In 1993, like many young people before him, Mark Synnott found himself graduating Middlebury College unsure of what his future would hold - specifically his career path. However, he was certain of one thing – he wanted to climb. This passion led him to find work as a carpenter, a job conducive to a transient lifestyle.
A few years later, a 39-day stint 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, changed his life forever. Thus in 1996, he began his quest to climb some of the biggest walls on the planet. He bid farewell to his days as a carpenter and never looked back.
Innumerable big wall and alpine climbing adventures have transpired since, taking Mark on adventures to places like Pakistan, Nepal, India, China, Tibet, Oman, Alaska, Newfoundland, Baffin Island, Greenland, Iceland, Guyana, Venezuela, Patagonia, Chad, Cameroon, Borneo and Pitcairn Island. In addition to his big wall exploits, Mark is also an accomplished free climber, enjoying 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 on-sighted 5.12 and red-pointed 5.13. Equally comfortable on ice and mixed as he is on rock, Mark has climbed high-end winter routes across the U.S., Canada, Europe and Scandinavia.
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’s research, design and development teams. He’s also a successful freelance photojournalist and the author of Baffin Island: Climbing, Trekking and Skiing. His articles and photos have appeared in numerous publications in the United States and abroad, including National Geographic, Men’s Journal, Outside, Climbing, Rock & Ice, Skiing and New York magazine. Mark is an AMGA certified guide and the owner of Synnott Mountain Guides (www.synnottmountainguides.com), a climbing school based in his hometown of Jackson, New Hampshire.
For more information on Mark’s endeavors and climbing programs, visit www.newhampshireclimbing.com.
Hometown: Jackson, New Hampshire
Birth date: December 11, 1969
Favorite Music: I kind of tend toward easy listening – my friends laugh at me.
Favorite Destination for Your Sport: Cathedral Ledge, North Conway, NH
Favorite Magazine: National Geographic
How I Relax: Trail running to clear my head; reading at night to increase my knowledge of various subjects I find interesting; sitting by the fire at night with my children
Dream Vacation: Sailing and climbing on the coast of Maine
Favorite Food Dish or Cuisine: New England Clam Bake
Favorite Movie: Tommy Boy
Favorite Snack: cheese, salami and crackers
Favorite Piece of Your Sport’s History: I have always been inspired by the Golden Age of mountaineering, i.e. the first half or so of the 20th century, when most of the world’s most beautiful mountains were still unclimbed. I can only imagine how it must have felt to explore the Himalayas, looking up at some of the most majestic peaks in the world, knowing that none of them had yet been climbed.
Words to Live By/Personal Mantra: Live in the moment
Three TNF Products You Always Pack: Makalu jacket, because it is the most versatile jacket ever made, and I know it will never let me down. Beeline sleeping bag, because it is so light and I can use it for everything from a summer El Cap route, to an overnight alone climb in the Cascades, or even as a sleeping bag liner on an Alaskan or Arctic expedition. Sargent Hoodie, because I love hoodies, and particularly this one because it is fleece, just the right weight, with a nice simple design.
Which Causes are you Passionate About: I am a board member of the Access Fund and the Mountain Rescue Service. Both are organizations which I believe in completely. I am also a member/instructor for the Eastern Slope Ski Club, which teaches skiing to grammar school kids here in the Mount Washington Valley. I also support the American Mountain Guides Association, the American Alpine Club and Kismet, a local non-profit that provides climbing experiences for under-privileged kids.
Proudest Moment of Your Career: when each of my three children were born; any summit pales in comparison
Favorite Climb: El Capitan
Favorite Vice at Basecamp: an evening cocktail
Favorite Trail: In the White Mountain National Forest behind my house - the trail leaves from my back door
Favorite Event: My kids’ soccer games because I love watching them do something they love that is healthy and shared with other kids and parents.
Goal(s) This Season: to find balance between my adventures/work/fatherhood
- “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 (first ascent)
- “Rum and the Lash,” VI 5.10 A4+, northwest face of Sail Peak (first ascent)
- “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 northwest face and west summit)
- “The Compressor Route,” 5.10 A1, Cerro Torre
- “SCUD,” 5.11, 7-pitch direct start to Exocet, Cerro Stanhardt (attempt)
Nepal: * Attempt on North Face of Jannu (25,294 feet)
Cameroon: * The Great Technical Adventure 5.12d Rhumsiki Tower (first ascent, 10 pitches)
Chad: * Led first rock climbing expedition to the Ennedi Desert resulting in approximately 20 first ascents of desert towers including: The Citadel (5.11d/5.12a R, 200′; The Wine Bottle (5.11d R/X, 300′); The Arch of Bashikele (a.k.a. Delicate Arch of the Ennedi, 5.10c R/X, 200′, Chin-Honnold-Ozturk-Pearson-Synnott, one bolt).
Oman: * Led sailing and climbing expedition to the Musandam Peninsula resulting in various first ascents including: West Face, V 5.10R, Jebel Letub, 3000’ (first ascent)
- “Shaken Not Stirred,” west face of Moose’s Tooth, Alaska Range
- “The Dream in the Spirit of Mugs,” 5.10c, west face of the Eye Tooth
- Attempted first one-day ascent of Mt. Dickey’s southeast face; reached 4,000 feet in 11 hours.
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 (second ascent, winter)
- “Air Voyage,” V 5.12a, North Chasm View Wall
- “Astro Dog,” V 5.11+, South Chasm View Wall
- “Scenic Cruise,” V 5.10+, North Chasm View Wall
- “Goss-Logan,” V 5.11 R, North Chasm View Wall
- “Southern Arete,” V 5.10+, Painted Wall
- Canadian Rockies: east face of Mt. Babel (5.11, 8 hours), east ridge of Temple, east face of Edith Cavell
Newfoundland: “Leviathan,” V 5.12, Blow Me Down, Devil’s Bay
Bugaboos: * The Shooting Gallery VI 5.10 A2+ West Face of North Howser Tower (first ascent)
- El Capitan: 18 ascents including 2nd ascent of Reticent Wall A5 and single pushes on Lost in America A4 (24:47; 2nd fastest), Tangerine Trip, Lurking Fear (9+ hours), Nose (13:45), and West Face
- Other routes include:
- 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
The Desert Southwest:
- The Ball and Chain VI 5.10 A4 North Face of Angel’s Landing, Zion (3rd ascent)
- 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)
Selected ice routes: A* cid 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+
- National Geographic magazine: Apr.-July 1998: climbing talent for documentary on Baffin Island big-wall first ascent
- National Geographic Television:
- Apr.-July 1998: climber/videographer for documentary on Baffin Island big-wall first ascent
- Aug. 1998: chief rigger/climbing talent for documentary shot in Iceland
- Dec. 1999: climber/expedition leader for documentary on freeclimbing in Cameroon
- July 2000: chief rigger for documentary shot in British Columbia
- American Adventure Productions, June-Aug. 1999: climber/videographer/expedition leader for documentary on climbing Great Trango Tower (aired on NBC television)
- Warren Miller films, June 2001: climber/skiing talent for climb and ski descent from the northwest summit of Mt. Waddington, Coast Range, B.C.
- Camp Four Collective: Appeared in various films from Borneo, Chad, Newfoundland and the Musandam Peninsula
- Pongo Media: Return to the Tepuis