sometimes that doesn't matter i mean sometimes it doesn't you need to be like oh you know i'm about to die like i should watch out for that but but a lot of times i mean you should be able to just set that fear aside and just do exactly what you're supposed to be doing yeah so i made it in a way when you're a connoisseur of fear right i mean you can distinguish sort of the all the different flightles yeah yeah totally fear so yeah yeah when you experience enough fear in your life you're like oh now i can sort of differentiate between all the different types uh do you drink coffee or caffeine no though i don't have i just don't like coffee and i don't really like tea and but i don't have any problem with caffeine i don't really even notice caffeine i don't think that much because you get it in like shop blocks and gels and goos and whatever all the little energy products like some of them have caffeine and some dough and i don't feel like i notice and effect either way well the reason i asked is that i find personally i remember i did a three-day meditation retreat my first meditation retreat and they disallowed caffeine they said no caffeine and no alarm clocks you wake up when you wake up and when i came to my life that's i'm on i'm on a 20-year meditation retreat yeah i need to do more of that and i came back from that experience and went back into my normal routine which was drinking not coffee at that point but a lot of iced tea like i'd go to a restaurant they would just endlessly refill my iced tea and i felt like a complete crack head like a miserable crack head and i was like is this what my normal was holy shit and the reason that i brought it up is that it strikes me that at least in that state i would have a lot of trouble distinguishing the fine nuances of different types of food because you're just overwhelmed when you're all jacked up on sugar from iced tea stuff and then you're in like caffeine who know yeah totally there's like a lot going on physiologically and it's hard to differentiate like what the what the finer points are yeah the signal from the noise at what climbing grades have you plateaued the most this is from liz wolf and she she just said five eleven plateau has been really bad for me which probably means she hasn't got past the five eleven she's just like mired in five eleven mind um no so i've basically i pretty much progressed steadily to about mid five fourteen so like fourteen b

Challenges, Training, And Future Plans

At what climbing grades have you plateaued the most? (01:33:05)

or c and i've basically been plateaued there for like seven or ten years or something um though i feel like i've sort of plateaued there because i'm at the point um i mean because mid five fourteen is definitely a fairly high level of climbing though it's by no means elite by the world standard anymore like that's not that's not like super hard just to put in perspective what it what would be the hardest thing in the world is 15c but only two people have climbed that but there are a lot of people climbing like 15a and 15 bish now and so climbing like 14 b or c is like you know respectable but a lot of people can do that like first try no not a lot but a handful of people can climb that first try no problem it's like trivial for them so you know i mean it's not it's by no means world standard but you know it's it's solid but so i think that for me that's sort of my natural plateau like that's kind of what i can climb without having to train much to climb harder you know because the thing is i spent a lot of my year doing like adventure trips and expeditions and you know doing stuff through my foundation and going to ankle last year i mean trips like that that do not help your fitness at all like they won't help you climb harder but they definitely make you a more well-rounded climber and probably a better person and more understanding you get to do fun stuff and so you know i've sort of been content being plateaued at admit 514 for a long time though i could see at some point in my life i might devote a year or two to like actually trying to climb hard because i'd love to climb the the french grade 9a which is 14d and us grades um it's just sort of like a meaningful benchmark grade that if i ever climbed 9a i'd be like respect like i'm good like that's that's hard enough for me so if you wanted to do that hard climbing what would the most important components of that training look like um i'm not totally sure i mean i think for me it would require more fingerboarding or hangboarding like basically just focusing more on finger strength because i think as a climber that's probably what i'm worst at is just like the pure strength holding on to things um but also i think for me it would just require more dedicated focused hard climbing for the year you know like right now i'm climbing in Yosemite and in my whole season of climbing Yosemite i won't do a single hard move basically at the you know at the physical limit of like what i can actually pull on because i'm climbing these like great big walls and i'm trying to climb them quickly and sometimes when i'm climbing them ropeless but anyway i'm doing them and all these styles that like it just doesn't help you pull harder and so like if i wanted to climb harder grades i would have to just pull harder if you could no longer climb but had to pick a physical activity what would you pick if i couldn't climb i don't know i have a lot of respect for ultra runners i think because they sort of interact with the landscape in the same way that i kind of like to you know like the something like the ultra tour mow mow mow when you like run all the way around the mow mow messif i mean that's pretty cool and like i would love to be able to

If Alex could no longer climb (01:35:42)

do things like that but i just like don't really i can't run that well but um but the thing is is that i really love running like mountain ridge lines and things and then that quickly becomes actual rock climbing and so i'm like wow it's like i don't know but yeah ultra running is pretty awesome or um i don't know i could be into like big mountain skiing too like it's same but see it all sort of gravitates back towards mountains and i'm like wow that's basically climbing and then you get exposed to nasty things like avalanches for those of you who haven't seen marrow jesus jimmy both of you guys make me sweat not that i need any help i tend to run hot drink a tea anyway but uh i digress as usual uh what do you world class at aside from climbing or within climbing that people might not realize um or how would your best friends answer that question i don't know i mean i guess one that within climbing i'd say that um isn't it because i'm known as a free soloist i'm known for the roclus climbing and that's like what you'll see online and you know all the videos and all

What else are you world-class at? (01:36:50)

that but i'd probably still be a professional climber even if i didn't free solo at all um like right now i hold the speed record on like pretty much every major formation in Yosemite um but you know all the different faces like all the classic roots like um i mean i think that's basically true and so yeah i don't know i mean i probably still be like one of the more well-rounded climbers in america even without the free soloing but um but it's also sort of overshadowed by the like oh my god he's ropless and it's funny because i only do you know a handful of solos a year if that and then i spend the whole rest of the year climbing with partners and ropes and like normal climbing with my friends just like doing all kinds of interesting things and expeditions and whatever and yet it still just comes down to like whoa free soloing but you know that i'm fine with that because at least i could do a climb all the time what advice would you give to your 25 year old self 25 or 20 depending on who needed it the most and if you could just place

Advice to your younger self (01:38:03)

like what you were doing where you were at the time well 20 is still slightly too old but like my 18 year old self i'll just tell that i would say just not bother going to college at all because like the year that i spent at Berkeley was the total waste my time basically not not because there's anything wrong with Berkeley but because i just wasn't passionate about what i was studying and there's no there i'd be there was no point in me like grinding out of your studies that i didn't care about that you know i should have just like gone climbing because i mean that's what i really cared about and that's what's been so funny over the years is that like with climbing you know i have no problem putting in you know 20 to 40 hours a week every week all year into climbing like and i mean that's a fair amount i've been keeping a training journal um so i have like sort of hours of exercise and last year um i counted up at the end of the at the new year and i basically averaged like 27 hours a week of exercise every week last year which is you know like i think that's kind of comparable to other i mean you would know more than me but other sports like for training volume but i mean then when you think that i've probably been doing that for the last 10 years that i've been on the road and actually in last year was a particularly low volume year for me because i i had a book come out and so i did a month of book touring and i also did like a month of touring in South America and so like i was climbing much less than i normally would so presumably a few years ago living in the van i was probably doing like 30 probably 30 or 32 hours a week of exercise which is like a lot of time spent climbing it is a lot of time but what else do you put in your training journal what other details are in there um it's one line i do one line hours of exercise one line um any additional like strength training type stuff or like the stretching i've been doing recently and then one line diet which is like eight well eight poorly eight so

How Alex keeps his training journal (01:39:34)

so or like you know too many cookies like whatever things like that do you go back do you eat a lot of cookies uh sometimes i have an unfortunate what's what's what's your go-to cookie should i just talk to you cookies like straight yeah i can eat a lot of cookies yeah well that's probably the only thing that athletically well not literally that we share in common oh yeah do you go big on the cookies yeah there are these you looking towards your kids uh well i was looking i have this like secret stash i have to keep it at a site yeah there are these chocolate chip cookies uh that are actually from long island tates i think they are there's somebody nodding over there imported chocolate chip cookies well originally from long island and they have there's a their chocolate chip cookies then there are these i think they're gluten-free ginger cookies and i can't have those in my house or i would demolish the best thing with desserts too is that i don't really buy dessert much because if i buy it i just eat it all immediately like i'm terrible with moderation so i generally don't have any dessert in the van and then when i do i just eat it all sorry uh if you were to i know this is this is a bit of a reach but you're 30 now let's say you're idealized 40 year old self right uh what advice do you think that 40 year old would give you now i don't know i mean i feel like i'm doing pretty well right now oh i'm not saying you're not um yeah no i don't i don't know i mean just you know just enjoy the ride yeah just enjoy the process uh what would you like your life to look like in ten years um i don't i mean maybe have a family or something or at least like a solid partner solid something going on um i think i'd like to maybe own a home or like have have a place that i'm kind of living like more of a solid home base just because like living in a van is great but you know at a certain point you're like man it's nice to have like a bathroom but i'm having like a shower and things so how do you deal

What would you like your life to look like in 10 years? (01:41:23)

with that actually no that no that because that's why when i came into your house i used your bathroom oh that's good but like last so like last night you're like oh man i had too much water i have no i have a pee bottle i mean you know i've used a bottle forever and actually the thing is when you get used to using a pee bottle all the time like when i pull into a grocery store or something i was just like peeing my bottle before i go into you know because you're like why would i ever

Living Conditions

Pee bottles and how to live without a bathroom (01:41:49)

go and find some like dank public bathroom when like i can just eat my bottle so do you have do you have is it a disposable pee bottle like it's no no i was like i use like a nalgene i use like a two liter bottle just like some random plastic bottle and i basically use it over and over until it's like this is repulsive and then i recycle it and then i move on to another but it's actually kind of that this natural it's like in the natural life cycle because i'll use the same water bottle for climbing it'll just be like some random two liter bottle that's in my bag for like months but then eventually it starts to get disgusting or just kind of you know little gross and so then i'm like well that becomes the pee bottle and then i get another bottle it's like the the four month cycle on my bottles you know do you do you label them or do you know do you know do you know buy a bottle yeah with a pee bottle you just know like you know when you open the bottle you're like oh i shouldn't drink this but also i have systems with like where things go and you know i'm never gonna accidentally like drink my pee bottle uh do you have do people visit you in your van like hang out in your van aside from the dates um yeah no i mean friends hang out in my van for sure i mean a lot of my climbing friends would be staying in a tent normally or staying wherever so i mean for them it's a big step up to hang out in the van it's like climate controlled you know you can it's like sheltered you can cook on a nice stove it's lit i mean it's a nice place to hang out in the evenings uh if you could have one billboard with anything on it what would it say or what would you put on it so you can get a message to the world oh i don't know i mean like it's just like i don't know environmental propaganda or something or like uh the meat so i'm like pretty stoked and all the vegetarian type of stuff now just because it's such an easy way to minimize your impact on the planet and it's just you

Alex's billboard (01:43:28)

know that i mean it just solves so many different environmental issues but um i don't know but the thing is a billboard is not the best way to just say don't eat meat because it's like it's obviously a lot more complicated than that and nobody's gonna read that and be like oh okay i'll stop right you know it's like it requires more of a conversation yeah i mean it requires like a whole and and even then it's like it's not to say that like meat is fundamentally bad it's like how you get it where it's from what you're supporting i mean you know it's like a whole feedlot versus this versus yeah yeah i mean even that's like really complicated yeah because there are places in the world where it makes sense to to raise animals because like you can't raise anything else you can't grow crops you you know yeah whatever and so uh what have you changed your mind about in the last few years if anything um i mean the first thing that comes to mind is like in high school i was reading a bunch of iron rand or an rand whatever you know like objectivist all super black and white

Changes And Reflective Thoughts

What have you changed your mind about in recent history? (01:44:36)

basically like f the poor people should work harder they should try harder and now as a 30 year old i'm basically like all about trying to help the poor trying to help the planet in different ways trying to make the world a better place it's like full 180 from you know the black and white that i was into in high school and then yeah i mean i've had massive changes on all those kinds of things i mean i used to be way more harsh you know and like my political views are like way further left now i'm just way more i mean i'm a lot more compassionate now i feel like that's funny not so much on a personal level because i don't really care but on like a societal level i'm a lot more compassionate all right i can't let that one go right away so well because i was like i can't self-describe as compassionate because none of my friends would agree you know because the thing is i'm not like nice to like my friends or i'm like a one-on-one level i'm not like a super kind person i don't think but um but definitely in the grander sense i mean i'm trying to make i'm i aspire to make the world a better place and like a more more just world you know on the macro level yeah exactly so it's so it's so if i took say a couple of your closest friends and gave them a bottle or two a wine or just hanging out how would they describe you oh i don't know i mean i mean if you had to guess i mean i'm sure to think well i mean i'm pretty frank i think and so people can you know i think i can kind of be a dick sometimes and um though i just consider that being very honest you know we keep it real yeah i'm just keeping it real keeping it real i mean i'd like to think that my friends would still call me a good person you know that i'm still like still trying to i'm doing my best you know uh do you have any we're going to wrap up here any ask or request for my audience i think it could be something you want them to think about something you would like them to try something like them to do i feel like they're all i'm a fighter zed astell ask them not to beat me up over please i don't know do something positive in the world you know not a bad place to wrap up where can people find more of you online best place to say hello to what you're up to um i mean my most personal outlet is probably my facebook fan page i'm like constantly posting stuff that i care about and it's all managed by me and so it's just like me posting articles that i think are interesting it's kind of like a combination of of the climbing stuff that i'm into and then like the environmental stuff that i'm into basically i post the environmental stuff is all the stuff i care about and then i post just enough climbing so everyone doesn't leave and uh is that what what is the URL for that and i'll put this in /allaxonald i think okay but if you just search search for it as you know like a fan page it's like several hundred thousand people over there each and then old yeah well uh Alex i really appreciate you taking the time i've been hoping to meet you for a long time given that we're not that far apart oftentimes with uh u.s.m. any so yeah it's a prozzer this is uh this has been fun and once i once i fix my elbows maybe i'll see if i can tackle yeah you should be up b0 or two and maybe actually get outdoors which i would enjoy so uh yeah i will uh hopefully do more than a three-day meditation retreat given that you've been doing it for 20 years i think i might extend my ambition a little bit but uh thanks very much i appreciate it no thanks for having me pleasure and everybody listening for show notes links to everything that we talked about please just go to for our forward slash podcast and until next time as always thank you for listening hey guys this is Tim again just a few more things before you take off number one this is five bullet friday do you want to get a short email from me would you enjoy getting a short email for me every friday that provides a little more soul of fun before the weekend and five bullet fridays a very short email where i share the coolest things i've found or that i've been pondering over the week that could include favorite new albums that i've discovered it could include gizmos and gadgets and all sorts of weird shit that i've somehow dug up in the the world of the esoteric as i do it could include favorite articles that i have read and that i've shared with my close friends for instance and it's very short it's just a little tiny bite of goodness before you head off for the weekend so if you want to receive that check it out just go to for our that's for our all spelled out and just drop in your email and you will get the very next one and if you sign up i hope you enjoy it. This episode is brought to you by headspace more than 80% of the people i have interviewed world-class performers across the military entertainment sports and beyond all have some type of meditative practice. I tried for years and years and failed miserably the key is making it simple and you can dramatically improve your life in just 10 minutes a day and technology can help you. This change comes through guided meditation and headspace is by far the most popular app for this purpose more than four million users it's meditation made simple. So what i recommend is that you take this practice meditation which is rooted in thousands of years of tradition supported by thousands of scientific studies and try it for 10 minutes a day for 10 days that's all you need to do. 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