Two Americans Make History Climbing El Capitan With Their Bare Hands

Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the tallest skyscraper in the world, stands at 2,722 feet tall.

Two Americans made history January 14, climbing a mountain higher than that. And they did it with their bare hands.

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DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - FEBRUARY 23: A general view of the Burj Khalifa on February 23, 2012 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. At 829.84 m (2723 ft) tall the Burj Khalifa is currently the tallest building in the world. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest building in the world at 2,723 feet tall.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Tommy Caldwell, 36, and Kevin Jorgeson, 30, are the first to free-climb the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in California, long considered the world’s most difficult rock climb.

They began the 3,000-foot vertical climb on December 27 and completed it January 14. It took them 19 days.

“Relief is a stronger emotion than pride,” Caldwell’s father, Mike Caldwell, told Sky News with a laugh after his son finished.

How did the men do it? They used ropes and safety harnesses in case of a fall, but relied entirely on the strength in their hands and feet to climb. They climbed mostly at night. They slept in tents suspended from the side of the steep mountain.

In this Jan. 12, 2015 photo provided by Tom Evans, Tommy Caldwell, center, stands with a photographer at a base camp before continuing to climb what has been called the hardest rock climb in the world: a free climb of El Capitan, the largest monolith of granite in the world, a half-mile section of exposed granite in California's Yosemite National Park. El Capitan rises more than 3,000 feet above the Yosemite Valley floor. The first climber reached its summit in 1958, and there are roughly 100 routes up to the top. (AP Photo/Tom Evans, elcapreport)
This is how the climbers slept, in tents on the side of the mountain.
Tom Evans/AP

Here’s a close-up of their sleeping quarters:

They kept a positive attitude:

Even though there were many challenges along the way, as Tommy told fans on his Facebook page.

“There are downsides of trying to free climb El Cap mid winter. Falling ice, looming storms, raging ice wind, and numb toes name a few,” he posted. The men built rest days into their journey to deal with “arctic wind” and “healing skin,” they posted on social media.

In this Jan. 5, 2015 photo provided by Tome Evans, Kevin Jorgeson grips the surface of the Razor Edge during what has been called the hardest rock climb in the world: a free climb of El Capitan, the largest monolith of granite in the world, a half-mile section of exposed granite in California's Yosemite National Park. (AP Photo/Tom Evans, elcapreport)
Kevin Jorgeson gripped the surface of the rock as he climbed.
Tom Evans/AP

But it wasn’t all bad.

“There are upsides too,” Caldwell wrote on Facebook about climbing in the winter. “We have the best chunk of rock in the world all to ourselves. The razor sharp holds feel way bigger (when we can feel them) and we are living in a refrigerator so fresh food doesn’t spoil!”

This is how they ate:

In this Dec. 29, 2014 photo by Kevin Jorgeson, Tommy Caldwell eats dinner during what has been called the hardest rock climb in the world: a free climb of a El Capitan, the largest monolith of granite in the world, a half-mile section of exposed granite in California's Yosemite National Park. (AP Photo/Kevin Jorgeson, elcapreport)
Caldwell making dinner on December 29.
Kevin Jorgeson/AP

Dinner was comprised of either pasta with kale, bell pepper and sausage, or Indian food, posted Jorgeson on Twitter.

Why do it? Jorgeson posted this:

Folks gathered at the bottom of the mountain in anticipation of the climber’s big finish.

Spectators gaze at El Capitan for a glimpse of climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015, as seen from the valley floor in Yosemite National Park, Calif. Caldwell and Jorgeson became the first to free-climb the rock formation's Dawn Wall. They used ropes and safety harnesses to catch them in case of a fall, but relied entirely on their own strength and dexterity to ascend by grasping cracks as thin as razor blades and as small as dimes. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Spectators waited for them to finish.
Ben Margot/AP

And here are the climbers’ proud moms — Gaelena Jorgensen, in red, and Terry Caldwell, to the right in blue, reacting after their sons completed the climb.

Gaelena Jorgenson, of Santa Rosa, center in red, raises her arms as her son Kevin completes a free climb of El Capitan in the Yosemite Valley on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. Jorgensen pulled himself on the ledge of the 3,000-foot vertical rock formation minutes after his climbing partner Tommy Caldwell. Caldwell's mother, Terry Caldwell, is at right and his nephew, Grant Van Nieuwenhuysen, 12, at foreground left. (AP Photo/The Press Democrat, John Burgess)
Proud mamas.
John Burgess, The Press Democrat/AP

We have a proud president too. President Obama congratulated the pair on Twitter: