Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Yosemite from a Slightly Different Perspective

It's a funny thing. Teaching at a community college in a dusty farming town in the middle of California's Central Valley has often meant that I have dealt with students who suffer from a serious lack of outdoor experience. There are few funds in the elementary schools for field trips, and for economic reasons as well as anything else, a surprisingly small number of my students have ever been anywhere beyond the city limits. This is part of what makes my teaching career so fun: I am often the person privileged to introduce these students to the incredible outdoor world of geology for the first time, whether on a lab trip to the coast ranges or Yosemite Valley, or an overnight journey to Death Valley, the Cascades, or the Colorado Plateau. In their eyes, I am sort of an adventurer and explorer who has done incredible things.

On the other hand, there are times when I really get put in my place. I found out one of my former students is preparing for a Mt. Everest expedition; my colleague and friend shares his photos of an African safari, and a journey to Antarctica; another posts his pictures of his research in the Honduras (including a storm that dropped feet of rain). I'm really not quite the adventurer I like to think...but the ultimate came this week, when a recent student posted shots of her 10-day climb up the Mescalito route of El Capitan. I've seen plenty of pictures of people climbing the big walls of Yosemite, but it puts things in a completely different perspective when you know one of the people involved.

There was a time, when I was 30 years younger and 100 pounds lighter that I dreamed of learning to climb vertical walls. It didn't happen, because I am kind of a wuss about hanging from ropes. Kait, on the other hand, is a bit of an adventurer. She was kind enough to grant permission to share some pictures of her journey. I'm sure you'll agree; these pictures are spectacular!

So, a bit about logistics first before some of the views. If you've ever flown anywhere, you may remember trying to pack a minimum amount of stuff to last you the whole trip. How many changes of clothing? What snacks for the flight? A bottle of water to keep hydrated on the flight? Climbing a big wall is a little bit different. What do you do if you will have no access to anything but one giant rock for 10 days?
No drinking fountains. No restaurants. Nothing. And you have to consider that whatever you choose to take is going to be hanging off of you the entire time.
There is the all-important water supply. Climbing in summer with southern exposure is gonna be thirsty work. There are the culinary details. Hot food is sort of out of the question.
And then there are the accommodations: a bit cramped, even confining...
But the view is nice!
And one must not forget the expeditionary flag!

In the next post, a room with a view! Please recall, these aren't my pictures; copyright belongs to Kait; contact me if you want to get in touch with our hosts on this adventure.


Gaelyn said...

As much as I like a little boulder jumping say at Joshua Tree NP, I can't see myself hanging from a cliff overnights. But hats off to those who do. Must be way more weight than I'd carry backpacking for 10 days. These are excellent captures.

Silver Fox said...

Way to go, Kait!