The Push - Tommy Caldwell
2nd Oct 2017
I've grown out of the habit of reading books about famous climbers so it was with trepidation that I started reading The Push. I felt as though I knew enough about tommy Caldwell's life through films I have seen and articles I've read. I knew about the kidnapping incident, his DIY accident, and of course about Dawn Wall. Initially I found the writing style a little contrived and the story of his upbringing all too familiar (not necessarily with other climbers, but with other high achievers). However I persevered - after all, the book is about exactly that - and began to enjoy it more and more. As always I refrained from looking at the photos until I reached them, and was surprised to see that those of his dad, a preening body builder, matched the over-the-top descriptions which I'd assumed were exaggerated. I was further intrigued.
Throughout the whole book there is a theme of love. At times it felt over the top, but by the time I'd finished, it made sense and I understood why he'd included it all, warts and all. The Push is a book written by surely one of the most driven individuals on the planet. His drive and capacity for suffering whilst training, and actually climbing, far exceeds that of any professional climbers I have ever met. It's driven by the desire to please others as well as himself - first parents, then partners, and finally children. As a parent myself I often find struggle with books and films of climbers pushing the limits with the risk of leaving young children behind if it goes wrong. Tommy describes the tensions that arise when on his amazing projects very well. The book obviously culminates in his ascent of the Dawn Wall on El Cap, which was without doubt the most covered, talked about ascent in the history of climbing. It's no doubt a very important route, and this is a first hand account of the life-long push that led to it happening. It's definitely worth a read.
Once I'd finished it I gave it to my 11 year old, who at the moment, is really enjoying his climbing. He loved it!