You are here

El Capitan

El Capitan in the Yosemite National Park is a massive vertical rock formation on the north side of the Yosemite Valley. It reaches 3000 feet in height, and is a favorite of rock climbers looking for a challenge.

El Capitan was named by the Mariposa Battalion in 1851 upon its exploration of the valley. Generally it is believed that this Spanish title was a loose translation of the Native American name for the rock, Totokonoolah. The summit of El Capitan may be reached by hiking out of Yosemite Valley on the trail next to Yosemite Falls, then heading west. The true challenge of hiking up El Capitan is climbing up the granite face; there are dozens of possible climbing routes, none of which are easy.

El Capitan, or El Cap, has two faces: the Southwest and the Southeast. Between the two faces is a protruding shelf called The Nose. The Nose is the most popular  and famous route by which to climb El Capitan. The Nose was first climbed in 1958 by Warren J. Harding, Wayne Marry, and George Whitmore in 47 days. They used “siege” tactics, which meant using fixed ropes along the length of the route and establishing camps. The second ascent in 1960 took 7 days. The first single day ascent was accomplished in 1975. Presently, The Nose challenges climbers of all experience levels. Some of the earliest routes for climbing El Capitan are still the favorites; Salathe Wall on the southwest face, and the North America Wall on the southeast face, both climbed in the 60s. Other early routes include Dihedral Wall, West Buttress, and Muir Wall. Later climbs involve routes like the Wall of Early Morning Light, Zodiac, Mescalito, the Sea of Dreams, the Shield, the Pacific Ocean Wall, and the Jolly Roger. Today there are over 70 routes going up El Capitan, many of which link old routes and new ones. With that many routes, there is something to appeal to every level of experience and ability.

El Capitan is the largest single piece of granite in the world, larger even than the rock of Gibraltar. Yosemite Valley is filled with granite rock, though on a smaller scale than El Capitan. Over a million years ago, ice filled Yosemite National Park so that around 4000 feet of ice covered the area. The downward movement of this ice caused the Valley to be carved into its U-shape. The Yosemite Valley has attracted visitors for hundreds of years. The earliest known exploration of the valley was in 1855 by James Hutchings. Climbing El Capitan is a time-consuming undertaking, and visits to the area for the purpose of climbing will take three to five days. Visitors can either camp at the Yosemite campgrounds, or stay at accommodation within the park. The Curry Village is a good option for an overnight stay, or the nearby Yosemite Bug Lodge.

El Capitan in Yosemite National Park is a glorious opportunity for rock climbing. Climbers at any level can be challenged without risking their health and safety. Modern climbers are able to climb with the help of pre-explored routes, ropes, and professionals who can offer aid and advice. Many climbers who reach the top of El Capitan can spend the night in a bivouac at the summit, and enjoy their victory under the stars. Or, day climbers can return to a nearby bed & breakfast, or Yosemite Park motels to clean up and relax for the night. El Capitan is one of many options Yosemite National Park offers to tourists and visitors. It is a histories natural landmark, and has hundreds of years of history behind it. Tales of danger and bravery pervade the huge granite outcropping, and visitors can feel a part of that history, by climbing El Capitan like thousands before them have done.

El Capitan is a beautiful natural monument to visit, in the midst of a stunning landscape. El Cap is a good option for a vacation spot. Visitors can’t really go wrong with spending time at El Capitan.