After 19 grueling days of twisting, stretching, lunging, swinging, dangling, and super-glued, sanded and bloody–tipped fingers, the painstaking journey of scaling one of the world’s most difficult rock climb – the 3,000 feet wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, culminated in success. Longtime friends Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell became the first to successfully free-climb the world’s biggest granite monolith.
This feat however, was not without its own set of unique challenges. In 2011, while attempting to scale the notoriously difficult Dawn Wall route, Jorgeson fell and broke his ankle, which sidelined him for an entire season. In 2013, Caldwell broke a rib when he inadvertently dropped a hundred-pound haul bag that was attached to his harness line. Prior to pulling off this remarkable endeavor, the duo had five unsuccessful attempts over a five-year span.
Before and during Jorgeson and Caldwell’s attempt to free-climb the Dawn Wall, it was widely believed that the wall’s steepness and lack of cracks and seams rendered it an improbable challenge. Even so, according to Jorgeson, “climbing the Dawn Wall was not an effort to conquer; rather, it was about realizing a dream.” Caldwell likewise viewed the climb as a “spiritual experience more akin to something like ‘painting’ than extreme sports.”
In an interview with ESPN, the interviewer asked Tommy (the more experienced climber of the two): “It’s been about seven years in the making for you, why did climbing the Dawn Wall mean so much to you personally?” Tommy’s response: “It was my way to explore the limits of what I thought were possible. It drove me everyday for seven years.”
Every grueling pitch these men attempted was an opportunity to build muscle memory, increase physical endurance and strength, map the best routes, and develop better climbing techniques. The lesson here is that difficult does not mean impossible – something I’m learning every day.