Google Gets Vertical
It’s already pretty incredible that Google Maps can help you navigate anywhere in the world, from the bowels of Brooklyn to the twists and turns of the tiniest hilltops of the Amalfi Coast. But now Google Maps is going where very few men and women—and definitely no 360-degree camera—has ever gone before. Introducing Google’s Vertical Street View, which launched with an incredible trip 3,000 feet up Yosemite’s most famous rock wall, El Capitan. It’s pretty much the same concept as street view, but instead of seeing a restaurant’s awning or the house you used to live in, viewers are treated to a firsthand look at what it’s like to scale this astounding national treasure.
To get the job done, Google employed the help of three of the most accomplished rock climbers in the world—Tommy Caldwell, who just completed the world’s hardest climb in Yosemite over a grueling 19 day-ascent in January of this year, Lynn Hill, the first human to free-climb “The Nose,” aka one of the hardest sections of El Capitan back in 1993, and Alex Honnold, who holds the speed record for conquering the Nose at 2 hours and 23 minutes (for comparison, we’d like to mention that most people take 3 to 5 days). Though it was definitely a challenge, the team worked with Google engineers and got “creative with the rigging” to figure out the best way to use the Street View cameras without dropping them and smashing them to smithereens. But they succeeded, and in doing so, have given the world ridiculously insane panoramic views of one of the world’s most iconic monoliths, with high-definition photography of El Capitan’s cracks, ledges, handholds and vistas. Not to mention capturing some legends at work, like watching Lynn Hill climb sideways on the Jardine Traverse and getting under—and more importantly over—the Great Roof.
The Vertical Street View includes 16 points along the way that go from the base of El Capitan all the way up to the top, including The Pancake Flake, about 2,000 feet up, and the Great Roof, which is one of the hardest points of the ascent, where climbers have to use just the tips of their fingers to scale up its tiny crack. Plus, you’ll get to see first-hand what it looks like to set up camp at El Cap Tower at night, as Tommy, Lynn and Alex settle down for a night’s rest in hanging beds known as portaledges—not your typical teepee situation. Besides showing armchair rock climbers all over the world what it’s like to scale a legendary sheer cliff-face, the climbers and the Google team hope to inspire more people to come visit Yosemite for themselves. And even if most people never get to make it, at least now we can all enjoy the view.