An Open Letter to Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell

In the climbing mecca of Wichita, Kansas, we savored every moment of Jorgeson’s and Caldwell’s historic ascent of the famed Dawn Wall in Yosemite’s Valley…  Okay, maybe KS not a climbing mecca, but there are some serious, dedicated climbers out here in the Great Plains.   David Kortje is one of them- a Wichita local and an accomplished climber who is striving to grow the climber’s community.  He is inspired to follow his Bliss, and is working to build a world-class climbing gym here in Wichita.  For him, this feat of human spirit was especially awesome.  He awesomely allowed me to share his thoughts on the subject, and presents,

An open letter to Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell:

First of all, congratulations on that little stunt you pulled, you know climbing that Dumb Wall (or whatever you call it). I mean, must have been cool to get a tweet from the leader of the free world: B.O. Speaking of B.O., I can about imagine what you two smelled like after spending two plus weeks hanging around up there. Wonder what kind of effect that odor had on our eco system?

Anyway, I was honestly pretty disappointed in the whole show.

First of all there was you Kevin. That 15th pitch looked heinous. I actually thought you made a valiant effort the first few days. The problem I had was that you just didn’t know when to say enough. I mean, after seven days, multiple falls, mince meat for fingers, and every climber in the world watching, what were you thinking? All of us would have understood if you just quit there. You could have easily blamed inexperience, bad conditions, and media hype . . . hell, even the falling gas prices. I mean, this is America, we love a good story with some blame in it. We would have understood, even empathized; and still crowned you our hero. But no, you had to keep trying. And just what exactly did you accomplish? You made the rest of us look like quitters, reminding us that perseverance and strong will and dreams really do pay off. Who has time for such nonsense? Haven’t you heard: a new episode of Person of Interest is about to begin? And if that wasn’t enough, you kept on climbing; with that infectious smile that made us believe that we could do the same thing. Thanks a lot!

And Tommie? Really? Waiting for Kevin, encouraging him, sticking to that whole team plan thing? THIS IS THE 21ST CENTURY TOMMIE! WAKE UP! It’s a dog eat dog world, every man (or climber) for himself, step on whatever Sherpa you need to as you build your own glory. It was yours, ALL yours; maybe never to be repeated. That’s how winning is done son. Do you really think that anyone even noticed that you were putting others ahead of yourself? And if they did, heaven forbid that our youth get that kind of mixed message along with our ‘its all about you’ propaganda. And so now here I am, having to take time out of my day to set you straight. I hope you’re proud of yourself!

I could go on for pages, but this keyboard is killing my finger tips and I would hate to over tax my brain, and besides, there are plenty of other people out there living perfectly mediocre lives that make me feel much more comfortable about myself.

David (Grumpy Old Man) Kortje

PS: This is obviously satirical. What you two did embodies all of what is great about America. Thank you for reminding us what winning really does look like. (I was kinda serious about the body odor thing though).

David Kortje
David Kortje

I had the opportunity to chat with David via email this weekend.  He’s a pretty cool dude.  Here’s some perspective on the  climb and his project:

Justin W:  The bit on the local news mentioned that you were texting encouragement to Kevin.  First, what in the world do you say to someone who is battling what is, arguably, the hardest climb in the world?  Second, how in the world were those guys texting with their fingers fileted like sashimi?

David K:  Ha ha. I was wondering about the texting/finger thing myself. We would get a chance to text during his rest days. You know, hanging out on an 8×10 porta-ledge at 1000 feet, there really isn’t much else to do. I clearly don’t think my ‘encouragement’ had anything to do with him sending, but I sent him kudos’ on his hard sends, told him that even Kansas news was carrying his story, and then we talked about the effort of not giving up. Kevin asked how the gym was coming and told me that this was my Dawn Wall, so I guess in the respect, he was actually encouraging me.

JW:  Why is Tommy and Kevin’s accomplishment important for you?  What does it mean for you, personally?

DK:  I think mostly I just immediately connected with how much effort and determination they had put into this project, and the crazy amount of pressure they must have felt to send it. Especially with Kevin getting hung up on pitch 15, I really empathized with his dilemma of wanting to send and not wanting to slow things down so much that some storm or something would come in and shut them both down. I also became captivated with Tommy’s leadership and patience during that time. I guess as an entrepreneur, a boss/leader and a climber, it just really resonated with me on numerous levels.

David, pulling hard at Hueco Tanks, TX.
David, pulling hard at Hueco Tanks, TX.

JW:  Is building a climbing gym in the flatlands of Kansas somehow like climbing the Dawn Wall?

DK:  Ya, for sure it sure feels like it, albeit on a much smaller scale and with intact finger tips 🙂 . You know, we’ve been working on this for 2 1/2 years now and I definitely see similarities. It’s like you accomplish one hurdle (pitch) and are feeling pretty confident, and then you get shut down repeatedly on the next challenge. And then there is obviously the uncertainty of if this thing will even go. I mean, who builds a commercial climbing gym of this scale in the flattest state in the nation, right? It’s been great having so much encouragement from the local climbing community along with so many people like Kevin and others that I have had the pleasure of getting to know around the country. That has for sure kept me from throwing in the towel more than a few times.

JW:  Will you please invite Kevin to come for a workshop when Bliss opens?  How can the Wichita climbing community help make that happen?

DK:   Absolutely.  Kevin has already invited himself! He runs a company called PCI (Pro Climbers International) and we have been talking about him and some of his guys coming down and either doing a climbing clinic or a route setting clinic.  But first we need to get Bliss open.  It is crazy expensive to build, staff and run a facility of this magnitude, so what we need more than anything is word of mouth;  you know, getting the people of south central Kansas excited and knowledgeable of what we are doing. So tell your friends, follow our FB page and share our posts on your timelines. And then we are open, come join us and send some awesome routes.

climb bliss banner

Fire Up.  Get Dirty.  Scare Yourself.  Bleed.
Do More than Just Survive…  Thrive!
And, Also:  Follow Your Bliss. 
Congrats to Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell!

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