Over four days this past May, 26-year-old Estes Park, Colorado–based climber Tommy Caldwell completed what is arguably the greatest big-wall climb in history. Using only his hands and feet, he made a first free ascent—no pulling up on mechanical aids allowed—of the Dihedral Wall, an obscure route on the west face of Yosemite Valley’s El Capitan. Belayed by his wife, climber Beth Rodden, 24, and friend Adam Stach, 20, Caldwell clawed and kicked up 25 pitches, including a superhuman 5.14a. Pitches six through fifteen formed a staggeringly difficult 1,300-foot section of overhanging cracks and minuscule fingerholds that left him battered and misshapen. Check out the highlights and jaw-dropping stats.
Vertical feet gained
Start time, May 19
Finish, May 22
Hours spent climbing
Falls (longest: 30 feet)
Inches Caldwell’s right shoulder stood above his left afterward (due to heavy reliance on his right arm)
Tommy CaldwellThe might El Cap, as seen from a distance
On the 120-foot PITCH SIX, rated a near-impossible 5.14a, Caldwell scaled an overhanging vertical granite corner by pinching it between his fingers. His strategy? Flash it, so his arms wouldn’t have time to wither.
Caldwell painted the jagged, credit-card-thin holds of PITCH SEVEN with fingertip skin and started bleeding from beneath his fingernails. Fortunately, he bagged the pitch on his first go.
At the end of day one, Caldwell fell four times while leaping for a hold on PITCH NINE, before giving in. After a night of rest, he made it the next morning—after falling once more.