It’s hard to overstate the physical and mental difficulties of a free solo ascent of the peak, which is considered by many to be the epicenter of the rock climbing world. It is a vertical expanse stretching more than a half mile up—higher than the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. From the meadow at the foot of El Capitan, climbers on the peak’s upper reaches are practically invisible to the naked eye. “This is the ‘moon landing’ of free soloing,” said Tommy Caldwell, who made his own history in 2015 with his ascent of the Dawn Wall, El Capitan’s most difficult climb, on which he and his partner Kevin Jorgeson used ropes and other equipment only for safety, not to aid their progress.
Walking around the Upper East Side, where I live, I find it striking how many of the establishments still standing among the many darkened windows are hair salons, nail salons, facial salons, eyebrow places, and restaurants.
Because some guests still stumble in by chance while others make reservations months ahead, the clientele is notably eclectic: bow hunters and backpackers, Paul Simon and Scarlett Johansson and Jamaica Kincaid.