When planning out my trip to Yosemite, I had read that some people like to sit out in the El Capitan Meadow and watch for climbers climbing the 7,569 foot vertical rock formation. So I planned a quick 30 minute stop for us to check it out on our last day in the valley as we headed towards Tuolumne Meadows.
We ended up staying for about 3 hours, lying in the meadow, with binoculars pasted to our faces. There was another man in the meadow when we arrived. He had one of those very professional giant telephoto lenses and was waiting for his son, who was climbing El Capitan to emerge from behind the tree coverage. His son's climbing party was a little late, and I was amazed at how calm he was. Turns out he is a rock climber, too.
He let us look through his incredible lens at another climbing party that had just reached the Texas Flake, and even with his lens the climbers are still so tiny against the sheer expanse of granite.
As the hours went by, other people come and go. We got to talk with lots of climbers who had climbing trips that year, and learned a lot about the technical climbing details. We also got a good idea of what it might be like to be up there, camping in a tent that is basically swinging around thousands of feet in the air.
Gives me the shivers just thinking about it.
I never realized that climbing could be such an interesting spectator sport, but I spent 2.5 hours watching the climbing parties that day. Cheering them on, holding my breath, saying little prayers for them. What an interesting breed.
Bring good binoculars, because El Capitan makes people look like ants. If there is no one there to point out where the climbing parties are, I found that looking for the colorful gear bags was easier than trying to look for the climbers.