Tales from a Dawn Wall Porter

Whether you’re a climber with twenty years of experience under your belt or a news reporter on Channel five who thinks “free climbing” means climbing without a rope—it seems like the entire world is talking about the Dawn Wall.

With the social media swarm, shoddy news coverage, and Reddit trolls, it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on up there. We all know the basics—Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson are attempting the first free ascent of the Dawn Wall, a 5.14+ route on Yosemite’s El Capitan. Thanks to their Instagram accounts, we know everything from who sent what pitch and when, to what Tommy ate for lunch.

To get a better picture of what life is like on the Dawn Wall, Moja Gear interviewed James Lucas, a writer and seasoned climber himself. James has shuttled two loads of supplies to Tommy and Kevin during this attempt of the Dawn Wall.

Here is what he had to say:

What kind of supplies have you been bringing to Tommy and Kevin?

For Tommy I carried: cucumber, red bell pepper, penne pasta, his Apple keyboard, tea, salami, curry, rice, trail mix and a few canned goods. For Kevin I brought: Woodford Reserve bourbon and 3 packs of Sour Skittles.

How heavy does the pack weigh?

The pack weighs around 40 pounds. I also carried up a 100-pound rope for photographers so that they could shoot hanging out in space.

How many times have you brought them supplies?

Twice. One was a big load that took me approximately 8 hours to organize and haul up. The other was extremely light—tea and Tommy’s keyboard so he could write a journal.  That load, I ran up the ropes in just under an hour.

How do you reach them on the wall?

There’s 1200 feet of vertical fixed line to their camp. I use climbing ascenders to move up the rope. It’s physical work.

How bad is Kevin’s skin?

He has been splitting his tips on and off since the climb started.

What is the vibe like? Are they super serious or laid back? Has the vibe changed as they are getting closer to sending?

Tommy’s been mellow. He’s excited for sure. Kevin’s focused and a bit nervous.

Any memorable conversations you’ve had with Tommy or Kevin while bringing them supplies?

I found a really small beak, a type of extremely thin climbing protection, on the ground when I was jumaring up. Tommy talked about the style they put the route up in. He’s tried to minimize the number of bolt placements. They’ve been climbing on very marginal gear. “That beak must be from the dyno pitch,” Tommy said. “I guess it just fell out.” “That’s confidence inspiring,” Kevin added.

Do you think they will send?

Tommy will send. He’s through the majority of the difficulties now. Kevin has a very good chance. The margin of error is extremely slim up there. I really hope Kevin does it.

Will you ever free climb El Cap yourself?

Yes. I’ve been getting close. This fall, I climbed to the hardest section on Freerider, a route on the left side of El Capitan, in a little under 8 hours. I fell at the end of the crux, a few moves from making it through. I’ve been training a lot and am heading to Spain to climb for 2.5 months. I’ll be fit for another attempt this spring or fall.

Anything else you want to share about bringing supplies to Tommy and Kevin?

It’s really inspiring to see them up there.

Moja Gear would like to personally congratulate Tommy and Kevin for their progress thus far and wish them best of luck in completing this historical route! We are inspired by their passion, commitment, and strength. We’re all rooting for you!


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