Free solo climbing is the riskiest form of climbing, involving climbing alone without ropes or harnesses. The absence of help in an emergency and exposure to the environment make it dangerous. It’s considered an extreme sport and illegal in many national parks. Famous climbers include Derek Hersey, Dan Osman, Dean Potter, and Michael Reardon.
Free solo climbing is the riskiest of all forms of climbing. There are inherent dangers to solo climbing, as a partner can help with insurance or even call for help if you have an accident. In free climbing, the person not only climbs alone, but also climbs without ropes or harnesses to protect them in the event of a slip or fall. The most dangerous part isn’t the climbing itself, as most solo climbers choose routes they already know well. The greatest danger is the absence of help in an emergency, as well as exposure to the environment, including the danger of falling rocks and slippery icy edges.
To be considered true free solo climbing, the climber must be at least 25 feet (7.62 meters) off the ground, a height from which it would be extremely unlikely that anyone would survive a fall. Even the most experienced climbers consider this “a sport for madmen”. A similar form, known as deep-water soloing, involves climbing over sea cliffs. The presence of water below may appear to reduce the risks, but it actually increases them, as the rock tends to be slippery and the tides and underwater boulders make a deadly fall such as occurs away from water. Free solo climbing is considered an extreme sport and is illegal in many national parks, which is why it’s hard to know exactly how many people do it.
One of the most famous climbers was Derek Hersey, who died while scaling Sentinel Rock in Yosemite Valley in 1993. Dan Osman, sometimes called “the king of free solo climbing,” died in 1998 during a “controlled free fall ”, a form of bungee-jumping. Osman had spent most of his adult life climbing alone and had also starred in several extreme sport documentaries. Other famous climbers include Dean Potter, who is also an expert speed climber, and Michael Reardon, famous for climbing towers and skyscrapers without ropes.