I love my office. It’s not sleek and modern. In fact, it’s really, really old—but it’s made of some of the finest granite on the planet, which gives it a certain 100-million-year old charm. All my friends and heroes are always hanging around. And every day that I show up and punch in, I’m tasked with doing some kind of new, challenging and very creative work.
Last January, I spent a lot of time working in my “office”—that being, of course, the walls of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. It was a pretty crazy month of work.
First, I spent 10 days on the Dawn Wall, documenting one of the most historic and badass climbing achievements of all time. (You can read about that here.) Congrats, once again, to my friends Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson on achieving their dream.
After the Dawn Wall, I flew to the Bahamas for a very quick underwater shoot.
Then I turned right back around and found myself back on El Cap for a very cool project with the team at Google.
Our goal was to do something that hadn’t been done before. We were going to try to bring the Google Street View technology to the vertical world.
Our team included three climbing legends: Lynn Hill, Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold. On the creative side, I was working on the wall with Brett Lowell of Big UP Productions, and his brother Josh Lowell, who was on the ground.
Peter Mortimer, owner of SENDER FILMS, was the mastermind and lead on this project. Peter has this incredible gift for telling stories and elevating everything he touches by bringing in that really cool thread that will make people even more engaged. El Cap is the center stage for climbing, and so many fantastic and historic moments have taken place on these walls. Our goal was to re-create some of these iconic moments and photographs that we all know and remember.
One of the most memorable moments for me was hanging on the anchor above the Great Roof next to Brett as Lynn Hill pulled through the final moves of the Roof. When I was a kid, just falling in love with climbing, I vividly recall seeing that iconic picture of Lynn overcoming the Great Roof’s difficulties; it was the photo that went along with the news that she had done what no other climber, man or woman, had ever achieved. And now, here I was, witnessing a re-creation of history take place right before my eyes.
Brett and I both pinched ourselves because we couldn’t believe it.
“Dude,” Brett said, with a big shit-eating grin on his face. “Can you believe we’re here?”
“How cool is this?”
We couldn’t help ourselves. We stopped what we were supposed to be doing, pulled out our phones, and took our own personal photos of Lynn on the Great Roof. Pretty cool. And once again, I paused and took a moment to appreciate my position and just feel so lucky to call this place my office.
Check out these videos. Check out the street views. And hopefully this technology is just the start of more vertical mapping projects. Whether this is used for inspirational or aspirational purposes, planning your own ascent or just living vicariously through this interactive experience, I think this technology is pretty cool.
Behind the Scenes: Street View 3,000 feet up El Capitan
Huge thanks to SENDER FILMS, Big UP Productions and Google for having me as a part of your team. Additional thanks to my creative team: Josh Marianelli, Dane Henry, and Julia Arcamone. A special thanks to Bligh Gillies, who was super critical to the success of this project. Bligh was pulling 22-hour days, processing these massive files from the Valley, and making sure it was all working. Bligh, thank you so much, we couldn’t have done it without you.
Thanks to Sandy Russell at Google for having the vision to embark on this groundbreaking project. Eric Sloan, you were a key part of the equation; thanks! And finally, thanks to Beth Rodden for opening her home in Yosemite West to us and letting us run our Dawn Wall and Google Maps operations from there. Finally, thanks to Beth, Becca Caldwell and my wife, Marina, for wrangling our three little rug rats. It’s pretty cool to see our children also benefiting from this project by getting to spend quality time together, which will surely lead to their own lifelong friendships.
Good times had by all, and I can’t wait to get back to the office for the next project.