el capitan
El Capitan, Yosemite; (photo/Rennett Stowe, Wiki Commons)

Seb Berthe Bails on ‘The Dawn Wall’ After Long Effort

Sébastien Berthe’s effort to send the world’s hardest multipitch route in a season has ended.

For over 3 months this year, Seb Berthe gave “The Dawn Wall” (5.14c, 32 pitches) everything he could. In the end, the El Capitan masterpiece proved too much for the Belgian climber to handle.

GearJunkie reported his and Siebe Vanhee’s somewhat unexpected attempt in Yosemite back in January. For weeks, the duo climbed the route siege-style, patiently putting the massive puzzle together after struggling to render vertical progress by any means — free or aid — from the ground.

el capitan dawn wall
Belgian Duo Seeks 'The Dawn Wall' Third Ascent
'The Dawn Wall' (5.14d, 32 pitches) may be the world's hardest rock climb. Siebe Vanhee and Seb Berthe started sieging the route on Jan. 9. Read more…

They spent 3 days getting their ropes up pitch 10 (5.14a, part of another Tommy Caldwell classic, “Mescalito”). And despite the concerted effort, the pitch 14 crux kept spitting them off.

Vanhee stayed on the wall until early March when he had to bail for work obligations. He did promise to come back to Yosemite and rejoin the effort at the beginning of April. But in the meantime, Berthe would have to continue up alone.

On April 7, Berthe reported the mental and physical strain of the labor had overcome his (considerable) determination. With the rest of the route dialed, he came agonizingly close to finishing the pitch 14 crux.

He wrote on Instagram:

“After 23 days (on one redpoint attempt) and 16 on pitch 14, I had to accept failure and went back on earth.

Over the past two weeks, I gave 6 attempts falling on the very last crux of pitch 14, including one try (on the video here) where I fell on the very last move. I gave everything I had, was very patient (took a lot of rest days up there by myself to heal the skin), but it still did not go.

Sending “The Dawn Wall” in one season was a very ambitious goal, and I came really close but could not catch the moment.”


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A post shared by Sébastien Berthe (@sebertheclimber)

Berthe also said the necessity of constantly recruiting new support had become grating.

He assessed:

“I could not make it in the time I had given myself as the food and water I had hauled were over. I could have kept trying and could ask for some hauling missions, but it didn’t suit me anymore, sending this way didn’t really make sense to me anymore.”

Berthe may be done for the season, but Vanhee has checked back into the valley and looks ready to lean back into the challenge. Photographer Alex Eggermont shot Vanhee on the wall on Monday morning.


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A post shared by Alex Eggermont (@a.eggermont)

Sam Anderson

Sam has roamed the American continent to follow adventures, explore natural wonders, and find good stories. After going to college to be a writer, he got distracted (or saved) by rock climbing and spent most of the next decade on the road, supporting himself with trade work. He's had addresses in the Adirondack Mountains, Las Vegas, and somehow Kansas, but his heart belongs in the Texas hill country.