In the lead up to Tommy and Kevin’s shows in Australia, Dave Barnes has set a simulator of the dyno on ptch 16 (5.14c/34) at Rockit climbing gym in Hobart. To conjure the right level of psych for the move, and in ‘to-be-like-your-hero-think-like-your-hero’ tradition, here he waxes lyrical about the move and the moment.
History has a way of drawing straight lines crookedly. Pitch 16 on The Dawn Wall is crowded with new climbing history and what follows focuses on just a part of it…
Cream granite with patches of white dominate the eye. Kevin Jorgeson looks at Tommy Caldwell, Tommy looks up. Examine, mimic, compute. The climb is a riddle to be figured out and the pitches are a process. This is the 16th pitch for these two climbers and they are only halfway from completing the riddle.
This wall hangs like 85 degrees, a subtle breeze whispers a thousand feet above the green below. The climbers can smell the trees. Kevin and Tommy have been up here so long I’m sure the trees can smell them.
Licking chapped lips, Tommy leaves the portaledge and steps onto the vertical field, moving to the corner of the shadow and the light. The heat is calling but friction needs his cool.
So it goes. A dab of chalk, he blows the excess off. Up to an okay crimp, then he crosses, delicate, slow and measured to an uncut rail. Tommy has been visualising this set of moves for way too many years.
Each crimp and edge is both frightening and electrifying. Eyes are fixed like an assassin on its target. Chalk is a breadth for each hand.
Starting left foot, 75 degrees from right hand.
‘Breathe in bro.’ says the Tommy inside.
Right foot is sloped but Tommy’s mind is sharp. Hand is arching, right foot 34 inches down and right again at 74 degrees, a tentative touch down on a small nipple, rock over.
‘Breathe out bro,’ says the Kevin downside.
A wild rhythm beats in Tommy’s head. Doubt pronounces itself like an Indian drum, it gets louder and its rhythm rises as he employs the sequence for each hold.
A back yard woody.
An eight-and-a-half-foot obsession.
That moment draws.
Tommy’s forearms are his weapons but he has no rounds left in the chamber. Now each one demands his attention like a child its mother.
Kevin has encouraging words, short and meaningful so they don’t get lost in a big sky or in Tommy’s full mind. A morning steam rises from Kevin’s lips as these warm words interact with cold air. A cool backdrop with a rope between them.
‘Nice Tommy – Common.’
Tommy flows delicately, silently, towards that destiny hold. Every other thing on the planet is frozen. The move is all that matters. He is The Iceman.
Each with a capital, each has its place on this delicate pitch.
Reaching for that elusive hold requires fight and flight – an 8.5 foot dyno on the red side of extraordinary requiring a reach beyond most climbers reality – a 1 and 1 1/2 inch pad input ledge. Over there that prized hold waits – refuge and jail break all in one place. It faces the wrong direction.
Blood pressure rises quicker than conviction. Tommy’s bones message for ibuprofen but his brain is seeking the send.
Can Tommy stick it?
Moments like these battles are won and lost. Tommy is fixed for the barn door dyno.
Kevin is the only voice in the big empty. He knows what’s at stake as Tommy approaches the dyno, he fractured his ankle trying this very move years past. Bygones. He just wants Tommy to send that free spirit move. 3000 feet of stone comes down to individual moves.
This pitch, tenuous and unyielding, is all about this sequence. The moment has come – a pregnant pause only climbers understand.
Coiled like a snake, Tommy is called to one final burst. Kevin watches his partner groove on that granite dance floor pushing off edges that would have lessor feet sliding.
There is Tommy. Determined flight,
A sideways dive to the hold of no regrets.
A tiny soul on a big chunk of rock. Future in motion.
Who will claim the key that unlocks that dyno pitch and set it free? There are two climbers in this party and a lot of pitches to climb. There is enough Dawn Wall cake for both of them. Who will claim this piece?
Little people, big challenge. There are stories being pitched up there on The Big Stone, dreams being lived in the daylight.
Two men, Tommy and Kevin losing plenty of skin but not their faith in each other.
The sun now covers the wall. It’s a new dawn. What will it bring and who will bring it?
Dawn Wall Dyno Dimensions
The wall is 85 degrees. Dyno 101in at 9 degrees up from decent crimp to away slanting 1 and 1/2 pad incut rail.
Starting left foot: 30in down and left at 74 degrees from starting hand. Foot is slopey.
Right foot: 34in down and right at 77 degree foot is a small nipple.