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

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