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Yosemite in the Fifties: The Iron Age

Author(s): Fidelman, Dean & John Long, eds.

Copyright: 2015, US
Specifications: 1st, 4to, pp.205, photo frontis, 41 color & 73 bw photos, illus eps, pictorial cloth
Condition: dj & cloth new

For decades past, into current times, a certain kind of person has been drawn to the daunting challenges presented by the sheer granite walls of Yosemite. The allure of scaling these precipices has been as much a challenge to cultural norms and technical limitations as it has to physical prowess or ability.

Known as Yosemite’s Iron Age, climbing in the fifties was that critical span of years found in any adventure or exploratory pursuit, from ocean navigation to moon shots, when prevailing technology is a limiting factor. New gear and techniques are invented as needed, leaving pioneers to “build the boat as they sail it.” Because the process is shaped by trial and error, dangerous mistakes and lucky developments, a creative renaissance can feel like a bunch of maniacs just winging it. Physical and psychological barriers, remote as the dome of space, must also be surpassed — by vision, willpower, courage, even recklessness. But the barriers are broken, and at this crossroads of desire and technology bursts a geyser of narrative that since the days of Homer have shaped history and inspired humankind.

Better than half a century after the first ascent of El Capitan, the deeds of Yosemite’s 1950s-era Iron Age are no longer viewed as merely climbs or adventures. Rather, they are assaults on the human barrier, pushing that much higher toward the moon, where Neil Armstrong took his “giant leap for mankind” eleven years after fellow explorer Warren Harding crawled onto the summit of El Capitan.

In ‘Yosemite in the Fifties’, climbers Dean Fidelman and John Long turn to original source material - first-person narratives, artfully restored archive photos, and memorabilia particular to the seminal ascents of the era - to capture the footprint unique to this time and place. Like light from a dead star still visible today, word, image, and design, when cast from critical angles, can reach across generations and resurrect vanished worlds. Put differently, ‘Yosemite In the Fifties’ is fashioned not so much as a book but as a wormhole back to an enchanted time in the history of exploration, and a classic era of Americana now lost in time.

With contributions by Steve Grossman, Don Lauria, Wayne Merry, Anton Nelson, Royal Robbins, Michael Sherrick, Allen Steck, and Bob Swift. This is a great addition to Glen Denny’s book ‘Yosemte: In the Sixties’.

Winner of the Mountain Image award at the 2016 Banff Mountain Book Festival and the 2016 National Outdoor Book Award in the Design & Artistic Merit category.

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