Adam Ondra and Tommy Caldwell Discuss the Dawn Wall and Big Wall Free Climbing

Two of the world’s best climbers sit down for a rare, hour-long conversation. Ondra writes: “It was just awesome to have a true conversation with a total climbing legend Tommy Caldwell. We have met a few times at the crag or at a film festival, but never really got a lot of time to talk. Dawn Wall was obviously a huge topic—stories from our preparations, how we were working through the wall, and what were the hardest parts as well as the most tricky parts—usually those that just look impossible, but once you figure out how to climb them, they are not that bad. But the whole process was so much easier since I knew that the climb was possible. Tommy had proved it before. Tommy was in awe to find out that I’d had that little experience in trad climbing before, but I am fortunate to start climbing in my home country, where our infamous sandstone towers, as well as slippery limestone in the backyard, were decent rites of passage to climb El Capitan in Yosemite. But we touched upon much more: big wall climbing experience in general, its connection to sport climbing, the future of El Cap, and the next logical lines, our motivation, curiosity, the need to advocate our environment. What are we currently busy with, what are our future plans, and where are we hopefully going to climb together?”


  • 0:00​ -Intro
  • 1:25​ – Getting into adventure climbing, conditions in the Czech Republic, the first time in Yosemite
  • 16:16​ – Tommy Caldwell’s experience with Dawn wall
  • 18:25​ – Working through the last and hardest remaining piece of Dawn wall
  • 22:17​ – Adam’s Dawn Wal ljourney
  • 29:00​ – Challenging climbs that prepared Adam and Tommy for big wall free climbing
  • 33:54​ – Free climbs of Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold; New route on the Dawn Wall section of the El Cap
  • 35:25​ – Going back to big wall free climbing
  • 41:38​ – Sport climbing in connection to traditional climbing
  • 44:47​ – The Future of El Cap
  • 51:21​ – Environmental protection activities of Tommy Caldwell
  • 52:04​ – Climbing partners
  • 57:15​ – Adam’s training for the Olympics and its benefits
  • 58:44​ – Climbing motivation
  • 1:02:36​ – Adam on managing his professional obligations
  • 1:04:22​ – Tommy Caldwell on being a public figure
  • 1:04:49​ – Tommy Caldwell’s Flex Luthor
  • 1:08:09​ – What’s next after the Olympics and shared plans