After graduating from Middlebury College in 1993, Mark Synnott had no idea where he was going or what he would do for work. He just knew he wanted to climb.
He ended up finding work as a carpenter, since it was conducive to a transient lifestyle. (“Build a house, climb a wall. Build a house, climb a mountain.”) Then, in 1996, Mark spent 39 days living on the side of the 4,700-foot north face of Polar Sun Spire, a rock tower rising from a frozen fjord in Canada’s Baffin Island. The ascent changed his life and started him on his quest to climb some of the biggest walls on the planet.
He said goodbye to his carpenter job and never looked back. Many, many big-wall and alpine climbing adventures have transpired since, taking Mark to places like Patagonia, Pakistan, Nepal, India, China, Tibet, the Alaska Range, the Amazon, West Africa and Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific.
In addition to his big wall exploits, Mark is also an accomplished free climber who especially enjoys long adventure trad climbs, such as the infamous “Stratosphere” in Colorado’s Black Canyon or the east face of Mt. Babel in the Canadian Rockies. He has onsighted 5.12 and redpointed 5.13. He’s climbed Yosemite’s El Capitan 20 times, and in 1997 he snagged the coveted second ascent of El Cap’s hardest line, the Reticent Wall (A5). Equally comfortable on ice and mixed as he is on rock, Mark has climbed high-end winter routes across the U.S., Canada, France and Norway.
As passionate about skiing and ski mountaineering as he is about climbing, Mark appeared in the 2001 Warren Miller film Cold Fusion, skiing off Mt. Waddington and Mt. Combatant in British Columbia. More recently, he snagged the first descent of a 5,100-foot couloir on Baffin Island’s highest peak, Mt. Odin.
When he’s not in the mountains, Mark works with The North Face research, design and development teams and lectures frequently on his life of adventure. He’s also a successful freelance photojournalist and a senior contributing editor at Climbing magazine. His articles and photos have appeared in many publications in the U.S. and abroad, including National Geographic Adventure, Men’s Journal, Outside, Skiing and New York magazine. Mark is the owner and operator of Synnott Mountain Guides (www.synnottmountainguides.com), a climbing school based in his hometown of Jackson, New Hampshire. Of all his adventures, Mark sees getting married and having a family as the greatest one yet. He lives at the end of a dead-end dirt road in the White Mountains with his wife, three children and two dogs.