What Was Tommy Caldwell’s Scariest Climbing Moment? Dodging Bullets in a Portaledge

tommy-caldwell-dawn-wall-qaYou probably know Tommy Caldwell from when he and Kevin Jorgeson completed the first free climb of the Dawn Wall route in Yosemite—considered the hardest rock climb in the world. Or, you might know he was the first person to receive one of our Adventurer of the Year awards two years in a row. But did you know his scariest moment while climbing was being shot at by militia in Kyrgyzstan while hanging from a portaledge?

Recently, we caught up with Caldwell and gave our Facebook community the chance to ask him anything—like how he balances his career with being a father and husband. Check out some highlights from the Q&A.

See photos from Caldwell’s historic Dawn Wall climb in Yosemite >>

Ross Merlin: Hello Tommy, congratulations on some serious feats—the Dawn Wall, the Fitz Traverse. What is your next big plan? I’ll hazard a guess you’ve got something in mind.

Tommy Caldwell: Well, my wife and I are expecting our second child in a month, and I’ve been hunkered down writing my book. I’m getting really anxious to get back on the road and climbing and exploring more. I don’t have any big climbs on the docket, but I usually don’t just pick those—they tend to draw me in. I just have a long list of places I want to go and things I want to do. We will see what it turns into.

Kate Hansen: Hi Tommy! What was the scariest moment you’ve ever had climbing?

Tommy Caldwell: When I was hanging in a portaledge in Kyrgyzstan and getting shot with long range assault rifles by militants. There will be more info on that in my book (coming out in 2017).

Tuğrul Paçacı: I wonder how you handle being a father and husband and also have time for climbing with a great success?

Tommy Caldwell: My wife. 🙂 She’s amazing at helping me balance it all.

Stephanie Heung: Just saw “A Line Across the Sky” and was amazed by how much fun you were having in downright heinous conditions. Do you and Alex Honnold actively enjoy suffering?

Tommy Caldwell: I’m glad you liked the film. Finding joy and beauty in the midst of suffering is hard to explain—it’s kind of a zen thing, but when you have a partner that things click with sometimes that just happens and it’s hard to beat. And I think being able to keep a light heart through the harder times helped us finish successfully.

Serena Halpern: What is the one thing you’d say makes a great climber?

Tommy Caldwell: Short term memory

Moscow travel guide: Are you able to enjoy beauty of surrounding nature? Or do you absolutely concentrate on climb?

Tommy Caldwell: While I’m in the middle of a hard pitch I really have to be completely focused on the moves and the climb, but in between tries and climbs I absolutely enjoy the beauty I’m surrounded in. It’s a huge part of why I love climbing so much and feel so fortunate that I get to be out there in it.

Read more about Tommy’s climbs: http://www.tommycaldwell.com/
Facebook Q&A: https://www.facebook.com/natgeo/posts/10153370822718951

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