Alex Honnold’s life is in his hands—those freakishly large palms and sausagelike digits, with fingerprints eroded away from years of wear.

The 29-year-old Californian is best known for his fearless ascents of the world's biggest cliffs—the Nose of El Capitan, which he speed-climbed in record time in 2012 with Hans Florine; and free-solo climbs (without a rope) of the granite crest of Yosemite's Half Dome (2008) and the limestone face of Mexico's El Sendero Luminoso (2014). He has traversed them all with his bare hands, fingertips jammed into crevices and clinging to half-inch shelves of protruding rock to hold his chiseled 5'11", 160-pound frame.

"My friends like to remind me that I have relatively weak fingers," says Honnold, who lives out of a customized van equipped with a kitchenette, bed and storage space. “Aerobic strength and general endurance have come easy but finger strength has always been my biggest weakness.”

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