Revisiting El Capitan

Big wall rock climber Tom Morrow revisits the "Big Stone" (aka El Capitan), Yosemite National Park, to climb the route Virginia after a 10-year hiatus.

Big wall rock climber Tom Morrow revisits the “Big Stone” (El Capitan), Yosemite National Park,
to climb the route Virginia after a 10-year hiatus.


Photos by Noah Hanawalt

Local Lyons, Colorado, big wall enthusiast Tom Morrow started rock climbing while stationed at Fort Carson U.S. Army base in 1987. It didn’t take him long to find his way to Yosemite National Park, where he spent his 20s and 30s climbing the famed “Big Stone” (aka El Capitan). Now a father of one, he mostly works, rides dirt bikes and jumps out of airplanes (aka skydives). We sat down with Tom to chat about his latest adventure to Yosemite.

Big wall rock climber Tom Morrow revisits the "Big Stone" (aka El Capitan), Yosemite National Park, to climb the route Virginia after a 10-year hiatus.

The Captain, from the meadow.


Red Fox: How many times have you climbed El Cap?
Tom Morrow: I’ve climbed El Capitan 23 times, now 24. My life-long climbing goal was to do 25 different routes, and I’m hoping to pull it off on my 50th birthday next year.

Big wall rock climber Tom Morrow revisits the "Big Stone" (aka El Capitan), Yosemite National Park, to climb the route Virginia after a 10-year hiatus.

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RF: Why did you stop climbing?
TM: I got sidetracked because of my skydiving addictions and going back to my roots to race motocross. It was kind of like, “OK, next year we’re going to Yosemite.” And that turned into 10 years.

RF: What inspired you to revisit our old dream?
TM: My good friend, Noah, give me a call and motivated me to get with it. So we met in the Valley, planning to climb a route called Virginia (5.9 A3) and started humping loads up to the base.

RF: How did it go?
TM: We figured it would take us four days to climb it, so we packed for five days just in case something was to slow us down like storms. We figured we’d bring a gallon of water a day per person. That’s 80 pounds of just water. Plus we had food, gear, etc… Our gross weight starting off was around 250 pounds. The good thing is the bags get lighter as you go up. ☺

Big wall rock climber Tom Morrow revisits the "Big Stone" (aka El Capitan), Yosemite National Park, to climb the route Virginia after a 10-year hiatus.

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RF: How was the route?
TM: Virginia was such a beautiful climb and not as stressful as some of the other horror shows I’ve done. Noah was a great partner. We did the Zodiac in 2002. And considering I hadn’t trained for a wall since then, everything went perfectly well.


RF
: Do you have any advice for aspiring big wall climbers?
TM: One of the most important things to have when you traditional big wall climb is to have good portaledge. It’s so nice kicking back way up on a ledge on El Cap. It’s important to be comfortable when sleeping because you need your rest to reach the summit. Also, stay persistent… once you’ve climbed the “Big Stone” you will walk a prouder walk.

RF: Is there anything I’m not asking that you want to share with us?
TM: My whole experience going back to Yosemite was so awesome. I forgot how beautiful the Valley is, and I’m looking forward to next year’s trip.

To see more photos of this El Cap adventure and others, please visit our El Capitan photo album on Facebook.

Tom Morrow hangin' out.

Tom Morrow hangin’ out.
click to enlarge


Big wall rock climber Tom Morrow revisits the "Big Stone" (aka El Capitan), Yosemite National Park, to climb the route Virginia after a 10-year hiatus.

Tom Morrow headin’ out.
click to enlarge


Big wall rock climber Tom Morrow revisits the "Big Stone" (aka El Capitan), Yosemite National Park, to climb the route Virginia after a 10-year hiatus. In this photo he is on top of El Capitan after having climbed his route.

Tom Morrow heading down, Half Dome in the background.
click to enlarge



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