Thursday, October 18

First taste of the Valley

Yosemite Valley. Kind of a big deal. I had hoards of expectations coming here - certainly about the place, the scene, the history - but also about this incredible, humongous project that I've been roped into. I travel non-stop, always seeking out new crags, meeting new people, learning along the way. But in a way I always stick to at least somewhat familiar territory. This past week, however, has been a whirlwind of new experiences and I'm learning and growing in ways that I haven't perceived in many years. Just when you think you might know what rock climbing is all about, jump into something totally new and surprise yourself -- there's always more to learn.

Literally the day I arrived here--- met Tommy in El Cap meadow, and we busted up to the project. The first pitch of the Dawn Wall project would be my first climb in the Valley -- a gnarly, hold less, slick as ice 12b slab. So much for intro. I flashed it, which I was very proud of, and from there it got dramatically harder.

When you round the corner into Yosemite Valley something silently looms overhead in a way I haven't ever quite experienced. El Cap is so freaking massive that it occupies a space in your periphery similar to the sky. A broad larger-than-life wall of stone, splits the horizon far above the trees and dominates the landscape. You can't look away.

A number of years ago I can remember peering up at steep, tall sport crags and literally feeling fearful and anxious. Stressed to imagine anyone ever climbing up something so foreboding and intimidating... and hard. Since then I've learned to not only seek, but love and embrace this quality of cliffs. My first view of El Cap brought about a very similar reaction- the first time I've felt visceral intimidation just from looking at a cliff in over 6 years. It's a powerful piece of granite.

Everyday I'm taking in tons of fresh information - from simply navigating the labyrinth of one-way streets in the valley, to learning new names and faces, to setting up a portaledge, to climbing endless walls of slippery granite. It's been totally awesome. The Valley is a totally magical place, and I'm quickly coming around to it. I think I see many more trips here in my future.

Boulder sessions when the wall is too hot... 
As far as progress on the route, I'll get into more details in my next post. I've visited a solid percentage of the hard pitches, and although the difficulty is staggering, and unbelievably consistent - I can definitely see it happening one day. Tommy's dedication, vision and motivation are unrivaled. His work in the Valley over the last 12 years, and his efforts on this rig for the last 4.5, are deeply inspiring to me. It's been really cool to share a portalegde and many-a-conversation with my climbing hero in the middle of perhaps the sickest climbing project on the planet. I'm very excited about the coming weeks, no matter how much more suffering, ass-kicking and skin thrashing we have in store for us. (read: a lot).

Stay in touch here, and also on my twitter account -HERE- I'll be posting photos and updates from the wall, and the Valley floor as the season carries on...