Pursuing the Impossible, and Coming Out on Top

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — On the 19th day of their climb, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, both now bearded, reached the summit of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall, completing a quest that included years of planning and that many considered the most challenging rock climb in the world.

Dozens of family members and friends greeted the climbers when they reached the top at 3:25 p.m. Wednesday, a cloudless day. After Caldwell hugged his wife and Jorgeson hugged his girlfriend, they were given sparkling wine. Jorgeson sprayed his. “That’s the first shower you’ve had in a while,” Caldwell’s wife, Rebecca, said.

Jorgeson said of their feat: “I hope it inspires people to find their own Dawn Wall, if you will. We’ve been working on this thing a long time, slowly and surely. I think everyone has their own secret Dawn Wall to complete one day, and maybe they can put this project in their own context.”

“I’ll always remember that battle,” Kevin Jorgeson said of his 10 failed attempts at the sideways traverse of Pitch 15 before he was able to make it through that portion of the climb.

It was the first ascent of the 3,000-foot Dawn Wall in a single expedition with the use of only hands and feet to pull climbers up — a challenge long considered impossible. Ropes were merely safety devices to break the occasional fall….

For Caldwell, a 36-year-old from Estes Park, Colo., it was a goal that he could not shake since he first seriously conjured the idea a decade ago. It became his life-bending quest, a personal Moby Dick. Could every inch of the blank, vertical face of the Dawn Wall be climbed with nothing more than bare hands and rubber-soled shoes? He was not sure. He never was, really, until Wednesday….

Jorgeson, 30, from Santa Rosa, Calif., learned about Caldwell’s vision in 2009 and asked if he wanted a partner. Each year since, the two have spent weeks and months, mostly in the fall and winter, attached to the Dawn Wall, scouting holds, practicing pitches, imagining how to do it all in one push from the valley floor.

El Capitan is the height of three Empire State Buildings stacked atop one another, but with many fewer, and smaller, things to hold on to on the way up. The climb was divided into 31 pitches, or sections, like way points on a dot-to-dot drawing. When one pitch was successfully navigated, the climbers stopped and prepared for the next. Much of the work was done in the cool of the evening, when hands would sweat less and the soles of their shoes had better grip….

By JOHN BRANCH – New York Times –

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Author: David McElroy

David Allen McElroy has served as a journalist and a chaplain to hospitals and nursing homes. He continues writing on the world-wide web and has much archived in the forum at BreakingAllTheRules.com. He has a B.A. in Bible from Fresno Pacific College. David stands for Truth, Justice, & Liberty in Christ’s Love!