Yosemite's biggest impact....you be the judge.


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Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 11, 2013 - 01:14pm PT
Yosemite is, without a doubt, the best known rock climbing venue on Earth. The Valley has also had a major impact on modern climbing development. I'll name three....which one is tops in your opinion?

1) The development and continuing refinement of modern Big Wall techniques. The most obvious of the three, but is it the most influential?

2) The most influential venue for the development and spread of the "free climbing" revolution. A lot of climbers from around the World learned here that "French Free" was not free. Probably the most far reaching in it's impact on the face of today's climbing.

3) The spawning ground for the American renaissance in World class alpinisim. Granite big wall techniques and the 70's free climbing revolution propelled Americans into the cutting edge of alpinisim, a place where they had long been absent. Yosemite also provided the skills and showed what could be done in the mountains, forever changing the face of alpinisim. The process continues...the young guard of today's American alpinists either cut their teeth or refined their skills in the Valley.
My personal favorite,

What's your vote, or do you have other ideas?
steve shea

Mar 11, 2013 - 01:23pm PT
Alpinism! I remember Chouinard writing about Yosemite as a gymnasium. To take the skills learned there to the big mountains of the world. One of several golden ages of alpinism in the Massif du Mt Blanc was in large part moved by American and Brits who honed their techniques in that gymnasium as well as the Valley. Then many of those same climbers went to the remote ranges of the world with the Valley experience. I think most of the ice climbing technical advances were also pushed by Valley visitors who just wanted to keep climbing through the winter. Of course those skills learned on waterfall ice in concert with the rock skills of the Valley is what pushed the sport. For many visiting climbers Yosemite was a just a whistlestop on their respective tours of the world's mountain ranges. A valueable stop but a whistlestop nonetheless, a gymnasium.

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Mar 11, 2013 - 01:35pm PT
The easy access to nearly unlimited climbing challenges much like Chamonix seems to be the key.

The development of technique and skill becomes unstoppable once you mix access and inspiration. Each generation can find and learn what is needed to take the next logical step forward. Faster higher better. It's inevitable when you have the perfect playground.

It has become generational. Like Europe before it Yosemite is bringing second and third generation offspring of dedicated pioneers. Kids who are flashing one-time test pieces at age 10. Where will they go in the future? A bright future it seems.

Social climber
Butterfly Town
Mar 11, 2013 - 01:39pm PT
Related to the 3 that Jim offers, I think the development of EQUIPMENT in Yosemite or by those who climbed there has also had a profound influence on world-wide climbing.

Trad climber
Is that light the end of the tunnel or a train?
Mar 11, 2013 - 01:40pm PT
I choose B. What was the question?

Trad climber
the crowd MUST BE MOCKED...Mocked I tell you.
Mar 11, 2013 - 01:43pm PT
iron history lead to clean climbing revolution

fist clamp
Mar 11, 2013 - 01:46pm PT
proficiency, efficiency, boldness, humble (to the YDS anyways).

Those seem to be the traits of the true Yosemite climber. The first three are pretty self explanatory. The last being humble, may need further detail. What I mean by that is, if a Yosemite climber travels to another climbing area he or she will usually lead, onsight at or above the grade they lead in Yosemite. When a climber travels to Yosemite, in my experience, they onsight lead at least a grade below what they feel they should.

It takes all three of those things to be a Yosemite climber. Whereas just one of any of them will get a climber up a 1 pitch sport climb.


Mar 11, 2013 - 01:53pm PT
What me worry.

Oh oh I better run now .....

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 11, 2013 - 02:12pm PT
Definetly need to add BooDawg's point about equipment development....that was huge.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Mar 11, 2013 - 02:17pm PT
I saw this title and wondered who had taken the longest fall,..

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Mar 11, 2013 - 02:19pm PT
Of Jim's three, I'm inclined toward big wall technique as the most influential Yosemite effect, but all three had predecessors elsewhere. British free climbing had no "French free" component, and a great deal of boldness, and clean climbing really had its origins there, too. Some of the routes around Dresden had difficulties that were 50 years ahead of Yosemite in free climbing. Alpine big walls came into their own in the 1930's with the great north face routes, so what made Yosemite climbing so different?

To me, the relatively benign weather and good rock allowed its climbers to develop techniques for dealing with long, continuous difficulty that could not be pursued easily elsewhere. Britain lacks really big walls. The Alps have difficult weather and often less-than-perfect rock.

The reason I say big walls, though, is that difficult aid really was a Yosemite concept that got exported. I'm unaware of any climb in the world that had the aid difficulty of the Salathe-Nelson ascent of the Southwest Face of Half Dome in 1946. The overhang pitch on the Powell-Feuerer route on the North Buttress of Lower Cathedral rock in the mid-1950's -- 120 feet of continuous, difficult nailing, still rated A4 years later, was also probably without parallel anywhere else in the world.

By the time of the early 1960's, the Yosemite approach to big walls -- no fixed ropes, avoidance of bolts, difficult aid and free -- led to Yosemite climbers leading the world, and that's where the influence really began to spread. Climbers came from all over by the mid- to late-sixties to learn Yosemite techniques in the Valley, and the rest is history.

In the U.S., Yosemite had great influence everywhere, although I would argue that jstan, among others, had at least as much influence on the switch to clean climbing, and the big push in free climbing had many adherents all over. But for difficult rock walls, Yosemite was, and remains, unique in its influence.


Mar 11, 2013 - 02:54pm PT
i think freeclimbing was brought to the US -and then to yosemite for that matter- from the Elbsandstein area in Germany, where they climbed 5.10 or even 5.11 free before 1900, and did not use any aid for progression ever. Fritz Wiessner was one of the first people with Elbsandstein experience to visit the US and import that style, I think.

that said I'd go with nr. 1, because the Valley was (is!) so unique in that regard, while alpinism skills have been developed by European climbers in the Alps as well, Chamonix for the french folks and the Dolomites for Lacedelli, Cassin, etc. that then had an impact on Himalayan climbing.
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
Mar 11, 2013 - 03:15pm PT
Taking the idea of free soloing 5.12 to wall climbs.

This has redefined what people are "4th classing" in the mountains.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Mar 11, 2013 - 03:26pm PT
Jim, I'd say it's redefined what people are "third-classing!" ;>)

To put it in Lito Tejad-Flores's "Games Climbers Play" terms, Honnold on Half Dome brought the boulder game to big walls.


Boulder climber
Mar 11, 2013 - 03:29pm PT
I vote #3 first, with #2 a close second

between the flat part and the blue wobbly thing
Mar 11, 2013 - 03:31pm PT
Cams. Others may have thought of them but they were perfected in the Valley.

Trad climber
Less than a second shy of 49 minutes
Mar 11, 2013 - 03:35pm PT
1) The development and continuing refinement of modern Big Wall techniques. The most obvious of the three, but is it the most influential?

I think so.

The fact that it's so obvious shouldn't take away from its importance.

The concentration of walls, coupled with the ease of relatively short approaches, compounded by the astonishingly PERFECT weather renders the place unparalleled for exploration and pushing wall climbing limits.
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
Mar 11, 2013 - 03:35pm PT
I thought of saying 3rd classing John but my point is in context to Kruk and Kennedy's trip up Cerro Torre. It was a roped climb but incredibly fast due to using every blend of technique in their quiver for the situation.
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Mar 11, 2013 - 03:49pm PT
from the Elbsandstein area in Germany, where they climbed 5.10 or even 5.11 free before 1900
I think this might be overstated somewhat. True, the Elbsandstein was a strong catalyst for free climbing, but pre-WWI, I think the hardest route was 5.9, put up by American expat Oliver Perry-Smith (c. 1909 I think?).

I think A is probably the most accurate of donini's premise, though gear is pretty close behind.

Mountain climber
Mar 11, 2013 - 04:03pm PT
i think the huge tour buses have the biggest impact on the yosemite valley experience. o h wait...

clean climbing without a doubt.
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