Back in November of 1970, living on an Air Force Base in central Indiana that was flat earth surrounded by cornfields, I watched on TV as two men did something that had never been accomplished before: They scaled the sheer rock face of El Capitan’s “Wall of Early Morning Light” in Yosemite National Park.
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I’d been to Yosemite twice in 1968, seen El Capitan, and had a strong sense of what effort it had taken to make that ascent.
But last month, nearly 45 years after Warren Harding and Dean Caldwell made their historic climb, two of the newer generation of Yosemite “mountain men” did something even more unbelievable: They went up El Capitan, from top to bottom, free-climbing.
What makes people engage such death-defying endeavors?
Rock climbing didn’t begin in the latter part of the 20th century. John Muir went “peak bagging” in what would eventually become Yosemite National Park nearly 150 years ago. Others have followed in his footsteps.
Sender Films’ Valley Uprising (released last year) tells the story of the park’s great climbers. You can purchase the film through the film’s Official Website, Vimeo, or Amazon.com. Here’s the trailer on YouTube:
But what about you? Can you head to Yosemite and “Go Climb A Rock”? Maybe not, but you can still buy a t-shirt with those words on it, just like one I bought many years ago during one of my many trips to the park.
Looks can be deceiving. This image, used for a Christmas card sent out thirty years ago by Tales Told From The Road publisher, Dick Jordan, and his wife, might lead you to believe that the pair had scaled one of Yosemite Valley’s steep cliffs.
In those long-before-there-was-Photoshop days of yore, they simply attached a camera to a tripod, put the tripod on a picnic table near Glacier Point, set the camera’s 10-second countdown timer, then quickly “free climbed” up this little rocky point to capture their “selfie” when the timer hit “0″ and opened and closed the camera’s shutter.
The couple first met on a trip to Yosemite in February 1968, honeymooned in the park in 1971, and have been back to visit several times since. They celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary last summer.
See our story, “Climbing Yosemite, Photographically,” for more on rock climbing in the park.
(Purchases made from Amazon.com through links on this page helps Tales Told From The Road continue to bring you a wide range of travel-related stories. Click here to take a “virtual tour of Yosemite,” and here to learn more about visiting the park in its “quiet off-season.”