The Impossible Climb | Book Recommendation

“Excellent. Purely excellent. A very compelling story, perfectly combined with the brief history of climbing and personal accounts as well. I couldn’t get my eyes off the pages, basically inhaled the whole book!”

This is my very short review of the book I left on Goodreads. I got The Impossible Climb as soon as it came out and don’t regret one single second spent reading this one! Mark Synnott is a very skilled storyteller whose words flow seamlessly from the pages right to you. Reading this book was pure pleasure, I felt like if I was right there on that Thanksgiving Day when Warren Harding attempted the first ascent of El Capitan. It felt like I was right there when Lynn Hill free climbed that iconic piece of rock for the first time and said her famous words; “it goes, boys.” And it felt like if I was right there with Alex Honnold during his journey up the smooth face of El Cap.

Mark took the history of climbing and the history of El Capitan and put it into one very compelling story which even people who have never put on climbing shoes can enjoy. Throughout the book, Mark mentions what he calls “Alexisms,” and tells stories, some of them even more (or only) funny if one is acquainted with Free Solo, a documentary by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi. One of those is the moment when Jimmy Chin proclaimed that he was never going to work with Alex Honnold again. Little did he know…

“… Along the way, I experienced many classic “Alexisms,” like him [Alex Honnold] explaining at the base of the wall in Borneo why he didn’t climb with a helmet, even on dangerously loose rock (he didn’t own one); or the time in Chad’s Ennedi Desert that he sat yawning and examining his cuticles while Jimmy Chin and I faced down four knife-wielding bandits (he thought they were little kids)…”

Synnott ties the reader – climber or mountaineer or not – to the pages in this book with humor as well as grief, with grace as well as awkwardness, and with this very specific enthusiasm own to everyone who has ever touched the slopes of a mountain or a wall and came back for more. He keeps the story moving and entertaining and, above all, he keeps it real at all times.

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