Wed, Jan 07, 2015 - Page 19 News List

US pair halfway through ‘world’s most tough’ climb


Two men are about halfway through what has been called the hardest rock climb in the world: a free climb of an 800m section of exposed granite in California’s Yosemite National Park.

Climber and photographer Tom Evans has been chronicling Kevin Jorgeson. 30, of California, and Tommy Caldwell, 36, of Colorado, as they scale their way up the granite using only their hands and feet.

El Capitan, the largest monolith of granite in the world, rises more than 914m above the Yosemite Valley floor.

The men eat, stretch and sleep in hanging tents suspended to El Capitan’s Dawn Wall. They do not have the creature comforts of home, but they have kept in touch with the outside world thanks to social media, tweeting, posting on Facebook, feeding information for blogs and keeping in touch with a bevy of supporters on the ground.

“The guys are doing great,” said Josh Lowell of Big Up Productions, which has been chronicling the duo’s climbs for the past six years. “[Monday] they are resting and trying to grow skin back on their fingertips so they can continue to do battle with the hardest climbing sections, which involve grabbing tiny, razor-sharp edges of rock.”

If all goes as planned, the duo could be at the top as soon as Friday or Saturday, Lowell said.

“But that’s best-case scenario. It could take several more days just to get through the difficult section where they currently are. If any weather moves in, that could also delay things, but the forecast is looking good for now,” Lowell said.

Many have climbed Dawn Wall, but the pair would be the first to free climb the section using ropes only as a safeguard against falls. The first climber reached El Capitan’s summit in 1958 and there are about 100 routes up to the top.

Evans said the two have a cellphone on their ascent, but they were not taking calls Monday because they were resting and “want no distractions while on the cliff.”

The two were also not answering e-mails from their perch about 457m above the ground.

These practices may not seem unusual, but the climbers have relied heavily on social media to document their adventure. Both update their Facebook pages regularly and tweet from the Dawn Wall, which has been described as being “as smooth as alabaster, as steep as the bedroom wall.”

On Friday last week, Jorgeson hosted a live question-and-answer session from the wall.

Caldwell’s wife, Becca, has also been blogging about their trip daily and wrote this post last weekend: “Being up on the wall for over a week and the hard climbing Tommy and Kevin have done up until now adds an element of difficulty on top of the hard climbing they have to do.”

“Imagine performing your very best after not walking for one week. I know Tommy has made an effort to try and do stretching, pushups, [and] yoga in the [hanging tent] hoping this might combat the unusual circumstances of living like veal between their climbing,” she wrote.

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