Kevin Jorgeson, a Santa Rosa native who first began climbing walls at 11 when his father took him to Vertex – a Santa Rosa indoor climbing facility – became an international climbing icon in January of 2015 when he and Tommy Caldwell put up the first free climb of the Dawn Wall on Yosemite’s El Capitan.
As a toddler, he sought routes over trees, fences, cupboards, ladders, anything. After his introduction to Vertex, rock climbing took over his life and by 19, he was the top-ranked climber for his age in the country. He became adept at bouldering – free climbing challenging rock faces close to the ground with little or no climbing aids, save a “crash pad” to cushion a fall.
His passion for free climbing inevitably led him to Yosemite and the most famous slab of granite in the world. El Capitan soars 3,000 feet above Yosemite Valley and the Dawn Wall is its hardest route. With pitches rated on the difficulty scale as high as 5.14d (5.15b or c is the highest difficulty on record), the Dawn Wall had never been free climbed when Jorgeson and Caldwell launched their 19-day assault. The two used ropes only to protect them in falls; they relied on their hands and feet alone to move up the wall. Their stunning achievement has been called the world’s hardest successful climb.
Today, in between climbing trips and lecture tours, Jorgeson, with another climbing partner, is planning to open a new, $6 million, state-of-the-art indoor climbing facility in Santa Rosa.
Photo Credit: Jimmy Chin