Two Americans Complete One Of The World's Hardest Climbs Using Only Their Hands And Feet

El CapitanAP Photo/Ben MargotKevin Jorgeson, left, and Tommy Caldwell climb El Capitan, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015,

Two Americans are the first people to reach the top of El Capitan in California’s Yosemite National Park using only their hands and feet

Tommy Caldwell, 36, and Kevin Jorgeson, 30, reached the summit of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall, a 3,000-foot vertical section of exposed granite, on Wednesday afternoon.

El Capitan, located on the north side of Yosemite Valley, is the largest exposed granite monolith in the world. It’s a favourite challenge of rock climbers, and considered by many to be one of the hardest climbs on the planet. 

This excerpt from The New York Times provides a good picture of why the climb is so tough:

El Capitan is the height of three Empire State Buildings stacked atop one another, but with many fewer, and smaller, things to hold on to on the way up. The climb was divided into 31 pitches, or sections, like way points on a dot-to-dot drawing. When one pitch was successfully navigated, the climbers stopped and prepared for the next. Much of the work was done in the cool of the evening, when hands would sweat less and the soles of their shoes had better grip. 

Some pitches were well over 100 feet straight up the rock, while others were sideways shuffles to connect two vertical pitches. One required a dyno, a jump from one precarious hold to another. Falls were not unusual; Jorgeson needed seven days and 10 attempts to navigate the horizontal traverse of Pitch 15, unexpectedly slowing the expedition, which was blessed by an uncharacteristic stretch of dry weather.

It took the duo 19 days to reach the summit, using only ropes to catch them in case of a fall.

The pair slept in hanging tents and woke up every four hours to apply beeswax cream to their raw fingertips, The Guardian said.

>The climbers allowed the world to follow their journey by posting regular updates to social media.

“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 on Jan. 7, after a particularly hard day.

Three days later, on Jan. 10, Jorgeson published a Facebook photo of his bloodied hands, noting that it took 7 days and 11 attempts to finally pass pitch 15.

Post by Kevin Jorgeson .

Jorgeson’s final post, on Jan. 11, is filled with encouraging words as he reaches the end of his journey.

Post by Kevin Jorgeson .

El Capitan was first conquered in 1958 using fixed ropes. Caldwell and Jorgeson are the first people to successfully free-climb Dawn Wall. 

Below is video footage of the climb, courtesy of BBC, and more pictures from the ascent.

Jorgeson, bottom left, raises his arms beside Caldwell after both reached the summit of El Capitan.

Caldwell, left, and Jorgeson near the summit of El Capitan.

The pair reached the summit at around 3:30 p.m. local time on Wednesday.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Tagged In

hiking uk-us