ST. GEORGE – Climbers and outdoor enthusiasts alike lined up inside The Desert Rat outdoor gear and clothing store Friday afternoon for their chance to meet renowned free solo climber Alex Honnold.
Honnold is widely recognized as one of the most audacious climbers of his generation. He is known for his free solo ascents – meaning no ropes, harnesses or other climbers – on some of the tallest cliff faces in the United States and throughout the world.
Honnold also holds several speed records, including a speedy ascent of The Nose of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in California with climber Hans Florine.
Despite the rainy weather in Southern Utah, Honnold said he was happy to be here and was pleased with the turnout for the event.
The daring climber has spent a lot of time climbing in the area, he said, and called Zion National Park his second favorite national park after Yosemite.
Honnold brought along several copies of his book “Alone on the Wall” which he wrote with David Roberts detailing some of his climbing adventures.
Books were available for purchase at the event with proceeds from sales going to the Honnold Foundation. The foundation is a charity organization that focuses on clean, sustainable energy projects in impoverished areas of the world and in the United States.
“My foundation basically tries to support environmental projects to improve standards of living,” Honnold said, “so I’ve basically been doing off-grid solar stuff in Africa and some solar stuff in the U.S., basically any kind of environmental projects that lift people out of poverty as well.”
Honnold was recently in Kenya, Africa, for three weeks and said he might be doing similar work in Ethiopia in the future.
With relatively easy access to world-class climbing spots such as Zion National Park and the Virgin River Gorge, or VRG as Honnold referred to it, St. George is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and Honnold’s visit drew a large crowd.
“Of course in a town like St. George there are a lot of enthusiastic outdoor folks, but it’s impressive to see so many come together,” Honnold said. “I mean it’s just a little book signing in a gear shop …. I can’t believe so many people came. It’s a pretty legit community.”
Fostering a community of outdoor enthusiasts is something The Desert Rat manager Bo Beck strives to do, he said.
“We wanted to offer an experience for the community, we wanted to pull the community together within the store so that people came here for information,” Beck said. ” … To us it’s more like building a community … and creating the outdoor experience and bringing it here as the hub.”
Honnold took time to sign books, posters, calendars and climbing gear for all who attended.
“It’s good to know that so many are people are stoked on climbing,” Honnold said.
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