Monday, March 2, 2015

Enjoying the Snow

A few weeks back I realized that we hadn't taken Fitz downhill skiing in the backcountry at all.  We've gone on tours in RMNP with Fitz in the Chariot, but we hadn't given him the chance to experience what it's like to make turns in the white stuff while going "fast".  Since arriving home from the Dawn Wall life has been hectic.  For over two weeks straight Tommy had back-to-back scheduled phone calls - either interviews or meetings about something.  I spent most of the business days helping him manage his schedule and incoming messages.  We were working real office jobs.  We are fortunate that most of our life is spent getting outside and breathing in the fresh air.  For a little bit there, we really struggled with getting on top of the massive weight of messages and requests coming our way.  Tommy's sanity usually depends on days outside and we were both feeling stir crazy.  Not to mention Fitz.  Estes has had a pretty good little winter the past couple of weeks, and getting out in it has been the perfect way to balance everything out.  

Estes is typically a windy place and the best way to deal with the wind is to get out to Hidden Valley or somewhere else in the park and get into the trees and skin uphill.  Hidden Valley used to be a ski resort when Tommy was younger.  Back in the day Estes wouldn't have school on Wednesdays in the winter and there would be a bus to bring kids to the resort in the park (according to Tommy's memory).  Since then they have removed all of the lifts and now it's an amazing place to go alpine touring.  On weekends with fresh powder the parking lot fills up and there are tons of psyched people enjoying the mountains and the workout.  

Last spring we traveled a TON and weren't home very much to enjoy the skiing in the park.  It's been really fun getting back to it and showing Fitz the ropes.  The way he squeals with joy when we go down and says "I want more" when we're done brings a big smile to my and Tommy's face.  It gets me really excited for the day he skins up himself and gets to enjoy all of his hard work as he carves perfect lines in the fresh powder on his way down!!

Fitz and Tommy making their way up, up, up!

So psyched to be out!

Fitz trying out some skis at home.


Rallied with Fitz this morning to enjoy the fresh stuff!  Wasn't sure if I was going to be able to make it down very gracefully but we survived and it was a ton of fun!  

Apres ski fort building with the Zehrs!

Not sure if the kiddos had more fun or the parents.  Pretty sweet fort with snowmen guards.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Thank You

Tommy just darted out the door to hike up to the top of El Capitan and start cleaning all of their equipment off of the Dawn Wall.  I sit here with a lot of thoughts swirling through my head.  This has been the case for the past 3 weeks.  Every night and every morning my brain has been running.  I have had to take advantage of the time to process my thoughts while Fitz sleeps, and these past few days have been full of excitement and interviews and making sure Tommy and his voice are taken care of and still giving Fitz the love he needs, and there hasn't been much of a moment to think about all that has happened.

I'm not going to get into those thoughts today as Fitz is going to wake up soon, but I do need to say thank you.  Thank you for all of the support to Tommy and I and the rest of our family.  Thanks for joining along on this journey and being inspired and drawn in.  The Dawn Wall has been something that I have believed in since the beginning, and to see it come to fruition and to get to share it all has been special.  Things are often better shared.  The moments that people have reached out and told us how this climb has inspired them has often brought me to tears.  It's such a beautiful thing to see people gather around behind this.  I've said it before, but what this climb is about is what is human in all of is what binds us all together.  It seems it's always easy to break someone down, and people have risen above and built each other up in this.  That moves me.

I don't mean for this to be cliche or sappy, but all I can say is Thank You.

A shout out from the President of the United States!

So proud of who Tommy is and all of his accomplishments.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Day 17 on the Dawn Wall

Tommy commuting to work. Photo:Corey Rich

Fitz and I decided to head back to Yosemite yesterday and made it in last night. It was so fun seeing Tommy and Kevin up on the wall. Kevin managed to get to Wino last night so that means we get to be reunited with Tommy so soon!  Internet is sparse where we are staying but I will do my best to keep you updated!  

Fitz remembered right where our secret spot in the meadow was. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Day 16 on the Dawn Wall

Today the guys decided to rest.  Tomorrow Kevin will try to make it up to Wino, and then it's up up up to the top for him and Tommy.  Fitz and I cannot wait to be reunited with Tommy again!!    Fitz just went to bed and I'm going to take an hour to rest my self.  :)  It's been a busy couple of weeks!  We will see you tomorrow!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Day 15 on the Dawn Wall

Kevin cruised through pitch 16 today and 17 today!  After 17 was done the weather said there was going to be a 100% chance of rain for a few hours, oddly enough, so they called it for the day.  Tomorrow they are hoping to get Kevin up to Wino Tower so he and Tommy can start working towards the summit together!!  SO EXCITING!!!!  The pitches Kevin needs to take down tomorrow are still hard pitches, but he is flying high from getting pitch 15 and 16 done and I don't think it'll be a problem.

Thank you everyone for all of your cheers and support.  The guys appreciate it and so do I.  It has been amazing to see so many people rally behind Tommy and Kevin.  This really is an awesome feat of perseverance and hard work and it's been fun getting to share it all with everyone.  Even those naysayers who don't understand it.  :)  Let's get these guys to the top!!!

Here's some psyche from the portaledge today.  Corey and Brett and the rest of the crew capturing this all have been doing an amazing job, and I can't wait to see what comes of their hard work!!  Photo:  Corey Rich

Friday, January 9, 2015

Day 14 on the Dawn Wall

Today marks 2 weeks of living on El Cap for Tommy and Kevin.  For spending this much time up there, it doesn't seem like it has been too bad.  I'm sure since their focus is dialed in so intensely on this climb there isn't a place they would rather be or are thinking about.

The weather in the Valley this morning was overcast with cooler temps and some wind.  As a climber on the Dawn Wall, these are dream conditions.  And they happened to roll in just in time.  I imagine Kevin felt today needed to be the day that 15 went down.  According to Tommy, Kevin showed pitch 15 what was up firing it off second try.  This was huge!!!

Kevin quickly moved up to pitch 16 to start working it out.  Pitch 16 has 2 holds that happen to be 8 feet apart from each other.  In order for Kevin to get from one hold to the next he just leaps.  No big deal (read sarcasm).  Kevin is amazing at dynamic moves like this, and can usually stick it quite consistently.  The tricky part is that he needs to complete the dyno, catch his breath, and then climb a 5.14 technical corner (where Tommy's loop around pitch met up).  If he slips on the technical part, he has to go back down and start all over again...with the dyno. w!  The combination of these things makes this pitch hard.  He gave it a few more full hearted efforts this evening, and will hopefully send the beast tomorrow!  It's going to be another battle to finish off 16, but nothing Kevin can't do!!!  Let's go Kev!  Tomorrow is the day 16 goes down!!!


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Day 13 on the Dawn Wall

I sit down to type this with tears welling in my eyes.  That might sound over emotional or a little weird to some of you, but I can't even begin to understand and explain what has all led up to this moment.  The Dawn Wall started out as a little bit of an escape from a deep pain Tommy felt from the sadness of splitting up with his former wife.  He deemed the wall impossible to free climb.  He came back to it a year later, and with the excitement of a budding relationship between us decided that The Dawn Wall just might be possible.  Our relationship began with this route, and The Dawn Wall has weaved its way through our lives together over the past 6 years.

Hearing from Tommy that he finished pitches 19 & 20 tonight and stepped onto Wino Tower having free climbed all of the 5.13-5.14 pitches below him finally allowed me to take a little breath.  I've mostly kept my feelings about this attempt locked in a box.  I didn't know what was going to happen...even after the hard 12, 14, 15, and 16th pitches.  Wino was the place that I felt if he made it that far...this thing would be possible.  I didn't realize he felt the same way, too.  He stood atop Wino Tower with tears in his own eyes tonight.  This journey isn't over yet, but we can start to see what it might look like standing on top of this route...and it's beautiful.

Tommy will now go down and be support for Kevin as he works some more on pitch 15.  Good luck to Kevin - thankful for all of his support to Tommy.  You've got this!!   And congratulations on getting this far, baby.  I'm so proud of you.

A kiss after Tommy topped out on the sea cliffs of Malta.  Photo:  Corey Rich

Day 12 on the Dawn Wall

In 2011 Kevin had injured his ankle and was unable to give the Dawn Wall a push attempt.  To fill in I went up with Tommy, belaying him on the wall for 10 days.  At the end of 10 days living off the ground I came down feeling weak.  I felt like my deep core had lost its strength.  Granted, I wasn't climbing, just jumaring (ascending the ropes behind Tommy), but it was interesting to see what living in that environment did to your body.  I don't know the science behind it all or how this type of living really affects your body, but I think walking and the way gravity puts force on our bodies when we're on the ground naturally gives them a little strength.  Being in a walking position strengthens your core because you have to hold your upper body upright.  Tommy and Kevin are doing a lot of stretching and exercises while they are on their portaledges, and they are of course climbing, so that helps to keep their bodies in shape, but I think despite that, living on the wall slowly takes its toll on your body.

There are 4 pitches between pitch 16 and Wino Tower (one of the few ledge features on the Dawn Wall).  These 4 pitches are a bit easier than the crux pitches that Tommy just climbed through, but they are still difficult and require Tommy and Kevin to be climbing really well to finish them.  As Kevin rests his skin so he can finish pitch 15, it is important for Tommy to be able to keep climbing to keep his fitness up.  Tommy and Kevin decided yesterday that while Kevin rested Tommy would attempt to climb up to Wino Tower.  Last night Tommy was able to climb pitches 17 and 18, which are both mid 5.13 in difficulty.  Tonight he will attempt to finish pitches 19 and 20.  Once Tommy has completed these last two pitches to Wino Tower he will just focus on being support for Kevin while he tries to finish pitch 15 and work his way to catch back up to Tommy.  

Checking out the views after a snowstorm when I belayed Tommy on the Dawn Wall in 2011.  Photo:  Big UP Productions

2011 Portaledge selfie.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Day 11 on the Dawn Wall + more

Yesterday was day 11 on the Dawn Wall and Tommy and Kevin's hopes were high that the skin on Kevin's fingers were healing up well and it was going to be possible for him to really give pitch 15 a good go.  Pitch 15, however, bit back and re-injured the skin on his fingertips.  This is frustrating to say the least.  Kevin knows the moves and I'm sure has mentally sent this pitch a million times, but the Dawn Wall doesn't relent very easily.  The sharpness of the holds on the crux pitches has added an element of difficulty to this route on top of finding the right weather and conditions and the difficulty of the climbing moves themselves.  As Tommy and Kevin have talked about, skin is a key variable they need to manage.  They have had to be obsessive about skin care, and just as working out the moves on this route has taken them years, figuring out how to doctor their skin has been a multi-year endeavor as well. So we wish Kevin fast healing!!!
Kevin on Pitch 15.  Photo:  Corey Rich

Tommy's goal yesterday was to finish pitch 16, which is the last 5.14 pitch of the route.  Pitch 16 is a technical corner pitch.  After years of free climbing routes on El Cap Tommy has perfected this style of climbing.  Tommy was able to execute this pitch after warming up on the moves.  The fact that Tommy has made it through all of the crux pitches of the route is really exciting.  As I've said before...there are still a lot of pitches left to climb, but the dream of climbing this route is getting closer and closer to being realized.

Tommy sending pitch 16.  Photo:  Corey Rich
My two favorite guys.  Fitz feeding "daddy" oranges before climbing on day 11.  Don't mind Tommy's "nom nom" face.  I'm pretty sure they helped Tommy send!
While Tommy and Kevin have been in the Valley and working their way up the Dawn Wall I was very lucky to have my sister come for a visit from Switzerland.  She was great support for me while waiting to hear how the guys did each night and keeping Fitz and I company while "daddy" was away.  Tomorrow she heads back to Zurich because the beer at Bier Factory doesn't brew itself!  Thanks for coming Auntie Katie! :)

Fitz and Auntie Katie checking out the otters at the aquarium.

Sting Rays!

Fitz wasn't sure what to think about the bright lights the other night when a crew for ABC came over.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Day 9 on the Dawn Wall

After giving pitch 15 a go Kevin decided it was going to best for him to let his skin heal.  Hopefully it will heal up quick and he can dispatch it day after tomorrow!  He's unbelievably close.  Tommy worked on his "reach around" pitch (some call it the loop...I'll it pitch 15.5) tonight.  It took him a little bit to get it, but finally he finished it.  There is close to an 80 foot down climb in the loop around pitch and Tommy said he had to keep every muscle in his body so tense that by the end his muscles were so pumped and "it was pretty real-deal" to finish it!  The climbing on pitch 16 above the dyno is 5.14a and that's what's up next for Tommy.  Tomorrow is likely a rest day to let skin heal, and then Tuesday will be another big day!  Onward and upward!!  

Kevin on pitch 15 today.  Photo:  Corey Rich

Dawn Wall Coverage

It seems the Dawn Wall is a hot topic with Tommy and Kevin working hard at trying to finish this thing!  I wanted to link of few of the different write ups for those interested.

Just online as of tonight is one from the New York Times.  There a chance there will be an article in Monday's paper as well.:

Andrew Bisharat wrote a piece for National Geographic Adventure:

Andrew also did a little write up on his website, Evening Sends:

Cedar Wright wrote up a nice little piece on Tommy with a link to a video of one of Tommy's training days leading up to this Valley season:

Day 8 on the Dawn Wall

Tommy texted me yesterday evening that he had sent pitch 15 after his warm up and Kevin was still working on it.  He said that the fingers Kevin has had to climb with taped are making 15 more difficult for him, but that he is looking really good on it otherwise.  As of midnight last night I got a text that Tommy worked out the moves on 16 a bit, but didn't send, and Kevin still needs to do 15.  I didn't talk to Tommy on the phone as they were giving battle until pretty late, but I assume the plan for today will be for Kevin to take down 15 and Tommy to take down 16.  Pitch 16 is the infamous dyno pitch and the last hard 5.14 pitch of the route.  Tommy hucked himself over and over again on the dyno and on our dyno simulator wall that he built on the back of our shed leading up to the push, but it just wasn't coming together despite all of his efforts.  He's found a 5.14a variation loop around the dyno that climbs back into pitch 15 for a little bit and then climbs down and over into a corner and up to a no hands stance just above the dyno.

Being up on the wall for over a week and the hard climbing Tommy and Kevin have done up until now adds an element of difficulty on top of the hard climbing they have to do.  Imagine performing your very best after not walking for 1 week.  I know Tommy has made an effort to try and do stretching/push ups/yoga in the portaledge hoping this might combat the unusual circumstances of living like veal between their climbing.  

So let's hope for big things today.  This climb definitely won't be over until it's over, but I believe it's possible.  Let's go boys!!!        

Brett Lowell killing it with the shot on pitch 15.  

Friday, January 2, 2015

Day 7 on the Dawn Wall

For those of you who are curious.  Tommy and Kevin's skin threw in the veto card and today was a rest day.  Tommy says he's feeling good and excited to take down pitch 15 tomorrow!  More tomorrow night...

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Day 6 of the Dawn Wall

My phone rang just after 8:00pm and I wasn't sure if I was going to hear excitement on the other end of the line or frustration.  I said hello and held my breath.  It was still a little early for Tommy to be calling so what he told me completely surprised me.

"Kevin and I both just sent pitch 14!!!"  

I couldn't believe they had both already sent!  On top of this being the hardest pitch, Tommy blew out a fingertip and had to climb it taped and Kevin climbed it with 2 taped fingertips!!  I am totally blown away by these 2 right now.  Amazing.  The hardest pitch of the Dawn Wall is done, and in quite good time.  There are still 2 really hard pitches and a few hard ones to go, but this new Dawn Wall high point is definitely something to celebrate!

When I talked to Tommy he said they are planning on climbing tomorrow, so we will see what tomorrow holds.  Skin seems to be the weakest link of the push so far, so hopefully it'll hold up.

Keep on doing what you're doing people because your support is helping!  Thank you!!

Tommy crushing pitch 14 (5.14+) today.  Photo:  Brett Lowell