El Capitan is a vertical rock formation near the western end of the north side of Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park. It is an imposing granite monolith extending about 900 metres from base to summit along its tallest face, and is a favourite challenge for rock climbers from around the world.
All very impressive. But for a brief window of time each February, if the conditions are perfect, something happens which elevates El Capitan from impressive to supernaturally awesome.
That phenomenon is the firefall.
The firefall appears to be a cascading waterfall of fire running down the face of El Capitan like the earth opened a vein and started bleeding its vital inner essence onto the rocks below. In reality the firefall is a perfect, serendipitous, magical alignment of environmental conditions which only occur a few weeks a year and only for a few minutes a day during that time.
At and around sunset during the last couple of weeks of February and if the conditions are just right the rays of the setting sun, burning orange, catch the water of the horsetail falls streaming down the face of El Capitan. The reflected sunlight illuminates the falls for a few brief minutes with the sun’s intense orange light resulting in the illusion of a cascading river of fire pouring down the cliff face. Those who have witnessed the firefall describe it with almost mystical reverence.
This is an experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list and is a natural phenomenon which is Seriously Cool!