Don’t look down

Think rock climbing is tough? Jack Arnott meets Bernd Zangerl, the man who’s taking the sport to the next level

Austrian-born Bernd Zangerl has made a name for himself as one of the world’s most-admired and well-known ‘boulderers’ – a niche type of free-form climbing where the participants, unencumbered by ropes and harnesses, scale previously untouched rocky outcrops and boulders with only a padded crash-mat beneath to protect them.

Competitive climbing has been Zangerl’s life since scaling Mont Blanc in France at the age of 16. But a terrifying near-fatal rockfall two years later led him to pursue a less-conventional route to the top of this dizzying sport.

The 38-year-old is since believed to have completed more than 500 ‘first ascents’ – the first person to get to the top of a particular site – and has been the subject of numerous articles, documentaries and, as seen here, some stunning photography.