In 1958, Warren Harding, Wayne Merry, and George Whitmore climbed Yosemite’s El Capitan for the first time in history. Scaling the 900-meter granite face was previously thought impossible.
Since that time, rock climbing standards and achievements have continued to be set in many unprecedented ways.
But then in 2016, Pete Whittaker of the UK became the first person to rope solo – all free – El Capitan in 20 hours 6 minutes.
Then in 2017, Alex Honnold free free climbed – without ropes – the 3,000-foot wall.
Honnold explains about his climb without safety equipment, “It is all part of the human drive to do new things and push in new directions.”
Any wrong move on the sheer granite wall – that is taller than any building on Earth – would have immediately spelled certain death.
More and more people will undoubtedly attempt such climbs around the world. People already attempt and do radically dangerous things on land from the South Pole to the North Pole.
At what point will swimmers also try to do the equivalent of Honnold’s free solo climb in the ocean’s waters?
“I think it will come soon enough,” predicts Steven Munatones. “The global open water swimming world has already seen attempts like Dr. Chris Lechner who attempted a solo, non-escorted 80-mile (128.7 km) stage swim across Lake Michigan with only a paddleboard, IOLITE and satellite phone in 2015. He was rescued close to his goal, but just fell short of accomplishing his goal of swimming from Racine Harbor in Wisconsin to Holland, Michigan.”
A governing body like the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation or the Channel Swimming Association would not – and could not – get involved in a channel swimming equivalent of a free solo climb. “It would be irresponsible for any existing, legitimate governing body to authorize, participate in or ratify such a free solo swim without escort or a support boat,” predicts Munatones.
“But a true free solo swim – a non-stop swim without fins or wetsuits or getting out on a support vessel and without an escort crew or pilot or even any GPS equipment – across a channel may be the closest equivalent of Alex Honnold’s free solo climb up El Capitan that open water swimmers could possibly do.
What modern-day adventurers and extreme athletes are doing nowadays – and planning for the future – on land and in the water is mind-boggling incredible and inspirational.”