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114 W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n L it e r a t u r e S p r in g 2 0 0 5 a counterpoint to the more scholarly examinations, reminding us why readers return to these books—because they tell a good story. This collection, particularly the pieces by Romines and Jameson, serves as an excellent model of how interdisciplinary approaches continue to invigorate Wilder studies and makes a strong case for the books’ historic and literary significance. Yosemite: Half a Century of Dynamic Rock Climbing. By Alexander Huber and Heinz Zak. Birmingham, Ala.: Menasha Ridge Press, 2003. 176 pages, $45.00. Reviewed by Mikel Vause Weber State University, Ogden, Utah Every so often a book comes along that is a real surprise, like a history of Yosemite written by a German with photographs by an Austrian. Yosemite has, almost from the beginning, since John Muir heralded it as one of America’s most valuable treasures, drawn tourists from all over the globe to walk in its lush valleys and explore its trails. Yet, since the late 1940s, Yosemite has held an additional fascination for those who are drawn not to its forested valleys but to its vertical and polished granite cliffs. In the middle 1800s, Josiah Whitney, the man for whom Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental United States, is named, as well as its leading geologist, hypothesized that Yosemite’s deep canyons and vertical cliff faces were the result of cataclysmic upheaval. It was John Muir, who later became America’s voice and conscience for the preservation and protection of wild lands, that suggested Whitney’s theory was wrong and that Yosemite was carved by glaciers, thus explaining the high smooth walls of very hard granite. Even though Muir climbed mountains and is considered a great mountaineer, the faces of El Capitan and Half Dome were out of his reach as a climber. Yosemite: Half a Century of Dynamic Rock Climbing by Alexander Huber with photographs by Heinz Zak brings these famous features to general readers and mountaineering enthusiasts alike. Huber is one ofGermany’s top rock climb­ ers, who like many European climbers came to Yosemite, the home of big wall climbing, to test himself against the standards set by American climbing legends such as Royal Robbins, Tom Frost, Yvon Chouinard, John Salathe, Jim Bridwell, T. M. Herbert, Chuck Pratt, John Bachar, Lynn Hill, and Ron Kalk. And like most climbers who visit Yosemite, he fell in love not only with the climbing but with the history of the valley as well. In writing this book, Huber partners with Zak, an Austrian and a fine rock climber in his own right, to explore the growth of the most American of mountain sports, big wall climbing. The text of Yosemite: Half a Century of Dynamic Rock Climbing is broken into three distinct sections. “The Early Years” provides a concise overview of exploration of both the Sierra Nevadas and Yosemite with a focus on the b o o k R e v ie w s advent of actual rock climbing in the valley led by John Salathe. Part 2, “The Big Walls Pioneered 1958-1970,” takes the reader into the world of Camp 4 and the invention and practice of aid climbing by the early hard men led by Warren “Batso” Harding, who used highly controversial siege tactics to surmount the forbidding 3,300-foot face of El Capitan. It was also during this “Golden Age” that Royal Robbins became the champion of what he, and many other Yosemite regulars, saw as stylish and ethical ascents that raised climbing standards by moving past Harding’s use of fixed ropes and staying on a route until completion. Part 3, “The Free Climbing Years,” by far the longest of the three sections, focuses on the move away from traditional aid climbing to modem free climbing techniques. This section contains contributions from some of Yosemite’s most famous and successful free climbing pioneers ranging from Jim Bridwell and John Long to the “new kids” such as Leo Holding. Of course no history of free climbing in Yosemite would be...


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pp. 114-115
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