If there’s one person on top of the world right now, it’s Alex Honnold. On June 3rd, he shocked the climbing world with a free-solo (that means no ropes, no safety gear of any kind) of El Capitan. Fellow climbing star Tommy Caldwell likened it to “‘the moon-landing’ of free-soloing.”

A post shared by Alex Honnold (@alexhonnold) on

From the image above taken from the final pitches of the climb, you can see how El Cap is a 3,000-foot-high granite monolith with huge sections polished glass-like by glaciers. There are various routes to the top, but in each one climbers are tested on every kind of technique from long cracks to smearing their feet on the slippery vertical face.

The route Honnold took, called Freerider, was first done in 1995 and still remains one of the most difficult routes with ropes. To do it free-solo was simply beyond what anyone could’ve imagined.

And yet that’s just what motivates Honnold. A quiet, humble, meticulous journal-keeper, he said this in an interview with our team last year:

The biggest motivator for me is to think of something that seems almost impossible, or something that you initially reject as impossible. But then it festers in your mind and you’re like ‘well maybe it is possible.’ And then you’re like ‘Well, maybe I could do that!’ And then you’re like, ‘Oh no, now I have to do that.’

Honnold personifies a zenlike simplicity and presence in everything he does. As reported by National Geographic, Honnold set out for his climb, “in the pink light of dawn at 5:32 a.m. He had spent the night in the customized van that serves as his mobile base camp, risen in the dark, dressed in his favorite red t-shirt and cutoff nylon pants, and eaten his standard breakfast of oats, flax, chia seeds, and blueberries, before driving to El Capitan Meadow.”

After posting the first picture of his ascent, he was remarkably straightforward: “So stoked to realize a life dream today :).”