Alex Honnold Biography

(Rock climber)

Birthday: August 17, 1985 (Leo)

Born In: Sacramento, California, United States

American rock climber Alex Honnold has shot to international fame with his free solo climbs of big walls. He scripted history in 2017, after becoming the first person to successfully complete a free solo climb of Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan. While he initially studied civil engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, he later dropped out of university and started exploring California in his mother’s minivan. He later purchased his own van and spent a decade living the van life, while climbing. His 2017 feat of climbing the El Capitan by himself was featured in the 2018 documentary Free Solo, which later won an Academy Award and a BAFTA. Honnold has also won multiple awards and accolades, such as the Piolet d'Or for his ascent of the Fitz Traverse in Patagonia with partner Tommy Caldwell. He has co-written a memoir and has also launched a non-profit organization that focuses on generation and equitable distribution of solar energy globally.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Alexander Honnold

Age: 38 Years, 38 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Sanni McCandless ​ (m. 2020)

father: Charles Honnold

mother: Dierdre Wolownick

siblings: Stasia Honnold

Born Country: United States

American Men University Of California, Berkeley

Height: 5'11" (180 cm), 5'11" Males

U.S. State: California

More Facts

education: University Of California; Berkeley, Mira Loma High School

Childhood & Early Life

Alex Honnold was born Alexander J. Honnold, on August 17, 1985, in Sacramento, California, US, to community college professor Dierdre Wolownick and Charles Honnold. While he is of German descent from his father’s side, he has Polish roots through his maternal side.

He was 5 when he began his training in a climbing gym. By his teens, he had started participating in many national and international junior climbing championships.

He was part of the International Baccalaureate Programme of the Mira Loma High School and graduated in 2003. Following this, he joined the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied civil engineering.

Amid his parents’ divorce in the first year of college, Honnold skipped classes to boulder at Indian Rock all by himself, instead. Honnold later dropped out of Berkeley and spent most of his time at home, driving his mother’s old minivan around California and climbing. He later ditched the van and went around in his bicycle and lived in a tent.

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In 2007, Alex Honnold purchased a 2002 Ford Econoline E150 van and began focusing on climbing. He started gaining fame after the Emmy-nominated film Alone on the Wall (2008) featured his 2008 solo climb of the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome. This was followed by a 60 Minutes interview, which brought him further recognition.

In November 2011, Honnold and Hans Florine took the Nose route on Yosemite's El Capitan but missed completing it in record time by 45 seconds. In 2016, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of Honnold’s brain revealed that his amygdala responds differently to disturbing images or low levels of fear stimuli, compare to a normal person’s brain.

He however feels this condition is a result of the years of conditioning that he has undergone by pushing himself to work in extreme conditions. He also confesses that he feels fear occasionally.

On June 3, 2017, Alex Honnold free soloed the Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan through the Freerider route in 3 hours and 56 minutes. The route he took was of 2,900-foot (884m). He thus scripted history as the first and only climber to free solo El Capitan. His feat was captured in the 2018 Academy Award- and BAFTA-winning documentary Free Solo.

On June 6, 2018, Honnold and his climbing partner Tommy Caldwell decided to climb the Nose on El Capitan. The duo set a new speed record in Yosemite, completing the ascent in 1 hour 58 minutes and 7 seconds. They thus became the first climbers to complete the climb in less than 2 hours.

In 2021, Honnold was signed by National Geographic to appear in a docuseries about his plans to climb the peaks of Greenland. The same year, Honnold launched a podcast on climbing.

A pioneer of free solo climbing, he has set new standards in a controversial adventure sport in which cliffs are scaled without safety ropes and any failure can result in death. His other feats include the free solo ascent of the Yosemite Triple Crown: Mt. Watkins, El Capitan, and Half Dome, in 18 hours and 50 minutes (which was also the fastest climb of the Yosemite triple crown).

An expert in solo climbing big walls, he has also experimented with bouldering (such as The Mandala 8A+ in Bishop, California, in 2011), single pitch (such as The Phoenix, at the Yosemite National Park, in 2011), and mountains (such as The Fitz Roy Traverse in Patagonia, completed over 5 days with his partner Tommy Caldwell.

He won the 2015 Piolet d'Or for his climb of the Fitz Traverse in Patagonia with Tommy Caldwell. In 2017, he received a Special Mention of Piolet d’Or for his outstanding contribution in climbing. In 2010, Honnold received the Golden Piton Award for his achievements in the domain of climbing.

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Personal Life

Alex Honnold spent almost a decade living in a van. In 2017, he bought a home in the Las Vegas area. Nevertheless, he still lives in his van for about 9 months in a year.

He has now replaced his Ford Econoline van that he had since 2007 with a new 2016 Ram ProMaster. Honnold is a vegetarian and does not consume drugs or drink alcohol. He is also fond of running and hiking as part of his fitness regimen.

He loves reading and is particularly fond of classic literature and subjects such as economics and environmentalism. He is an atheist and a feminist.

In 2015, Honnold met Sanni McCandless at a book signing event. They started dating soon after. McCandless is a transition coach for people who wish to switch to a more outdoorsy life from their regular 9-5 lives. She also manages an online group coaching series named ReSpark and has co-founded the outdoor-based retreat series named Outwild.

On December 25, 2019, Honnold declared on social media that McCandless and he were engaged. On September 13, 2020, he declared on Instagram that they were married. On February 17, 2022, they had a daughter, June J. Honnold.

Alex Honnold's mother, Dierdre Wolownick, began climbing at age 60 and later scripted history as the oldest woman to climb El Capitan (once at age 66 and then breaking her own record at age 70).

Other Interests

Apart from the award-winning documentary Free Solo, Honnold has been part of multiple documentaries, films, and TV projects, such as The Sharp End (2007), Alone on the Wall (2008), Progression (2009), the sitcom Duncanville (2020), The Alpinist (2021), and Explorer: The Last Tepui (2022).

In 2012, Honnold started donating a third of his annual income to solar projects that increased global energy access. Soon, this idea formed the Honnold Foundation, his non-profit organization that aims at promoting production of and equitable distribution of solar energy across the globe. He once stated that his habit of living in a van has taught him that material possessions can be ditched.

Honnold is also associated with other charitable initiatives. He spent the third anniversary of his El Cap climb at a Black Lives Matter protest event in Las Vegas. In November 2015, he published the book Alone on the Wall: Alex Honnold and the Ultimate Limits of Adventure, co-written with climber and mountaineer David Roberts.


His climbs are now sponsored by The North Face. He is almost always seen wearing their clothes and wore a North Face tuxedo at the 2019 Academy Awards, too.

See the events in life of Alex Honnold in Chronological Order

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