Yosemite

Twins at sunrise

Twins at Sunrise

My flickr contact Stan Yoshinobu posted another wonderful shot taken in Yosemite Valley, this time of (from left to right): Yosemite Falls, The Lost Arrow Spire, and Yosemite Point with two wonderful trees in the foreground and a light snow and ground fog to make it even more atmospheric.

I spent many summers climbing in Yosemite Valley in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.

Half Dome and clouds

Half Dome and Clouds

My flickr contact Stan Yoshinobu posted another shot taken in Yosemite Valley, this time of the northwest face of Half Dome with clouds surrounding it. There is no doubt that Stan waited a while to get this shot, waiting for the light to hit the top of the dome just right so it had the most contrast with the sky. This is a brilliant image and no doubt Ansel Adams would be impressed.

On the left edge of the frame is Royal Arches and to the right of it, Washington Column, both of which have numerous rock climbed on them (which I did a long time ago). More recently (20 years ago) my wife and I hiked up the back side of Half Dome (went up the cables) and hung out over the visor. Too bad I didn’t take a lot of pictures on that hike, it was epic.

Yosemite National Park bans drones

No Drone for You! National Park Service Bans Camera Drone Usage in Yosemite

Petapixel and now others are posting about this and its definitely worth considering. I posted a comment on Petapixel this morning and I’ll repost it here.

Here’s the National Park Service notice: Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones) Prohibited in Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite Falls

Image of Yosemite Falls and Point by flickr member ScottD75.

Over 30 years ago I spent summers climbing in Yosemite Valley. If you look at the image used in this post, you see Yosemite Falls and at the far right on that ridge is Yosemite Point. Just to the left of the point you can just make out a small pinnacle detached from the cliff which is called The Lost Arrow Spire.

When my then girlfriend and I climbed the Lost Arrow Spire what we didn’t consider was its proximity to the most populated spot in the valley: Yosemite Village. I happened to be wearing a red shirt when I lead this climb and when I topped out every car horn in the valley went off; I had no clue so many people were following us with binoculars and the sound about knocked me off the top (yes, I was tied in but I didn’t expect it, guess it was a tradition I didn’t know about).

I’m pretty sure that had there been drones around in those days someone might have decided to get a closer look at us with one. Three things to consider:

1. Had the drone gotten too close and knocked me off the A-4 pitch (back then) in the middle of this climb, it might have caused a serious problem.

2. The falls wasn’t running when we did the climb so all we could hear (before the car horns went off) was a bit of wind. I’m not sure I’d have appreciated a drone hovering nearby, even with a quiet electrical hum. If it got in the way of our leader-belayer signals I’d have been unhappy about it and it was tough to hear each other on the very extended last pitch.

3. We did take some pictures on the climb but I’d have paid a lot of money to the drone pilot/photographer for that video had it turned out well, or even if it was mediocre. (I’m having those slides scanned right now. Stay tuned for a post with them.)

One of my favorite movies on climbing in Yosemite back in the day, El Capitan, has been digitally remastered and is available on Amazon (I posted about it here). When it was made, over a single summer, the climber/filmmaker Glen Denny did the climb with the three climbers but also got footage from a helicopter. All of that is cut together by Fred Padula. The film is dated but it remains one of the finest accounts of an early climb of the Nose Route on one of the greatest granite cliffs on earth.

Bottom line: had Padula and Denny had drones, there is no doubt in my mind that they would have used them and it would have made the film better. That said, the Park service would have (correctly) warned other climbing parties on El Cap about the drones.

El Capitan, the film

El Capitan, the film documents three climbers doing the classic Nose route in 1968 on the largest rock formation in Yosemite Valley, California: El Capitan.

This film is not full of hero shots, not full of free soloing and is humble compared with many modern films on Yosemite climbing (see embedded videos below). But, it documents in amazing detail what it’s like to climb the Nose route on El Capitan, still one of the classic big wall rock climbs on earth by three (four including the cameraman) pioneering and excellent climbers.

The cinematography by Glen Denny is incredible as is the sound reproduction. This climb was made before the invention of “clean climbing” so the climbers are carrying pitons and hammers and a lot of heavy gear and that gear clanks around, and all of those clanks are recorded and in the movie. Of course, Glenn Denny also did the climb with a lot of heavy film and sound gear which was and remains a feat in itself.

Here’s a great history of the project and review of the movie by Michael Ybarra for Alpinist: El Capitan: The Movie. Highly recommended.

I’ve owned the VHS (videotape) version of the movie El Capitan for a long time and I was extremely happy to find that the film was painstakingly transferred to digital video including blue-ray.

I climbed extensively in Yosemite ten years after this movie was shot. For more on my climbing history, see A Climbing Story. Yosemite was a magical place before it got overrun by too many tourists and too many climbers. No doubt it’s still magical but I like to think I experienced it during a more innocent time.

Yvon Chouinard and Glen Denny’s book: Yosemite in the Sixties has photographs of many of the pioneers of Yosemite climbing who were active just before this film was made. You can see more of Glen’s photographs here: Glen Denny.

Buy the DVD or Blue-ray of El Capitan

Western Eye Press
Amazon

A more modern El Capitan climb of the Nose route by Mark and Janelle Smiley:

The Nose on El Capitan from Mark Smiley on Vimeo.

A french team does the Nose route (the GoPro footage while a bit dizzying is useful for seeing what a climber sees):

The Nose – El Capitan from Capexpe on Vimeo.

Here’s Mark and Janelle Smiley on the Salathe Wall route on El Capitan (a more difficult climb):

Salathe – El Capitan, Yosemite from Mark Smiley on Vimeo.

Glen Denny Photography

Glen Denny Photography

Back in the day (1960’s) when Royal Robbins, Tom Frost, Chuck Pratt, Yvon Chouinard, Warren Harding and many others were putting up big walls in Yosemite Valley, Glen Denny was not only along for the ride but was photographing Yosemite climbing and culture. Anyone who’s read about this era in rock climbing history has seen Denny’s photographs in various books. Here they are online.

Bringing millions along for the ride on an El Cap climb

On Ledge and Online: Solitary Sport Turns Social

Social media and handheld devices for posting is invading what used to be solitary adventure sports. Many have mixed feelings about this.

As one who posts hike progress on Path and Instagram who am I to say that this is a bad idea. It will be interesting to see how it affects the kinds of things climbers and other adventure sports enthusiasts do: will they push themselves unreasonably to do ever more daring things for their online audience and to gain Page rank? Probably.