Yosemite Climbers Push Forward in Grueling First Free Climb Up El Capitan's Dawn Wall

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Tommy Caldwell, in red, climbs pitch 19 while cameraman Brett Lowell records at lower right and another unidentified cameraman shoots from above during their free climb of El Capitan's Dawn Wall.Credit: AP

One of two climbers attempting a grueling ascent up a half-mile (800 meters) of sheer granite in California's Yosemite National Park caught up with his partner Monday night.

Kevin Jorgeson, 30, of Santa Rosa, California, had been behind Tommy Caldwell, 36, of Colorado, for about a week as they try to scale El Capitan's Dawn Wall without climbing aids other than safety ropes.

Jorgeson caught up with Caldwell at a rare ledge after his third attempt, Patagonia spokeswoman Jess Clayton said.

From there, it will be a push to the 3,000-foot (900-meter) summit, possibly by midweek.

On Friday, Jorgeson got past one of the most difficult stretches after days of failed attempts and waiting. He fell 11 times in a seven-day battle with the tough section, which required him to grab onto razor-blade-thin holds that tore up his fingers.

Jorgeson took to Facebook on Sunday to publicly celebrate his victory.

"Momentum is a powerful force. When it's on your side, everything feels a bit easier. When it's not on your side, it feels like wading through mud," he wrote of his week-long attempt to get past the particularly difficult section. "It took everything in my power to stay positive and resolved that I would succeed. Now that momentum has returned to my side, I'm staying just as focused and resolved because a lot of hard climbing remains."

The climbers are more than two weeks into what is billed as the first free climb of the Dawn Wall. If the two succeed, they will be the first in the world to complete this type of climb of the Dawn Wall.

Free climb means the men do not use any aids in the ascent. Ropes are used only to prevent deadly falls.

El Capitan, the largest granite monolith in the world has about 100 routes to the top. The first climber reached its 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. The duo turned down a rescue attempt by park rangers in a storm.

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