Less than a week ago history was made in the world of climbing and adventure sports. Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgenson “Freed” the Dawn Wall on El Capitan in a grueling 19 day push. And on January 14, on a cloudless afternoon, the duo summited to the cheers and applause of their closest friends and family.
Let’s take a minute to break this down. The Dawn Wall of El Capitan is a 3,000ft granite face climbing what some regard as the most difficult and dangerous route in Yosemite Valley, and the world. This was not their first push though; Ultimately this is the work of over 7 years of planning and many other attempts. But what does it mean to “free” a route? For some of you who have taken Rocks classes at Eagle’s Nest you may be familiar with the term…but let us put this a bit more into perspective.
Many routes established in Yosemite’s early days of climbing, were bolted and aided to assist the climbers in their ascent. This meant leaders would hammer pitons, or drill bolts into the wall that they then clipped gear to and stood on, pulled on, or otherwise “strong-armed” as assistance to reach the next hold or aid point. For someone to free a route, they must climb the route un-assisted by any gear or artificial placements. Meaning a 30-foot section of vertical blank face needed to be scaled with only their hands and feet.
Caldwell and Jorgenson were using ropes for safety and to prevent catastrophe in the event of a fall, but the ropes in no way aided their ascent. The strength, endurance and finesse necessary for such a feat was so much that many believed it would never be accomplished. Yet, in the very dawn of 2015 history was made. The limits of the human body and mind have been pushed farther than any before, and in the torrent of such ferocity, the stage has now been set for others to step forward and push themselves.
Leaving home for the first, or even the umpteenth time, can seem like an amazing feat. A challenge that seems impossible. And throughout our childhood and our youth, we find ourselves doing things we say are “too hard” or “impossible”. At Camp we encounter these challenges every summer. For some, it might be that first night in the cabin, thinking “there is no way I will be able to sleep here for THREE WEEKS! The noises, the darkness, the oddness…”
Or you may be on the first day of a backpacking trip. Your feet are sore, your back hurts, and you’re already tired of eating trail mix; “How can this go on for three more days?” Or maybe this is your last summer as a camper. The place you’ve grown up at and loved is now a part of you, but a part of your past. And from this moment on you are bound to grow into a new role with the knowledge that you will part ways with your friends, some for a little while, and some for much longer. And you think “How will I ever be able to leave this moment with these people?”
But what makes camp such an amazing place, is that these impossibilities and “unimaginables”, become possible and attainable. Not only that, they become the excitement upon which memories and friendships are built. At Camp we are surrounded by friends, staff and family who care for us and want to see us succeed. And when we reach the crux of our ascent, we can rest assured that there are so many others waiting to cheer for us at the top.
Marlin Sill, Hante Director