After three years of planning and months of pitch-by-pitch reconnaissance work, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson have begun their official bid to free climb the Dawn Wall on El Cap. Caldwell and Jorgeson’s 33-pitch line will be arguably the hardest of its kind in the Yosemite Valley.
As of 11AM Western time on November 15, Jorgeson reports that their climb is going well. “We are currently on the top of pitch 8,” Jorgeson said in an email. “Yesterday we did two pitches on 5.14 and today we are going to ‘rest’ by only doing the 5.13c 9th pitch. After pitch 9, there are five consecutive pitches of mid to hard 5.14.”
Caldwell first set his eyes on freeing the Dawn Wall in the fall of 2007. In an interview with Climbing, he described the inception of the project as “a pretty logical progression” as he free climbed his way through the valley. He started by rappelling down to get an idea of the features on the face, and in the winter of 2008/2009 spent enough time swinging around the wall to decide that there was just enough to work with for a free ascent to be possible. Jorgeson first got on the wall in the fall of 2009 and the duo spent long hours in October of 2009 working from move to move, but they were eventually sent home by early snowfall with four unclimbed pitches remaining. They returned to the valley in the spring, but only spent about two weeks on the wall due to bad weather. This fall, Caldwell and Jorgeson have been able to use the last two months working on the Dawn Wall, primarily climbing in the dark thanks to the unusually warm temperatures that have kept them out there all season.
Their route crosses Mescalito (A3 5.8), Reticent (A5 5.7), and Wall of Early Morning Light (A3 5.8), and shares features with other routes as well, and they have spent all fall fixing ropes and memorizing the minutia of water polished faces and all but featureless crux pitches. They expect their final push to take up to two weeks. “We call it a push,” Jorgeson wrote on his blog, “because, after the first day, it will undoubtedly be a battle for every pitch.”