For a Climber on El Cap, a Dropped iPhone is Particularly Painful

Read our profile of Tommy Caldwell, “Climber on Historic Yosemite Attempt Faces Yet Another Fateful Choice,” and see photos and video from this climb.

Even the grip of a professional world-class rock climber sometimes isn’t enough to hold onto an iPhone.

This week, Tommy Caldwell, one of the two climbers currently vying to complete the first free ascent of the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, has made consistent progress toward achieving his goal. His current high point is Wino Tower, 2,000 feet up the wall. Tommy is one of our 2015 Adventurers of the Year (vote for the People’s Choice through January 31).

One low point? Dropping his iPhone.

“It fell out of my chest pocket,” said Tommy, speaking to me from photographer and filmmaker Corey Rich’s cell phone. Rich has been living on the wall with the climbers and documenting their historic ascent (see a gallery of his photos).

The best part, if there is such a thing, of dropping your iPhone from 1,500 feet up an overhanging wall, is that you get to watch its long, soundless descent before you hear, almost imperceptibly, the painful crack of it smashing to bits in the talus field below.

It happens.

Tommy and his climbing partner, Kevin Jorgeson, have routinely communicated the details of their ascent and life on the wall to a engaged, global audience through their iPhones. Each day brings new Instagrams, Facebook statuses, and tweets. Kevin Jorgeson held a live Q&A last week on Twitter.

Facebook featured Tommy and his Dawn Wall project in their Facebook Stories series. Their video shows how Tommy uses Facebook as a tool to share his ascent with his followers as he types away on his iPhone from a portaledge.

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Yesterday, Tommy’s friends on the ground were sent out to find Tommy a replacement. His wife, Becca, was consulted for which model he might like.

“I’m thinking iPhone 6 64gb in space gray,” she texted.

“I’ve lost three phones at least,” Tommy said. “The first one I dropped off the East Ledges of El Cap. The second one I lost on an exploratory mission near Yosemite falls; I was walking across some ice and broke through one of the pools. And this time, it just fell out of my chest pocket.

“Pretty much everyone loses a few,” Tommy mused.

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