Free climbing the El Capitan in Yosemite National Park

The Native Americans called it To-to-kon oo-lah, the Spanish called it El Capitan. The Captain of the Yosemite National Park. The 900 meters tall granite monolith proudly stands and watches over the surrounding green little giants of the forest. Home to the mighty and elegant Golden Eagle and the Peregrine Falcon, you can see them owning the heights, you can hear them cry in a loud single note, which is sometimes repeated several times in quick succession. From time immemorial, El Capitan sat silent, unconquerable, his vertical face showing no emotions, no defeat from the rain, the wind, the snow. Those who tried to conquer the El Capitan, to reach higher highs on the road to the sun failed silently, unknown and unseen by others, subjects to the mocking of screeching eagles who later cleaned the flesh off their broken bones. But under the attack of the brazen, the determined, the agile, the most interesting man in the world even giants can fall.

el capitan

It took about four hours to get here. Four hours in which I defeated the implacable giant using only my hands and feet. The mighty Eagle is now a silent witness to the coronation of a king. In distance, a kaleidoscope of monarch butterflies, disturbed by the fall of the giant, crosses the sky coming towards the fallen one. I thought for eight years of this moment, and I’ve been planning and training for two. I’ve been climbing for twenty years since the age of 11 and this is the peak moment of my life. People said that this couldn’t be done, that it’s too dangerous, that I’m crazy. Sometimes I doubted myself, started to cave in. This has been a great mental battle as much as it has been a physical one. You don’t go only against the vertical rock but against yourself too and you can sometimes be your worst enemy. I used every small weakness of the rock against it and in same cases I had to work with very small holds where only a thumb can fit. The rock was absolutely merciless. I dreamed of this every day since the moment when I decided to do it. You need to have enormous self-control and focus, to not let the pressure get to you in the struggle against gravity and the vertical wall. The slightest move comes after an intense and deliberate thought process and can be the difference between life and death. Time slows down and every small movement becomes eternal.

How do you feel after an achievement like this you might ask. It feels fantastic! But there is no time to linger and to bask in the glory of the momentarily success. Onward to other great adventures!

This is a work of fiction part of the Most Interesting Man in the World collection of short stories loosely inspired from my own life and other real life events. Inspired by the real life of Alex Honnold, the first person to free climb the notorious El Capitan.

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