Subscribe

Santa Rosa climber Kevin Jorgeson conquers difficult part of El Capitan's Dawn Wall (w/video)

In this Jan. 7, 2015 photo provided by Tom Evans, Kevin Jorgeson climbs Pitch 15 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. 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

PHIL BARBER, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Kevin Jorgeson is back in the chase.

Jorgeson, the Santa Rosa native who is attempting to scale the unconquered Dawn Wall route on the face of El Capitan along with climbing partner Tommy Caldwell, scored a major breakthrough Friday afternoon when he completed the length of Pitch 15, one of the climb’s most difficult segments.

According to his brother, Jorgeson was deep into Pitch 16 as the evening wore on.

Pitch 15, a left-to-right traverse along the rock face, is rated 5.14d on the Yosemite Decimal System, as high as any on El Cap, Yosemite National Park’s iconic granite monolith. The pitch requires using several matchstick-sized, razor-sharp handholds. Jorgeson had sliced open his fingertips on the stone early this week, and rested Thursday to let them heal.

A successful “push” of the route requires climbing each pitch in succession, without mechanical aid. For a while it looked as though Pitch 15 might be Jorgeson’s undoing. But sometime around 3 p.m., he figured it out.

Big UP Productions, which is filming the climb, tweeted the news: “Kevin just sent 15!! Epic! #DawnWall.”

On the floor of Yosemite Valley, spectators spontaneously broke into applause. Rock climbers everywhere are watching this undertaking, and their responses via social media were swift and joyous.

Pitch 16, also rated in the 5.14 category, includes a six-foot sideways “dyno” – a leaping move that involves both feet coming off the rock at the same time.

A little before 8:30 p.m., Eric Jorgeson tweeted that Kevin had “sent,” or completed, the dyno portion of the pitch.

Caldwell had sent Pitch 15 a couple days earlier, and had forged ahead along the route. He has now checked off all of the 5.14- and 5.13-rated pitches, according to climbing magazine “Rock and Ice,” having reached the ledge called Wino Tower late Thursday night.

“The last few days have been some of the most memorable climbing days of my life,” Caldwell tweeted at 10:15 p.m. “Yesterday I finished the last two 5.13+ pitches of the climb. This marks the end of the major difficulties. I kind of lost it when I pulled onto Wino Tower knowing that this seven year dream is looking more and more like it could become a reality.

“Now I am in full support mode until @kjorgeson catches up. Today Kevin managed to climb pitch 15 in the most inspired climbing moment of his life. It was such an intense and incredible thing to witness. It’s not over yet, but things are looking good.”

The duo have been making systematic forays onto the Dawn Wall for six winters; their goal always has been to finish together.

Completing the most bedeviling pitches in the middle of the route does not guarantee Jorgeson ultimate success. He is still just halfway up El Capitan. The length of the route will test his endurance and his skin regeneration.

Caldwell, 36, and Jorgeson, 30, are sleeping hundreds of feet in the air on suspended “portaledges” while attempting to solve the Dawn Wall. While their obstacles are numerous, the weather has cooperated lately.

“Great conditions on the #dawnwall today,” Jorgeson tweeted Friday morning. “Overcast and windy.”

It turned out to be a good omen.