Climber Falls And Swings From El Capitan

The last time you probably heard about El Capitan was when you read about Alex Honnold, the crazy free climber who summited the wall in Yosemite Valley without a rope. There’s also a rope missing in the above video, but for a different reason. Anchored on two ropes, LiveLeak user tomservo set up a massive swing on the face of the wall by dropping to the end of one rope and then swinging across the expanse. There’s a huge drop before the second line goes taut (you may notice it when your stomach tries to climb out of your throat) and the swing is definitely risky – but it makes for a great video.

Photo Of The Day: Stunning View Of Yosemite Valley

I may be in New York City today, but I’ve got the great outdoors on my mind. In my head I can almost see the towering mountains, smell the crisp scent of pine in the air and hear the faint whistle of birds off in the distance. So when I saw Flickr user oilfighter’s photo of clouds breaking over Yosemite National Park, I knew I had to pick it. This magnificent capture of one of the world’s most famous valleys makes me feel like I was there, nostrils full of fresh air, staring out at this impressive view.

Taken any great photos of our National Parks? Or perhaps just the park around the corner from your house? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Yosemite climber rescued after losing his thumb

Earlier this week, search and rescue teams in Yosemite National Park were called into action, when a rock climber on El Capitan became stranded on the mountain after severing his thumb. Following the freak accident, the unnamed climber from Austria was unable to finish his ascent, and had to be removed from the rock face in a difficult helicopter rescue.

The man, and his partner, were climbing “The Nose” route on El Capitan, one of the most iconic and challenging climbs in the world. At one point, the Austrian was the lead climber when he slipped and fell about a thousand feet from the top, narrowly avoiding death thanks to his safety lines and climbing harness.

Unfortunately, during the fall, his thumb became tangled in the rope, and when it pulled tight, it completely removing the digit in the process. The severed thumb tumbled 80 feet to land on a small ledge below, and the injured man’s climbing partner had to descend to retrieve it. After plucking it from the ledge, they called for help, and the SAR team arrived on the scene shortly there after.

The drama wasn’t done there however, as they still had to get both climbers down from the mountain. Rescuers knew that they had a limited window to complete that operation and still get the man to a hospital soon enough to reattach his thumb. Fortunately, Richard Shatto, the pilot of the rescue helicopter, was able to maneuver close enough to the rock wall so that the two climbers could be saved. Immediately following that dramatic rescue, they were whisked off to a nearby hospital, where surgery was successfully performed to repair the hand.

This story is yet another that demonstrates how professional and organized these search and rescue squads really are. Not only were they able to get both men safely off of El Cap, they were able to do it quickly enough to save the thumb as well. Amazing work out of these courageous men.

[Photo credit: Mike Murphy via WikiMedia]

Nat Geo explores Yosemite’s climbing culture

Yesterday we posted a story on five ways to explore national parks without using a vehicle, and one of the items that made the list was a suggestion to go climbing in Yosemite National Park. As noted, Yosemite is one of the greatest climbing destinations in the world, with towering granite walls that attract the best climbers from across the globe, something that National Geographic discovered recently when they visited the place.

Writer Mark Jenkins went on assignment in Yosemite Valley for a cover story in the May issue of Nat Geo. While there, he discovered some amazing athletes pushing their skills to the limit on Half Dome and El Capitan, two of the most well known and iconic big walls in the rock climbing universe.

Chief amongst these athletes (NG calls them “superclimbers”) is Alex Honnold, a 23-year old who has made Yosemite his personal playground over the past few years. Back in 2008, he stunned the climbing community by free soloing the 2140-foot tall Half Dome. For the uninitiated, when someone free solos they are climbing with just their chalk bag and shoes, and no ropes of any kind. For an encore in 2010, Honnold tackled both Half Dome and the 3000-foot El Cap, back-to-back, in just 8 hours.Honnold isn’t the only great climber that frequents Yosemite however, and Jenkins found a number of them on his visit. He reports that one morning while walking through the park’s notorious Camp 4, a popular site for climbers, he heard over a dozen languages being spoken, which is a testament to how popular the region is with the rock climbing crowd.

Jenkins, who first climbed in the valley back in the 70’s, discovered that things have changed dramatically since he climbed there. He found that amongst today’s climbers, it is all about speed, and they’ll eschew certain gear, such as backpacks, helmets, and other items, just so they can move more quickly up the rock face. This is quite a departure from the old days, when climbing legend Royal Robbins first climbed Half Dome. Back in 1957, it took him, and his partner, five days to complete the route. Today, Honnold can do it solo in just a little over 2 hours.

The full National Geographic article is available online by clicking here. It offers some great insights into the climbing world, which can be a bit mystifying for those who don’t “get” it. The story is actually a good read for climbers and non-climbers alike, holding up well to Nat Geo’s usual high standards. The article is also accompanied by a gallery of great photos that were shot for the story by by Jimmy Chin, one of the best adventure photographers working today. They capture the spirit of climbing in Yosemite very well and can be found here.

[Photo credit: Mike Murphy via WikiMedia]