Yosemite climbers pass another milestone in El Capitan free climb


Two climbers making an ascent up El Capitan in Yosemite National Park are getting close to their goal.

As of Saturday, both men had cleared one of the more difficult stretches in their journey, to the cheers of onlookers.

“Pure joy,” Kevin Jorgeson wrote on Facebook after the milestone.


Since Dec. 27, 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 last 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.