The Communicator

Fear and fun on the capitan

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I stood a few feet away from the rim of El Capitan, preparing to be terrified of the 3,000 feet of air that would soon to be beneath me. As I rappelled over the rim, the ground dropped beneath me and there it was: the humongous 3,000-foot drop that I was so nervous about. I hung there in my harness waiting for a rush of fear to take me over, but I had reached the belay stance before the fear had reached me. I felt a little uneasy being so high, but I never felt the raging fear people have told me about.

Two months earlier, I was texting my friend Connor Herson about his recent weekend trip to Yosemite Valley. He had made progress on his goal of free climbing the Nose on El Cap, arguably the most famous and best route in the world. He asked when I would be coming to the “valley” as I had the two previous years. However, this year I thought I could not go because my dad could not come. We continued texting and eventually, I invited myself to go with Connor and his father Jim on the trip.

Connor is the reigning national sport climbing champion and is most likely the best all-around youth climber in the world. But he doesn’t care too much about that; he just loves climbing and everything about it.

After two months of nervous but excited anticipation,  I flew out to San Francisco where Connor and Jim picked me up. We then booked it to the Valley in their 1985 VW bus. Connor and I fell asleep on the way, and we woke up to the view of the Eastern Sierra.

I soon learned that Jim and Connor do not like to be on the valley floor; they like to be on the walls, climbing, so we wasted no time. We began the long slog to the top on El Cap, and after a few hours of walking uphill, we arrived. We snacked, sorted our gear, and then we were ready to rappel. Each second that passed made me more and more nervous.

After arriving at the first belay, I realized that I was not terrified like I expected to be. However, it was much more crowded than I expected; there were climbers at every belay as far as I could see. We considered just climbing back out and calling it a day, but instead rappelled down to the next belay. When trying to get my belay device out, not paying attention I fumbled it, and my heart sank as it went flying in slow motion into the void. My heart sank once more as I heard: “Fuck something just hit my back.” I felt so stupid. “Don’t worry about it, it happens to everybody.” Connor said. Despite Connor and Jim trying to cheer me up, I still felt terrible.

Then the terror that I was expecting set in, and my leg started vibrating uncontrollably. My screw-up was the final straw, and we made the decision to climb out. With my leg still shaking, we climbed the two pitches to the top only to see Jim’s current internet rival. She had also been working to free climbing the nose but she had been using fixed ropes, which Jim considers a form of littering on the mountain.

They both apologized and she walked down with us; Connor and her talked about the route most of the way down.

We got back the VW bus around seven, collapsing onto my bed.       

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Fear and fun on the capitan