Before Chris Sharma came along, the upper limits of rock climbing were firmly established. After Sharma, there is no ceiling for how high human beings can ascend. “In the end, it’s all about pushing your limits,” says Sharma, who filmed this Colorado Adventure Series episode in the desert location of Ibex, Utah. “I tried a lot of other sports, and was really bad at all of them. With climbing, it just clicked.”
The 34-year-old from Santa Cruz, Calif., has been climbing since he was 12. A true prodigy, Sharma was a national champion before he could legally drive a car, but an injury at age 17 forced him to reevaluate his dedication to the sport and redefine his techniques. “All of my dreams came tumbling down,” he says. “I found something that I really loved, and all of the sudden it was taken away from me. But it taught me so much—it was really a transformative experience.”
Sharma worked his way toward recovery and came back to climbing better than ever. He continued to travel the world, seeking out the hardest and most dangerous climbs from Europe to Asia and beyond.
A longstanding tradition in sport climbing is that the first person to blaze a trail up a rock formation gets to name that path. If someone comes along and climbs farther and higher, the climber gets to rename the path.
Not long after his injury, Sharma became the first person to ascend Biographie, a devastatingly tough path near the French Alps. At the time, the climb was rated so difficult that the climbing grade scale had to be adjusted. Sharma became the first person to ascend the full route, which gave him the right to rename it. His choice? Realization.