Climbing El Capitan with the help of gear is no easy task. In fact, some of the climbing at El Capitan can be downright scary. It’s not unusual to see climbers who’ve been up there for months or even years and feel like they’ve finally reached the top but have been unable to actually reach it. As a climber, what keeps you on top?
If you ask most climbers what makes them feel so good after a day of hard climbing, most will tell you it’s the route, the place, or simply knowing that they conquered their fear of climbing the mountain. Climbing El Capitan isn’t easy (of course). But conquering your fear of climbing the mountain means different things to different people. So, no matter what level you are at, here are a few ways that you might feel better knowing that you conquered your fear of climbing El Capitan.
Most climbers tend to think of big walls when they think of Mount El Capitan. And indeed, most of the climbing on the mountain is done with the aid of huge walls that make the whole mountain seem all about sheer strength and overcoming all obstacles. But if you look closer, there’s a lot more to this spectacular mountain than meets the eye. El Capitan boasts countless smaller but just as intense cliffs that climbers use to get up to the big walls. It’s not just about conquering the big walls; it’s about mastering the other features of El Capitan, as the wide variety of routes and the gradual but difficult ascends into the abyss below.
Some climbers love the challenge of big wall-free climbing routes. These routes are usually fairly short (they’re basically just short pieces of rock) and it allows you to move around freely on the face of the big wall. Climbers can choose to climb steep or gradual free solo climbs to vary their route, and some even choose to climb alone to overcome a sense of solitude on the face of the steepest cliffs.
Other climbers like the challenge of using their own skills to scale the rock face. The majority of climbers on the face of El Capitan do so tonight. This means that they start out on the flat part of the mountain and gradually make their way upwards using any kind of handholds, ledges, or whatever comes to mind. Many climbers on El Capitan use multiple kinds of protective gear on their climb to make sure that they don’t have to rely entirely on their own strength. They take plenty of aid climbing equipment too so that if they need to use their strength for a certain part of the ascent, they have it.
Some climbers, however, find free climbing to be very boring. In order to get a true all-around experience, it is recommended that free climbers make use of all kinds of technical climbing features. El Capitan offers many unique features that allow climbers to do exactly this. One of the most popular is the graded climb system, which allows the climber to ‘level up’ each time they climb up to a certain level on the face of the El Capitan. Free soloing allows the climber to move around the rock face without having to worry about getting into too much of a hurry and being kept up at all times by other climbers.
Another climbing feature on the campus of the University is the Dawn Wall. It is possible to reach the top of the Dawn Wall without the use of any kind of equipment at all! However, Dawn Wall is not as easy as it sounds. It is made up of a series of large steps that lead up to a platform where you can sit and rest, allowing you to take in a breathtaking view of the campus, nearby mountains, and the ocean. The climbing at the Dawn Wall is gentle and steady and allows for no real advancements in climbing. If you are looking for something a little more difficult, try the short cracks or even mini-cascades in the Dawn Wall, but it is definitely not for the beginner.
Finally, one of the most popular aspects of the climbing at Yosemite National Park is aid climbing. Almost every day, climbers from around the country come to the park to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the aid climbing facility. The facilities are staffed by expert mountaineers who know how to help climbers get safely to the top of El Capitan and even offer instruction in techniques such as soldering and free climbing. There are also a number of other activities that climbers can participate in on top of the Sierra Nevadas such as rock biking, hiking, or rappelling.