Source: Honnold specializes in what’s called free soloing, which means no ropes, harnesses, or other safety equipment. “If you fall, you die,” he says.

A dizzying half-mile above the ground, Alex Honnold stretched his arm and fingers: long, sinewy appendages toughened by rock climbing’s constant, unyielding demands. Calmly, deliberately, he sought a hold, the tips of his fingers suctioned around it, impossibly finding enough purchase to continue up the remaining 500 vertical feet.

Since modern climbing’s roots dating back to the mid-1900s, California’s El Capitan, a granite monster towering above Yosemite National Park, has seen its share of conquerors. Generations of agile, ultra-fit stone worshipers have tested their mettle against what has become one of the world’s most iconic faces. Physically arduous doesn’t even begin to describe the accomplishment, and careers have been made with speedy ascents or

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