I watched Free Solo on television yesterday. It was probably the most exciting thing I've ever seen in my life. It's a National Geographic documentary about a free solo climb by Alex Hannold of El Capitan, a 900 m tall monolith in Yosemite national park in California, most of which is vertical. Free solo means climbing alone and without any safety gear whatsoever. Hannold is the only person who has ever done that.
Here's Alex Hannold giving a TED talk about how he did it.
The Free Solo National Geography document is very good in that it tells the story of Hannold's eight-year preparation of the attempt and the psychological aspect of it from a multitude of perspectives.
People like Alex Hannold, the vast majority of whom are men, are the reason why our species has colonized every survivable environment on Earth. What the most extreme of the extreme athletes like free solo climbers do is embody the spirit of exploration and pushing boundaries that makes us unique as a species. We are pipedal hunter gatherers whose origin is in the African savanna. We have hands with opposable thumbs and huge brains. Other than that, the only physical advantage we have is endurance. Otherwise, our bodies are weak and fragile. It's our mental superpowers that allow us to thrive in any environment.
The next step in evolution will be transhumanism including altering the human body and mental characteristics using technology as well as blurring the boundaries between human and machine. But frankly speaking, it is quite astounding what some unaltered rare individuals are capable of.