While taking your trip down Tioga Road/Big Oak Flat Road understand that you're traversing hallowed ground. For a certain group of hardened individuals, Yosemite National Park is Mecca, Jerusalem, and Disneyland all rolled into one; a playground of granite unrivaled anywhere else in the world. Take a moment of silence to reflect on 3,000-foot vertical cliffs, glacier-polished faces, and absolutely wicked bouldering problems, then tape up your hands, flex your cams, and get on the rock.
Yosemite Valley is all about the big walls, and the mother of these monoliths is El Capitan. El Cap towers. It is massive. If you decide to tackle it, you'll get to know every one of its 3,000 feet intimately as you progress through slab climbing, off-widths, and finger, hand and fist jams to the top. Routes vary from relatively easy to mind-numbing, finger-bleeding, forearm-pumping insanity. The Nose is probably El Cap's most famous route, and with pitches rated up to 5.13c it's strictly for the elite. For many, making it up The Nose is the crowning achievement of their lifetime. While some superhumans have made the climb in less than 24 hours, an adept climber should allow themselves five days or so.
Maybe you're a little more rational and think that people were not meant to cling to rock thousands of feet in the air. Yosemite offers plenty of adventure for you, too. While the valley doesn't offer much for the beginning climber, the routes rated at 5.7 and below are few and crowded, your options tend to open up if you climb at 5.8 or above. Be advised that most of the climbing in Yosemite is traditional, or trad climbing, and you'll need an ample rack of cams and nuts in order to fix your own protection. Climbs range from one to forty-one pitches, or ropelengths, in the valley, so you can spend an hour on the rock or two weeks, if you like.
Perhaps the fastest growing sport in Yosemite is bouldering. Once a mild diversion between big climbs, this branch of climbing involves short, extremely difficult "problems" on large rocks with a spotter and a pad instead of ropes. Hundreds of problems have been named on the valley's boulders, and countless more remain to be discovered. Yosemite has such high-quality bouldering that many climbers do nothing else. If it's your first time in the area, a good place to start is at Camp IV, the unofficial international climber campground. You'll find plenty of well-established problems and friendly climbers willing to point out the best spots.
- Public domain.
- Public domain.