As Sandy Van Nieuwenhuyzen of Rochester waited for her brother to finish the last portion of what some consider the most difficult rock climb in the world, she told the Associated Press: "I feel like the most proud person in the world right now."
Van Nieuwenhuyzen was at Yosemite National Park to see her younger brother, Tommy Caldwell of Estes Park, Colorado, complete a 3,000 foot free climb up the sheer granite pedestal El Capitan, using a route known as Dawn Wall.
As Caldwell's 19-day climb neared its end, Van Nieuwenhuyzen told the AP she actually had nothing to say to her brother: “Just hug. No words necessary,” she said.
There are about 100 different routes to the top of El Capitan. Dawn Wall had been scaled before, but never by free climbers like Caldwell and his friend, Kevin Jorgeson.
Free climbers rely entirely on their hands and feet to move then up the rock – using equipment only to catch them in a fall.
Since starting their climb on Dec. 27, Caldwell and Jorgeson had slept, eaten, and nursed their cuts and other injuries in tents suspended from the granite face of El Capitan.
Caldwell has had a years-long obsession with Dawn Wall, which he explains in a clip from a forthcoming documentary on the history of rock climbing in Yosemite called "Valley Uprising."