What does ‘exposure’ mean to you? 

Before I became a climber, it meant all the dictionary usuals — exposed film, exposure to the weather, notoriety for an actor or politician, etc.

Now, though, the word makes me worry, just a little. 

A climb can be steep or low-angled, over-hanging or vertical,  blocky (lots to hold on to or step on) or slabby (nothing to hold on to). But the ones that took me the longest to get comfortable with were the exposed climbs. 

Just what it sounds like:

Exposed to the air —

Exposed to gravity —

Just so…exposed —

Rappelling off El Capitan

This one, though, was the first, and the scariest: 

On the third pitch of Snake Dike, on Half Dome

Hanging on the shoulder of Half Dome is like being in a helicopter. . . without the helicopter! The walls of the dome all curve away from you, so if your back is against the wall, you don’t see anything next to you, above you, below you… nothing but air. 

This is where climbing gets cerebral.

When I started climbing, 10 years ago, I was constantly amazed at how completely I shut out the world when I climbed, in the gym or outdoors. You really can’t think about anything else while climbing. It’s not exactly a sport; it’s a problem-solving lifestyle. And you can’t solve a problem if your mind is elsewhere.

The exposure can be distracting, for sure. But dealing with it forces you to focus completely. Puts you in the ‘zone’. A totally zen experience. 

So much richer than simple meditation!

My ‘meditation room’: 

At the Heart Ledge, about 1,000ft up El Capitan