Sport climber Chris Sharma recently became the first man ever to ascend El Bon Combat, one of the toughest rock routes in the world. Sharma, 33, has been rock climbing since age 14 and is known for establishing the most difficult routes in bouldering (no rope) and sport climbing (fixed anchors).

But El Bon Combat isn’t even the hardest route Sharma’s done. That honor goes to La Dura Dura also in Spain, a deadly, almost vertical 165-foot climb. To train for steep routes, Sharma has developed otherworldly pullup proficiency; he can do an unbroken set of 15 with one hand, 100 if you let him use both hands. Nevertheless, he’s experienced his share of close calls.

“I tore my ACL climbing a high boulder that I fell off,” says Sharma. “Another time, I was so excited looking at a climb that I got out of the car, slipped on loose rock, and tumbled 20 feet down.”

For beginners, Sharma suggests learning basic skills at a climbing gym, then finding a partner and enjoying the great outdoors.