Cover image for The impossible climb : Alex Honnold, El Capitan, and the climbing life / Mark Synnott.
The impossible climb : Alex Honnold, El Capitan, and the climbing life / Mark Synnott.
Publication Information:
New York, New York : Dutton, 2018.

Physical Description:
viii, 405 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (chiefly colour) ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
796.522092 HON SYM Book Adult General Collection
796.522092 HON SYM Book Adult General Collection

On Order



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?

Author Notes

Mark Synnott is a twenty-year member of the North Face Global Athlete team. He is a frequent contributor to National Geographic magazine and has written for Outside , Men's Journal , Rock and Ice , and Climbing . He is also an internationally certified mountain guide and a trainer for the Pararescuemen of the United States Air Force. He lives in the Mt. Washington Valley of New Hampshire.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Accomplished climber Synnott (Baffin Island) presents an insider's look at acclaimed climber Alex Honnold's historic first free solo ascent (climbing without the safety of ropes) of Yosemite's 3,000-foot El Capitan, stories of his own expeditions, and a history of climbing's biggest names and feats. With the help of YouTube videos, Honnold has made himself into climbing's most recognizable name owing to his ability to set aside fear while scaling staggering cliffs without the use of ropes. Synnott, who has been one of Honnold's climbing partners for years, delves into his friend's life with unparalleled access to identify how ­Honnold accomplishes what he does, including details of their harrowing climbing experiences in places such as Borneo and Oman as well as Yosemite and other national parks. VERDICT Coinciding with the wide-release documentary, Free Solo, about Honnold's historic climb. Readers will pick this up for Honnold but will be equally engrossed by Synnott's own adventures and writing. A worthy companion to Honnold's memoir Alone on the Wall and Tommy Caldwell's The Push.-David Miller, Farmville P.L., NC © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.