Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Alex Honnold's imprint

Free Solo climber Alex Honnold has left his world-famous fingerprints at Air Greenand. Months of preparation for a series of charter flights has resulted in a documentary film about his latest achievement

If you are keen on hiking in the mountains or climbing mountains, then you have probably heard of Alex Honnold. The man who in 2017, among other things, achieved great recognition for having climbed the 2,307 meter high El Capitan, an iconic granite rock in Yosemite National Park, without safety equipment. An achievement that was recorded for the documentary "Free Solo", which the following year won an Oscar for best documentary.


For those who don't know, Free solo climbing is without the use of safety equipment such as ropes, harnesses, wedges or hooks which means the climber is not protected from falling.


This is the type of climbing that Alex Honnold is known for, and he has climbed many heights around the world.


Now he can add East Greenland to his CV. The last mountain he has climbed is called Immikkoortoq, which is said to be higher than El Capitan. The steep Immikkoortoq mountain is an extension of an active glacier at the bottom of a fjord, west of Constable Pynt.


A feat which was filmed by National Geographic and which has just premiered on the Disney+ channel.


An order ticks in
But first, let’s go back to April 2022, when Air Greenland's charter department receives an exciting email. The sender of the email that ticked in came from the facilitation company Gelco Corporation.
- I was completely new in the house and sensed that this assignment was something special. And sure enough, it turned out to be a task beyond the ordinary, says Daniel Motzfeldt, Sales Account Manager at Air Greenland.


Gelco wanted to order a helicopter as a fixed cargo for Alex Honnold, a film crew from National Geographic, camping and climbing equipment as well as food and fuel for depots in two specially selected areas, in the fjord area near Constable Pynt, and the task was estimated to last a whole month.


The charter department accepted the order and the challenge, and could then look forward to four months of intense planning.


Meetings were held and a great deal of back and forth was discussed, in order to get all the logistics to work together. There was one means of transport to make good use of, and that was Air Greenland's AS350 helicopter, which already operates two weekly village flights.


When everything was arranged and the parties had agreed to carry out the task, the first flights started in the Constable Pynt area in July.
- It was a great experience to be part of this project. Every minute counted and all forms of action were watched. It was a period when 12-hour working days were not unusual, reports Daniel Motzfeldt.


Honnold and the bears
As Daniel describes, the Charter Department followed the operation closely, from a distance, every single day, for a whole month. Only a few times was it the weather that put a stop to the transport of supplies. But when it did happen, the storm could last for several days, and sometimes almost up to a whole week.
- It was definitely the days with stormy weather that were the most challenging, for both Alex Honnold and the film crew. Because when the helicopter couldn't reach them, they were left completely alone in East Greenland's desolate and harsh landscape, where it is basically only polar bears that have a pulse. And we were told that there were some of them. But it also meant that when the supplies ran out, and there was simply no more food, says Daniel Motzfeldt.


But the operation was successful thanks to the charter department's careful planning and daily close dialogue between all parties. The last flight was therefore carried out as planned in August, just over a month after the start.
- When the task was completed, it was hard to believe, in fact I was about to shed a tear of relief that everything had gone well, says Daniel Motzfeldt and continues;
- That Air Greenland has managed to utilize the surplus capacity, by both securing our traffic program during the period and at the same time taking on such a large task. I think we could be proud of that, says Daniel Motzfeldt.


If you are curious to see National Geographic's footage from this exciting trip, you should go to Disney+, where there is now a new documentary. The trailer he can be seen here:

FACTS: Alex Honnold
American mountaineer, born August 17, 1985, best known for his free solo ascents of big walls.
He achieved worldwide fame in June 2017 when he became the first person to abseil a route solo on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, a climb described in the New York Times as “one of the great athletic feats of any kind, ever.


Honnold also holds the record for the fastest ascent of the "Yosemite Triple Crown," an 18-hour, 50-minute ascent of Mount Watkins, The Nose, and Half Dome's Regular Northwest Face.


In 2015 he won a Piolet d'Or in alpine climbing with Tommy Caldwell for their completion of the enchainment (known as the Fitz Traverse) of the Cerro Chaltén Group (or Fitzroy Group) in Patagonia over 5 days.


Honnold is the author (with David Roberts) of the memoir Alone on the Wall (2015) and the subject of the 2018 BAFTA and Academy Award-winning biographical documentary Free Solo.
- Wikipedia