The two were the first to scale El Capitan’s 3,000-foot face, also known as the Dawn Wall (imagine three Empire State Buildings on top of each other), as free climbers with no ropes to aid them up. They used ropes and harnesses only for safety when they lost their grip or slipped off. This means they used their fingers to find holds on the granite and their feet to find sturdy grips on sometimes crumbling rock. They were climbing and hovering above the earth for 19 days. Crews delivered food and supplies as needed. The climbers slept in hanging tents.
This feat was shear awesomeness. Having spent some family vacation time in Yosemite, it seems near impossible to think that someone could climb up El Capitan. The granite rocks are breathtaking; they are truly among the wonders of the world. I remember standing in Yosemite Valley about eight years ago in complete awe of Half Dome, El Capitan and Yosemite Falls.
When I heard about Caldwell and Jorgeson’s pursuit, I began checking news sites and Twitter for their progress almost daily. In this climb, there is beauty which surpasses other human feats, which seems supernatural. Caldwell and Jorgeson spent years preparing for the climb. They memorized routes and practiced them religiously. They knew where to put their hands and their feet.
Once the pair reached the top of the climb, Jorgeson put the challenge to anyone watching them: “I hope it inspires people to find their own Dawn Wall, if you will.”
That’s when I started wondering, what’s my Dawn Wall? What is the one thing I hope to achieve with years of practice? To take on the challenge of scaling a gigantic granite wall which doesn’t seem meant to be climbed is like setting a goal and then magnifying it in a “sky’s the limit” kind of way.
I have “Dawn Wall” dreams for my improv and writing passions. Recording a Christian rap album is among those dreams. And maybe one day running a small theater for improv and comedy. Another dream: Writing a book that’s on the New York Times’ bestseller list.
The climbers’ feat underscores the importance of having big dreams, not just dreams that come after a few months or weeks of hard work. The big dreams in life are the ones that might keep you up at night and consume your daydreams as well. These are the dreams that you chip away at every chance you get: Maybe you take some art classes each summer and sketch during your lunch hours; soon, you’re hanging artwork in a friend’s living room or local coffee shop; one day, you’re featured in a solo gallery show.
What Caldwell and Jorgeson did in Yosemite began with a dream that others supported. It took family and friends encouraging them. The larger climbing community helped them plan and execute it. They had faith that they could accomplish their task. Knowing that Caldwell and Jorgeson stubbornly worked on their dream for years is an encouragement to me.
The pair’s climb is a story I plan on passing along to others. I imagine taking a long road trip into Yosemite, and after a day or so of soaking in the surroundings we would walk near the base of El Capitan and crane our necks upward until they hurt. Then, the storytelling would begin with two climbers who dreamed bigger than most.