The Push by Tommy Caldwell Book Review

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Book Review: The Push: A Climber’s Journey Of Endurance, Risk, And Going Beyond Limits by Tommy Caldwell

If you’re a fan of the great outdoors you probably know the name of legendary rock climber Tommy Caldwell – and if you know the name you probably will want to read his book. When I first saw a copy of The Push by Tommy Caldwell while wandering around the MSP airport while  en route to Europe, I knew I wanted to add this biography to my reading list – and I sure am glad that I did. Caldwell’s memoir is well written, inspiring, and insightful.

The Push by Tommy Caldwell
The Push by Tommy Caldwell

The Push paints a picture of Caldwell’s life – and it’s a fascinating tale. Caldwell’s mountain guide father introduced him to the mountains at a young age. He was climbing big walls, guiding in South America, and competing in rock climbing before most people even think about climbing. His inspiring story takes him to remote regions of the world like Patagonia, Kyrgyzstan, and Yosemite to climb and push the limits of what is humanly possible.

Caldwell shines the spotlight on the ups and downs of life as a professional climber. From being kidnapped by terrorists in Kyrgyzstan to his failed marriage with climber Beth Rodden to his impressive comeback from a finger lost in a table saw accident, Caldwell’s persistence always kept him on top of his game.

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Caldwell is one of the few people who can truly call himself a professional climber. As he notes, “in the United States you could probably count on both hands the number who make a real living, an income equivalent to, say, that of a janitor, based solely on getting paid to climb (versus income from climbing-related writing or photography, guiding, being a sales rep, and so on)” (220). His exceptional talent and endless drive allowed him to do extraordinary things and that’s what The Push is all about.

Of course, Caldwell’s biggest claim to fame is being the first person to free climb the Dawn Wall on Yosemite’s El Capitan with Kevin Jorgensen on January 14, 2015. This was no small feat. It took 7 years to piece together the Dawn Wall puzzle, which is perhaps “the hardest rock climb in the world” (311). And climbing a 3000′ route rated Vi 5.14d in 19 days is Caldwell’s greatest accomplishment.

“Flow, that state of optimal experience in which one feels fully engaged, is one of the most magical experiences a person can have.” (312)

The Push by Tommy Caldwell is a book that both climbers and non-climbers will enjoy. This memoir is more than just a biography about another dirtbag climber taking risks. Instead The Push provides readers with an honest glimpse into a climber’s perspective on life. The author mixes Caldwell’s impressive climbing resume with thoughtful insight that will make readers understand the climber’s mind and their own life at the same time. Put this one on your reading list.

“It was a hell of an adventure. And I never once thought I might die.” (337)

I give The Push by Tommy Caldwell two thumbs up. Read it.

Watch Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgensen climbing pitch 15 (5.14c) on the Dawn Wall:


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