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Large yosemite

Climbing the Hardest Route

Thursday, November 14, 2013
Update: According to Rock and Ice Magazine, due to Tommy Caldwell's recent injury, only Kevin Jorgeson is currently working on the Dawn Wall. As detailed below Jorgeson, Caldwell & Sharma began the season together but Caldwell was injured last week and is currently working on recovering before returning to climb.

As we write this, three of the best climbers in the world are literally hanging on the side of a sheer rock face waiting for night to fall so they can begin climbing again. The only true way down? Finishing the route or the onset of winter (and, therefore, impossible-to-climb-in weather). The Dawn Wall Project is one of incredible resilience and a commitment to pushing the limits of rock climbing as we know it.

Beauty, battle, and perseverance high above the ground. Featured: Jorgeson.

Originally started in 2007, this year professional climbers Tommy Caldwell, Kevin Jorgeson, and Chris Sharma are working together to hopefully finish the project.

The Dawn Wall is the name of the line or route that they'll climb (see visual below). It's on the famous Yosemite rock formation called El Capitan, which has been climbed before but never following this path. When they complete the climb, they will have achieved an incredible first ascent of a never-before-climbed line. Additionally, many of the pitches on the Dawn Wall are rated at 5.14 which is near the top of the scale as far as levels go. For us recreational climbers, doing just one pitch of a 5.14 would be beyond our wildest dreams.


Here the climbers look at the Dawn Wall's route before heading up. On the right is the line they are attempting to climb up

Because El Capitan is so high, they'll have to go through multiple "pitches," which means they have to move their ropes and belayers up as they climb. The Dawn Wall is comprised of 20 pitches so the climbers need to sleep on the side of the rock in a bivy (lightweight shelter that can be affixed to the rock). Every day they'll eat, sleep and continue climbing, often at night because colder temperatures increase the friction between their rubber shoes and the wall.

Bivy set-up that climbers sleep on

This year the team has already faced a few serious obstacles including a late start because of the government shutdown and the recent injury of Tommy Caldwell. You can follow their progress here as the season continues.

Submitted by Sarah Knapp. Full versions of the photos can be found on Kevin Jorgeson's Facebook along with credits which include: Kevin Jorgeson, Brett Lowell, and Josh Targownik.