Climbing is a double-edged sword: Awe-inspiring moments often come with danger and risk. The same incredible vista that takes your breath away could also kill you—yet people around the world follow the urge to climb, ascending rock walls in searing-hot climates and freezing temperatures.
It's a physical activity, requiring skill and athleticism, but it's also a mental endeavor. A break in concentration, a moment of uncertainty, a critical hesitation—any mental lapse could force a climber to give up and head back down the wall or, even worse, bring a disastrous fall.
So why do people still flock to the sport? For reasons as varied as the climbers themselves: to gain a sense of achievement, to push themselves physically, to explore otherwise unreachable parts of the world, and for the community and confidence it gives them. These photos taken by National Geographic’s Your Shot community members remind us of the lure of climbing—and the courage of those who reach for the top of the world with their fingertips.
Captions for the photos above were written by the Your Shot photographers who took the images. Click on their names to see the full caption and view more of their photos.
"Free Climb," the inspirational movie about Alex Honnold's daring attempt to climb El Capitan in Yosemite without any ropes or additional support, is in theaters starting September 28. Click here to find out where to see it.