Friday 16 January 2015

They did it!

Amazing. Astonishing. Phenomenal. Those guys have made it to the top of El Capitan, the smooth, sheer rockface that no-one - no-one - goes to Yosemite without taking a photo of. And they were using nothing but fingers and toes! One of them with only nine fingers! That's 19 days spent hanging from ropes, inching (if you'll pardon the mixed measurements) 914 metres up a part of the cliff that to all of us normal people appears to have only hairline cracks. And getting bigger all the time was that dizzying sheer drop right down to the bottom where people have been stopping on the road and standing in the grassy meadow there, peering up at them and, sooner or later, walking away rubbing their necks having found it just too tiring and uncomfortable looking up that high.
It's the only complaint they could make, comfort-wise. Yosemite is a very user-friendly national park: all of its best-known features are easily accessible from roads, with its little town, very close to El Capitan, well-supplied with coffee, doughnuts, souvenirs, art galleries, hotels and bars and all the other tourist necessities. Which is not to say that it's a blot. It's a pretty place, and though it's busy, being such a well-known destination, it's not spoiled. When I was there, there were bears within view of the town - distant, admittedly, and not close enough for me to count as a sighting, but still clearly a mother and cub. I went looking for something more definite, and had a quietly exciting encounter in the woods with one very hairy and rather wild-eyed bear which appeared on the path behind me while I was concentrating on another one a few metres away fully focused on hoovering up acorns to get fat for winter. Don't worry - look, I'm still here!
The other well-known feature of Yosemite is the Half Dome, another bare granite feature which is exactly that - a round-topped mountain that's only half there. It's pretty impressive - and pretty, too, especially when the rock is given a rosy tint by the sunlight filtering through forest fire haze in the air. I especially liked how gnarled the Jeffrey pines are, fighting for survival on the bare surface, exposed to the worst that both winter and summer can throw at them, roots clinging valiantly to the rock. Much as Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson did, on their epic climb. Well done, them.

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