Katherine @lovetoclimb facebook page

What's your Dawn Wall?

19 Jan 2015

It’s hard to escape the incredible news of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s free ascent of the Dawn Wall.  For at least the last 3 years I’ve followed their progress on Tommy’s facebook page and I’m a bit sad it’s over.  No more morning facebook checks to monitor the state of Kevin’s fingertips or inspirational updates such as “I’m not giving up.  I will rest.  I will try again.  I will succeed".  And throughout Kevin’s pitch 15 saga, I tried to imagine what he and they were thinking and if, how or what they were planning in case he didn’t do it.

Facebook Kevin Jorgeson

I was gripped by it and so was the rest of the world.  Their adventure into the almost impossible was something that captured almost everyone.  Deservedly so they will be made forever now, not that that was their reason to pursue this dream in the first place.  It’s because, without sounding cheesy, their ascent was really a metaphor for any one of us wanting to push ourselves towards our real inner dreams.  And it came at a time of year, mid January, when many of us are making New Year’s resolutions or thinking about what the year ahead may hold.

Most people never even dare to consider a dream, perhaps dismissing it as pointless, others will temporarily let their thoughts drift in that direction but the tiny few will make it happen.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s to set up your own business, follow a different career path or purse a sporting dream.  What really matters is the dream and it begs the question “What is your Dawn Wall?” – have you ever allowed yourself to think big and follow it through?

I for one have climbing dreams, which have lingered in my head for too long.  Sometimes I don’t know what to do with the thoughts.  Do I ignore them?  Is my ego too big for my own good?  Do other people and things matter more than me and my climbing?  I ponder how much is out of my control such as health, weather, work and life in general and I often conclude that my chances have been and gone.

But it’s with renewed vigour and what I’ve learned from Tommy and Kevin that I’m sticking with my dreams.  And I’m committing to just not give up.  Their story weaves in so many directions that this past week I just come out thinking there are no excuses to at least make a decision to believe in yourself.

Patience, not giving up, dreaming big, sticking to the plan, sacrifice, trying, failing, committing, trying again, teamwork, standing by your friend, hard work, difficult decisions.  It’s all there and you could write a book about it.  I will be first in line to buy it.

Tommy is missing half of his left index finger for God’s sake.  A long standing DIY injury!  But the holds are razor thin ‘like matchsticks!’, surely he would at least need all of his fingers to hold on.  He’s a new Dad, a full time climber, but a Dad nonetheless and most Dad’s of young children struggle for any energy whatsoever.  Kevin comes from a bouldering background, yes bouldering (an elite boulderer no less) not even trad climbing and this would be his first free ascent of El Cap.  7 years of effort (I get frustrated after just 3 days trying a route) would tell most it’s just too hard and perhaps time to throw in the towel.  Separated ribs and broken ankles:  legacies from previous attempts.  The Dawn Wall was definitely winning and the excuses were stacked up way over their heads.  And that is all before this recent attempt even started.

“If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting”

Taken from the poem 'If' by Rudyard Kipling

The world was captured by the actual ascent, piled high with drama and failure loomed large.  But they stuck with it, believed to their cores it was possible and did it.

For the last 2 weeks I’ve been switching between facebook and a book called “The Science of Winning”, a paperback which has been sitting on my shelf for at least a year and a half.  It’s not quite as exciting as it sounds, but it’s content is something I’ve been meaning to put into my head for some time.  It’s not the kind of book I normally read because it’s sciency (and my perception is I’m bad at science) and it’s about swimming and not even climbing.  After 2 weeks, and as I type now I’m at page 172.  Just 69 to go,  I’m wading through the aerobic energy system (endurance), the anaerobic system (power endurance), understanding them, measuring them, balancing them, finetuning and then combining them into a periodised training plan.  As I’ve often doubted my own brain’s capacity to understand it and absorb it, every click onto facebook has reminded me that if my brain is working at 100%, Tommy and Kevin’s were at 200%.

The Science of Winning

It’s my job to help people realise their climbing ambitions but mine hang on like a thread.  For 10 years I haven’t managed to break past 8a.  Yes, I have a multitude of valid reasons why harder ascents haven’t yet happened.  But if Tommy and Kevin have taught me anything, is that it is ok to dream big, but you’ve got to steadily and patiently pick your way and meet every challenge as an opportunity to learn and simply believe it is possible – all with a little help from your friends.

Well done guys, you are a true inspiration.