Arrowhead Arête ranks at the top of my favorite valley climbs. Both for the climb itself, and for my good fortune to climb it with Walt Shipley. In traditional Walt style, I was somehow conjugaled by Walt’s middle-of-the-day idea to climb it, as it loomed in full view above us from the Deli. As I recall, with minimal gear, we scrambled up there, scurried up the route, and made it back to the deli before the daily gathering had dispersed back to camp for the day. For me, it was a really big deal. For Walt, all he did was drag a rope up to belay me from. What a great guy.
Wasn't Mark Powell overweight when he first showed up in the Valley? Slimming down over a diet of Yosemite climbing to eventually put up some of the truly great climbs of his time?
The AA was the first Powell route I did in Yosemite. The impact it had on me, and the interest I had in Yosemite climbing history at the time, inspired me to climb as many Powell routes as I could. At the time I was new to climbing and he was the first climber who's routes I focused on. I think the summit of the AA is the most spectacular in all of the Valley. The East of Lower is my favorite of his, though I never did give Bridalveil East a try.
AA is a great climb. To me, it has all the attributes of a true classic --neat climbing, great location, tremendous historical signficance. As Largo stated, it also was very much off the beaten path in the 1970's, so you were certain to have the sort of isolation that is increasingly rare these days in the Valley. It's hard for me to believe that this October will be the 55th aniversary of its first ascent.
Powell was one of my heroes for two reasons. First, it was clear that the climbers of the late 1950's and early 1960's (or, as I called them then, the old-timers) greatly admired him. More importantly for me, he got himself stationed in Fresno when he was in the service, so he could be closer to the rocks. It takes a special sort of person to come willingly to my little town. During that time, he did a route called "Balch Camp Flake" at the far east end of Patterson Bluff. Climbing there remains adventurous today.