The Significance of The Dawn Wall Project

Since December 27th, professional climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson have been living 1,000 feet in the air as they try to free climb¬†The Dawn Wall, their 6+ year project on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. If/When they manage to send The Dawn Wall, it’ll be the hardest big wall free route in the world with the easiest pitches being rated 5.12b and the crux pitches being rated 5.14d.Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson on The Dawn Wall Project

Photo: Tommy Caldwell

Aside from this being a monumental route that’s shut down this adept team for so many years, what’s making The Dawn Wall so special is that onlookers are getting daily updates into their life on the wall. Not only are Kevin and Tommy updating their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts during their rest time, but we’re also getting video updates on the regular. I mean, Kevin even took us inside his portaledge to show us what his sleeping arrangement looks like, how he stores everything 1,000 feet in the air, and what it’s like to see chunks of ice falling and tapping on his portaledge.

Video: Rock and Ice Magazine

Until now, the common practice has been to project a route for a long time, like years. Once the pro climber (or climbing team) thinks they can finally make the send, they get a film crew on scene to film interviews, more attempts, and the eventual send. Then the film crew turns all that footage into a documentary type film and in a few months, the onlookers have a 5 minute to 30 minute video to watch.

The problem with this is that onlookers might get an update or two from these climbers talking about the progression of their project and forget about it in a couple minutes. One day we’ll see an update from that climber saying they sent their project and we’ll think–Sweet!–and then we continue with our lives.

Kevin and Tommy are inviting us into their daily lives on The Dawn Wall through social media. They’re making it feel like we’re on the wall with them without smelling disgusting and having to go through the boredom of rest days. We’re wondering what they’re doing at certain times of a day, we’re waiting for that next update, that next video, that announcement from Kevin saying he sent pitch 15. Heck, Kevin even hosted a Twitter Chat on January 2nd and both have been answering calls and doing interviews since they’ve been up there.

These guys are raising the bar in climbing with the difficulty of The Dawn Wall and are setting a new standard for how professional athletes and Weekend Warrior’s should be using social media in their endeavors.

What’s the best use of social media¬†you’ve seen from professional athletes, or Weekend Warriors?

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Free Climbing: A style of climbing where climbers use ropes and harnesses, only to catch them in the event of a fall. Not to be confused with Free Soloing.