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    The Trip Continues – Full of Adventure

    By Kitty Calhoun

    Yoshiko rapping of p 1, 2

    As my friends and I get older, the threat of slipping into a normal lifestyle becomes more real. I have to mow the lawn, get the oil and filter changed in the car, go to the dentist. These days, given a choice, I would rather do a few sport pitches and get a good workout in, than burn a whole day on a multi-pitch route. My sense of adventure, along with my confidence, is fading with my youth. Yvon Chouinard once said, “When everything goes wrong, that’s when adventure starts.”

    Did I really want to go through an adventure, including all the accompanying fear, unknowns and discomfort that are usually associated with it? On the other hand, I was perfectly healthy with no good reason not to test myself again. I decided Tangerine Trip, a short but steep, moderate aid route on El Cap, would be the perfect experience to get me off the slippery slope to complacency.

    Above: Yoshiko Miyazaki-Back raps off pitch 1 of Tangerine Trip. El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, California. Photo: Kitty Calhoun 

    Continue reading "The Trip Continues – Full of Adventure" »

    Dirtbag Diaries Podcast: The Modern Dirtbag

    By Fitz & Becca Cahall


    In the golden days, dirtbags lived to climb. They didn’t work, have permanent addresses or sponsors. They ate leftovers off of tourists’ plates and slept in beater cars or in caves. They stayed in one place only as long as the weather allowed for climbing. Now, our modern world of fees, time limits and locked dumpsters has made it nearly impossible to live that way anymore. Dirtbagging is dying—or at least that’s what some people claim.

    Join Matt Van Biene for a day in Yosemite’s Camp 4 as he talks to climbers of all different ages, nationalities and backgrounds. Is dirtbagging dead or alive? What does the modern dirtbag look like? Well, you decide.

    Matt’s photographs from Patagonia were recently featured in The Alpinist. Check out the article here.


    Listen to "The Modern Dirtbag" by The Dirtbag Diaries on Soundcloud.


    Visit for links to past episodes, music credits and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher and DoggCatcher, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter. The Dirtbag Diaries is a Duct Tape Then Beer production. Graphic by Walker Cahall.

    Have a great weekend everybody.

    Watch Tommy Caldwell Climb Pitch 15 (5.14c) on The Dawn Wall

    On January 14, 2015, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson made the first free ascent of The Dawn Wall on Yosemite’s El Capitan. Today we’re happy to share this exclusive video of Tommy climbing pitch 15, rated 5.14c—the first footage released by the film crew on the wall. 

    “The crux holds of pitch 15 are some of the smallest and sharpest holds I have ever attempted to hold onto,” Tommy wrote on his Facebook page. Four unique camera angles reveal those minuscule holds and the 1,300 feet of exposure under Tommy’s precarious foot placements. While multiple pitches of extremely difficult climbing remained above, the completion of pitch 15 was considered the last major hurdle to the eventual success of this seven-year dream project.

    Note: Pitch 15 was originally rated 5.14d, but was downgraded slightly after the completion of the route.

    With thanks to Big Up Productions and Sender Films.

    Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson Make First Free Ascent of Yosemite’s Dawn Wall!


    We’ve been watching the updates with bated breath and now all of us at Patagonia are thrilled to congratulate Tommy Caldwell and his partner Kevin Jorgeson on the first free ascent of the Dawn Wall in Yosemite Valley. Tommy first conceived the idea of the climb in 2007 and, seven years later, summited the route on the afternoon of January 14, 2015 after spending 19 days on the wall—and with much of the climbing world viewing the last pitches via live video stream. Longtime readers will be familiar with our coverage of the Dawn Wall dating back to 2010. It’s been a long haul and we couldn’t be happier for Tommy.

    From Yvon: “When we first climbed the North American Wall on El Cap in 1964, we thought, ‘Well, that proves that any big wall in the world can be climbed.’ We never dreamed they could be climbed all free! Sending the Dawn Wall leaves Pope Francis with no choice but to admit our closest relative is the chimpanzee.’”

    Above: Seven years of relief. An elated Tommy Caldwell at the top of the Dawn Wall. Photo: Chris Burkard

    Continue reading "Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson Make First Free Ascent of Yosemite’s Dawn Wall!" »

    Fitz’s Fall Layering System – Suggestions for dressing your child in the cold

    By Rebecca Caldwell


    Today’s post comes from Rebecca Caldwell, photographer and wife to Patagonia climbing ambassador Tommy Caldwell, and mama to their son, Fitz. She discovered the climbing lifestyle five years ago and now spends more time soaking up the beautiful places around the world than at home. They share their somewhat unconventional lifestyle with Fitz, and hope to encourage others to explore the outdoors with their kids, too.

    Every autumn since I’ve known Tommy we have loaded up our van, left our home in Estes Park, Colorado, and driven to Yosemite National Park for him to work on his mega-project, The Dawn Wall, on the monolithic El Capitan. After we had Fitz we couldn’t wait to share this breathtaking place with him. This time of year the leaves turn golden and fall to the ground, snow dusts the valley rim, the warm California sun plays hide and seek behind the south walls as it moves from east to west, and the cold sinks into our temporary home in Upper Pines campground. Van life with Fitz means dealing with constant weather changes and variations. Making sure he’s warm enough, but not too warm, is an ongoing challenge. As an active adult it’s easy to find information about layering systems for your endeavors, but rarely do people talk about layering systems for kids.

    Above: Fitz racking up for Moby Dick. Photo: Rebecca Caldwell

    Continue reading "Fitz’s Fall Layering System – Suggestions for dressing your child in the cold" »

    The Trip

    By Kitty Calhoun

    A partner enjoying El Cap

    I anticipated the change with dread and excitement. My son was leaving the nest for college and I was determined to return to my former goal-driven climbing lifestyle. Fred Becky would be proud of me. After a night of mourning, alone under the desert stars, I promptly returned home, found my address book, and started calling all the girls I knew who might be interested in my next project.

    I had become fixated on Tangerine Trip, VI A2 or C3F, on El Cap for a number of reasons. Nothing compares to the nights spent sitting on a portaledge, hundreds of feet above the valley floor, where only a few have earned the position. There is nothing to do but eat dinner—a bagel with cream cheese and tuna, perhaps—and slip into the sleeping bag. I savor the brief escape from the concerns and busyness of the world, where silence is broken only by the whoops of joy from other souls perched high on the wall and swallows swoop through the air, enjoying themselves just as much as the climbers.

    Even though aid climbing is out of vogue, I’ve found that leading hard aid pitches challenges me and scares me just as much as any other form of climbing. No, I’m not ready to live vicariously just yet.

    Above: "Big wall Kate" on El Cap from my last trip to Yosemite four years ago. Photo: Kitty Calhoun

    Continue reading "The Trip" »

    The Nose Wipe – Removing Trash from The Nose of El Capitan

    By Dave N. Campbell

    Another day at work on The Nose, with the author and ranger Ben Doyle. ©Cheyne Lempe


    My partner shouted at the top of his lungs, causing me to jolt to attention and look down to him and our hanging camp. We were high on El Capitan’s Shield route, and I watched helplessly as a yellow dry bag containing our garbage from the past five days – including twenty-four crushed aluminum cans – grew smaller and smaller as it plummeted toward the ground. After a full twenty seconds of airtime, our bag exploded at the base of the monolith, firing shrapnel in all directions. The blast sent echoes to Half Dome and back.

    The yellow bag had been clipped in poorly and detached once I began hauling our supplies to the next station. (In climbing terms: the dry bag buckle was mistakenly clipped into the taut docking line and thus came loose when my partner lowered out the bags.) It was March and, fortunately, we had the wall to ourselves, otherwise the error could have killed someone. Our team was relatively inexperienced and also greatly relieved that we did not drop something vital, like a sleeping bag. Dark clouds lurked and when we finally reached the top we were pounded by a violent storm. We fought our way down the slippery descent in the dark, and somehow found our way to the Ahwahnee Hotel, where we slept on the floor next to a crackling fireplace. In the morning, we exited quickly, forgetting about the yellow bag debacle, and drove back to school without cleaning up our mess.

    Continue reading "The Nose Wipe – Removing Trash from The Nose of El Capitan" »

    Shutting Down or Opening Up? Reflections from Yosemite on the 16-day Government Shutdown

    By Ron Kauk

    I stood in wonder during a walk through the valley, at day 10 or something, as the exaggerated drama played out once again in this microcosm of America – a seven-mile long, mile-and-a-half wide sacred place on earth. It was as if the place could hear itself think, or simply just talk the real language of thousands of years between trees, plants, animals, rivers and rocks.
    I was in awe of this feeling, the power of such a place that hosts over 4 million people a year. At the end of every summer, I feel as though it’s becoming harder and harder for the valley to absorb the impact of human stress and disconnect.

    [Above: El Capitan peaks out of the trees. All of the photos in this story were taken by Ron Kauk (himself a Yosemite resident) while the park was closed to the public.]

    Continue reading "Shutting Down or Opening Up? Reflections from Yosemite on the 16-day Government Shutdown" »

    The Final Frontier

    By James Lucas

    Final Frontier_Schaefer_1

    I screamed at the granite wall. The sound bounced off Yosemite’s Fifi Buttress and drowned into the roar of Bridalveil Falls. I lowered to the belay, where Katie stood at a small stance. I was six inches from a free ascent. It felt like six miles. I’d cleaned the route. Pulled out old gear. Placed bolts. Climbed on the pitches a ton. I’d trained hard. I stopped sleeping. Would the work ever pan out?

    Dan McDevitt established The Final Frontier, a Grade V 5.7 A3 route in 1999 with Sue McDevitt, Brittany Griffith and Sue’s sister Penny Black. He climbed the route again with Jim Karn, the first American to win a World Cup in climbing and America’s best sport climber in the '80s. While they were climbing, Jim Karn told Dan, “It’ll go free.”

    [Above: Mikey Schaefer photo of me climbing the penultimate arch pitch.]

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    From a Wheelchair to the Sharp End – Story of the First Ever Paraplegic Lead Climb

     By Dave N. Campbell

    Sean O'Neill lead climbing the 2nd pitch of Jamcrack. ©Dave N. Campbell

    Take a moment and imagine yourself in Yosemite. You are climbing up a steep rock face, above the trees, with Half Dome behind you, but you do not have the security of a rope that can pull you taut from above if you get tired or slip. Instead, you are lead climbing. Somewhere down below a friend is feeding you rope – you are tied in at the waist – and every ten feet or so, as you move upwards, you are obligated to wedge man-made devices into openings where the rock is fractured so you can clip your rope into them as a safety measure. You're putting your life on the line, trusting that the rope will eventually come tight on the most recent one of these devices if you fall.

    Climbers refer to the procedure of lead climbing as being on the sharp end of the rope because of the inherent dangers involved and the accelerated focus that is required. And while advanced climbers constantly dream about being in this Yosemite scenario, I think it is fair to say that much of the rest of the population would find themselves in a nightmare.

    Now picture yourself in this exact scenario – whether you are an experienced climber or novice – except that you are paralyzed from the waist down. This is where most of our imaginations trail off… but this spring in Yosemite Valley, paraplegic climber Sean O’Neill made this his reality by becoming the first “sit climber” to lead climb.

    Continue reading "From a Wheelchair to the Sharp End – Story of the First Ever Paraplegic Lead Climb" »

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