Tommy Caldwell

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Tommy Caldwell
Tommy Caldwell (2015).jpg
Caldwell in 2015
Personal information
Born (1978-08-11) August 11, 1978 (age 43)
Estes Park, Colorado, U.S.
OccupationRock climber
Websitetommycaldwell.com
Climbing career
Type of climberBig wall climbing
Highest grade
Known forFirst climber to complete a 5.15b (9b) route, First climber to free climb the Dawn Wall (5.14d) on El Capitan

Tommy Caldwell (born August 11, 1978) is an American rock climber accomplished in sport climbing, hard traditional climbing, big-wall speed climbing, and big-wall free climbing. Caldwell made the first free ascents of several El Capitan routes in Yosemite National Park.

He made the first ascents of some of the hardest sport routes in the U.S., including Kryptonite with grade of 5.14c/d, and the world's first 9a+/b  route, Flex Luthor, at the Fortress of Solitude, Colorado in 2003. In January 2015, Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson completed the first free climb of the Dawn Wall of El Capitan. At the time, their 19-day ascent was considered by some as the hardest successful rock climb in history.[1]

In 2015, National Geographic called Caldwell "arguably the best all-around rock climber on the planet".[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Caldwell grew up in Loveland, Colorado. His father is Mike Caldwell, a former teacher,[2] professional body builder, mountain guide and rock climber, who introduced Tommy to rock climbing at a young age. His mother, Terry,[2] was also a mountain guide. The family, including Tommy's sister,[3] went on annual trips to Yosemite National Park where Tommy's love for the park and rock climbing flourished.[4][5]

Taken hostage in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan[edit]

Caldwell and three fellow climbers Beth Rodden, John Dickey, and Jason 'Singer' Smith were held hostage for six days by rebels in Kyrgyzstan in August 2000. Caldwell pushed one of the kidnappers off a cliff, and subsequently escaped to government soldiers. They later learned that the man had survived the fall.[6][7] A book about their ordeal, Over the Edge: The True Story of Four American Climbers' Kidnap and Escape in the Mountains of Central Asia was written by Greg Child.[8] A follow-up article, "Back from the Edge", was published in Outside magazine the following year.[9] Caldwell gave a filmed lecture "How Becoming a Hostage and Losing a Finger Made Him a Better Climber".[10]

Loss of a finger[edit]

Caldwell accidentally sawed off much of his left index finger with a table saw in 2001. Doctors were able to reattach the severed portion, but Caldwell decided he did not want the useless finger, which doctors said would never heal fully and he would never be able to use to climb with again, and the damaged part of the finger was later permanently removed.[11][12]

Historic climbs[edit]

He made the first ascents of some of the United States' hardest sport routes (as of 2008) including Kryptonite (5.14c/d) and Flex Luthor (5.15a/b) at the Fortress of Solitude, Colorado. The latter route remained unrepeated for 18 years, before finally being repeated by Matty Hong in October 2021, who suggested the grade 5.15b (9b). This would make Flex Luthor the first confirmed 9b in the world, 5 years before Chris Sharma's ascent of Jumbo Love 5.15b (9b).

In May 2004, he completed the first free ascent (FFA) of Dihedral Wall. In 2005, he and Beth Rodden—swapping leads—made the third and fourth free ascents of The Nose. Two days later, on October 16, Caldwell free-climbed The Nose in less than 12 hours. A few days later, Caldwell climbed The Nose in 11 hours, descended the East Ledges, and then climbed Freerider, topping out 12 hours later – the first ascent of two El Capitan free climbs in 24 hours. On El Capitan, Caldwell has also free-climbed: Lurking Fear, Muir Wall, West Buttress, Salathé, Zodiac, Magic Mushroom, The Dawn Wall, and New Dawn.

In January 2015, Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson completed the first free climb of the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, after six years of planning and preparation.[13][14] Their 19-day ascent of the Dawn Wall was considered by some as the hardest successful rock climb in history.[1] The following year Czech climber Adam Ondra free climbed the Dawn Wall in 8 days.[15] Ondra praised Caldwell and Jorgeson saying, "Tommy and Kevin put so much effort into the climb and faced so many question marks and logistical problems that I cannot really compare my effort to theirs. I had it prepared, had all the knowledge. I knew it was possible".[16]

Documentaries[edit]

Progression[edit]

Caldwell was one of the climbers featured in the 2009 film Progression.[17] The film discussed his quest to climb the Dawn Wall, and it was after seeing the film that Jorgeson contacted Caldwell to join him in the effort.

The Dawn Wall[edit]

The Dawn Wall, a documentary following Caldwell and Jorgeson on their free climb of the Dawn Wall, was released on September 19, 2018. The documentary was directed by Josh Lowell and Peter Mortimer.[18]

Free Solo[edit]

Caldwell appeared in the documentary Free Solo, released on September 28, 2018, about Alex Honnold's free solo ascent up El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. In the documentary, Caldwell is seen working with Honnold to prepare for the climb, and is interviewed about Honnold and rock climbing.[19]

Notable ascents[edit]

  • 2001: The Honeymoon is Over V 5.13 Longs Peak, Colorado. FA with Beth Rodden belaying.[20]
  • 2003: Flex Luthor (5.15a/b), Fortress of Solitude, Colorado[21]
  • 2003: West Buttress (FFA) VI 5.13c, El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, California[22]
  • 2004: Dihedral Wall (FFA) VI 5.14a, El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, California[23]
  • 2005: The Nose VI 5.13, 3rd/4th Free Ascent (with Beth Rodden), El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, California[24]
  • 2006: Linea di Eleganza VI 5.11b A3 90 degrees M7 Fitz Roy, Argentine Patagonia. FFA with Topher Donahue and Erik Roed.[25]
  • 2008: Magic Mushroom (FFA) VI 5.14a with Justen Sjong, May 12–17, 2008, El Capitan, Yosemite, California[26]
  • 2012: Yosemite Triple Crown 5.13a, 1st All Free Ascent with Alex Honnold[27]
  • 2013: Dunn-Westbay 5.14a, 1st Free Ascent with Joe Mills, Longs Peak, Colorado [28]
  • 2014: Fitz Traverse VI 5.11d C1 65 degrees, First Ascent with Alex Honnold[29]
  • 2015: Dawn Wall (FFA) 5.14d with Kevin Jorgeson, December 27, 2014 – January 14, 2015, El Capitan, Yosemite, California[30]
  • 2018: The Nose 5.9 C2, Sub- 2-hour record with Alex Honnold, El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, California[31]

Personal life[edit]

Caldwell and Beth Rodden married in 2003, and subsequently divorced in 2010.[32] In 2010[2] he met photographer Rebecca Pietsch. They married in 2012. The couple have a son, Fitz, and a daughter, Ingrid Wilde,[33][34] and live in Estes Park, Colorado.[35][1]

Publications[edit]

  • Caldwell, Tommy (2017). The Push: A Climber's Journey of Endurance, Risk and Going Beyond Limits. London: Michael Joseph. ISBN 9780718183394.
  • Caldwell, Tommy (2018). The Push: A Climber's Search for the Path. Penguin Books. ISBN 9780399562716.

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Carpenter, Hayden (September 18, 2018). "'The Dawn Wall' Is a Great, But Incomplete, Climbing Film". Outside Online. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
  2. ^ a b c d Allen, Nick (January 11, 2015). "World's best climber only has nine fingers - the life and times of Tommy Caldwell". Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
  3. ^ Achey, Jeff (11 October 2011). "Legends: Tommy Caldwell". Climbing Magazine. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
  4. ^ Estabrook, Rachel. "New Memoir Describes How Tommy Caldwell Was Raised To Climb The Dawn Wall". Colorado Public Radio. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
  5. ^ "Father's Day with Some of our Favourite Climbing Dads". Gripped Magazine. June 19, 2016. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
  6. ^ "Climbers Recount Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan". National Geographic. May 28, 2003. Retrieved November 29, 2020.
  7. ^ Child, Greg (March 17, 2015). "When Rock Climbing and Terrorism Collide". Outside. Retrieved February 8, 2018. {{cite magazine}}: Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  8. ^ Child, Greg (2002). Over the Edge: The True Story of Four American Climbers' Kidnap and Escape in the Mountains of Central Asia. ISBN 0375506098.
  9. ^ "Mountaineering - Back from the Edge - Mountaineering - OutsideOnline.com". Outside Online. June 2003.
  10. ^ "How Becoming a Hostage and Losing a Finger Made Him a Better Climber". video.nationalgeographic.com. Retrieved 2018-07-25.
  11. ^ "Tommy Caldwell Loses Finger". Camp4. October 5, 2006. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
  12. ^ Allen, Nick (January 11, 2015). "World's best climber only has nine fingers - the life and times of Tommy Caldwell". The Telegraph.
  13. ^ Gartland, Dan (January 14, 2014). "Climbers complete free-climb ascent of El Capitan's 'Dawn Wall'". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2014-01-15.
  14. ^ Bisharat, Andrew. "Duo Completes First Free Climb of Yosemite's Dawn Wall, Making History". National Geographic. Retrieved January 15, 2014.
  15. ^ Czech free-climber Adam Ondra scales Yosemite rock wall in record time Archived August 2, 2017, at the Wayback Machine (The Daily Telegraph)
  16. ^ "Adam Ondra: the Dawn Wall El Capitan interview". PlanetMountain.com. Retrieved 2020-06-29.
  17. ^ Bisharat, Andrew (January 14, 2015). "Duo Completes First Free Climb of Yosemite's Dawn Wall, Making History". National Geographic. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  18. ^ The Dawn Wall, 14 September 2018 – via www.imdb.com
  19. ^ Free Solo, 13 December 2018, retrieved 2019-03-04
  20. ^ Caldwell, Tommy; Roger Briggs (March 2007). "The Honeymoon is Over". Alpinist. Jackson, Wyoming: Alpinist Magazine. 19 (Spring 2007): 40. ISSN 1540-725X.
  21. ^ Kemple, Tim (15 June 2012). "Crag of the Future". Climbing Magazine. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  22. ^ Wright, Cedar (2004). "YOSEMITE VALLEY – Various Activity". Alpinist Magazine. Marc Ewing. Retrieved March 2, 2007.
  23. ^ MacDonald, Dougald. "Caldwell Frees Dihedral Wall". Climbing Magazine. Action Sports Group. Retrieved March 2, 2007.
  24. ^ MacDonald, Dougald. "Caldwell-Rodden Free the Nose". Climbing Magazine. Action Sports Group. Archived from the original on November 3, 2006. Retrieved March 2, 2007.
  25. ^ Caldwell, Tommy; Topher Donahue (September 2006). "Scattered Ashes". Alpinist. Jackson, Wyoming: Alpinist Magazine. 17 (Autumn 2006): 50–57. ISSN 1540-725X.
  26. ^ Beckwith, Christian (May 20, 2008). "More Details on Magic Mushroom". Alpinist Magazine. Marc Ewing. Retrieved August 18, 2008.
  27. ^ "Caldwell, Honnold: Yosemite Free Triple Crown". Climbing.com. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
  28. ^ "American Senders Fire Hardest Route on the Diamond | Gripped". Gripped Magazine. 23 August 2013.
  29. ^ "Caldwell, Honnold Complete Fitz Traverse". Climbing.com. 18 February 2014. Retrieved September 23, 2015.
  30. ^ Chris Van Leuven. "Free at Last: Caldwell, Jorgeson Top Out the Dawn Wall". Alpinist.com. Retrieved January 15, 2015.
  31. ^ "Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell climb The Nose in under 2 hours to set new El Capitan speed record". PlanetMountain.com. Retrieved 2018-08-12.
  32. ^ Cordes, Kelly (September 10, 2010). "Granite China". The Cleanest Line. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
  33. ^ Andrew Bisharat. "Summiting Yosemite's Dawn Wall, Climbers Make History". National Geographic.
  34. ^ "Abduction. Lost Finger. Now, a Rock Climber's Tallest Hurdle". The New York Times. August 1, 2015.
  35. ^ Kurutz, Steven (December 28, 2018). "A Tour of Rock Climber Tommy Caldwell's Garage". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-03-15.

External links[edit]