Half way up the Salathé Wall we discovered the ledge El Cap Spire, the most spectacular any of us had seen.  The 8 x 16 foot flat top of the pillar is separated from the main wall by a 3-foot-wide chimney.

    We arrived via that chimney and then ascended the crack in the face above.  As I followed Chuck’s lead, Royal reposed atop the Spire, waiting, before resuming the hauling of our supplies. 

We were amazed by the elegance and natural beauty of this place, and the accommodation to climbers traveling through that it represents.  In fact, the whole route felt like the Creator made it just for traditional climbers who would feel the love and fall in love in return.  It also felt like a world class route.  We agreed with Royal’s later report that the NA Wall “is the greatest climb I have done, but the Salathé Wall is the best.”

This photograph of El Cap Spire, with Royal relaxing on top, is my favorite.  To me, it communicates attributes peculiar to big wall climbing, namely, the just being up there, and the extended partnership with Earth and Sky.  Experience suggests that these associations connect us with our roots, with ourselves, with the Whole.  No wonder big wall climbs are transformational.


EL CAP SPIRE, Royal resting, the Salathé Wall, El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, California.  First ascent of the route by Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt, and Tom Frost, days, September 1961.