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The "Golden Age" of Climbing in Yosemite


Author Joseph Taylor, professor of history at Simon Fraser University, visited Hamilton on Nov. 10 to deliver a lecture on “The Dawn Wall and the Golden Ages of Yosemite.”

Taylor opened by touching on Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s recent ground breaking free ascent of the Dawn Wall via a notoriously difficult route that had only ever been climbed with the assistance of technical equipment in the past.  He praised the climb since to him it was noteworthy “not only for the athletic feat...but because it had initiated a new ‘golden age’ of climbing in Yosemite Valley.” 

Taylor then proceeded to frame the recent climb in the context of the rich and contentious history of rock climbing in Yosemite. He wrapped up by returning to Caldwell and Jorgeson’s feat and concluding that their achievement had healed many of the metaphorical wounds left behind by decades of fierce debate within the climbing community of Yosemite.

The lecture was well attended and left many in the audience curious to look more deeply into the history of the places that they love as well as the lore of the sports that allow them to get out and explore these places. Director of Outdoor Leadership Andrew Jillings commented, “It was really interesting. He was trying to take a historian’s view of developments on the Dawn Wall from when it was first climbed until now and attempting to compare the climbing styles of many different generations.”

Taylor is also the author of Pilgrims of the Vertical: Yosemite Rock Climbers and Nature at Risk, a historical analysis of climbing in Yosemite.

The Dean of Faculty, the History Department and the Outdoor Leadership Program sponsored Taylor’s talk.

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