Hanging from fingertips 1,000 feet above the valley floor, I zero in on the next foot placement, the next handhold. I exhale forcefully. Somehow, this helps suppress the fear that always seems poised at the edge of my consciousness – as if my breath has the power to blow the jitters away to be carried off by the wind. And now, fully present, I relish the feelings I know so well: the fluidity of climbing upward, the gritty texture of the sun-warmed rock, and the challenge of holding on, while mentally letting go.
Chris Weidner rock climbing in Yosemite; photo by Stephen M. KellerIncredibly, my wife, Heather, and I arrived in Yosemite Valley just a couple of hours ago with our new friends Brianna and Stephen, who documented our 2.5-day trip. We woke up in Las Vegas, took a quick (about an hour) Southwest Airlines flight to Fresno, then picked up our rental car and drove to what climbers call, “The Valley,” by mid-afternoon. Highway 41 led us circuitously upward, above the southern, down-canyon walls, where we parked in a dirt pullout near the rim.
Heather Weidner rock climbing in Yosemite; photo by Stephen M. KellerAfter a 10-minute, downhill walk, the four of us peered carefully over the edge of Killer Pillar, a frighteningly exposed obelisk of knobby granite that overhangs on three sides. Gracing these walls are four bolted routes, accessible only by an extraordinary, and airy, rappel.
The Weidner’s on the edge of Killer Pillar; photo by Stephen M. KellerIn the span of one 80-foot route called Fun Terminal (5.12a), Heather and I both experienced a range of intense emotions – anxiety and intimidation, confidence and sheer pleasure – elusive in everyday life.
That night we slept comfortably at the Cedar Lodge in nearby El Portal, then climbed again the following day, further up-valley at Sentinel Creek, where we savored spectacular views of El Capitan and Yosemite Falls.
Savoring spectacular views of El Capitan; photo by Stephen M. KellerThe next morning, en route back to Fresno, we hiked to a waterfall at Lewis Creek, then devoured a delicious lunch at South Gate Brewing Company in Oakhurst. Before long, we bade farewell to our friends and to California and we were back on a Southwest flight, Las Vegas-bound.
A destination like Yosemite National Park contains lifetimes of adventures, so it’s easy to “save” it (aka: put it off) for a longer trip that may or may not materialize. But short trips can be just as rewarding, and are as easy to plan as they are likely to happen. Flying to Fresno is a wonderful way to see Yosemite, even if you just have a few days off and you Wanna Get Away®. Book your next trip now at Southwest.com.