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US: 2 men reach top of Yosemite's El Capitan in historic climb


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2 men reach top of Yosemite's El Capitan in historic climb
KRISTIN J. BENDER, Associated Press
SCOTT SMITH, Associated Press

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, California (AP) — Two Americans on Wednesday completed what has long been considered the world's most difficult rock climb, using only their hands and feet to conquer a 3,000-foot (900-meter) vertical wall on El Capitan, the forbidding granite face in Yosemite National Park that has beckoned adventurers for decades.

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson became the first to "free-climb" the Dawn Wall, a feat that many had considered impossible. They used ropes and safety harnesses to catch them in case of a fall, but relied on their own strength and dexterity to ascend by grasping cracks as thin as razor blades and as small as coins.

The effort took weeks, and the two dealt with repeated falls and injuries. But their success completes a years-long dream that bordered on obsession.

Caldwell finished the climb first, and Jorgeson finished minutes later. The two embraced before Jorgeson pumped his arms in the air and clapped his hands above his head. They then sat down for a few minutes, gathered their gear, changed their clothes and hiked to the summit.

The trek up the world's largest granite monolith began Dec. 27. Caldwell and Jorgeson ate and slept in tents fastened to the rock high above the ground and battled painful cuts to their fingertips much of the way.

Free-climbers do not pull themselves up with cables or use chisels to carve out handholds. Instead, they wedge their fingertips and feet into tiny crevices or grip sharp, thin projections of rock. In photographs, the two appeared at times like Spider-Man, splayed across the pale rock that has been described as smooth as a bedroom wall.

Both men needed to take rest days to wait for their skin to heal. They used tape and even superglue to help with the process. At one point, Caldwell set an alarm to wake him every few hours to apply a special lotion to his throbbing hands.

They also took physical punishment when their grip would slip, with long, swinging falls that left them bouncing off the rock face. The tumbles ended in startling jolts from their safety ropes.

Caldwell and Jorgeson had help from a team of supporters who brought food and supplies.

The 36-year-old Caldwell and 30-year-old Jorgeson ate canned peaches and occasionally sipped whiskey. They watched their urine evaporate into thin, dry air and handed toilet sacks, called "wag bags," to helpers who disposed of them.

There are about 100 routes up the rock known among climbers as "El Cap," and many have made it to the top, the first in 1958. Even the Dawn Wall had been scaled.

No one, however, had ever made it to the summit in one continuous free-climb, until now.

"He doesn't understand the magnitude of the accomplishment and the excitement generated," said Mike Caldwell, Tommy's father, who along with another 200 people gathered in a meadow below broke into cheers when the men reached the top.

The pioneering ascent comes as a result of five years of training and failed attempts for both Caldwell and Jorgeson. They only got about a third of the way up in 2010 when they were turned back by storms. A year later, Jorgeson fell and broke an ankle in another attempt.

On this try, as the world watched and followed online.

"As disappointing as this is, I'm learning new levels of patience, perseverance and desire," Jorgeson posted. "I'm not giving up. I will rest. I will try again. I will succeed."

In 2000, Caldwell and three other climbers went to the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan to scale the towering rock walls of its southern mountains. Seventeen days in, they were captured by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Caldwell shoved a guard over a cliff, and the climbers fled, eventually reaching a Kyrgyz army outpost. The guard survived the fall.

Jorgeson has an impressive list of climbs in the U.S., Europe and South Africa and works as a climbing instructor.

John Long, the first person to climb up El Capitan in one day in 1975, said recently of Caldwell and Jorgeson's free-climb that it was almost "inconceivable that anyone could do something that continuously difficult."

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-- (c) Associated Press 2015-01-15

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Amazing. I've stood at the bottom and doubted if it could be done.

I wonder why they chose winter. It's in the mountains and usually gets ice and snow.

Here's a video of it, from while they were climbing.

http://abc7news.com/travel/2-climbers-close-to-making-history-at-yosemite/463938/

Winter & night time climb to avoid the heat, as in sweat on thier hands.

Amazing climb.

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I'm impressed, but I would be more impressed if they had done it without safety harnesses, like Wallenda did on the highwire so many times.

You mean before Karl Wallenda fell from the high wire and died in 1978. Impressive.

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Caldwell finished the climb first, and Jorgeson finished minutes later. The two embraced before Jorgeson pumped his arms in the air and clapped his hands above his head. They then sat down for a few minutes, gathered their gear,

and then fell off the face ending there 2 minute long stand in infamy.

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I'm impressed, but I would be more impressed if they had done it without safety harnesses, like Wallenda did on the highwire so many times.

You mean before Karl Wallenda fell from the high wire and died in 1978. Impressive.

.

Wallenda impressed me for decades. He high-wired dozens of times, without nets, without ropes.

He died fearlessly.

At the age of 73, at that.

Get back to me when you, or the kids on El Capitan, can claim the same.

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