Hallowed Grounds

There are certain places in the world that are so revered that the body of lore that surrounds them can only be described as legendary.  For fly fisherman, it may be the never-ending braids of rivers in Kamchatka, Russia, where the tales tell of un-fished rivers full of hungry rainbow trout the size of infants.  For upland hunters, it may be the fields of the Dakotas, where stories abound of flushing coveys of pheasants in unimaginable numbers.  But of all the meccas of outdoor pursuits, I would submit that none is more hallowed then the 1,100 square mile patch of the Sierra Nevada Mountains that is Yosemite National Park. Yosemite's history is quite literally written on the staggering towers of granite rising from the valley floor-- from the still present bolts of the early pioneers who set mind-blowing routes up the face of El Capitan and into the void, to the marks of the Stonemasters like the iconic lightning bolt drawn in chalk by John Bachar on Midnight Lightning in the Camp 4 boulders.   

The little brother doing work on Midnight Lighting (v8); a problem that meant enough to him that he had the lightning bolt tattooed on his arm after he sent it.

So as someone who worships in the outdoors (I often refer to trips down a river or up mountains as "going to church"), the fact that I had never made a pilgrimage to Yosemite was a slight point of shame.  So with 84 hours in California and a brother (@gvisciano) who routinely drives the 3 1/2 hours from San Francisco to sleep in his Subaru and boulder in Yosemite , I set out to see what I had been missing.  As it turns out, I was missing quite a lot. 

The sun dips towards the end of the valley and the clouds roll in as my day in Yosemite came to an end.

It would be impossible to count the number of photos I have seen of the valley.  From Ansel Adam's 1952 image of El Capitan rising from the Merced River to Jimmy Chin's astounding images of free climber Alex Honnold ropelessly ascending its Nose, I could picture the contours of the Valley's walls long before I had ever seen them with my own eyes.  Yet no photo could ever prepare me for the staggering scale that can only be fully appreciated when your neck is craned upwards as El Capitan towers above you (if even then).  

Walls of unimaginable scale

I was also blown away (in a less enjoyable sense) by the bouldering in the Valley.  In a word, the bouldering in Yosemite is HARD.  The problems in the Valley are usually described as the benchmark for any given grade.  Countless times, my brother and his friends described a problem as "the world's hardest V(fill in the blank)".  So I spent my days there struggling on the world's hardest V1, the world's hardest V4, etc. while the real climbers went about working on more notable and difficult problems.

 Hueco Scale ratings aside, I spent every second of my time there in awe of the place.  Feeling the mist of Yosemite Falls, glaring upwards at the base of the Dawn Wall, and the simple wonderment of walking through historic Camp 4-- as a climber, its impossible to place yourself in this Valley and not want to live and become a part of its history.