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
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.
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.”
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, 9½ days, September 1961.