What did you do to ring in the New Year? While most of us carry on with our wild parties, our fireworks and late night / early morning shennanigans, two individuals laid in their sleeping bags suspended high above the valley floor in Yosemite's National Park.
On December 27th the pair of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson embarked on a climb that captivated the world and held many of us hostage to our social media for 19 days. If you have been living in a cave, you might not have heard about this, but for anyone watching any mainstream news source, you will have heard about these two. They were climbing the Dawn Wall of the famed El Capitan peak in Yosemite National Park in California. What's so great about that you ask? Well, I asked the same thing when I started hearing about it. People make climbs every day, why don't we hear about these all the time. I think part of the reason this one is so talked about now, is that they were on social media during the entire 19 day event, (well except for Tommy who dropped his phone a week before the final push).
I didn't start paying attention to this event until it was almost over. What was so great about this one vs. any other climb. For me, a canyoneer (failed climber) I wasn't too much into the climbing stuff anymore. As I started paying attention, I started studying the history of the Dawn Wall and realizing what was taking place. This was a climb that had only ever been done using aid gear. The holds and grabs were so small that no one had ever accomplished it cleanly without aid gear (bolts, cams, pitons attached with aiders). These two, if accomplished, would be the first ever to get up the route cleanly and freely without the use of gear to stand on.
The next thing I found out was that Tommy had been pursuing this goal since 2007. That right there hit me, it smacked me in the face like a 2x4. I actually became emotional when I realized what completing this climb meant to Tommy. He probably really didn't care about all the fanfare that was following it, or about the amounts of attention he was getting and going to get. He had his eyes on a prize, his eye on a goal and had a dream to accomplish. This is what this meant to me after studying it. As the world sat in our warm homes and chairs watching this event unfold, we were witnessing a man fulfill a dream and goal. This climb is probably the toughest physically anyone could do, but mentally, Tommy was in charge. He planned and prepped and studied and practiced this route in micro visits for years. Having done every bit of the wall before hand in small chunks, he knew it was doable, if only time would give it to him.
The Dawn Wall ascent, while a physical triumph, will go down in history as one man beating his demons and accomplishing his goals. We learn that perseverance can triumph. We learn that having a team strong enough as you and keeping the pressure on is important. Never ever give up on your goals and dreams. Find your own Dawn Wall and beat the crap out of it. Fight it and conquer it!