US & Canada

Free climbers reach El Capitan peak and make history

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Media captionThe climb took a great deal of physical and mental strength, as Alistair Leithead reports.

Two US climbers - who spent more than two weeks scaling the sheer face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park - have finally reached the summit of the 3,000ft (914m) rock.

Kevin Jorgeson, 30, and Tommy Caldwell, 36, are the first climbers to do so without aids, except for harnesses and ropes to prevent deadly falls.

They began their historic half-mile ascent on 27 December.

During the climb the pair slept in tents suspended from the mountain face.

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Media captionThe Dawn Wall is arguably the toughest rock to climb in the world

'I will succeed'

The men did not give media interviews on completion of their challenge, but are expected to discuss the climb later.

Eric Jorgeson, Kevin Jorgeson's father, told local media his son had always been a climber and watching him fulfil a long-time dream had made him proud.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The sheer climb has taken more than two weeks

"He climbed everything he could think of. It made us nervous early on as parents, but we got used to it," he said.

He and his son had begun climbing the other routes to El Capitan's peak in California when Kevin was 15, making it a birthday tradition each year.

"I feel like the most proud person in the world right now," Mr Caldwell's sister, Sandy Van Nieuwenhuyzen, said.

During their climb up the notoriously difficult Dawn Wall route, both took rest days to wait for their skin to heal and used tape and even superglue to speed the process.

At one point it seemed unlikely that they would make it to the top, the BBC's Alastair Leithead at the foot of El Capitan reports.

The pair suffered bruising falls, when their grip slipped, and they would bounce off the mountain face.

Only their safety ropes saved them from further harm.

"As disappointing as this is, I'm learning new levels of patience, perseverance and desire,'' Jorgeson had posted online at one point.

"I'm not giving up. I will rest. I will try again. I will succeed."

How do they do it?

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Image caption Kevin Jorgeson grips the surface
  • The rock face is not totally smooth, it has some cracks, lumps, rough edges and other irregularities
  • The climbers wear high-friction shoes and climb at night in cooler weather
  • When necessary, they rest fingertips and use treatments to heal broken skin

How do you climb a smooth rock face?

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