I grew up in the 60’s and one thing that dominated the news and our lives was the ‘Space Race’. This was that period of time when our nation was obsessed with beating the USSR to the moon. That more or less began when they launched the earth’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik in October of 1957. A few years later President John F. Kennedy made his famous speech where he declared the United State’s intent on going to the moon.
That was no easy feat. It took many years to complete and lots of hard work. It required people to push themselves further than they had ever dreamed. It took tremendous dedication and constant focus on the final goal.
But we couldn’t just go to the moon, there were many ‘smaller’ goals to be achieved. Most of these smaller goals were monumental in their own right. First, we had to get something into space, then a man, then an orbit, a seemingly endless list of obstacles to overcome. But in each of these, we learned, we grew, and we got a bit closer to the dream.
I have my own personal Moon Shot, El Capitan
For those of you who are not climbers, El Capitan is a magnificent rock formation towering over three thousand feet above the floor of Yosemite Vally. Its nearly shear vertical granite walls have beckoned to climbers for decades. For many, it is the ultimate climbing challenge and is considered the mecca of modern climbing.
For me to climb El Capitan will take many years of preparation. I am guessing 5-10 years, maybe more. It will require me to master many skills I don’t currently have. First I need to learn to do outside climbing, to date I have mostly climbed in the gym. Then I will need to learn to do multi-pitch climbs, those that are taller than a single rope. Then big wall climbing, which are multi-pitch climbs so big you need multiple days to make it to the top. And each of those will have a variety of challenges; physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and more.
In President John F. Kennedy’s speech he says, “… we will go to the moon and back, not because it is easy but because it is hard…”.
I so relate to this statement. I can’t really say when or why this rock has captured my heart but it has. It and the great challenges it will impose on me. To conquer this challenge will require me to go far beyond where I am in so many ways. I am in pretty good physical shape, but to climb El Capitan will require me to be in extremely good shape. It will require me to go from casual jogging to serious running. At over three times the height of the Eiffel Tower, it is a vertical marathon. My resistance workouts have given me nice-looking arms, but I will need to develop powerful muscles to haul myself and all my gear to the top. And many of my other activities will have to grow to prepare me for this.
Then there is the climbing itself. I am currently just starting to be able to climb intermediate (5.11) climbs in the gym. I will need to be able to do advanced climbing outside. I currently only know how to use basic climbing gear, but I will need to be very proficient with complicated equipment to make this climb. The list goes on.
There are many routes to the top of El Capitan. I will most likely take one of the “easy” routes. I will most likely do aided climb which allows one to use various devices to help hold you to the wall. I will not be going up that wall until I have the confidence that I can make it. Yet no matter what I do before that first step, it will not be easy.
Will I make it?
I can’t really say. Obviously, I think with proper preparation I can do this. But it is not an easy goal. And given that it will take years of progress to get there, there is always the possibility that some where along the way I will conclude it is beyond me. It will be very demanding of my body. Is my body up to that, even after I have done years of preparing? Do I have the tenacity to make it through all of the ‘smaller’ goals? Am I willing to make all of the sacrifices? I have only been climbing for a year, there is so much I don’t know.
But I do know this, the only way to fail is to not try. If I get part way there, if I do my best but conclude that even at my best I am not up to this feat, I will have won. I will have challenged myself as few have. I will have learned so much. And I am sure along the way I will have made many new friends and had so many amazing experiences. For me, I can’t lose.