Friday, October 20, 2017

Mario And Marlene After Their 3 Day El Capitan Climb

After watching the slackline walkers at Lost Arrow, we took the shuttle to El Capitan and looked up at the giant rock to look for climbers.  I could only find a couple.  (I did not take my telephoto lens on this trip, so this was the best I could do.)

Let's put this into the context of the whole rock.

I know a lot more now about El Cap (as the rock climbers all called it) than I did when I talked to Mario and Marlene.  I've watched several El Cap climbing videos and realize that where I saw a big rock, the climbers saw various routes and various features that are all named and ranked by difficulty.

At the meadow below El Cap,  I asked this photographer which climbers he was following, he said all of them.

Which leads me to believe, now that I have had  time to poke around online, that he might well be Tom Evans who has a website call which I got to because I saw several vehicles with that url on them in Yosemite.  He's got much better shots (yes that telephoto does much better than my camera) there, with a set of photos of climbers on El Cap from this week.

There can't be two photographers who know as much as he did about all the people on the mountain. (Well, sure there can, but I'm betting it's him.) Marlene and Mario (in the video below) are in the background. They had started up the Triple Direct route on Friday and reached the top on Sunday and had just hiked down when I met them.

This is probably a good time to just watch the video.  Remember these two had just spent three days climbing El Cap and a fourth hiking down with heavy packs.  I didn't quite catch what they were saying about their route, but I've looked up the routes on El Cap, and it was clear they were talking about Triple Direct.  So listen for it.

I took this screenshot from Triple Direct El Capitan.

It looks a little different with the shadow, but you can figure it out on my picture above.

We went back to El Cap when we drove home on Tuesday.  Here are some more pictures to help you put this all into some context.  In the one below, you can see some climbers, and you can see what I mean about all the crevasses and other features that, if you take time, you'll get to recognize.

Click on any of these images to enlarge and focus - I saved some in higher res than normal

On Tuesday, I walked through the woods closer to the base.  Here's a sign I passed on the way.

And another:

Here's a look at part of the base from a clearing.

Again, saved this in higher than normal resolution, so click to dramatically enlarge

And here's most of El Cap from below.  The wide angle lens does distort it, but this gives a better sense than the other pictures of how big this mountain (It really seems more like a rock than a mountain) is.  (I googled "Is El Capitan a mountain?"  Wikipedia calls it a "vertical rock formation.")

And here you can see El Cap on the left (and Half Dome on the other side of the Valley in the distance) just before we entered the tunnel out of the valley and headed south.  It was still a bit smoky, but not near as bad as when we got there.  

After talking to Marlene and Mario and watching some YouTube videos of people climbing El Cap, I'm more inclined to see these folks as much saner than lots of people think about climbers.  You have to be pretty well organized to undertake an adventure like this.  These people are not, as many of the tourist observers at Yosemite seemed to think, suicidal.  They have lots of equipment to ensure their safety.

Here are two YouTube videos that get you much closer to what it's like to climb El Capitan.
These are two very different stories of climbers on the same mountain.  Both fascinating stories that fill in a lot more than I got this week.

These videos show us how much more we are capable of than most of us think.  But it takes work.

I think I need to check out the rock climbing wall when I get back to Anchorage.


  1. Pretty much the opposite of how I see a mountain. There it stands. Here I sit. I do understand your appreciation for folk who are good at what they do, but wonder if you're a tad bit more 'jock' than I thought! (smile)

    1. Well, Jacob, for giant slabs of concrete like this, I didn't really think about climbing straight up. But hiking up through a less vertical mountain - like to Vernal Falls and Mirror Lake - have always been some of the best times in my life.
      I tend to think that that people are on different parts of a continuum between 'do it now' and 'think out all the consequences before you act." I tend to be closer to the second end of that continuum. But I'm convinced now that this rock climbing - when done well - is not any more dangerous than, say, biking around Anchorage or any other city. And your point about people who are good at what they do is a good one I didn't think of in this context.

    2. I should also add: "There it stands. Here I sit" is an incredibly elegant essay all by itself.

  2. Thank you for sharing. Please be sure to post videos of your various climbs. I'll sit in front of my computer and watch them~

    1. Zia Bird, My personal climbs aren't going to be that interesting. I did like to climb up rocky slopes, but nothing like this, when I was young. Maybe if I'd have had a rock climbing friend I could have been lured into it. At my age, what I might do in a rock gym, emphasis on 'might' - won't be too interesting. Well, maybe as comedy. :) But I appreciate your support and I am truly in awe of the men in the two videos I got off YouTube.


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