What’s the most gruesome physical activity you have ever endured? Multiply that by a thousand and try to imagine the inconceivable climb of two friends on El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park.
Rock climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson did it. It only took 6 years of practice, numerous failed climbs and 19 demanding days to reach the top of the 3,000-foot vertical wall. And the conditions were excruciating: they had bloodied fingertips to show for at the end of their climb.
Dawn Wall is considered to be the climber’s hell, but the two friends captivated a world-wide audience through livestreaming and conquered the rock’s top in front of cameramen swinging from ropes aside them. Many have regarded the free-climb impossible, and Caldwell and Jorgeson are the first to prove otherwise. Relying on ropes and harnesses for safety, and relying on their own skills and muscle for ascending, they traced an incredible track through thin cracks and unbelievably smooth surfaces.
The climb was a persistent fight against falls and physical harm, but the two couldn’t give up on the desire of conquering the wall, a stubborn desire edging on borderline obsession. No one before had ever reached the summit in one bottom-to-top free-climb. Many others have climbed the wall, the first one doing so in 1970, but with the use of ropes pulling them up with cables.
Throughout the climb, Caldwell and Jorgeson set up camp on the wall, taking breaks and resting in tents anchored to the rock. Their fingertips were the ones in need of tending each night, due to the impossible task of pulling your own weight by little crevices on an even wall. Sometimes, they waited entire days before trying again. The healing process was slow, even with the help of special lotions, so they protected the wounded skin by any means, even tape or superglue.
The pioneer climbers did not get there overnight: it took years of training and multiple unsuccessful tries. In 2010, a storm turned them in their way when they were about a third up the wall. Another attempt ended in a broken ankle for Jorgeson. This December, he got stuck in the first half of the wall for seven days, as he tried for eleven times to gain some more ground.
But they didn’t give up. And they succeeded.
Image Source: National Geographic