Climbers First to Attempt Section of El Capitan in Yosemite With Hands and Feet

Since Dec. 27, two hardy mountain climbers have been free climbing one of the most most difficult routes in the world: a half-mile section of exposed granite in California's Yosemite National Park.

And all with their hands and feet.

Kevin Jorgeson, 30, of Santa Rosa, California, and Tommy Caldwell, 36, of Estes Park, Colorado, have been using only their hands and feet to scale the section El Capitan, which stands more than 3,000 feet above the Yosemite Valley floor.

Tom Evans, a veteran El Capitan climber and photographer, told NBC Bay Area Monday that the pair have gear with them. But, Evans said, they are using it only to keep them from falling off the cliff if they slip.

"The difficulty of this particular climb the guys are doing is above the level ever done before... it goes where climbers have never dared to go," he said in an email, since he has no cell service at the base of the largest granite surface in the world.

"If they can pull this off," Evans said, "it will be the hardest rock climb ever done and set a standard so high that it will most likely not be done again for decades."

Many people have climbed the granite face. But the pair would be the first to climb the section using only ropes only as a safeguard against a fall.

They have been sleeping in sling-like tents suspended to El Capitan's Dawn Wall, a steep and barren section of the mountain. One night, there was an Arctic wind storm, which they were able to document with some video equipment and ship back to friends on solid ground. Their video showed their makeshift tents shaking in the wind, suspended in air.

Evans is documenting the pair’s summit on his blog. He has climbed El Capitan five times himself. And he described "El Cap" as the "greatest rock climbing cliff on the planet," noting it was first climbed in 1958.

The pair hope to reach the top of "El Cap" on Friday, according to Jorgeson’s online “best case scenario” agenda.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Us