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Czech Climber Moving Quickly Up ‘Dawn Wall’

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On January 14, 2015, the ‘Dawn Wall’ route on Yosemite’s El Capitan was successfully free-climbed and dubbed the most difficult big-wall rock climb in the world. Now, pro climber Adam Ondra wants a turn.

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Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson took 19 days to free climb the Dawn Wall after years spent scouting the route. Ondra has made it to pitch 10 of the 32-pitch route in three days.

Amazingly, this is Ondra’s first visit to El Capitan — and Yosemite.

But he now faces the toughest climbing on the route. If he can get through five pitches of 5.14 and harder climbing (and several pitches nearly as hard), a second ascent could be his.

Super Human Sport Climber

Ondra, 23, is not to be taken lightly. He walked into the most difficult rock climb in the world — Chris Sharma’s “La Dura Dura” 5.15c project — and sent it with relative ease.

The Czech-born climber currently has more 5.15c ascents (the most difficult grade climbed) to his credit than anyone else.

Ondra’s accomplishments appear superhuman, and most came while he was studying at a university, taking climbing trips between classes.

Therefore, Climbers’ ears should perk up on the news that Ondra’s pulling the crux pitch holds on the Dawn Wall.

The First Dawn Wall Ascent

The Dawn Wall did not submit easily. Caldwell and Jorgeson built artificial walls in their backyards to practice specific moves. They adjusted climbing time to winter for optimal rock conditions. In short, they let the climb consume their lives.


The difficulty of the Dawn Wall was unheard of in Yosemite. It had the two most difficult pitches in the entire valley, one after the other at 5.14d, and 12 pitches of 5.13.

By completing the ascent, Caldwell and Jorgeson redefined what can be achieved in the sport.

People questioned if it was possible. Now they question if it will be repeated. That time is now, and if anybody has a chance it’s Ondra.

Where Doubt Arises

Ondra does not have significant big wall ascents under his harness. The styles of climbing necessary for the Dawn Wall require dedicated training. It begs the question, can Ondra excel outside of his area of expertise?

“First day on the big wall in Yosemite, and straight onto the Dawn Wall! Foolishness, lack of respect or boldness?” Ondra told Black Diamond on Monday.

He’s known for remarkable sport climbing and bouldering. But Yosemite big walls require endurance, logistics, strategy, and route-finding.

Having sent several 5.15c single-pitch climbs and V16 bouldering problems, Ondra understands how difficult this route will be.

Team On Dawn Wall

Certainly a phenom worthy of attention, Ondra is a sponsored Black Diamond athlete. But the Dawn Wall is obviously not going solo. Ondra partnered with his Czech friend with the Instagram name Pavel Blazek for the ascent.

It appears that Ondra will lead all of the pitches. It’s unclear if his partner is also climbing the route, or ascending via ropes, to provide a belay for Ondra.

Filmmaker Heinz Zak is documenting the attempt.

Ondra: A Freak Of Nature

Uncertainty about the climb’s possible success is warranted given the Dawn Wall’s ability to elude Jorgeson and Caldwell for years.

But it only requires one freak of nature to stop the doubt and push the boundaries of possibility in the world of climbing.

Ondra has already done that in sport climbing. He can manage the difficulty one pitch at a time. In the next few days we will find out if he can do it on a big wall and claim the second free ascent of the Dawn Wall.

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