adventure journal caldwell jordenson dawn wall

Since January 4, when the New York Times ran a story about Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell’s Dawn Wall climb in Yosemite, commenters have lined up in droves to dump on the climbers’ attempt.

(See AJ’s coverage, Why Is Climbing the Dawn Wall Such a Big Deal?)

They demand to know who will pay for the rescue (the two men haven’t needed a rescue yet in their cumulative hundreds of days spent on El Cap, but in the event of a rescue, it will be paid for by Yosemite Search and Rescue, along with the other 250 rescues they perform each year, 60 percent of which are hikers), where they poop (in a tube that they carry up with them), why they’re allowed to put bolts in the rock (tip: you can’t see the tiny bolts from El Cap Meadow, calm down), and why they aren’t doing something “more useful” with their time (you mean like spending it on the ground, writing comments on internet stories?).

We collected some of the “best” and the most vitriolic, and deliver them to you here (all typographical errors are intellectual property of their respective authors):


Art Lover:
“I don’t think that this activity is an appropriate use of a National Park.”

“It is disgraceful that they are harming million year old rocks. No one should be able to harm any rock over, say, 100,000 years old. Such rocks are the heritage of our children and their children. If we keep defacing all of the rocks, soon there will be none left.”

Hugh MacDonald:
“It’s a shame that the view of El Capitan will be marred for days by two people with nothing better to do than days’ worth (‘Worst case is mid-February.’ Seriously?) of ‘look at me’ moments. I hope the Park Service is charging them for this vanity project. P.S. If they fall, and the ropes catch them, do they go all the way back down and start over? I bet not.”

Scott Stark:
“Aren’t they defacing this wonderful treasure while climbing it?”

me not frugal:
“Not cool to be peeing off the side into the valley. Also really not cool to be defacing El Cap with bolts. That is no way to treat the treasure that is Yosemite. Furthermore, this is not technically a free limb, as they are secured with safety ropes.”


DeDe Greenberg:
“Although I am unsure if it is permanent it seems as if these and other climbers are free to damage the surfaces of the stone walls in America’s national parks in order to get their thrills and publicity.”

“What gets left out of articles like these is:
1. The huge amount of damage to El Capitan by all of the anchors & pitons climbers use.
2. The huge cost to taxpayers every year from rescues of climbers & their medical care since few of them are insured.

“Gives new meaning to ‘1%’.”


“Tom Cruise did something like this for that movie Mission Impossible, not sure if it was the I or the II, but he definitely made it look easy. I actually canceled my own trip to El Capitan after seeing that film, and instead went bow hunting for lion in Kenya. Maybe this year I’ll give it the old spin.”

piet hein:
“Yeah, sail a 32 footer basically single handed from BDA through the Steam to Newport, lets talk, you’re on your own for 650 miles. La Di Da”


“Breaking down individual pitches on a big wall climb is to treat El Cap like a local crag or large rock gym. If you can’t do the climb as one continuous route, put off doing it until you get good enough. Siege mentality is always regarded as bad form. This type of climbing would be laughed off the Diamond.”

Mac Zon:
“Climbing with a safety rope diminishes the danger, and minimizes the suspense of the whole mission. Without a rope, there is no margin of error to overcome the impossible.”

Ray NYC:
“They have supplies delivered to them!? That’s like climbing with a porter. Not legit.”

“And most importantly…Would they actually have done the deed if they were not endlessly tweeting and posting selfies. Somewhere Tenzing Norgay weeps.”

not surprised:
“I’ll be impressed when someone free solos this route, or when someone free climbs it without having to call the media to say ‘Hey! Look at me!'”

“Impressive, but nowhere near as impressive as actually free solo climbing without any ropes, where one slip would mean certain death. Watch the video of the late Dan Osman ascending Lovers Leap on YouTube for comparison. The only serious risk here is failure, which is no big deal.”

“Sorry, but who really cares? Do something that genuinely makes a difference in the world. This is just the latest non-event. Yawnnnnnnn…”

Larry Hoffman
“Everytime I think I”ve heard of the most stupid stunt in the world, some other genius come’s up with a stunt like this. Oh wait, I remember, ‘I did it because it was there!’ I hope their families have paid the life insurance premiums.”


John Moore:
“How much does the Park charge for this nonsense? It better be a lot.”

Tony P La:
“How are they allowed to deface the wall of El Capitan w/bolts and such? Are they paying a fee to Yosemite National Park to be able to do this stunt?”

“I would appreciate NYT doing an analysis of how such undertakings affect the average tax payer.”

“These two are an argument against Universal Health Care….or health Insurance period. Without a doubt one day they will get injured and ask the other insured to pay for them. This happens in extreme sports all the time. Everyone questions football yet the Times did an article on the amount of injured by extreme sports,4 million injured in a 10 year span with a 100 thousand being debilitating or in death. That study ws a ten year span ending in 2011 so with more people participating you know the number has likely grown since it was concluded.…

Yes this takes tremendous courage, or stupidity. Giving it press will only encourage copycats and injury. I don’t know why I/We have to pay for this, do you?”

Air Marshal of Bloviana:
“And when they fall (they do on occasion), what collective pays for the recovery, the taxpayers. Might as well add the Dawn Wall onto the contract with assets that the current concessionaire has already included for sale. Let El Capitan pay for itself!”

Peter C:
“While greatly admiring the athleticism I wonder about another aspect. Having visited Yosemite many times and seen Rangers, medical helicopters and other park resources used to aid climbers, I wonder what -if any- user fees these guys pay to climb on public lands.”


“Let’s be clear: True free climbing means no — as in not a bit of — mechanical assistance. So long as you have the safety harness to catch you as you fall, so long as you have facilities for food and rest, so long as you can avoid the danger of failure: It is a stunt. Or, at best, a demonstration that a true free climb can be achieved, if you are above the need for relief and nourishment. They are not.

“Alex Honnold truly free climbed Sentinel.”

“I do not climb. Just watching makes me ill with fear. Then there are those who react the same way to my going 170 MPH in competitive ‘traffic’. À chacun son goût.”

“Climbers’ jargon aside, this hardly seems like ‘free climbing’ with bolts, porta-ledges and helpers bringing bags of food. If this face of El Capitan can’t be climbed with only ropes for safety, why not just leave it alone?”

Don Peterson
“This will of course be an amazing achievement, but they are obviously climbing with ropes, not free climbing.”

“So much equipment. Who are they kidding!? No hope without the rope.”


“I hope they visit the Himalayas this year, and clean up the base camp an trail for us.”

Robert Frodeman:
“Strikes me as a dumb way to spend one’s time. Dangerous, and for what purpose? A thrill. One should devote such considerable energies to something more constructive.”

“I wish them good luck, safe and success but I really fail to see the point. In the early days it was exploring and charting the unknown and it was very dangerous and exciting. You’d never know who would come back from exploring the Congo, artic, underwater cave. Being able to practice years on a cliff thousands already climbed doesn’t feel as exciting to me.”

Laura Hunt:
“I see stupid stunts like this time and time again and I continue to ask why? Pure ego, it accomplishes absolutely nothing and puts your life at risk, till someonw has to rescue you. Dumb.”

“If they fall, what would they have achieved? A whole load of pain carried by their loved ones. Pointless.”

Ed Burke
“I doubt God will welcome such people if they die doing such life threatening foolhardy escapades. Life is precious, and a gift from God meant to be used for better things and not risked for a thrill. This isn’t like scientific exploration expanding the knowledge of God’s creation. This is simply foolish and irresponsible. There is nothing to be gained in such foolhardy adventures.”

Photo courtesy Tommy Caldwell

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