|Warren Harding||–||1970||The first aided ascent of The Dawn Wall. It took Warren and Dean 28 days to complete. Video|
|Tommy Caldwell||5.14d||14th Jan 2015||Tommy and Kevin achieved the unachievable by making the first free ascent of The Dawn Wall Video|
|Kevin Jorgeson||5.14d||14th Jan 2015||Kevin’s biggest struggle was in Pitch 15, the boulder problem, and took him a couple of days to get past it. Video|
|Adam Ondra||5.14d||21st Nov 2016||Adam Ondra made the second free ascent of The Dawn Wall in just 8 days. Instagram Post|
The Dawn Wall, just like the rest of El Capitan, is a storied rock face that has tried and tested some of the biggest names in climbing. In a sense, it is a paragon for the evolution of rock climbing as a sport; every stage, every era of climbing history gets some degree of representation on this, the most hallowed of Yosemite’s big walls. Only one route up this massive, blank face has gone free; its namesake – The Dawn Wall.
At the end of the 1960s, the Golden Age of Yosemite climbing was coming to a close. The Masters of Stone, a distinctly innovative and adventurous generation of climbers, were filtering out of the Valley, either too old or too tired to keep up the break-neck pace they had maintained for so long.
With death knells sounding for this, the most foundational age of Yosemite climbing, a crusty man knocking on middle age emerged from his bivvy sack in Camp 4 for one last big project. The legend himself, Warren Harding.
Harding had been at the forefront of climbing progression in Yosemite and the Eastern Sierra since the early 1950s. He was the first man up many of the routes that we free-climbers cherish to this day: The Keeler Needle on Mt. Whitney, the Southwest Face of Mt. Conness in the Yosemite high country and many more.
With Wayne Merry and George Whitmore, Harding completed the first ascent of The Nose on El Capitan in 1958. Although many disagreed with the means used to gain the summit, Harding was known for endlessly pushing the envelope, establishing milestones and issuing a not-so-quiet challenge to other climbers to “catch him if they could.” His first ascent of The Nose is just the latest example of his boldness and creativity.
Wall of Glory
First Aid Ascent: Warren Harding and Dean Caldwell
First Free Ascent: Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson
14th Jan 2015
Second Free Ascent: Adam Ondra
21st Nov 2016
Since Adam Ondra, The Dawn Wall is yet to see another repeat. Every climber who has dared to try has met with failure. Nalle Hukkataival and Ignacio Mulero gave the challenging route a shot in early 2020, but their endeavor was halted by unfavorable weather.
In the early part of 2022, Siebe Vanhee and Seb Berthe initiated their own climb of The Dawn Wall. Despite a grueling struggle, Berthe found himself stuck at Pitch 14 and was forced to back down.
This underscores the immense difficulty of the route, with even the most skilled climbers meeting their match. The Dawn Wall is destined to remain a historical testament to one of the most formidable challenges in the realm of rock climbing.