Famous for his rock climbing feats, he ascended the West Buttress, Dihedral Wall, Dawn Wall, and Triple Crown of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park (California) and also tackled Colorado's Flex Luthor and Kryptonite walls.
Early in his career, he traveled to Longs Peak, Colorado, and climbed The Honeymoon is Over V, which has a grade of 5.13.
While adventuring abroad, he was captured by members of Kyrgyzstan rebel forces and survived the ordeal by pushing his captor off the side of a mountain. His traumatic experience is recounted in the non-fiction work Over the Edge: The True Story of Four American Climbers' Kidnap and Escape in the Mountains of Central Asia.
From 2003 until 2010, he was married to fellow climber Beth Rodden. Following his divorce from Rodden, he married Rebecca Pietsch and fathered a son named Fitz.
He and Conrad Anker are both well known mountain climbers.