As reported on Vertical Gear in the past few weeks, Adam Ondra is in Yosemite for the first time and is working on some of the most famous big wall climbs in the world. Following his onsight attempt on The Nose last week, narrowly thwarted by fatigue on the Great Roof section, Ondra has been working pitches on the Dawn Wall in preparation for an ambitious free climbing ascent.
To date, the Dawn Wall has only been free climbed once – Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s epic 20-day ascent in January 2015. Ondra hopes to claim the first free repeat of the Dawn Wall and, armed with valuable beta from Caldwell and Jorgeson, has been finding his feet on a wall where solid holds are notoriously hard to find.
Initially, Planet Mountain report, Ondra planned to work only the lower and middle sections of the climb, but in the last few days he’s pushed on to explore the top section of the climb.
Working in tandem with Pavel Blažek, Ondra reached the top of El Capitan with surprising speed. The Czech climber onsighted many of the pitches along the way, an impressive achievement on such a tough wall and something that obviously bodes well for a full free ascent push.
Nonetheless, Ondra’s experience on the Dawn Wall to date has only added to his respect for the challenge it poses. “The complexity and difficulty of the whole climb is just shocking to me,” he said. “I might have been too optimistic, but I definitely expected it to be easier… Hats off to Tommy and Kevin, who believed that the whole climb was possible before they free climbed.”
After returning to the legendary Camp 4 for some well deserved rest and relaxation, Ondra and Blažek carried gear back to El Capitan and stocked their camp on a ledge midway up the Dawn Wall. From here Ondra began working the tricky 14th pitch of the climb, a lengthy traverse graded 5.14d in recognition of the high degree of technical difficulty.
Though Ondra didn’t manage to free climb the 14th pitch in its entirety, he gained valuable beta and appears confident that he will nail the pitch when it really matters. “On my last go, with no skin and really tired, I slipped on the first boulder, but continued straight away to the anchor. I am quite confident that next time it should work out.”
Ondra had more luck on the Dawn Wall’s second crux traverse, the 5.14c graded pitch 15. He skipped the first five metres of the pitch due to wet rock but sent the remainder on the fourth attempt. Crucially, he also gained information that is sure to help him on his free ascent push. “It turns out that only night climbing makes sense on these razorblades,” he posted on Instagram.
Ondra has offered no indication yet of when he plans to begin his attempt at a complete, ground-up free climb of the Dawn Wall, but his early work on the route provides cause for optimism. ” I have the advantage that I know that the climb is possible and that helps me to keep the faith that I might be able to do it as well,” Ondra said. The climbing world watches on with interest.