Nothing can adequately prepare you for the moment you see Yosemite in person for the first time. After a huge year in climbing with Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson sending the Dawn Wall project, I knew seeing El Cap was going to be even more powerful. It is inspiring and such a large piece of climbing history. I won’t get into the argument of where climbing really took off because I don’t feel it’s my place, but many believe the days in Yosemite to be a pivotal turning point in the success of the sport. Needless to say, visiting Yosemite as a climber feels monumentally significant.
However, it was something that came very close to not happening. At the end of October 2015, we traveled west to Bishop, CA for bouldering projects in the Buttermilks. This was our second trip. The first trip, we included a few days in Red Rocks, NV. This trip, we wanted to instead making the trek to Yosemite. It was my first time having the opportunity to see it, and to say I was excited at the prospect would be an understatement. To get to Yosemite involved needing the Tioga Pass to be open, and for most of the trip, it was not. We started feeling the disappointment of missing out, when we finally stumbled onto some luck. It was open and we were ragged from days of trying hard on sharp rock, so a rest day of traveling was welcome. We worried the whole drive that somehow the pass would close right before we got there. Getting through was surreal, but we made it.
Yosemite was a spectacular, awe inspiring sight. The park is beautiful, the animals seem to revel in the lime light of tourism, the water falls are massive, and the rock quality is out of this world.
The only draw back to visiting Yosemite is how insanely popular it is. It is certainly not a bad problem for a National Park to have, but as someone who loves the solitude and peace of wildlife and being outdoors, it was almost unbearable. We went for a hike to see some of the waterfalls, and there were so many people on the trail, it felt like being at an amusement park. Finding parking was frustratingly impossible. When we did, we weren’t even totally sure it was an acceptable spot or where we were. There were people everywhere. The hike was more like a line that you slowly made your way through because there were hundreds of people ahead and behind us. The fact that this particular trail, at least, was cement and designed for spectating amplified this not quite in nature feeling. When we made it to the waterfalls, we had to work our way into the crowd to get a view.
Granted it was a beautiful Saturday, but it still felt borderline more exhausting than thrilling. Being worn out from driving and suffering from some altitude induced headaches might have contributed to this cranky feeling too. Overall, it was wonderful to see so many people enjoying the fresh air and getting exercise, but personally, I wish I could have had a more personal experience with the wild life. Not the park’s problem by any means, just an opinion.
Needing to get a break from the crowds, we decided to search for Camp 4, and get a quick glimpse of the climbing. This area was, luckily, much less filled to the brim with people. Maybe it was the fact that most campers were out on the cliffs, but for whatever reason it was significantly calmer and less populated.
That was when we found the iconic, Midnight Lightning.
We were going to merely look at it and see it in person. It was a rest day and we hadn’t rented out the pads for that day which left us lacking the necessarily equipment. When we arrived, things changed. The rock was some of the highest quality we have experienced, the smooth texture promised to be gentle enough on the skin, and the rock was begging to be climbed. It is gorgeous, photogenic rock. There was a group of people there who had created a fully pad covered landing, and between climbs they were brushing holds up to perfection. It was an ideal opportunity that needed to be seized. For Josh, it resulted in a rewarding send of Midnight Lightning. The climbing was so enjoyable, we hope to make our next trip directly to Yosemite and purely for Yosemite. This is saying a lot since Bishop is one of our top favorite places to climb. We’d also like to check out climbing throughout Tuolumne Meadows too.
This last experience and then witnessing the sunset stretch it’s golden glow across El Cap, made up completely for the souring moments of stress due to human overpopulation. Yosemite really is a sight that we highly recommend viewing at least once in your lifetime. We left psyched to visit again, and on a high from the feeling of that rock. It’s no wonder this location is such a climbing mecca. I can’t wait to further explore the routes there.
On the way back to Bishop, we stopped for dinner at the Mobile Restaurant right after the pass. It is still baffling to witness a gas station as a full fledged restaurant, and even though so many people say it’s delicious, it felt hard to imagine. However, now that I have had a meal there, I can testify to how amazing it is. The food was delicious! The variety of options was impressive. For those who care, there were some amazing vegetarian options. The servers were so kind and the store had some awesome stuff as long as you aren’t opposed to typical touristy souvenirs. I got myself a Yosemite hoodie. I don’t normally engage, but it is the most comfortable hoodie I own and very reasonably priced.
All in all, I left Yosemite with fond memories and long to return. Next time, I will probably stick to climbing or hike less popular trails/at a less populated time. I definitely do hope to visit again. It is great to see so many people enjoying nature in some capacity. I give lots and lots of credit to those who staff the park. Keeping it so clean and functional must take a lot of effort and dedication. Thank you to all who work tirelessly to keep it great! Your work is appreciated, and I can only imagine the load it is. Your kindness is memorable and makes the experience. Thank you!