If you follow climbing, you follow Kevin Jorgeson. Broadly known for his historic first free ascent of the “Dawn Wall” on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park with Tommy Caldwell, Jorgeson is one of the planet’s most skilled and accomplished big-wall climbers.
And after he had completed the Dawn Wall, Jorgeson was naturally in search of his next big wall. However, this time, he wanted something completely out of the spotlight.
He set his sights on the Higher Cathedral Spire in Yosemite. The result — Jorgeson leading all the pitches in a one-day push, and climbing partner Ryan Sheridan cleaning them — is documented in the short film ‘Blue Collar,’ released on Wednesday.
“I wanted an ‘anti-Dawn Wall’ project,” Jorgeson says in the film. “I just wanted my own little project to toil away on in the shadows … literally, this spire is almost always in the shadows.”
Royal Robbins and Tom Frost first climbed the Higher Cathedral Spire in the fall of 1961. Their ascent was the Northwest face. The route that Jorgeson attempted is called “Blue Collar” (5.13d), which follows the Frost-Robbins route until pitch seven, where it then follows a new line which includes a direct finish up a previously unclimbed summit headwall. This would be the first ascent of Blue Collar.
“I’ve been going to the [Yosemite] Valley since I was 16, and I’ve never really given much thought to Higher Cathedral Spire … It’s like a skyscaper sticking up right out of the ground like a pencil. And it’s really big, and really proud, and really steep.”
The big-wall climber spent two and half years getting prepared for the free climb, and in October of last year, he completed his under-the-radar project with the help of master aid climber, Ryan Sheridan, as well as Ben Rueck.
“Woo-hoo! Higher Cathedral Spire, first free ascent … it’s done,” says an exhausted and elated Jorgeson at the summit.
Check out the full film above for some serious mid-week inspiration.