Two men finally conquered the El Capitan wall in Yosemite National Park, free climbing in a marathon effort which began on December 27. The third attempt in a seven-year quest to achieve the summit for Kevin Jorgeson and best friend Tommy Caldwell, the pair did not let foul weather or broken bones deter them from their pursuit of history. Now they are the first to successfully scale the Yosemite wall while free climbing, and the cuts and bruises acquired along the way are all but dismissed in the excitement of the accomplishment.
The climb, however successful eventually, was a difficult and dangerous undertaking. The pair needed to take entire days of rest to allow injuries sustained along the way to heal. They patched themselves up with superglue and medicinal lotions along the way to the top, sustaining the characteristic wounds of free climbing. At one point, Jorgeson was nearly stymied, requiring 11 tries to successfully get past on particularly difficult portion of the ascent. Nothing was going to prevent him from making the third time the charm, however.
This trek has been followed by people across the country, watching the pictures of their advance up the Yosemite landmark in the pictures and stories that friends and media members posted over the last 19 days. Sleeping each night in tents anchored into the wall face, unable to shower, the two friends kept to a pace which would allow them both to arrive at nearly the same time. Caldwell waited days for Jorgeson to catch up at one point to help make that happen.
Once there, a short hike brought them to the point at the summit where loved ones were waiting to congratulate them along with the reporters who had been documenting the attempt. Once reunions were complete, the pair toasted each other with bottles of sparkling wine. Congratulations poured in, including a tweet from President Obama. Parents and relatives who did not go to the summit were waiting down below, watching on screens through the use of telescopic cameras. They celebrated just as loudly down below.
Caldwell’s mother commented on the friendship between the climbers, saying that it was forged in suffering on the Yosemite landmark together for years. Jorgeson said that he hoped to provide inspiration for others to find their own figurative walls to drive themselves to climb. He believes that everyone has one to overcome. For him, reaching the top of Yosemite’s El Capitan was less about the conquering and more about making a dream come true.
Others have managed to reach the El Capitan summit, conquering the Yosemite wall with rivets and ropes along around 100 known routes to the top. The Dawn Wall saw another Caldwell, not related, reach the top in 1970 along with his partner using those climbing tools to help them up. The journey of these two friends, however, was planned carefully and creatively to allow this victory to be won on the strength of fingers, feet, spirit and friendship alone.
By Jim Malone
Image courtesy of Pete Klosterman – Flickr License