Dawn Wall Update: Caldwell Passes Key Milestones

Kevin Jorgeson shaking out at a rest midway on Pitch 15 (5.14+) of the Dawn Wall. Photo by Brett Lowell / Big UP Productions.

Kevin Jorgeson shaking out at a rest midway on Pitch 15 (5.14+) of the Dawn Wall. Photo by Brett Lowell / Big UP Productions.

1/5/15 - Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson have spent the past five days working on the crucial right-to-left traverse across the middle of the Dawn Wall, the 5.14-plus route up El Capitan's southeast face. Since both men completed Pitch 12 (5.14b) on December 31 and Pitch 14 (5.14+) on January 1, progress has been measured in millimeters of skin on fragile fingertips. Both men have been forced to add tape to their fingers to protect split tips, which has made the remaining 5.14 pitches even harder than expected.

On January 3, Caldwell overcame the second crux of the route, Pitch 15, on his second try of the evening. Jorgeson made several attempts but came up just short of the anchor. Yesterday he decided to rest his body and fingertips in hopes of finishing the pitch today.

Caldwell's next challenge was Pitch 16, the infamous Dyno Pitch, with a sideways leap of more than a body length. Jorgeson has been able to do this dyno fairly reliably, but Caldwell has struggled with it. Instead, he decided to try a complex pitch variously called the Loop or the Reach-Around, in which he downclimbs nearly half a rope length from the end of the 15th pitch, traverses left, and then climbs up to the end of the dyno and a stance. On January 4, Caldwell redpointed this pitch, saying it was roughly 5.14a, with "5.13+ or 5.14" downclimbing. He now will face another 5.14a lead above the dyno—the two men had previously discussed breaking the Dyno Pitch in two at this midway stance. Jorgeson still hopes to complete both Pitch 15 and the original Dyno Pitch.

Above this point are two more hard 5.13 pitches, followed by considerably easier climbing to the top.

After nine days on the wall, Caldwell and Jorgeson's attempt has drawn national and international media attention, including a story yesterday on the front page of the New York Times and a piece by climbing writer Andrew Bisharat at National Geographic Adventure. A team of photographers and filmmakers is covering the climb, including Corey Rich and Big UP Productions. Seeking previously unseen angles on the route, Brett Lowell of Big UP is shooting from an extraordinary position suspended in space, dozens of feet away from the wall, using a wall-to-ground rigging system that employs a 2,700-foot 9mm static rope.

See our complete 2014/2015 Dawn Wall coverage.