Adam Ondra has made the second free ascent and is the third person to free the 32-pitch Dawn Wall 5.14d on El Cap in Yosemite. Together with partner Pavel Blazek, who jumared fixed ropes and belayed, Ondra shaved over 10 days off Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s 19-day first free ascent in 2015. Caldwell and Jorgeson both freed every pitch on their ascent, some pitches on different days, but neither led every pitch. Ondra is the first to lead and send every pitch of Dawn Wall.
This was Ondra and Blazek’s second time completing the route. Ondra said early during his projecting of Dawn Wall, “Beautiful, hard, intimidating and a motivating project. Tommy Caldwell was a huge visionary to see this line in the middle of the blank wall.” Ondra also noted that climbers looking to repeat a route have the benefit of knowing it can be climbed, unlike those on the first free ascent.
Ondra began up the wall early in the morning on Nov. 14 to climb as high as he could before the sun warmed the wall. He climbed the first nine pitches up to 5.14a in only six hours. He then rested for the remainder of the day and climbed to the start of pitch 14 the next day. After a day of rest, Ondra attempted pitch 14, but had a hard time on the boulder problem and slipped farther along the pitch. He stopped for the day to regroup for another attempt on day six.
Pitches 15 and 16 are the 5.14d crux pitches along a traverse with razor blade holds. “On cloud nine,” wrote Ondra at the end of the day. “It has been magical evening. I was focused and calm. The mindset when climbing is actually fun. Sent pitch 14 (5.14d) on my first go after a little warm up. Then, after it got dark and having a heart braking fall on the top of pitch 15 (5.14c or d), I gave it one more shot and sent it. Skin feels to painful to continue tonight, but I will continue tomorrow.”
Ondra and Blazek awoke early to clear skies and Ondra sent the next few pitches to the top of Wino Tower and bivied. “Made it to the Wino tower tonight,” said Ondra. “Deep satisfaction, peace and fire at the same time in my heart and soul. Perfect conditions today and perfect focus. That means only 11 ‘easy’ 5.10 to 5.12 pitches left. We would have continued, but looks like it will rain soon. Which means forced restday tomorrow and hopefully finishing it off on Monday.”
On cloud nine! It has been magical evening. I was focused and calm. The mindset when climbing is actually fun! Sent the pitch 14 (5.14d) on my first go after a little warm up. Then, after it got dark and having heartbraking fall on the top of pitch 15 (5.14c or d), I could still give it one more shot and send it too. Skin feels to painful to continue tonight, but I will continue tomorrow! Pic by @pavelblazek @blackdiamond @mytendon #montura @lasportivagram @gardatrentino #elcapitan #yosemite #dawnwall
Despite the forecast, there was no rain on Sunday, but Ondra and Blazek decided to wait it out. On Monday morning, heavy clouds created an “alpine fell” said Ondra. With light rain falling, he decided to climb on and reached the top of pitch 28 by noon on Monday. With only four pitches to go and sitting on top of the Ship’s Bow, he said, “We have to wait and see how wet the pitches are. The hardest pitch is the flare above right now and it looks bone dry. So we will see how the last three pitches look.”
At 5 p.m., Blazek announced on Instagram that Ondra had sent the final few pitches. And in doing so has pushed the limits of big wall climbing to a new level. At the same time, Ondra, like many competition climbers, has shown critics that the future of big wall free climbing belongs to strong sport climbers.
At only 23 years old, he has climbed 100 routes 5.14+ or harder, including all three 5.15c routes and a number of V16 boulder problems. Ondra also climbed The Nose 5.14 in 18 hours with his dad, sending the entire route except for the two crux pitches. The first ascent of Dawn Wall, which climbs up the Southeast Face of El Cap, was by Warren Harding and Dean Caldwell (no relation to Tommy) in 1970 over 27 days on the wall. Ondra’s eight-day ascent of Dawn Wall has left some asking, “Can it be freed in a day?”