Six years ago I made my first trip to Yosemite National Park. At that time I did a 3 day backcountry hike and was astounded by the amazing beauty around every corner. I knew that I needed to return and spend a lot more time here. I am back and this trip is very different because I have more time and my focus is climbing rather than hiking. When I entered the park it was hazy from the fires, but magical in its own right; as if the majestic towering cliffs were being slowly revealed to me. I spent the weekend climbing with a Fargo friend who took me to the top of a route called Hobbit Book. It was a super fun easy climb to an amazing view of the Tuolumne area. The weekend was a great reminder of how much fun easy climbing can be as well as a reality check about how much I have to learn.
On Monday morning I was on my own in line for a spot at camp 4. Camp 4 is a place like nowhere I’ve ever been before. It is actually a national historic site as the birthplace of modern rock climbing. It is the walk-in campground, also known as the “climbers’ camp”. Many of the climbers who established the routes, traditions, techniques, and ethics of climbing have stayed at this camp for generations. After sitting in line for 2 hours and chatting with the people around me I was allotted site 24B and wandered down to see what I would find. At my site, there was a guy who started to make small talk the quickly changed direction and said, “Let me cut to the chase, do you want to go climbing?” I got a few things out of the car, but was on the rock climbing before I even set up my tent. The next day we had 4 people from 4 different states all climbing together, all who for one reason or another were at camp 4 alone. I am astounded how connections just happen here. One friend described it as being like college, which it kind of is like a tent dormitory, but that still doesn’t fully capture it. There are people from all over the world passing through. I have met people from Austria, Brazil, England, Germany, China, Hungary, France, Slovenia, and more. Some have big goals to climb long hard routes, others like me are trying to meet people, learn, and grow. Everyone is in tents living a simple life, and the question of occupation rarely comes up. For some this is a holiday, for some an adventure, and for some it is their life. Despite climbing being the only common thread nearly everyone is friendly and respectful of each other as they enjoy the privilege of being in Yosemite.
I wonder what the world would be like if there were more places around like camp 4. More places where people weren’t judged by things and beauty but were free pursue their own targets while enjoying the splendor of life. On one of my last days I met a Spaniard who was just a joy to be around. He had just arrived in the park and being new random partners we went to climb and easy route. His English was a little broken, but the two most common phrases that he used were “no problem” and “excellent”. That light hearted free spirit reminded me that there’s no reason for me not to live with the same perspective. When things don’t go as planned it still works out, and just being able to live among so many wonders is excellent.
During my time at camp 4 I have learned a ton about crack climbing technique, multi-pitch climbing, big wall climbing, aid climbing, and trad cimbing. I even did my very first trad lead on an easy route at the base of El Capitan. (If you’re not a climber, this is the most notorious face in the USA.) I was trying to absorb knowledge from all of the experience surrounding me. I thought I would be sad to leave, but instead I drove away knowing that I will be back again soon.