Time for the FIRE FALL!


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Social climber
Paradise Island
Feb 18, 2010 - 01:53pm PT

I have two very similar climbing stories related to the ACTUAL firefall:

On Memorial Day, 1966, when Tom Higgins and I were making what I think was the 14th ascent of HD's N.W. face, as we climbed the pitches below Sandy Ledges, a cloud formed over the dome, and we spent the late afternoon in a misty fog. At one point a golden eagle glided out of the fog to within 15' of us. We did the pitch behind Psych Flake (now gone) in complete darkness and fog. Within one minute of our arrival at the Sandy Ledges, the fog suddenly dissipated, and the whole of Yosemite Valley was revealed in the glowing light of the nearly full moon. And within a minute of that revelation, the firefall was released and streamed down the face of Glacier Point, imprinting itself on our memories.

Later that summer, I think, when Jim Bridwell and I made the first one-day ascent of Quarter Domes, I’d led the last pitch in the deepening dusk. After I tied off the rope for Jim to come up on Jümars, I sat down and let go of the day’s tension around getting to the summit before dark, and as I did so, I looked down Tenaya Canyon to see the firefall dropped from Glacier Point.

In both cases, each day’s focus on climbing as quickly as possible, combined with the rhythmic exertion-relaxation of the climbing-belaying cycle, followed by the nearly complete relaxation after each full day of climbing created the internal conditions for what I can only describe as “visionary” memories that have remained incredibly vivid to this day. These impressions and related phenomena are eloquently expressed by Doug Robinson in his article, “The Climber As A Visionary.”

Trad climber
It ain't El Cap, Oregon
Feb 18, 2010 - 03:04pm PT

We should have a Supertopo exhibition. Anyone got any gallery space? :)

Great Idea!!! Someone should line up a traveling exhibit and get 25-100 galleries across the land to show these.
Step one: Pick 25 - 50 images from our great (and almost great) ST photographers. (Ouch! how do we do that!)
Step two: Identify potential galleries/schools/coffee shops. Maybe this should travel from climbing store to climbing store... now that is a good idea! The audience is coming to the store for "outdoor" stuff so of course they would want to see "outdoor" pics. Problem: not much available space and are they really going to buy prints? (see step three.) Maybe REI should sponsor and the exhibit could travel REI stores? Not my favorite choice but they have pockets that indie stores don't.
Step three: Figure out how this thing pays for itself. Print sales?
Step four: Execute.

Oh no... another idea to add to my chockablock knapsack of plans. Feel free to contact me if anyone wants to take this a step further..
Jerry Dodrill

Sebastopol, CA
Feb 18, 2010 - 04:56pm PT
We could just keep contributing to the YCA art auction...

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Feb 18, 2010 - 05:15pm PT
Little reflection on the original Glacier Point Firefall.

Summer of 62 or 63 and JFK is on a visit to the Valley. After landing in the Meadow on the Presidential Helicopter, his motorcade proceeds to the Ahwahnee in all its glamour and pomp. Sitting on top the stone pillar at the entrance, not 15 ft away from his limo we get a very close and later to discover rare view of the man. Interesting that the Secret Service let us hang there? Or perhaps they were as surprised as we?

That evening was the Mother of all FireFalls.
John Moosie

Beautiful California
Feb 18, 2010 - 08:29pm PT
I hope someone was out taking photos tonight. It looks like the sunset was cooperating.

El Cap sunset
El Cap sunset
Credit: John Moosie

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Feb 18, 2010 - 11:37pm PT
Dingus, Eric Paul Zamora shoots for the Fresno Bee and I have enjoyed his images for years. IMHO he has the smarts to know when the conditions are right for the shot and did not doctor it. He is a photo journalist and they have strong composition skills, their shots tell nearly the whole news story before you even start reading the words. And from years of reading the Fresno Bee I have not seen images that were obviously photo shopped, makes me think they must have some integrity policy about that. I would not expect him to whip out the reds saturation gizmo to show a color that was not there. Just my opinion.

Social climber
Paradise Island
Feb 19, 2010 - 03:55am PT
Following up on my previous posting:

In the last paragraph of his "Climber As A Visionary" article, Robinson shares his own wide-open doors of perception:

“…the climber wonders how he came into that privileged visionary position vis-à-vis the universe. He finds the answer in the activity of his climbing and the chemistry of his mind, and he begins to see that he is practicing a special application of some very ancient mind-opening techniques… Oddly, it is not consciously worked for, but comes as the almost accidental product of effort in another direction and on a different plane. It is at its own whim momentary or lingering suspended in the air, suspending time in its turn, forever momentarily eternal, as, stepping out of the last rappel you turn and behold the rich green wonder of the forest.”
Phil Bard

Trad climber
Lake Oswego, OR
Feb 19, 2010 - 03:18pm PT
I'll share a story about Horsetail that isn't so much about a picture, other than the one I carry around in my memory:

In June of 1982 my buddy Dave Lomba and I were climbing Zodiac, and Horsetail was still dripping a bit. During our first couple of days the wind would occasionally blow it over towards us and we would get a little wet, nothing serious though. On our second bivvy, we had just finished eating when we realized that it was going to be a full moon. Gradually the horizon on the south rim lightened as the moon rose, and it began to illuminate the wall above us. If you've ever been on that part of El Cap during a full moon you will know what that is like, the rock is absolutely incandescent. Gradually the light moved down towards us, and we could see more and more of the falls above and to the side, just tiny glimmers at first, but increasingly brilliant. Finally we were surrounded by blinding light and we were both just laughing our asses off. Horsetail looked like a hole had opened up in the blackness of the sky, with a million stars pouring out of it down past us towards the talus slopes below. It was the most beautiful moment I experienced in all my time climbing in Yosemite, and we both agreed it would have been great to have all of our friends there at that very moment. Dave's gone now, but whenever I think of him I also think of that night, and how lucky we were to be up there at just the right time.

Seems to be the thing with Horsetail, timing it just right.

John Moosie

Beautiful California
Feb 19, 2010 - 03:21pm PT
Wow Phil, that is awesome!!!

Big Wall climber
Feb 19, 2010 - 03:36pm PT
Someone with knowlege of high Torque DC Motors a Big Dupster of Burning Chemical Logs and RF Transmission Skills and a DTMF Decoder.

Let the Fire Fall.

Jerry Dodrill

Sebastopol, CA
Feb 20, 2010 - 11:45am PT
Wow Phil, that must have been incredible.

I had a magic moment of light below horsetail fall and made a beautiful photo of a young lady (now she's my wife) taking it all in. I shared it here a few years ago, but after some as#@&%e re-posted it on a porn site I don't think I'll put it up again.

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
Mar 25, 2010 - 06:23pm PT
Just a little LOL share...It's not that impressive, but here goes.

I posted above that I came out from Manure Pile to the site of a zillion photography enthusiasts, and wondered, "What the?"

Once informed, I sat on the hood of my truck waiting for the firefall, snapping a few pics on the iPhone, but nada firefall action. When the experts started packing it in, we left disappointed too.

So, I was downloading photos from the camera the other day, and noticed that my phone "saw" firefall even when I didn't. Is this common, or when it's good is it really obvious as you stand there too?

Credit: Melissa

Credit: Melissa
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Feb 6, 2011 - 03:26am PT
I have been having trouble with my spread sheet... so I've had to kludge together a report on this...

The sunsets starting on January 31st, 2011 which is at 5:19pm the sun sets at an azimuth of 248.41º which should be on the horizon from Horse Tail falls...

this will go until February 18th, 2011 with sunset at 5:39pm and a solar azimuth of 255.89º

Have fun, get some good shots and report back here!

[I used this calculator: http://www.srrb.noaa.gov/highlights/sunrise/azel.html with the coordinates for Yosemite Valley set at:

Lat: 37 deg, 44 min, 48 sec
Long: 119 deg, 34 min, 44 sec (note that this calculator defaults as "+" = west)
and the UTC offset = 8 (note sign is "+" here too)

Sunset is when the solar elevation = 0º

If you don't want to search around for sunset times, generate the table for the year here:

put in for Long: 199 deg 35 min (rounding)
and Lat: 37 deg 45 min
and a time zone of 8

the "west" buttons should be clicked for you already...]

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Feb 15, 2013 - 11:23pm PT
pretty poor weather this year...

following my hypothesis... the Sun has been setting north of azimuth 248.66º since the first of Feb. and will pass the Nose on 2/19 (azimuth of 256.26º, the azimuths are with respect to Horsetail Falls).

looks like rain/snow starting on Monday or Tuesday... so hopefully a red red sunset sometime this weekend... and water in the falls...


Big Wall climber
san jose, ca
Feb 15, 2013 - 11:27pm PT
I'm wondering if there will be enough water

Trad climber
South Slope of Mt. Tabor, Portland, Oregon, USA
Feb 15, 2013 - 11:34pm PT
Chicken Skinner got some good photos and posted them to his facebook page:
ß Î Ø T Ç H

Boulder climber
Feb 16, 2013 - 12:17am PT
I came out from Manure Pile to the site of a zillion photography enthusiasts ...
I would think there are higher (better?) vantage points up the valley to get the shot, but now that I look, Walleye's stuff puts even Rowell's attempts to shame.
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