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El Capitan: A moment of historic greatness just happened in America’s back yard

El Capitan, Yosemite National Park. (Photo by Christoph Deinet on Unsplash_

I’m attracted to greatness. Whether it’s in architecture, art, or food. I like the idea that I can witness a person operating at a higher level than the rest of us. The dedication, focus and talent it takes to truly become world class at something has always fascinated me.

To that end, something just happened in the world of sports that classifies as genuine greatness. This amazing feat takes us Yosemite National Park. I’ve never been, but it is on my short list because I want to see El Capitan in person.

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If you didn’t immediately conjure a mental image of the iconic majestic rock face, do a quick image search. It’s 3,000 vertical feet of granite, and climbers from around the world flock to California each year to climb it.

Before we get to the greatness part, I need to set a baseline for you so you can understand what just happened.

You have to be an elite climber just to attempt El Capitan. People train for years before they make their first attempt. The typical conquest of El Capitan is a multi-day affair. A team tries to get about half way up on the first day of climbing, then sleep overnight in a tent-like contraption attached to the cliff wall with ropes. The next morning, they pack up their stuff, and if everything goes as planned, they will summit on the second day.

In 1975, a team of climbers set out to climb El Capitan in one day, and they did it. Setting the unofficial record at 15 hours, the climbing world was astonished that a human being could make it up El Capitan in less than two days. Since then, people have been getting faster over the years.

El Capitan greatness

Something amazing happened on Wednesday, June 6, 2018. Most likely the greatest climber that has ever lived did the impossible. Alex Honnold and his climbing partner Tommy Caldwell climbed the face of El Capitan in 1 hour and 57 minutes.

El Capitan

Alex Honnold, top and Tommy Caldwell climb El Capitan. (AP)

Think about that for just a second — 3,000 vertical feet of granite in under two hours.

What is the proper analogy here to show just how great this climb is?

National Geographic said it’s like breaking the two hour marathon, but vertical. I actually think it’s more impressive than that. A bad day running ends with a blister or an ankle sprain. Have a bad day on El Capitan and they are scraping you off the rocks at the bottom and calling your family.

Is it more impressive than breaking the four-minute mile or the 10-second hundred meters?

Is what they did more impressive than Wilt Chamberlin’s 100 points in an NBA game or pitching a perfect game in baseball?

It’s hard to put into words just how impressive this athletic feat is. Other than to say this is one of the greatest athletic performances that has ever happened in history.

You can hear “What are we talking about here?” everyday at 4:45 p.m. on 97.3 FM.

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