Alex Honnold is the record-breaking rock climber who was the subject of the 2018 Oscar-winning documentary, Free Solo. In addition to documenting Alex’s death-defying climbs, which were executed without ropes, harnesses, or any other protective equipment, the cameras followed his relationship with girlfriend Sanni McCandless. Here’s a peek into the life of the successful 28-year-old adventurer and life coach, who ended up becoming Alex Honnold’s wife.
Alex Honnold’s Wife Is Sanni McCandless
Nicknamed Sanni, Cassandra McCandless was born on June 30th, 1992. The daughter of two entrepreneurs who started a successful microwave company, Sanni grew up in both North Carolina and Washington. She studied psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After graduation, she moved back to the Pacific Northwest to work for a tech startup.
McCandless met Alex Honnold in 2015 at a book signing for his recently released work, Alone on the Wall. Instantly smitten, she mustered up the courage to give him her number before bolting out the door. A few weeks later, Honnold texted McCandless and asked her out on a date. The couple grew close fast. Within six months, McCandless was accompanying her new boyfriend on a rock climbing trip in Switzerland.
While it wasn’t her first time scaling a rock, McCandless says it took her a while to fall in love with the sport. “My sister taught me how to climb right when I moved back to Seattle as an adult,” she explained in a 2019 interview with Casha Doemland. “I went to the gym a few times as well as climbed outside three or four times with her one summer, but it took a while for climbing to stick.”
Thanks to Honnold, it eventually stuck. McCandless slowly became a skilled rock climber herself, though she says fear often got in her way. “I was afraid to lead, afraid of getting my foot caught behind the rope, afraid to fall,” she told The Climbing Zine in a 2018 interview. “It became clear that getting better meant facing my fear of falling, learning to transform fearful energy into focused and controlled energy.”
Honnold was there to help McCandless improve her skills and overcome her fears, and over the next few years, the couple got closer. They frequently traveled and climbed together, living on and off out of his van. For much of this time, the Free Solo cameras were there documenting their growing relationship.
They Got Engaged And Married In 2020
At the end of 2019—a big year that included Free Solo’s Academy Award win for Best Documentary feature—Honnold and McCandless got engaged. McCandless shared the news in an Instagram post: “He said, ‘do you wanna keep doing what we’re doing?’ And I said, yes :)”
Less than a year later, the adventurous couple was married in an intimate ceremony at Lake Tahoe. “We got married!!” gushed Honnold on Instagram.
The bride wore a unique blue gown for the ceremony. And despite being planned in just a few short weeks, she said it went off without a hitch.
“Three weeks is not much time to plan a wedding, but in classic style our family and friends rose to the occasion and helped everything go perfectly,” McCandless wrote on Instagram.
Sanni McCandless Is A Well Respected Life Coach
Being on the road with Honnold made McCandless realize that she was ready to embark on the career she always dreamed of—being a life coach. “I think I was always attracted to coaching because of the concrete way in which it helps people improve their lives,” she explained in her interview with Casha Doemland. “Unlike what is often assumed, life coaching is not advice-driven. My role as a coach is not to tell people what I think they should do or what I would do in their shoes. Instead, it’s about providing a foundation to help them see themselves (their beliefs, thoughts, habits) differently. I ask them targeted questions and help them recognize when unnecessary fear is getting in the way.”
With a focus on helping outdoor-minded individuals, McCandless provides one-on-one coaching sessions. She also leads group retreats through the company she co-founded, Outwild.
Sanni Supported Alex During His Oscar Winning Documentary ‘Free Solo’
While being the partner of a world-famous rock climber is exciting, McCandless says it also comes with worry. This was definitely the case when he climbed El Capitan mountain in Yosemite National Park, as captured in the documentary. Without any equipment to protect him, Honnold risked certain death if he made a mistake during the climb. McCandless supported him despite serious concern for his well-being. But, she was too worried to go with him on the day of the big climb.
“When I drove away, I just let my brain go there,” she told The Climbing Zine. “It’s like when you’re home alone and you think of all of the worst-case scenarios, like, I’m going to pull open the shower curtain, and there’s going to be a man there. You’re clearly not doing yourself any good to indulge the fear.”
While McCandless used her life-coaching skills to get a handle on her fears, she was extremely relieved when she learned Alex had successfully made it to the top. We can’t even imagine what that worry must have been like!