It’s not a pursuit for the faint hearted, but rock climbing at its best is a mind blowing show of strength, skill and fitness. And it makes incredible viewing.
Take a look at these six videos featuring some of the most renowned rock climbers in the world – even those with an aversion to heights will be well and truly gripped…
1. Look no ropes: Alex Honnold defies gravity
The king of free solo ascents, Alex Honnold completed what some describe as the “most difficult ropeless climb in history” when he scaled El Sendero Luminoso (or The Shining Path) in El Portrero Chico, Mexico in 2015.
It took just over three hours to climb 2,500 feet to the summit. This footage quite literally takes your breath away as the camera pans out to show Alex dwarfed by the majesty of El Toro.
Such is his legendary status, Honnold even has his own verb: “to honnold”. It means to stand in a high, precarious place with your back to the wall, facing the drop – and facing the fear.
“Honnolding” from behind a video screen is an experience in itself [skip to 3 mins]
2. Steph Davis’ says “Fear is the danger”
Steph Davis is a born adrenaline junkie.
As well as being an experienced wingsuit flier and BASE jumper, she is one of the best female climbers in the world, famed for smashing numerous firsts.
In this clip she free-solo climbs the thousand-foot granite wall known as The Diamond on Longs Peak in Colorado, cocooned within North America’s awe-inspiring Rocky Mountains. Steph was the first woman to achieve this when she completed her ascent in 2007.
Even she says it can be an intimidating place: “If you fell off you’d go down about a thousand feet.”
Hold on tight.
3. Chris Sharma pioneers a hair-raising route
Chris Sharma is no stranger to towering slabs of granite, but in 2008 he took on arguably the hardest climb of his career—scaling a brutal 250-foot overhanging limestone cave at the top of Clark Mountain in southern California.
Had anyone ever done it before? Not likely. In fact, the route was only named after Chris’ feat, when he christened it Jumbo Love. Only two people have cracked it since.
“When I first saw it from below I wasn’t sure if it was possible,” he says. Cue, lots of screaming. But this boy is not to be cowed. He even manages to smile at the camera while swinging in the air.
4. Sasha DiGiulian murders the Mora Mora to make history
US free-climber Sasha DiGiulian finally claimed the scalp of 2,300-foot granite dome, Mora Mora in Madagascar last year, adding to a list of firsts through her career, and setting the record for the first female ascent in the process
Sasha covered the rock using handholds the size of “shelled peanuts”. It’s a climb ranked as one of the most difficult climbing routes in the world (only one man has made it to the top since it was established in 1999)
You’ve got to see it to believe it…
5. Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgesen crack California
On January 14, 2015 big wall veteran, Tommy Caldwell and bouldering specialist, Kevin Jorgeson made the first free ascent of The Dawn Wall on Yosemite’s notorious El Capitan. Involving a tortuous 19 day ascent of a 3,000 foot vertical cliff face, it was all in a month’s work for these American climbers.
In this clip, Tommy climbs pitch 15, considered to be the last major hurdle in his challenge. It is his nemesis, and one which he had failed at numerous times. He said the section featured “some of the smallest and sharpest holds I have ever attempted to hold onto.” The heavy breathing soundtrack is testament to the sheer effort involved.
The feat was so impressive it has been made into a film, The Dawn Wall, being released worldwide this year.
You saw it here first.
6. Adam Ondra and Chris Sharma: you call this fun?
It’s that man again, but why not? Chris Sharma is, after all, synonymous with climbing…
Take two of the world’s best rock climbers, blend youth and experience, and add in what is often described as the world’s hardest climb. Then sit back and watch…
In 2013, 31 year old Chris Sharma and 19 year old Adam Ondra grafted for two years to climb La Dura Dura, working together to crack the ascent on a limestone cliff in Oliana, Northern Spain. When Adam made history with the first climb in February 2013, Chris was so inspired that he followed suit.
“It was a really positive experience, a really friendly atmosphere. We could both learn so much from each other,” said Adam. “You know, it’s much more fun to try a hard route with someone else, isn’t it?”