Each of the Loft’s 124 seats was full. Thirty-year-old rock climber Alex “No-Big-Deal” Honnold stood in front of the crowd in a red t-shirt, cracking jokes and flipping through slides and videos of himself rock climbing and doing one-armed pull-ups as a kid, holding his sister as extra weight.
Honnold, one of the best-known climbers worldwide, presented his first book, “Alone on the Wall,” at the Portsmouth Music Hall Loft Tuesday evening as part of the Music Hall’s innovation and leadership series. Honnold is known for free soloing, which is climbing alone without a rope or other safety gear. His book details some of his first and most memorable solos, along with other major roped ascents, and culminating with his ascent of the Fits Roy Traverse in Patagonia.
Honnold co-wrote “Alone on the Wall,” with mountaineer and author David Roberts, who was unable to attend the event due to illness.
“Without [Roberts] this book wouldn’t exist,” Honnold told the crowd.
Roberts approached Honnold about co-writing a book over two years ago, and they decided to each write half of the book; Honnold recounting his climbs in the first person, and Roberts drawing on other climbers’ voices to place Honnold’s accomplishments into perspective. According to Honnold, Roberts was worried that Honnold would be too modest in his recounts if he wrote the book alone.
Honnold’s sold-out Power Point presentation with a question and answer session began at 7p.m., but those who were unable to secure tickets were invited to a book signing in the Loft lobby at eight. The line for pictures and autographs wound around the bar and back to the theater entrance, and Honnold signed the last book just before 9 p.m.
In his presentation, Honnold gave an overview of the book, beginning with his first free solos as a 19-year-old and ending with the Fits Traverse in February 2014.
“I wasn’t really good at anything else,” said Honnold, explaining how he was immediately taken with climbing as a 10-year-old. “My dad would belay me in the gym for hours.”
Honnold explained that the book follows his climbing progression, moving from the gearless simplicity of free soloing to more technical and complex mountaineering. After he was featured on “National Geographic” and “60 Minutes” in 2008 for free soloing two-thousand-foot routes in Yosemite, Honnold became known for climbing without a rope, though he says he uses safety gear for most of his climbs. He wrote “Alone on the Wall” in part to change his image of being known simply as a free soloer and to highlight some of his most notable roped accomplishments and the challenges he faced to complete them.
With “Alone on the Wall’s” Nov. 9 release, Portsmouth was Honnold’s first stop on his three-week book tour. Though he has never climbed in the state, he didn’t have time to sample New Hampshire granite before leaving to present in New York City.
The Music Hall Loft, located at 131 Chester Street in Portsmouth, hosts 15 writers annually for book talks and signings. Through its partnership with UNH, the Music Hall also offers $10 student tickets for select performances, including White Christmas this Dec. 9 to the 20, and free admission with student ID to Music Hall films at its 28 Chestnut Street location.