The Dawn Wall – Amazing Mental Resilience

This real-life climbing documentary was shared by my good friend Dennis O’Connor who suggested I watch The Dawn Wall and I have to say it blew me away. Here is a summary of this amazing feat.

The hardest sheer rock climb in history
Tommy Caldwell’s life of adventure started early. Born in Estes Park, Colorado, his father worked as a mountain guide and exposed his young son to a lot of things that made him into the person he is today.
He made his first roped climb at the tender age of 3 with a homemade harness fashioned out of seatbelt webbing. By 17 he had begun winning sport climbing competitions around the country and was soon living “the dirtbag life” of a pro climber, sleeping in his car, showering at YMCAs and living off $50 a month.
Caldwell faced a huge trauma when he accidentally chopped off his left index finger with a table saw. “That’s a pretty crucial finger for a climber,” he says with a laugh.
Doctors told him his career was over, but Caldwell stubbornly refused to listen to them and soon “began training with a conviction I hadn’t had before.”
Before long, he realized that “my natural abilities weren’t necessarily brute power and strength. They were more about the ability to endure and not give up.”
The ordeal of losing his finger, he insists, became the “launching pad” for everything he’s accomplished since. “I’ve gone from being a total dirtbag,” he says proudly, “to doing quite well.”

The Dawn Wall
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. Their 19-day ascent of the Dawn Wall was considered by some as the hardest successful rock climb in history.
“I picked the biggest, hardest rock face I could imagine and spent six years preparing for it,” Caldwell says. “Some of the sequences of moves took months of rehearsals in order to execute them perfectly, almost like a gymnastics routine.”
Caldwell’s first ascent of the 32-pitch Dawn Wall on El Capitan alongside Kevin Jorgeson captured the imagination of climbers and non-climbers alike – even Barack Obama was impressed.

Worldwide attention
Thrust into the mainstream by inquisitive New York Times journalist John Branch, the story of two men forging the world’s hardest big-wall route up a blank granite face ‘using only their hands and feet’ changed the course of Caldwell’s life and had a major impact both on the climbing industry and public perception of the sport.
Online engagement with climbing-related searches grew by 69% over twelve months due to Dawn Wall mania, while searches related to climbing walls rose by over 200%, according to research by digital marketer Adam Stack. Suddenly, Caldwell’s face was appearing on news programmes, TV adverts and even cereal boxes.
Despite being in the glare of the spotlight, Caldwell hasn’t let fame get to his head. He’s a self-proclaimed introvert for whom the often sensationalist Dawn Wall media frenzy was not in his comfort zone.  
Perhaps the greatest, most fulfilling outcome of climbing the Dawn Wall, however, was the personal growth that Caldwell achieved through the process, resulting in reconciling differences with his father, meeting his wife-to-be, Becca, and becoming a father himself.

The Dawn Wall
This is by far the best documentary I have ever watched. It has everything including endurance, grit, resilience, friendship and fulfilling a lifelong dream. There were times in this documentary where I filled up with emotion and I was shocked at the level of endurance and ‘never give up’ attitude.

There were a few points during the documentary which stick out for me.

  1. He cut his finger off which should have ended his climbing career, but it did the opposite.
  2. The amazing filming of the whole climb with cameramen abseiling down to film the climbers. You feel as though you are part of the action.
  3. The way they slept in tents on the side of the rock face – amazing!
  4. The pain they went through with skin tearing off and agonising attempts to cross certain parts of the wall. Often attempting these crossings through the night.
  5. The way they could hang on by their fingertips was breath-taking.
  6. The number of attempts Jorgeson made to cross the most difficult part of the rock over several days. I was worn out watching him and I was rooting for him.
  7. The way that Caldwell refused to climb to the top himself and went back to support Jorgeson in his attempt to cross this most difficult part of the climb. It took days and I believe that Caldwell wouldn’t have gone on alone without his friend. That is true friendship.
  8. They spent 6 years preparing for the climb with meticulous planning and detail.

There are so many life lessons in the documentary, and it inspired me greatly to see two friends working together to achieve this near impossible feat.
Thoughts for the week

  1. If you have Netflix, then I recommend you watch this documentary. If you do watch it please reply to one of my blogs and let me know what you think of it.
  2. Two working together made this feat possible. Do you have anyone you know who you can work with to achieve some bigger things in your life?
  3. Two people working together often have more success than working on your own.
  4. This week reflect on anything you have yet to achieve and ask yourself if there is anyone you know who can help you achieve it?  

Well that’s it for this week have a wonderful weekend and keep believing!
Warm regards


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