After nineteen days of grueling climbing, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson successfully summited The Dawn Wall at 6:00 PM EST on Wednesday, January 14th. This formidable section of Yosemite’s El Capitan, which holds a rather notorious reputation, is considered by many to be the most difficult climbing route of the 3,000-foot rock.
Yet, the duo managed to climb it free handed, relying on ropes and other gear only in event of a fall. The adventure was a brewing dream for Caldwell. Despite conquering 5 other routes on El Capitan, the Dawn Wall remained the ultimate feat for the climber.
“He was looking for more of a challenge. He started going up and repelling down and trying to see if he could see holds that could turn into a climb. Over a two-year period, he probably spent 25-30 days on the wall just looking it over,” said Caldwell’s father, Mike, when speaking with CNN.
After leaving their base camp on December 27th, both vowed not to turn back until they successfully climbed all 32 pitches of the wall consecutively. In the process, they slept in 6×4 foot portal edges – portable tents suspended on the side of the cliff by nylon strings. Their friends would also periodically ascend to the pair in order to replenish any supplies the duo needed.
During the first six days of their endeavor, Caldwell and Jorgeson ascended the first 14 pitches, some of which are considered to be the hardest of the climb. Previous attempts only landed them to the twelfth. Soon after, Caldwell started to complete section after section, making it to Wino Tower on pitch 20 in two weeks. Jorgeson, the less experienced of the duo, struggled to make it past 15. But Caldwell refused to summit without him.
“I kind of lost it when I pulled onto Wino Tower knowing that this seven year dream is looking more and more like it could become a reality. Now I am in full support mode until @kjorgeson catches up,” wrote Caldwell in a Facebook post.
Jorgeson finally caught up with Caldwell, after reaching the end of pitch 15. From there, the final leg of the climb was a cakewalk in comparison to the beginning. The triumphant end was in sight.
Yesterday, the pair finally summited and united with their awaiting family and friends at the top.
“It’s an amazing feeling to accomplish something you have devoted your life to for years,” Jorgeson said.