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Posted: January 15, 2015

El Capitan climbers reach peak, make history at Yosemite

By Christian Bryant

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. —

Two Americans reached the top of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park on Wednesday, making history by completing what some have called the world's most difficult climb.

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson are the first to free-climb El Capitan's 3,000-foot Dawn Wall. For 19 days, the pair used only their hands and feet to ascend, although ropes were used to break falls.

Afterward, Caldwell and Jorgeson got a shoutout from President Barack Obama, who tweeted in part, "You remind us that anything is possible." 

Folks love a good human achievement, and onlookers really wanted to explain to non-climbers how big an achievement it was.

"It's 3,000 feet. That's almost three times as tall as the Empire State Building," one anchor from Al Jazeera said.

"They've had to contend with razor sharp edges and frigid winds," a BBC reporter said.

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"It's getting pretty rowdy!" climber Kevin Jorgeson said.

"The crux 15th pitch weighs in at 9A. Just to get there, there are five pitches, plus an 8B, plus an 8C, as well as a number of 8A plus sections," one EpicTV reporter said.

It's hard to put the climb up the Dawn Wall into words — and especially words non-climbers can understand.

"The Dawn Wall, which is the steepest, big wall maybe in the world."

That's Caldwell sometime before taking on the Dawn Wall with Jorgeson explaining what he and his climbing partner were getting into. (Video via Sender Films / "Valley Uprising")

Caldwell and Jorgeson planned for years before the climb.

"Think about everything you've done in the last 2 1/2 weeks. Every time you went to the store, every time you had dinner, they were on that cliff." (Video via NBC)

And just to add some professional perspective: Alex Honnold is a record-setting free-solo climber, meaning when he climbs, he does it fast and without any ropes. Caldwell and Jorgeson used ropes to keep from falling. But speaking to The New York Times, Honnold said, “What makes the Dawn Wall so special is that it’s almost not possible. ... The hardest pitches on the Dawn Wall are harder than I’ve ever climbed.” (Video via National Geographic)

From "almost not possible" to done.

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