"Clay Wadman's work has been published in National Geographic, The American Alpine Journal, Alpinist, Climbing, Rock and Ice and Vertical magazines as well as in a number of books.
Born in Boulder Colorado in 1965 Clay Wadman grew up backpacking throughout the Rocky Mountains. By High School he discovered El Dorado Canyon and immersed himself in the endless rock climbing of Boulders Front Range. Over the following decade bigger objectives led to climbing extensively in both Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Parks, traveling abroad for expeditions to Nepal and South America and guiding on Denali in Alaska.
After completing the first alpine winter ascent of the SW Ridge of Ama Dablam in Nepal, he became a recipient of a AAC Youth Mountaineering Grant and thus began a two year quest to establish an Alaska Grade V route on Alaska's Mount Huntington. Other notable ascents include a solo winter first ascent on the Diamond, a new Grade VI big wall route on Mount Hooker, and more recently new routes on Mount Thor and Mount Vishnu both in the Grand Canyon.
Clay now lives in Telluride with his wife and border collie Suzy, where he enjoys bolting routes on the valleys conglomerate walls, and during the spring and fall, exploring the remote desert canyons of the desert southwest.
HOW THE MAPS ARE MADE
The Southeast Select is the culmination of the following decade-long vision:
The original overview map of El Cap was first published in November 1996, however with only 72 routes it could not define all the small variations and intricacies of El Cap’s right side. Additionally it was created by compiling all the published topos from existing guidebooks.
By 1998 the Half Dome poster was complete. This represented an entirely new level of research and accuracy. This was because there were no published topos of most of Half Domes routes. By contacting each ascensionist I was able to get first hand beta on every route.
This process led to the realization that topos are often erroneous, being copied from one book to the next and never revisiting the route itself. Therefore, with unwavering encouragement from Tom Frost and using his historic photograph of El Capitan, I began what became a year long project of drawing El Cap’s right side in the finest detail, while contacting ascensionists and drawing their lines onto the actual features.
Utilizing telephoto pictures taken at different times and with different shadows, the face was artistically ‘expanded’ to show the oblique portion of the wall around the Wall of Early Morning Light. Once complete every route could be followed on the rendering.
The exhaustive process of verifying and superimposing over 90 routes onto the poster became the crux. Free routes intermingled with old aid lines and modern routes criss-crossed and shared pitches with the classic lines.
Chris McNamara was a tremendous asset with his super topos. Additionally, thanks go out to Jim Beyer, Jay Smith, Conrad Anker, Bryan Law, Steve Gerberding, Ken Sauls, Steve Quinlan, John Middendorf, Matt Buckner, Jay Smith, Charles Cole, Jim Bridwell and the many others who gave me original and updated topos for nearly all the routes shown.
This comprehensive coffee table print is not for general reference, but is a resource for those who want to follow the obscure test pieces of El Cap's right side, either with a telescope in El Cap meadow, or a magnifying glass at home.
CREATING THE EL CAP FREE POSTER
In 2011, National Geographic commissioned "the next step" to the Southeast Select:
An entire orthographic spread of El Cap.
The process took three months as the process which had been defined on the right side was duplicated on El Cap's left or West Face. Obstacles included splicing the two images together, in such a way that the face still looked like El Cap, despite the flattening of the formation.
Utilizing work I had done for Alpinist's issue featuring El Cap, where I had superimposed all 105 routes over a high resolution photograph, I was able to complete the project which was featured as National Geographic's "Center Fold", in the May 2011 Issue. Over 9 Million copies were printed in over 30 languages world wide.
The next step was to expand this work into poster form. In the decade since the publication of the Southeast Select poster, climbers like Leo Holding, Alex and Thomas Huber and Tommy Caldwell had systematically started free climbing the primary great aid lines. Already the Nose, Salathe', West Buttress, Muir Wall, North American Wall, Dihedral Wall , Heart, New Dawn, Magic Mushroom, Lurking Fear and Zodiac had all gone free. The Wall of Early Morning Light was now well underway by Tommy and Kevin Jorgenson. In tracing these lines, along with Leo's route The Prophet, I found inspiration for my biggest endeavour yet.
The first step was to increase the poster size, and find a press large enough to print, as Conrad Anker calls it a truly "Gigantor" poster. Next was to get authenticated info from the first ascentionists. All were psyched. Lynn Hill volunteered up front to look at each of her free variations to the Nose and Tommy Caldwell went out of his way to come meet me in Colorado and look over all 10 routes he had climbed. Leo as usual was amazing in his psyche and beta.
While the poster was to focus on free routes, step two was to add the super obscure test pieces such as Martyrs' Brigade and Reach for The Sky (Jim Beyer solo). The far left side (West Face) had to be detailed such that the classic West Face and all of Lurking Fear could be documented. Again Tom Frost donated large format black and white prints.
Lastly, of course, was funding. A poster of this size had to be underwritten and I had reservations on whether climbing art of this type could garnish the support of the industry. To my great relief, industry leaders from across the board have said "yes" to my climbing art, and to the comprehensive recording of the fantastic feats of the world's greatest free climbers.
The Dawn Wall poster was commissioned by The American Alpine Club after Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson made the first redpoint ascent of the route in January 2015.
Widely touted as the hardest Big Wall Free climb ever completed, the route climbs the largest portion of El Capitan’s Southeast face. The original free-climbing topo as depicted on the El Cap Free Poster in 2012 was adapted to match the redpoint ascent, including the new “Drop Down” pitches that avoid the 8-foot Dyno. Size: 18” x 36”.
PO BOX 895, TELLURIDE, CO 81435 • EMAIL: CLAY@DIAMONDPRODUCTIONSTUDIOS.COM