I rest my head on a boulder and struggle to catch my breath. We are about half way up the relatively short approach to base camp and I am feeling weak and debilitated by the high attitude. How are we going to make it up a 2,500ft big wall if I can’t even hike 10 minutes without stopping to rest? After about a month climbing in the Cordillera Blanca, or the Peruvian Andes just outside of Huaraz, Peru, I have become accustomed to the roller coaster ride that is climbing at altitude
Before two months ago, the only things I really knew about El Cap were: the Dawn Wall was over-publicized, Tommy Caldwell is a god, and anyone who climbed the Nose in a day was insane. Yosemite was a place you went to when you had mastered the routes at your local crag and were bored by the lowly grade of 5.12 trad. I didn’t think of it as attainable for my climbing. I didn’t even think about it as a place I was allowed to go.
I had just gotten back from seven months of backpacking in South America when my two best friends told me they had an outlandish goal: to try to climb El Cap in the fall.