Caldwell Frees Dihedral Wall
Tommy Caldwell has freed the Dihedral Wall on El Capitan, a strong candidate for the hardest big-wall free climb in the world. Caldwell redpointed the 25-pitch route over four days in mid-May. “The wall follows big, clean, long cracks. It’s really stunning,” Caldwell said. “It’s way more sustained than anything else I’ve done on El Cap.”
After a 5.11 start, the next fifteen pitches of the Dihedral Wall are 5.12 or harder, including an amazingly sustained 10-pitch section from pitches 6 through 15. Of these 10 pitches, nine are 5.13 or 5.14, and the only easier pitch is a 5.12+ offwidth. Caldwell described this as a “super-rounded flaring offwidth that pinches off to nothing — you have to grab a pin scar and do these crazy kneebar moves to get out of the offwidth.” He said the 5.14a sixth pitch, a face-climbing variation originally bolted by Todd Skinner and Paul Piana, was the hardest pitch he had climbed yet on El Cap. Caldwell now has free climbed six El Cap routes (from left to right): Lurking Fear, West Buttress, Dihedral Wall, Salathé Wall, Muir Wall, and Zodiac.
Caldwell soloed the Dihedral Wall last fall and then again this spring to inspect it for free climbing and begin to work out the moves. He replaced an old aid bolt and added two fixed pitons and some anchors at no-hands stances, but otherwise used existing fixed gear and removable protection. Caldwell continued to work on the free climb with Adam Stack, and he made his final four-day push along with his wife, Beth Rodden, who is recovering from a broken foot and had to jumar with a mountain boot protecting her injured foot. The route didn’t fall easily: Caldwell said he fell at least once on most of the hard pitches, and that some of them took five or six tries during his redpoint push.
“I was really surprised when it went,” said Caldwell, who earlier this spring predicted he’d have to return at least one more season to send the Dihedral Wall. “I just worked hard and kind of stepped it up, and there you go.”