Climber Alex Honnold has written an op-ed in the New York Times offering his thoughts on Clif Bar’s recent decision to fire him and four other climbers from its athlete team. As reported last week, the organic energy food brand decided that it is no longer comfortable sponsoring athletes who BASE jump, free solo (climb without ropes or partners), or slackline.
Honnold, 29, is the biggest name in the sport and is known for his unroped ascents of massive granite walls. In his editorial, he writes that he was shocked and disappointed to learn of Clif’s decision but “couldn’t help but understand their point of view.” Just as Clif has decided to draw a line, Honnold explains, he makes his own decisions about the risks he’s willing to take.
Honnold cites comments from Dean Potter, a prominent climber and BASE jumper who was also fired by Clif, expressing the fear that diversity in extreme sports might be snuffed out by sponsors trying to manipulate the culture.
“If sponsors back away from risky behaviors, it may well slowly mold climbing into a safer, more sterile version of what it is today,” Honnold writes. “But I tend to think that whether sponsors support such behavior or not shouldn’t really have any bearing on our motivations.”
“Whether or not we’re sponsored,” he concludes, “the mountains are calling, and we must go.”