How did the Dawn Wall become Big Big News


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Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Jan 17, 2015 - 06:39pm PT
Tom Evans

It doesn't matter if the story is gone in a week... it had its moment in the sun and the world got to watch something uplifting and wonderful for a time, in a world covered in blood and death. We all needed a breather from all that horror.

For me it was very difficult for a time, due to continuous demands made on me, coupled with a terrible diet, little sleep, and the photographic demands. Most of the time I was shooting it was really cold and I had lost my tolerance for it in the Alps in 69, when caught in a terrible storm. Most evenings I had a hard exhaustion buzzzz going and felt sick to my stomach. I just hoped I would get up in the morning and go again.

I worked hard because I felt an obligation to Adidas, who were paying my expenses and because of Tommy and Kevin... I wanted to give them the best I had in explaining the story, as I knew and admired both of them. I also wanted ElCap to get the respect that I have always felt it deserved in the history of the sport. This was not like my regular spring and fall gigs where we hang at the Bridge or in the meadow and mostly talk sh#t and lay around with a Cobra or two.

Also I had just been taken on by Adidas Outdoor and I didn't want to let them down or have them think poorly of me. I had not signed up for any of this media stuff... just to take some shots and a few videos of the climb. That would turn out to be the easy part!

Now I must admit to feeling a deep sense of pride as a result of the experience... like the climbers themselves... I had manned up and gotten the job done... not as a young man full of energy, but a geezer at 70. And I had spent 20 years out there shooting and learning about ElCap and here I was given this one last chance to show what I was made of... Our little team of 4 or so people had gotten out ahead of the story and made a big impact on the direction it went. We ended up being the "mouse that roared!!"

My aim was to show the world that the character, integrity , and tenacity of the men was, as, or more important than, the numbers on each pitch. That is what turned the story for me and I told that to every interviewer I spoke to. My emphasis on these characteristics was I believe what elevated the story to a higher level as opposed to just stating the numbers and climbing ability of the men. In the ECR I could get in the details that climbers wanted to read about with the shots I took. Probably, more than anything I have ever done in this sport, I will be remembered for these 19 days, and I didn't want anything to go wrong. I was never anything more than an average climber with more tenacity than skill, a fact that my detractors like to throw in my face from time to time. I never claimed to be anything but an average climber.

Blah, blah, blah... and that is the way it was... the inside story ... they say we all are tested in life, but not at the time or in the way we expect. I was tested and I came through... it doesn't get any better than that for me.


Trad climber
The state of confusion
Jan 17, 2015 - 07:14pm PT

I still like the Wall of the Early Morning Light. . .

it just has a nicer ring to it.

Boulder climber
Jan 17, 2015 - 07:36pm PT
Yea it's interesting to see how big this climb has become in relation to other climbs to the media and general public, compared to how big this climb is compared to other climbs to climbers.

In the ny times article the climbers were quoted saying "I think the larger audiences conception is that we're thrill seekers out there for an adrenaline rush. We really aren't at all. It's about spending our lives in these beautiful places and forming these incredible bonds." The other said "I hope it inspires others to find their own Dawn Wall."

What do other's Dawn Walls look like? Becoming a teacher in a poor urban environment? Becoming a student who is born into poverty (more than half of public school children in the US!) and tries to fight their way out of poverty? Maybe others also do it for the "incredible bonds"?

In the context of human existence, are we really sure that our view of ourselves and our accomplishments and glory isn't more accurately reflected by the general public's perception of the thrill of seeking adrenaline? Maybe it's just not a belief that we like, so we just don't believe it. Nice view from there. Maybe the media is as accurate to us as we are to ourselves. Praise Jesus!
Flip Flop

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Jan 17, 2015 - 08:03pm PT
Some stories are telling a bigger story. This isn't just about this one climb or Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgensen. This is a herald of the epics of Yosemite's golden age. It is the story that tells America what climbing really means. It calls attention to the epic history being made. It's about Tom Evans. It's about Lynn. And Alex and Libby and Mayan. And a lot more. Of course you all already know this.

P.s. And it's about Werner and Locker, too. Without a doubt.
Flip Flop

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Jan 17, 2015 - 08:14pm PT
I was at the rock gym with my son, Sasha and his buddy Barack. Barack is a year older and Sasha really feels the brotherly competition. Well Sasha wanted to gloat a little because he thinks that he's better.
Barack's mom and I were actively talking about the climbing team on The Free Dawn Wall. Without pause I just asked the boys if they knew what it takes to do great climbs?
"Strength" they both said.
"A good team mate." I said.
"Did you know that one of the climbers waited a week for his team mate to get strong enough to catch up?"
" A week!" They both said.
God I love kids.
Today is Mohamed Ali's Birthday and I read that "Ali is today widely regarded for the skills he displayed in the ring plus the values he exemplified outside of it: religious freedom, racial justice and the triumph of principle over expedience."
" The triumph of principle over expedience." Nice.

Trad climber
Upland, CA
Jan 17, 2015 - 08:36pm PT
Good topic, and Great inside story details, Tom and Largo.

I have to say, I was quite amazed at how big this story got in the mainstream media. Yes this achievement was fantastic, but IMHO, lots of climbers do fantastic things all the time, in all the climbing realms. Usually, no one cares about it but other climbers.

This got so big that my sister, who only watches the local news in their small town, sent me a text message about what an amazing thing this was. I don't think she had any idea of why it was great, but the media told her it was great so she assumed it would be important to me because I climb.

Mountain climber
Olympia, WA
Jan 17, 2015 - 09:36pm PT
When "good news" like this make the headlines and mainstream, it's a big deal. This was and is a big deal. We need more good news like this.

Trad climber
Jan 17, 2015 - 11:11pm PT
A debt of gratitude to Capt Tom for his work and persistence in bringing the story to the world. I read the Dawn Wall El Cap Reports daily, what a wild ride it was. Thank you sir.
Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Jan 17, 2015 - 11:21pm PT
One thing this climb did do was bring the focus of the world climbing community back again to Yosemite Valley as a place where standards of absolute difficulty are established. And how!

London, UK
Jan 18, 2015 - 01:09am PT
Fascinating stuff. Thanks especially to Tom and Largo for their insights. Tom, I hope Adidas paid you with more than beer (and a nifty looking new down jacket)! The message was extremely well delivered as this has been a remarkably accurate and positive depiction of climbing in the mass media.

I had lots of lay friends and work colleagues asking me about El Capitan, and my offspring insisted sleeping on my portaledge at home, respect at last!
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