Video Ellen Meets the El Capitan Climbers

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04:48   |   Jan 22, 2015


Ellen Meets the El Capitan Climbers
Ellen Meets the El Capitan Climbers thumb Ellen Meets the El Capitan Climbers thumb Ellen Meets the El Capitan Climbers thumb


  • - Our first guests had the entire world talking last week
  • after becoming the first people to accomplish
  • what everyone thought was impossible.
  • Take a look.
  • - An incredible record-setting climb,
  • a story we've been following from the start.
  • - Kevin Jorgensen and Tommy Caldwell
  • entered the record books on Wednesday,
  • the first to free climb the Dawn Wall
  • of Yosemite's El Capitan.
  • - We're at the base of the Captain.
  • - Today's the day.
  • Piece of cake.
  • [singing] - I was left
  • To my device
  • - There's this crazy arctic windstorm
  • happening today.
  • - It's easy to get frustrated,
  • because you'll feel totally fine
  • and then your foot will just unexpectedly pop off.
  • The pitch of the day was 15,
  • which is the second hardest pitch on the wall.
  • Tommy totally crushed it.
  • It was the smoothest I've ever seen him climb.
  • - It takes 14 little micro-handed foot moves
  • to get across that face.
  • - He's got this right hand hold that's just three fingers wide
  • and a total razor.
  • - Everything has to click,
  • and everything has to be done absolutely perfectly.
  • - Whoa!
  • [cheering]
  • - That's pretty intense.
  • - You know, thoughts crossed my mind
  • that I should just throw in the towel
  • and support Tommy to the top,
  • but it's been six years and hundreds of days,
  • and I really want to do this thing.
  • I'd been picturing what it was gonna be like
  • to climb that last ten feet to the summit,
  • and I remember grabbing the very top
  • and just pausing for a minute, making sure it was real,
  • and then the cheers erupted.
  • [people cheering]
  • - In their first sit-down interview,
  • please welcome Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgensen.
  • I, like the entire world, was watching you
  • try to accomplish it,
  • and I just thought, "Why?"
  • [laughter]
  • - I think I got to quote Johnny Cash:
  • "If you're gonna be dumb, you better be tough."
  • For me, it was-- it was a family thing.
  • I started doing it from the time I was a little kid.
  • My dad was a mountain guide, so I grew up in the mountains,
  • and it's kind of what I knew.
  • - Have you always wanted to do that as well?
  • - Well, with this project specifically,
  • I saw a short film featuring Tommy,
  • so I just gave him a call.
  • I'm like, "I think he needs a partner."
  • - So you didn't really know each other.
  • - We had met briefly,
  • but we didn't know each other well.
  • - Now, what's a typical day like?
  • What time do you wake up,
  • and how long do you climb
  • before you stop and pitch a tent?
  • - On this wall, we wanted to climb when it was cold
  • because the friction, when you grab
  • those tiny, little holes, is way better.
  • So we kind of wake up leisurely and drink coffee in the sun
  • and watch the-- watch the sun rise,
  • and we'd have these really nice mornings,
  • and then in the evenings,
  • it would get really tense with our trying to accomplish
  • the pitch that we needed to do that day.
  • - Yeah, exactly.
  • - And I understand at night you would drink whiskey
  • and watch Netflix.
  • - A bit of that.
  • - That was our New Year's Eve party.
  • - Oh, I see. - Yeah.
  • - 'Cause I was gonna say, "You can't drink whiskey
  • every night and then climb a mountain."
  • - [laughs]
  • - Just a little bit of whiskey.
  • - The tiniest bit.
  • - You can't put a price on morale.
  • - Yeah.
  • So what's the scariest moment that you had up there?
  • - We had some really cold days, or cold nights,
  • where all the water from the top of El Capitan
  • would freeze to the wall,
  • and then when the sun would hit,
  • we had a little bit of ice fall,
  • so that was sometimes scary.
  • The ice chunks would come off and kind of whiz by us.
  • I don't think it was actually super dangerous, though.
  • - Um...
  • [laughter]
  • There's nothing about this that wasn't super dangerous.
  • And I have to say, please explain.
  • So when you were a kid, how did you cut your finger off?
  • What happened?
  • - So when I was, like, 21 years old,
  • I cut it off with a table saw,
  • and it was this crazy moment in my life,
  • because I wanted nothing more to be a full-time climber.
  • I just wanted to travel the world and climb.
  • I was living out of a car.
  • And then I chopped off my finger,
  • and I was like, "Oh, man, this could be over."
  • But while I was in the hospital, a doctor came up to me,
  • and he kind of said the same thing to me.
  • He was like, "You should really think about
  • what else you want to do with your life."
  • - That's crazy.
  • Not only did you do it, you did it with--
  • I mean, accomplishing something that a doctor says
  • you're not gonna be able to do in your lifetime,
  • much less that kind of accomplishment--
  • Amazing. Amazing, right?
  • [cheers and applause]
  • Well, I'm gonna give you something.
  • Next time you're up on a mountain
  • and you are watching something on Netflix or anything,
  • I have a couple of baskets for you.
  • I have a five-year subscription to Netflix.
  • I have whiskey. I have--
  • [cheers and applause]
  • I have my book.
  • [speaking indistinctly]
  • You'll love it.

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They were the first people to free-climb to the top of the granite monolith in Yosemite National Park. The first person they talked to about it was Ellen.

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