‘Yosemite in the Fifties’ shows vintage climbing before the Dawn Wall days

Mark Powell, Dolt, and Warren Harding (circa 1957) hitting the cheap jug after a rainy exploratory on El Capitan. Photo: Beverly Powell Woolsey.
Mark Powell, Dolt and Warren Harding (circa 1957) hitting the cheap jug after a rainy exploratory day on El Capitan. Photo: Beverly Powell Woolsey
Before Dean Potter ever took flight in a wingsuit or Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson plotted out their route up the Dawn Wall (and, well, before the plague, apparently), Yosemite National Park played host to a long lineage of rock-climbing legends. Now, a forthcoming book from Patagonia takes a look back at what the Valley looked like during the birth of adventure sports.

John Salathé and Yvon Chouinard (who would later found Patagonia), Camp 4, circa 1961. Photo: Tom Frost
John Salathé and Yvon Chouinard (who would later found Patagonia), Camp 4, circa 1961. Photo: Tom Frost
Yosemite in the Fifties features restored photos and original source material: stunning photos of the national park, the period’s climbing gear shot against solid white backgrounds and black-and-white and full-color photos that capture the spirit of the Valley’s “Iron Age,” from the historic first ascents of many of the park’s granite walls to the larger-than-life personalities who risked their lives to climb them (many of whom were also featured in last year’s documentary, Valley Uprising.)

Barbara Lilley on the summit of Lower Cathedral Spire, 1956. Photo: Barbara Lilley Collection.
Barbara Lilley on the summit of Lower Cathedral Spire, 1956. Photo: Barbara Lilley Collection
Yosemite in the Fifties is not so much a book as a wormhole back to a charmed moment in the history of exploration, and a classic era of America now lost in time,” says John Long, who compiled the book with Dean Fidelman and designer Tom Adler.

(Left) Warren Harding (circa 1961) on Leaning Tower. Four years later, Harding's rival, Royal Robbins, made the second ascent in a historic solo effort. Photo: George Whitmore. (Right) Overhanging Rock, Glacier, Point, a favorite locale for
(Left) Warren Harding (circa 1961) on Leaning Tower. Four years later, Harding’s rival, Royal Robbins, made the second ascent in a historic solo effort. Photo: George Whitmore. (Right) Overhanging Rock, Glacier Point, a favorite locale for “I was there” photographs. Photo: Jerry Gallwas Collection
Set to be released later this fall (but available for pre-order on Amazon now!), it’s pretty much a must-have coffee-table tome for, oh, the now 20 million people worldwide who regularly go climbing.

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