To me, as a rock climber, granite rock is like poetry; only the words written are the ones meant to be read.
Scanning the rock face, eyes rest and move on. Clean blank sheets of rock give cause for reflection. An empty pause between statements of edges. Exclamations of cracks. Punctuations of lone knobs.
Seeing El Capitan for the first time hit me like a punch in the stomach. Its size is too much to fathom. Like trying to visualize the distances in the cosmos. It confuses the brain.
Looking up at it brought on waves of emotions. Something I had only read about or seen in videos was now before me. Several times I almost had to look away. As a climber of relatively modest achievement I had just enough grasp on what it really takes to ascend the thing that anxiety and fear would hit me just from looking at it’s face.
I don’t know if I’ll ever even attempt to climb it. Gazing up at it now, it seems out of the question. Some climbers spend years preparing. Gathering gear, knowledge and training on smaller walls, each one impressive on it’s own. I was told that the failure rate in attempting to climb the nose of El Capitan, those that turn around and come back down, is upwards of 80%.
And there it sits. Day after day. Year after year. Lifetime after lifetime. Unchanged and immortal. Greater than us all. As climbers reach the summit, El Capitan is in no way beaten. The next dawn it looms unchanged and silent, while us humans busy ourselves on it’s face trying to extract greater meaning from it’s bulk with our movements.
In Camp 4, I see a climber filling water bottles. There are a couple dozen already filled at his feet.
He’s going up.
Our eyes meet for an instant. He has an almost resigned gaze. Like a soldier, drafted. But I also sense something else. He’s seen the secrets held thousands of feet in the air. Join us, and you too can read it’s silent poetry.