El Capitan is as daunting as it is beautiful. This is why a lot of people hold back from doing the climb. You might want to do the climb, but perhaps you are not quite sure how to get down, especially if you are not the most experienced climber. If you can relate, we’re here to help.
There are some ways to get down from El Capitan safely, and we’ll tell you about each one. By the end of this article, you should be feeling confident enough to do that climb without a single worry. Let’s go!
There are three known ways to get down from el Capitan; hiking, rappelling, and getting rescued by a helicopter. Let’s see what each method involves and hopefully help you decide which would be the best option for you.
Hiking is one way to get down from the El Capitan, although it could take a while. It is actually the best option for people who do not mind the hike down and are not experienced enough to rappel down safely. Although some hiking trails could be quite steep, they are mostly safe and can be incredibly satisfying once completed. So, what routes can you use for hiking down El Capitan? Let’s consider a few of them.
- Yosemite Falls Trail. You can make a steep hike down the El Capitan using the Yosemite Falls Trail. This is one of the shorter, most popular hikes down the El Capitan. While this option is incredibly tasking, it is also super rewarding. So, if you need a faster hike down the El Capitan, which might tire you out completely, this just might be for you.
- Tamarack Flat. Tamarack Flat is a longer hike down El Capitan and is favored by people who aren’t fans of very steep hikes and don’t mind the extra time it will take to get down. It is also pretty exhausting to take this route down after climbing up the El Capitan because it is pretty long. The Tamarack Flat options end to the west of El Capitan. It is the preferred option for most people who want to hike down but do not want to deal with a too steep route.
- Old Big Oak Flat Road. This is also one of the longer hikes similar to Tamarack Flat. It is about 6.5 miles long, and it also ends towards the west of El Capitan. To avoid any sudden steeps, stick to the route. It is pretty straightforward, and you should have no problems getting down using this option.
Rappelling is another way to get down the El Capitan, albeit not your safest option. The most common route to rappelling down the El Capitan is the East Ledges Descent. If you are not an experienced climber, we strongly advise against taking this route, as it could be risky. This route starts with a very steep hike, which is then followed by vertical rappelling. If there are fixed ropes already in place, you would likely use those to rappel. Otherwise, you would need to use your own.
This is often the last resort to get down El Capitan and is basically a rescue mission. Climbers who want to go up the El Capitan should not plan to come down by helicopter because it is only used when there is an emergency, which does not sound very good.
Many people wonder how Alex Honnold was able to get down from the El Capitan. The simple answer is that he rappelled down. In a Q&A interview that he did sometime back, Alex Honnold mentioned that he used an ATC that he borrowed from the camera team. He didn’t actually go back down exactly as he came up.
It seems a bit odd, but yes, climbers do poop on El Capitan during the climb. How? Well, every climber is required to carry a poop tube on their journey, which will come in handy if you need to go. How does it work?
The poop tube is a plastic drain pipe with an end that can be removed. Climbers are to poop into Ziploc bags whenever needed, seal them, and stuff them in the tube afterward. Then, they can dispose of the tube at the end of their trip.
This doesn’t sound pretty, and it isn’t. You would not want to carry a tube of poop along with you on your hike. To prevent this, we advise that you poop before your trip. But we know how uncertain mother nature’s calls are. So, if you need to go, you have the poop tube option right there.
Yes, you can rappel down El Capitan. For many experienced climbers, rappelling down is their go-to option as it is much faster than the hike. However, if you are not that experienced, rappelling down would not be ideal. Rappelling down any mountain, in general, requires a lot of skill and expertise. You really need to know what you’re doing. So if you don’t, you should just take the hike. It might take you a bit longer, but it is the safest option!
Suppose you make it to the top of the El Capitan, first of all, congratulations. That is no easy feat. To get down the top of the El Capital, you need to walk down a bit instead and then rappel down the rest (if you have the expertise required). Otherwise, there are a couple of other hiking options to get all the way down without rappelling. We discussed these options earlier in the article. However, if you do not get to the top, you may need to rappel down halfway.