Thanks to Google Street View, you can explore oceans underwater without getting wet and now you can climb Yosemite’s El Capitan without breaking a sweat. Although Street View has quite a bit of Yosemite National Park coverage, at almost 1,200 square miles, there’s so much more of Yosemite to see. Today Google launched its “first-ever vertical Street View collection” that will let you climb 3,000 feet up Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan.
Ironically, people interested in Apple happenings might discover that Google is drowning out news about Apple’s El Capitan, aka OS X 10.11, as the second beta offering was released yesterday; it’s currently only available to developers registered in the Apple Developer Program. In July, Apple will launch a public beta program for El Capitan as well as iOS 9.
If your interest was not an OS but a massive rock formation in Yosemite National Park, then know that no, some poor Google engineer wasn’t tasked with climbing the famous granite monolith as “doing anything thousands of feet high on a sheer granite face is complicated;” so Google partnered with climbers Lynn Hill, Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell to tackle the trip up The Nose.
Caldwell completed a 19-day free climb of the Dawn Wall, El Capitan’s most difficult face, in January. Regarding the vertical Street View climb, Caldwell said, “Climbing is all about flirting with the impossible and pushing the boundaries of what you think you can be done. Capturing Street View imagery 3,000 feet up El Capitan proved to be an extension of that, especially when you take a camera meant for the inside of a restaurant and mount it thousands of feet up the world’s most iconic rock wall.”
First, the climbers conducted “some testing,” using their “tried-and-true climbing gear like cams and ropes to make sure the camera wouldn’t fall to the ground in the middle of our Street View collection.” Caldwell added, “Once we figured out how to keep the camera on El Cap, we created two sets of vertical Street View.”
One set shows the climbers at “iconic spots” like resting on a ledge (El Cap Tower) at night, climbing the Stovelegs – aka steep cracks 1,000 feet up, kicking back to take a break 1,500 feet above the ground, and the “Jardine Traverse” which involves “climbing sideways on tiny fingertip holds.”
If you virtually climb with them, you’ll experience the Texas Flake, which involved squeezing “between the flake and wall to keep going,” the King Swing which was described as “swinging across the face of El Cap on a rope,” and conquering the Great Roof, the “most difficult part of the route.” After reaching 2,000 feet up by climbing a crack just wide enough for hands, aka the Pancake Flake, there’s still another 1,000 feet to ascend.
The second vertical Street View set involved climber Alex Honnold who “holds the speed record for climbing the Nose at 2 hours and 23 minutes - most people take 3-5 days.” Caldwell said Honnold “took the camera and pretty much ran 3,000 feet up with photographer partner Brett Lowell.”
These 360-degree panoramic images are the closest thing I’ve ever witnessed to actually being thousands of feet up a vertical rock face -- better than any video or photo. But my hope is that this new imagery will inspire you to get out there and see Yosemite for yourself… whether you travel up a rock wall or just down the trail.
You can explore all kinds of cool places with Street View such as Loch Ness, Pyramids of Giza, the Grand Canyon, Eiffel Tower, Mount Etna – one of the world’s most active volcanos, and experience so many more virtual expeditions. Check out the Yosemite Treks page or virtually climb via Street View to experience the amazing ascent from the safety of your desk, chair or another location on the ground. Maybe the virtual climb will inspire you to tackle El Cap in real life?