Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Dawn Wall: Standing on the shoulders of a giants

Looking up at the Dawn Wall

The Dawn Wall... Situated on the worlds most prolific rock face in Yosemite Valley, its name echos in the in the mind of climbers across the entire globe. Its difficulty is legendary and has thwarted many of the worlds best climbers including Jonathan Siegrest and Chris Sharma. 

This project has been in the limelight of the climbing world for almost five years, making it one of the longest (if not THE longest) climbing projects ever attempted. 

The team heading the siege on this mega route is Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, both incredibly talented climbers with massive climbing achievements to their name. Together, they have spent an estimated twelve months in the valley on this project alone, over 70% of which Kevin estimates has been spent working up on the wall. 

That works out at to be: 255.5 days, 6132 hours, 367, 920 minutes or...

Kevin Jorgeson jumaring up pitch 4

six times longer than the average person spends brushing their teeth in a lifetime!

Due to Tommy's recent accident in which a haul bag took a 200ft whipper onto his harness, separating his ribs (Article), Kevin contacted me to come out and stand in as his belay for the interim period while Tommy heals up. With such short notice, i wasn't sure whether I could make it happen, but knew I had to find a way. Ever since I first saw a picture of the Captain, I've dreamt of climbing up the wall by any route possible. Helping out on the hardest one was definitely a bonus!

I managed to juggle my commitments and hastily booked my flight out to San Francisco where I met up with Kevin. Together, we embarked on a highly caffeinated journey to Yosemite Valley some three hours away.  Upon arrival, we were joined by legendary camera men Keith Ladzinski and Andy Mann of 3 Strings Productions who planned to film Kevin's progress on the wall.

Andy Mann joining us at base camp around 1000ft up

Keith Ladzinski and Andy Mann in position for the second traverse pitch

The crux of the project is some 1000ft up the wall where the route crosses over the notoriously hard  and impressive aid route, Reticent Wall. (If you've not heard of this route, read Psychovertical by Andy Kirkpatrick). These two pitches are where our efforts are focused as neither have been sent. However, getting to this point on the route requires a jumar "warm up" that feels like the equivalent of sprinting a 5.9 route for an hour and a half.

Gareth Leah (me) working my way up to base camp

This is a small price to pay for the views you receive being up on the wall. Peering out from the portaledge, the midday sun warms your whole body and paints its soft glow across the the valley.

A truly unforgettable moment.

We're two days into the filming and have been forced to take a rest day due to bad weather. We're aiming to head back up in a day or two if the weather permits. We may head up today to secure the ledges better after a forecast of 40mph winds...

it's going to be GRIPPING!

A room with a view

I'd like to say a huge thank you to Adidas Outdoor who kindly shipped me out a box of their awesome technical gear to keep me warm while up on the wall. With such last minute notice to leave, I would never have had time to get everything together in time. I'd also like to thank Scarpa for hooking me up with some awesome shoes. You guys ROCK!