Dawn Wall: Tommy Caldwell Has a Little Breakthrough


Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson are currently sitting at the base of El Capitan and are about to head up this afternoon to give pitch 14 one more go. But after that, they will shut down their efforts on the Dawn Wall for 2013. Yet their valiant if fated attempts to finally free what has become the most watched and anticipated big-wall free climb in the sport’s history won’t go completely unrewarded. 

Last night Tommy freed pitch 15 with a rating of “something like 5.14d.”

“Yeah, that was a little breakthrough right there,” Tommy said while racking up at the base of 2,900-foot Dawn Wall today at 12:45 p.m. “It’s hard to know what the rating is. This type of climbing is tricky. It’s not as physically taxing as a 5.14d sport climb in Rifle or something, but you have to climb it absolutely perfectly. Usually you’ll fall because you make a tiny mistake, not because you’re exhausted.”

As of now, two pitches on the Dawn Wall still haven’t been freed. Pitch 14: the first traversing pitch. “It’s still giving us a bit of trouble,” Tommy said.

And Pitch 16: the infamous Sideways Dyno Pitch.

Pitch 16 breaks down as a vicious and dramatic sideways dyno to an edge. Then there’s a rest. And above the rest is really tricky, demanding climbing that is distinctive to El Capitan.

“It’s funny because Kevin is having more luck sticking the dyno, but he’s having trouble with the part above the rest. Meanwhile, I can’t stick the dyno right now, but I can pretty consistently climb from the rest to the top of the pitch.”

When I suggested solving that problem by putting an anchor between those two sections, Tommy laughed uncomfortably. “We’re trying NOT to do that!” he said, chuckling.

Tommy explained that his freak injury of this past October, in which a haul bag shock-loaded his torso and injured the cartilage between his ribs, is feeling better. “The ribs are good for everything except sideways dynos,” Tommy said.

After today, Kevin and Tommy are going to call it for the season (hopefully with a send of pitch 14 this afternoon, too).

When asked if he would be satisfied with calling the Dawn Wall a complete free climb if he were to have only redpointed individual pitches over the past six years, but not in a push, Tommy said, “We accept that those rules are fluid and we’ll have to see how we feel once it happens. That said all of the most powerful experiences I’ve had on El Cap have been free-climbing a route ground-up in a push. It’s hard for me to imagine this whole experience being complete without that.”

Congrats to Tommy Caldwell for freeing pitch 15, already being called the hardest single pitch in Yosemite.

The Dawn Wall from Peter Jordan on Vimeo.



Tommy Cadwell wrote: 

I have been taking it easy on the Dawn wall posts this season but right now I am too psyched not to share. I regret to inform anyone that wants to climb the hardest pitch in Yosemite, now they have to get to the absolute middle of Cap to make it happen. After years of work. PITCH 15 WENT DOWN!!! It’s been a rocky road this season. But winter conditions are looking to be the way forward. I love this climb!

  • Kolef88

    Good luck!