3.5 out of 5 stars
El Capitan, also known as El Cap, is a vertical rock formation in Yosemite. The granite monolith is about 914m high and is a legendary mountain for rock climbers. It took 47 days to climb it the first time, and it was considered amongst the community of climbers that a ‘free solo’ attempt would be so far beyond human limits and endurance that it was virtually impossible.
Climbing with a rope is pretty dangerous stuff, but climbing without is borderline insane in my opinion. People have been doing it for a while though, and Synnott’s book takes us back to the origins of free climbing with Royal Robbins and Warren Harding as well as potted histories of the men known as the Stonemasters who made the Yosemite peaks their own. But this book is primarily about the rise and rise of Alex Honnold, who took the discipline of free solo climbing to another level literally.
In June 2017, Honnold surpassed himself, by ascending El Cap without a rope in under four hours.
This achievement was seen as staggering across the climbing community and brought numerous accolades for this. For those watching, it was a constant heart in mouth moment though.
In lots of ways I liked this book, Synnott is a climbing insider and knows all the people that were involved in this as well as being steeped in the history of climbing in that part of the USA. He writes well too. The very end of the book is incredibly fast-paced as describes the climb and the emotions going through all of those watching him ascend. However, I felt it was a little too stretched out as it took a long time to get to that point. Not a bad book overall.