El Capitan

In 1872 Yellowstone became the first national park in the United States, and in the world.

El Capitan

Since then, the national park system has grown to include an incredible diversity of unique and stunning natural landscapes, all set aside to be protected and enjoyed by the people.

The base of El Capitan

Prepare your gear and get ready to climb El Capitan, a 3.000 foot rock wall in Yosemite National Park, California. Climbers from all over the world come to climb El Capitan, and you'll be joining the famed Lynn Hill and Alex Honnold. 

The base of El Capitan

 The first ascent took 18 months, and but nowadays it takes most climbers 3-5 days, and speedy climbers like Alex Honnold just a few hours. 

Lynn Hill

Lynn Hill is one of the greatest climbing legends of all time, renowned for becoming the first person - man or woman - to make a free climb of the Nose in 1993. Previously, all climbers relied on equipment inserted into the rock to move up the wall. 

Lynn Hill

The summit is 3000 feet above. While the first ascent took 18 months, Lynn Hill set a new record in 1993 when she climbed The Nose with only her hands and feet in less than a day.


Climbers use tight shoes with sticky rubber soles to help adhere to the tiny bumps and slippery edges of the rock face. Footwork is key!

Rope Knot

 Lynn Hill ties in to the end of the rope using a double bow tie knot. While many of the climbers prefer a figure eight knot, either will work if tied correctly. 

Lynn's gear

To climb El Capitan, Lynn Hill relies on an array of spring-loaded “cams” which are placed in cracks in the rocks. She attaches the rope to the cams so the gear catches her if she falls.


As Lynn Hill climbs, her partner belays. This means he feeds out rope so she can climb, while at the same time being alert to pull the rope tight and catch her if she falls. 

The Stovelegs

To climb the Stovelegs, Alex Honnold uses a climbing technique known as “jamming” - sticking his hands and feet directly into the crack.

El Cap at Night

Since it usually takes 3-5 days to climb “El Cap,” climbers need to spend a few nights sleeping thousands of feet off the ground. About halfway up the 3,000 foot route, El Cap Tower makes a comfortable ledge to stop for the night. 

Tommy Caldwell

 Tommy Caldwell, best known for his climb of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall route, joins Alex Honnold and Lynn Hill for a night on the wall. 


 Lynn Hill helps prepare a simple dinner of pasta with pesto sauce. Food is fuel,  and tomorrow is another big day of climbing. 


 Big wall climbing is known as vertical camping. Climbers rely on hanging beds known as portaledges to provide a good night’s rest suspended above the abyss. 


Alex Honnold takes a break to check email. While cell phone coverage on the Yosemite Valley floor is spotty, the signal up on the wall is great! 


 About halfway up the 3000 foot route, El Cap Tower makes a comfortable ledge to stop for the night. 

El Cap Tower in the Morning

 After a night on the rock wall, the climbers wake up to continue their vertical journey to the top of El Capitan. 

Middle Cathedral

 Climbing El Capitan, the view across the valley is of Middle Cathedral Rock, a 2000 foot cliff. 

Anchor Bolt

Metal anchor bolts inserted into the rock wall secure the hanging cot known as a portaledge. Each bolt is strong enough to hold up a car.  

Pee Bottle

Climbers must be careful to keep the route clean. When nature calls, #1 is best relieved in the bottle. 

Poop can

All solid human waste must be deposited in a sealed container and carried up (and off) the climb. El Capitan is classified as a wilderness area, with strict rules about keeping it clean. 

Coffee cups

Just like at home, coffee is a necessity.

The Jardine Transverse

Now we meet Lynn Hill, the first person, man or woman, to climb the Nose. Here, her fingers grasp onto tiny edges to cross the Jardin Transverse.


As Lynn Hill climbs, her belayer feeds out rope, always ready to keep her safe in case she falls.


Lynn Hill’s fingers grasp onto edges not much larger than the side of a coin.


Where no cracks exist to protect the climb with camming devices or other natural protection, the rope is secured by bolts drilled into the rock.  

Succulent Plant

 Amazingly, certain varieties of succulent plants can eke out an existence from the trace amounts of moisture in the cracks.

The Great Roof

The Great Roof is one of the most challenging obstacles on the entire route. The tiny crack that runs along the back of the roof means it can only be climbed using the tips of the fingers. Thankfully Lynn has small fingers.  


Lynn Hill’s feet are pasted onto a sheer wall. She uses strength, technique and superhuman body tension to stay on the rock.

The Great Roof

One of the most recognizable features on El Capitan, The Great Roof is easily seen from the ground. 

The Chalk Bag

Climbers dip their hands into chalk bags clipped onto their waist to keep their fingers dry and ensure a good grip on the rock.

Pancake Flake

Above The Great Roof lies an easier section called the Pancake Flake, where the gap in the rock widens enough for climbers to put their hands in the crack. 

Changing Corners

To pass a section known as the Changing Corners - one of the most difficult sections of The Nose - Lynn Hill uses oppositional pressures to stay glued to the walls.

Lynn Hill’s Technique

To pass a section known as the Changing Corners - one of the most difficult sections of The Nose - Lynn Hill uses opposition pressures to stay glued to the walls.

Cheater Sling on Bolt

 Short pieces of rope dangle from these bolts - making it easier for short climbers to reach the protection point.

The Half Dome

 Far up the Valley sits Yosemite’s other iconic monolith, Half Dome.

The Spirit of the Tree

When Alex Honnold climbs El Capitan, he’s often setting speed records. Here he sprints with every last ounce of energy to slap the summit tree and check his watch.

The Finish Line

This tree marks the top of the route.

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