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.

Despite tips from the first climber and Yosemite legend Tommy Caldwell himself, the initial euphoria of the Belgians on the Dawn Wall has given way to physical and mental fatigue. image Alex Eggermont

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."

Damaged fingers make it difficult to progress, and there are also the mental conflicts in such a large project. image Julia Cassou

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.

"Right now I'm finding that every time we come down I need more rest and my skin doesn't seem to be recovering as well."

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.

Siebe Vanhee and Sébastien Berthe at their camp at the Dawn Wall. image Alex Eggermont

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.

"After the tough multi-pitches in Europe, it made sense to go to Yosemite and try this masterpiece."

Siebe Vanhee

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.

Sébastien Berthe on the second key pitch (9a) of the Dawn Wall. image 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".

"Tommy Caldwell's imagination in putting this all together blew our minds. We see how he has combined all of his El Cap experience into one massive route.”

Siebe Vanhee and Sebastien Berthe

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.”

Fascination Ondra

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.

Tommy Caldwell_The-Dawn-Wall_Yosemite_Red Bull Content pool.jpg
Yosemite legend Tommy Caldwell at the Dawn Wall. image Red Bull Content Pool.

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.

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Credits: Cover picture Alex Eggermont