BD athletes Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell attempt a new free route on El Capitan—Dispatch #2
Black Diamond athletes Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell have teamed up this fall for an attempt at free climbing a new 1000-meter route on Yosemite's El Capitan that roughly follows the aid line Mescalito. Caldwell, the most accomplished El Cap free climber in the world, has already spent quite a few days on the route, sussing out the feasibility of freeing the line—one that he unequivocally calls the hardest he has ever attempted on El Cap. Jorgeson, an El Cap rookie but a news-maker for his bold bouldering ascents and last year's spree of gritstone repeats in the U.K, will be sending us iPhone dispatches from the wall, with photos, video and updates on the attempt.
From: Kevin Jorgeson
Subject: Dispatch 2
Date: October 22, 2009 9:52:01 PM MDT
I'm finally back after being away from the Valley for a week. I arrived Wednesday around 4, waited for Tommy to finish rapping the wall with some friends, then ate dinner and hiked back up to spend the night on top. With only 20 pound packs instead of 80, the East Ledges hike felt like a breeze. After spending a week in New York and Massachusetts, it felt amazing to be outside again, out of breath, under the stars.
On Thursday morning, we hiked a about a mile to the nearest spring. Located in a very lively forest, I stumbled upon a bear who had the same plan as we did. I stepped back and waited for Tommy to catch up, but the bear was gone once we got back to the spring.
Once on the wall, we outfitted camp with water and food before getting to work. The main objective was to examine one of the few remaining question marks on the route: a 50-meter dike traverse. What we found was inconclusive. Without climbing shoes on, we really couldn't tell if it was possible. It's right on that fine line. We are going to return tomorrow to give this section some proper effort. With the jumaring and rope swinging fun over with, we got down to some climbing.
We tried the pitch 3 below Wino Tower, which is smack in the middle of the crux section of the wall. With obtuse angled corner climbing, it's quite tricky and time consuming to figure out. After spending a week away from the wall, it was a tough reintroduction. However, I soon remembered how to stand on the tiny granite footholds and made my way up the pitch, sussing out the moves and cleaning holds along the way. I lowered Tommy down after I had finished and he climbed it smoothly with only one rest—feeling stronger this year than last.
I'm really blown away by the quality and difficulty of the climbing. It is a very unique style, one that takes time to learn and years to master.
With it getting dark so early these days, Tommy and I are in the portaledge by 8, dorking out on our iPhones and talking about the day to come. We will be spending three days up here this time around before heading back to the ground for a rest day. Then repeat. It's a good life.