Tommy: I started climbing soon after I learned to walk. Growing up with a mountain guide father, my talent and passion led me as a teenager to the top of climbing competitions and cutting-edge outdoor routes. In 2000, on a climbing expedition in Kyrgyzstan, my partners and I were captured and held hostage by armed rebels. Miraculously, after six days of captivity, our group managed to free ourselves. Upon returning to the United States and trying to piece together my life, I severed my index finger in a home remodeling accident. Managing to overcome the obstacles life was throwing at me, I came back stronger. My free climbing accomplishments in Yosemite National Park remain unmatched and made my one of the best rock climbers in the world, a perfect contender to be the first person to free climb The Dawn Wall.

Kevin: Like most kids, I grew up climbing ladders, trees and fences, until a visit to my local climbing gym changed my life forever. I steadily improved my climbing and started winning youth national championships. Once I discovered bouldering, I quickly made a name for myself as one of the sport’s best. At my home stomping grounds in the California’s Buttermilks, I made the first ascent of the terrifying Ambrosia, a 15-meter high boulder from which a fall near the top would be catastrophic. While searching to expand into other climbing disciplines, I learned about Tommy Caldwell’s initial forays on the Dawn Wall. Under the mentorship of Tommy, I proved a quick study as I transformed myself into a big wall climber capable of the completing the most continuously difficult route in the world.


Comments: 399 • Responses: 44  • Date: 

WeenieLoft145 karma

Tommy, as arguably the best big-wall climber in history and all of your daring exploits, do you agree with the Cedar Wright sentiment that climbing is becoming too sterilized and losing it's adventure aspect? How do you feel about the future of rock climbing as gyms explode in popularity? Do you see negative/positive things around the corner for our National Parks/climbing as a whole as the demographic changes?

tommy_kevin282 karma

Tommy/Kevin: For the most part I dont agree with Cedars. I live in the most highly impacted place, Colorado, so when people see parks get crowded they deal with it, they start organizations to build trails. With an increase of climbing popoularity, theres a big increase in climber/ environmentalists and that's the type of culture change we need to save the planet. So we are optimistic.

LarryGergich141 karma

How much interaction did you guys have with Ondra before his dawn wall send? What is it like to see someone else send your long term project?

tommy_kevin398 karma

Kevin: I gave him jumaring tips in camp 4 in yosemite for an afternoon. We talked rope logistics.

Tommy: We did lengthy skype calls and gave them a rundown on all the logistics that took 7 years to figure. Basically gave them all the beta. Watching him send was incredibly inspiring, a part of me wishes it would've taken hiim one more season.

Kevin: I'm just glad he didn't flash it

InaneD94 karma

Short and simple, what is your next big project?

tommy_kevin179 karma

Tommy: I have another route I'm looking at near The Dawn Wall. But for now focusing on parenting and activism

Kevin: Varied, but building a climbing gym for my home town. I started a nonprofit for kids to learn climbing. I am also planning another route up El Capitan near the Dawn Wall.

Vsin92 karma

Hey Kevin, Tommy!

I'm a big fan and have tickets to go see the Dawn Wall next Wednesday!

My question for you both:

Alex recently said he spent a month playing Diablo 3. Do you have any guilty pleasures you indulge in?

tommy_kevin55 karma

Tommy/ Kevin: I don't have any honestly.

BongDaddy6978 karma

Hey Kevin, what was the REAL reason you wanted your own portaledge?

tommy_kevin178 karma

Tommy snores

TheZiggurat61467 karma

Should I be more solid on gym 5.10 before I start up the Dawn Wall? Asking for a friend.

But for real you guys are legends. Tommy you’re the ultimate climber icon and a hero of mine. The book was incredible.

tommy_kevin31 karma

Cheers Thanks!

Tisko60 karma

What are your favorite meals when climbing into the portal edge after a day on a big wall? Any culinary tips?

tommy_kevin96 karma

Tommy/Kevin: Bomb burritos with avocado. Smoked salmon bagels for breakfast and dinner

Packets of indian food. Also made a lot of pasta

slashthepowder58 karma

Tommy & Kevin, there is often the focus of the first ascent in climbing how important is it to you personally that second ascent completes a climb? Additionally how often do you have to take a belay test at gyms?

tommy_kevin51 karma

Tommy/kevin: I dont care about the2nd ascent. It's about creating the experiencing of a first ascent

Kwazithepirate53 karma

A question for tommy; as a father myself to two children under 6 what advice do you have to introduce children to climbing and the outdoors?

tommy_kevin74 karma

Just get them out in the woods and go Fountainblue. Best place to go climbing with the children.

Show them how much joy you can get from being outside.

WednesdayWetlands52 karma

Hi, guys! I'm a big fan!

I was wondering what you guys think is the most exciting thing happening in climbing right now? Are there any developments that you think people should be paying attention to?

Also, I'm in grad school and I have class on Wednesday nights, right when Dawn Wall is screening near me. Should I skip this week to see Dawn Wall?

tommy_kevin112 karma

Tommy: Two big films are being released on climbing which is pretty big. Climbing is also going to e in the Olympics which is amazing. Climbing as gymnastics is really sky-rocketing. Guys won't be able to keep up with the women climbers soon.

Kevin: Margo Hayes and Hashima Shiraishi ...can't wait to see what is in store for them.

Tommy/Kevin: Duh, skip class

nothing_too_fancy45 karma

Hey guys,

What was your celebration victory meal/beer combo after the big send?


tommy_kevin78 karma

Kevin: I had a steak and glass of red wine and it gave me a stomach ache. Tommy: I can't even remember it was such a crazy time.

H20boardinstructor41 karma


Did you learn a lot about yourself by writing your book? What was that process like? Ive always dreamed of writing an adventure book of some sort.

(ps loved the book)

tommy_kevin49 karma

Tommy: Writing the book was incredibility cathardic. I rreally wanted to have time to process these experiences and I hoped it would reveal some things. I think writing the book made me go really deep in thought and made me realize some darker things. But also allowed me to really reflect on the process.

hobotnica40 karma

Do you warm up before climbing when you're on a big wall, or just wake up and go?

tommy_kevin82 karma

Kevin/Tommy: Mostly you wake up and go. But sometimes you need to warm up if its 5.14 pitch.

Tommy: Coffee and Advil are important.

AshMercy38 karma

Tommy, I read in your book that Alex Megos was a big inspiration for a new more "effective" training, can you tell us more about the inspiration, methods of this new training? How different was your training before? What is currently your typical training routine?

tommy_kevin67 karma

Tommy: He trains more scientifically more than anyone I've been around before and is a testament to how effective that is. It was inspiring because he was damn strong. It was crazy to watch him climb.

jkF00d38 karma

Hey guys, thin skin here. What were your skincare strategies when you were on the walk for weeks at a time?

tommy_kevin53 karma

Tommy: Boiled down to regulating the moisture content in our fingertips "climb on" cream. Omega 3 and leafy greens are important. Alot of sanding and razor blading and taping.

Rowland56532 karma

Tommy! Thanks for the presentation, back in Asheville. It was a pleasure to meet you. Do you have any sources related to affordable nutrition/dieting as a climber? As a college student, it's a struggle to afford quality food and to figure out which foods I need for my budget.

tommy_kevin97 karma

Dumpster dive at whole foods

humuhumunukunuku29 karma

Kevin - did you change your training regimen to transition from bouldering to big wall? If so, what did that look like? Did it evolve/change over the course of the project?

tommy_kevin40 karma

No. Most of my training was on the wall. The only way to get comfortablke with that environment is to be in that environment. Basic hang boarding and campusing. Always found that i made the most break throughs on the actual wall.

soupyhands28 karma

Hi Kevin and Tommy! /r/climbing and /r/bouldering chiming in. I've been following your careers for years now. Looking forward to watching the film!

Whats next on the horizon for you guys? Any more big boulders in the future or do you have your sites set on another wall climb?

tommy_kevin40 karma

Kevin: Something about a bad landing that gets me excited. Checkerboard boulder...there is a line on the left that was never done before.

Tommy: Something that engages us most is finding routes that are really dangerous and finding a way to climb them and conquer them.

ElTacoDiablo26 karma

Freeing the The Dawn Wall was this generation's greatest climbing feat. The previous generation thought it was literally impossible. With the sport growing in popularity and people starting much younger, what do you think the next generation will do? Are we nearing the pinnacle of human ability with climbing?

tommy_kevin39 karma

Kevin/Tommy: Not even close. I think the limits for sport climbing are really far away.

physnchips23 karma

Where is your favorite place to climb? With the increasing popularity of climbing, do you think the most popular areas e.g. Yosemite will need to adopt a permit type system to limit the number of parties on the wall — what’s the best way to manage ultra-popular routes?

tommy_kevin26 karma

Tommy/Kevin: Yosemite!

Farafix21 karma

Are you (Tommy) planning on doing any other big FA in Patagonia? The line you did with Alex was just mind-blowing and the film left me wanting more of that sweet alpine action!

tommy_kevin75 karma

Tommy: I'm naturally good at that type of climbing but I feel like it would be very irresponsible for me to die.

ikbman20 karma

Tommy, how do you balance being a climber climbing at such a high level of danger sometimes while also being a Dad?

Kevin, what was the transition like between bouldering and big walling?

tommy_kevin20 karma

Tommy: It's always a balance. Kevin: The transition was slow and humbling.

LarryGergich20 karma

Tommy, I wear a 41 in mythos. What size TC pros should I get?

tommy_kevin42 karma

Probably a 41

KauztiK20 karma

What are your expectations/feelings about rock climbing in the 2020 olympics?

tommy_kevin36 karma

Tommy/Kevin: Defnitely exciting for the sports. and validating in alot of ways. Hopefully the format continues to evolve

theunit0919 karma

Love that y'all are doing this in preparation for next week. Hoping to make it to the later showing near me, but so pumped y'all are showing it nationwide, even if only for one night.

I guess someone has to ask, would y'all rather fight 1 horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?

tommy_kevin30 karma

Kevin: I'm going to go with the duck sized horses Tommy: Impossible to answer

Bulletearsfall19 karma

This one is a question for Kevin. Are/will there be opportunities to help out with your nonprofit 1Climb from a non-monetary position? I’ve already donated to the indiegogo which ends in a few hours, but I’m also interested in local volunteering opportunities associated with 1Climb (I’m from Northern CA).


tommy_kevin23 karma

Kevin: Absolutely. And please get in touch via the 1climb website. Thank you for the support!

mikeslug17 karma

Which of you would win in a fight?

tommy_kevin30 karma

Kevin: Probably Tommy. he was a high school wrestler

NegativeK13 karma

What're your favorite (and least favorite!) wall recipes? I had trouble focusing on food due to the constant activity and then gleeful exhaustion, so I'm searching for anything that doesn't require four spoonfuls of ghee to get the calorie content up.

tommy_kevin25 karma

Tommy/Kevin: Smoked salmon bagel Least: Mac and Cheese with water...standards are pretty low on the wall. Kevin: I havent eaten oatmeal since. Sick of it

McFrenchtoast13 karma

Tommy: I really look up to you for motivation to strive through setbacks. Various injuries and circumstances have kept me from climbing since around March. Any tips for coming back smoothly from an injury and back to previous form, both physically and mentally?

tommy_kevin22 karma

Kevin: take it slow. And don't beat yourself up. Make sure you get your strength back. Tommy:LEt the off-time reinvigorate you

AccountWhileAtWork12 karma

Hi! I'm currently working towards a master's degree in environmental studies and resource management. As a climber, I tend to focus a lot of my studies on mitigating the negative environmental impacts of access, and how it's impossible for humans to truly "Leave No Trace" in the wilderness (e.g. simply hiking along a path in the woods causes habitat fragmentation and trail erosion). I was wondering if the impact of access is something that is often discussed among professional outdoor athletes, and if so, what issues are normally brought up?


tommy_kevin26 karma

TOmmy: Kudos! I thnk climbers and climbing companies discuss this constantly. Most common issues are erosion in trails and the base of boulders and cliffs. Kevin: Sometimes litter. Tape and tick marks. Noise pollution, over crowding.

NegativeK11 karma

Do you two plan on working on future projects together? Or was your partnership kind of a gathering for the one mega project?

tommy_kevin9 karma

Tommy/Kevin: Possibly yeah. I'd be stoked

justclimb10 karma

What is your toprope solo set up? 2x microtraxions, microtraxion and something else, just a microtraxion?

tommy_kevin20 karma

Tommy/Kevin:2 microtraxions that is looped with a bungee over your head.

mikeslug9 karma

What are your favorite home town crags? Favorite route to repeat?

tommy_kevin16 karma

Tommy: The Diamond on Longs Peak. The Monastery Kevin: Fort Ross. Its a boulder on a sandy beach full of classics

NoahSmith1237 karma

What is your advice for a newbie getting in to climbing on how to get better and get problems that they are struggling on? Thanks!

tommy_kevin14 karma

Kevin: Focus on your feet. Wear shoes that fit Tommy: Find a community of mentors

alathamus7 karma

Thanks for doing this, guys! I'm a big fan. How did you two get into trad? How old were you?

tommy_kevin16 karma

Tommy: I started as a trad climber. Sport climbing wasnt really a thing when I started climbing because I was 3. Kevin: My first trad climbs were at Joshua tree in 2006. I felt like i was free soloing

happybdaydickhead7 karma

Do either of you have any other career paths in life you might one day pursue instead of climbing?

tommy_kevin12 karma

Tommy: Try to use the platform of climbing to inspire and/or improve the world the best we can. Kevin: Things involved with climbing if not climbing itself.

robotta6 karma

Tommy and Kevin, I'm a huge fan already got my tickets to see it on the 19th! What was it like living on the wall for 19days?

tommy_kevin24 karma

Tommy/Kevin: Hard on your body. Beautiful, Inspiring, felt like i was covered in a fine layer of urine dust for about 10 of those days.

hilo2606 karma

What has been the most terrifying event of your lives?

tommy_kevin24 karma

Tommy: Kyrgyzstan Kevin: Mountain lion!

justclimb6 karma

What is the best way to stay in shape for hard crack/trad routes when you only have access to a bouldering wall and hangboard? Can you give some specifics on your favorite workouts? 4x4's, limit bouldering, etc. For hangboarding do you like repeaters (Anderson brothers protocol) or max hangs (10 second hangs)?

tommy_kevin9 karma

Tommy/Kevin: all the above. I essentially build a power base first. Kevin: I like training endurance on bouldering walls.

MrsConclusion5 karma

I just want to say I'm a huge fan and can't wait to see the Dawn Wall film. Thanks for being such an inspiration! Especially as a parent, it's really rad to see climbers taking their kids along while following their dreams and crushing! Tommy, how has having your family along on trips been?

tommy_kevin9 karma

It's been amazing. Introducing your kids to the most beautiful places in the world is a great way to do it through climbing. The amount of climbing you do suffers, but it definitely worth it.

MrPicklebuttocks5 karma

Hi Tommy/Kevin, what kind of training program would you recommend for someone who doesn’t have access to outdoor climbing and can’t spend a ton of time on gym walls? Trying to improve while living in an area where the nearest crag is 10-12 hours away. Thanks!

tommy_kevin13 karma

Get a hang bard and develop a strict hang bard routine. I suggest the beast maker.

Sparty274 karma

Hi Tommy and Kevin! I can't wait to see The Dawn Wall in a few days.

You both started climbing young. Do you remember one of your first climbing goals and how you felt when you finally achieved it?

tommy_kevin21 karma

Tommy: When I was 2 or 3my dad stuff a dollar bill in a crack 10 ft up. If i climbed to it, I could have it. So when I did I felt rich. Kevin: Winning Youth National Championship. When that was done I didnt want to compete anymore. Thats when I turned to climbing outdoors.

mortalrs3 karma

What are your favourite cheat day meals?

tommy_kevin19 karma

Tommy/Kevin: What's a cheat day? Tommy: chocolate cake Kevin: skittles

ImmediateStretch-3 karma

how did you go to the bathroom on the wall?

tommy_kevin3 karma

Do we really have to answer this again? Watch the movie