When climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson entered climbing history last year with the first continuous effort free-climb of Yosemite’s formidable Dawn Wall, they had to do much of their climbing at night using a headlamp.
The Dawn Wall is the steepest part of El Capitan and is notorious for its smooth face and sliver sized finger and foot holds. Besides the challenge of finding suitable holds, the warmer than usual weather made the climbers’ shoes less effective when gripping the rock. To overcome the warm rock and slick footing, Caldwell and Jorgeson decide to climb mostly at night and early morning when the rock was cooler and their shoes would grip better.
This decision brought its own set of problems. The holds were already difficult to find, now the climbers would be looking for these slivers of safety in the dark using a headlamp. Despite the challenges, the climbers summited after 19 days, using porta-ledges equipped with lanterns to rest between pitches.
Despite the challenges, there are some advantages to climbing at night
- Like Caldwell and Jorgeson discovered, the cooler temperatures of night can help the performance of your climbing shoes.
- Another advantage is that small holds that normally disappear into the rock during the day will jump to life with a striking shadow when hit with the beam of your headlamp.
- If your nerves can handle the blackness, that there is nothing more peaceful and Zen like then moving in perfect harmony with the wall through the inky void.
If climbing at night is something you think you want to try remember that light is life. Here are suggestions on how to purchase the right headlamp for your climbing adventures.
- Find a headlamp that is flexible and has multiple lumen outputs. You don’t want to blind yourself by the reflecting light off the rock and you don’t want the glare to hide that next important hold.
- You also want a headlamp that has the power to illuminate the wall well ahead of you or below you. This can be particularly important if you have to rappel out of a bad spot to drop a rope; you want to know what to expect to make the right decision.
- You want a light with long battery life and one that the batters can be change easily and quickly. You don’t want to fumble with batteries on the wall.
- Invest in a backup light and lantern. The backup light is obvious, when doing anything outdoors – two is one and one is none. The time you don’t have a backup light is the time you are going to need one. The lantern is less obvious, but just as important. A good lantern is a must if you are hanging in a porta-ledge off the side of a mountain. In addition, they are very handy when prepping gear before the climb and to make sure you have everything after your climb. You don’t want to leave your favorite climbing rack sitting in the shadows someplace.