Each year in February, the setting sun illuminates Horsetail Fall in Yosemite Valley. When conditions are just right, the waterfall glows orange and red, creating one of nature’s most amazing spectacles: The Firefall.
From 1872 to 1968, however, Yosemite was famous for a different Firefall—this one manmade. For nearly 100 years, a pile of glowing embers was pushed over the edge of Glacier Point each evening in the summer, creating a glittering “waterfall of fire” that tumbled thousands of feet through the air.
El Capitan is a vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park, located on the north side of Yosemite Valley, near its western end. The granite monolith extends about 3,000 feet (900 m) from base to summit along its tallest face, and is one of the world's favorite challenges for rock climbers.
The formation was named "El Capitan" by the Mariposa Battalion when it explored the valley in 1851. El Capitán ("the captain", "the chief") was taken to be a loose Spanish translation of the local Native American name for the cliff, variously transcribed as "To-to-kon oo-lah" or "To-tock-ah-noo-lah". It is unclear if the Native American name referred to a specific Tribal chief, or simply meant "the chief" or "rock chief". In modern times, the formation's name is often contracted to "El Cap", especially among rock climbers.