Contributed by Evan Mikula
In the late 1970s, a young female climber named Lynn Hill stepped into the climbing scene at Yosemite National Park for the first time. Following in the footsteps of the great climbers who had come before her (Chouinard, Robbins, Frost, etc.), Hill attempted to etch her name on the Valley’s storied walls. She was accepted into the predominately male climbing community of Camp 4 and became steeped in the clean climbing ethics practiced in the Valley since the 1950s.
Back in Lynn’s day, “women had to contend with an army of men trying to maintain Camp 4 as a guys’ domain.” There simply wasn’t a female climbing community. She trained with many of the men of Camp 4, never backing down from a challenge, and always proving herself to be able to climb with some of the best in the world. As she grew older, she drifted away from the Valley and found new crags, continuing to put up extremely hard climbs.
In the mid-1980s, Hill began getting into the emerging competitive rock climbing scene. In competition climbing, most climbs are sport climbs. Sport climbing differs from more traditional forms through its inclusion of pre-drilled bolts on the rock face in order to make points of protection, instead of placing gear into cracks or other weaknesses in the rock. Lynn became the undisputed sport climbing champion from 1986 to 1992, but something was missing to her. She felt unsatisfied by competitions. Perhaps most of all, sport climbing went against the clean climbing ethics she had learned during her time in Yosemite Valley.
In 1992, Lynn Hill dropped out of the competitive climbing scene and returned to her roots, coming home to the Valley for a daunting new challenge: free climb the Nose. The Nose is a challenging climb on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. It was first climbed in 1958 by Warren Harding and his crew over a period of 47 days. During Lynn’s time in the Valley many people climbed the Nose, but they had to pull themselves up using gear they placed in the rock order to make upward progression. In order to “free” the Nose, Lynn would have to climb relying solely on her hands, feet, and her own strength. The Nose rises for nearly 3,000 vertical feet, and some of the world’s best climbers had never been able to free climb it; many thought the task to be impossible. Lynn thought, “short or tall, man or woman, the rock is an objective medium that is equally open for interpretation by all.” She did not let anyone’s opinions stop her from achieving her goal. Lynn trained and in 1993 she stood at the top of El Capitan knowing she had turned the impossible into the possible.
In the past few months, the impossibility each of us faces in our homes, communities, and nation seems to have grown considerably in its dizzying magnitude. How can we make a difference? What do we even need to do? Lynn said once, “throughout my life, one of the underlying qualities that has inspired me to pursue my vision of what is possible has to do with trusting in what I truly love and believe.” If we love, if we trust, if we believe, we can accomplish many amazing feats! Lynn Hill freed the Nose, and I believe we can successfully stand up for Mother Nature and protect the places we love.
Stay up to date on the current bills in congress that relate to environmental protection, if you see a scary one like H.R. 861 To Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency, call your representatives! Write them letters! Do something, even if it seems impossible. One day I believe we can each stand on our mountain top knowing that we turned the impossible into the possible.
Photo courtesy of Google Street View