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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.