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 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. Sasha DiGiulian conquers 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 in 2017 – adding to a long list of firsts in 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 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…
4. 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. The tortuous 19-day ascent of a 3,000-foot vertical cliff face 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 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 since been the subject of a film – The Dawn Wall. Find it on Netflix.
5. Adam Ondra and Chris Sharma: You call this fun?
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?”
6. Meagan Martin shows why she’s a ninja warrior
Meagan Martin is an avid bouldering fan, climbing and conquering some of the trickiest boulders in the world.
She was ranked 7th overall nationally for the 2017-18 US bouldering season and is considered by some as the best female on American Ninja Warrior.
What we find the most impressive about Meagan is not the speed at which she climbs (trust us, it’s fast), but how fearless she is. No wonder she’s earned her own Ninja Warrior nickname – SheWolf.