Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 16, 2015

The Dawn Wall

The Dawn Wall, also known as the “Wall of Early Morning Light” on Yosemite’s famous El Capitan mountain, is regarded as the most difficult climb on the planet. And rightly so! This 3,000-foot granite monolith offers climbers scant options for scaling its sheer, smooth face. That’s what has made it so attractive to climbers. And that’s what inspired Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson to spend years in preparation to free climb the Dawn Wall.

Free climbing means that a climber uses only hands and feet to ascend a rock’s natural features while employing ropes and other gear to stop a fall. Ropes cannot be used for upward progress while free climbing. Caldwell and Jorgeson scaled the Dawn Wall by locking their bandaged and bloody fingertips onto razor-thin granite holds along the route and pulled themselves skyward one painful handhold at a time.

El Capitan Yosemite Climbing Route
The two intrepid climbers started their ascent of the imposing wall on Saturday, December 14, 2014 and reached the summit yesterday evening. They spent a total of 19 days on the wall, sleeping in their suspended portaledge tent — barely the footprint of a twin mattress. They spent each day inching their way up. Their progress on some days was akin to the itsy-bitsy spider trying to climb up the water-spout only to get washed back down. But, these guys never gave up.

When Caldwell and Jorgeson started their ascent, the climbing community followed their progress — much of it posted on social media. However, it wasn’t long before their attempt to make climbing history captured the imagination of a broader, global audience. In a day when social media seems dominated by selfies and all sorts of insane and inane stuff, it’s refreshing to follow a couple of guys doing something really tough. Their accomplishment has pushed the sport of climbing to the next level.

The Dawn Wall
This historic climb started long before Caldwell and Jorgeson started up the wall on December 27. Caldwell began studying the Dawn Wall seven years ago, believing that there had to be a way to free climb the imposing granite monster. Climbers considered the wall too steep and lacking in sufficient cracks or seams in the rock for free climbing. Caldwell’s dream to free climb the wall would not allow him to give up and, eventually, to find a way to do what others considered impossible.

On Tuesday, Jorgeson posted a Tweet from 2,000 feet (610 meters). He said, ”This is not an effort to conquer. It’s about realizing a dream.” I like that. And I like the fact that the two climbers reached the summit — their summit. They are an inspiration and a reminder that we should not allow prevailing belief about how difficult this or that might be to stop us dead in our tracks. Sometimes the prevailing belief is dead wrong. The path to fulfilling our dreams can be painful and hard but worth it all when we reach our summit.


  1. Good stuff, Omar. Absolutely amazing!

    • Thanks, Jay. Pretty inspiring accomplishment indeed.

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