It has been a few days since I topped out the Dawn Wall. And the satisfaction is really deep and long-lasting. I am now on the plane back home and here is what I have to share.
Yosemite has always been a place that I was dreaming about. And I am actually ashamed that it took me so long to finally get there. The mecca of Big Walls, where the limits of big wall climbing has been pushed for the last 60 years. Picturesque valley with steep walls of solid, glacier-polished granite. The biggest of all in the Valley is El Capitan. That is where my goal was.
I had one month and half, plenty of motivation and the dream of free climbing the Dawn Wall, very possibly the hardest free climbing big wall in the world. It took 6 years for Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson to finally free climb it in January 2014. Quite ambitious goal indeed, considering that I had very little big wall experience. I just blasted into the route the second day in the Valley. Foolishness? Lack of respect? Maybe, I wanted start getting closer from the very beginning. Most people spend weeks or seasons in the Valley, before they feel confident on this particular style of climbing and try something on their limit. I was optimistic that I would learn all the necessary tricks while I would work on the Dawn Wall. I came into the Valley, thinkng, that I was quite universal climber, I had climbed all over the world and nothing can suprise me. I was hell wrong. The intricacies of Yosemite climbing did not cease to suprise. I felt like a total beginner.
Even considering just grade of of the pitches (up to 9a, 17 out of 32 pitches are harder than 8a), it is pretty impressive route. But for me, it was even much harder than expected because of the style of the climbing. Every 8a+ pitch feels hard and insecure. It is either layback with super slick footholds, or very demanding face climbing. Getting used to this style was the key. And it required a lot of patience and hope. After 3,5 weeks in Yosemite, dedicating myself almost exclusively to the Dawn Wall, I was ready for the push. I had been trying to memorize every hold and foothold. I was not sure whether suceeded, but I was willing to try. The goal was to do it in one push, climbing from the grpund to the top without going back to the ground, taking as many days as necessary, sleeping on the portaledges in the meantime. Fort Tommy and Kevin, it took 19 days.
The first days of the push I was nervous. Conditions were pretty warm, so I was forced to climb mostly in the dark t have colder conditions. Despite making a few mistakes and having to repeat a few pitches, I sent first 13 pitches in the first two days and 3rd day was a restday. I needed to recover my strenghts for the crux pitches – 14 and 15, graded 8c+ and 9a. 4Th day should have been the day, but it was not. I was just so nervous, my mind did not work, the pressure was enormous. My confidence hit the very bottom. 5Th day, the pressure was even higher, I knew I had to do the pitch 14 and 15.Finally, I was calm and focused and I did it. That was possibly one of the best feelings of the whole climb. I started believing that it was possible after all.
In the course of next 3 days, on day 8, we finally summited. It felt sweet. Sharing it Pavel Blazek, my climbing partner on Dawn Wall the whole time we were there and with Heinz who was there to capture all the moments with camera. Very special experience, in a special place with special people. Here I am sitting, in the airplane with aching fingers and body, but it was worth it. Now I know it was worth dreaming big.