El Capitan, Wall of Morning Light

California, Yosemite
Climb Year: N/A. Publication Year: 1971.

On October 23, Warren Harding and Dean Caldwell started up the Wall of Morning Light on what may have been the most difficult rock climb yet accomplished. The climb, which lies between the Nose and the North America Wall, was completed 27 days later in a blare of newspaper, magazine and television publicity. The American Alpine Journal was promised an article, but as we go to print, it has unfortunately still not materialized. Therefore we can merely give a few details gathered from the press. The pair set off with 300 pounds of food, water and gear, enough for 20 days. They rejected the line farther left, nearer the Nose, used on previous attempts, as not sufficiently direct. This doubtless led to the use of many more bolts (some 300 are reported to have been used), bat hooks and rivets than might otherwise have been the case. For this they have been criticized, but it enabled them to keep a more direct line. It was twelve days before they were as high as the other previous attempts. There they were trapped in the “bat tents” by a four-day rainstorm. The next section was the very smooth “blank dihedral”, which was slow work and where they gained only 100 feet a day. On November 11 the National Park Service decided they needed to be rescued but two days later it was called off when Caldwell shouted, “A rescue is unwarranted, unwanted and will not be accepted.” They were now two-thirds of the way up the wall. Finally on May 18 they climbed over the edge at the top for a champagne lunch. The editors very much regret that their article did not arrive, for they could best have presented their own case in the controversy which has sprung up about the ethics of the climb. We point out Royal Robbins’ defense of their tactics in Summit of December. We also present here without comment TM Herbert’s remarks.