August 5, 2012: Speed Scaling El Capitan, Teaching Women to Film in Afghanistan, and More

Alex Honnald ambled up the face of El Capitan in just two hours, 23 minutes and 46 seconds this past June. He tells Boyd that his strategy of climbing quickly: don’t move too fast; just don’t waste time. (Photo by David Alan Harvey / National Geographic)

Every week, embark with host Boyd Matson on an exploration of the latest discoveries and interviews with some of the most fascinating people on the planet, on National Geographic Weekend.

Please check listings near you to find the best way to listen to National Geographic Weekend on radio, or listen below!


Alex Honnold was National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2010, and this year he added to his already impressive resume. The man Jimmy Chin called, ” undoubtedly the greatest free soloist who ever lived,” ambled up the face of El Capitan in just two hours, 23 minutes and 46 seconds this past June. He tells Boyd that his strategy of climbing quickly: don’t move too fast; just don’t waste time. We caught up with him from his training gym near his home in Sacramento, California. Listen here.

The Ogalala Lakota Native American tribes that live on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge reservation were never consulted when their reservation was plotted by the Federal Government. When the government went into the Lakota camp to try to disarm the tribe in December, 1890, several members resisted and the Federal troops opened fire, killing 140 at Wounded Knee Creek. Life in the reservation was marked by poverty, alcoholism, and high infant mortality. But on the Pine Ridge Reservation, life has hope, says photographer Aaron Huey. The tribe have revived their language and religious ceremonies in efforts to revive pride in their culture. Huey spent 6 years in and out of the reservation and his photographs appear in the August 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine. Listen here.

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the science of physics had stagnated. The “stars” of academia like Albert Einstein were no longer achieving breakthroughs and there were few new ideas. Until, David Kaiser explains in his new book, How the Hippies Saved Physics, the hippies came along. While the hippies didn’t advance science, the free-thinking and creative atmosphere around campuses like Berkley allowed certain groups of physicists to challenge the status quo. Kaiser tells Boyd that they may have failed to prove ESP exists, but they did make breakthroughs that helped create technology we use everyday. Listen here.

David Braun, editor of National Geographic Daily News, reminds Boyd that the best way to train animals is through positive reinforcement. So, certain cities have taken that lesson to the roads. Instead of fining drivers for undesirable behaviors, the cities have started rewarding drivers with cash awards and incentives. Listen here.


While hiking the length of the Andes mountainsGregg Treinish and his partner Deia followed paths that they regularly lost and occasionally rediscovered. When they had no path, they had to make them. Once, while stomping through the bushes, Treinish’s partner was hit in the eye with a stick, cutting open the lens of her eye. The only way out was to keep hiking. Treinish tells Boyd that she regained her vision after a few days of keeping her eye closed. Listen here.

Afghanistan’s Taliban enforced rules that prevented women from having a proper education while they were in power. Since they’ve been ousted from power, educational opportunities have increased for women in the still war-torn country. Longtime National Geographic photographer Reza Deghati has set up a foundation in the country that teaches women photography and documentary skills so they can tell their own stories, and that of their country. Listen here.

In these London Olympics, much of the focus is on the wealthy members of society – the Royal Family, the athletes who benefit from the best training facilities in the world, and the celebrities who flock to such events. But in the August issue of National Geographic magazine, Cathy Newman focuses on the “other” London: the East side where immigrants from the developing world flock to start a new life, and working class Londoners speak their own language. Listen here.

What is America’s best beach? If you’re from Florida, you may argue that Miami’s South Beach helps blend the pleasures of the sea with the best view of pampered sunbathers the country can provide; if you’re from North Carolina, you may argue that the Outer Banks’ quiet and the breeze is the best for beach activities like kite surfing. But only Dr. Beach, Stephen Leatherman, is qualified to name America’s best beach. He lets Boyd on his criterion for listing the country’s best beaches, as well as his all time best beaches, listed in National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Water’s EdgeListen here.

In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd reflects on games he played in Montana with National Geographic Kids’ Hands on Explorer Challenge winners. He then leaves the room, running and screaming. Listen here.

Human Journey

Meet the Author
Justin O'Neill produces the weekly radio program National Geographic Weekend with host Boyd Matson. Check it out on on SiriusXM satellite radio (XM channel 133 Sundays at noon), subscribe to the iTunes podcast, or stream it directly to your smartphone with Stitcher Radio.