Towering El Capitan

Towering El Capitan

A Practice In Worthiness


My first journey up the vertical granite world of El Capitan was in the spring of 1988. Hanging from my climbing harness at the belay anchor low down on "The Nose" route I looked up at the face above and a visceral feeling of unworthiness infused my being. Without words spoken the sheer size of the rock face communicated, "What the hell are the likes of YOU doing here?"

With the sun beating on my bare shoulders I panned my eyes across the expansive wall and back again noticing the swallows dive and turn as my partner John worked his way up the first of the "Stove legs" pitches. A man from a party below arrived at the same postage stamp sized belay stance I inhabited and said, "What are you doing?"

I replied, "What do you mean?"

He said, "I can see you are belaying your leader, but what are you doing?"

I said, "Nothing."

To my surprise he replied, "If you are not improving your situation in tiny ways every moment, you'll never make it." After he said that, I realized that there were endless small tasks that needed my attention. Restacking the rope, cleaning up the now unused elements of the anchor and having a snack to maintain my energy. My impromptu mentor pointed out there was always something to be done if I had a goal. Waiting to see if things turn out is not a great way to have them turn out.


John and I made it up the Nose route on El Capitan that trip. I arrived at the top gifted with my own humble sense of worthiness. Not granted from the monolithic place or the experience, but from the thousands of small and large efforts that expanded my capacity. The wisdom stuck with me. I dig deep ice climbing where cold can win and direct action must be taken to create heat to stay warm. Building a house in Revelstoke, were countless little tasks required my action. Today, as I type each letter on my keyboard to form words that morph concepts into a story that also communicates meaning. The cure for unworthiness is focused action and in noticing the power that fuels my call to action.




What project, if I engage in wholeheartedly, would I be able to accomplish?


What tasks do I need to do moment to moment?


How am I unconsciously feeding into my own unworthiness by hanging out?


Do I heed the advice of others or do I chronically fail because I am stubborn?


If I fail at something, who is to blame?