10/1/13 - Chris Sharma will join Tommy Caldwell, Kevin Jorgeson, and Jonathan Siegrist for this fall's attempts on the Dawn Wall, a multi-year project to create the world's hardest big-wall free climb. The team will begin working on the Dawn Wall this week, or whenever the federal government shutdown ends, allowing climbers to re-enter Yosemite National Park.
"Tommy and I have our calendars blacked out until Christmas, and weather permitting we will be there till then," Jorgeson said. "I think J-Star and Sharma have some obligations in November that will cut their season a bit shorter."
Caldwell said that Sharma had contacted him a few months ago to ask if the team might want a fourth member. "Chris was a good friend who has always inspired me. I thought it would be fun to hang on the wall with him," Caldwell said. "To get this thing done we will need all the good energy and strong climbing ability we can get. I think everyone climbs better when in Chris Sharma's presence."
The Dawn Wall climbs the steepest and blankest free line yet attempted on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, weaving in and out of the classic aid route Mescalito. The route has at least seven 5.14 pitches (several at the top of the grade, and possibly harder) and about the same number of 5.13 leads. Caldwell started work on the route in 2007, and Jorgeson joined the project in 2009. Last fall, Jonathan Siegrist joined the team. The three men have free-climbed the first 12 pitches of the route and most of the upper wall, but the three hardest pitches, a long traverse smack in the middle of the wall, have stymied them so far.
"We made some major breakthroughs with sequences on the crux pitches last year, so we feel much more confident about our chances," Jorgeson said. "But it's still very hard. We haven't redpointed the three crux pitches individually yet. Aside from fitness and conditions, familiarity is a super-important role in this project. The longer we work on it, the less crazy the pitches feel, the less intimidated we are."
The team may be larger and stronger than ever before, but Caldwell said his goal for the Dawn Wall remains the same: "I still want to free every pitch."
"Every year huge progress is made," Caldwell added. "This year I am am better trained. ClimbOn has made some magic stuff that should help with the skin issues. We have strategies for eating better and staying fresher. I have been experimenting with new midsole design for the TC Pro shoes. Hopefully Chris will bring fresh energy. We are very psyched."
Although Sharma has relatively little experience on Yosemite granite, and even less on big walls, he brings obvious strengths to the team. Last spring he made the second ascent of La Dura Dura (5.15c) in Spain, which is likely the hardest sport climb in the world.
Sources: Kevin Jorgeson, Tommy Caldwell