Examining Adam Ondra’s Dawn Wall Climb

It has now been a week and a half since Czech climber Adam Ondra made history by completing the second free ascent of the Dawn Wall in Yosemite. While his expedition didn’t get nearly as much media attention as Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s first ascent back in 2015, Ondra’s climb was certainly followed closely by the outdoor and adventure crowd. Now, we’re already starting to look back on his accomplishment and trying to give it its fair place in history.

National Geographic Adventure has an interesting article up entitled “How Adam Ondra Crushed Yosemite’s Hardest Rock Climb.” This story tries to put things into perspective by comparing Ondra’s ascent to that of Caldwell and Joregeson, who spent 7 years scouting the wall and 19 days trying to link all of the pieces together to get to the top. In contrast, Ondra was able to do it in just 8 days, although he himself says that he benefited greatly from following in his processors footsteps.

That said however, it should be noted that Caldwell and Jorgeson had years of experience climbing in Yosemite Valley. For Ondra, this was his first visit to that iconic place, and yet he was able to adapt to it fairly quickly. In a little over a month he went from never touching rock in Yosemite, to scaling its most difficult face.

Along the way, he also became the first person to lead each of the 32 pitches on the Dawn Wall as well. Tommy and Kevin took turns doing that, while Adam mostly went it alone. He was joined by climbing partner Pavel Blazek, but he was only there to belay Ondra.

In the Nat Geo article Ondra is quoted as saying “What Tommy and Kevin did was even much more impressive than what I did.” He goes on to add, “I arrived with all the information, they told me the beta, and all I had to do was climb.”

But as the story also points out, even with all of that info, his climb is still incredibly impressive. The speed, athleticism, and skill that he displayed is pretty much unmatched by any other climber in the world right now, which is saying something considering the level of talent that is currently out there.

Nat Geo isn’t the only one talking about Ondra’s climb. Adventure Journal also posted an interesting story about the ascent as well. That article is entitled “Why Adam Ondra’s Dawn Wall Success is so Impressive,” and it to share some great insights into what the young man has accomplished. Basically, the AJ story asserts that the Dawn Wall is the toughest climb in the world (hard to dispute!) and yet Adam made it look fairly easy.

The article goes on to lay out Ondra’s impressive resume – world climbing champ, onsighting some of the toughest routes in the world, etc. – but says that even that wasn’t enough to truly prepare him for the Dawn Wall.

Despite his fantastic displays of skill, there were certainly plenty of doubters (this author included) who thought that he wouldn’t succeed on his first go around in Yosemite. The story also cites his speed and agility on the rock, plus his ability to improvise, as further testament to his place amongst the climbing legends.

Personally, I don’t have too much more to add after reading the two linked articles above. I knew Adam was an incredibly gifted climber prior to this of course, but I originally suspected that he was just going to Yosemite to scout the landscape, and would return for a Dawn Wall attempt at a later date.

He certainly proved me – and all the other doubters – wrong, and I’m happy to admit it. Now, I’m looking forward to whatever he does next. It will be tough to top this, but it should be interesting to see where his skills take him down the road.

Kraig Becker