Sheer Perfection on El Capitan…

We were recommended two rock climbing films by our bird trainer and rock climber son Simon.

We went to see The Dawn Wall at a fancy theatre in Plano.

Hubs and I don’t go to fancy theatres often.

Simon warned us that the tickets wouldn’t cost our usual $4 but we went anyway armed with extra cash!


The seats were recliners, the screen was massive and the auditorium was almost empty.  It was a niche film afterall.

I texted Simon,

“Where have we been all this time?  Forget the film…theses seats are something else!”


We settled in for a nap!

Well…not quite!

The film had us on the edges of our seats.

Tommy Caldwell and his friend Kevin Jorgeson had been plotting and practicing the 3000′ face of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall for 6 years.

Their resilience was amazing,

Their ethical behavior was honorable and 

Their integrity was the cornerstone of the two-man-team’s historic climb.  

They were free climbing which means they had climbing equipment such as ropes and protection.  They used their physical ability to move over the rock executing carefully worked out hand and footholds.  

Several days into the ascent Tommy experienced a poignant moment of choice between leaving his friend behind or forging upwards and onwards alone.

Kevin was having a very difficult time with one of the stages.

At first Tommy continued climbing and reached a level that became a pivotal moment for him.  He realized that he simply could not complete this epic challenge without his friend and climbing partner.

He stoutheartedly returned to their base camp – a tent suspended on the wall.


Kevin Jorgeson, (Corey Rich)

And waited…

There was no show of impatience,

No anger,

No flagging of spirits.

He waited…fully committed to calmly supporting his friend.

Kevin was able to let the skin on his fingers heal and after a couple of days of literally ‘hanging out’ he tried his problem stage again

and again

and again.

Everyone watching held their breaths,

those on the ground,

those suspended from the vertical wall with cameras,

and those sitting comfortably in the theatre.

His gritty perseverance finally paid off to cheers from the bystanders and the two of them went on to become the first free climbers to scale the Dawn Wall…together.

It took them nineteen days.

A few months later my son and his wife went to California to pick up an Egret for their non-profit company Window to the Wild.

They made a detour to Yosemite National Park to see the Dawn Wall for themselves.

DawnWall2Beautiful isn’t it?

Though it doesn’t inspire me to grab my harness and climbing shoes (every bit as uncomfortable as my pointe shoes) to conquer this sheer granite wall!

I remained contentedly in my comfortable recliner gripping the arm rests and gasping!

The next film was called Free Solo with Alex Honnold.

Simon had climbed with him at Huaco Tanks back when he was still a student at A&M.  He found him to be an intense young man.

Alex climbs without safety ropes.

Good enough was not a phrase bandied around his house when he was growing up.

His ultimate standard is:

Perfection or Death.

I tend to agree with my son…intense.

 And this documentary, shot by Jimmy Chin, was insane.

We knew Alex made it, who would release a film of a climber hurtling to his death?

However, Free Solo, was not without its palm sweating moments.

At one point during practice Alex sent all his friends and family away and refused to let the cameras anywhere he could see them.

Of course, the cameramen didn’t want to be potential fatal distractions either.

Then one morning, when he decided this was the day, off he went…

Stealthy and steady.

A three hour magnificent display of human physical and mental agility and strength.


Atlantic. Photographer: Jimmy Chin

I mean, who does that?!!

A climbing warrior for whom perfection is the only option.

Share this:



2018-11-29 18:39:38 Reply

You make me smile!

Leave a Comment