The Impossible Climb: Alex Honnold, El Capitan, and the Climbing Life
By Mark Synnott
If you loved watching Free Solo, you'll be enthralled by Mark Synnott's deeply reported, insider perspective of Alex Honnold's historic achievement and the culture and history of climbing. "One of the most compelling accounts of a climb and the climbing ethos that I've ever read."--Sebastian Junger In Mark Synnott's unique window on the ethos of climbing, his friend Alex Honnold's astonishing "free solo" ascent of El Capitan's 3,000 feet of sheer granite, is the central act. When Honnold topped out at 9:28 A.M. on June 3, 2017, having spent fewer than four hours on his historic ascent, the world gave a collective gasp. The New York Times described it as "one of the great athletic feats of any kind, ever." Synnott's personal history of his own obsession with climbing since he was a teenager--through professional climbing triumphs and defeats, and the dilemmas they render--makes this a deeply reported, enchanting revelation about living life to the fullest. What are we doing if not an impossible climb? Synnott delves into a raggedy culture that emerged decades earlier during Yosemite's Golden Age, when pioneering climbers like Royal Robbins and Warren Harding invented the sport that Honnold would turn on its ear. Painting an authentic, wry portrait of climbing history and profiling Yosemite heroes and the harlequin tribes of climbers known as the Stonemasters and the Stone Monkeys, Synnott weaves in his own experiences with poignant insight and wit: tensions burst on the mile-high northwest face of Pakistan's Great Trango Tower; fellow climber Jimmy Chin miraculously persuades an official in the Borneo jungle to allow Honnold's first foreign expedition, led by Synnott, to continue; armed bandits accost the same trio at the foot of a tower in the Chad desert... The Impossible Climb is an emotional drama driven by people exploring the limits of human potential and seeking a perfect, choreographed dance with nature. Honnold dared far beyond the ordinary, beyond any climber in history. But this story of sublime heights is really about all of us. Who doesn't need to face down fear and make the most of the time we have?
Advance Praise for The Impossible Climb "With the possible exception of the lunar landings, free-soloing El Capitan may rank as one of the most audacious--and terrifying--things a human being has ever done. Synnott's narrative plasters you a 3,000-foot granite cliff and doesn't let you go until the climb is done. It is one of the most compelling accounts of a climb and the climbing ethos that I've ever read." --Sebastian Junger, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Tribe, War, and The Perfect Storm "Mark Synnott's The Impossible Climb is to climbing what William Finnegan's Barbarian Days is to surfing." --John Long, writer, producer, and pioneer of "free solo" rock climbing "Immensely enjoyable. Tapping his own impressive mountaineering resume, Mark Synnott dives deep into the rebellious counterculture of extreme climbing to get inside the head of Alex Honnold, the planet's foremost rock climber. What motivated Honnold to free climb El Capitan without a rope? 'Because it's there' doesn't come close to explaining it. Synnott's The Impossible Climb does." --Andy Hall, author of Denali's Howl
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