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Rock climber Royal Robbins, who led the first successful climb of the 2000′ tall vertical face of Half Dome in Yosemite Valley, California in 1957, has died at 82. A highlight of the five-day climb was a Hinterstoisser pendulum traverse, with Robbins swinging across a 50′ wide expanse of blank granite to reach a handhold on the far side.

His arch-rival Warren Harding (not the President) then climbed 3000′ tall El Capitan the next year over several months.

It was the least lethal of the various heroic eras of mountain climbing, especially compared to the Eiger tragedies of the 1930s.

Robbins got started rock climbing around 1950 at Stoney Point in the northwest San Fernando Valley, along with Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia), where I climbed during the summer of 1977 (before realizing I wasn’t getting any less scared of heights).

It’s an interesting example of a Golden Age, which might prove useful as a model in studying more important cultural Golden Ages like ancient Athens or 15th Century Florence, since the Yosemite climbing Golden Age is so well documented.

 
59 Comments to "Royal Robbins, RIP"
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  1. RIP.

    It’s worth noting that he was notable for being an early proponent of free climbing, eschewing the use of pitons and fixed lines wherever possible.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Ivy
    An inspiration to early adventurers, one of SoCal's legends. His was usually one of the first names that older rock climbers of my generation heard, along with Yvon Chouinard. They gave back a lot to the community in education, ethics and public speaking to eager audiences. Many high schoolers had his famous blue rock climbing footware. Off belay.
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  2. Anon says: • Disclaimer

    This sort of explains both the triumph and suicide of the West.

    White people are adventurous and pioneering…. but also willing to take crazy risks.

    In the past, whites explored the world.
    Now, they experiment with the craziest human experiment ever with Diversity.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Moshe
    I do not believe there is any sense to your comment.
  3. Ivy says:
    @PiltdownMan
    RIP.

    It's worth noting that he was notable for being an early proponent of free climbing, eschewing the use of pitons and fixed lines wherever possible.

    An inspiration to early adventurers, one of SoCal’s legends. His was usually one of the first names that older rock climbers of my generation heard, along with Yvon Chouinard. They gave back a lot to the community in education, ethics and public speaking to eager audiences. Many high schoolers had his famous blue rock climbing footware. Off belay.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Prof. Woland
    I always associated RR with Berkeley. Him and Galen Rowell. There is a RR retail outlet on Gilman Street near the North Face outlet and REI where all the climbers would get their gear. That environmentalist - hippie wilderness / climber culture was very strong there but it is getting very old and passing on.
  4. Danindc says:

    With a name like Royal Robbins you better be good at something.

    Interesting story from Wikipedia-

    In 1971, Robbins completed the second ascent, with Don Lauria, of the Dawn Wall on El Capitan, with the (controversial) intention of erasing the route as they climbed it.

    Their ascent closely followed the 1970 first ascent by Warren Harding and Dean Caldwell, completed with a heavy-handed reliance on bolts – a method that offended Robbins and other clean climbing advocates. Harding had left all his bolts in the rock; Robbins and Lauria used the bolts to repeat the climb; and Robbins then chopped the heads off the bolts behind them. After two pitches, Robbins stopped chopping the bolts because (according to Lauria) “the quality of the aid climbing was much higher than he had ever expected of Harding or Caldwell and, of course, it was also taking us an awful long time to chop all those goddam bolts.”[10]

    Read More
  5. One of the most exciting documentaries I’ve seen is “Valley Uprising,” about the rock climbers in Yosemite Valley. It’s on Netflix. A lot of the drama is supplied by the rivalry between the strait-laced Robbins and the wild man Harding. Robbins is interviewed extensively and makes a very good impression. After his climbing days, he had great success designing outdoors clothing. (I have several pairs of Royal Robbins pants.)

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    The Yosemite climbers of the 1950s-60s are an interesting example of a Golden Age that might be useful in understanding how other golden ages operate, since this one is extremely well documented.

    Interestingly, there were surprisingly few deaths, unlike the Eiger climbing of the 1930s or the Himalayan climbing of the same era. The era encouraged heavily roped climbing, and Yosemite has few rock falls to kill climbers, and ideal weather so nobody ever freezes to death.
  6. Aside from a brief foray at indoor climbing in gyms with an ex-girlfriend who was an enthusiast, I never took to rock-climbing.

    I get the impression, though, that this great man’s passing is like the loss to skiers of Shane McConkey, and thus I salute him and honour his passing. I’m glad he seems to have lived a long and full life.

    Read More
  7. I first encountered the name Royal Robbins two months ago perusing the book Yosemite In The Fifties: The Iron Age. Amazing photos. Another time, another men.

    http://www.patagonia.com/product/yosemite-in-the-fifties-the-iron-age/BK745.html

    Read More
  8. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Stuff like this thread really brings into stark relief the insanity of the modern media with its endless portrayals of soft, gutless white wimps.

    But it’s a dangerous thing to create a fictitious world because eventually it will collide with reality.

    Royal Robbins, we salute you.

    Read More
  9. AKAHorace says:

    The phrase
    “the Hinterstoisser pendulum traverse””
    sounded like you were pulling our legs, but it is actually a real scary thing and not a strange German sexual practice.

    Either way gives nightmares.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    "The North Face" is a German movie from a decade ago about the extremely famous/tragic 1936 attempt to climb the Eiger by Hinterstoisser and three others.
    , @Steve Sailer
    http://www.thehistorypostblog.co.uk/tag/hinterstoisser/
  10. @Ivy
    An inspiration to early adventurers, one of SoCal's legends. His was usually one of the first names that older rock climbers of my generation heard, along with Yvon Chouinard. They gave back a lot to the community in education, ethics and public speaking to eager audiences. Many high schoolers had his famous blue rock climbing footware. Off belay.

    I always associated RR with Berkeley. Him and Galen Rowell. There is a RR retail outlet on Gilman Street near the North Face outlet and REI where all the climbers would get their gear. That environmentalist – hippie wilderness / climber culture was very strong there but it is getting very old and passing on.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Chouniard was an adolescent in Burbank, Robbins was down here too, although originally from West Virginia. They moved on from Stoney Point to Taqhuitz (sp?) Rock above Idylwild out near Palm Springs, which is about 1000 feet tall. From there they went to Yosemite where a slightly loopy older Swiss climber had started the climbing tradition right before WWII.
  11. @Prof. Woland
    I always associated RR with Berkeley. Him and Galen Rowell. There is a RR retail outlet on Gilman Street near the North Face outlet and REI where all the climbers would get their gear. That environmentalist - hippie wilderness / climber culture was very strong there but it is getting very old and passing on.

    Chouniard was an adolescent in Burbank, Robbins was down here too, although originally from West Virginia. They moved on from Stoney Point to Taqhuitz (sp?) Rock above Idylwild out near Palm Springs, which is about 1000 feet tall. From there they went to Yosemite where a slightly loopy older Swiss climber had started the climbing tradition right before WWII.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Prof. Woland
    It used to be a very small society. The REI in Berkeley had, and still probably does, a message board where backpackers and climbers would post scraps of paper with their names and numbers and listings of expeditions they wanted to go on. I am sure this is all on line now but you could fall in with other people who were hiking all over the sierras and elsewhere including some very exotic places.

    A lot of the outdoor clothing that is commonplace now such as North Face, Colombia, Patagonia, RR, etc was originally only worn by people who actually needed it. Now any middle age suburban housewife can put on her gore-tex shell and get in her new land-dozier and look like environmental chic.
  12. @AKAHorace
    The phrase
    "the Hinterstoisser pendulum traverse""
    sounded like you were pulling our legs, but it is actually a real scary thing and not a strange German sexual practice.

    Either way gives nightmares.

    “The North Face” is a German movie from a decade ago about the extremely famous/tragic 1936 attempt to climb the Eiger by Hinterstoisser and three others.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Mr. Anon
    I've heard it said that many climbers consider The Eiger Sanction to be one of the best climbing movies ever; not for the movie itself, which is a rather silly spy story, but for the climbing scenes. I can't speak to it, as I'm not a climber. It is however one of Clint Eastwood's funniest movies.
  13. robot says: • Website

    OT: Have any SimCity-type games risked accusations of racism by modeling white flight etc?

    Read More
    • Replies: @res
    Interesting question. I would guess no since including important factors would bring the wrath of the SJWs, but would like to be shown to be wrong.
  14. Moshe says:
    @Anon
    This sort of explains both the triumph and suicide of the West.

    White people are adventurous and pioneering.... but also willing to take crazy risks.

    In the past, whites explored the world.
    Now, they experiment with the craziest human experiment ever with Diversity.

    I do not believe there is any sense to your comment.

    Read More
    • Disagree: res
    • Replies: @wren
    It makes sense to me!
    , @bomag
    I judged it an apt comment.

    Pale earthlings generate the outliers:

    >build the greatest wealth; generate the greatest debt

    >find the greatest happiness; develop the deepest depression

    >acquire the most and best stuff for personal vanity; give away the most dear things in the vain attempt to help/impress other people

    >go to the moon purely for the adventure one generation; never leave the house the next generation (figuratively and literally) for fear of hurting someone's feelings.

    Currently, the outlier status whores have been activated and they are giving their countries away with all their attendant history and posterity in a mad display of status posturing.

    , @Mr. Anon

    I do not believe there is any sense to your comment.
     
    I do not believe there is any sense to your objection to that comment.
    , @Daniel Chieh
    a.k.a innovating yourself out of existence.
  15. wren says:

    (before realizing I wasn’t getting any less scared of heights).

    I’ll second that experience.

    I’ve done very little rock climbing, and hated pretty much all of it.

    Climbing and rappelling terrified me.

    Parachuting or climbing huge trees has been no problem, but rock climbing — no thanks…

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    I liked rock climbing, but I noticed as the summer went on that as the four of us got to harder (i.e., more dangerous) climbs, we spent more and more time at the base of each pitch discussing the route at extravagant length rather than getting a move on. After that summer,one of us, Joe, went on with climbing (I gave him my rope), but the other three of us said, "Glad to have tried it."
  16. wren says:
    @Moshe
    I do not believe there is any sense to your comment.

    It makes sense to me!

    Read More
    • Replies: @Moshe
    Come on dude! I never use the term "cuck" but I'll make an exception.

    These fellows who don't have the willpower to resist the invasion (see steve's recent thing on merkel and germany for example) are just lying back and taking it. They are cucks if ever there were some. They are NOT the adventurous type who are excited to conquer and explore.
  17. @wren
    (before realizing I wasn’t getting any less scared of heights).

    I'll second that experience.

    I've done very little rock climbing, and hated pretty much all of it.

    Climbing and rappelling terrified me.

    Parachuting or climbing huge trees has been no problem, but rock climbing -- no thanks...

    I liked rock climbing, but I noticed as the summer went on that as the four of us got to harder (i.e., more dangerous) climbs, we spent more and more time at the base of each pitch discussing the route at extravagant length rather than getting a move on. After that summer,one of us, Joe, went on with climbing (I gave him my rope), but the other three of us said, “Glad to have tried it.”

    Read More
    • Replies: @wren
    I only climbed a few times, over at Pinnacles park, mostly.

    One time I was so scared my knees began to shake pretty hard.

    We rapelled the old way with the rope wrapped around us, which for me was better than climbing up, but still, I was happiest once I reached the bottom, and I was glad to stay there.
    , @Seth Largo
    When I reached that point, I switched to mountaineering---there are many amazing, worthy mountain climbs in the 5.4 - 5.8 range. Hell, if you can climb 5.8 in Joshua Tree, you can bag most of the major High Sierra routes, many of which contain short sections of moderate fifth class with long sections of scrambling. (The scrambling tends to be scarier, less secure, more chossy.)

    Royal Robbins was the first to put up a 5.9 multipitch route: Open Book, at Tahquitz. I've never done it clean, even with modern equipment. Quite the feat. The curious can read about Robbins' ballsy first ascent in his obituary in Outside. Tennis shoes and hemp rope!
  18. Anonym says:

    If you have seen a Van De Graaff Generator, you will have seen the metal spheres. As opposed to a sharp object, a sphere allows a lot of charge to build up before a spark will jump, because most of the repulsion force between like charges is parallel to the surface, not away from it. A needle needs less charge buildup to spark, because a small charge will be pushed more forcefully from the point, due to the other like charge along the needle.

    When you get these dome type natural landforms that form the highest point for a reasonable distance, you get the same sort of effect as a charged metal sphere. Thus the lightning strikes when they happen will be exceptionally powerful and intense. And you certainly don’t want to be what is effectively a small needle on a big dome, as that large charge built up on the dome may treat you the hiker or mountain climber as the best conduit.

    Read More
  19. @AKAHorace
    The phrase
    "the Hinterstoisser pendulum traverse""
    sounded like you were pulling our legs, but it is actually a real scary thing and not a strange German sexual practice.

    Either way gives nightmares.
    Read More
  20. wren says:
    @Steve Sailer
    I liked rock climbing, but I noticed as the summer went on that as the four of us got to harder (i.e., more dangerous) climbs, we spent more and more time at the base of each pitch discussing the route at extravagant length rather than getting a move on. After that summer,one of us, Joe, went on with climbing (I gave him my rope), but the other three of us said, "Glad to have tried it."

    I only climbed a few times, over at Pinnacles park, mostly.

    One time I was so scared my knees began to shake pretty hard.

    We rapelled the old way with the rope wrapped around us, which for me was better than climbing up, but still, I was happiest once I reached the bottom, and I was glad to stay there.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Ivy
    Shaking knees may be due to muscle fatigue, too. Many climbers may experience 'sewing machine knee' where their leg seems to take on an up and down life of its own when too long straining in a position or supporting the body during a strenuous pitch.
  21. Mountain climbing has long been seen as a metaphor for Western Prometheanism of the Columbus and space exploration variety. Nabokov’s amazing sci-fi short story Lance makes the allegory explicit:

    https://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome-psyapi2&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS503US503&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8&q=nabokov%20lance&oq=nabokov%20lance&aqs=chrome..69i57.2200j0j7

    Westerners barely ever climbed mountains for the sake of climbing until fairly recently. Petrarch climbed a minor Alp in the 14th Century, but mountaineering didn’t really get going until Romanticism began to supplant the Enlightenment. Edmund Burke’s 1750s tract “The Sublime and the Beautiful” distinguished between two kinds of landscape: the Enlightenment preferred the beautiful, which is conducive to human flourishing, such as flat land, fertile soil, and well-cultivated. The Romantics preferred the Sublime, which is capable of killing you, such as the Alps. Burke was sort of the Anglo-Irish Rousseau, a man of the Enlightenment who was getting sort of bored with the Enlightenment.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Sunbeam
    "Westerners barely ever climbed mountains for the sake of climbing until fairly recently. "

    I read an anecdote written by a man who traveled extensively throughout the world. Can't remember the title, but a couple of his observations stuck with me.

    1) Peoples who have lived in mountains from time immemorial, who look to be hewn from the native stone, don't go in for this stuff. They happily pass by sheer stone cliffs (unless there are bird eggs or something there, then you're talking) without a second thought. And they go WTF? when crazy Westerners start doing this kind of thing.

    2) There is no place in the world as far as he could tell where you were not in reach of some kind of chicken dish. Chickens are available everywhere, and there is a recipe for it wherever you go.

    From the Himalayas, to the depths of the Amazon. darkest Borneo and New Guinea, to the Arctic Circle. There is chicken to be had.
    , @Je Suis Charlie Martel
    "How the English Made the Alps" is an interesting book. The Swiss transported, farmed, and herded through them... then the crazy English Romantics came and slapped boards on their feet and started downhill and cross country skiing, bobsledding etc. Did Mary Shelley write the Modern Prometheus (Frankenstein)at Montreux?
    , @Ivy
    There has been a type of an outdoor ethic, often unspoken, about the right way to be true to oneself and to climb, raft, ski, camp, bike or otherwise enjoy, even revere, nature. That sense, at least for me, was more descriptive than prescriptive. The outdoors exerted quite a pull on many young adventurers, some more Romantic, others motivated otherly.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountaineering:_The_Freedom_of_the_Hills
  22. Sunbeam says:
    @Steve Sailer
    Mountain climbing has long been seen as a metaphor for Western Prometheanism of the Columbus and space exploration variety. Nabokov's amazing sci-fi short story Lance makes the allegory explicit:

    https://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome-psyapi2&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS503US503&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8&q=nabokov%20lance&oq=nabokov%20lance&aqs=chrome..69i57.2200j0j7

    Westerners barely ever climbed mountains for the sake of climbing until fairly recently. Petrarch climbed a minor Alp in the 14th Century, but mountaineering didn't really get going until Romanticism began to supplant the Enlightenment. Edmund Burke's 1750s tract "The Sublime and the Beautiful" distinguished between two kinds of landscape: the Enlightenment preferred the beautiful, which is conducive to human flourishing, such as flat land, fertile soil, and well-cultivated. The Romantics preferred the Sublime, which is capable of killing you, such as the Alps. Burke was sort of the Anglo-Irish Rousseau, a man of the Enlightenment who was getting sort of bored with the Enlightenment.

    “Westerners barely ever climbed mountains for the sake of climbing until fairly recently. ”

    I read an anecdote written by a man who traveled extensively throughout the world. Can’t remember the title, but a couple of his observations stuck with me.

    1) Peoples who have lived in mountains from time immemorial, who look to be hewn from the native stone, don’t go in for this stuff. They happily pass by sheer stone cliffs (unless there are bird eggs or something there, then you’re talking) without a second thought. And they go WTF? when crazy Westerners start doing this kind of thing.

    2) There is no place in the world as far as he could tell where you were not in reach of some kind of chicken dish. Chickens are available everywhere, and there is a recipe for it wherever you go.

    From the Himalayas, to the depths of the Amazon. darkest Borneo and New Guinea, to the Arctic Circle. There is chicken to be had.

    Read More
  23. bomag says:
    @Moshe
    I do not believe there is any sense to your comment.

    I judged it an apt comment.

    Pale earthlings generate the outliers:

    >build the greatest wealth; generate the greatest debt

    >find the greatest happiness; develop the deepest depression

    >acquire the most and best stuff for personal vanity; give away the most dear things in the vain attempt to help/impress other people

    >go to the moon purely for the adventure one generation; never leave the house the next generation (figuratively and literally) for fear of hurting someone’s feelings.

    Currently, the outlier status whores have been activated and they are giving their countries away with all their attendant history and posterity in a mad display of status posturing.

    Read More
  24. Moshe says:
    @wren
    It makes sense to me!

    Come on dude! I never use the term “cuck” but I’ll make an exception.

    These fellows who don’t have the willpower to resist the invasion (see steve’s recent thing on merkel and germany for example) are just lying back and taking it. They are cucks if ever there were some. They are NOT the adventurous type who are excited to conquer and explore.

    Read More
  25. MikeTB says:

    I lived about 5 minutes from Stoney Point in the late 80′s and 90′s. The graffiti there and in the Chatsworth parks to the west was ridiculous. I know there have been some volunteer projects recently to remove or cover it. A former boss of mine (and small business owner) was participating in one of them. He was also the guy that put up those lights near the Santa Susana Pass a couple years ago that looked like a smiley face.

    Read More
  26. The other Warren Harding was killed trying to climb out of the Teapot Dome.

    Read More
  27. I own a great merino wool shirt made by “Royal Robbins” company. I never knew. I figured it was a name made up by marketing executives to sound WASPy, like JT Marlin. Maybe the best thing about Steve’s blog is the variety in subject matter, we learn about so many different cool things.

    Read More
  28. Mr. Anon says:
    @Moshe
    I do not believe there is any sense to your comment.

    I do not believe there is any sense to your comment.

    I do not believe there is any sense to your objection to that comment.

    Read More
  29. Mr. Anon says:
    @Steve Sailer
    "The North Face" is a German movie from a decade ago about the extremely famous/tragic 1936 attempt to climb the Eiger by Hinterstoisser and three others.

    I’ve heard it said that many climbers consider The Eiger Sanction to be one of the best climbing movies ever; not for the movie itself, which is a rather silly spy story, but for the climbing scenes. I can’t speak to it, as I’m not a climber. It is however one of Clint Eastwood’s funniest movies.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JMcG
    I think the Eiger Sanction was filmed while John Harlin was putting up the Direct route on the Eiger North Face. He was killed in the attempt.

    John Harlin was a USAF pilot who flew, I believe, F86 Sabres. He was an accomplished mountaineer as well.

    I think his son went on to edit the American Alpine Journal for a while.

    Plant corn, you get corn it seems. I hope my kids don't take up mountaineering.

    Oops, checked wiki. Filmed in 1974, long after Harlin died. The rest of the comment stands though.

  30. @Steve Sailer
    Mountain climbing has long been seen as a metaphor for Western Prometheanism of the Columbus and space exploration variety. Nabokov's amazing sci-fi short story Lance makes the allegory explicit:

    https://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome-psyapi2&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS503US503&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8&q=nabokov%20lance&oq=nabokov%20lance&aqs=chrome..69i57.2200j0j7

    Westerners barely ever climbed mountains for the sake of climbing until fairly recently. Petrarch climbed a minor Alp in the 14th Century, but mountaineering didn't really get going until Romanticism began to supplant the Enlightenment. Edmund Burke's 1750s tract "The Sublime and the Beautiful" distinguished between two kinds of landscape: the Enlightenment preferred the beautiful, which is conducive to human flourishing, such as flat land, fertile soil, and well-cultivated. The Romantics preferred the Sublime, which is capable of killing you, such as the Alps. Burke was sort of the Anglo-Irish Rousseau, a man of the Enlightenment who was getting sort of bored with the Enlightenment.

    “How the English Made the Alps” is an interesting book. The Swiss transported, farmed, and herded through them… then the crazy English Romantics came and slapped boards on their feet and started downhill and cross country skiing, bobsledding etc. Did Mary Shelley write the Modern Prometheus (Frankenstein)at Montreux?

    Read More
  31. JMcG says:

    I climbed for about 15 years, mid eighties until my marriage a decade and a half ago. I had started losing interest by then anyway, having taken up flying in the nineties. Did a lot of rock and ice routes in the east and a few of the big mountains out west and in the Canadian Rockies. It was never an obsession for me the way it was for a lot of my buddies.
    I met Yvon Choiunard at the Post Office in Moose, Wyoming near the base of the Grand Teton. I think he had moved on to fly fishing by then. He started and still owns Patagonia. He also started Chouinard Equipment for Alpinists. He sold that to a group of employees after being sued by the family of a Philadelphia(?) lawyer who had fallen to his death while on a guided climb of the Grand Teton. They renamed the company Black Diamond and are still going strong. Definitely a legend.

    I believe that Edward Whymper’s ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865 is generally credited with starting the mountaineering craze in the West. An excellent book for understanding the time is “Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest” by Wade Davis. A truly fascinating look at the first attempts on Everest.

    Mallory’s body was found in 1999 by an American climber named Conrad Anker. Conrad Anker married the widow of Alex Lowe, perhaps the best American mountaineer ever, who was killed on Shishapangma in Tibet in an avalanche. I met Alex on the approach trail to Grand Teton in 1988. He had just soloed the North Face and was heading down the trail to the parking lot, all in running shoes. It took him 3 hours total. I soloed a much easier route that day and it took me 14 hours from parking lot to parking lot.

    Some people are just born for the mountains.

    Read More
  32. @Steve Sailer
    Chouniard was an adolescent in Burbank, Robbins was down here too, although originally from West Virginia. They moved on from Stoney Point to Taqhuitz (sp?) Rock above Idylwild out near Palm Springs, which is about 1000 feet tall. From there they went to Yosemite where a slightly loopy older Swiss climber had started the climbing tradition right before WWII.

    It used to be a very small society. The REI in Berkeley had, and still probably does, a message board where backpackers and climbers would post scraps of paper with their names and numbers and listings of expeditions they wanted to go on. I am sure this is all on line now but you could fall in with other people who were hiking all over the sierras and elsewhere including some very exotic places.

    A lot of the outdoor clothing that is commonplace now such as North Face, Colombia, Patagonia, RR, etc was originally only worn by people who actually needed it. Now any middle age suburban housewife can put on her gore-tex shell and get in her new land-dozier and look like environmental chic.

    Read More
  33. Ivy says:
    @wren
    I only climbed a few times, over at Pinnacles park, mostly.

    One time I was so scared my knees began to shake pretty hard.

    We rapelled the old way with the rope wrapped around us, which for me was better than climbing up, but still, I was happiest once I reached the bottom, and I was glad to stay there.

    Shaking knees may be due to muscle fatigue, too. Many climbers may experience ‘sewing machine knee’ where their leg seems to take on an up and down life of its own when too long straining in a position or supporting the body during a strenuous pitch.

    Read More
    • Replies: @wren
    Yes, I think fatigue was a big factor too. Stuck on a two inch outcropping without the strength or confidence to make it the next step up will do that to you.

    I remember trying not to take the fact that I was standing on the ground rather than up on a cliff for granted for a while after that.
  34. res says:
    @robot
    OT: Have any SimCity-type games risked accusations of racism by modeling white flight etc?

    Interesting question. I would guess no since including important factors would bring the wrath of the SJWs, but would like to be shown to be wrong.

    Read More
  35. Ivy says:
    @Steve Sailer
    Mountain climbing has long been seen as a metaphor for Western Prometheanism of the Columbus and space exploration variety. Nabokov's amazing sci-fi short story Lance makes the allegory explicit:

    https://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome-psyapi2&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS503US503&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8&q=nabokov%20lance&oq=nabokov%20lance&aqs=chrome..69i57.2200j0j7

    Westerners barely ever climbed mountains for the sake of climbing until fairly recently. Petrarch climbed a minor Alp in the 14th Century, but mountaineering didn't really get going until Romanticism began to supplant the Enlightenment. Edmund Burke's 1750s tract "The Sublime and the Beautiful" distinguished between two kinds of landscape: the Enlightenment preferred the beautiful, which is conducive to human flourishing, such as flat land, fertile soil, and well-cultivated. The Romantics preferred the Sublime, which is capable of killing you, such as the Alps. Burke was sort of the Anglo-Irish Rousseau, a man of the Enlightenment who was getting sort of bored with the Enlightenment.

    There has been a type of an outdoor ethic, often unspoken, about the right way to be true to oneself and to climb, raft, ski, camp, bike or otherwise enjoy, even revere, nature. That sense, at least for me, was more descriptive than prescriptive. The outdoors exerted quite a pull on many young adventurers, some more Romantic, others motivated otherly.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountaineering:_The_Freedom_of_the_Hills

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    • Replies: @Desiderius
    Mountaineers are just extra-strength hillbillies:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=10&v=g5FcJLulKAk
  36. MarcB. says:

    Basic Rock Craft was the bible for climbers of my era. Robbins was the conscious of US climbing community, where style, commitment and resource preservation counted more than getting up something. The commodification of climbing as an extreme sport from the late 1980′s onward has more in common with the colorful Warren Harding than with the legacy of the taciturn Robbins. RIP.

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    • Replies: @Seth Largo
    I'm torn on the Harding ethic vs. the Robbins ethic. Taken to the extreme, either can lead to bad practices, though the latter won't lead to serious natural degradation like the former.

    There's no sense in saying that, after some immortal hardman sent a burly climb with only two bolts and major runouts, no one is then allowed to place an extra bolt or two (on their own dime and time) in order to make it accessible to more than just the five other immortal hardmen who can climb at that level without protection. Climbing shouldn't only be the domain of ballsy immortal hardmen (though Robbins likely would have liked to keep it that way).

    However, I recognize that, taken too far in the other direction, there's nothing to stop American climbing from becoming like European climbing, with bolts every five feet, paint on the rock to mark routes, and gasthauses awaiting you at the top of every ridge.

  37. The top of a mountain as a metaphor for Western Prometheanism meme probably reached its apogee in 1906, when no less than the President of the United States (no, not Warren Harding), accompanied John Muir to the top of Glacier Point in Yosemite Valley, and then proceeded to pose for a famous photograph, the heels of his boots only inches away from a 3,000+ foot sheer drop. One only wonders what his USSS detail and his aides thought. You know that Muir just walked right up to the edge, because that’s the kind of guy he was. And you know that Teddy did too, because that’s the kind of guy he was. But in a totally different way!

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  38. Chouinard also founded Black Diamond, which is still going under corporate ownership. When the Yosemite climber Tom Frost was on Annapurna in 1970 with Chris Bonington, he used a Chouinard icepick – IIRC Couinard and Frost were making equipment together at the time.

    (Bonington tells a good tale of his first climb – at 16 he and a schoolfriend went to Snowdon (small but lots of climbing) with no gear (one in hobnails and one in school shoes) and set off in the December snow and ice. They lost their footing and slid several hundred feet, fortunately not killing themselves, at which point his friend went home and never climbed again)

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  39. @Ivy
    There has been a type of an outdoor ethic, often unspoken, about the right way to be true to oneself and to climb, raft, ski, camp, bike or otherwise enjoy, even revere, nature. That sense, at least for me, was more descriptive than prescriptive. The outdoors exerted quite a pull on many young adventurers, some more Romantic, others motivated otherly.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountaineering:_The_Freedom_of_the_Hills

    Mountaineers are just extra-strength hillbillies:

    Read More
    • Replies: @Ivy
    Many in my climbing or mountaineering parties were students, professors, young professionals, musicians and firemen. There was a natural overlap of many skills and interests, and lively wide-ranging discussions on the trail. Occasionally someone would tote along a guitar or harmonica. No banjos, however.
  40. Svigor says:

    where I climbed during the summer of 1977 (before realizing I wasn’t getting any less scared of heights).

    Interesting. My experience is that overcoming a fear of heights is just about getting enough exposure. I had a roof job for years. After the first couple of weeks I was over my fear of heights. It was never all that phobic, though (but I would say it might’ve been a bit stronger than in most). It was more like good sense. Maybe rock climbing doesn’t map, though; there are heights, and then there are heights.

    Shaking knees may be due to muscle fatigue, too. Many climbers may experience ‘sewing machine knee’ where their leg seems to take on an up and down life of its own when too long straining in a position or supporting the body during a strenuous pitch.

    I experienced both recently, a very WTF moment.

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  41. Svigor says:

    On the other hand, the work I was doing never involved a harness. And I would never rock climb without safety equipment. I have a sense of adventure, but there are hard limits, and that is one.

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  42. wren says:

    Perhaps he is with girl on rocks in the sky now.

    I just learned that what I used to do is known as dulfersitz rappelling. Thanks Wikipedia.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%C3%BClfersitz

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    • Replies: @wren
    I had intended to include that popular Maxfield Parrish painting in that comment but the image hosting html didn't seem to work.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxfield_Parrish#/media/File%3AEcstasy%2C_1929.jpg
  43. @Steve Sailer
    I liked rock climbing, but I noticed as the summer went on that as the four of us got to harder (i.e., more dangerous) climbs, we spent more and more time at the base of each pitch discussing the route at extravagant length rather than getting a move on. After that summer,one of us, Joe, went on with climbing (I gave him my rope), but the other three of us said, "Glad to have tried it."

    When I reached that point, I switched to mountaineering—there are many amazing, worthy mountain climbs in the 5.4 – 5.8 range. Hell, if you can climb 5.8 in Joshua Tree, you can bag most of the major High Sierra routes, many of which contain short sections of moderate fifth class with long sections of scrambling. (The scrambling tends to be scarier, less secure, more chossy.)

    Royal Robbins was the first to put up a 5.9 multipitch route: Open Book, at Tahquitz. I’ve never done it clean, even with modern equipment. Quite the feat. The curious can read about Robbins’ ballsy first ascent in his obituary in Outside. Tennis shoes and hemp rope!

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  44. @MarcB.
    Basic Rock Craft was the bible for climbers of my era. Robbins was the conscious of US climbing community, where style, commitment and resource preservation counted more than getting up something. The commodification of climbing as an extreme sport from the late 1980's onward has more in common with the colorful Warren Harding than with the legacy of the taciturn Robbins. RIP.

    I’m torn on the Harding ethic vs. the Robbins ethic. Taken to the extreme, either can lead to bad practices, though the latter won’t lead to serious natural degradation like the former.

    There’s no sense in saying that, after some immortal hardman sent a burly climb with only two bolts and major runouts, no one is then allowed to place an extra bolt or two (on their own dime and time) in order to make it accessible to more than just the five other immortal hardmen who can climb at that level without protection. Climbing shouldn’t only be the domain of ballsy immortal hardmen (though Robbins likely would have liked to keep it that way).

    However, I recognize that, taken too far in the other direction, there’s nothing to stop American climbing from becoming like European climbing, with bolts every five feet, paint on the rock to mark routes, and gasthauses awaiting you at the top of every ridge.

    Read More
  45. wren says:
    @wren
    Perhaps he is with girl on rocks in the sky now.

    I just learned that what I used to do is known as dulfersitz rappelling. Thanks Wikipedia.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%C3%BClfersitz

    I had intended to include that popular Maxfield Parrish painting in that comment but the image hosting html didn’t seem to work.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Rohirrim
    That is a great Maxfield Parrish image. Another fave of mine is this Charles Courtney Curran image:

    https://www.magnoliabox.com/products/illustration-of-a-woman-on-the-top-of-a-mountain-aahz001488

    That image was adapted as the cover art for the hippie band It's a Beautiful Day back in 1969:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_a_Beautiful_Day_(album)

    That particular cover was rated at #24 of Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Album Covers.
  46. @Moshe
    I do not believe there is any sense to your comment.

    a.k.a innovating yourself out of existence.

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  47. Ivy says:
    @Desiderius
    Mountaineers are just extra-strength hillbillies:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=10&v=g5FcJLulKAk

    Many in my climbing or mountaineering parties were students, professors, young professionals, musicians and firemen. There was a natural overlap of many skills and interests, and lively wide-ranging discussions on the trail. Occasionally someone would tote along a guitar or harmonica. No banjos, however.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Mountain climbing is the most literary sport, with the highest ratio of books written to participants.
  48. wren says:
    @Ivy
    Shaking knees may be due to muscle fatigue, too. Many climbers may experience 'sewing machine knee' where their leg seems to take on an up and down life of its own when too long straining in a position or supporting the body during a strenuous pitch.

    Yes, I think fatigue was a big factor too. Stuck on a two inch outcropping without the strength or confidence to make it the next step up will do that to you.

    I remember trying not to take the fact that I was standing on the ground rather than up on a cliff for granted for a while after that.

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  49. Rohirrim says:
    @wren
    I had intended to include that popular Maxfield Parrish painting in that comment but the image hosting html didn't seem to work.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxfield_Parrish#/media/File%3AEcstasy%2C_1929.jpg

    That is a great Maxfield Parrish image. Another fave of mine is this Charles Courtney Curran image:

    https://www.magnoliabox.com/products/illustration-of-a-woman-on-the-top-of-a-mountain-aahz001488

    That image was adapted as the cover art for the hippie band It’s a Beautiful Day back in 1969:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_a_Beautiful_Day_(album)

    That particular cover was rated at #24 of Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Album Covers.

    Read More
  50. JMcG says:
    @Mr. Anon
    I've heard it said that many climbers consider The Eiger Sanction to be one of the best climbing movies ever; not for the movie itself, which is a rather silly spy story, but for the climbing scenes. I can't speak to it, as I'm not a climber. It is however one of Clint Eastwood's funniest movies.

    I think the Eiger Sanction was filmed while John Harlin was putting up the Direct route on the Eiger North Face. He was killed in the attempt.

    John Harlin was a USAF pilot who flew, I believe, F86 Sabres. He was an accomplished mountaineer as well.

    I think his son went on to edit the American Alpine Journal for a while.

    Plant corn, you get corn it seems. I hope my kids don’t take up mountaineering.

    Oops, checked wiki. Filmed in 1974, long after Harlin died. The rest of the comment stands though.

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  51. Hats off to you, Steve, for your wide-ranging, quirky interest in damn near everything.

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  52. Bobzilla says:

    So this is the idiot that gave birth to this asinine pastime. Ranks right up there with jumping out of an airplane for the “fun” of it. Just a bunch of emotionally disturbed people acting out their problems.

    Read More
  53. @Ivy
    Many in my climbing or mountaineering parties were students, professors, young professionals, musicians and firemen. There was a natural overlap of many skills and interests, and lively wide-ranging discussions on the trail. Occasionally someone would tote along a guitar or harmonica. No banjos, however.

    Mountain climbing is the most literary sport, with the highest ratio of books written to participants.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Desiderius
    They'll be on the asteroids before the century is out.
  54. @Harry Baldwin
    One of the most exciting documentaries I've seen is "Valley Uprising," about the rock climbers in Yosemite Valley. It's on Netflix. A lot of the drama is supplied by the rivalry between the strait-laced Robbins and the wild man Harding. Robbins is interviewed extensively and makes a very good impression. After his climbing days, he had great success designing outdoors clothing. (I have several pairs of Royal Robbins pants.)

    The Yosemite climbers of the 1950s-60s are an interesting example of a Golden Age that might be useful in understanding how other golden ages operate, since this one is extremely well documented.

    Interestingly, there were surprisingly few deaths, unlike the Eiger climbing of the 1930s or the Himalayan climbing of the same era. The era encouraged heavily roped climbing, and Yosemite has few rock falls to kill climbers, and ideal weather so nobody ever freezes to death.

    Read More
    • Replies: @black sea
    Chris Jones' 1976 book "Climbing in North Amercia" is excellent on the "Granite Crucible" era of Yosemite climbing in the 50s and 60s. Those guys were exploring a whole new world -- vertically speaking -- with all the fascination and intimidation that implies.
  55. @Steve Sailer
    Mountain climbing is the most literary sport, with the highest ratio of books written to participants.

    They’ll be on the asteroids before the century is out.

    Read More
  56. black sea says:
    @Steve Sailer
    The Yosemite climbers of the 1950s-60s are an interesting example of a Golden Age that might be useful in understanding how other golden ages operate, since this one is extremely well documented.

    Interestingly, there were surprisingly few deaths, unlike the Eiger climbing of the 1930s or the Himalayan climbing of the same era. The era encouraged heavily roped climbing, and Yosemite has few rock falls to kill climbers, and ideal weather so nobody ever freezes to death.

    Chris Jones’ 1976 book “Climbing in North Amercia” is excellent on the “Granite Crucible” era of Yosemite climbing in the 50s and 60s. Those guys were exploring a whole new world — vertically speaking — with all the fascination and intimidation that implies.

    Read More

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