Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Accomplished climber Synnott (Baffin Island) presents an insider's look at acclaimed climber Alex Honnold's historic first free solo ascent (climbing without the safety of ropes) of Yosemite's 3,000-foot El Capitan, stories of his own expeditions, and a history of climbing's biggest names and feats. With the help of YouTube videos, Honnold has made himself into climbing's most recognizable name owing to his ability to set aside fear while scaling staggering cliffs without the use of ropes. Synnott, who has been one of Honnold's climbing partners for years, delves into his friend's life with unparalleled access to identify how Honnold accomplishes what he does, including details of their harrowing climbing experiences in places such as Borneo and Oman as well as Yosemite and other national parks. VERDICT Coinciding with the wide-release documentary, Free Solo, about Honnold's historic climb. Readers will pick this up for Honnold but will be equally engrossed by Synnott's own adventures and writing. A worthy companion to Honnold's memoir Alone on the Wall and Tommy Caldwell's The Push.-David Miller, Farmville P.L., NC © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Climbing was the one thing in his life that lit his fire, Synnott (Baffin Island, 2008) writes of Alex Honnold, the American rock climber now famous for being the first person to perform a solo climb of the massive El Capitan rock formation in Yosemite National Park without ropes or protective equipment. Describing the iconic El Capitan as 3,000 feet of sheer, gleaming, glacier-polished wall, the author himself a climber and friend of Honnold follows the meticulous and vagabond Honnold's winding path to El Cap while also acting as a guide into the world of extreme adventurers and climbers, who view risk-taking as an existential salve. Synnott's admiration for the subject matter results in a lot of plodding backstory between the climbs themselves; the book works best when exploring the psychological challenges of such harrowing endeavors. The 2018 documentary Free Solo captures Honnold's story and his sweaty-palm-inducing feat in a more concise and visceral way, but those looking to know more about the people and culture of climbing's past and present will be roped in by this sporting memoir-biography hybrid.--Chad Comello Copyright 2019 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
A thrills-and-chillsand occasional spillsview of the mad heroes of free climbing, scaling mountain faces without ropes.You'd have to be out of your mind to head up the 3,000-foot-high cliff face of Yosemite's El Capitan without equipment of modern mountaineering, the lightweight chocks and clips and ropes that keep a person from plummeting into the void. Yet, as mountain guide Synnott writes, building on his reporting for National Geographic, that out-of-mindness defines young Alex Honnold, "the world's greatest free soloist," who has developed the habit of sizing up some of the planet's most formidable mountains and then scrambling up them without the benefit of equipment. Old-school climbers have looked at him with combined awe and despair, and, as the author writes, Honnold does have a talent for alienating potential allies: "He wore his ego right on his shirtsleeve like the logo of one of his sponsors." Still, there's no question he has bragging rights; in one of his well-publicized exploits, Honnold free soloed El Capitan, Half Dome, and Mount Watkins, all three of Yosemite's big three rock faces, in less than 19 hours altogether. "This monster linkup entailed 7,000 vertical feet of difficult rock climbing," writes Synnott, "seventy-seven pitches up to 5.13a." If the last clause contains numbers that aren't immediately meaningful to you, no worries: One of the great virtues of this book is the author's cleareyed explanations of how alpinists parse mountains, rating them for difficulty and then doing the calculus of who qualifies as the world's leading climber on the strength of those numbers. Old-timers agree: Honnold may be ill-mannered and self-absorbed, but he's got the right stuff, doing what previous generations of climbers deemed impossible. As for lessons for would-be climbers, Synnott offers the cardinal one in the voice of one of the old-timers: "Don't fall."Fans of mountaineering will find this a winner. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.