The most jaw-dropping photos from the historic El Capitan climb

Over the course of 7 years, Tommy Caldwell explored the sheer granite face of Yosemite's El Capitan 3,000-foot Dawn Wall, piecing together a free-climbing route made up of the wrinkles in the smooth stone's surface. El Capitan is one of the best-known pieces of granite in the world. From the valley floor, it is the height of three Empire State Buildings stacked one on top of the other. Countless climbers have crisscrossed its already established routes for decades, but no one had done a single expedition without the aid of bolts, pitons, or ropes.

On December 27, Caldwell, 36, and his his partner Kevin Jorgeson, 30, began their historic ascent with only their hands, feet, arms, legs, and a few thin lines of safety rope. And capturing their every harrowing move was photographer Corey Rich. Rich, 39, has photographed some of the world's most extreme athletes from climbers to kayakers to surfers for National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine, among others. He joined Caldwell and Jorgeson on January 3 and captured more than a week's worth of reaches, pulls, blisters, sunsets, night climbs, meals, quiet moments, blissful successes, and more. Corey, who was not free climbing, posted some of his images on his Instagram page, and a small selection of the most impressivly jaw-dropping ones are below. --Lauren Hansen

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Lauren Hansen

Lauren Hansen produces The Week’s podcasts and videos and edits the photo blog, Captured. She also manages the production of the magazine's iPad app. A graduate of Kenyon College and Northwestern University, she previously worked at the BBC and Frontline. She knows a thing or two about pretty pictures and cute puppies, both of which she tweets about @mylaurenhansen.