While the very point of Honnold’s free solo attempt (or any free solo attempt) is the challenge of a flawless climb, no climber will dispute that having a rope and other safety measures makes such a climb easier. It’s similarly hard to argue how having a support system in times of personal crisis would not make the situation far easier for an individual to endure.
There are dozens of routes up El Cap and nearly all have steel bolts – anchors – drilled into the rock, put there by climbers onto which ropes can be affixed. These anchors are permanent and remain for use by other climbers, aiding and protecting them in their attempt to reach the summit.
In life there are anchors, too. Some come in the form of people, such as friends, family, mentors or even counselors and therapists. Other anchors come from the grounding principles one finds in religion or spirituality. Still others may be found in athletic pursuits or a dedicated exercise regimen.
Whether it’s soliciting advice from friends or mentors or seeking professional help to overcome more significant issues, the choice of anchors is personal and perhaps less important than the decision to reach out. As on El Cap, these life anchors can also serve to help us reach greater heights even when we’re not facing a crisis.
Just as a climber may try a challenging grab knowing they have rope to catch them, so too can we take risks while attempting new things or chasing difficult goals knowing we have people to catch us if we fail.
Honnold’s climb had to be flawless. There was no “almost made it” nor any room for mistakes. Life doesn’t have to be like this. By maintaining meaningful relationships and a willingness to use those and other lifelines and anchors when challenges arise, we can more easily weather missteps along the way. Simply, a stumble won’t turn into a fall.
Knowing a support system is there for us – whether to provide advice and counsel along the way or to just cheer us on – allows us to reach greater heights than if we’re on the mountain alone.