Daniel Duane, a California-based writer, climber, and surfer, wrote El Capitan, a homage to El Cap, the biggest, grandest piece of rock in Yosemite Valley. The book, published in 2000, is a wonderful and poetic account of the world’s greatest granite monolith and the historical personalities that populated its soaring flanks. These include Warren Harding, Royal Robbins, Jim Bridwell, John Middendorf, Mike Corbett, and Scott Burk. Besides the historical perspectives, Duane also writes exuberantly of his own obsession with getting up The Captain.
“In my fourth summer of rock climbing, in 1991, I tried and failed to climb El Capitan three times. The first time…I was overcome by terror while still relatively low on the wall. The wall seemed impossibly vast, towering overhead with winds running almost constantly along the face, and birds rose and fell in dramatic demonstrations of gravity; hour upon hour of crushing physical labor brought the summit not an inch closer even as the ground got frighteningly far away. Then…I traversed onto a part of the wall on which the exposure—meaning the vertical drop below, the sheer volume of wall and space swimming all around—preyed upon the stability of my mind. My thoughts began to swirl about uncontrollably and I felt a terrible, inchoate urgency, as if something absolutely had to be done, and very, very soon. So I did something: I went down.”