ElCap Report 1/14/15 Special Dawn Wall Edition Day 19

Brought to you by Adidas Outdoor

By Tom Evans

Yo.. Spectacular weather continued to be one of the main factors in the “Climb of the Century” aka “The most difficult rock climb in the world.”  I got to the meadow this morning around 8am and the climbing didn’t start until 9am.  The team had spent the night on the “Ship’s Bow” and had 4 difficult pitches to do today.  I got word from Tommy that their intended ETA on the top would be pushed back from noon to about 3pm.  The world had also arrived at the ElCap meadow and massive media coverage, including, live streaming video, was beamed all around the world!  The crowd was large and a forest of “Big Gun” telephoto lenses put my little rig to shame!  A festive atmosphere soon developed as the sun came over the ridge to the south and the meadow warmed in the bright California sun.  The climb was far from over and by now you know the outcome.  Pictures of the event are everywhere, so mine will add little to the history of the event on this day.  But, I will post some of mine so you loyal readers can see what I saw and felt on this historic occasion.

Today’s ElCap Report..written just for you..unique in all the world!

1)  The “line-up” soon filled with cars and media vehicles.


























1a)  My last early morning, in the cold meadow, shooting the climb.  Photo by Lincoln Turner who was out there watching and shooting too. Thanks!





























2)   Tommy Caldwell’s family gathered in the meadow, and were taken to various media stations for interviews.  Here they are being interviewed by GMA’s crew, with camera man Steve and sound man Kem on the job.






























3)  Up on the Cap, the team was seen breaking down the bivy on the Bow.






























4)  At 9am Tommy lead off on the first of 4 difficult pitches that would lead to the summit and the culmination of 7 years of long and lonely days aside the mighty cliff. 






























5)  The climbing was mostly liebacking on the first part of the pitch which Tommy cruised.






























6)  The crux is extricating yourself from a tight chimney onto a 12a lieback to easier climbing.  Here Tommy is taking a no-hands rest in the top of the chimney.






























7)  Tommy passed the crux and traversed straight right across some slabby underclings to the start of down climbing on sawblade flake, at the end of the pitch.





























8)  Soon Kevin was following.  The entire pitch is seen in this shot.  Unfortunately Kevin skated out of the chimney, as the old Captain was not about to be taken without a fight!































9)  Kevin completed the pitch anyway, to get an idea of what he had to face.  After a time, he returned to the belay and climbed the pitch again.  This time he sent it and is seen here about to down climb to the belay Tommy had set earlier.






























10)  The first pitch had taken 3 hours before it was over and there was a feeling going through the crowd that the team might not make the top today.  If the other pitches took this long the summit would be reached at 9pm, in total darkness!  Tommy was soon out on the lead on the next pitch, a long traversing down climb, rated at 12b.  Tommy took his time working along the pitch as a fall could be dangerous and they couldn’t afford the time of re-climbing it!































11)  Difficult moves on thin holds pestered his efforts but his calm demeanor and excellent footwork carried him to the end of the pitch.






























12)  Soon Kevin was on the move and did well on the pitch with no falls.  That pitch took an hour and they were back in the fight for the summit in daylight.





























13)  The next pitch was the technical crux at 13c but fortunately, the crux was just a few feet off the belay, so a fall would not be so costly in time.  Kevin got the call, as he is an excellent face climber, as is Tommy.  Kevin was quickly airborne!  Then he fell again… but got it on his third try.






























14)  Kevin quickly finished off the delicate face climbing and was soon speeding up the 12a corner.






























15)  Kevin finished the lead and got a fist bump from the photographer working there.  Now they were back in a good time frame for a summit top out on schedule and the crowd knew it.  Every time a pitch was passed we all hooted and cheered them on and they responded with waves and fist pumps. 






























16)  Soon Tommy was on the pitch and promptly fell off!  It kind of warmed my heart that the Captain was not letting them pass without taking a few swipes at them, on the way by!






























17)  But by now they had the momentum and it was just a matter of time until they reached the top!  Tommy had the last pitch and was quickly out on the lead.






























18)  The crowd was buzzing with excitement as we awaited the final moment when the team would reach the top.  Tommy made the top and turned outward with a hands raised high and the crowd responded with cheers and for some of us, tears!






























19)  Kevin was soon on the last part and speeded to the top.






























20)  They met on the last belay and embraced.. it was a moment of many cheers and tears for all of us involved in more than just watching the action!!  It was 3:06pm.






























So, on a spectacular mid winters day, the two men finished what had started as a crazy dream, with little hope of success.  The experts said it couldn’t be done.  We climbers were supportive but had our doubts… I watched them over the years and came to realized that if it could possibly be done, these two men were the TEAM to do it.  They had the determination, and tenacity to work the route out over 7 years of many failures and disappointments.  A favorite line from Star Wars tells the tale..”The force is strong in these men!”  Their skill is beyond question, but in all great endeavors, the linchpin is not just skill. In the event itself, the character, integrity, and tenacity of these men was severely tested and proven, and these things lead them to the summit of their dreams. 

So, as the “hardest rock climb in the world” passed into history and legend, the crowd dispersed, and I stood for a time looking at the great rock and thought back through the years of my own struggles to climb its ramparts.  The dreams I had as a young man have long since been fulfilled, and now, as an old man, I look back and feel my own, quiet love for the adventures and the wonderful people who have shared those same dreams.  That is why I keep coming back to the great rock, year after year, no longer as a climber, but as a man in the twilight of life, still seeking the warmth and wonder of shared adventures.  I will see you in the spring, when the Valley will be reborn with new life and color and we will once again assemble, to continue the dream.

So that’s the way it was, on this great day, the 14th day of January, 2015.

Capt. Tom… signing off from the epicenter, of the center, of the universe. 

Thank you!

I'm so glad that we stopped by on our way out of the park! Thanks for letting me peek through your camera, and while the news coverage was fun to see, I still preferred to follow you!,

Barb Dunning
Bodega Bay

Thanks Tom

Thanks Tom


For outsiders like me, it is difficult to know precisely what is the difference. And that is a pity, since this event is giving rock climbing a lot of exposure.

I am a TV-journalist, and I followed Danish climbing teams to the Himalayas. So I know a little bit about climbing. However, here in Denmark TV and newspapers have announced, that they did it "without any supportive equipment". What is the definition of that?

They used rope, but how did they fix the ropes, and they also used some kind of hanging bed? So actually my question as an outsider is: What kind of equipment did they use and how? And what kind of equipment did they not use (that is normally used) ?

best regards Peter Jensen


From Tom   Peter, obviously the TV news didn't read the ElCap Report or contact me for the right information.  They did use "supportive equipment" ropes, gear, portaledges, and some expansion bolts that were already in the rock from previous climbers and themselves.  The gist of the whole thing is they did not use supportive equipment to advance up the rock.  They climbed only on the rock, advancing by the use to their own bodies.  That means that while climbing they didn't grab on to a piece of gear or a sling or the rope itself.  The equipment was there to catch them when they fell off, which they often did!  Normally a climb like this is done as an "aid climb"  where you climb by grabbing things and actually have your weight supported by hanging on the equipment.... this is not one those climbs, it was a "free climb"  which means climbing without any support other than your body holding you to the wall.  OK?


Thank you for taking your time. Fantastic accomplishment - and clever too.Al my compliments to those who move the boundaries - and who take care to stay alive.
I met two climbers at Verdun in France, not so clever. Climbing the 200 m rocks without any safety (can you believe it?) - finding themselves very brave. They are probably not alive to read this.

Thank you, Tom!

I got to be in the Meadow over the last two days with my little boy & one of my best friends, and meeting you and listening to your narration & peaking at your camera will always stick with me. As a climber, I've followed the Dawn Wall as a project consistently for 3 years & knew of it prior. Your words on this season's attempt & success have brought me to tears more than once & I was grateful to stand behind you for the final cheer as the guys topped out. Enjoy your cruise! ~Sabrina (from Alabama)

Thank you

thanks, tom, for your beautiful writing. it has been a joy not only to follow tommy and kevin's progress through your blog, but truly, just to read your lovely writing. thank you and namaste.

Appreciate the day to day reports!

Thanks for sharing your day to day observations on the climb and keeping us up to date on the latest. After following your daily reports for a week and a half, I decided to come out to Yosemite and watch for a couple of days. I'm really glad I made the trip. Camped in Upper Pines, got cold sitting in the meadow for hours watching and met some nice people while taking in this amazing climb. I have booked marked your site for the future. Wish you the best Tom. Thanks again.

Awesome Tom

Thank you So much for allowing us to be a part of history, as we continue on with our daily grind, waiting and dreaming for the day we are back on the grand stone, free from life's burdens.


Anchorage, Alaska.

Happy Cruising Tom

Tom: Thank you for the photographs, the expert reporting and most of all for providing us the spirit of mountaineering that only a mountaineer can capture! All the best Alan Lamb

Humble words fly far, when

Humble words fly far, when they come from the heart... you pukes!

Modest men who climb boldly will be remembered forever. Well done, Tommy and Kevin! Three cheers for your inspiring send.

Memories of the Captain..... such great heights.

Many thanks to you, Tom. The story wouldn't be the same without YOU telling it.

Semper farcissimus,

Thanks for everything

Cranking this blog out almost every day for 19 days without a break in January must have taken some doing. I watched the nbc news feed of the last two pitches, but your clear exposition really hits the spot, allowing me to finally appreciate a little better what those last 4 pitches entailed. Nice to have a version that doesn't have to explain why climbers don't chisel foot holds (I actually read that somewhere), or why this isn't the first time anyone free climbed El Capitan (which I heard a newscaster say). GD; (a gunks climber from decades past.) Clearly clueless about Yosemite climbing since I failed your first captcha test.

Thanks Tom

Hi Tom,

Just wanted to say a massive thanks for all your el cap reports. Looking forward to making it over there again sometime and hopefully thanking you in person!

Kevin, UK

You are part of this history, too, Tom

Your riveting photos, along with your experienced commentary have made this triumph real for me. Thank you so much, Tom. Get some rest. We look forward to your next post in the spring.

Thanks for your AWESOME pictures and updates!

Thanks Tom for your coverage and sharing your wisdom and knowledge with us all! Truly inspired by everyone involved in this truly epic and massive climbing accomplishment!


Not much to add here, but I am compelled to say thank you Tom for giving us such a comprehensive "birds eye view" of this historic climb. The combination of your wit, experience, observations, and the fantastic photos made your site my "go to" for the last couple of weeks plus. Thanks again and please, keep up the great work.

A Fan

Many thanks from PtPP!

Hey there Tommy Evans,

Thanks so much for your excellent coverage, especially on this final day. I got a bit lost watching the live cam coverage, so thanks for explaining what had happened. My gosh, your pics are SOOOOO much clearer than the live cam ones!

It's always fun hanging with you in the Centre of the Universe, and I look forward to seeing you again in the spring. In the meantime, go enjoy your cruise!!

"Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok
Ontario, Canada, eh?

P.S. And lisssssssen here, you old fart - your El Cap Ascent Days may not yet be over. Don't be too quick to give up. My almost-as-ancient lard ass can drag us up 'most any pitch on the Captain, and it would be a delight to bring you up the wall as a counterweight* haul to my massive junk show! So if you can jug it, we can climb it.

*needed to counterweight the extra King Cobras we will have to bring up for our Gentlemanly Big Wall Camping Trip

Another great report

This is the first time I've watched a climb on a live internet feed, then read the report after it. It was great to relive those moments. You really capture the feelings and moments in your words well.

See you in the Spring.

-Steve Fettke

I wonder how many years it

I wonder how many years it will be until a second ascent is made. Considering the incredible time and effort involved, I would imagine future teams would set their sights on the FFA of the next big route. A historic ascent.

A Poem

By Richard Wilbur

The old rock-climber cries out in his sleep,
Dreaming without enthusiasm
Of a great cliff immeasurably steep,
Or of the sort of yawning chasm,
Now far too deep,
That once, made safe by rashness, he could leap.

Fantastic achievement

Fantastic achievement Tommy/Kevin, what an adventure in so many ways...

Well done Tom for going above and beyond the call on this one.

Thank You Tom

Thanks. Great write up as usual!

Thanks for all the efforts over the years, for a cubicle puke in England this is the only site you need to know for all your El Cap action.

Go enjoy your cruise!

Seeking definition for this climb

I am not a climber but have enjoyed reading about climbs over the last 30 years. Mostly I have read climbing magazine's accounts. These differ from accounts that reach the general press (and over the years, few have). I have tried to think how a climber's climbing magazine would treat this event and this brings me to my question:

On what dimensions does this Dawn Wall climb rank as, in Tom's quoted words, "The most difficult rock climb in the world"? And on what dimensions does it not?

This by no means is a criticism of this act -- clearly it was hard and no one else did it this way; it was a great achievement by the two climbers and those who helped them should also feel great. But then I start thinking of so many terms "red pointing" "pink pointing" "solo" "aid" "bolts" "free climb" and realize there are many dimensions to a climb -- and this climb qualifies on some, but not all. What I would like is to have people who know more than I about these terms to define a little more closely where this climb might fit amongst the many many wonderful and difficult climbs that are done in this world.

And if it were not for Tom's multi-year reporting/photographing of Yosemite climbs, I would not have been able to watch this event unfold. Thank you, Tom, for letting me enjoy and follow this event.

It's the sum of those

It's the sum of those dimensions, Barb. Foremost, 14+ has been achievable by only a few in this sport, and there are a stack of such pitches. Elsewhere, this grade is often achieved through dozens of repeated attempts, between which the climber goes home and rests in a warm bed. As for style - a naked free solo is impossible, and an aid ascent not really worthy of attention. That's the game. That is the heart of the game. They definitely pushed the style as far as they could, someone in the future may do better. It's worth noting Tommy himself has pretty much written the book on El Cap climbing style. Among climbers at the moment, who know what they are looking at in every detail, their style is incredibly impressive for the feat accomplished.

Great Job Tom!!

Your reports are always awesome and this last 19 days has been no exception!! Thank you so much!!

Brian Baker

Wonderful reports, thanks

By coincidence, my daughter and I stayed in Yosemite for a few days last week, not realizing that this historic event was taking place. We visited the meadow a number of times and got hooked on the story. Your reports have kept us informed in a way that other coverage can't meet because you know the rock, the men and the climbing so well. Thank you for your photos and descriptions and for your heartfelt coverage!


first time i write in caps lock in the www...


you're fit to represent the monkeys..


Thank you for this coverage

Yes, there's a lot of other sources of info, but I kept coming back for your reports that provided more substance about the actual pitches, from someone who understands the emotional and psychological aspects of this adventure. Priceless.

And you also seemed to have captured Tommy leaving Kevin with an unprotected traverse in photo #8 :) Maybe he wanted to leave that last piece as a friendly booty for the next party to free this route!

Thank you

Hey Tom,

Your pictures of the last day were the first I've seen of the two's success. After years of reading your blog it is great to see you have received some recognition for your work. I'll continue to check back in the spring and fall to read more of your updates until you decide to hang up the lens. Hopefully you'll find a protege who will be as good as you.

Thanks for your work,

Thanks Tom

Your posts over the last couple of weeks have really put this entire endeavor into great perspective for me. Your enthusiasm and appreciation for their achievements are inspiring, and really gave me a sense of being there from thousands of miles away. Much thanks. -ed

Great Job Tom!

Great Job Tom!
I am happy for the guys, you, and all your fans.
Thanks for the excellent reporting and, as always, your spectacular timely photo's.
Three cheers for the Captain...both of you!

Many thanks! Sponsorship?

Many thanks for all your great reports. I hope you keep up the great work for many years to come. I've noticed that you write: "Brought to you by Adidas Outdoor" on all your posts. Did Adidas hook you up with a warm hotel room and some free kit? Hopefully they threw in some hazard pay for the cold as well. What sort of sponsorship does a star photographer like you get these days? Whatever they gave you, you deserve more! I vote for Patagonia sponsoring you as well.

Great Job!

Awesome job Tom, It has been nice to be able to follow this historic event through the eyes of someone who understands and has experienced such an amazing place. Following the mainstream media is at best annoying, so thank you. Your photo's are magnificent, and have really told the story of this remarkable adventure. One which has inspired an old climber to break out the equipment and get my young sons out on to the rock with more vigor. Good luck to you, and maybe some day you will take a picture of me and my boys up there.

Thank you.

Our little tribe is in your debt. May many Cobras some your way soon!

Awesome write up, Tom!

Eloquent and thoughtful, inspiring!!

Thanks Tom, terrific

Thanks Tom, terrific reporting and a very enjoyable read. Hope to see you in the valley again sometime.
Steve, Melbourne Australia.