Even after all the magazine covers and films, Alex Honnold still lives in his van—though now it’s hooked up with solar power. And last week Alex and fellow climber Cedar Wright departed on a solar-focused adventure for Sufferfest 2—a month of biking, camping, and climbing through the Southwest that will culminate in bringing solar power to Navajo lands.
If you missed the original Sufferfest, a crowd favorite on the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, you can now watch the full 17-minute film online. In The Sufferfest, Alex and Cedar pedal their way across California to climb all of the state’s 14ers. And it turns out, the biking was pretty grueling for the seasoned rockhounds. It’s hilarious and delightful to watch.
This time Alex and Cedar will be climbing harder and biking less through the Four Corners and ending up in the Navajo Nation, where as many as 18,000 households do not have power. They will be helping Elephant Energy install solar power in places that have never had power, including schools and elders’ homes, as part of the work of the Honnold Foundation.
Below Alex answers some of our questions about this sufferfest, round 2, by dictation into his phone while belaying Cedar (one of the many reasons why we love these guys).
Follow their journey over the next month on Instagram: @alexhonnold, @cedarwright, @clifbar, @thenorthface, @goalzero.
Adventure: Where will you and Cedar be suffering/having fun this time? How many peaks, how many miles?
Alex Honnold: We started the trip in Grand Junction, Colorado, and will wind up on the Navajo lands. We’re hoping to hit the most iconic towers along the way, ideally by the hardest routes. But the trip is very flexible. A lot of it comes down to aesthetics and what we see along the way.
A: For this trip, you are bringing solar power to elders and schools that don’t presently have power in within the Navajo lands. How did this become your mission and why?
AH: Well I’ve been supporting solar nonprofits for the last two years through my foundation (honnoldfoundation.org), but this is the first time I’ve tried to incorporate that into a climbing trip. It just seem like a perfect fit considering some of the great desert climbing is down in the Navajo lands and there is also such a need for solar.
It’s just nice to try to do something useful for the real world through a climbing trip.
A: Do you use solar power in your own daily life?
AH: I do. I’m sponsored by the solar company Goal Zero, and they were gracious enough to install panels on my van and a nice battery system for the inside. I have lights and a fridge inside the van. And of course I had panels installed on my mom’s house.
A: Sufferfest, the first film, is fun and funny to watch. I laughed out loud, a lot. Are you and Cedar attempting to put a different spin on an environmental story?
AH: I think part of what made the original Sufferfest charming was the extremely low production value. It was all shaky handheld footage from Cedar. This time we’re shooting for something slightly more professional. There are other people filming, and Cedar is trying to make a slightly more serious, higher-quality film.
A: Have you gotten more fond of biking since the last trip? Did you change your rig at all?
AH: We are using the same bikes, but we did get nicer panniers. But basically it’s the same set up and it does seem slightly easier this time. And of course we always bike around town, though that’s not super far.
A: What is the goal of the Honnold Foundation? Is this your first big project?
AH: The goal of the foundation is just to give back in whatever way I can. So far that means supporting other nonprofits in their environment work, specifically solar projects. This is the first time I’ve tried to incorporate climbing into the nonprofit work, though I think I’ll continue to do it in the future.
A: For all your intense free soloing and climbing, you are also a vegetarian. This is baffling to many people who feel like meat protein is necessary to fuel a high-intensity physical activity. How do you make it work for you? Why do you bother?
AH: I am a vegetarian, and I sort of aspire to vegan-hood. So far I’ve noticed no difference at all in my climbing, but I feel a bit healthier overall. Though that’s only because I’m eating more fruits and vegetables. I think the whole protein thing is overhyped. Most Americans eat far more than we need. I just like the fact that I’m having a slightly lower impact in the world. And though I never cared about it before, it’s satisfying to not be killing any creatures.
A: What are some surprises we can look forward to in Sufferfest 2.0?
AH: So far no big surprises. But much better climbing footage and much nicer scenery. This is one of the most beautiful areas in the world. We’ll see how it all plays out.
A: I imagine you and Cedar could keep on suffering for a good cause indefinitely. Is this going to be an annual thing?
AH: I doubt annual, but hopefully we can continue to have good adventures. This one is far less suffering and far more fun, so if they’re all like this we’ll be much more inclined to continue. We’ll see, it’s pretty fun though!