Yosemite climbers reach top of El Capitan in historic ascent

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 14, 2015 12:46 PM

By Dan Whitcomb and Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Two climbers completed a historic 19-day ascent to the summit of Yosemite National Park's El Capitan in California on Wednesday after scaling the rock formation's 3,000-foot (900-metre) sheer granite face without climbing tools, a spokeswoman said.

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson made it to the top of El Capitan at 3:30 p.m. (2330 GMT), spokeswoman Jess Clayton said in an email. They were the first to climb El Capitan's so-called Dawn Wall without bolts or climbing tools, she said.

The two men, who used safety ropes in case of falls and who climbed the rock face in stages beginning on Dec. 27, had been expected to reach the summit on Wednesday afternoon, and Clayton had said earlier in the day they were making "great progress."

The duo had been expected to celebrate privately with their families at the summit before speaking to reporters in a Yosemite meadow on Thursday.

The Dawn Wall of El Capitan is divided into 32 climbing pitches, which are varying lengths of rock that the climbers were attempting to master with only their hands and feet. The wall has been scaled before, first by legendary climber Warren Harding in 1970, but never without climbing tools.

Caldwell and Jorgeson reached the final 11 pitches on Tuesday after working their way past some of the toughest stretches on the rock.

Since the warmth of the day caused their hands and feet to perspire, the two often started climbing at dusk. They used ropes and other tools to move back and forth between the pitches they were attempting to master and their campsite, perched high on the rock.

Jorgeson struggled for several days last week on difficult pitch 15, at one point being forced to rest for two days while the skin on his fingers healed after being ripped off by razor-sharp ledges.

Their attempt on El Capitan was closely watched in the climbing world and drew worldwide news headlines and attention on social media as they made progress toward the summit.

According to Brandwatch, a social listening and analytics firm, social media mentions of the climb had skyrocketed since it began, drawing more than 17,000 mentions as of Wednesday.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb and Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Peter Cooney)