Friday, April 12, 2024

El Capitan Oh My Capitan

I have a very good camera with an expensive lens.  I have no idea how to work it, except on intelligent setting. On our recent trip to some of the National Parks in the USA I took my tiny point and shoot. I have not used it for ages and forgot it had some special effect buttons. None of these pictures are AI, they are the result of me messing around.

I think, given the subject matter, any picture will have a degree of awe about it

El Capitan, Oh  El Capitan. It's not exactly what Whitworth, sorry Whitman, wrote but it's what went through my mind when I first saw the southeast face of the rock.

It’s rather magnificent.

7573 feet high, one sheer side facing southwest and the other to the south east.

On the opposite side of the valley is the prominence, The Half Dome, which reminded me a lot of Ben Nevis. It's like the big head of a bull elephant poking its nose in to see what’s going on.

We were in Yosemite, which Scots like to call Yosey-might, in Mariposa County, California, U.S.  There was a lot of snow.

I didn't find Sammity Sam.

People like to climb it. I believe so many people do that you need to ask permission. Some routes up the face are closed due to damage of climbers using the same ledges and holes to gain traction.

The first successful climb was on November 12, 1958. So climbing this, and the moon landing are not so far apart in history.

People now do all kinds of climbing from aided climbs, free climbs, free solo climbing. Climbing with one hand tied behind your back? With one eye closed?

You can hike it from the 'back' which is far more sensible.

The Native American name for the rockface is  “Tutokanula” or "Rock Chief"  and the loose Spanish translation of that is the name we call it today

Another version is that it’s a mistranslation of Inchworm due to the legend of the two bear cubs stuck at the top of the sheer rockface. Mother bear can’t get them down no matter how she tries. Other animals including mountain lions, deer all try to help up but it’s the inchworm that manages to climb the rock and rescue the little ones.

Different climbing routes have interesting names - Iron Hawk, Sea of Dreams, Golden Gate, Silence, Free Rider, Dawn Wall. The tempest, the Salathe wall, and The Nose.

 Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) is the measurement of how difficult  a route is. Many of them have been climbed once and never again, deemed just too dangerous.

There have been over thirty fatalities between 1905 and 2018 while climbing El Capitan, much less than I would have thought. Five of these have been since 2013 and that seems to be due to an increase in timed ascents, trying to gain sponsorship or for social media  fame.

 The first climbers spent 47 days pioneering the route. A typical modern party on The Nose will take 3-4 days to finish the climb. The first ascent under 24 hours was in 1975. Now that record is under 2 hours..

As the rock face is sheer, a climber might carry a portaledge. These are frame beds made from aluminium and they hang from an anchor. Given that on a climb like this, which could last more than a day, everything has to be carried up, including water. 

A gallon of water per person per day is recommended…. And that is heavy.

On the plus side, at  ground level there was lovely visitors centre that  had lovely vegan sandwich and chips.

These are just pictures from the wee camera.

I saw this and thought of a murder plot straight away.



  1. What on Earth is a Kneeling Bus? It looks like an unpleasant death anyway!

  2. It's a bus that sinks slowly onto the pavement and rests there, like a tired old dog on a sunny day.

  3. El Capitan is magnificent in every light. The wee camera did well. And its owner! But anyone who wants to climb it must have a death wish. Says the person who lives an hour from the north face of the Eiger. Doesn't matter. It's all still a closed book to me!

  4. I think many mountains are best seen from the bottom looking up. They are dangerous, I don't think they want to be scrabbled up and camped on!

  5. Perhaps the first "recorded" climb rather than first successful? The Valley was inhabited long before 1958. El Cap has been successfully free-climbed, so the possibility exists.