Dither Me This #8: Honnold

Dither Me This is a publication that presents current, old, spontaneous, or nonsensical musings for the reader to use as a writing prompt, discuss with a friend, lover, or to read and move on. Authors may present questions, creative processes, or thoughtful means to end the week; and while you may still be left staring at the walls, it is not without a new thought mulling the paint into iterative transformation. Thus we send waves into the electronic ether and see what is returned – extending a baton to the world, only a little afraid to let go. 


Matt at the New River Gorge. Photo by Michael Drake

8 – Honnold

by Matt Carpenter

What’s the point in posting about rock climbing anymore? Alex Honnold already free soloed El Capitan! You’ll never do anything that cool and no one will ever be as impressed. I sent a 12c yesterday. It was a sport climb with a bunch of safe bolts that caught my numerous falls before I finally pulled it off. But Honnold free solos 5.13! I climbed El Cap once. My partner and I even made great timing up The Nose by doing it in just three days. But Honnold didn’t need a rope or any climbing gear to climb it in just under four hours. What a jerk!

Does this undermine my accomplishments?

What can we all take away from this?

Humility. Humility not just in terms of “I’ll never be the greatest climber in the world,” but humility in terms of motivation.

Courtesy of Matt Carpenter. Photo by Gabe DeWitt

What motivates you?

It took so much more than the promise of fame and legacy to get that guy to do something like that. He must be motivated by so many more interpersonal challenges. He is motivated by the rock itself and the personal trials it offers him. Probably. I’m sure the attention doesn’t hurt.

Take a lesson here. Don’t let that lesson be that you need to free solo harder things because it’s cool. You’re not Alex Honnold. You’ll die. Take the lesson that you should evaluate what you’re doing in your life. Ask yourself:

“Am I following my passion?”

Matt in West Virginia. Photo by Gabe DeWitt

I hope you’re not following extrinsic motivators like popularity, credibility, or money. For most people, that doesn’t get you where you need to be.

For you rock climbers: the bar for extrinsic reward will constantly be raised. Don’t expect that sending the next highest grade number will fulfill your desires and leave you feeling full. If you truly love rock climbing then you don’t need anyone’s approval. I’ll always appreciate the challenge and adventure that climbing affords me. Sure it’s fun to have everyone congratulate you on a proud send but the reward doesn’t last. For me, what has lasted and will continue to last is this lifetime of personal challenge, adventure, friendship, and experience.

So the next time you’re feeling that your current personal goal is impossible, or invalid, remember that Alex Honnold free soloed El Capitan and he wasn’t a bitch about it.



Courtesy of Matt Carpenter. Photo by Zach W

Matt began consistently climbing in 2005 at the New River Gorge when a teacher at his high school introduced him. In the summer of 2008 he landed a retail job in Yosemite Valley, which is where he began to truly hone his rock craft. Returning year after year, he found his passion not only on the granite big walls, but also on peaks and walls of the High Sierra. He currently teaches high school in Fayetteville, West Virginia, just a few miles from where he grew up. Matt’s passion for rock climbing is what keeps him in West Virginia, and his goal is to share that passion with his students. Matt operates an outdoor adventure club and also coaches a smaller climbing team. Matt climbs year-round at the New River Gorge, but being a teacher also allows him to chase alpine and mountain objectives in the summer. Matt has been a climbing ambassador for Butora Shoes since 2015, but he has always been #livingthedream. You can follow him on Instagram @cattmarpenter to stay informed on his latest adventures.

Inspired to respond? Leave thoughts below, in an email, or via Instagram with #dithermethis and tag @bivytales.

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dither me this is a collaborative effort between Sara Aranda, Birch Malotky, and Emma Murray


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