On Episode 179 of the Enormocast, I sit down with Dierdre Wolownick, perhaps better known in the climbing world as Alex Honnold’s mom. Up until now, Dierdre has appeared to the climbing world as a talking head in Alex’s movies, and I believe, she’s a bit misunderstood. Dierdre has recently put her thoughts on raising Alex, her life as a mother, and her new climbing passion in a book titled The Sharp End of Life: A Mother’s Story. In our interview, Dierdre talks about being the mother of perhaps the greatest climber ever to live, but she also relates being a beginner and dipping her own toes in the climbing life for the first time well into her 50s. Despite her son being a mentor of sorts, Dierdre had to overcome a life of the workaday straight-and-narrow to jump into the cliquey, jargon filled world of rock climbing. Initially she sought out climbing to simply understand her son Alex’s crazy life, but soon Dierdre found her own inspiration in climbing that lead all the way to an ascent of El Cap.
The Sharp End of Life at Mountaineers Books
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4 Replies to “Episode 179: Dierdre Wolownick – Mother of Honnolds.”
On the cusp of my 50th birthday this fall, I decided I wanted to rock climb in Yosemite (not trying to climb El Cap or anything, just want a fun day of climbing in such an epic place). Not being a climber, I joined my local climbing gym in April 2019 and was embraced by all the young enthusiastic climbers who work there. Judgement free, super enthusiastic, no question I can’t ask. They’re just happy I’m there. But I knew to be successful in Yosemite I’d have to get outdoors. So this week I ventured to Red River Gorge and hired a guide for two days. It was unbelievably challenging but so much fun. My guide was a 23 year old dirtbagger, living in his van at the infamous Miguel’s pizza, and he could not have been better. He taught me so much, and also recommended I listen to this episode of Enormocast. Aside from being Alex Honnold’s mom, it could’ve been me sharing my intro to climbing story. I climbed on auto belay for about 2 weeks before I took a tips and techniques class and learned the routes are color coded. Lol! I was like, “Wait! What? That changes everything!” It’s been a huge step out of my comfort zone, and the encouragement from the climbing community has been as important to me as the actual fun and challenge I get from climbing. I got a ton of validation and inspiration from Deirdre Wolownick. Thank you for taking the time to talk to her!
Interesting perspectives to say the least. I live in Davis, CA just west of Sacramento so a bit of a geographic connection to Ms. Wolownick and Alex. I’m 64 years young and joined Rocknasium in Davis with my 13 yo step son just this year. I could not agree with Dierdre more than when she said ‘age is just a number’. I don’t know that I’ll ever send 5.12 or high V grade boulder projects, but I’m having a lot of fun, getting strong, and staying young in heart and mind. Thank you Dierdre (and Chris) for giving a voice to an older climbing community.
Awesome. I’m glad your experience has been similar to Deirdre’s and positive.
This is one of the classics. Just magic; top 10 episodes easily.
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