About Mark Synnott

Mark Synnott is a New York Times bestselling author, a pioneering big wall first ascensionist and one of the most prolific exploratory climbers of his generation. His search for new frontiers has taken him on more than three dozen expeditions to places like Alaska, Baffin Island, Greenland, Iceland, Newfoundland, Patagonia, Guyana, Venezuela, Pakistan, Nepal, India, China, Tibet, Uzbekistan, Russia, Cameroon, Chad, Borneo, Oman and Pitcairn Island. Closer to home, Mark has climbed Yosemite’s El Capitan 24 times, including several one-day ascents.

In Arctic Canada, Mark was one of the first climbers to explore the remote east coast of Baffin Island, where he pioneered four big wall first ascents on the island, including a grade VII on the 4700-foot north face of Polar Sun Spire. This epic route, called The Great and Secret Show, required the team to spend 36 nights in portaledges. In Baffin’s Auyuittuq National Park, Mark completed the first ski descent of the South Face of Mt. Odin, via a 5,000-foot couloir. In Pakistan’s Karakoram mountains, he established two grade VII big wall first ascents—The Ship of Fools on Shipton Spire and Parallel Worlds on Great Trango Tower. The latter, a 6,000-foot wall topping out over 20,000 feet, is one of the longest rock climbs in the world. In the spring of 2019, Mark summited Mount Everest via the Northeast Ridge, an adventure chronicled in his book, The Third Pole: Mystery, Obsession and Death on Mount Everest. More recently, Mark completed a 7,000 mile voyage through the Northwest Passage aboard his 47-foot fiberglass sailboat SV Polar Sun. A television special documenting this epic journey called “Lost in the Arctic” is currently streaming on Disney+.

Mark has been a member of The North Face Global Athlete Team since 1997 and over the course of his career has worked extensively in the film and television industry, both in front of and behind the camera. His credits include work for National Geographic Television, NBC Sports, ABC, Warren Miller Entertainment, Teton Gravity Research and Red Bull Media House. Long regarded as one of the best storytellers in the business, Mark is highly sought after as a motivational speaker and presents regularly in performing arts centers across the country and for clients like General Motors, the Bank of New York, and the X Prize Foundation. An accomplished journalist, he’s also a go-to writer for National Geographic magazine and the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Impossible Climb: Alex Honnold, El Capitan and the Climbing Life.

When he’s not off leading expeditions, Mark works as an IFMGA mountain guide and as a trainer for the pararescuemen of the US Air Force. He’s a long time time SAR member and first responder and has served on the boards of many non-profit organizations including the Access Fund, Friends of the Ledges and the Mountain Rescue Service. Most of the time though, you’ll find him at home where he lives on a dead-end dirt road in northern New Hampshire with his family.


Middlebury College, VT
B.A. in philosophy 1993
Dean's list 1990, 1992; College Scholar 1993
Alumni Achievement Award 2001

Professional Experience

The North Face
Climbing Team member since 1996
Technical Consultant to Product Development

Freelance Photojournalist
My work has appeared in: National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, Outside, Men's Journal,
Climbing, Skiing, Unlimited, and many other publications.

Baffin Island: Climbing, Trekking and Skiing, published 2007

National Geographic Magazine
April-July 1998 -- climbing talent for documentary on Baffin Island big wall first ascent
Author of Impossible Rock January 2012, feature article about exploratory rock climbing expedition to the Musandam Peninsula in Oman
Author of Sins of the Aral June 2015, feature article about the disappearance of the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan

National Geographic Television
April-July 1998 -- climber/videographer for documentary on Baffin Island big wall first ascent
August 1998 -- chief rigger/climbing talent for documentary shot in Iceland
December 1999 -- climber/expedition leader for documentary on freeclimbing in Cameroon
July 2000 -- chief rigger for documentary shot in British Columbia

NBC Television
June-August 1999 -- climber/videographer/expedition
leader for documentary on climbing Great Trango Tower in Pakistan

Warren Miller Films
June 2001 - climber/skiing talent for
climb and ski descent from the NW summit of Mt. Waddington, Coast
Range, BC

Red Bull Media House/Teton Gravity Research
Subject of 2015 documentary about my career as a big wall climber and explorer

Northeast Utilities/Ever Source
Safety consultant and Tower Rescue Trainer for Transmission Linemen since 2008


American Mountain Guides Associaton (AMGA) - American Mountain Guide & IFMGA Guide
American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) certified avalanche instructor
Wilderness First Responder (WFR)
Mountain Rescue Service (MRS) A-team member and Board of Directors


Piolet D'Or NW face of Great Trango Tower nominated in 1999
Mugs Stump Award 1996 for ascent of Polar Sun Spire in Baffin Island
AAC Mountaineering Fellowships to Baffin island 1995, 1996
National Geographic Expeditions Council Grant for 1999 Cameroon Rhumsiki Tower expedition, 2003 Mt. Roraima expedition, and 2005 Pitcairn Island expedition


The North Face, Sterling Ropes, Kästle Ski

Climbing Achievements

Baffin Island
The Great and Secret Show VII 5.11 A4
WI3 North Face of Polar Sun Spire (first ascent)
Crossfire VI 5.10 A4 South Face of Great Cross Pillar (first ascent)
Nuvualik VI 5.10+ A3+ West Face of the Turret (single push: 40 hrs/with fixing; first ascent)
Rum and the Lash VI 5.10 A4+ Northwest Face of Sail Peak (first ascent)

Karakoram, Pakistan
The Ship of Fools VII 5.11 A2 WI6 Northeast
Face of Shipton Spire (first ascent)
Parallel Worlds VII 5.11 A4 Northwest Face of Great Trango Tower (first ascent of NW Face and West summit)

The Compressor Route 5.10 A1 Cerro Torre
(27 hours from Norwegian camp)
SCUD 5.11, 7 pitch direct start to Exocet, Cerro Stanhardt (attempt)
Attempted first alpine style ascent of Fitzroy's 2200m Slovak Route on west face

Attempt on North Face of Jannu (25,294')

Shaken Not Stirred, west face of Moose'sTooth,
Alaska Range, (reached middle summit, 6 hrs. on route)
The Dream in the Spirit of Mugs V 5.10c, west face of the Eye Tooth (24 hours r/t)

The Great Technical Adventure 5.12d
Rhumsiki Tower (first ascent, 10 pitches, redpointed route)

The Shooting Gallery VI 5.10 A2+ West
Face of North Howser Tower (led every pitch; first ascent)
Beckey-Chouinard V 5.10 Southwest Pillar of South Hower Tower

Canadian Rockies
East Face of Mt. Babel IV 5.11 (15 hrs. car to car)
East Ridge of Mt. Temple
East Ridge of Mt. Edith Cavell

El Capitan: 22 ascents including 2nd ascent of Reticent Wall (A5) and single pushes on Lost in America (24:47; 2nd fastest), Tangerine Trip, Lurking Fear (9+ hours), Nose
(13:45), and West Face
Regular Northwest Face VI 5.10 A2 Half Dome (one day)
Lost Arrow Spire Direct VI 5.11 A3 Yosemite Falls Wall
Misty Wall VI 5.10 A3 Yosemite Falls Wall
West Face V 5.10 A2 Leaning Tower (single push: 7 hrs.)
South Face V 5.10 A1 Washington Column
Steck-Salathe V 5.9 Sentinel
Chouinard-Herbert V 5.11+ Sentinel
Direct North Buttress V 5.10 Middle Cathedral

Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Stratosfear VI 5.11+ R Painted Wall
The Dragon Route VI 5.10 A4 (first winter ascent of Painted Wall)
Paint it Black VI 5.11 A3+ North Chasm View Wall (2nd ascent, winter)
Air Voyage V 5.12a North Chasm View Wall
Scenic Cruise V 5.10 + North Chasm View Wall
Goss-Logan V 5.11 R North Chasm View Wall
Astro-Dog V 5.11+ South Chasm View Wall
Southern Arete V 5.10+ Painted Wall

The Desert Southwest
The Ball and Chain VI 5.10 A4 North
Face of Angel's Landing, Zion (3rd ascent, led every pitch)
The Sundevil Chimney VI 5.9 A4 The Titan, Fisher Towers
Colorado NE Ridge V 5.9 A2 King Fisher, Fisher Towers
The Kor Route V 5.10 A3 Steamboat Rock, Dinosaur National Monument
(3rd ascent)
Approximately 20 desert tower free routes

Selected Ice Routes
Acid Howl, Canadian Rockies WI 6+
The Terminator, Canadian Rockies WI 6+
Les Miserables, Canadian Rockies WI 6+
Gramusat Direct, Tete Du Gramusat, France WI6+
Hydnefossen, Hemsedal, Norway WI 6+

Mixed Routes
Manchurian Refuge M7+ Trollville, NH (first ascent)
Cold, Cold World M8+ Eagle Cliff, NH (2nd ascent)
Snake LipM8 Trollville, NH (first ascent)
Diaper Rash M7 Trollville, NH (2nd ascent)
The Mongol M8 Trollville, NH (1st ascent)(first ascent)

Free Climbs
Best on-sight: 5.12b
Best redpoint: 5.13b