In 'Arctic Ascent,' Alex Honnold Climbs the "Scariest Wall" He's Ever Seen (Exclusive)

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Jan. 18 2024, Published 2:51 p.m. ET

Closeup of Alex Honnold leading the pool wall ascent, wearing red jacket and helmet.
Source: National Geographic/Pablo Durana

Alex Honnold leads the pool wall ascent.

If you've watched the Oscar-winning 2018 documentary Free Solo, you know that rock climber Alex Honnold is unusually fond of exploring previously uncharted terrain. So it doesn't come as a surprise that six years later, he is still rock climbing in far-off places — with one of his most death-defying ascents chronicled in the thrilling National Geographic docuseries Arctic Ascent With Alex Honnold, debuting on Feb. 4, 2024.

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For the show, Honnold scaled some of the most remote corners of Greenland, a country that he tells Green Matters is “one of the most important places on Earth for climate change,” as global heating, retreating glaciers, and sea level rise make living there more and more challenging.

Honnold completed the journey along with a team of fellow accomplished climbers as well as climate scientists, who collected vital data related to the climate crisis — which was the real crux of the expedition.

“The Arctic is warming much faster than the rest of the world,” Honnold tells Green Matters on a recent video call, speaking about the inspiration behind Arctic Ascent With Alex Honnold. “If you're going to a remote place like that, you should basically have somebody knowledgeable who can do something useful while they're there.”

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Alex Honnold climbing Ingmikortilaq mountain, with icy water and mountains in background.
Source: National Geographic/Pablo Durana

Alex Honnold climbing Ingmikortilaq.

What is ‘Arctic Ascent With Alex Honnold’ about? The docuseries chronicles an epic climb of Greenland's Ingmikortilaq.

Arctic Ascent documents climbers Alex Honnold, Hazel Findlay, and Mikey Schaefer’s 2022 trip to Greenland to climb Ingmikortilaq, an Arctic monolith that had previously never been climbed by a human in recorded history. Before the mission, it had been nearly two decades since a human had been in the area, which Dr. Heïdi Sevestre calls “one of the most dangerous environments on Earth” in the series’ trailer.

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At 3,750 feet tall, Ingmikortilaq is nearly 1,000 feet taller than El Capitan, the massive monolith Honnold climbed in Free Solo. In fact, when Honnold first saw a photo of Ingmikortilaq, he thought, “it looked like the scariest wall I’ve ever seen.”

Arctic Ascent's trailer alone will have viewers’ hearts beating quickly, as the crew is seen facing life-threatening challenges, ranging from falling ice and rocks to dangerous weather conditions — and Honnold hopes that these thrills will be captivating enough to get viewers to pay attention to the climate science that’s also featured heavily in the show.

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‘Arctic Ascent With Alex Honnold’ also documents important climate research.

“The point of the show,” Honnold says, “is to use the adventure element to help bring the science to a broader audience.”

Glaciologist Dr. Heïdi Sevestre, Greenlandic guide Adam Kjeldsen, and extreme adventurer Aldo Kane all joined the climbers on the journey in Greenland to study glaciers and the environment. Throughout the journey, the experts collected important climate data; for example, they used a radar to take measurements of a seldom-studied section of Greenland’s ice sheet, to help determine which glaciers are and aren’t retreating.

“I think that to make climate science exciting, it helps to wrap it up with the adventure. Which is too bad, because the climate science is pretty engaging in and of itself,” Honnold says.

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(Left to right): Aldo Kane, Adam Mike Jeldsen, Mikey Schaefer, Heidi Sevestre, Hazel Findley, and Alex Honnold wearing snow climbing gear pose by a snowy mountain.
Source: National Geographic/JJ Kelley

(Left to right): Aldo Kane, Adam Mike Jeldsen, Mikey Schaefer, Heidi Sevestre, Hazel Findley, and Alex Honnold get a first look at the Pool Wall.

Overall, the Greenland trip was one of Alex Honnold’s favorite climbing expeditions.

As viewers of the show can attest, the Greenland mission was filled with endless challenges — Honnold points to the cold temperatures, the remoteness of the area, and the “ambitious itinerary” the group followed as they traversed Eastern Greenland as some of the biggest hurdles.

Yet, never one to let an obstacle stand in his way, Honnold says this was one of his favorite climbing trips to date. “It was one of the few expeditions that I came home from feeling nothing but positive about," he says. "We did all the things we were trying to do, we succeeded on all the different fronts.”

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And while he still loves climbing, his passion has definitely shifted to focus more on “things that hopefully can contribute to humanity more broadly,” such as amplifying climate science through projects like Arctic Ascent, and working with his climate solutions-focused Honnold Foundation. He adds: “It's nice to feel like you're doing something slightly useful.”

Alex Honnold wears red jacket and helmet and ascends Pool Wall in Eastern Greenland.
Source: National Geographic/Pablo Durana

Alex Honnold ascends Pool Wall in Eastern Greenland.

How to watch ‘Arctic Ascent With Alex Honnold’:

Arctic Ascent With Alex Honnold premieres on National Geographic on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024. All three one-hour episodes will air that night, at 8 p.m., 9 p.m., and 10 p.m. ET/PT.

One day later, on Feb. 5, 2024, Arctic Ascent With Alex Honnold will become available for streaming on Disney Plus and Hulu.

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