More than half a mile of sheer granite, bloodied hands, and falling ice were no match for climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, who completed arguably the most difficult climb of the century Wednesday in Yosemite National Park.
Using only their hands and feet, the pair summited the Dawn Wall, a sheer expanse of rock nearly 3,000 feet tall spanning the face of the El Capitan rock formation in California. Caldwell, 36, and Jorgeson, 30, began climbing on Dec. 27 and are the first people to scale the expanse of the Dawn Wall without the aid of ropes and without resting on the valley floor below.
The feat came after five long years of planning and training — as well as failed attempts in 2010 and 2011. El Capitan was first summited in 1958 and many experience climbers have risen to the challenge of climbing it, but no one has done so via the Dawn Wall. That challenge meant finding tiny holds the size of matchsticks and, at one point, making a sideways leap, according to The New York Times.
“If they can pull this off, it will be the hardest rock climb ever done and set a standard so high that it will most likely not be done again for decades,” veteran climber Tom Evans told NBC. Evans, who has climbed El Capitan five times, is photographing the climb on his blog.
Caldwell and Jorgeson met the challenge in 32 sections, or pitches, with section 14 and 15 being notably difficult. Most of their climbs came during the late afternoon or evening, when they used headlamps to light their way. The pair decided to attempt the climb during the winter since it the cooler temperatures would mean less sweaty hands and better friction against the rock. Sleep meant pitching tents slung perpendicular to the rock.
“I [am] excited to walk on flat ground again,” Caldwell wrote via Instagram on Tuesday, “although I am sure I will truly miss this experience.”