US Climbing Duo Face Biggest Challenge Yet With Yosemite’s El Capitan

Two men are attempting the seemingly impossible – Kevin Jorgeson, 30, and Tommy Caldwell, 36, are midway through their daring climb up Yosemite national park’s El Capitan. What seems so impossible about this? El Capitan’s east wall, the Dawn Wall, about a half mile tall, is a sheer granite monolith with nearly nonexistent small cracks to grab onto. In bad weather, ice can rain down over the climbers, making the surface slick and difficult to get a firm grip on. And to make things even worse, Jorgeson and Caldwell are attempting this  journey using only their hands and feet to propel themselves up the wall. A rope is being used to prevent a fall, but will not be used to aid their climb. Challenging enough for you?

Jorgeson and Caldwell have dedicated the past 6 years of their lives preparing for this endeavor. No strangers to difficult climbs, the pair have both free climbed extensively throughout the globe. Jorgeson has made headlines in the past for bouldering (climbing without ropes or harnesses) some of the most difficult terrain in England. Caldwell and a group of fellow climbers were also held hostage during one specific journey in Kyrgyzstan. Fortunately, he saved the group by pushing their captor off a ledge.

“The guys are doing great,” said Josh Lowell with Big Up Productions, which has been documenting their climbs for the past six years. “(Monday) they are resting and trying to grow skin back on their fingertips so they can continue to do battle with the hardest climbing sections, which involve grabbing tiny, razor-sharp edges of rock,” Lowell said, speaking to The Associated Press.

Compounding the difficulties of the climb is the fact that they can only do a limited amount of stretches and exercises within their tent, making each day’s climb harder than the last. In a blog post detailing their journey, Caldwell’s wife, Becca, compared it to “living like veal between their climbing.”

If everything fares well, the duo could complete their climb as early as Friday. Weather conditions, however, could interfere and force them to spend several extra days on the Dawn Wall.

“But that’s best-case scenario. It could take several more days just to get through the difficult section where they currently are. If any weather moves in, that could also delay things, but the forecast is looking good for now,” Lowell states.

So what does the pair do when they are not climbing? Both have been extensively recorded their journey on social media, and take breaks to watch some Netflix, while gaining their strength.

Should they complete their goal, they will be the first to successfully free climb the Dawn Wall.