The High-Exposure World of Yosemite Big-Wall Adventures

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It began with Dan Osman in Yosemite Valley within the mid-1990s. That’s when the long-haired, heavy steel rocker from Lake Tahoe tied his ropes collectively and flung his physique off the facet of three,000-foot El Capitan and the 1,100-foot Leaning Tower. Again then, Osman was the climbing god who starred within the Masters of Stone movie collection. He climbed laborious—together with free solo—plus he skateboarded off cliffs and carried out monumental rope-catching falling cartwheels.

The movies immortalized Osman, who died when a record-breaking leap went awry in November 1998. However his spirit lives on in Yosemite, the place as we speak greater than 20 years after he set the bar, vertical thrill-seekers comply with his imaginative and prescient.

These locals embrace Ryan Sheridan and his associate Priscilla (Prilla) Mewborne. They each dwell and work in Curry Village, CA, the place Mewborne is a bellhop and Sheridan tends to the bike and raft stands. Of their free time, they’re on El Capitan, 1,700-foot Liberty Cap and 700-foot Rostrum. Right here they rig highlines, aerial silks, and cord jumps.

Earlier this yr, Sheridan, wearing a giraffe onesie, triple-backflipped off the Rostrum.

Yosemite is the birthplace of slacklining, a sport that began with strolling chains within the Camp four car parking zone. It requires strolling alongside 1-inch webbing stretched or draped between two formations. The place slacklining takes place just a few ft off the bottom, highlining takes place a whole lot or 1000’s of ft within the air. Identical to with climbing, the game is allowed within the park so long as customers follower tips. (Study extra here.)

Ryan Sheridan

As a substitute of counting on bolts drilled into the stone to safe his highlines, which is frequent, Sheridan’s aim is to construct bolt-free anchors. Like a vertical technician, he depends on his background in physics and mechanics to construct equalized anchors that depend on cams (spring-loaded detachable rock-climbing safety), which he units behind monumental flakes. As soon as the rigging is full, Ryan is the primary to live-test the road. Right here he suppresses vertigo attributable to overwhelming publicity, takes a couple of steps on the road, and dives off. His physique falls a number of lengths earlier than his harness tether catches the road.

“That first fall that’s the scariest,” he says. “That second between while you’re falling and earlier than the system catches is the wildest half. After that, it’s all the time enjoyable.”

As soon as he’s in steadiness and strolling the road, he says, “The bottom is so distant which you can’t inform that you just’re swinging 20 ft, facet to facet. The reference factors on the bottom are all tousled since you’re shifting a lot. I get seasick due to the swinging.”

This month Sheridan is rigging a bolt-free highline throughout the Coronary heart characteristic on El Cap’s southwest face. He goals to cross the abyss from one facet of the characteristic to the opposite, a distance of 300 ft. If profitable, this may be longest highline on El Cap. It will likely be first time somebody has walked this portion of the wall.

Yosemite National park el capitan
Shutterstock

“I went up final night time, and I discovered an ideal crack system,” he says. “I’m 100 p.c positive we will make it work.”

One other use Sheridan has for rigging highlines is to create a suspension level for Mewborne to carry out aerial silks. These acrobatics are performed by wrapping and unwrapping one’s physique from hanging material constituted of poly tricot that’s connected to the slackline above. Strikes embrace inversion spinning, knee hooks, splits, foot wraps and dynamic drops.

aerial silking Yosemite
Ryan Sheridan

“Aerial silking brings pleasure to my soul, and a smile to my face,” Mewborne says. I can’t get sufficient of it. It’s a really particular feeling taking over area 1000’s of ft off the bottom and utilizing my very own energy to wrap my physique in elegant methods.”

By training their sport amongst a backdrop of immense waterfalls and shimmering golden stone, these highliners and aerial silk performers join with nature in a manner that few others expertise within the nationwide park. Up right here, “you’ve a relationship with the mountain,” Sheridan says.

This connection to the vertical surroundings is what retains Sheridan and Mewborne coming again yr after yr. “Up right here on the partitions,” he says, “you’re taking one thing past your creativeness and make it an actual factor.”

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