Posts Tagged ‘Yosemite National Park’

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A man who sets himself one challenge after another against extraodinary odds, to raise money to help others…

June 8, 2009

You might have heard of Major Phil Packer… the man who was paralysed in February last year when the vehicle he was in was hit by a rocket in Iraq. He suffered broken ribs and a crushed lower spine. He was the man who was told he would never walk again and yet he finished the London marathon, albeit painfully slowly, but remember – 18 months before the doctors said he would never get out of a wheelchair.

We like talking about extreme personalities and this is one man who is definitely worth a mention or two. Thanks to AffiliAid for this introductory video:

Phil Packer says: “From the original prognosis that I would never walk again, I have been very lucky and my injuries have improved. I set out to raise £1million by completing a number of challenges including 3 Main Events; Rowing the Channel, walking the London Marathon, and pulling myself up a Mountain. El Capitan is the last event before I concentrate on providing opportunities for people with disabilities and raising the profile of disability sports. I will travel to the USA during the first two weeks in June and with the expertise & support of Andy Kirkpatrick, Ian Parnell and Paul Tatersal, will pull myself up 1800ft in 3 days”.

A quick excerpt of Maj. Phil Packer completing the London Marathon (6MadeInEngland9):

and how he has successfully got others involved in his charity efforts (AffiliAid)

Packer started his 1,800 ft climb up the sheer rock face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park yesterday, 8th June.

His ascent of El Cap. is being attempted despite the fact that he was told he would never walk again.

Major Packer, who lives in Westminster, London, has said the three-day climb will be his final fundraising campaign before concentrating his efforts on promoting opportunities for disabled people.

Climbing a  rock face would be a challenge most of us would balk at but with a characteristic display of courage over disability, Major Packer is determined to conquer the face that many able-bodied people have failed to do.

Pulling yourself up with your arms (the equivalent of doing more than 4,000 push-ups) is a painfully slow way to scale a rock face and though he’s in constant pain since the rocket attack last year, it’s not enough to discourage him from taking up this challenge.

He wants to prove that his disability is no bar to rock climbing even though he’s no fan of its dizzying heights.

Unseasonable rain over the Yosemite Valley won’t make his task any easier though experience suggests this trifling inconvenience  won’t interrupt his attempt.

He and his team are climbing to support ‘Help for Heroes’ and to raise awareness of Disabled Climbing Opportunites.

El Capitan Pic

Packer’s live update of his climb states: “Great day, currently at 250 meters. Very tough, arms are tired, but every pull up is one pull up nearer the top. Passed Pitch 6 out of 16. Sleeping on a portaledge tonight.”

Having attempted and completed a marathon, kayaked, sky-dived with the Red Devils and accepted El Cap’s challenge,  Major Phil Packer is, in our opinion, the perfect candidate as one of our extreme sports personalities.

To find out more about him, or if you would like to contribute to his fund-raising efforts, please go to: www.philpacker.com

His is a noble cause and I will keep you posted on the climb…

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El Capitan record missed by minutes

July 1, 2008

A big shout of thanks goes out to Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Chronicle who wrote this story of a US/Japanese attempt to break the time record for climbing El Capitan, currently held by the Huber brothers from Germany.

‘The climb straight up the Nose of El Capitan in the Yosemite National Park ended Sunday in dramatic fashion with Lafayette climber Hans Florine scrambling on his hands and feet, exhausted, his gear hanging off of him, as he desperately pushed to beat the world’s record. He came close, but missed by 2 1/2 minutes. Florine and his climbing partner, Yuji Hirayama, made the ascent up the 2,900-foot wall in 2 hours, 47 minutes and 30 seconds, the second-fastest time ever.

“I’m disappointed,” said Florine, 44. “I wanted it. I wanted the pressure to be off. … But I think we showed everybody today that we can break it.”

Florine, a former All America pole vaulter who grew up in Moraga, and Hirayama, 39, of Hidaka, Japan, plan to go for it again Wednesday. If they fail again, the record will be safe until September, when Hirayama plans to return for an all-out assault, complete with television crew.

The duo is trying to take back the record on the world famous Nose route from German brothers Thomas and Alexander Huber, who raced up the cliff face in a death-defying two hours and 45 minutes in October, smashing Florine and Hirayama’s previous record by three minutes.

“We can cut 15 to 20 minutes if we can take these next two days to recover physically and if we do better technically,” said Hirayama, after a confidence-boosting dip in the Merced River. “But that is a big hope. You have to have big goals, big hope, you know.”

Florine has been competing for 17 years with other climbers for the fastest time on the Nose, the most prominent and popular climbing route on El Capitan, but the quest for the record has become increasingly difficult and risky.

The Hubers, known as two of the strongest, most technically skilled and daring climbers in the world, accomplished the task after months of practice over two years. Two years ago, they had to suspend operations after Thomas Huber was seriously injured in a fall.

The competition for bragging rights became a spectator sport Sunday, as crowds with binoculars and telescopes gathered in the meadow, among the trees and along the road below the giant cliff. Climbers on El Capitan look like slow-moving ants in a sea of granite, and movement is usually hard to detect. Hirayama, one of the world’s best free climbers, always leads while Florine, the consummate strategist, belays and simultaneously climbs behind him, an extremely difficult and usually dangerous maneuver. In this scenario, a fall by Florine could be disastrous, as it would pull Hirayama off the wall. It is the ultimate team sport, in which the participants’ lives literally depend on each another.

“We are quite good working together,” Hirayama said. “I really need Hans. If he wasn’t there, I wouldn’t go.”

The crowd in the valley whooped and hollered after the duo completed the hardest sections of the 32 pitches, or rope lengths, including a maneuver known as the “King Swing,” in which climbers propel themselves 80 to 90 feet in the air more than a thousand feet off the ground. As they neared the top, it became clear to those gathered in the valley, including Florine’s wife, Jacqueline, and two children, Marianna, 7, and Pierce, 5, that it was going to be close. Climbers watching below were biting their nails, pacing about, yelling “go, go” as the two men reached the dreaded, difficult patch of granite known as the Glowering Spot.

“He’s at the belay,” one man yelled as Florine finished climbing a tiny crack in the wall. “It took eight minutes to do that pitch. I think they can do it.”

One could see them stepping it up, struggling to go faster near the top, but it was not to be. It was already too late by the time Florine made his scramble to the tree.

“I had a lot of little rope catches today,” Florine said later after he had hiked down to the valley to be with his family. “But a personal best is always a good thing. The yells from the crowd were fantastic.”

Speed competitions like this one are controversial in the insular world of rock climbing. Purists have criticized Florine’s competitiveness, forgetting that record setting has been almost an obsession, especially on the Nose of El Capitan ever since it was first climbed by Warren Harding, Wayne Merry and George Whitmore half a century ago.

The Hubers’ quest for the speed record inspired a movie, “To the Limit,” which depicts the brothers as transcendent climbers. Their competitiveness – which has driven them to subject themselves to ever more extreme dangers – is presented as a kind of spiritual journey toward a higher plane.

Realists simply call it reckless. After all, 13 climbers have been killed in nine separate accidents on the Nose since 1973 when Michael Blake, 19, of Santa Monica lost his grip on the rock and plummeted 2,800 feet to the ground after a bolt, a tie off and his rope failed. That’s just on the one route. Twenty-four people have died on El Capitan – elevation 7,569 feet – since 1905.

But the record for the fastest time is there, so Florine and Hirayama intend to grab it.’

Sure sounds kind of scary to me but good luck for Wednesday guys, I hope all goes well and you come back safely. I’ve included this excellent YouTube video from firstrunfeaturesnyc of the Huber brothers on El Capitan. This story has now been made into a major feature film by Pepe Danquart, called ‘To the Limit’ – it opened in NYC on June 6th.

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Drive for permanent museum to rock climbing at Yosemite

June 23, 2008
I want to thank Marek Warszawski of the Fresno Bee for bringing this story of Ken Yager’s efforts to establish a permanent museum to rock climbing in the Yosemite National Park where so much history and development of the sport began.

Yager is the driving force behind a nonprofit organization pushing to build a permanent museum celebrating Yosemite Valley’s integral role in the sport’s development.

Climbing may have been born in the French Alps, but Yosemite is where it came of age. To ascend the Valley’s sheer granite walls, some of which rise more than 3,000 feet, tenacious young American climbers in the 1950s and ’60s developed tools and techniques that were later exported to mountain ranges throughout the world.

And they did it with an environmental sensibility passed down from John Muir — whose 1869 un-roped ascent of Cathedral Peak, a weathered, sculpted horn above Tuolumne Meadows, kicked off Yosemite’s climbing era — to big-wall pioneer Royal Robbins, who often risked his own safety to avoid defacing the rock.

Until recently, however, no enduring record existed of this rich history. And park visitors who stood by the dozens in El Capitan Meadow craning their necks toward the sky and watching tiny dots inch their way upward had little or no appreciation for what they were seeing.

That’s when Yager entered the picture. An accomplished climber who has scaled El Capitan more than 50 times, Yager and buddy Mike Corbett in 1991 came up with the idea to start collecting climbing artifacts that otherwise would’ve been lost to the dustbin of history.

Yager’s collection now totals nearly 10,000 items, about 3,000 of which have been catalogued. The most important pieces, along with some owned by the National Park Service, are on display at the Yosemite Museum. The 1,800-square foot exhibit, titled “Granite Frontiers: A Century of Yosemite Climbing,” is open daily through Oct. 27.

In one display case lies a metal spike that Scottish carpenter George Anderson used to nail his way up Half Dome in 1875, just five years after California’s top geologist proclaimed the summit “never will be trodden by human foot.”

Another contains two large pitons built from the legs of a cast-iron stove and used to protect 2-inch-wide cracks during the 1958 first ascent of El Capitan’s Nose route. Known in climbing circles as the Stoveleg pitons, Yager called them “the most famous pitons in the world. I know of one other one, and I’ll probably get that one, too.”

There is a 1933 roster of the Sierra Club’s Rock Climbing Section, the group that introduced roped climbing to Yosemite. There is the postage-stamped piton called a RURP that somehow held Robbins’ weight during a fall on his 10-day solo climb of El Capitan’s Muir Wall in 1968. There are the climbing shoes worn by Lynn Hill in 1993 when she became the first person to free climb (when only hands, feet and other body parts are used for upward progress) the Nose.

The exhibit also includes video presentations, both historical and modern, and photographic displays. An interactive granite wall allows visitors to wedge wired nuts and camming devices into cracks of varying widths, just like a real climber.

Yager’s efforts are applauded by Yosemite’s climbing pioneers, some of whom believe the park service has long regarded their sport as little more than a nuisance. In 2003, Yager founded the nonprofit Yosemite Climbing Association with the goal of establishing a permanent museum in the Valley. Although early proposals “weren’t very well received” by the park service, Yager said that the initial resistance has started to thaw.

When park officials began drafting a master plan for the Valley, Yager urged climbers to write letters supporting a climbing museum in the final draft. He said more than 1,000 did. The campaign, along with efforts from climbing groups, helped convince the park service that a museum should be included in the park’s future. However, all Valley construction has been halted by ongoing litigation, and the future of the museum remains in limbo.

“The lawsuit kind of put everything on hold,” Yager said.

Yager won’t rest until that happens. The married father of three earns his living as a quality-control inspector for a general contractor and does not draw a salary from his work with the YCA, which also organizes an annual trash cleanup effort every September called the Yosemite Facelift.

“I just want to see the museum get done,” said Yager, who works the equivalent of two full-time jobs. “Then I can relax.”

TOMAS OVALLE / THE FRESNO BEE
Old climbing tools such as two hammers (back) and two carabiners with assorted pitons forged by John Salathé circa 1940 are on display at the climbing exhibit: “Granite Frontiers: A Century of Yosemite Climbing.”

Ken Yager shows how to wedge a camming device into an interactive granite wall.

TOMAS OVALLE / THE FRESNO BEE
Ken Yager shows how to wedge a camming device into an interactive granite wall.
We send out a big shout of encouragement to Ken and his supporters and trust that once the Yosemite litigation is out of the way the establishment of the permanent museum to rock climbing in the Yosemite National Park will become a reality.