Damn! I’ve driven through the Winona tunnel and into Yosemite Valley a whole lotta times, but after picking up Timmy and heading north, this time was so much different. With some hindsight, El Capitan is way more intimidating to look at from a few miles away than right up against it. It’s almost like an optical illusion. It looks massive, dark, and mean from far away. It’s like it knows you’re coming and it’s laughing, saying “Really? You? No…fucking…way.”
On the other hand, Timmy is a really rad host. When you drive with him into the valley, you get the feeling he’s coming back home for the first time in a long time. I guess for people like him, it’s like his old epicenter because most American climbers, at least one time in their life, spend a huge chunk of time there. It’s the center of the world as far as rock climbing goes, and since Timmy’s had the speed record on the nose route of El Cap two different times, he knows the place like a college campus. This is when I started to get a little taste of a feeling that would stick with me until now. I felt really small and very intimidated. I’ve been to the valley probably 20 times, but all of the sudden I was lost and confused about where things were. Basically, for the next 5 to 6 days I was going to be 10 years old all over again. Not rad.
While you walk around the valley, the history starts to creep in on you. When Warren Harding climbed the nose for the first time in 1958, he did it in 47 days over a span of 18 months. Since then it’s been the yardstick of the speed climbing world and the current record is 2 hours and 36 minutes. The way it’s shaped, with the valley floor perfectly flat and those giant walls shooting straight up, you’re right in the middle of some modern arena for the most insane athletes in the world. A perfect place for an introverted skateboarder with no upper body strength and an uncoordinated photographer who stopped taking his shirt off a long time ago.