kottke.org posts about climbing

Climbing the Dawn WallJan 21 2015

Last week, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson completed the first free ascent of The Dawn Wall on Yosemite's El Capitan. It's been called the most difficult climb ever completed. The NY Times has some good coverage of the climb, including an interactive feature/map of the wall and a 3.4 gigapixel zoomable photograph of the climb in progress. Here's a 3-minute video of Caldwell navigating Pitch 15, one of the most difficult sections of the climb:

"The crux holds of pitch 15 are some of the smallest and sharpest holds I have ever attempted to hold onto," Tommy wrote on his Facebook page. Four unique camera angles reveal those minuscule holds and the 1,300 feet of exposure under Tommy's precarious foot placements. While multiple pitches of extremely difficult climbing remained above, the completion of pitch 15 was considered the last major hurdle to the eventual success of this seven-year project.

It gets intense around 1:30. Jesus, my palms are sweating right now. I feel like I'm gonna pass out! (via @sippey)

Update: I totally didn't notice but several people pointed this out on Twitter: Caldwell only has 4 fingers on his left hand. He cut off his index finger with a table saw, got it reattached, and then removed again so it wouldn't hinder his climbing.1

And as if completing the most difficult climb in the world with only 9 fingers and discarding a finger to pursue a passion isn't quite enough for one life, Caldwell and some friends were captured by rebels while climbing in Kyrgyzstan. Caldwell helped save the group by pushing one of their captors over a cliff.

All the scheming comes to nothing, until at one point three of the rebels go away leaving a lone man in charge of the captives as they climb a steep ridge. Then, near the top ...

Tommy Caldwell: Our captor sees that the hillside is easing off and he starts to run ahead. He has been really scared this whole time on this cliff because he's not a climber. So I asked Beth if she thinks I should do this.

Beth Rodden: And at that point I just thought that this was our best opportunity.

Tommy Caldwell: So I ran up behind him and grabbed him by his gun strap and pulled him over the edge. We were probably about 2,000 feet (610 meters) above the river, but it's a cliff that is pretty sheer. We saw him fall 20 feet (6 meters), bounce off this ledge, and then fall basically into the black abyss below. I totally panicked. I broke down. I couldn't believe I'd just done that, because it's something that I never morally thought I could do and I never wanted to do. And Beth came up and, you know, gave me a lot of comfort as well as Jason and John.

Beth Rodden: I told him he'd just saved our lives and now we had this opportunity to run and hopefully find the Kyrgyz Army.

Reading that story makes my palms sweat almost as much as watching the video. Jesus.

  1. Little known fact: there's a photo of Caldwell's severed finger next to the definition of "dedication" in the dictionary.

Ice climber takes a tumbleMar 11 2013

While ice climbing in Wales, Mark Roberts gets hit by some ice and falls more than 100 feet...and his helmet cam caught the whole thing.

He was not seriously injured but that fall went on for way longer than I expected. (via @DavidGrann)

Speed climbing tall mountainsApr 19 2011

The first ascent of the north face of Eiger, a mountain in the Swiss Alps (13,025 feet tall), happened in 1938 and took three days. Watch as Ueli Steck climbs it in 2 hours, 47 minutes, and 33 seconds.

The whole thing is pretty much insane, but you'll really want to start paying attention around the 2:15 mark. He's running up that mountain! (via devour)

Nobody falls up mountainsNov 05 2010

Four boarding school friends (the charmer, the looker, the student, and the joker) attempted to scale Mont Blanc and only two came back alive. Two of the four had previously scaled Everest at 19 (without sherpas) and followed that up by travelling from the North Pole to the South Pole using only manpower and natural power. So what went wrong on Mont Blanc?

They spent their first two days with an emphasis on safety measures. Lebon and Atkinson were well advised of Mont Blanc's singular reputation. Any seasoned climber, when contemplating the world's most dangerous mountains, looks first to the Himalayas -- to Annapurna, K2, Nanga Parbat. These monsters are as forbidding as they come, and therefore have the highest fatality rates. Four out of 10 climbers who ascend Annapurna die there.

Mont Blanc comes in somewhere after Everest, the Matterhorn, and Denali, in Alaska, but in sheer numbers it kills more climbers than the whole lot of them combined. It is the Siren of major mountains; gracious and popular, it is summited by 20,000 climbers a year -- pretty much anyone can climb the thing, if not safely. But it lures overly ambitious suitors too high or deep, then brutalizes them.

Alpine camping gearMay 06 2008

BLDGBLOG on the architecture of alpine camping gear.

Viewed architecturally, these examples of high-tech camping gear -- capable of housing small groups of people on the vertical sides of cliffs, as if bolted into the sky -- begin to look like something dreamed up by Archigram: nomadic, modular, and easy to assemble even in wildly non-urban circumstances. This is tactical gear for the spatial expansion of private leisure.

Don't miss the gorgeous accompanying graphic.

A bunch of climbers took a portableOct 09 2007

A bunch of climbers took a portable jacuzzi up to the top of Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in the Alps, and took a soak. The photos are crazy. (via stupid)

Designers often have the design disease, whereJan 25 2007

Designers often have the design disease, where you "can't stop looking at things through your designer eyes". "But it's not just books, it's everything. You'll choose wine by the design of the label and you'd stay [at a hotel] because of the sign." (via emdashes)

Update: Bruce writes: "A parallel affliction to the Design Disease is Climber's Complaint, wherein someone who takes up rock climbing begins to see every object and architecture as potentially climbable. Similarly, Skater's Disorder afflicts those for whom every surface is seen to exhibit some measure of skate-worthiness."

What do you do when you haveOct 19 2005

What do you do when you have a 9-to-5 job and you need to prepare for an upcoming climb by spending weeks at high altitudes? You put your office desk into an altitude chamber.

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