At The Oscars With Alex Honnold Talking Free Solo, Accidental Movie Stardom, and His Custom The North Face Tuxedo
“Can you button this?” Alex Honnold, one of the best rock climbers in the world, is holding his wrist out to me, so I can help him with the cuffs of his tuxedo shirt. “I can’t do buttons,” he says.
This is hard to comprehend given that Honnold’s fingertips have their own lexicon of dexterity: he uses them on a daily basis to wedge, grip, pinch, crimp and palm odd patterns in rock faces, sometimes thousands of feet up a cliff face without a rope. This skill is why climbing geeks — and now movie buffs — know his name.
Honnold is famous for his climbing, but he’s also the star of the 2018 film “Free Solo,” a documentary of Honnold tackling the famed 3,000-foot El Cap route in Yosemite National Park, completely un-roped. El Cap is usually conquered over the course of several days by climbers laced to the mountain with ropes and harnesses; Honnold completed it in just under four hours with little more than a chalk bag. The movie is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary. Today, the day of the Oscars, Honnold is standing in my hotel room at the Beverly Wilshire — he spent the morning in a climbing gym — as the Gear Patrol team gets set up to film a video with him.
Normally, you wouldn’t find Honnold in anything but shorts and a technical tee, with chalk in the creases of his fingers. “I wear approach shoes unless someone tells me not to,” Honnold says. Today, someone told him not to. Honnold is hours from walking the red carpet at the 91st Academy Awards. He’s traded them for shiny black lace-ups from Barney’s, and traditional black tie. If Honnold is stopped on the red carpet and asked the standard, “Who are you wearing?” he’ll have an interesting answer: The North Face, the legendary American outdoor company and Honnold’s apparel sponsor, made the tux. Look closely and you’ll see his pocket square is full of tiny little black-on-black The North Face logos.
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