When it became known that the two Belgians Sébastien Berthe and Siebe Vanhee were targeting the Dawn Wall, the rumor mill began to churn. Would they walk the route at record speed and maybe even devalue it? Two months later it became clear: The strong Belgians are having a hard time with the toughest multi-pitch route in the world and are taking a break.
The past two months have changed Siebe Vanhee and Sebastien Berthe totally the Dawn Wall prescribed. This effort has left its mark: "We've been working on the route for eight weeks and I've reached the point where it's really uncomfortable," says Siebe Vanhee.
The solution: a short break
The Belgian top climber consciously chooses his goals in such a way that they are never easy and force him to work. "Setting the Dawn Wall as a target was scary," he recalls. "It gave me goosebumps just thinking about it, but it also made me very excited because I knew it wasn't going to be easy."
In the ultimate big wall test piece by Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson the two Belgians each climbed two days in a row and then took a break for two to three days. "Right now I'm noticing that I need more rest every time we come down and that my skin doesn't seem to recover as well," says Siebe Vanhee.
It is also more difficult for him to find his usual motivation and flow when climbing. He knows the feeling of being confronted with many personal struggles and small demons from previous projects. Accordingly, he also has a solution for this problem: a short break.
Since Vanhee also has a professional commitment that cannot be postponed, a break from the Dawn Wall seems the logical consequence. "This will be the perfect moment to recover my mind and body from this mega project.
"We got our asses kicked"
Sébastien Berthe and Siebe Vanhee proved that they are in top form last summer when they competed in various multi-pitch classics – including Flight (8c, 550) in the Lauterbrunnen Valley – made short work of it. The fact that they, like the Berthe-Favresse team before them, devalued most of the routes ensured Discontent in the climbing scene.
Nevertheless, the Dawn Wall was the logical consequence for the strong Belgians. "After the tough multi-pitches in Europe, it made sense to go to Yosemite and try this masterpiece," says Siebe Vanhee.
On January 9th, they climbed the face for the first time and immediately climbed the first pitches. The pair's original plan was to climb the wall in a ground-up push. But they quickly discarded this idea. Instead, they began to install fixed ropes that allow rapid ascent and descent. After a few days on the route and on the two key pitches of the Dawn Wall, the Belgians concluded: "We got our asses kicked".
Don't let that discourage you. "We believe in the power of time, persistence and practice," Vanhee writes in mid-January. With their first slap, which they take at the Dawn Wall, their admiration for Tommy Caldwell grows at the same time. “His imagination to put it all together blew us away. We see how he has combined all of his El Cap experience into one massive route.”
Tommy Caldwell invested an incredible seven years to find a climbable way through the 915 meter high granite face. Between December 2014 and January 2015, he and Kevin Jorgeson managed the climb of the decade: the first free ascent of the Dawn Wall in 19 days.
A year later, the Czech climber traveled Adam Ondra to Yosemite Valley. After just a month of checking out, he got his third free ascent of the Dawn Wall within eight days. This is impressive insofar as Adam Ondra had not yet gained any experience on the granite of the Californian climbing Mecca.
Adam Ondra and Tommy Caldwell on the Dawn Wall
The fact that the two Belgians Siebe Vanhee and Sébastien Berthe are having such a hard time with the 32 pitches of the Dawn Wall underlines two theses. First: Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson have established the most difficult multi-pitch tour in the world with the Dawn Wall. Second: Adam Ondra is currently the strongest climber in the world.
That might interest you
- Adam Ondra almost climbs the Salathé Wall in Yosemite Valley onsight
- Babsi Zangerl climbs the Pre-Muir Wall in the Yosemite Valley
- Sébastien Berthe criticizes the evaluation of European multi-pitch routes
Do you like our climbing magazine? When we launched LACRUX, we decided not to introduce a payment barrier. It will stay that way, because we want to provide as many like-minded people with news from the climbing scene.
In order to be more independent of advertising revenue in the future and to provide you with even more and better content, we need your support.
Therefore: Help and support our magazine with a small contribution. Naturally you benefit multiple times. How? You will find out here.
+ + +
Credits: Cover picture Alex Eggermont