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History Made, Dawn Wall Freed

After nearly eight years of work and a final 19-day-push, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson have free-climbed the Dawn Wall.

As I hammered in the last bolt and staggered over the rim, it was not at all clear to me who was the conqueror and who was the conquered. I do recall that El Cap seemed to be in much better condition than I was.” – Warren Harding 1925-2002

Is this what it was like to watch Neil Armstrong step onto the moon? As Caldwell pulled onto the summit of El Cap on Jan. 14, countless celebrated. The once unknown is now a reality, a 32-pitch 5.14d reality. Jorgeson seconded the last pitch and gave Caldwell a celebratory hug before waving to the valley below.

Caldwell and Jorgeson on top of the Dawn Wall
Caldwell and Jorgeson on top of the Dawn Wall Photo Corey Rich

What was certainly the most watched big-wall climb ever, has come to an end. In Jorgeson’s words, “It’s about realizing a dream.” The last time Caldwell and Jorgeson stood on solid ground was when they started the climb on Dec. 27.

After both climbers made it to the top, President Barack Obama said, “So proud of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson for conquering El Capitan. You remind us that anything is possible.”

In the days following this historic ascent, there will be headlines, front page stories, late night talk shows and books. There will be people who brag about watching from the valley, those who met the climbers on the summit and the rest who stared into computer screens. The rewards will be plenty. But Caldwell is not only one of the most cutting-edge free climbers, he is a visionary alpinist, sport climber and one of the nicest climbers in the world today. To have a dream such as freeing the Dawn Wall come true, and to do it with such a good friend, will surely be reward enough.

Tommy and Becca Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson after seding the Dawn Wall Photo Max Whittaker
Tommy and Becca Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson on top of the Dawn Wall Photo Max Whittaker

Tens of thousands of climbers and non-climbers watched Caldwell and Jorgeson climb as a confident, supportive and strong team. What an amazing day for our sport. Things have come a long way since 1970, when Warren Harding and Dean Campbell made the first ascent of the Dawn Wall over 28 days.

We’ve been following Caldwell on his journey to free the Dawn Wall for nearly a decade and now that it’s over we look forward to what’s next. From everyone at Gripped, Congratulations Caldwell and Jorgeson. We’ll be talking about this one for years.

Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell lost in though on the Dawn Wall Photo Corey Rich
Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell lost in thought on the Dawn Wall Photo Corey Rich