Kevin Jorgeson, along with climbing partner Tommy Caldwell, have reached the top of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. They are the first free climbers to scale the 3,000 foot granite wall known as “The Dawn Wall”, meaning they did not not use climbing aids like ropes to reach the top.
Here’s what you need to know about Kevin Jorgeson.
1. He’s a Professional Climber
Kevin Jorgeson, 30, is from Santa Rosa, California and has been climbing “since he was born.” At age 14 he joined Vertex Climbing Center in his hometown, where he learned the techniques to climbing. Soon after he began to compete.
Kevin quickly joined the ranks of Team Vertex and began traveling on the youth competition circuit. “I remember driving every weekend to a different competition, always hungry to improve on my last result.” By 2001, Kevin began winning National level competitions for his age category and traveling to the Youth World Championships in Europe.
He retired from competitive climbing around 2002 and then began to focus on outdoor climbing, more specifically “bouldering.” Bouldering is “a form of rock climbing that is performed without the use of ropes or harnesses.” During this time he climbed many difficult mountains including “Ode to the Modern Man in Colorado, The Swarm in California, The Mandala Sit Start in California, and the second rope-less ascent of The Fly in New Hampshire.”
In 2009, Jorgeson co-founded Professional Climbers International (PCI), an agency and advocacy group for the sport.
2. ‘The Dawn Wall’ Was About “Realizing a Dream”
According to USA Today:
El Capitan, the largest granite monolith in the world, has about 100 routes to the top. The first climber reached the summit in 1958.
In 1970, Warren Harding and Dean Caldwell — no relation to Tommy Caldwell — climbed Dawn Wall using ropes and countless rivets over 27 days. That duo turned down a rescue attempt by park rangers in a storm.
As stated, Harding and Dean Caldwell used ropes and other climbing gear. Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell did not, becoming the first to “free climb” the Dawn Wall on El Capitan.
It was a dream seven-years in the making for Jorgeson, who has been climbing the Dawn Wall recreationally for some time.
The article goes on to state:
They used safety ropes and harnesses to prevent deadly falls, but did not using ropes or climbing aids to reach the top. The two climbed the wall in 32 rope-length sections that climbers call pitches…
3. They Began the Climb on December 27
The intended length of the climb was two weeks, beginning on December 27.
However, Jorgeson and Caldwell ended up taking 19 days.
There were some times Jorgeson didn’t think he would make it. His biggest struggle was a sideways climbing portion of the Dawn Wall known as Pitch 15.
Over the course of a week, he fell on 10 attempts, always on the same spot, shredding the skin from his battered fingers as he clung desperately, and vainly, to sharp, pebble-size holds on the wall. Caldwell made it past Pitch 15 and continued checking off pitches up the wall as Jorgeson lagged behind.
After Jorgeson failed on several attempts in the middle of last week, he texted one word to Becker, his girlfriend: “Devastated.” His next text said he did not want to be known as the man who almost climbed the Dawn Wall.
4. January 14, 3:30 p.m. PT
Jorgeson and Caldwell reached the top of the Dawn Wall today at 3:30 PM, Pacific Time.
Jorgeson, who tweeted during his 19-day ascent, hasn’t posted any update on his very active twitter page.
He began this morning with this tweet to followers, however.
But now it’s over.
5. It Was a Dream 5 Years in the Making
Fighting unseasonably warm weather and bloody fingers, sometimes even having to resort to climbing at night, Jorgeson and Caldwell become the first free climbers to conquer the Dawn Wall.
The pair had attempted to climb it before.
Caldwell and Jorgeson had tried to climb the route before, but a 2010 attempt was thwarted by weather and Jorgeson broke his ankle attempting the climb in 2011, according to The New York Times. Caldwell tried to carry on without Jorgeson but couldn’t get past a particularly tough section of rock.
Their climb was sponsored by Patagonia, the clothing and gear maker.