Tommy Caldwell, Kevin Jorgeson became first free climbers to reach top of El Capitan by this route
El Capitan is 3,000-foot rock formation in Yosemite National Park
Caldwell on CNN: "It feels incredible"
Since December 27, Caldwell and Jorgeson have been scaling the 3,000-foot rock formation. Now, it appears the duo will reach the summit on Wednesday or Thursday.
Many other people had climbed El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. None of them ever reached the top after free-climbing the Dawn Wall like Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson did Wednesday.
The Dawn Wall is revered in the climbing world as one of the most daunting ascents in the world.
“It feels incredible. We’ve been working on this since 2009. Tommy first envisioned the line in 2007, so it’s been all-consuming in our lives since then and it’s pretty surreal to wake up this morning and have the climb complete,” the 30-year-old Jorgeson told CNN on Thursday.
“It felt like a very spiritual experience the whole time,” Caldwell said during a press conference at Yosemite.
The journey up the Dawn Wall was documented on Caldwell and Jorgeson’s Instagram accounts, Caldwell and Jorgeson’s Facebook accounts and YouTube.
The two began climbing on December 27 and didn’t leave the wall until they finished. They slept in hanging cots. Others sent them food when they needed it. They had safety ropes for the times they lost hold. (Free climbing “absolutely requires a rope,” but only to prevent falls, not as a means of climbing, the American Alpine Institute’s Jason Martin explains on the organization’s website).
Caldwell, 36, lost his voice from the shouting that the two did as they communicated which steps to take. The worst injuries were small cuts to their fingers.
Caldwell has climbed El Capitan 60 times and spoke of his intense love of the national park.
“I crave time in Yosemite like I crave food and water,” he said.
He and Jorgeson described climbing as an art and a way to get in touch with nature, and to respect its power. Climbs shouldn’t be compared to each other, Caldwell said, just as paintings shouldn’t be compared.
Jorgeson said he wishes some media stories would stop couching their accomplishment as an ambition to “conquer” nature.
“This isn’t about us versus it,” he said, adding that he hoped that the global attention the climb has received would inspired others to “find their own Dawn Wall.”
Many people can relate to the importance of teamwork in achieving a dream, he said.
On CNN, the two were asked whether they ever thought so much about the climb during the planning stages that they became too intimidated to actually try it.
“There were times when I questioned whether I’d be able to do it,” but never the idea, Caldwell said.
When he and Jorgeson reached the top they embraced and fist-bumped, Caldwell said, recalling that he said something to his climbing partner like, “This was a rad experience!”
Climbing El Capitan's Dawn Wall
“This is spectacular,” Caldwell’s mother, Terry, told CNN affiliate KTLA. “This was his biggest project, his biggest dream. He called it his ‘Moby Dick.’ … He kept saying, ‘I don’t know if this is possible; I’m just going to keep working on it.’”
There are more than 100 routes up El Capitan, but only a handful have been attempted by climbers trying to free climb.
“So proud of @TommyCaldwell1 and @KJorgeson for conquering El Capitan. You remind us that anything is possible. -bo,” President Barack Obama tweeted.
Seeing that quote, Jorgeson said, was “pretty unbelievable.”
CNN’s Katia Hetter, Janet DiGiacomo, Teri Genova and Tony Marco contributed to this story.