7. Alex Honnold’s Big Year

The 26-year-old climber continues to push the limits

You can read about Alex Honnold’s 2011 accomplishments in our top 10 climbing write up, get an idea of why he climbs in this Outside profile, or watch him in action in this 60 Minutes profile, but to really understand how strong of a climber he is, you just need to think about one route from this year. On September 22, he sent Heaven, a 5.12d/13 40-foot route up an overhang that starts 2,500 feet above the Yosemite Valley. In 2005, Dean Potter free soloed the route after practicing it roped. Honnold, without ever having seen it up close, decided to climb it on a whim. He falls. He dies. He asked his climbing partner Mason Earle for beta, and then sent the route in less than five minutes.

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