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Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson free climb El Capitan's Dawn Wall
Tommy CaldwellKevin Jorgeson

Caldwell and Jorgeson first to Free Climb El Capitan's Dawn Wall

Ralph Teller, Ironman Triathlete

The hardest climb in the world

Tommy Caldwall, 36 from Estes Park, Colorado and Kevin Jorgeson, 30 from Santa Rosa, California, are the first to free climb the mammoth 3000' vertical granite face called the Dawn Wall of El Capitan (7,573ft 2,308m) in Yosemite National Park. Dawn Wall is named as the wall captures the early morning light. The climb took 19 days as the pair used safety ropes and climbing equipment only to arrest falls.

The Dawn Wall is considered one of the toughest climbs in the world. The route is technically difficult and extremely long involving many pitches.

The effort was historic and not without drama. Jorgeson had stalled on pitch 15 and was engaged in a man-against-nature struggle that mesmerized the climbing world. After over 15 attempts and bloodied skin ripped fingers, Jorgeson, requiring immense strength and enduring the ability to ignore intense pain, was able to finish this treacherous pitch with encouragement from Caldwell. According to Jorgeson, "It took everything in my power to stay positive and resolve that I would succeed".

El Capitan taken the Sunday before the Caldwell and Jorgeson free climb summit

Overcoming adversity is no stranger to these climbers. Tommy Caldwell experienced grave moments during an expedition to Kyrgyzstan. Caldwell and his three climbers were taken captive by Islamic militant rebels of the Uzbekistan. Over the next six days, they were held at gunpoint. The kidnapping ended when the four climbers found themselves alone with just one rebel soldier, and Caldwell shoved the gunman off a cliff. The climbers escaped, hiking 18 miles to freedom.

Warren Harding and Dean Caldwell were the first to climb the Dawn Wall in 1970 using ropes, ascenders and many bolts.

Climbed in winter and at night

The climb was planned for winter and much of the ascent, especially the treacherous sections, was made during the cold of night or before the morning sun hit the climber's path. The cold of winter and night are the ideal conditions to prevent the hands and fingers from sweating. Sweating hands easily loose their grip on smooth granite.

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson free climb El Capitan's Dawn Wall at night

Climbers did not consider their climb risky

Caldwell and Jorgeson did not consider this feat risky as they are both highly skilled climbers and studied in advance every detail of their Dawn Wall path, much like a nuclear physicist studies his calculations and formulas or an architect studies the designs and drafts of a complex, well thougth out and sound building. No stone was left unturned in their study and plan for the Dawn Wall climb.

About Ralph Teller. See Ralph's 1Vigor Log Calendar.

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