When Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson set out to scale one of the world's most challenging cliff faces, outdoor photographer Corey Rich was there to document the journey with breathtaking photos and social media posts. And when the pair of climbers successfully completed their mission on Wednesday, Rich caught the celebratory moment and dizzying view with his lens. The photographer followed his friends on the 19-day, 3,000-foot adventure as they ascended the Dawn Wall in the Yosemite Valley using the technique of free climbing.
The feat is considered historic because the climbers used only natural footholds to grip the cliff faces over such a significant distance along a notoriously formidable route. They wore ropes only to cushion the hazard of a fall. This lent to bloody, ripped hands and soles and perilous hours sleeping in tents dangling above the canyon floor.
Another aspect that makes the adventure unique is the heavy, real-time social media presence they cultivated. Throughout the wilderness experience, all three men took to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to share riveting photos and moment-to-moment observations along the way. “This is not an effort to ‘conquer,'” Jorgeson tweeted as the summit grew nearer. “It's about realizing a dream.”
Although Rich endured challenging conditions alongside the climbers to professionally document his friends' journey, he says the hardship was worth the photos and the sense of camaraderie. “There's something special about photographing the people you really care about and traveling and surfing and suffering and sitting on planes, trains, and automobiles together for weeks on end,” Rich says. “It makes you close, and there's overlap in our lifestyles and passions. That's pretty unique.”