adam ondra's el capitan climb

This Man Climbed The Tallest Granite Rock In The World With No Aids!

Adam Ondra, a climber noted for his exceptional skill in lead climbing, achieved a remarkable milestone on El Capitan. With sheer granite cliffs, El Capitan in Yosemite National Park presents one of the most challenging rock climbs in the world. The Dawn Wall, a particular route on El Capitan, is known for being the hardest climb of its kind. It has smooth, featureless stretches and brutal slopes. Only the most strategic and trained climbers have dared to climb it.

In November 2016, Ondra set out to conquer the Dawn Wall. Somehow, he carved his name into climbing history. With minimal experience in traditional climbing and Yosemite-style granite climbing, he faced a steep learning curve. With numerous world championship titles and groundbreaking climbs, the Czech prodigy was up for the challenge. Let’s dive in to read more about Ondra and his quest on El Capitan. 

“Hard to find the words to describe how I feel. We made it up to the Wino Tower and no more hard pitches guard my way to the top. I could not have asked for a better day.”

Adam Ondra (Instagram)

Adam Ondra’s El Capitan Climb: A Climber’s Ultimate Test

El Capitan, a monumental granite monolith soaring 3,000 feet above Yosemite Valley, is the world’s tallest granite rock. It represents the pinnacle of rock climbing challenges. 

What’s more surprising is that he was protected only by a rope. But that is just in case of falls and not to assist in the climb itself. Adam was only 23 years old at the time he undertook this mind-blowing challenge. Throughout his climb, he informed the public of his challenges with the cold, soaking rain and even the pain with granite on his skin and fingers. Ondra’s attempt on the Dawn Wall was not just a personal test but also a significant event in the climbing community.

Adam Ondra's El Capitan climb
Image source: Gripped Magazine

“It feels amazing right now. This is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in climbing. Wow, so good. I think it’ll be a long-lasting happiness and joy due to the length and effort of the route.”

Adam Ondra (National Geography)

Route Selection

Adam Ondra undertook one of the most daunting routes on El Capitan. The route along the dawn wall is a vertical stretch and near featureless planes requiring the utmost precision. He chose a path that tested the limits of free climbing, where climbers utilize only their hands and feet to climb

This vertical wall demands unparalleled skill, physical strength, and mental fortitude. These are the qualities that climber Adam Ondra exhibited during his record-setting ascent that placed him in the history books.

Preparation and Training

Intense preparation in winning the challenge of climbing the El Capitan. Ondra engaged in relentless training that sharpened both his physical strength and problem-solving skills essential for the climb. His regimen included repeating sections of the climb on artificial walls. He built his endurance and studied every inch of the route to develop a climbing strategy.

Patxi Usobiaga and physiotherapist Klaus Isele is now coaching Adam to achieve greater lengths in his career. A ballet instructor is also training Adam to keep his perfect body position and while developing his fluidity.

Climb Execution

Ondra’s climb was a masterclass in poise and determination. Adam finished his free-climb within an intense eight-day period. During that time, Ondra showed unmatched strength and strategy. He twisted what many viewed as impossible into a testament to human potential in free climbing El Capitan.

Story of Adam Ondra

Adam Ondra is a climber celebrated for his outstanding skill in lead climbing, bouldering, and competition climbing. He is recognized as one of the most outstanding climbers of his generation. Born in the Czech Republic, his climbing career began at a very young age. Adam got early exposure through his parents, both of whom were climbers. 

Early Climbing Career

Ondra’s prodigious talent was obvious early on. He started climbing at age six and quickly progressed through the ranks. In 1999, at age six, Ondra climbed a 6a (5.10a) route in Rovinj, Croatia. His parents, enabled his liking for climbing. who were both avid climbers. By the age of eight, Ondra was competing and in 2007, Adam started competition climbing. Surprisingly by thirteen, he was challenging adult climbers on the world stage.

Notable Achievements

Throughout his career, Adam Ondra has collected an impressive array of titles and accomplishments. He has consistently been at the forefront of climbing and set new benchmarks. Ondra’s achievements include multiple World Championship titles and a significant number of climbs at the highest grades. 

He even won the IFSC World Youth Championship titles in both 2007 and 2008 years. He participated in the Lead Climbing World Cup for the first time and finished ahead. Adam won the Bouldering World Cup becoming the first ever athlete to win the Cup in both lead and bouldering aspects. To make his list of achievements even more remarkable, Ondra also finished in sixth place at the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Beyond his individual successes, Ondra’s contributions have a far-reaching impact. He inspires climbers worldwide and pushes the boundaries. Despite his success on rock, Ondra’s ambition also took him to the competitive climbing stage, where his performances have been equally as noteworthy. 

Impact and Significance

Adam Ondra’s climb of the Dawn Wall on El Capitan not only set a new standard in the climbing world but also captured the attention of mainstream media, bringing unprecedented focus to the sport of rock climbing.

Climbing Community

Ondra’s achievement is one of the most significant milestones in the history of the sport and even in the climbing community, . His successful climb, which took place on November 21, 2016, marked only the second time the Dawn Wall was free-climbed. The challenge of climbing this remarkable giant, was first undertaken by Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson in 2015. However, they were only able to finish it within 19 days.

This feat validated the route’s status as the most difficult big wall objective and became a benchmark for future climbers to aspire to. With most of the route rated at extreme difficulty levels—eight pitches of 5.14 and twelve pitches of 5.13—Ondra’s ascent pushed the physical and psychological boundaries.

Media Coverage

The sheer scale of the Dawn Wall’s challenge even received the interest of international media coverage. Ondra’s climb was widely reported. Major outlets such as The New York Times highlighting his exceptional talent and contribution to the sport’s visibility, he gained his break on fame. The coverage elevated Ondra’s status as a climbing prodigy and shone a spotlight on climbing as a competitive sport.


Adam Ondra’s successful ascent of the Dawn Wall on El Capitan represents a pinnacle achievement in the world of climbing. Known for its sheer verticality and daunting challenges, El Capitan has long stood as a test of human capability and determination. Ondra’s ascent underscores the trajectory of climbing, from a niche pursuit to a sophisticated sport that continues to push the boundaries of what is possible.

Ondra has achieved the second free ascent of this notorious climb. But also he proved that the ceilings of climbing are yet to be reached. His ascent has propelled him to a position of prominence within the climbing community, as an exemplar of physical skill and mental fortitude.

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