US Pair Relish Historic Yosemite Free Climb

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US Pair Relish Historic Yosemite Free Climb

Kevin Jorgeson, bottom left, raises his arms beside Tommy Caldwell after both reached the summit of El Capitan, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. (Associated Press)

Los Angeles:  Two US free climbers who completed a historic climb of a sheer 900-meter (2,950-feet) rock face in Yosemite National Park called their 19-day journey a "spiritual experience."

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson completed the ascent of one of California's most iconic features, the El Capitan rock formation, on Wednesday.

The two made the journey up the previously untraversed Dawn Wall, a sheer granite rock face on the massive formation considered one of the most difficult free climbs in the world.

"It felt like a very spiritual experience the whole time, even now it feels a bit surreal to me," Caldwell told reporters following the climb.

Jorgeson added: "When you would grab that last hole you could literally feel all of the hope, desire and stress drop off of you."

Free climbing involves climbing with only the hands and feet. The only ropes are fixed from below as a safety precaution.

The two had trained for years and planned months in advance, carefully studying their route up the Dawn Wall.

And during the journey Caldwell and Jorgeson slept in small tents affixed to the rock face and climbed up the ropes to where they had left off for a new day of climbing.

"I think that the camaraderie that we had was crucial," Caldwell said.

As the two neared the end of their journey, they attracted international attention for the incredible feat.

Dozens of news outlets covered the finale of the climb when Jorgeson and Caldwell were greeted by friends and sprayed with champagne.

US President Barack Obama tweeted words of congratulations with a photo of himself in front of a painting of the notable rock face.

"You remind us that anything is possible," Obama wrote.

Surmounting an impasse

The critical moment for Jorgeson came at the beginning of the month about half way up the free climb.

Their climbing was divided into sections or "pitches" between which their safety ropes were strung.

On pitch 15, Jorgeson reached an impasse.

The taller climber needed to reach out with his full wingspan, and hold with just two fingers of one hand to pull himself to the next hold and finish the pitch.

But his fingers, worn down after days of climbing in the cold winter nights, were cracked and cut and he couldn't reach the hold the slighter Caldwell had already completed.

Giving up crossed Jorgeson's mind, and he considered telling Caldwell to continue ahead without him.

"The idea of topping out without Kevin was something I didn't want to think about," Caldwell told reporters.

Fortunately, the weather stayed cold and dry, best for climbing because of the friction, and Caldwell said they would stay as long as they needed until Jorgeson could make the spread-eagle move.

Jorgeson had the film crew following him splice together all his failures on pitch 15. He studied his mistakes, corrected his technique and Jorgeson made the difficult grab.

"Everything really had to come together for that to work out," he said reflecting on the moment.

"You are just hanging there in silence and relief and joy and it's like the coolest feeling."


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