Austin Howell


I am an independent, un-sponsored (Indie?) rock climber who free-solos up to 5.12c and wears shoes from three different brands, and sometimes dress-shoes, and sometimes barefoot. Idunno, listen folks, I'm weird. I'm fond of sending with a hat to hide this outrageously hideous mop of hair for all our benefit! Please note: The hat is my source of power, if it falls off the send doesn't count.

Climbing, to me, has been a path towards peace. Free soloing done right is in no way about an adrenaline rush, but rather a feeling of control and calmness. If you're doing it for the rush, you're an idiot and it will catch up with you. This isn't about just getting by on a climb, I want to own the route.

Soloing isn't a matter of claiming "I can climb this perfectly," far from it. Soloing is a statement that "I can climb this route with ability to spare, even if I screw it up a bit." Any idiot can get lucky once, the second time is the solo. If you're not at least willing to repeat it, then you got away with it, and you can only get away with so much in one lifetime

Soloing isn’t just a rare occurrence for me, it’s my way of life. Since committing fully to free soloing as my primary focus in 2013, I have climbed more pitches without a rope than I have with one


Onsight Free-Solos

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Notable Free-Solos


Marathon Climbing Days

  • Mile of Mojo - Shortoff Mountain, Linville Gorge, NC - 2016

    • Fifteen separate routes ranging from 300 to 450ft in height and from 5.6 to 5.11d in difficulty for a total of 5700 cumulative vertical feet. I deliberately overshot the 5200ft mile mark because climbers are notoriously poor at estimating pitch-height, and I didn't want to be robbed of my goal by an accounting error. About one third of the routes were onsight


  • 36 Hours of Horseshoe Hell - Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, AK - 2016

    • 124 Pitches in 12 hours

    • 202 Pitches in 24 Hours

    • 326 Pitches Total

    • First team to win "Most Pitches" in both the 12 and 24 of the same year

    • First team to secure a "Double Win" at Horseshoe Hell

    • This was my first visit to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, but my partner was well experienced here


  • Half Dome Day Plus- Shortoff Mountain, Linville Gorge, NC - 2014

    • While Scouting for my El Cap Day at Shortoff Mountain, I onsight soloed a few new climbs to see if they would fit in my "set-list" for the big day. The climbing went quicker and easier than anticipated. Soon, after six separate routes, I had climbed a total of 2500ft, only 500ft from the ultimate goal of a 3000 ft "El Cap Day." I realized that my goal wasn't ambitious enough, and moved the goal-post to a vertical mile, 5200ft. As with the Mile Day in proper homage to the Stonemasters, no routes were repeated.


  • 50 Practice Pitches - Sandrock, AL - 2013

    • After doing the "Half Dome Day" in Hueco Tanks, I had the idea to perform an "El Cap Day" at Shortoff Mountain in Linville Gorge. To practice for this, I soloed 50 laps at Sandrock Alabama ranging up to 5.11b in difficulty. Several routes were repeated to achieve the total, all pitches were completed in 5 hours, averaging 10 per hour. All routes were single-pitch


  • Half Dome Day - Hueco Tanks, TX - 2010

    • Free-Solo - In honor of John Bachar and the Stonemasters, I soloed 25 pitches on the main face of North Mountain (Approximately 2,000ft) which is rouglhy equivalent to climbing the height of Half Dome. Maximum pitch 5.10a, some lines were repeated more than once


Memorable Moments

  • Texas Crude (5.10b)” - E Rock - my first “real” solo

  • “Fear of Flying (5.10)” - Solo Enchanted Rock, TX

    • Probably the most famous route at Enchanted Rock

  • “Sea of Holes (5.10a)” - Onsight Solo - Hueco Tanks, TX

    • Rumor has it the FA was OSS, so I wanted to repeat the heritage

  • “Comfortably Numb (5.9+)” - Solo - Sandrock, AL

  • “Never Believe (5.11b)” - First 5.11 Solo - Sandrock, AL

    • I’ve soloed this one at least a dozen times, including once in hiking boots!

  • “Julia (5.10b 5p)” - Onsight Solo - Shortoff Mountain, NC

  • Two routes simul-climbed in a day: Whiteside Mountain, NC (800ft each)

  • “Misty (5.10c/d)” - Solo - Sandrock, AL

    • at “only” 5.10, I didn’t feel ready to solo this line until after my first 5.12 solo


Ordinary Crap

  • "Hematoma (5.13a)" Lower Leda, TN - Sport, Second Go

  • "Silverback (5.13a)" - Little River Canyon, AL - Sport, Second Go

  • "The Word (5.13a)" - Little River Canyon, AL, Sport

  • "Gas Chamber (5.13a)" - Foster Falls, TN

  • "Dalai Lama (5.12c)" Denny Cove, TN - Sport, Onsight

  • "Vicious (5.12c)" - Sandrock, AL - Sport, Onsight

  • "Fat Tuesday (5.12a X)" - Sandrock, AL - Trad

    • Yes, I know. My hardest trad-climb is lower than my max-solo grade. I think maybe I’m rubbish at trad. We’re working on it