Author Topic: Climbing El Cap: Change for the...  (Read 2096 times)

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Offline Mike.

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Climbing El Cap: Change for the...
« on: October 01, 2009, 08:18:52 am »
I'm not an old man wailing about the good old days. Not totally.


The regular presence of high power telephoto photography and related online posting during the prime El Cap season has changed the experience of climbing El Cap. Of course the El Cap Report is what I'm talking about. Tom is certainly a friend of mine--has been for years--and I do not mean this sentiment directed at him personally, nor do I wish him to change what he does.

It used to be that a person could have a relatively solitary experience on the Big Stone. At the height of Spring and Fall that's no longer true. I'd be under more scrutiny by more people climbing EC then than I would be going to work in sizable corporation. Some will chide about the fact that EC is not nor has ever been wilderness. I'm merely pointing out the change of the experience within the last decade and a half.

You used to be able to come down from a climb and be able to fill in your compadres on the details. Now, people will fill you in on the details of your climb. You'll have eyes on you during any possible daylight moment, and not just live but documented on the net with commentary.

I've though a lot about this, and I'm not alone. I've spoken with other wall rats who feel similarly: We'd rather climb EC out of "season." Ask-A-Climber scrutiny isn't the only reason, but it's a reason.

I can understand why the ECR is so popular. Gawking ops for non-wall rats, vicarious buzz for the rats, peace of mind for loved ones keeping tabs. It's all good. Let them eat cake. I'm thankful I got a gluttonous sampling of the El Cap climbing experience of yore. Things always change--of that we can be sure.




I could lament cel phones and radios as well. And I have. Almost nobody (hey, brother) would consider going up without a communication device. Is it soloing when you talk to people every day of a grade six? In 2000 I spent two weeks on the Stone with my then-new cel phone in the car. I probably will never do that again. Change...
Say no to limbers, excavators and retro-bolters. No matter how much he smiles.

Offline hoipolloi

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Re: Climbing El Cap: Change for the...
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2009, 03:16:59 pm »
Interesting thoughts Mike.  I am new to the Captain, although I have been on it a bit this summer and been fully enchanted by experience.  I finish one route and am already thinking about the next as I hike down.  Thats been the process all summer.

The first route, in June or July was after ECR was done, but the other guy, Jerry Miller, got some photos.  It was neat to see them and I really enjoyed it.  The next two and one bail were without anyone below to watch and the fourth was with Tom at the bridge, snapping some fantastic photos.

I can't say there was any difference really, with the exception of some goofing and joking amongst partners about the photog down below.  Not sure if my experience felt different or not.

On the music and cell phone front however, I can see some major differences in leaving those behind.  On the two things I soloed this spring and summer the music and cell phone was a huge aid to me.  I learned quickly soloing is hard, grim and scary (at times), and having a phone to make a quick call at the end of the day for a little encouragement was a huge boost.  Same with the music, I constantly refer to music (in context of wall climbing) as "the great motivator."  It helps me get through the dark hours of night on a push without letting the negativity creep in or push out the last bit of the NDG exhausted and beat.


Just some of my thoughts...

Offline Raaf

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Re: Climbing El Cap: Change for the...
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2009, 05:23:04 pm »
That's some great food for thought, Mike. As I mull over aspects of it, can't help but to think of the "double edge" in terms of safety. For the person who busts a femur and then gets rescued within hours, that's a pretty sweet deal. But of course, lots of others are disappointed in the diluted sense of adventure and risk.

Offline mungeclimber

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Re: Climbing El Cap: Change for the...
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2009, 05:41:09 pm »
powerful questions implied - good to think them through


some things that came to me...

we have the 'off season,' quite possibly the best time of year there.

photos of taking a shat are not published on Tom's site AFAICT.  (not that I'm targeting Tom specifically either)

climbs around the West side are often not shot, nor are other formations.

Kings Canyon is not far away.  Still a "Freak Show" but somehow not of the same kind, know what I mean?

backcountry Grade V or more are plentiful, luckily

airfare to Baffin is only a couple grand, right?


don't despair brother, this too shall pass.

Offline Mike.

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Re: Climbing El Cap: Change for the...
« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2009, 06:02:31 pm »
piv, No doubt about it, safety is increased. I mean, Tom or someone sees a climber take a bad fall and seconds later NPS can know about it. It did happen at least once. Hard to lament about that. Of course it's not super difficult to avoid all the eyes since the ECR "seasons" amount to a minor portion of the year.



Another aspect of the Eyes is if you are there "in season" and don't want to be photographed. I'm not interested in curtailing Tom's report and I think that if I go up (or anywhere in public) I've relinquished my right to privacy to some degree. I believe the degrees become a legal matter at some point, but I'm not versed in the fine points to lay those out--I really don't much care. But some do care. Some don't want to be photographed taking a dump or otherwise. Of course TE doesn't seek out that subject matter as m.o., but it has happened. And the legal push-come-shove has been ratcheted up in the past as well. This is not firsthand info, btw. I'm not taking sides, just notes, thinking how this sort of thing would have been unheard of not very many years ago.

When I first received slides on myself from Tom--generously as possible on his part I will add--I was amazed and thrilled. It was and is quite a novelty. After a few routes the shots basically looked the same and the novelty went away. No statement on the ECR or TE there.


Right on, hoi. I can see that newer rats might not have the same perspective as the more crusty. As I say, It's all good. Still...


PS: Cogent points, munge. Sure, BC walls etc. will always be there. I reckon I'm fixated here on the EC experience. What made it so magic was what it is (continues to be), where it is, and what the experience held (holds) for the players.

Cheers, doods.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2009, 08:30:43 pm by Mike. »
Say no to limbers, excavators and retro-bolters. No matter how much he smiles.

Offline del cross

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Re: Climbing El Cap: Change for the...
« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2009, 06:14:03 pm »
A party could ask Tom beforehand to leave them out of the report and to point his camera elsewhere. I'll bet he'd respect the request.

Of course this doesn't address the larger issue, the trend towards more Eyes out there, and not just on walls.

Offline mungeclimber

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Re: Climbing El Cap: Change for the...
« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2009, 06:57:45 pm »
aye Mike, there can be only one... EC

skully

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Re: Climbing El Cap: Change for the...
« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2009, 08:14:01 pm »
EC Joe? you're quite correct. There is Only one.
Naw, all kiddin' aside, I feel it, too. I grooved on the seeming solitude of it, alone in plain sight.
No more.
Now you'll hafta hike.(more)....It's the "Stone by the Road"....T'was inevitable.

BTW, No Half Stone Report, just yet.......Cheers, Bro.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2009, 08:20:28 pm by skully »

Offline Mike.

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Re: Climbing El Cap: Change for the...
« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2009, 08:30:03 pm »
EC does it, maties...at least that's what he told me. I tend to believe him...


"BTW, No Half Stone Report, just yet"

Makes a guy think...aar, bro.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2009, 08:32:19 pm by Mike. »
Say no to limbers, excavators and retro-bolters. No matter how much he smiles.

Offline hoipolloi

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Re: Climbing El Cap: Change for the...
« Reply #9 on: October 01, 2009, 10:14:28 pm »
I was just thinking...


Do you think this feeling is largely (also) related to the bigger picture of change that has taken place in the valley over the last 20-30 years?  More people, more cars, more eyes, more climbers up there in general, all leading up to a less solitary experience.


I definitely enjoyed the experiences I had this summer of being on the wall with zero people on or around.  That is without a doubt a different experience than when there are people stacked up on lots of routes around you and possibly the same route, that detracts the most of anything for me (especially sharing the route).


Offline T Moses

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Re: Climbing El Cap: Change for the...
« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2009, 10:45:47 pm »
Just some thoughts to stir the pot:

I don't go to the valley for a solitary experience.

TE will leave you out of the report if you ask. 

The shots are cool.  I love getting the reports when I need a vicarious fix and can't get out to climb (which has been a lot recently).

I have carried the cell phone on climbs but it is always off and I have only used it on the summit.  I still feel like I got the full value of the climb.

Like Munge said, there are other venues.  Then again it is El Cap. 

Times change and the good old days are always better.  Come on, why else would we forget that wall climbing is 90% work and 10% fun?  We think it's 50/50 after we're done recovering.  ;)

Offline mungeclimber

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Re: Climbing El Cap: Change for the...
« Reply #11 on: October 02, 2009, 12:51:13 am »

Times change and the good old days are always better.  Come on, why else would we forget that wall climbing is 90% work and 10% fun?  We think it's 50/50 after we're done recovering.  ;)

That's odd, I don't remember it being a lot of work.

LOL!!!

Offline lambone

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Re: Climbing El Cap: Change for the...
« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2009, 07:11:36 pm »
I love when Tom catches cheaters with their sticks!

I hear ya Mike, but I think it is still fairly easy to remain anonymous on the wall if you choose. Just dont park at the bridge or walk by Tom+crew with your haulbag on. Tom is also respectfull if you just ask him to leave you out of the reports.

Personally I dig what he does, and so does my friends and family. When i'm up there, knowing Tom may be watching/ taking a photo, it pushes me to climb better, faster, stand higher in the aiders, not use cheat sticks...etc. Maybe i just need that extra push sometimes.

Seeing Tom and the monkeys at the bridge has become part of the Yosemite expeience fo me...the whole thing just doesn't feel complete without that comrodery. And who can pass down free Cobras after the east ledges?

I sport my orange shirt for Tom, why not?