It might seem an unlikely place for the US government shutdown to be felt, but the reverberations are apparently set to reach the heart of American rock climbing country. The Yosemite national park in California is universally acknowledged as America’s top, and one of the world’s best, rock climbing destinations. It’s a favourite getaway not only among climbing junkies but also camping and hiking enthusiasts, though Oprah Winfrey was once urged to go there because “not enough black people go to Yosemite”. She did go, and featured clips of herself at Yosemite – especially cooking in her camper’s van – on her show.
If the shutdown continues, the federal government employees who run national parks all over the US will be forced to stop work and ask the visitors to vacate the parks. The tourist traffic in Yosemite is very high at this time of year because the weather is at its best, just before the arrival of winter at the end of October or beginning of November. The summer is too hot and, unlike the Indian sun, the Californian sun burns your skin badly if you stay out in it too long. The other season when Yosemite has good climbing and camping weather is May-June.
The political development has come at an unfortunate time for Yosemite in particular. On September 30, a women’s speed climbing world record was set on one of its toughest and most revered climbs. Yosemite is famous for its big walls, which draw the cream of rock climbers, and the news of the record fired up adventure circles. It was set by two women – Mayan Smith-Gobat of New Zealand and Libby Sauter of the US on The Nose, which, many climbers argue, is the world’s most well-known rock climb. A part of the famous El Capitan wall, it is a 1,000-metre ascent with several difficult features. The pair completed the climb in five hours and 39 minutes, breaking the previous record of seven hours and 26 minutes. The earlier record had been set a year ago, in September 2012, by Smith-Gobat and Chantel Astorga.
Alongside their record-breaking ascent of The Nose, Smith-Gobat and Astorga had set another record. They had kept climbing and linked the Nose route with the Regular Northwest Face one on Half Dome (another of Yosemite’s iconic walls), taking 20 hours and nine minutes in total. They became the first women climbers to link the two routes in a single day.
Last year’s climb had surpassed the existing record (10 hours and 19 minutes) of Jes Meiris and Quinn Brett. They, in turn, had broken the record of Sauter and Astorga (10 hours and 40 minutes).
So this bunch of climbers is constantly breaking their own records and climbing circles are expecting more news from Yosemite this month. The men’s record for The Nose stands at two hours and 23 minutes and is currently held by Hans Florine and Alex Honnold, both Americans. Their climb was done in June 2012 and could be broken this season. However, this cannot happen if the park is emptied of visitors.
Just before her record-setting climb with Sauter, Smith-Gobat had set a new world record for the fastest ascent of The Nose by a mixed pair. She climbed it in four hours and 22 minutes with Sean Leary.
- New Female Speed Record on the Nose (climbing.com)