Adam Jensen: History in the making on Yosemite’s El Cap |

Adam Jensen: History in the making on Yosemite’s El Cap

Sometimes you just have to sit back in awe of the outdoor feats we humans can accomplish.

Whether it’s skydiving from the edge of space or hucking a 90-foot cliff on a pair of skis, when people really throw their minds (and bodies) into something, it can be nothing short of amazing.

One of those accomplishments appears to be taking place now, not too far south of Lake Tahoe. As of this writing Wednesday morning, Tommy Caldwell, 36, of Colorado, and Kevin Jorgeson, 30, of Santa Rosa, are nearing the summit of El Capitan via the Dawn Wall, a free climb (where ropes and climbing gear are used only for safety purposes) thought impossible in the not-so-distant past.

Standing near the base of El Cap and gazing upward, it’s hard not to wonder how anyone could scale the sheer 3,000-foot face of granite. Climbing the most difficult route is basically unfathomable.

“This is my Moby-Dick, for sure,” Caldwell told The New York Times. “For me, it’s just a fascination with the epic journey. I’ve always been a fan of stories of big journeys. And it’s a question of curiosity. I love to play with my physical and mental limits and see how far I can push them, and I just love to dream big. And this project fulfills all those things.”

Free-solo climbing icon Alex Honnold is a good judge of rock climbing difficulty, having scaled plenty of mind-blowing sections of rock himself. Here’s what he told Men’s Journal Magazine about Caldwell and Jorgenson’s endeavor: “There’s no exact science to it. It’s just really frickin’ hard.

“What people maybe don’t appreciate is how hard it is to be living on a wall. I mean they haven’t walked in two weeks. They’ve just been laying and standing and pulling really, really hard on small holds. So the fact that they’ve had to recover and stay well-fed and hydrated and take care of their bodies while just like laying in a cot. Imagine getting out of your hospital bed and doing like the hardest rock climbing that’s ever been done and then getting back on your hospital bed. Like, ‘oh, now it’s time to recover.’ It’s not like taking a shower and stretching and taking a stroll for a little a bit. It’s hard living.”

I’m not much of a climber, but I’ve enjoyed the sport on occasion and know the joy of making it up a section of rock wall. I can’t imagine the elation Caldwell and Jorgeson will feel upon reaching the top of El Cap via the Dawn Wall, which has been seven years in the making.

Few accomplishments in rock climbing break from the realm of passionate niche culture into pop awareness, but this attempt is certainly one of them. It’s just one of those events that makes you stand back in amazement at what we’re all capable of doing.

Adam Jensen is the editor of Lake Tahoe Action. He can be reached at

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