Distance grows between climbers scaling El Capitan in Yosemite

El Capitan's Pitch 15 cuts into climbers, slowing their record-setting attempt

Two climbers’ perilous ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park continued this week, with the distance between the pair growing as one section of the granite wall continued to pose a particular challenge.

“My battle with Pitch 15 continues,” Kevin Jorgeson wrote on his Facebook page Wednesday, referring to one of the wall’s 32 pitches, or sections. “On my 4th attempt, around 11pm, the razor sharp holds ripped both the tape and the skin right off my fingers.”

Since Dec. 27, Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell have been free climbing -- using only their hands and feet -- while sleeping in sling-like tents suspended to El Capitan’s Dawn Wall, a steep and barren section of the mountain. The expanse has also been called the Wall of the Early Morning Light and is considered possibly the hardest free-climb in the world.

Caldwell managed to scale Pitch 15 over the weekend. Jorgeson, however, has been battling the section all week. On his YouTube channel, he said it’s one of the most difficult parts of the climb.

“As disappointing as this is, I'm learning new levels of patience, perseverance and desire. I'm not giving up. I will rest. I will try again. I will succeed,” Jorgeson wrote on his Facebook page.

The finger-wide crevices in the wall are among the sharpest the pair have ever encountered, Caldwell said on his Facebook page.

“Some of the smallest and sharpest holds…I have ever attempted to hold onto,” he wrote. “Is crazy to think that the skin on our fingertips could be the limiting fact towards success or failure.”

Caldwell has taken to waking up every four hours during the night to apply lotion to his hands. Jorgeson took a day off of climbing earlier this week to let the skin on his fingertips heal.

El Capitan, which stands more than 3,000 feet above the Yosemite Valley floor, is the largest monolith of granite in the world, according to the National Park Service.

For more than 27 days in 1970, Warren Harding and Dean Caldwell -- no relation to Tommy -- climbed the Dawn Wall using ropes. Jorgeson and Caldwell would be the first since then to climb the section using ropes only as a safeguard against a fall.

“If they get it completed, it will be the hardest completed rock climb in the world,” Tom Evans, a climber and photographer, told the New York Times. Evans is documenting the pair’s summit on his blog.

Jorgeson, 30, of Santa Rosa, and Caldwell, 36, of Estes Park, Colo., prepared for about five years for the climb, according to their personal websites. They have chronicled both their preparation and current progress toward the summit of El Capitan on Facebook and Twitter.

Caldwell began climbing Pitch 16 Tuesday, according to his wife Becca’s blog. She did not say on Wednesday whether he had succeeded in the climb.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna and @MattHjourno

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