Vertical World of Yosemite

Article Index

The Vertical World of Yosemite

Edited by Galen A. Rowell, Wilderness Press, Berkeley, California, 1974

The Vertical World of Yosemite is a fine collection of personal climbing accounts by Yosemite climbers. It brings together the ways and motives of men who climb, the technical and ethical developments accompanying climbing advances, historical background for every account and a collection of 131 photographs, 16 of which are in color. At first glance the compilation is bedazzling, and on further reading a subtle strength emerges.

The merit of the book is not a function of grand Yosemite walls, but of the depth of spirit revealed in those who climb them. Basking in the glory of climbs he has done, the avid climber will hold up the Vertical World as a mirror. Those who do not climb will be appropriately awed. But for those looking to find the heart and soul of men intertwined with nature, there is a most intriguing discovery: the climber transcends himself not by scaling harder and higher walls, but through the truthful understanding and artful expression of his unique experience. In this collection of 17 climbing accounts, interspersed with spectacular and historical photographs, the best are those which make the deepest and most honest cut into men who climb.

The editor of the collection, Galen Rowell, himself a climbing dynamo, suggests otherwise: namely, that the vertical world in itself is capable of elevating us like angels. Galen has selected a quote from Aleister Crowley to begin the book, "I meant to tell mankind ... to abandon all their settled manners of living ... to attempt a quixotic adventure with no resources beyond their native strength ... I had done it myself and . . . was certain of this at least: that nothing else in the world except this was worth doing." In the introduction we are told, "Mountains tend to breed thought undisciplined by normal education or urban life . . ." and, "the new perspective is something that comes naturally from intense mountain activity."