Two men close to completing world's toughest climb Kevin Jorgeson grips the surface of the Razor Edge during what has been called the hardest rock climb in the world (AP photos)
Two men close to completing world's toughest climb
Lexile

Two men are attempting what has been called the most difficult rock climb in the world. It's a free climb of a half-mile section of exposed granite in California's Yosemite National Park.

Kevin Jorgeson, 30, of Santa Rosa, California, and Tommy Caldwell, 36, of Estes Park, Colorado, are using only their hands and feet. They are making their way up the steep and difficult exposed granite on one side of El Capitan. The attempt is their third since 2010 and has caught the world's attention.

They have been climbing to the towering summit for two weeks and could finish today. If they do, they will be the first people in the world to complete the free climb.

Here's a look at the latest:

Q: WHY IS THIS FREE CLIMB ON EL CAPITAN'S DAWN WALL SO DIFFICULT?

A: No one has ever free-climbed the Dawn Wall on El Capitan. It is the largest monolith of granite in the world and rises more than 3,000 feet above the Yosemite Valley floor. For more than 27 days in 1970, Warren Harding and Dean Caldwell no relation to Tommy climbed the Dawn Wall using harnesses and ropes. But they didn't make it to the top. There are about 100 routes to the top of El Capitan. Of those routes, the hardest and steepest is the Dawn Wall. It faces east toward the rising sun. The climbers are using only harnesses and ropes that catch them if they slip from the wall during a pitch from one area to the next.

Q: WHAT IS FREE CLIMBING AND HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM OTHER TYPES OF CLIMBING?

A: In free climbing, athletes use only their physical strength and their hands and feet to scale the glacier-polished granite. The cracks that they grip are as thin as razor blades. Some are the size of a dime. And the footholds are nothing more than an indentation on the wall. Athletes are harnessed to ropes, which are there to catch them if they fall.

Free climbing should not be confused with solo climbing, where a person goes alone and does not use ropes, harnesses or any other protective gear. A fall can mean serious injury or death.

Q: WHO ARE THE CLIMBERS?

A: Caldwell is a professional climber who has free-climbed 11 routes on El Capitan. He's been climbing since he was 17.

His life has been peppered with some peril. In August 2000, Caldwell and three other climbers went to the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan to scale the towering rock walls of its southern mountains. Seventeen days in, they were captured by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Caldwell shoved a guard over a cliff (he survived), and the climbers bolted and eventually got to a Kyrgyz army outpost.

In 2001, Caldwell cut off his left index finger with a table saw. Six months later, he scaled El Capitan in 19 1/2 hours with only protective hardware to stop any falls. Only once before had anyone managed such a climb in less than 24 hours.

Jorgeson is also a professional climber, speaker and instructor. On his personal website he says he's been climbing since he was born.

"At first, it was fences, cupboards, ladders and trees."

''Climbing was always a very natural thing for me to do, so when I found rock climbing, it felt perfect. I can't imagine a sport that fits my personality any better," he writes on his website.

Q: WHAT ARE THE HAZARDS OF THE CLIMB?

A: Climbers' fingers take a beating. Jorgeson battled with one section so many times that the razor sharp holds ripped both the tape and the skin off his fingers. Caldwell's fingers are so beat up that he sets his alarm to reapply a special product to his skin.

Caldwell said on Facebook the crux holds in the middle section of the climb are "some of the smallest and sharpest holds" he has ever attempted.

The warm weather has them climbing only at night so the rock is cold enough for maximum traction.

Q: HOW LONG HAVE THEY BEEN TRAINING?

A: Jorgeson has been training for five years. Caldwell put in about seven years of training. They tried the climb in 2010 but only made it a third of the way because of storms. A year later, Jorgeson broke an ankle after a fall during another attempt.

Q: HOW ARE THEY MAINTAINING CONTACT WITH THE OUTSIDE WORLD?

A: The men eat, drink coffee, stretch and sleep in hanging tents suspended from the wall. They have supporters helping them, bringing food and coffee and restocking things they run out of, like Advil, batteries and superglue for their fingers.

They keep in touch by regularly Tweeting, posting on Facebook, feeding information for blogs and talking with supporters on the ground.

Q: WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

A: They started together on Dec. 27 and were expected to finish Jan. 9 or 10. Now it appears it will take longer. Caldwell's wife's blog says he is ahead of Jorgeson. Once Caldwell hits a rare ledge, called Wino Tower, he'll wait for Jorgeson.

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COMMENTS (87)
  • Taryne
    1/15/2015 - 12:30 p.m.

    What made you guys even think of climbing this rock? Did you ever have second thoughts while you were climbing the rock ? I watched this on the news and noticed how bruised and torn up your hands were. It shows me how nothing in impossible and you can always chase your dreams even if nobody has ever achieved my dream before.

  • hailie1237
    1/15/2015 - 01:06 p.m.

    This is crazy. I'm death defied of heights so i would probably never do something like this. If i were to do this with a buddy I would always stay near them in case they needed me or I needed them. Its good that the people come and help them re-stock on the things they run out of. You would have to be very brave to put your life in the hands of your training and a few pieces of rope. They have had lots of experience so I feel like they are capable of this extraordinary climb.

  • Jonathant-OBr
    1/15/2015 - 01:50 p.m.

    That is so weird how he would cut off his finger with a table saw. I don't under stand why he would even do that because he has to have all his fingers to climb the hardest rock ever. I wonder if he had to do that for a reason or if it feels better in the rock pockets.

  • 10Kaleb-May
    1/15/2015 - 02:12 p.m.

    how hard would that be to climb the hardest climb I cant even climb a tree. If i had to do that i would just say okay and just go inside and watch tv.

  • 20Hagen-May
    1/15/2015 - 02:13 p.m.

    I cant believe that no has made to the top of that summit and they will be the first people to do it. Also I wonder how many people in the future will make to the top.

  • 17Blake-May
    1/15/2015 - 02:15 p.m.

    Thats pretty cool i didnt know that was a chalenge but why would they risk such a thing to there lives i wouldnt do that kind of chalenge to risk my life because i like my life but if like this case if there would to be a net i would think that i would that to because it would be thwe first record i havre ever broken.

  • bradleyc-Opi
    1/15/2015 - 02:27 p.m.

    Two men with extreme climbing skills are climbing a climbing wall made out of granite named El Captain. I feel bad for them! It must have hurt to get your hands RIPPED up. Ouch! Keep on climbing!

  • MiloW-4
    1/15/2015 - 04:09 p.m.

    On December 27, Kevin Jorgesen and Tommy Caldwell started their climb of the Dawn Wall of the El Capitan. They do not know when the will be the top. No one has ever climbed to the top of the El Capitan when climbing the Dawn wall. This is interesting because these people are very determined to climb this wall.

  • HaleyBBlue
    1/15/2015 - 05:37 p.m.

    What are is the mountain they are climbing on?
    Why did they want to climb a big mountain anyway?
    Did they get to the top of the mountain?
    If they did what did they do when they got to the
    top of the mountain?

  • Brady_TwenniWan
    1/15/2015 - 05:47 p.m.

    I feel bad that they get those cuts, but they must love climbing enough to persevere. I haven't been rock climbing besides at an indoor facility that is close to where I live. It would be fun though to sleep in a hanging tent, not as fun though to look down. The people that climb up and resupply them must be really nice if they spend time climbing up there. My question is what do they use the glue for, because it seems weird to put glue on your cuts.

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