Free climbing: 11 of the most legendary free climbers
Almost every part of the world has its own pulse-quickening, jaw-dropping sports, yet nothing quite compares to the art of free climbing.
With nothing but their hands and feet, brave - or crazy - individuals scale sheer cliff faces, risking it all for the thrill and the sense of accomplishment.
It’s enough to make your head spin.
Here at Adrenaline, we love to hear about those who live their lives on the edge - and we’re full of admiration for these solo climbing legends.
So much so that we’ve put together a list of the top 11 most legendary free climbs of all time - and the daredevils who took on the challenge...
1. Alex Honnold - El Capitan
First place goes to the then 31-year-old Alex Hannold, who took on the 3,000ft granite wall of the iconic mountain El Capitan, in California’s Yosemite Valley. Without the help of any rope or equipment, Alex took on the feat with nothing but his bare hands - and some chalk - and completed the challenge in less than four hours.
2. Vitaliy Musiyenko - Widow’s Tears
If the name doesn’t give away the intensity of this climb, we don’t know what will. Vitaliy was the brave free climber to take on the 1,000ft icy climb, also in Yosemite Valley, solo on New Year’s Day back in 2016. He completed the challenge with just a pair of ice picks.
3. Iain Miller - Cnoc na Mara
Standing 100m proud above the Irish sea, Cnoc na Mara in Donegal offers a unique climbing experience. Not only do you have to paddle out to sea to access it but it also takes some serious climbing once you get there. Iain Miller is one of just 30 people who did just that, tackling it as a solo climb.
4. Adam Ondra - Silence in Flatanger, Norway
Silence is a notoriously difficult climbing route, located in the Hanshelleren Cave. In fact, it is considered to be one of the hardest routes ever climbed. Adam used his unique ability to save energy and lower his pulse rate to tackle the 45m route, completing the standout climb of his career.
5. Brette Harrington - Chiaro di Luna
As one of Patagonia’s most famous and feared massifs, Chiaro di Luna is a monumental 2,500ft in height and poses a tricky set of problems. As the first free climber to scale the route, 23-year-old Brette Harrington casually referred to it as a “pretty cool challenge”.
6. Alain Robert - Cayan Tower
This climb certainly stands out as one of the most iconic (and craziest) solo climbs ever. Alain, known as the “French Spiderman”, free-climbed the 75-storey building in Dubai in just 1.5 hours, with his achievement going down in history as the world’s highest urban free solo.
7. Ueli Steck - Eiger North Face
The ominous limestone and ice wall located in Switzerland was no match for speed climber Ueli, who defeated a climb that usually takes mere mortals three days in an astounding 2 hours 47 minutes. Ueli sadly passed away in 2017 but his name will forever be feted in the free climbing world.
8. Hansjörg Auer - Via Attraverso il Pesce
Standing at a whopping 850m and featuring a fish-shaped niche, this climb in the Italian Dolomites unfurls over steep slabs and was dubbed one of the most difficult free climbs at the time it was first scaled. Hansjörg completed the feat in under three hours.
9. Alexander Huber - Kommunist
Whilst the crux of this climb in Austria’s Tyrol is 10m above ground, Alexander took it on with absolutely no equipment or fall protection. To ensure his safety, he simply worked on his route until he felt perfectly in control. This brave act certainly raised the bar for free climbing!
10. Dan Osman - Bear’s Reach
This climbing route at Lake Tahoe in California doesn’t boast impressive heights but it does have a more technical route that requires intense skill and focus. Dan Osman is celebrated for completing the climb in a little over four minutes.
11. Wolfgang Gullich - Separate Reality
The daunting overhang of this 200m cliff face - another Yosemite challenge - proved to be more exciting than intimidating for Gullich, who was the first person to free solo it. It is now referred to as a “trophy climb”, being faced by many other free climbing enthusiasts.
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