This video of legendary climber Dan Osman looks downright impossible. The camera has to be tilted. And the playback must be in fast-forward mode. There’s no way someone could scale a cliff that quickly, right? Actually, Osman’s Spidey-like ascent is the real thing. And in rushing up that rock, he demonstrates both the incredible capabilities of the human hand and the importance of not trying to test the laws of physics. First of all, friction is your friend in rock climbing, and during one close-up you can see that Osman is wearing very flexible, grip-enhancing shoes. The flexibility of the soles is critical because it puts more of the rubber sole in contact with the rock, increasing the friction, and the chances that his foot stays planted in place.
The rock itself, known as “Bear’s Reach,” would be considered an easy one for experts, offering numerous cracks and bumps and ledges large and small. In other words, Osman’s not climbing up a smooth wall. And when he’s jamming his fingers into one of those cracks, or grabbing a ledge, he’s basically proving that our evolutionary ancestors swung from branches. There’s no other good reason for our hands to be that strong, and capable of supporting so much weight. By pressing his fingers down on some exposed rock, Osman engages more of the muscles in his forearm, allowing him to bear more weight on that hand.
Obviously he’s also in ridiculously good shape. One Web site says the climb should take about three hours. In this video, Osman does it in 4 minutes and 25 seconds. Tragically, though, this daring approach to nature’s dangers led to Osman’s early death in 1998, at the age of 35.—Gregory Mone