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El Capitan

Yosemite National Park

At nearly 3600ft from base to summit, El Capitan ranks as one of the world’s largest granite monoliths. Its sheer face makes it a world-class destination for experienced climbers, and one that wasn’t ‘conquered’ until 1958. Since then, it’s been inundated. As part of its ‘Ask-a-Climber’ program, the Yosemite Climbing Association ( sets up a telescope through which you can view climbers at El Capitan Bridge (12:30pm to 4:30pm mid-May to mid-October) and answers visitors’ questions.

The road offers several good spots from which to watch climbers reckoning with El Cap’s series of cracks and ledges, including the famous ‘Nose.' The Valley View turnout is one. For a wider view, try the pullout along Southside Dr just east of Bridalveil Fall. You can also park on Northside Dr, just below El Capitan, perhaps the best vantage point, though you’ll need binoculars for a really good view. Look for climbers' haul bags first – they’re bigger, more colorful and move around more than the climbers, making them easier to spot. At night, park along the road and dim your headlights; once your eyes adjust, you’ll easily make out the pinpricks of headlamps dotting the rock face. Listen, too, for voices.

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