Close-to-the-edge climb ‘mindblowing’, says Jason

Todmorden born climber Jason Pickles, part of a team which has successfully ascending a new Antarctic mountain route, 2013''Picture: Berghaus/Alastair Lee
Todmorden born climber Jason Pickles, part of a team which has successfully ascending a new Antarctic mountain route, 2013''Picture: Berghaus/Alastair Lee

The achievement of two climbers feted in the world’s media this week has been echoed by one of their peers, Todmorden-born climber Jason Pickles.

Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell have become the first free-climbers to scale El Capitan’s Dawn Wall - a sheer slab of granite rising vertically for 900 metres (2,953 feet) from the Yosemite National Park valley in California.

The duo spent 19 days hauling themselves up using fingertip holds in razor-sharp rocks and, despite badly torn fingers and bitterly cold winds, reached the summit on January 14, making headlines across the world.

Jason, the 39-year-old former Todmorden High School pupil with family in the Calder Valley now based in Manchester, is no stranger to El Capitan. In 2010 with Leo Holding he completed a new free climbing route on El Capitan, The Prophet, which they climbed in six days in October that year.

But Jason, who knows Kevin and Tony - the former has stayed at his home in Manchester - said Jorgeson (30) and Caldwell (36) deserved all the praise they were getting, describing The Dome, their free-climbing route at El Capitan, as “almost impossible”.

“The climb they have done was a lot harder, a lot more sustained with more hard sections. It’s a real step forward. It’s so close to the edge of the possible that it is amazing,” said the experienced climber.

Climbers put an awful lot of time in planning the possible routes and spending time on “the big cliffs” and the American-based climbers will have been able to put more time in there as they are closer to it - living in England, Holding and Pickles’ 30 weeks planning for their own El Capitan climb was put in over a ten year period.

“They are both heroes. I know them both quite well and Kevin has stayed with me in manchester.

“It’s the hardest climb in the world by some considerable margin. It’s mindblowing and I’m really pleased for them. They are both at the pinnacle and Tommy, it’s what he’s best at,” said Jason.

Jason’s own climbing has taken a bit more of a back seat over the last year as he has become a dad.

“My climbing is on hold for a little while although I have been in Guyana shooting for a Discovery Channel programme set to be shown early this year,” said Jason.

In the past he has travelled the world tackling some of the great climbing challenges in expeditions to the Himalayas, Madagascar and the Alps, or incredible challenges like climbing Mount Asgard on Baffin Island, Northern Canada. As a boy Jason played football for Hebden Bridge Saints, cricket at Walsden Cricket Club and golf at Todmorden Golf Club but once bitten by the climbing bug when he was 15 - adventure holidays with his uncles Steven Harlow and Trevor Dewhurst introduced him to the sport - he has never looked back and become one of the world’s most respected climbers.