Thursday November 20th, 2014

Climber Alex Honnold wrote an op-ed in The New York Times about Clif Bar's decision to drop him and four other climbers as a sponsor earlier this month.

The decision, which came after the release of a documentary showing dangerous climbs, was met with criticism within the climbing community. 

The sports-bar company released a statement in light of the "heated dialogue" surrounding its decision.

"Climbing has been a part of our company’s DNA from the beginning," the statement reads. "Over a year ago, we started having conversations internally about our concerns with B.A.S.E. jumping, highlining and free-soloing.  We concluded that these forms of the sport are pushing boundaries and taking the element of risk to a place where we as a company are no longer willing to go. 

"We understand that some climbers feel these forms of climbing are pushing the sport to new frontiers.  But we no longer feel good about benefitting from the amount of risk certain athletes are taking in areas of the sport where there is no margin for error; where there is no safety net."

Honnold is renowned for soloing -- climbing without any support from equipment or other people.

In the op-ed, Honnold writes that the danger of the adventures undertaken by he and other climbers is "part of what makes them interesting to the public and to sponsors."

Honnold also writes that he fears sponsors refusing to support "risky" climbing behaviors like soloing could make the sport more sterile.

In essence, that’s the same way I feel when free soloing. I draw the lines for myself; sponsors don’t have any bearing on my choices or my analysis of risk. Soloing appeals to me for a variety of reasons: the feeling of mastery that comes from taking on a big challenge, the sheer simplicity of the movement, the experience of being in such an exposed position. Those reasons are a powerful enough motivation for me to take certain risks. But it’s a personal decision, and one that I consider carefully before any serious ascent.

In climbing, sponsors typically support an athlete but provide very little direction, giving the climber free rein to follow his or her passion toward whatever is inspiring. It’s a wonderful freedom, in many ways similar to that of an artist who simply lives his life and creates whatever moves him. Clif Bar’s decision to fire the five of us may limit that freedom.

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