Camp 4

1:55 p.m. on February 13, 2010 (EST)
Jim S
67 reviewer rep
757 forum posts

I've been re-reading Camp 4 by Steve Roper, about the early days of Yosemite climbing up until about 1967, the year I graduated from high school. I guess my Yosemite climbing years were 81, 82 and 83. We had modern sticky rubber shoes, cams for protection and good ropes. What struck me was the vast improvement in skills. These guys who were the big climbers during the 60s, the Golden Era in Yosemite were hard men, the best, yet I climbed routes set up by the best of them and never took a fall. I could out friction climb most of them, and my crack technique wasn't bad either. By the 80s we were climbing the cracks using lay-backs and edging the cracks with our boots, rather than getting inside them. One of my most enlightening climbs was an alternate start on the Royal Arches, one that had been a nailup, complete artificial climb for a very long time. I slipped my finger tips into piton scars, laid back and edging by shoes against lower piton scars, I easily climbed the scars. A ways up, I slipped a cam into a wide point. Of Course back then the smallest cam was a 1/2" rigid body friend, nothing like today's tiny cams with cables. It made me think about decades of people in aid slings doing the same route.

I've climbed the Nut-Cracker, a Robbins route, the first that was ever done completely with nuts, no pitons. I climbed it with cams, I've never actually set a nut while climbing, only in practice.

My first real climb was the Great White Book in Tuolumne Meadows, actually above Lake Tenaya. At the top of the climb I looked around and said "where's the peak?" My buddy who was teaching me said "Oh over there some where, why? Did you want to go there?" I was amazed, here we had climbed this really tough climb and we weren't at the peak. He said "we're rock climbers not peak baggers, anyone can walk up to the peak, what does that prove?"


10:03 p.m. on February 15, 2010 (EST)
tokyo bill
3 reviewer rep
98 forum posts

I haven't read Camp 4 since the first time, right after I bought it. Great read, and your post is tempting me to dig it out again.

Have you taken a look at John Long's "The Stonemasters"?

It focuses on the early 70s, so its a bit farther along the evolutionary curve. Large format with lots of classic photos, and John Long's writing. Worth a look if you like that sort of thing. (And for alpinism, Steve House's "Beyond the Mountain" is great, too.)

As for skill, ability, courage and motivation, it's hard not to be awed by the golden age climbers.

I started climbing in 97 or 98, and have benefitted hugely from those who came before. I'm so glad that the techniques they pioneered, plus vastly better equipment, will now let even a weekend warrior like me climb some of their routes. Fantastic!

May 24, 2020
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