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El Capitan climbers close to history-making climb

Wednesday January 14, 2015    12:33 PM

EL CAPITAN - From around the world, the crowd thickens climbers approach the summit of dangerous El Capitan.

The view across Yosemite Valley is a vista of snowy peaks in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The climbers are expected to finish the last effort and arrive or crawl the last few feet to the top.

It is the trill of a lifetime for two climbers trying to make history by being the first to scale a 3,000-foot sheer-granite wall in Yosemite National Park using only their hands and feet.

For 19 days, Kevin Jorgeson, 30, of Santa Rosa, Calif., and Tommy Caldwell, 36, of Colorado, have been attempting what many consider impossible on one of the world's most difficult climbs: Being the first to "free climb" the sheer face of El Capitan's Dawn Wall. They're using safety ropes and harnesses to prevent deadly falls, but are not using ropes or climbing aids to reach the top. The two are climbing the wall in 32 rope-length sections that climbers call pitches.

The duo will likely reach the monster summit Wednesday afternoon, said Jess Clayton, who represents Patagonia, which is sponsoring the climb.

Each trained for more than five years, and they have battled bloodied fingers and unseasonably warm weather. The men often climbed at dusk or later, using headlamps to see, because the rock needs to be cold to keep fingers and hands from sweating and slipping.

Jorgeson fell 11 times over seven days trying to get past one particularly tough section. He took to Facebook on Sunday to publicly celebrate his victory.

"It took everything in my power to stay positive and resolved that I would succeed," he wrote.

The climb began Dec. 27 and was expected to take two weeks. It is the realization of a dream that began seven years ago when Caldwell first began climbing the monster rock formation, he said.

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