Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell attempt a new free route on El Capitan—Dispatch #1
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.
Follow along here in the Black Diamond Journal as we publish Jorgeson's exclusive dispatches!
From: Kevin Jorgeson
Subject: El Cap project
Date: October 14, 2009 11:51:54 AM MDT
It's finally October. Training is over and it's time to get to work on Mescalito. Tommy and I are in the Valley until Thanksgiving with our heads down and eyes on the prize. This is a monumental project. Logistically, physically and mentally, this route is sick hard.
On days 1 and 2, Tommy and I focused on the first 4 "easier" pitches, eventually fixing a 500-foot line from the top of pitch 4. This will allow us to easily access the start of the really hard climbing. Here is the break down of the first 4:
Pitch 1: 12b, water polished slab climbing protected by rivets and bolts. Not too bad. You need a long sling on one of the bolts to make a clip before running out a traverse to the right. Runner is now in place and the pitch is good to go.
Pitch 2: 13a, technical stemming in a shallow corner to finger crack
Pitch 3: 13d, a long and engaging pitch, bold, crux protected by 6 copperheads just waiting to be zippered, backed up by #1 C3
Pitch 4: 12b, fun and varied, a little wet
On day 3, hiked up HEAVY loads in the afternoon, taking 4 hours and reaching the top of El Cap around 10pm. Sleep came easy. I had never been to the top of the Captain, so waking up in the morning was a special treat. We have a great camp at the base of a tree, nice and flat. Walking around on top, I was pleasantly surprised at how big the trees still looked on the valley floor. I guess I had built it up in my mind that this thing was going to be miles tall, but in reality, its tangible.
After sorting gear, making breakfast and drinking coffee, we got to the work of the day: check out how the route was going to top out. We rapped in a few hundred feet and swung around, eventually finding a wandering but amazing free passage through the final pitches. This was my first time rapping off the top of the Captain as well, and needless to say, it was a lot of fun! With a storm moving in fast, we fixed a 200-meter line down a ways so that when the weather cleared, we could establish our main camp on Wino Tower. As I lowered Tommy down, I was treated to some awesome clouds rolling in.
Now, it's raining for the next few days and I have a trip to New York on Friday, so I'm sadly away from the Valley for the next week. However, as soon as I return on the 20th, it's ON. I can't wait to check out the middle third of the route, where all the business is. I'm finding that my experience with approaching highball boulder problems is helpful and similar to how we are approaching Mescalito. The pitches are so stacked, that each has to be climbed with the utmost efficiency in order to have the energy necessary for the rest. So, each pitch has to be learned in exquisite detail as to maximize your power and endurance. I already have sequences pouring through my mind and I can't wait to get back at it.