Completing Halfdome: “Finish the Dome Initiative”

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 5.20.45 PMA new initiative has been formed to complete a world wonder, Halfdome of Yosemite National Park.

The US government has debated for decades whether completing the monolith would be worth the increased visitation from tourists.   With the recent fires of California and last year’s government shutdown, the Disney world of national parks is at a lower attendance than norm, so congress unanimously allocated funds to begin adding granite to the other side of the dome.

The largest challenge of the construction process will be the introduction of cranes to the park. Each crane must reach 5,400 feet tall and hold up to two tons of liquid granite to be poured into the cast that will form a second half. Conservatives estimate the process to cost around $712 million.

Building will begin next Spring, around April 1st, 2015 and end 6 months later, by October 1st. This would be a record for such a humongous undertaking.

As of now, Yosemite Valley will remain open during construction, but experts are considering the dangers of bringing tourists into such a large construction zone. More to come on this later…

– The Network 5.12

Clearly, there is no actual “Finish the Dome Initiative.” This joke arose from a conversation amongst friends while living in Yosemite National Park. It amazed us that tourists would arrive to the park asking questions like, “When do they turn the waterfalls on and off?” or “When will they finish Halfdome.” The over-arching idea of such a satire is meant to encourage an appreciation for how creation is already displayed, and to remind us that it is our job to protect this planet, guarding such wonders as Yosemite and Halfdome.

More on The Network 5.12

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5 Things the World Should Learn from Climbers about Community

I. Love. The climbing community.  It never ceases to amaze me.  Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned from it that I wish everyone, even people who don’t climb, would too:

1.  Encouragement is easy.

“Come on!  Come on…breathe…yeah, come on.  Stay tight!”  How many times do we climbers listen down to someone yelling phrases like these at us?  Half the time I’m thinking, “STAY TIGHT?!?! Really? You just said that?  If I go any tighter, I’m adding a hernia to my ticklist.”  But on the flipside, the simple words of positive jibberish we use are often exactly what is needed to stick the next hold, take a necessary breathe, or ultimately reach the top.  Climbers know how to encourage one another, and we’ve learned it isn’t that hard to mutter positivity.  The world could use some more encouragement.


2.  Distrust brings safety.  But trust brings accomplishment.

I feel sorry for people who spend each day with eyes popping out of the back of their heads, just waiting for the next person to stab them in the back.  To them, every stranger is a criminal until proven otherwise.  And sure, their distrust might possibly keep them safe.  But climbers don’t live like that.  Why?  Because we’d never accomplish anything.  My distrust in someone doesn’t get me to the top of a Yosemite big wall.  I have to find a partner I trust.  And believe it or not, it’s really not that hard.  We as climbers put our lives in the hands of belayers every time we harness up, and I for one love the instantaneous trust we’ve learned to develop as a community.  It’s oddly what gets us to the top.  We could all learn to trust a little more.

3.  Competition is ok.  Improvement is better.

For those of us who’ve tasted the competition scene, we’ve experienced something remarkably different about this sport than any other.  Sure, everyone loves to win, but in climbing, winning is only nice if theirs a free pair of climbing overalls as the grand prize.  Pride in one’s status is for the most part insignificant and even frowned upon.  In other words, the emphasis is taken off of always being better than the next guy, and placed on self-improvement.  Not much room for pride here folks.  Let’s all just get a little better.  Hence most competitions just feel like birthday parties.  I wish the entire world focused a little more on improving ones self than being better than the next guy.

4.  Diversity is cool.

You know how you felt the first moment (probably after graduating high school) when you realized that it’s really not that cool being like everybody else?  Climbing gives me that feeling every day.  There seems to be absolutely no kind of magical common factor between climbers.  Trust me.  I’ve searched.  Some climbers are even scared of heights.  Riddle me that!  But it’s beautiful when the adrenaline junky and the slow-and-steady philosopher, the music major and the tax examiner, or the Christian and the Buddhist get together and climb.  Sure, for me, the belief in a Christian creator is a major factor as to why I enjoy this sport.  But that would never stop me from hitting the cliffs with someone who claims a different religion.  We are all so different, yet find joy in this beautiful adventure.  Through it, we have much to learn from one another.  The planet could definitely work to love each other, even in our differences, a lot more. (Note: Embracing the beauty of people’s diversity is not the same as complete tolerance of everything or accepting all beliefs as truth.  Please don’t take this blog in that direction with any comments below!)


5.  There’s strength in numbers.

Once again a cliché proves true.  The climbing community is faced with a couple of very large tasks: gaining access to climbing land and maintaining that land once we have it.  It has been incredible to witness some of the major develops in these endeavors since I started climbing 5 years ago.  Access funds and conservation movements are gaining constant support as we mount our forces together in respecting this earth.  Trail-building days, competitive fundraisers, movies made to bring awareness, and increasing number of Leave No Trace certifications constantly prove the ability of our unified efforts to bring good into this world as we also accomplish our goals of obtaining new areas to climb.  We work together.  We get it done.  Sounds so simple.

Founder of The Network 5.12

Andrew Bellisle

Alright climbers: What are other lessons you have learned from our community?  We would love to get your thoughts below.

The Parks Aren’t Closed Anymore

Screen shot 2013-10-11 at 12.05.09 PMIf you have read a paper, watched the news, or even ventured to the grocery store over the past few weeks, you have witnessed the political accusations and heated debates centered on the government shutdown.  And leading the hot topics of the controversy is the “shutdown” of America’s national parks.  Now this post could venture into another political rant fighting for their reopening, but it won’t.  So if you are anything like myself, tired of pointed fingers and arguments, you can breath deeply.  My pointers are in my pockets.  Instead of firing off how terrible congress is, I’d rather make a point.

Here’s a different thought:

The national parks AREN’T shut down.

Wait…What?!  What do I mean by that?  They aren’t shut down?  I lived and worked in Yosemite National Park this past summer, right up until the point I had to quit my job.  No tourists equaled no business.  No business equaled no hours.  I should know better than anyone that they are closed.  How can I say the parks aren’t shut down.

Because I was a resident of Yosemite, working for a concessionaire, I stayed in the park after the closure.  In that week, without the crowds, it was so incredibly quiet, and from that solitude, I grasped this crazy concept.  The parks aren’t really shut down, because nature has not stopped.

The closures have seemingly developed into the attitude that without the presence of tourists, life within these lands has come to a halt, or that the parks are tainted as a result.  Could people really be trying to answer the age-old question about a tree falling in the forest by saying it doesn’t make a noise?  Now I doubt that anyone actually believes the Grand Canyon gets filled in with dirt when they aren’t there to gaze upon it, but I do believe people forget the power and majesty of earth’s design.

To say the parks are shut down feeds this idea, making it sound as if the land has ceased to exist.  Maybe that is nitpicky, but I find there are better descriptors, and I think that the distinction made is important.  The parks are not shut down.  People have been “kicked out,” “restricted from recreating,” or “banned from their beauty for a while.”  But the parks still exist, and within each of them, nature still runs its course.  If the House of Representatives were to cut down all the trees in Yosemite, the Senate stole all the bears, and Obama corked the waterfalls, Yosemite’s dirt would still blow in the wind, and it would be beautiful. 

So what am I proposing in all of this?  I’ll make it simple.  With the closures of places like Yosemite, Denali, the Grand Canyon, Acadia, and the Smokeys, we must test the belief that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and find it wherever we are.  Nature is only as remarkable as we choose to notice.  The parks don’t have to be closed anymore, not if we recognize they aren’t going anywhere and in the mean time make new ones.  Your very back yard, a tree outside your window, or the feeling of wind on your down-town San Francisco face can be a “National Park.”  We must refuse to allow a cancelled vacation to Yellowstone to stop us from embracing the wilderness that we could experience every day.  Nature is not designed to stop with the lock-down of the United States government, and neither should our eyes quit absorbing the work of creation.  How can we stop the parks from being closed?  We recognize nature stays at work and we keep our eyes open.

Screen shot 2013-10-11 at 12.08.50 PMAndrew Bellisle

Founder of The Network 5.12

Following Fractals – Order verses Disorder

In our last post, Fractals and Fractures, my friend Matthew Dodson shared beautiful prose, laying out an age-old battle between order and disorder:

 “There are two schools of thought when it comes to patterns and how they relate to the world.  One school says that everything happens for a reason, that patterns are made for us to decode, that rock face was designed by a Creator specifically so that we could climb it…”

“The other school maintains that there are no patterns, that life is a series of chaotic instances coagulating into primordial nothingness upon which we project our invented realities so that we might feel a little better…”

I love Matt as my friend for many reasons, but one of the most prominent is his earnest quest for truth paired with prodding questions that heave me deeper into the meaning of life.  Since reading his post, I have wrestled with many wonderful thoughts about creation and its display of pattern and chaos, order and disorder.  What does this tell us about the wilderness?  Does it support a Creator?


Matthew and I beginning a climb together.

As Matthew has pointed out, we can clearly observe naturally formed patterns in this world; to deny their existence would be foolish.  He also revealed it to be impossible for us to see everything in this world as fractals.  But to dig a little deeper into the battle between order and disorder, I am not sure that the dominance of one or the other proves or disproves a Creator or a meaningful purpose for our lives.  Maybe both order and disorder have something to teach us.  This world is formed with intricate detail, sometimes revealing fractals, sometimes displaying chaos, but both are beautiful.


Men like to think we created order.  I don’t buy it, and nature doesn’t either.  The existence of fractals in nature prove to me that people did no such thing.  Order exists beyond human hands.  This helps me want to believe in and follow a Creator, a God, something bigger than me that was capable developing such order.


Webster’s dictionary defines chaos as “a state of things in which chance is supreme,” leaving no room for something in a chaotic state to have been designed.  Men attempt to describe disorder in nature to be this type of chaos, disproving the existence of God.  But I do not feel that such disorder, in which “chance is supreme,” is found in nature.  The disorder I find in astronomy, physics, and the like seems to point to an extremely intelligent design that perfectly creates the environment necessary for life.  Earth may not be entirely made up of patterns, but it is certainly where and in the form it needs to be for humans to live on it.  That disorder is beyond what any human could develop.  It points to a designer who is bigger than our own understanding.  If we are going to believe in and follow a God, I would hope He would hold such a quality, being bigger than our own understanding.

So whether order or disorder, pattern or chaos, nature continually points me back to believing in the intelligent design of the universe, our world, and the life within.  I’ll wrap up with the following verse, one that I believe holds great value regardless of what you think about Jesus.

“For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” – Romans 1:20

Climbing "Best Seat in the House" in the OBED Valley.

Climbing “Best Seat in the House” in the OBED Valley.

People often ask me why I love climbing so much.  Well this verse gives one answer.  On a cliff, birds soaring level with my chest, wind seeping through the fabric on my back, and a vast array of colors oozing through my sight, I feel like I am literally soaking up something bigger than myself.  And as much as I love studying science and the facts about what I observe out there, nothing in a textbook can explain what I feel in those moments.  It becomes harder for me to believe that the wilderness being sponged in by my senses is happenstance than it is for me to believe there is something beyond our understanding, capable of such intelligent design.

Andrew Bellisle

Founder of The Network 5.12

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