Anniversary, Vertical Style (or: Once a teacher, always…)

One year ago, I became the oldest woman to scale El Capitan, the 3,200-foot granite wall in Yosemite National Park. My son led me up, and down, in 19 hours. Most climbers take 3 or 4 days.

There are over a hundred climbing routes up El Cap. The one we did is called Lurking Fear, and we did it, appropriately, on Halloween day. So this year, on Halloween, a couple friends and I went up the Heart lines on El Cap to celebrate.


See the Heart? It’s a huge, intaglio-style sort-of-heart-shaped feature on the west side of El Capitan. The bottom point of the heart is about 1,000 feet up. That’s where I celebrated my anniversary. The views don’t get much better!

But even more fun than my celebration was being a teacher again! I went up with 2 friends, Hannah and Tara. Hannah’s a new climber and had never been higher than about 40 or so feet. So teaching her how to use jumars and all the accruing gear, and how to work them higher and higher on the wall, reminded me again how much I love teaching. A couple of years ago, I retired from a 44-year teaching career, but I’ll always be a teacher at heart. Or, like this time, at The Heart.

One pitch above the Heart, the Mammoth Ledges offer even better views of most of Yosemite Valley. I savored it as long as I could, leaving only when we would be sure to have enough hours of daylight to get down and hike back out to the car.

That day last year was life-changing, an indelible memory I’ll always cherish and be grateful to Alex for. This year’s climb was just plain fun. Hannah had a great time learning all the new skills and inching her way up the wall:

and Tara had a blast refreshing her jugging skills and just relishing the incredible vistas:









Do you have a special place or way to celebrate your anniversaries or special days? How about sharing it with us here?

p.s. You can read about last year’s unforgettable climb with my son in my book here.

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