Kevin: This spring with the water coming off the top. You’re in the shade and the wall is getting skimmed by the sun, and there’s a million water drops in the air, hovering. And then going down and coming back up. Incredible.
Tommy: The first time we saw it, we just stopped and were like, “wow, this is really beautiful”. Then it would pummel us and we’re like, “It’s not so beautiful anymore.”
You’re living in this vertical world. It’s not like you’re just going on a
little trip up the wall. It’s like “This is where I live.”
Currently Tommy Caldwell is living on the side of El Capitan trying to free climb his five-year project. What began as almost a joke in order to get some cool stuff on film is on the cusp of reality. If he succeeds the route will be the hardest and most sustained bit of big wall climbing on earth, by far. Unfortunately, his partner, Kevin Jorgeson, had to pack it up for the season after injuring his ankle on an eight foot sideways dyno (see vid). So Tommy’s at it alone, belayed by his wife, milking the very short window between fall and winter when free climbing temperatures on El Cap peak.
kevin’s topo. click here for climbing mag’s readable version. in one 9 pitch section 7 are 5.14, 3 of those 14+.
This week’s Psyche is launching a little late because I needed to wait for the weekend to have enough time to read the entire transcript of a great interview by Dougald MacDonald about the history of this project. It’s a long read and probably too detailed to be of interest to most. But if you’re the type who gets captivated by accounts of people who attempt audacious things consider it required.
T: Climbing like 5.13 totally like slimy wet.
Dougald: Kevin, you described [this] on your way out. You get to a jug finally, but the jug is soaking wet.
K: You have to figure out how to dry yourself out in the middle of these
hard moves. So it’s been like 15 minutes and you’re getting out of the
wet stuff and… and then you have to do this really hard crux at the top of the pitch. And it’s this endeavor, you leave the ledge and you’re like, “here we go”. You’re in it. You give it everything. You know what you’re getting into. It’s gonna be like “full on experience”. It’s cool. It’s really cool. (But) It’s intimidating when you’re on the ledge.
Dougald: I would think, because knowing that you might have to do it more
than once, too, if something goes wrong.
K: Especially with that pitch, it has a really hard move at the top. You go
through a lot of scary and hard and wet climbing to get there. You
gotta like lift the car off the baby with that undercling move.
T: There’s so many pitches… if you think of like heady single pitches
around… there are 9 or 10 pitches on this route above and beyond
anything I’ve done in that genre of climbing.
The interview covers not just the history but the physical training and other mental challenges involved with such an ordeal. It’ll probably make you tougher just by reading it.
T: There’s gonna be a lot of times, and there have been a lot of times, where you’re gonna be pretty tired. And you have to be like, “all right, I gotta suck it up and just do this right now” so, I try and do multiple workouts where I climb all day and then try and go do something hard at the end of the day. Not too many people do that, I feel like. Get a little tired, and then “I’m done”.
If you ever think your own personal projects are too daunting give it a chance over a cup of joe (or pot). It will likely change your perspective on what is possible.
T: I love the fact that it keeps me motivated to train throughout the year. I’ve always loved to have these looming goals. I wake up in the morning thinking about them, getting super psyched. And that’s worth it, even if I never did the project, having that there is awesome for me. You have to think of it that way.
Check progress on Tommy’s Twitter feed.