Dierdre grew up in New York City in the 1940s and 50s and helped care for her mother who had polio. Going to high school opened her eyes to new possibilities, and she eventually moved to California after spending time in France and Japan. Dierdre's life took a big turn when she divorced her husband and started focusing on her own goals and dreams.
At 55, she began running, and has gone on to complete multiple marathons. At 59, she began rock climbing, and at 66, she became the oldest woman to climb Yosemite’s iconic El Capitan (with her son, Alex Honnold, of “Free Solo” fame).
In 2021, she celebrated her 70th birthday by climbing El Capitan again and camping on the summit.
At the end of 2023, the documentary about her life, “Climbing Into Life,” will be available to watch.
Climbing into Life is a feature-length documentary detailing the inspiring life story of Dierdre Wolownick-Honnold, the mother of Free Solo’s Alex Honnold.
This is the story of how she went from a completely consumed mother and professor, and ended up on the wall of El Capitan. From an unhappy wife and lonely mother to the status of athlete later in life, Dierdre confronts fear and ageism and gains a wonderful new community in the outdoors.
At age 71 Dierdre pushes back against the societal norms that assume her retirement years will be spent slowing down.
Don't miss out on new episodes of the Tough Girl Podcast that are released every Tuesday at 7am UK time! Hit the subscribe button to stay updated.
By supporting the Tough Girl Podcast on Patreon, you can help increase the representation of female role models in the media especially in the world of adventure and physical challenges. Visit www.patreon.com/toughgirlpodcast to contribute. Thank you for your support!
Listen to Dierdre Now!
Click here if you can't see the link below.
Who is Dierdre
Being a teacher and writer
Growing up in NYC after WW2 had ended
Being a city girl
Helping to care for her mother who had polio
Her responsibilities as the girl
How going to high school changed her life
Having her eyes opened to possibilities
Growing up in a Polish-American family
Not being able to rebel
Going to a catholic school
Getting out into the real world
Spending time in France and Japan
Moving to California
The beginning of the big change
Doing everything for everybody
Living in a non marriage
Teaching herself how to swim in her 40s
Her battle against fear
Being able to leave her marriage
Divorce being a dirty word
Taking up running in her 50s
Completing her first 1 mile run
Pushing herself to go further
Taking baby steps
Climbing with her son
Climbing the Royal Arches route in 2017
Looking at El Cap and wondering if she could climb it
Jugging in climbing - have her feet on the rocks but not her hands
Needing to get specialist gear
Training and getting fit for the climb at 66
Going up and down El Cap in 1 day
Feeling exhausted and getting back in the dark
Celebrating her 70th Birthday climbing El Cap via the descent route
Planning a trip to Spain
Documentary - Climbing into Life - out at the end of 2023
How to connect with Dierdre
Final words of advice
Feeling inspired week after week?
You can do 3 easy things to help me continue to grow the podcast!
Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, so you won’t miss a single episode
If you’re loving the podcast, please leave a 5-star review on iTunes! I read every single comment!
Share the podcast with your friends, especially if you think it could help them, and spread the #ToughGirlPodcast love.
Your support helps me continue to grow the podcast and do inspiring things in this space! Already done all 3? You’re a rockstar! Thank you!
Want to do more?
Please become a Patron and donate US$5 a month to help fund the runnings costs. Thank you.