Beathard: The point of it all

Jill Beathard
Editor’s Note
Jill Beathard

After a hike up Mushroom Rock and some lunch at Fat Belly — which is just as yummy as the name implies, I discovered — I checked out the final presentation of the 5Point Film Festival in Carbondale on Sunday.

Dubbed “Yosemite,” it was a collection of film, speakers and skits by a theater troupe — that part was confusing — all about the big-wall climbing in the park and the people who have made it legendary, from the pioneers of the 60s and 70s on down to Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, who accomplished the first free ascent of the notoriously difficult Dawn Wall in January.

I learned a lot about climbing, but I also thought about a lot of other things that relate to outdoor adventure. I got lost in the world of this 1960s climbers living in “Camp Four” in the Yosemite Valley, subsisting off of expired can and cat food and developing their own community on the valley floor. Did they ever wake up in their tents on a cold night, wondering if it was all worth it? Did they ever think of swapping their goals of being the first to climb this wall or that rock for the house, the car and the picket fence?

Watching and listening to Caldwell, who’s not much older than me (and who spoke at Sunday’s event), I noticed that he was equally motivated and committed to his climbing goals like his predecessors. And unlike most people of our time, who would calculate all the money they “should” be making working a job they “should” be working instead of spending seven years on the side of a vertical wall.

Maybe some accomplishments aren’t monetary, or even mainstream. Does that make them less special?

Jill Beathard is the editor of the Snowmass Sun. Email her at