Two Americans on Wednesday (January 14, 2015) became the first to free-climb the Dawn Wall of El Capitan – sometimes called the hardest rock climb in the world – in Yosemite National Park. Thirty-six-year-old Tommy Caldwell and 30-year-old Kevin Jorgeson used ropes and safety harnesses during their climb, but otherwise used only their hands and feet to scale the 3,000-foot tall, half-mile long, granite face. The Washington Post described their ascent as grasping …
… cracks as thin as razor blades and as small as dimes.
It took Jorgeson and Caldwell 19 days to reach the top of the Dawn Wall. They had been attempting the climb together for the past seven years. The route consists of 31 pitches – that is, steep sections requiring a rope between two belays, or holds in the rock. Individual pitches at the Dawn wall are rated the most difficult in the world to climb (14d).
When not climbing, Jorgeson and Caldwell rested in portaledges, 4-foot-by-6-foot hanging cots with aluminum frames anchored to the rock wall more than 1,000-feet off the valley floor.
The two men dealt with constant falls and injuries. But they did it.
Congratulations to Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson!
Bottom line: Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson have become the first to free-climb Yosemite National Park’s Dawn Wall, which has been called the hardest rock climb in the world.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.