Google Street View takes you climbing up Yosemite's El Capitan

The virtual trek up Yosemite's famed mountain is the first time Google is taking Street View users on a vertical journey.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

You can now take a virtual trek up El Capitan. But watch out if you're afraid of heights. Google

El Capitan is not just the name of Apple's next version of the Mac OS. It's also a rugged real-world site you now can explore virtually thanks to Google's latest Street View tour.

To capture the 3,000-foot ascent up El Capitan, one of the landmarks of National Park in California, Google enlisted the aid of skilled mountain climbers Lynn Hill, Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell. All three not only had to scale the mountain -- they also had to figure out how to position the cameras to record their vertical journey.

The ascent up El Capitan represents a new kind of trip for Google Street View. Though Street View teams have captured a variety of spots throughout the world well beyond roadays, even going under the sea, most of the journeys have been relatively horizontal. The hike up El Capitan is Google's first-ever vertical Street View collection, as you can go straight up the mountain by following the path laid out by the climbers. And as with any Street View imagery, you can zoom in or out and move the cursor in any direction to get a panoramic view of the site and a virtual sense of actually being there.

The three climbers captured Street View imagery from a few different perspectives, according to a blog post published Wednesday by Caldwell. First, images were collected of Hill and Honnold as they inched their way up several "iconic" spots on the vertical face of the mountain.

Hill navigated the small holds of the Jardine Traverse by climbing sideways. She also came up with something that Caldwell called a "Houdini" maneuver on the Changing Corners and conquered the Great Roof. (The Houdini maneuver, according to Google, allowed Hill to conquer a featureless section of "The Nose" section of El Capitan, pushing away with hands and feet to stay glued to the wall where there are no holds to stand on or grab.)

As as for Honnold?

"As you make your way around in Street View, you'll see Alex doing what he does best: chimneying up the "Texas Flake," racing up the bolt ladder, or getting dinner ready in the solar-powered van he calls home," Caldwell said.

Then Honnold collected a second series of Street View images, namely the entire vertical climb of The Nose. To capture this journey, Honnold "took the camera and pretty much ran 3,000 feet up with photographer partner Brett Lowell," Caldwell said.

Clearly, the mission to capture a Street View tour of El Capitan was an exciting challenge for the three climbers, not only for the sheer thrill of it but also for the ability to bring the stunning views of the mountain to Street View users.

" driven so much of my life that I'm excited to be able to share it with the world through my eyes, Caldwell said. "These 360-degree panoramic images are the closest thing I've ever witnessed to actually being thousands of feet up a vertical rock face -- better than any video or photo. But my hope is that this new imagery will inspire you to get out there and see Yosemite for yourself...whether you travel up a rock wall or just down the trail."