10/08/2012 § Leave a comment

I fell asleep in the quiet and dark valley. It was very late, or very early, depending on which way you wanted to look at it. There was humidity in the air and it was much warmer than the coast, almost t-shirt weather. We drove all night, and now, it was Saturday morning and I was stretched out on the ground, cozied up in my sleeping bag, with 6 other people in front of me and some 50 behind, waiting for camp 4 to open for business. Earlier that night, about 6 hours back to the west, while packing up for this mad dash of a last minute trip, I was told by a friend that waking up to the valley for the first time  makes your jaw drop to the floor. Sure enough, the silver, glowing rock walls towering over me were slowly turning pink, the sky above: shades of purple rippling across it, somehow foreboding a hot and sunny day ahead. There was a deer munching on leaves from a nearby tree. I guess you can say she was right.

I had come here because I once read about it in a book. It was winter and across an ocean and I had just gotten a brand new chalk bag for Christmas and so my dad suggested I read this book he had. I spent days, endless afternoons, slow passing lazy minutes, devouring it. In that little attic bedroom with three sets of stairs to climb to get to it. My dad had put a rope up on the side of the wall because of how steep of a climb it was. All very fitting, seeing that the book was a climbing novel. It was about this writer, fresh out of college, on a mission to find his best friend whom he had a major falling out over a story he had put in his book, but which wasn’t his to tell. They eventually end up on a cathartic assent on El Cap, which neither one is really prepared for. So good. I later read more of that author’s novels, all talking about lighting out and wandering and being lost, climbing, surfing and vagabonding. And in each one, the Yosemite valley somehow always looming in the background. Later I also read some climbing stories by Jon Krakauer, another favorite of mine, and it added to the picture of Y. which my mind had come up with.

Long story short, I‘ve always wanted to get myself there. And now I was there. Here. Next to the bear proof box, I was expecting some transcending and life changing experience. Not far off, a couple had pitched their tent and the girl was off for the day, on a solo hike, while the guy, I could only assume, was going to go climbing. Later, much later in the day, I saw them again, reunited, cooking dinner and drinking red wine. I didn’t go climbing that day, but instead nearly killed myself with a ten mile hike, preceded with far too little sleep and followed by not enough water. But two waterfalls and some stunning views of the rear end of Half Dome later, it was dinner time and we sat at benches at the foothills of El Cap, watching the sunset over the tops of the pine trees, drinking warm beer and eating bagels with peanut butter and jelly. Next bench over, two barefoot and bearded climbers talked and ate canned spaghetti, their climbing gear splayed out on the table. I watched them as I ate my bagel. This was my transcending moment of enlightenment. This, what they were doing, was what I was going to do next time.

Leaving very early the next morning, I looked up at El Cap one more time. A silver and skinny new moon illuminated the night sky and gave me shivers.


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