The Daily - June 10,2022 - 28

FEATURE
effort involved, pushed the sensation
toward anxiety, then doubt.
I knew what it's like up there:
how hard it is, how scary. I knew
it was physically possible. And
I knew the emotional tax of the
desire to succeed.
FROM THE SAFETY OF THE
meadow below, I look up in awe at
what I like to call the vertical sea
of granite: El Capitan. My mind
drifts through past experiences. It
is more like a sea than I ever realized.
The memories pass in waves,
ups and downs, vast exposure, a
distant horizon that is certainly
not the end of anything, with still
so much unknown. Is it worth the
effort? I wonder, pondering a free
attempt.
Curiosity is the fire of inspiration.
After her accident,
Quinn Brett became
the first person to
complete the Tour
Divide on an adaptive
handcycle in 2021.
other friends in climbing accidents.
But parts of my former self are still
there. Which parts? And which
parts did I need to let go of?
I stood on the small ledge
looking up at the Teflon Corner,
the crux, the hardest pitch of
climbing that I would have to do
to climb El Capitan free. It is an
aptly named, nearly featureless
corner about 2,000 feet above the
valley floor. Each move requires
perfect body positioning, intense
core tension, and a whole lot of
belief in the improbability of
fighting gravity with merely friction
for holds.
I was scared, not because it
was dangerous but because of the
intensity of the exposure. And
because it was hard. I always had
fallen on this pitch. And falling
means failure.
Taking two deep breaths, I began
up the familiar sequence. My
palms pressed against the rock.
Powering through my shoulders,
28
I lifted my hips a little higher,
slowly bringing my foot up, just
under my hand. The exposure no
longer existed; it was just me and
the minuscule details of the wall
in front of me. A slight shift in the
angle of my hips. Shuffle my palm
to the next dimple in the smooth
rock. Breathe but don't release
core tension. The fear of challenge
no longer existed; I was in
it. Another subtle shift. Foot up,
palm up, repeat. I reached toward
the first real hold on the pitch, the
final hard move. Felt my fingers
connect, lock in. Heart pounding,
muscles shaking. I could still fall.
This is it. Breathe. Collect yourself!
my inner voice yelled.
It meant so much not to fall,
because free climbing El Cap
seemed like the ultimate test. I
thought it could show me what
I am truly capable of. To succeed
on this pitch would prove
that I could do it. It would prove
that after everything I'd been
/ OUTDOOR RETAILER SUMMER 2022
through, I still have what it takes.
I couldn't think about falling. I
couldn't think about failing. I
willed myself to focus, to stay
with the climbing.
As I finished the pitch, a quivering
tension grew from deep in my
core. There is a fine line between
excitement and anxiety. The
physical manifestations of the
emotions are the same. The subtle
difference is in the mind.
In that moment, the goal of
climbing El Cap, free, became a
real possibility. But this was just a
practice run to work on the crux
section. In order to accomplish
the goal of free climbing El Cap,
I would still have to climb every
move for 2,000 feet up to this
point perfectly, without grabbing
a cam or hanging on the rope.
Then climb the Teflon Corner.
And another 1,000 feet, with
several additional cruxes.
The intensity of understanding
the whole thing, the enormous
But this question threatens to snuff
the flames. It holds me back as I
wrestle with the doubt. The impossible
question, again. The question
that attempts to weigh the value
of one experience against another
experience that could occur instead.
As if any experience in life can be
isolated from the course of our
existence and placed on a scale. Is it
worth it? is the wrong question.
I cannot quantify the experience
of a journey up El Cap. The experience
has no specific value. It is an
experience that cannot be isolated
and made separate from who I am.
What's it like up there? What
part of me is still intact? What am
I capable of? These questions pull
me together instead of tearing me
apart. They light the fire, bringing
excitement rather than anxiety.
These questions make me want
to go. They don't require a yes or
no answer. Or any answer at all.
Because it's never about finding the
answer. It's about asking the right
question, then decisively following
the curiosity wherever it leads.
Meet Lauren Delaunay Miller
and Joise McKee today, June 10,
at the Mountaineers Books booth
(UL-44056) from 3-4 p.m. They
will be signing and giving away
copies of Valley of Giants: Stories
from Women at the Heart of
Yosemite Climbing.
ROBBIE PRECHTL

The Daily - June 10,2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Daily - June 10,2022

The Daily - June 10,2022 - CT1
The Daily - June 10,2022 - CT2
The Daily - June 10,2022 - Cover1
The Daily - June 10,2022 - Cover2
The Daily - June 10,2022 - 1
The Daily - June 10,2022 - 2
The Daily - June 10,2022 - 3
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The Daily - June 10,2022 - 71
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The Daily - June 10,2022 - Cover3
The Daily - June 10,2022 - Cover4
The Daily - June 10,2022 - CT3
The Daily - June 10,2022 - CT4
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