Mescalito live on El Capitan by Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson
American climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson report directly from El Capitan in Yosemite with updates about their progress on what has become known as the immensely difficult Mescalito Dawn Wall project.
Internet has revolutionised everything, literally everything. In our vertical sphere, it's completely changed the way we find out about events from the summits and the crags, at times even real-time while climbers still are still untying their knots or alpinists are still descending to the safety of their base camp... This obviously means that the way some people take to the mountains has changed, too, and more and more people - not only super athletes - are using these technologies to share their adventures up high.
There have been many beautiful examples in the past, like the American expedition comprised of Alex Lowe, Mark Synnott and Jared Ogden to the Great Trango Tower which was followed live with graphics, technology and a level of interactivity (just think, after climbing each day they answered all the emails!) which would be considered cutting-edge even today. What is even more amazing is that this all took place back in 1999, when internet was still relatively embryonic.
That same year the late Tomas Humar checked in online with his odyssey up the South Face of Dhaulagiri, a climb which had record access statistics with viewers not only in his home Slovenia but from across the globe. A decade has passed since then and in the meantime there have been many other interesting examples and, importantly, technology has made giant, unrecognisable leaps forward: all one needs now is to send a simple sms or photo to be online on a personal blog, facebook or twitter.
At present two exceptional American climbers, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, are experimenting with these apps: the two are on El Capitan in Yosemite with their sights set on a project they'd started last autumn: a free line with unites the famous Mescalito with New Dawn, two cult routes to the right of the famous The Nose.
For those who don't know this duo, Caldwell is certainly one of the most expert big wallers in the States, having climbed almost all the routes on El Capitan (worth mentioning is his mammoth free ascent of The Nose and Freerider in a single day in 2005), while Kevin Jorgeson is a highly talented boulderer who obviously has a penchant for new challenges: this one has been defined by some as being a project for the next decade.
This might be a slight exaggeration, but while some routes such as The Nose and Salathe follow a series of moderately difficult pristine cracks to reach a few extremely difficult crux pitches (valley expert Chris McNamara estimates that 90% of the climbing on these routes is easier than 7a), the exact opposite holds true for Mescalito, where perhaps 80% of the climbing is harder than 7b+ and at least four pitches are reckoned to be above 8b.
As mentioned, the two had worked hard in October 2009 but snow then stopped play. Spring has now arrived and tomorrow the two plan to ascend the fixed ropes to explore the four remaining unclimbed pitches, and as they ascend Jorgeson will send short texts and photos directly from the wall from his IPhone. If you're interested in keeping up-to-date about their daily progress check out this link, and in the meantime enjoy this brief video which shows one of the crux sections on the route, a massive sideways dyno which is practically unthinkable at ground level. We don't dare think what it's like 500m above the valley!
Mescalito Project, El Capitan