El Capitan, The Nose. Single-day ascents of this 3,000-foot vertical granite wall have become rights of passage for top rock climbers in their prime. On September 23, Galen Rowell became the oldest climber to do so. Starting by headlamp with no fixed ropes at 4 a.m., the 57-year-old Rowell and Conrad Anker shared leads to reach the summit just before eight in the evening. They brought only a single rope, a two-quart water bottle each, plus enough Power Gel and chocolate-covered espresso beans to pass other teams from France, England, Norway, and the United States during the first half of the climb.
Thirty-one years earlier, in 1966, Rowell had made the fifth ascent of the Nose in five days. The 1958 first ascent led by Warren Harding required 18 months of siege climbing and a final 12-day push, which seems to prove that climbing advances much faster than aging.