Mountain Monday: An Evening with Tommy Caldwell

World renowned climber talks about the Dawn Wall, family and grit at sold-out presentation hosted by Clif Bar

By Meggan Wenbourne

Watch Tommy Caldwell climb pitch 15 (5.14c) on first free ascent of the Dawn Wall on Yosemite’s El Capitan. Caldwell says, “The crux holds of pitch 15 are some of the smallest and sharpest holds I have ever attempted to hold onto.”


Walking into the Clif Bar Headquarters in Emeryville, CA, you cannot help but envy the set up and enthusiasm basically leaching from the walls. Not only am I in an inspiring setting, but I am here to listen to one of the most talked about climbing athletes in the world – Tommy Caldwell – the Dawn Wall Dominator.

wenbourne-caldwellThe evening starts off with a brief, hilarious introduction by the one and only Timmy O’Neill – full time climber, director of Paradox Sports, and part time comedian (at least, he should be). A couple of poignant, yet obscene jokes later and we are taking off with Tommy as he gives us a play by play of some of the most inspirational and heart wrenching moments that have made up the last couple decades of his life. The evening – a benefit for Paradox Sports – lasted an hour and a half, but it could have gone on for hours as far as I’m concerned.

Tommy Caldwell has been thrown into the spotlight on a global scale as he and climbing partner, Kevin Jorgenson, recently completed what is being called the hardest free climb in the world – the Dawn Wall in Yosemite, California.

What struck me more than anything else about Tommy’s presentation was the fact that he was there and in front of this crowd of people who basically idolized him for doing exactly what he wanted to do with no rule book or need to impress anyone. He was taking on these seemingly impossible feats for no one else but himself.

With a new young family and a book on the way, Tommy Caldwell describes to us the core values that have helped him to go above and beyond what anyone ever thought possible for him and his life. His vision and drive to complete the incredible obstacles he has overcome not only in climbing, but in all aspects of life, is an astounding reminder to live life for yourself – you cannot do it for other people.

When asked of his son and his hopes for his life ahead, Tommy responds coolly and explains his hopes to raise his son Fitz with “grit” and teach him to love the outdoors, the way his father did for him. He goes on to tell us he hopes to be a good role model for his little boy and teach him to persevere even in the face of doubt and hardship – the way he did with his quest for the Dawn Wall.

The message I took home from Tommy’s presentation and the Q&A afterwards was humility. This man has accomplished so much in the vertical world and yet, you would never know it by speaking with him. He claims the only thing he is actually good at is climbing and he has been fortunate enough to make a living and a life from it. Maybe if we all walked around with the cool, collected nature of Tommy Caldwell we’d all be sending 14d’s on the regular… I’ll keep you posted.


Clif Bar is well known for its commitment to community service, environmental sustainability and employee benefits. Paradox Sports is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that improves people’s lives by creating physical adaptive sport communities built to inspire. Read about Tommy Caldwell’s free ascent of the Dawn Wall with partner Kevin Jorgeson here.


Meg-IndiansMeggan Wenbourne is an avid climber, mountain biker and backpacker who works and plays in Santa Cruz, CA. She spends her time traveling to the mountains as often as possible to get lost in the pine trees and explore the granite rock of the Sierra Nevada range and has recently developed an obsession with the desert and its red rocks. When not away on an adventure, she can be found eating burritos and training at Pacific Edge Climbing Gym, riding amazing trails in the Santa Cruz Mountains or nestled away in her cozy tiny house with cookies and adventure reading.

1 Comment

  1. I found the article engaging starting with the first paragraph. I’m not a climber so wanting to try it for the first time is what I took from this.

    Reply

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