El Capitan, the largest known exposed granite block in the world, stands on the north side of the entrance to Yosemite Valley. Its name is Spanish for "the chief", and this rock is indeed the most prominent feature of the west end of the Yosemite Valley, rivaled in significance only by Half Dome at the valley's east end. At 3593 feet (1096 m) high, this massive rock is a popular -- though difficult -- climbing spot, attracting skilled big rock climbers from around the world. Visitors with binoculars can relax in El Capitan meadow to watch the climbers slowly make their way up the epic cliffs. Each year a few climbers are plucked off the sheer sides of El Capitan by a helicopter rescue team when they get in trouble. Ribbon Falls, on El Capitan's west side, is Yosemite National Park's highest unbroken waterfall (1612 ft, 492 m) and indeed one of the tallest in the world.
El Capitan rises above the Merced River, Yosemite Valley. Yosemite National Park, California, USA