Making a Pilgrimage to Yosemite Valley

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If you’ve climbed for 10 years or 10 minutes, you’re familiar with Yosemite’s towering, granite walls. It is literally the mecca for climbing. By that, I mean that people make pilgrimages there. They train for it. They dream about it. And like any proper holy place, it feels like heaven the first time you drop into the valley and see El Capitan thousands of feet above you.


It makes you feel small and insignificant, but somehow, it is also rejuvenating and empowering. You start to look up those slabs of granite and think, “Maybe I actually could sleep on the edge of a cliff for a week.”

There’s something about the place that just draws you to it. You have to touch it and feel it. You have to run your hands over the bumpy surface. You have to imagine yourself getting above the valley and seeing a view that so few people will ever experience.


If you’ve read ‘My First Summer in the Sierras’ by John Muir, you’ll probably remember the paragraph where he describes climbing down over the cliff’s edge to get a better view. A different view.

“The slope beside [Yosemite Falls] looked dangerously smooth and steep, and the swift roaring flood beneath, overhead, and beside me was very nerve-trying. I therefore concluded not to venture farther, but did nevertheless…While perched on that narrow niche I was not distinctly conscious of danger. The tremendous grandeur of the fall in form and sound and motion, acting at close range, smothered the sense of fear.”


He was compelled to explore these massive walls in the nineteenth century and that same magnetism is still working its magic 200 years later.

People are still searching for a different view of these iconic places.

Before I passed through the gates to the park and before I drove down into ‘the valley,’ I was skeptical. I knew that it would be beautiful, but I was doubtful that it would live up to the hype and the climbing lore. But it was all true.


There are places in this world that will take your breath away. Places that stop you in your tracks. Places that make your heart race. These are the types of places that awaken a desire…no, not desire. A necessity to explore more.

The colossal granite domes, meandering Merced River and deafening waterfalls of Yosemite evoke that necessity to seek more adventure.

I’ve always said, “I would never sleep on a portaledge.” I never saw the need for it and never felt any desire to put myself through the fear and anxiety. Maybe the real problem was that I was never really inspired.


2 thoughts on “Making a Pilgrimage to Yosemite Valley

  1. Casey Sowul says:

    *love* Beautiful writing, thanks for the pre-weekend inspiration!!! It’s sad to say I haven’t been to Yosemite yet, but it’s certainly on my bucket list of places to get to!

  2. Sarah Flinn says:

    Thank you so much, Casey! You will absolutely love it – I don’t know how anyone could not!

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