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Solo climber sets new record conquering Yosemite’s El Capitan


(Heinz Zak/Courtesy of Black Diamond Equipment via AP)
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Adam Ondra climbs pitch 21 by headlamp on the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, Calif.

El Capitan is a renowned climb in the world of mountain climbing. Its Dawn Wall, which was first climbed in 1970, is regarded as one of the world’s most grueling and challenging climbs.

Most climbers in Yosemite National Park in California utilize specialized mountain climbing equipment to help them reach the top of the steep rock structure. However, Adam Ondra, who free-climbed the formation with only a rope for safety, found that challenge insufficient.

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In just eight days, or less than half the duration of the previous two records, Mr. Ondra became the third person to successfully free-climb the formation and entered the record books. Professional Czech mountain climber, 23, took pictures and made movies for his fans while traveling to the summit, sharing updates about his ascent on social media.

Tommy Caldwell (36), and Kevin Jorgeson (30) were the first climbers to reach the summit of the 3,000-foot granite formation on the Dawn Wall without the need of special climbing equipment. Their ascent occurred in January 2015. Years of preparation and nineteen days of climbing thirty-two different pitches of the immovable, vertical rock were required.

Ondra wanted to take their lead and utilize their experience to summit the infamous climb even more quickly.

As stated on his sponsor Black Diamond Equipment’s website, “I might have been too optimistic, but I definitely expected it to be easier,” Ondra remarked in one of his frequent updates on the climb. “Every pitch is really difficult and devious… Bravo to Tommy and Kevin, who, even before they free climbed, thought the entire ascent was feasible. Some of the portions seem completely unattainable without the beta. The fact that I am aware that the climb is feasible gives me the benefit of allowing me to maintain hope that I could succeed.

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Ondra ascended the wall gradually, tumbling frequently and trying again on very challenging pitches. He would sleep in a tent hung from the rock face after a day of climbing. Even though he was unfamiliar with Yosemite-style granite climbs, he kept a positive and enthusiastic demeanor for his supporters on Instagram throughout the endeavor by sharing video updates from the cliff face where he discussed the technical details of each day’s climb.

In mid-October, Ondra—a two-time world champion climber—arrived in Yosemite to get ready for the attempt. Before starting the entire attempt on November 14, he trained some of the most difficult parts of the climb. He studied the routes of his two free-climbing predecessors to choose the best path to take on his ascent. He had to endure rain and excruciatingly cracked skin on his hands from the frequently jagged and slick rock face, which made the already notoriously challenging path much more challenging. However, the climber made climbing history on November 21 at 3:29 PM when they ascended El Capitan and successfully completed the Dawn Wall ascent in a record time.

He sent a joyful photo of himself and fellow climbers from the top with the message, “Yes!!!!”

Ondra was happy with his result even though he had intended to finish El Capitan in only five or six days despite the enormous effort.

“It would be interesting to do the dawn wall much faster,” he said Monday evening. “I think it is possible but it would take a lot a lot of work. Maybe I will come back and try again some day.”

This article contains material from the Associated Press.

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