Sports & Gaming

Redefining Limits: El Capitan

Alex Honnold & Tommy Caldwell

Lesson time 05:52 min

Alex and Tommy have accomplished two of the most challenging climbs ever done on El Capitan. In this lesson, they’ll give insight into how they overcame and redefined the perceived limitations.

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Topics include: Redefining Limits: El Capitan •


[MUSIC PLAYING] TOMMY CALDWELL: El Cap is probably the most iconic rock climbing wall in the world. I would say it's rock climbing's greatest venue in my somewhat biased opinion. ALEX HONNOLD: I think the sheer scale of the wall in El Cap almost disorients non-climbers sometimes. They're kind of like, oh, you see that tiny, tiny little speck of a dot up there, like that's a person. And they're like, whoa, how can that be? You know, like, how can that be a person way up there? You're like, yeah, it's really big. It's like really, really big. Is there a more eloquent way to say really big? It's like tremendously large wall. Yeah. [MUSIC PLAYING] TOMMY CALDWELL: El Cap has challenged my limits in nearly every way. The story of me losing my finger is a little bit boring. I just chopped it off with a table saw during a home remodeling accident. But I guess maybe the story of a climber without a finger is somewhat more interesting, because I think losing my finger did lead me to the Dawn Wall. It helped me realize how important the life that I was living when I still had 10 fingers was to me. Like, when I thought I might lose climbing, I wanted nothing more than to keep it as part of my life. And so it started this long section of my life where I just would go back to El Cap every season and climb harder and harder routes. And that's, you know, it sort of was the impetus between me becoming so obsessed with that wall. And then, that eventually led me to trying the Dawn Wall. WOMAN: No one has ever free climbed the Dawn Wall. MAN: 3,000 feet of straight up granite. MAN: It will be the most continuously difficult rock climb ever done. TOMMY CALDWELL: The Dawn Wall was sort of my quest to really find my physical limits in climbing. And I then spent seven years pursuing that. In sort of a greater sense, I guess it's still probably considered overall the hardest big wall free climb in the world. ALEX HONNOLD: And to-- to put it in some context, Tommy had already done the hardest routes on El Cap on all the other parts of the wall. And the Dawn Wall was the one big question mark on the map still. I mean, basically, he'd done the hardest routes on the left side and the right side and kind of in the middle. And there was the one big section left. It's like, oh, that's the obvious place to try to put up the hardest route. TOMMY CALDWELL: Totally. ALEX HONNOLD: Let me just tell that story for you. TOMMY CALDWELL: My experience was at first one of just sort of exploration. Like, is this thing that looks absurd actually possible? So I spent a year just swinging around on the wall trying to figure out if it could eventually become a climb. ALEX HONNOLD: That's kind of a classic climbing arc to go from like, I wonder if this is possible, to, oh, I think that might be too hard, to, oh, I might be able to do that, to, I'm going to work on this until I do it. You know, I mean, that's like ki...

About the Instructor

With more than 60 combined years of elite rock climbing experience, Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell have scaled some of the largest—and most extreme—walls in the world. Now, the stars of Free Solo and The Dawn Wall are teaming up to share their tried-and-true techniques for tackling any wall. From the fundamentals of footwork and body and hand positioning to mental exercises and advanced holds and movements, you’ll learn how to take on new challenges and push yourself further on and off the wall.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Alex Honnold & Tommy Caldwell

Stars of “Free Solo” and “The Dawn Wall” Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell teach lessons from more than 60 years of combined rock climbing experience.

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