El Capitan, Yosemite National Park (photo courtesy of Jane)
As a Police Cadet, back in the mid-70’s, our education programme included occasional motivational talks. Most had little lasting impact but one in particular did stick with me – an illustrated talk by a couple of guys who had recently climbed El Capitan – a 3,000 foot sheer rock wall, in Yosemite National Park. Using an established route called The Nose, it took them several days, requiring them to bivouac overnight – using hammocks suspended from pitons hammered into the rock face. The tale of this heroic / crazy enterprise has popped up in my head from time to time ever since. Today, I got the chance to see El Capitan for real. It is truly immense and the thought of anyone climbing it at all, in any circumstances, is quite beyond belief. El Capitan aside, the whole of the Yosemite NP is pretty breath-taking. We’d begun our day with breakfast at Glacier Point, a popular view-point, elevation 7,214 feet, from which you can see many of Yosemite’s iconic landmarks. We birded our way down to the valley bottom, taking in several impressive waterfalls, before eventually exiting via the El Portal gate. This was not a day for birds, although we did manage to catch-up with a hand-full of State ticks, and an all important trip tick – American Dipper, which we found on the River Merced, late in the afternoon, on our descent out of the National Park.
The four of us after Breakfast at Glacier Point* – which Jane says would make a good title for a novel – after Picnic at Hanging Rock
Birds were few and far between, but we did get good views of Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon race)
Mountain Chickadee, at it’s nest
and American Dipper – finally ‘ticked’ on the Merced River. Record shot only
Taking a look at ‘Wiki’, I now read of numerous incredible ascents, by different routes, of El Capitan. This one in particular caught my attention: In 1993, Lynn Hill came close to freeing The Nose, making it past the Great Roof and up to Camp VI without falling, stopped only on Changing Corners by a piton jammed in a critical finger hold. After removing the piton she re-climbed the route from the ground. After 4 days of climbing, Hill reached the summit, making her the first person to free climb The Nose. A year later, she returned to free climb The Nose in a day, this time reaching the summit in just 23 hours and setting a new standard for free climbing on “El Cap.”