Climbing Yosemite

Yosemite climbing pioneer Yvon Chouinard checking out the view from Big Sur ledge the first ascent of the North America Wall on El Capitan. End of pitch 11, Fall 1964. Photo: Tom Frost/Aurora Photos
Yosemite climbing pioneer Yvon Chouinard checking out the view from Big Sur ledge the first ascent of the North America Wall on El Capitan. End of pitch 11, Fall 1964. Photo: Tom Frost/Aurora Photos

 

Outside – 1 Jun. 2016 –   Is adventure dead? This somewhat depressing question is one we contend with at Outside all the time. After all, many of world’s great adventure prizes, including the summit of all fourteen 8,000-meter peaks and the North and South Poles, were snagged more than a half-century ago. Today’s firsts, meanwhile, are typically defined by an almost comical list of qualifiers: First blind one-armed climber to stand atop Everest. Fastest human-powered Antarctic crossing. In June. During an odd-numbered year. One can look at this increasingly parsed and trodden landscape and conclude that, yes, sadly, adventure is dead. But you’d have to willfully ignore the 60-plus years of astounding climbing evolution continuing to take place on the granite monoliths of Yosemite Valley.

This month, as part of our continuing celebration of the National Park Service centennial, we’re taking a special look at the most pivotal climbing moments in Yosemite’s storied history. To look at this list is to be reminded that the limits of what is humanly possible when flesh and sticky rubber take on a mountain of vertical granite has been radically redefined by four distinct generations of rock monkeys. In 1958, when El Capitan was still widely considered unclimbable, Warren Harding notched the first ascent after 18 grueling months of hammering in pitons. In 2012, Alex Honnold and Hans Florine tackled the same route in less than three hours. Yes, the latter feat includes a qualifier: fastest. Yet the record is no less relevant in today’s sport than Harding’s first ascent was 60 years ago.  …more