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.