Passion v. Public Opinion

Alex Honnold, arguably the most well known and best free solo climber of this era, has been under scrutiny lately due to Clif Bar rescinding their sponsorship of him. According to Clif Bar, free soloing and other extremely risky forms of climbing are “pushing boundaries and taking the element of risk to a place where we as a company are no longer willing to go.” As a large corporation with many interests other than being climbing enthusiasts, there is definitely some legitimacy to this decision by Clif Bar. The scrutiny of this decision at this point isn’t as much about dropping the sponsorship. The question now is how far is too far when it comes to these extreme sports like free soloing or BASE jumping, where the smallest of mistakes could result in a disastrous and usually life ending accident.

In response to Clif Bar dropping their sponsorship, Honnold wrote an op-ed for the New York times explaining why he free solo climbs. Honnold quite clearly states why he free solos, and the money and publicity he receives from sponsorships is not one of the reasons. Honnold free solos because it’s his passion. Similar to any other professional athlete, free soloing is what he loves to do. The problem with free soloing is the high risk and low margin for error, and that is why the public is becoming increasingly skeptical of these kind of high risk sports.

Wingsuit Base Jumper

Wingsuit Base Jumper

This conflict between Honnold’s passion for doing something so dangerous and the public opinion of what he’s doing almost directly relates to Mill’s writing. Although many people disagree with free solo climbing, at very worst it could be considered a self regarding vice. In no way has his climbing harmed any other people and there really isn’t any way that it could. Stated directly in his op-ed article, Honnold says that “I draw the lines for myself.” This is why free soloing is what it is and why it could be considered at worst a self regarding vice. Many people enjoy these kind of adventure sports because there really are no rules and you do draw the lines for yourself. Feeling freedom and being able to do what you want to do are the reasons these people have a passion for the sport. Although public opinion is growing increasingly negative on these extreme sports, these athletes have a right to do what they’re doing and that likely won’t ever change.

Alex Honnold free solo climbing

Alex Honnold free solo climbing