Climbers Successfully Finish “Dawn Wall”, The Hardest Big Wall Rock Climb In The World
Last week we brought you an update on Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell’s attempt to complete the hardest rock climb in the world.
Yesterday, after 19 days living on the side of the wall, they successfully pulled over the top of the 3,000 foot iconic El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, completing a project they had been working towards for the past 7 years. There was time for a quick hug and a fist bump before the celebrations began.
Rock climbing, as a sport, rarely receives the kind of media attention that this Dawn Wall attempt has received. Climbers and non-climbers all around the world enjoyed watching the last few pitches of the climb on a live stream, and even got to see Tommy’s triumphant celebration.
And Kevin’s, when he reached the top shortly after.
The boys were in awe of the amount of attention their Dawn Wall attempt had generated. They were able to stay in touch while up on the wall (yes, they had 4G coverage), but Tommy accidentally dropped his cellphone off the side of the wall last week. He was thankful for this mistake in the end as it sheltered him from the attention and allowed him to focus on the task.
Crowds gathered in Yosemite Valley, to see the final triumphant moments of the climb and celebrate this monumental feat.
The boys even got a twitter shout out, and a phone call, from the president.
The Dawn Wall is in the centre of this photo – the steepest, most featureless face of the wall slightly to the right of the main ridge running up the middle of El Capitan.
Although the boys had completed the hardest parts of the climb earlier this week, completion was never certain, as Kevin reminded us in the tweet.
The hardest parts of the climb are graded 5.14d, only three grades lower than the hardest single pitch rock climb ever completed. A single pitch rock climb is around 100ft, whereas these guys were climbing 3,000 ft, making this climb markedly harder. Alex Honnold, another professional climber has remarked “The thing that’s so special about the Dawn Wall is that it’s almost not possible”.
The wall was first ascended by Warren Harding and Dean Caldwell (no relation to Tommy) in 1970, in a siege that lasted 28 days. Harding and Caldwell ascended using aids, so whenever they reached a part of the wall that wall too blank to climb they drilled bolts into the wall that they could pull up on.
Tommy and Kevin free climbed the wall – which is climbing as most people know it, like in your local climbing gym. The boys climbed the whole wall using their hands and feet (and at times knees, bums and backs), but periodically attached ropes to the wall to catch them if they fell.
Free climbing is now a very safe sport, and this allowed Kevin and Tommy to climb at their absolute limit, and fall repeatedly, trying over and over again until they climbed each section without falling.
They were pulling on absolutely tiny hand holds which often split the skin on their fingertips. Kevin had to rest for two days in between attempts on the hardest pitch on the wall to allow his skin to heal.
The boys often climbed at night by the light of their headlamps, because in colder temperatures the rock has more friction, making the climbing easier.
Now the boys are excited about the comforts of living on the ground again (they haven’t walked for the last 19 days!). They’re planning quality time with their families, and no doubt they’ll be dreaming up their next groundbreaking climbing goal!
They hope that their efforts can inspire everyone to “find your own dawn wall”, and chase those dreams that seem impossible at first!