Rock Climbing, Abseiling & Canyoning

Climbing Legends: Meet The Man That Can Climb Rocks With His Tongue…

...and 5 of the world's craziest climbing heroes.

Climbing blind might sound like a mad idea, but let’s face it, scrambling up a rock face that you could fall off and die is pretty bonkers anyway, so why not do it without looking too?!

Action sports must seem like insanity to anyone that doesn’t understand the buzz of putting your life on the line and pushing your limits for the thing you love.

The passion for action sports treads a thin line between bravery and downright craziness and rock climbing is no exception.

With more than its fair share of death defying challenges, rock climbing attracts some of the fittest, bravest and most unbelievable athletes on the planet, people who make the rest of us feel like rock climbing babies.

Scaling everything from sickeningly tall cliffs to full on skyscrapers, these climbers demonstrate a level of skill and commitment that’ll make your jaw drop, even as you grab the phone to call the nearest asylum.

So can you really climb blind? There’s only one way to find out, and that’s by checking out Mpora’s list of true climbing heroes.


Climbing with ropes can be dangerous so climbing without them just seems nuts, but that’s what Dan Osman did and he did it fast.

The American climber was a pioneer of free soloing and pretty much lived in the mountains around Lake Tahoe, California, climbing to mental heights without as single rope or piece of protection. Just taking this risk wasn’t enough for Dan though, so he started speed climbing too, racing up routes which most people would be roped in for.

The clip above shows probably his most famous climb, the 400m plus Bear’s Reach route on the side of Lover’s Leap near Lake Tahoe. Dan tops out in 4.25 doing almost 100m a minute and at 1.11 he throws in a dyno that’ll probably make you pee a little. If you can beat that time, even with a rope, we’ll get the intern to eat his hat.

Climbing Blind

Blind climber Erik Weihenmayer – Photo:

Impossible is not a word in Erik Weihenmayer’s vocabulary.

At the age of 13, Erik lost his sight completely but that wasn’t going to slow him down. The teenager started wrestling, representing the state of Connecticut at a national level and then he discovered rock climbing.

Erik clicked instantly with the sport, using his hands to feel his way up the rocks. Climbing blind he took on his first big mountain, Denali, the tallest peak in North America, in 1995 – a feat of real mountaineering skill.

This fired up a passion in Erik for bigger and bigger challenges and by 2002 he’d become the first ever blind climber to make it to the top of the world’s 7 highest mountains, completing the first blind ascent of Mount Everest in the process.

Usually Erik relies on his climbing partner’s voice to figure out where he is on the mountain, but in 2011 he climbed Utah’s Castelton Tower using a device called the BrainPort, which created shapes on a tiny sensor resting on his tongue that enabled him to ‘see’ the rock as he climbed.

Today Erik writes books, gives talks about his experiences and continues to push the boundaries of what everyone thinks is possible. He’s taken part in several adventure races and he’s even blind kayaked the Grand Canyon, which just seems like showing off!

The Monkey King

As far as climbing nicknames go ‘The Monkey King’ is pretty sweet, what isn’t so fun is the journey one guy took to earn it.

Jyoti Raj was a victim of childhood abuse which led him to the rocks around Chitradurga Fort in India, looking to commit suicide. The rocks proved tough to climb and it was only by watching and copying the local monkeys that Jyoti made it to the top. Jyoti’s climb resulted in cheers from impressed tourists and he quickly realised that his life could be better spent climbing rocks than jumping off them.

Today Jyoti is a world famous free soloer, scaling the walls and crags surrounding Chitradurga. He’s even found time to teach the local village kids to climb, preparing a future generation of monkey kings and queens for adventures of their own.

Bob The Builderer

If you can think of a famous skyscraper, chances are Alain Robert has climbed it.

Dubbed ‘The French Spiderman’ Robert has tackled everything from the Burj Khalifa and the Eiffel Tower, to Portland House and the New York Times building. Although he’s sometimes given permission for his climbs, most of Robert’s adventures happen without the building owner’s consent. As a result Bob’s been arrested more times than he can remember, but that doesn’t seem to put him off.

In 1997 Robert decided to have a go at the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur but was arrested by some gutsy police officers on the 60th floor, 28 stories shy of the top. In 2007 Spidey returned to mark the tenth anniversary of his first attempt by getting arrested again at the 60th floor. Finally in 2009 he made it to the top and was fined 2000 Malaysian Ringgit (about £300) for his trouble.

It seems there’s no slowing this urban free soloer down. In 2012 he was spotted checking out the inside of the Shard and before you could sing the Spidey theme tune the owner’s had slapped an injunction on him, banning Robert from ever coming back to the tower. Nice try bureaucracy! But a tiny piece of paper can’t stop Alain and his Goldilocks of Justice.

The Tominator

Having a tough time cramming all those digits onto that climbing hold? How about we chop one off for you? Think that’d improve your climbing?

Probably not, but that’s exactly what happened to Tommy Caldwell after doctor’s tried to save a finger he’d sliced off in a table saw accident. Despite some fine stitching and pin work, surgeons couldn’t fix Tommy’s digit and so they took it back off, telling him he’d never climb again.

Turns out they were wrong because, despite missing one of the most important fingers for climbing, Tommy actually got better at climbing. Since the accident he’s gone on to be one of the best big wall climbers ever, making the first free climbing ascent of the Dawn Wall, an insanely difficult 20 day, 2500ft route on Yosemite’s El Capitan, the biggest granite monolith in the world.

And before we forget, in 2000 he also got kidnapped by terrorists on a climbing trip in Kyrgyzstan, survived a four hour gun battle and threw a gunman off a mountain to save his friend. Yeah, that happened:

Brave Heart

For anyone who doesn’t know what an epileptic fit is like, here’s climber Kevin Shield’s first hand description:

“Imagine being electrocuted, beaten and trapped inside a nightmare that you can’t run from or scream for help even though you’re trying with every part of your being and multiply by 10, I think that’s quite close.”

The gutsy Scot lives with this disease 24/7 and still has the balls to climb despite the chance of fitting and throwing himself off the top of a cliff. This is made even tougher by the fact that he suffers from depression, a condition which is actually made worse by his epilepsy medication. So climbing can be pretty hard for Kev, who just wants to get on with being the best one handed climber he can be.

You read that right, Kevin’s left hand is basically just a thumb. He was born missing all of the rest of his fingers but he’s still taking on crags that would scare most people silly.

Kev’s story has obviously dawn a lot of attention leading to media interviews and a starring role in rock climbing flick, Single Handed. So next time you’re grumbling about a route being too hard hit the play button on SH and remind yourself that nothing is impossible.

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