Yosemite National Park for more than two weeks, and now with the most difficult pitches behind them, they are nearing the top. In fact, barring any unforeseen issues, they are expected to finish tonight, completing one of the toughest climbs in history, on a route that is considered the most challenging on the planet.
The two men started the climb back on December 27th, and have been methodically working their way up the 3000 foot (900 meter) rock face on El Capitan ever since. The Dawn Wall – so named because it catches the first light of the sun on El Cap each morning – has never been free climbed before, which means Caldwell and Jorgeson are making the ascent using only their physical abilities and considerable climbing skills. The ropes and protection that are in place are only there to prevent them from falling, but are not helping them move up in any way.
The most difficult pitches are number 15 and 16, which Caldwell was able to overcome more than a week and a half ago. But his partner struggled for seven days on pitch 15, falling more than 11 times. For awhile it looked like Jorgeson might not be able to get past that section, but this past weekend he completed the pitch at last, and scurried up 16 with very little difficulty. This allowed him to rejoin Caldwell, and the pair are now finishing off the final sections, none of which are as remotely difficult as anything they have already passed.
The men have been climbing at night, when the rock allows their hands and feet to grip the surface better. Tonight is expected to be their final evening on the wall. Most estimates indicate that they should complete the climb sometime late Wednesday or early Thursday morning. That means we're about to see climbing history be made. This epic expedition to climb the hardest big wall on the planet is about to wrap up, and even the non-climbing world has been sucked into the experience.
Stay tuned for more updates. I expect to have good news to report tomorrow morning.