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    Watch Tommy Caldwell Climb Pitch 15 (5.14c) on The Dawn Wall

    On January 14, 2015, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson made the first free ascent of The Dawn Wall on Yosemite’s El Capitan. Today we’re happy to share this exclusive video of Tommy climbing pitch 15, rated 5.14c—the first footage released by the film crew on the wall. 

    “The crux holds of pitch 15 are some of the smallest and sharpest holds I have ever attempted to hold onto,” Tommy wrote on his Facebook page. Four unique camera angles reveal those minuscule holds and the 1,300 feet of exposure under Tommy’s precarious foot placements. While multiple pitches of extremely difficult climbing remained above, the completion of pitch 15 was considered the last major hurdle to the eventual success of this seven-year dream project.

    Note: Pitch 15 was originally rated 5.14d, but was downgraded slightly after the completion of the route.

    With thanks to Big Up Productions and Sender Films.

    Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson Make First Free Ascent of Yosemite’s Dawn Wall!

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    We’ve been watching the updates with bated breath and now all of us at Patagonia are thrilled to congratulate Tommy Caldwell and his partner Kevin Jorgeson on the first free ascent of the Dawn Wall in Yosemite Valley. Tommy first conceived the idea of the climb in 2007 and, seven years later, summited the route on the afternoon of January 14, 2015 after spending 19 days on the wall—and with much of the climbing world viewing the last pitches via live video stream. Longtime readers will be familiar with our coverage of the Dawn Wall dating back to 2010. It’s been a long haul and we couldn’t be happier for Tommy.

    From Yvon: “When we first climbed the North American Wall on El Cap in 1964, we thought, ‘Well, that proves that any big wall in the world can be climbed.’ We never dreamed they could be climbed all free! Sending the Dawn Wall leaves Pope Francis with no choice but to admit our closest relative is the chimpanzee.’”

    Above: Seven years of relief. An elated Tommy Caldwell at the top of the Dawn Wall. Photo: Chris Burkard

    Continue reading "Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson Make First Free Ascent of Yosemite’s Dawn Wall!" »

    Making Tommy

    By Kelly Cordes

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    Do you ever wonder how the greats became great? Of course there’s no easy answer, no definitive answer, never a formula – they’re human, and human factors interact in infinite ways. Opportunity, natural talent, innate drive, developed drive, mental toughness, perspective, thought processes, influences, dedication, work ethic and who-knows-what-else, in various, mysterious combinations along the space-time continuum of life, probably covers most of it. OK, got it? Yeah, me too.

    It’s a fascinating topic, and the superb filmmaker Chris Alstrin’s short piece on Patagonia Ambassador Tommy Caldwell gives us a few glimpses into one of the greatest rock climbers of all time. Tommy’s also my neighbor – part of a great crew of friends in Estes Park, Colorado – and one of my heroes (by way of disclosure, I helped with writing and story development for the video).

    [Above: Frame grab from Making Tommy. Hit the jump to watch the video.]

    Continue reading "Making Tommy" »

    Talent

    - By Kelly Cordes

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    [Late-day light on the Dawn Wall, on Tommy’s final effort. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

    I’ve long thought that the most wasted resource on earth is talent. Talent abounds, yet optimizing its potential requires devoted effort. Of course we also have to consider opportunity, and the whole talent-and-effort issue makes regular news. There’s the “10,000-Hour Rule” of practice, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his celebrated and best-selling book Outliers – underscoring the importance of effort.  Recently I read an article about intellectual giftedness – underscoring the importance of talent.

    As far as natural ability goes, exceptional athletes are everywhere. Those who fully maximize that talent through hard work and effort, however, seem rare; I suspect they have to love it, truly love it, deep-down love it. Not just love success, or even the idea of success. Not just talk about it, and not find excuses when things get grim.

    Continue reading "Talent" »

    Recap on El Cap - Another Butt-Kicking

    - by Tommy Caldwell

    Today, Tommy Caldwell writes about the conclusion of another season of trying to free-climb the Dawn Wall. And coming up empty – though that’s really not the right word. We’ve covered his efforts in multiple posts (click here, here, or here), and it’s made frequent news in the climbing world for its nearly incomprehensible difficulty. Here’s how it feels, from the man himself. His words remind me of what it means to be grateful and of the spirit and values that matter most, which, I think, is worth remembering as we approach the holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. - Kelly Cordes
     
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    [Tommy recovering after a fall on one of the many crux pitches. Photo: Rebecca Caldwell]

    The wheels of my van protest loudly as I hit the rumble strips on Interstate 70. My wife, Becca, bolts upright out of a peaceful sleep with a panicked look on her face.

    “Did you fall asleep?” she says, her eyes the size of basketballs. Did I? I think for a second. I gaze toward the passenger seat. A bit of drool glistens on her cheek and her long hair sticks straight out from the right side of her head.

    Wow, that girl is cute when she is irritated at me.

    “I guess I was just daydreaming.” I shrug my shoulders and try to put on my best puppy dog eyes.

    “Well be careful!” She curls back up in the seat and is asleep in seconds.

    The truth is, I am not even a bit drowsy. The post-expedition mind is a funny thing. Both happy to be returning home, but trying to find a way to cope with something. A kind of loss of immediate purpose. And although the trip I am returning home from wasn’t exactly an expedition, it had a similar effect on my psyche.

    Continue reading "Recap on El Cap - Another Butt-Kicking" »

    The Facebookification of Climbing and the Decline of All Things Real – or not

    by Kelly Cordes

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    [Tommy Caldwell moving the portaledge during his attempt to free the Dawn Wall. Photo: Rebecca Caldwell]

    Tuesday night, November 1, 9:58 p.m., posted on Tommy Caldwell’s Facebook page:

     

    “No send tonight. But the craziness of the situation struck me. Trying to climb 5.14 by headlamp during a super intense wind storm. Strangely invigorating. I love the experience but am still overwhelmed by the magnitude of this project.”

    I’ve often been a crusty bastard about from-the-route publicity. Ironic, I know, and indeed we all want to draw the circle around ourselves, starting with my going, “yeah but…” and explaining how my propensity to spray on the interwebs is soooo different from all that “bullshit” out there. Right. And I generally stick to it. I’m a fan of send first, spray second. That comes mostly from an alpine climbing mentality – it’s hard to imagine how you can be doing something that’s invariably publicized as “futuristic” or “cutting edge” if...hmmm...well, uh, so then, how did the camera guy get up there?

    Yeah but, Tommy’s Dawn Wall climb really is different. Different in that it’s so – yes, futuristic – difficult that Tommy’s not climbing it in some lightweight (ie. easy?) push. When you’re doing a pitch or two a day (notwithstanding the final planned day of 12 pitches up to a mere 5.13, if it all works out), then on those slow days, when you’re redpointing 5.14+, does it affect anything to have a media circus shooting photos and video?

    Continue reading "The Facebookification of Climbing and the Decline of All Things Real – or not" »

    Family Affair on the Dawn Wall

    by Kelly Cordes

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    [Tommy on the Dawn Wall, practicing this one move I taught him. Photo: Kyle Berkompas]

    When I see a photo of someone climbing a severely overhanging 5.14 limestone sport route, I marvel at the physical prowess. Amazing. And though I can't imagine being that good myself, I can see how some people can do it; I can sort of imagine it. At least I can see the holds. But 5.14+ climbing on a vertical granite face? Huh? Tommy’s Dawn Wall project doesn't look like it has a single god-damned hold on the thing. The other day a handful of friends were saying how we've been on 11+ or 5.12 granite slabs and sworn that we were standing on absolutely nothing, holding absolutely nothing, and stuck, unable to move ("There’s nothing here! Nothing!"). How the hell can anything be more technical? It blows my mind.

    Anyway, Tommy has launched, and it’s going well. As you may know – he's been quite open and public about it (not that he has much choice, given that you can see the route from the road in Yosemite Valley), even posting some updates from the wall on his Facebook page. Bahhumbug, blasphemy!? I'm not so sure, and I've got some thoughts on it, and some of Tommy's, that I'll post here soon.

    Continue reading "Family Affair on the Dawn Wall" »

    Back on the Dawn Wall with Tommy Caldwell

    by Tommy Caldwell

    CaldwellR_2010_09_12089I wiggle the tip of my pinky finger into a small opening in the crack, and step high onto a small edge. Ouch! Maybe if I focus harder on the moves I will forget the pain. I pull onto the rock again, climb a few feet, then surrender. Such a long way to go, I think. I switch off my headlamp and suddenly vastness of space becomes apparent. El Cap shimmers below a sky of vivid stars, while my partner Kevin, 200 feet above me, grunts like a freight train. We are working the pitches separately on self-belay so that we can be more efficient. The beam of his headlamp swings back and forth and a calm darkness surrounds us. There is not even a breath of wind.

    Editor’s note: Patagonia ambassador Tommy Caldwell and his partner Kevin Jorgeson are back on the Dawn Wall in Yosemite, trying to free climb the steepest, blankest part of El Capitan -- a project first conceived in 2007. Tommy sent us some thoughts before heading up to the portaledge.


    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.

    [Above: Enjoying a rare rest and looking ahead to the daunting crux of the climb. Photo: Becca Caldwell]

    Continue reading "Back on the Dawn Wall with Tommy Caldwell" »

    Kite Dreams on the Dawn Wall

    CaldwellR.2010.11.1600 Out there and awesome. That’s what comes to mind when I think of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson on the Dawn Wall. If you aren’t a climbing geek who’s been following, they’re trying to free climb the steepest, blankest part of El Capitan. It’ll be a fight, for sure – it already is. They left the ground on Saturday, and plan to stay on the wall, living in their portaledge, for as long as it takes, which is probably two or more weeks. They’re around pitch nine now, and earlier today Tommy told me, “It’s giving us hell, we are battling hard. Pretty freaking awesome experience so far.”

    And it’s a great one for today’s world. Whereas we all also love and respect remote adventures, adventure comes in different varieties. These guys are exploring the upper limits of bigwall free climbing, and, since it’s on El Cap, modern communication makes it easy to share (updates from Becca Caldwell here; from Kevin here). They’ve got phones and reception and people watching them. In a way, El Cap represents our world of contrasts – it’s mega, yet practically roadside; it’s storied with some of the greatest pioneering rock climbing in history, while tour busses and RVs pass underneath it by the minute.

    [Tommy leading pitch two. Photo: Becca Caldwell]

    Continue reading "Kite Dreams on the Dawn Wall" »

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