Tommy is one of the best big wall freeclimber’s today and he has set his heart on conquering The Dawn Wall in Yosemite National Park – a mere 900m of solid granite up the El Capitan’s southeast face. Once completed this route is destined to become the hardest, most intense big wall in the world.
Caldwell has already spent several seasons on this wall, but although he hasn’t made it to the top yet, progress has been consistent and tangible. In November last year (2012) Caldwell and his 2 climbing compatriots, Kevin Jorgeson and Jonathan Siegrist were concentrating their efforts on pitches 14, 15, 16 and 17 – the decisive, crux pitches which will make or break their attempt to find a route to the top.
It is hard to comprehend let alone picture the dedication and love for this sport that a person like Tommy Caldwell has. He spent 2 seasons alone trying to get past pitch 14 but was foiled every time until he had a brainwave – try it at night! The cool of the evening air resulted in a major breakthrough in the form of a new sequence on pitch 14 which unlocked the crucial move that had shut him down in the past.
How do you get your mind and body around a challenge like this? “Free climbing the Dawn Wall has become a strong obsession. And I have been at it for a long time. Not only in time spent on the wall, but the training as well. I have spent months beating my fingers rhythmically on the campus board. Years on the boulders fingering sharp holds and trying to build callus. I know my nerves must be hardened and my perspective of what I am capable of changed, so long days that leave me weary have become the norm,” he says. “Somehow, the harder we push, the more obstacles this project throws at us, the more I love it.”
It’s like an unquenchable thirst isn’t it?
Here’s a clip on what life is like on The Dawn Wall and a little on how Tommy got into climbing:
Feature photo courtesy of www.blackdiamondequipment.com