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Who Is Beth Rodden? New Details About Tommy Caldwell's Ex-Wife Featured In 'Dawn Wall' Documentary On Netflix

Photo: youtube
Who Is Beth Rodden? New Details About Tommy Caldwell's Ex-Wife Featured In 'Dawn Wall' Documentary On Netflix

If you’ve had the chance to watch Free Solo or Touching the Void, by now you’ve probably realized that you don’t get vertigo watching climbers ascend mountains or walls. And if that’s the case, you need to add The Dawn Wall to your queue. Because it’s always inspiring to watch other people accomplish the impossible — all while feeling a little inspired by their ambition.

The Dawn Wall follows the true story of American rock climber, Tommy Caldwell, who successfully climbed Yosemite’s “Dawn Wall” after six years of planning and practice, and spending 19 days on the rockface. Along with his climbing partner Kevin Jorgeson, the two successfully climbed the 3,000 foot wall, deemed one of the most difficult big-wall climbs in the world.

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But this documentary is the life story of Caldwell, whose marriage fell apart shortly before he attempted to climb the wall, and it’s important to take into account just how much his divorce affected him. Which brings us to his ex-wife, Beth Rodden.

Who is Beth Rodden? Not only is she Caldwell’s ex-wife, but she’s also a very talented rock climber. Here are a few things to know about Rodden, including her relationship with Caldwell, her skills, and her role in inspiring her ex to do the impossible.

1. She’s had an amazing career.


A post shared by bethrodden (@bethrodden) on Apr 10, 2019 at 1:42pm PDT

She began climbing at a local gym back in 1995, eventually going on to win the 1996, 1997, and 1998 Junior National JCCA Championships. Her redpointing of the sport route To Bolt Or Not To Be impressed Lynn Hill, a free climbing pioneer, who invited Rodden to Madagascar’s Tsaranoro Massif, sparking Rodden’s move to a traditional climbing career.

She climbed Lurking Fear and The Nose, making her the first woman to free climb two routes. She also free climbed The Optimist, and became the first American woman to redpoint 5.14b. Rodden also redpointed the first ascent of Meltdown, “a thin sustained crack in Yosemite,” and “the hardest pitch in Yosemite.”

She’s one of the only women in the world to have redpointed a 5.14c (8c+) traditional climb, and is the youngest woman to climb 5.14a (8b+).

2. She and Caldwell met during a competition.

Photo: AP

In 1995, the two met at a competition, but didn’t start dating until 2000, shortly before they were held hostage.

“Our first date had been just that April in Boulder, Colorado. He picked me up in his gigantic Chevy van and took me for an ­early-bird Caesar salad at a Cheesecake Factory. For our next date, more or less, we spent a month sleeping in the sand at the base of El Capitan, in Yosemite Valley, working on a route called Lurking Fear,” Rodden said.

The couple wed in 2003 and lived in Yosemite, both trying to establish themselves as professional climbers. But their marriage fell apart and ended in 2009.

According to Rodden, “...I was realizing that, for me at least, the romantic part wasn’t really there. A week before we left, at the North Face’s corporate headquarters, I tried to break up with Tommy. I told him I thought we should just stick to being friends and climbing partners. He laid his dirty-blond head on the floor.

Neither of us was particularly strong and brave about emotions. He asked if we could please just go on the trip and see how we did. I hated conflict. I said yes. I was 20 years old, and Tommy was 21. When I look back now at the pictures of us at that time, I see ­children.”

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3. She eventually remarried.


A post shared by bethrodden (@bethrodden) on Mar 1, 2019 at 2:26pm PST

In 2012, Rodden married Randy Puro, and by her accounts, this time, this marriage was different: “This time it felt different. I loved him, yet we remained two distinct, flawed people: him and me, not just us.” The couple have a son, Theo, born in 2014.

4. She’s grateful for Caldwell.

“Tommy is married, too, and the father of two small kids. I’m grateful for the years we spent growing up together. Without them I couldn’t have found the strength to pursue a life that is richer and more complex, even if at times the route is messy and hard,” she said.

5. Her, Caldwell, and two others were taken hostage.

In August 2000, Rodden, Caldwell, Jason “Singer” Smith, and photographer John Dickey were held hostage for six days in Kyrgyzstan, captured by rebels from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. While hostages, they were forced to hide to avoid the military. Eventually, the group overpowered one of the captors, with Caldwell pushing him off the edge of a cliff. The guard survived, they later found out.

In a piece on Outside, Rodden recalled how they escaped:

“On the sixth day, Abdul took off to find food, warmer clothes, and batteries for their radio. That left all four of us with Su, who stumbled like a fawn on critical terrain. We started up a slope that grew sharply angled and then cliffed out near the top.

‘Do you think I should push him?’ Tommy asked me. The boys had talked of nothing else all day. I didn’t say no. I didn’t say anything. This was clearly our chance. It took only seconds for Tommy to climb above Su. As Su started up the headwall, Tommy yanked Su’s gun strap, sending him tumbling off the cliff. Su’s body made a crunching and then a deflating sound when he bounced off a ledge.

Tommy broke down moments later. He worried that I could ­never love him after he’d killed a man. In my own traumatized state I reassured him that yes, of course, I could still love him, but inside I was also telling myself that I could never leave ­Tommy now.

We ran about eight miles that night, weirdly singing Cat Stevens’s ‘Moonshadow’ as we moved in and out of the moonlight. We hoped to find an army compound that we’d noticed during our first week. When we got close, Kyrgyz soldiers fired warning shots, but we shouted ‘Americans! Americans!’ and they stopped.

Inside they gave us water, tinned sardines, and cigarettes. The next day, we were taken to another army base and ultimately made it back to Bishkek, to the U.S. embassy. Nobody back home had even known we’d been kidnapped.”

6. The hostage situation almost ruined her career.


A post shared by bethrodden (@bethrodden) on Mar 15, 2019 at 3:05pm PDT

After returning from Kyrgyzstan, her climbing suffered and she stopped traveling for a year. In 2002, she eventually returned to “the top tier of rock climbing,” onsighting Phoenix.

But recovering from the trauma of being held hostage wasn’t easy to overcome. As she recalled:

“Back in Davis, life felt swirling and chaotic. Inside, on my own, I was numb. My mother, in shock herself, treated me with utmost tenderness. Neighbors and girls I hadn’t really been friends with called and dropped by with what I’m sure were good intentions, though their interest felt prying and made me retreat.

Meanwhile, the climbing world reacted with all the caring of a fraternity house. ‘Whoa, what an epic!’ Some climbers even seemed envious of the attention, like we’d overstepped our station by having this horrible sufferfest that was suddenly all over the news...

Tommy, too, true to how he’d been raised, wanted to use our horrible experience to grow. He wanted the trauma we’d been exposed to in Kyrgyzstan to make him stronger. The hostage-crisis-as-epic narrative worked for him. Tommy had a clear vision of where his (our) life was headed. He’d pour himself into climbing. We’d be a team, stronger together. I had no vision of life at all, not anymore. So I went with his.

I wanted to love climbing again, too, though being cold or hungry now sent me into shock, so mostly we just trained.”

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Samantha Maffucci is an editor for YourTango who focuses on writing trending news and entertainment pieces. In her free time, you can find her obsessing about cats, wine, and all things Vanderpump Rules.