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The Impossible Climb: Alex Honnold, El Capitan, and the Climbing Life Hardcover – March 5, 2019

4.6 out of 5 stars 596 ratings

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Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of March 2019: As far as celebrity goes, Alex Honnold’s seems a bit unlikely; self-possessed practitioners of niche sports, performed in the hardest-to-reach corners of the Earth, usually keep to the edges of the mainstream. But much has changed over the last decade: Drones, adventure cameras, and the internet have allowed armchair adventurers and other lookie-loos unprecedented access to the farthest frontiers, as well as the daredevils who push them. And with E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin's Free Solo—the Academy Award-winning ride-along with Honnold on his rope-free climb up Yosemite's El Capitan and its 3,000 feet of vertical granite—well, that’s the sort of thing that’ll make you famous.

On assignment for National Geographic, writer Mark Synnott also covered Honnold in Yosemite, and the resulting book,The Impossible Climb, is a must-read for anyone curious about Honnold’s background, personality, and motivations. Synnott shadowed the enigmatic climber for months as he prepared, deliberated, and occasionally wavered over the project. He even followed him up a wall on occasion—Synnott also happens to be a professional climber (yes, that is a thing), and his first-hand experience makes his account much more than a summary of an unprecedented, previously unthinkable feat. Along with Synnott’s recollections of his own first ascents and harrowing adventures with Honnold, Chin, and other legends of the sport, he surveys Yosemite’s climbing culture from the “golden age” rivalry between big-wall pioneers Royal Robbins and Warren Harding, to latter-day risk-takers like Dean Potter, who push the limits of extreme sports, often at the cost of their lives. When asked why anyone would test their fate against a mountain, George Mallory famously said “Because it’s there.” The question is ultimately unanswerable, but The Impossible Climb gives the rest of us a firmer hold, even as we watch from a safer elevation. As a climber might say, “This book goes.” --Jon Foro, Amazon Book Review


Praise for The Impossible Climb
“Enthralling . . . gripping . . . Much more than just an account of Honnold's mind-bending climb: it is a story of the complex friendship between the two men. . . .  This compelling book reads like a thriller as it ranges over the rarefied world of extreme climbing. It is a portrait of fascinating people and of an extraordinary place, the Yosemite Valley.”
The Daily Mail

“Fast-paced and enjoyable.”
—The Wall Street Journal

“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 on 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, author of TribeWar, and The Perfect Storm

“The fascinating story behind an unprecedented feat. Mark Synnott has built something thoughtful and tense by leaning on his keenly observant presence in the moment and his decades of high-level experience. It’s a compelling narrative confidently told, one that will resonate no matter whether you’re a hardcore climber or someone who climbs nothing but stairs.”
—The Maine Edge

“An engaging read cover to cover—delightful, shocking, thrilling, saddening, and motivating. Each chapter deepens the larger story of struggle and awe within the adventurer’s life.” 
—New Hampshire Magazine

“Synnott adds depth, intimacy, and a hint of fear to Honnold’s climb; more importantly, he adds context to the historical feat. . . . Through firsthand accounts and thorough reporting, Synnott provides a vertiginous window into the world of climbers at the top of the sport.”
—Paste Magazine

“Bracing . . . brings Honnold’s epic, rope-free ascent to vivid life.”
—Harper's Bazaar

“A thrills-and-chills—and occasional spills—view of the mad heroes of free climbing . . . Fans of mountaineering will find this a winner.” 
Kirkus Reviews

“Readers will pick up this for Honnold but will be equally engrossed by Synnott’s own adventures and writing.” 
Library Journal

The Impossible Climb is the gripping story of the most perilous rock ascent of all time—but it’s much more than that. In seamlessly fusing memoir, reporting, social history, climbing lore, technical expertise, and intimate glimpses of his tribe, Mark Synnott has given us a kind of epic of life on the edge. Even readers who have never set toe to rock are going to find themselves glued to this insanely brilliant account of extreme athletic ambition and endurance.” 
David Laskin, author of The Children’s Blizzard

“Mark Synnott's
The Impossible Climb is to climbing what William Finnegan's Barbarian Days is to surfing.”
—John Long, founder of the Stonemasters

“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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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Dutton; 1st edition (March 5, 2019)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 416 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1101986646
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1101986646
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.45 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.19 x 1.35 x 9.26 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 596 ratings

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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5
596 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

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Top reviews from other countries

Dan Holloway
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but more about climbing life than Alex's climb
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on July 23, 2020
4 people found this helpful
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nigel pearce
5.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on February 13, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars Mixed thoughts
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on August 1, 2019
One person found this helpful
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natalie d.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on January 12, 2020
One person found this helpful
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5.0 out of 5 stars Just a finger tip from success or death.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on May 12, 2020
2 people found this helpful
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