Camp 4, a Historical Gem

All the reasons necessary to show that Camp 4 should be (and possesses all the qualities to be) listed on the National Register of Historic Sites

By Tom Frost and Pat Ament


Thesis Statement

Since 1941, Yosemite Valley's Camp 4, now known as Sunnyside Campground,

has been the "base camp" of the world's greatest rock climbers. It is from

Camp 4 that climbers such as Jim Madsen set out to go to the rescue of

fellow climbers in trouble. In Madsen's case, the effort ended in his

laying down his life for his friends in a terrible storm. But people

remember Madsen, for he exemplifies the climbing spirit at its best. While

some might regard climbers in a kind of roguish light, there has always

existed a higher elementùnamely the boldness and heroism, and reputation of

integrity, belonging to a sub-culture of true pioneers and artists. Camp 4

writhes with the past energies and memory of these famous spiritsùJohn

Salathe, Royal Robbinsà. The legacy, however, is still being left by the

genius of the present day, such as found in the likes of Peter Croft and

John Bachar whose achievements are the mind-boggling world standard.


On 29 May 1997, National Park Service historian Harlan D. Unrau visited

Yosemite Valley and Camp 4 to conduct "site-reconnaissance research." This

was relative to the significance, integrity, and potential eligibility of

Camp 4 as a listing in the National Register of Historic Places. His

conclusions, contained in the NPS report of 6 June 1997, state that the

campground does not meet the standards or criteria for listing in the

Register. Such an answer betrays "an agenda." Mr. Unrau had apparently

come to Yosemite with his own mind about things and found ways to support

such thinking. But he is simply wrong.

Unrau's report feels like a social evaluation of various Camp 4 residents.

At any given time, among any social variety of people, can be found the

"low-lifes." Outside the Metropolitan Museum, someone will be snatching a

purse from an elderly lady. But such contradictionsùthe good and

evilsùthat live side by side in this sacred world by no means negate the

good. Perhaps Unrau was not able to acquaint himself with what is truly

worthyùas well as historically significantùabout Camp 4 and Yosemite

climbing. Not everyone who goes to the museum is the measure of the art

within. One must develop one's standards of judgment, perhaps best by

having passed through a few of those Camp 4 years.

An observer must get tuned into the feeling, the legacy, the spirità of

quiet revolutions that took place in that little spot of dust and trees and

boulders. Camp 4 is full of history. Camp 4 is a site that more than

possesses all of the criteria necessary to add it to the National Register:

historical significance, integrity, and uniqueness. It is one of a kind.

Camp 4 is a center place for events that have significantly contributed to

California, national, and world history.

Rock climbing is not simply an activity enjoyed by a few basically

tourist-types who come to Yosemite. It is a spiritual enterprise. That

is, it embraces all of the deepest meanings of life. It pursues those

meanings, even if one does not refer to oneself as a "spiritual" person.

Climbing leads the way upward and, by necessity, upward in terms of

personal growth. Individuals must rise to the challenge of the

difficulties and must face their human limitations. More than any other

sport, and equal to any art, climbing polishes a person by rather

immediately identifying imperfections of thought or character. Climbing is

also artistic, an art of the highest order and with life and death


While a sometimes more mediocre world would banish such notions as

"spiritual" or "artistic," and would resent such claims to historical

integrity, climbers go forward in their mission. They keep climbing, as

Royal Robbins says. They pin-point their hits, taking a berth high in the

sky of their personal vision. They are anchored to ideals, alighting on

footholds that speak of the exact detail of existence and how little

separates failure and success. A climber by nature attends to the grace of

the occasion of life. He goes upward into realms of granite, with its

views down to the river or the cars tiny so far below. Two climbers

present themselves to the warm day and soak up the sun. They bear out the

storm and feel life. The live life, as opposed to being spectators. The

blank desolations of granite and fearful crack climbs teach them of their

souls, of what the true inner person is about. These climbers indeed will

learn something of their character, their courage. Upward is the general

line of movement, the nooks, the crannies, the great lairs behind huge,

exfoliating flakes. Climbing is a study in interiorityùgoing inside,

breathing the rock, smelling it, using it as a shelter, finding it warm or

cold, sometimes pleading with it. There is life everywhere in climbing,

even in the granite. Their vision is fixed on upward progressùfor which

climbing is the outward exercise and the sweetest of spiritual metaphors.

These climbers are souls who, at a glance, may sometimes have left their

tattered climbing clothes on or failed to shower. They may be tired, even

irritating. These are the people who can upon occasion be found wanting in

terms of immediate social graces. They are, after all, distracted. There

is so much space up there to think about, so much exhilaration to consider,

so much rich blue flooding down everywhere from the heavens and clean,

yellow light of a morning's sun hitting the pitch.

The relatively simple disposition of the climber's habitat, Camp 4, tends

to conceal deeper habitats of thought and hope. Here is found the "spirit

of place." Just trees and boulders and campsites? No way. Here is an

ever-evolving colony of minds and spirits seeking the relevant in life,

seeking to be among this campground residence of kindred spirits and

friends who share the quest of higher life or who may be able to teach

something of it. Don't look any deeper, don't look any farther back into

the sacred past, and you will see only the trees and the boulders. You may

not even see those. For in them, as they truly look, is a deeper

spiritùthe same one just described as being in the possession of climbers.

The trees have life. They have stood there and absorbed. They have blown

with every Yosemite wind and wind of change. The boulders have felt the

hands, the hands of the genius boulderers of several generations. The

boulders have felt the loneliness of centuries. These boulders remain

quiet. They seem to say nothing. Yet there is an interchange among those

who know, those who are doing the deeper looking. Camp 4, worthy of at

least two whole books of which we know, and the center story of hundreds of

articles and other international publications, has more going for it than

meets the eye. You must meet it with your soul.

Camp 4 deserves the recognition and inherent protection of enlistment in

the National Register of Historic Places!


Today Yosemite is the world center for rock climbing. This was not always

so. Rock climbing initially began in the British Isles in 1850. And no

roped climbing was practiced in Yosemite until Francis Farquhar and Robert

Underhill brought a knowledge of modern European rope management to

California in 1931. Armed with this new vision, rock climbers in Yosemite

began thirty years of quiet development. They were shielded from the

scrutiny of the rest of the world's climbing. During these years of

independent involvement, a Yosemite climbing system developedùa unique

system of practices dictated in large part by the glorious and frightening

specter of the Valley's monolithic walls of granite.

Camp 4 was not simply a place of repose, rather a launching place of these

bold energies. It was and is a gathering place where winsome relationships

between souls become solidified and prepare to mature in the cloudscapes of

sweeping adventure and symmetry of stone. The aesthetic of climbers

embraces, above all, the art of discovery and self-confrontationùthe

principle of progress on a personal and team level. No where on the earth

was and is such an opportunity more available than on the incomparable,

sheer wilderness of Yosemite's granite walls. To suddenly be a part of

such a heritageùwhat creation had somehow placed before these climbersùwas

a blessing of unimaginable worth. To speak almost poetically for a moment,

it was also as though the right individuals were chosen by some grand,

pre-mortal, spiritual design to partake in the adventure. Such a striking

individual as Royal Robbins, for example, seemed to come from nowhere. But

he was in fact the right man for the job. He possessed all the integrity

of a great artist, a Thomas Edison of climbing techniques and a Jefferson

of high ethics. The beautiful, graceful, sacred walls of Yosemite were not

left just to anyone to first explore. Of course they were too difficult

for just anyone.

The development of Yosemite climbing "peaked" in the Golden Age of Yosemite

big wall climbing of the late '50s and 1960's. The unique system practiced

by Yosemite climbers then became the worldwide standard, especially in

terms of "style"ùa term among climbers meaning to play the game, to

practice the art, with honesty and fairness. The walls could not be

reduced to mere technical, mechanical achievement. The mechanical side had

to be held in the right proportion with raw, developed physical and mental

ability. Faith, integrity, and courage were given an opportunity to have a

say. The early Yosemite climbers insisted on this and set the standard for

others throughout the world to follow. That is history! And now, still,

Yosemite climbing ISùremainsùmodern rock climbing. It might be said that

Yosemite, along with a few isolated achievements of climbers in other

places of the world such as England and Colorado, is the birthplace of

style and integrity in modern rock climbing.

Anyone with any sensitivity who visits Camp 4 must feelùin the very

boulders and high, ponderosa pinesùthe mystique of Yosemite's substantial

and meaningful climbing history.


Historical Documentation

John Muir was the first Yosemite rock climber. He made many explorations

and ascents in the Valley and in Yosemite's high country. Gary Arce, in

his book Defying Gravity, writes, "His style of treading lightly through

the wilderness, learning nature's story along the way, and constantly

discovering new beauties, still provides modern climbers with an enduring

role model." (Arce, p. 12). Said actor Lee Stetson, playing John Muir in

the Yosemite theater, "When I discover a new plant, I sit down beside it

for an hour or a day and see what it has to teach me." John Muir's respect

for the creation is a philosophy that formed the solid, basic foundation

upon which every succeeding generation of Yosemite climbers would build.

Armed with their new knowledge of rope management, in the early 1930's,

Dick Leonard and other Bay Area climbers invented the American rope

techniques of dynamic belay and hip belay and made the first ascents of

Higher and Lower Cathedral Spires. Observes Steve Roper in his

award-winning book Camp 4, Reflections of a Yosemite Rock Climber,

"By and large, the two Cathedral Spire climbs of 1934 set a marvelous

standard for future climbers. An ethic had unconsciously evolved, one that

seems to me to speak volumes about the character of the three climbers

involved. Train hard for a climb and know what you're getting into. Be

boldùbut practice proper safety measures. Don't be afraid to turn back.

Most of all, don't subdue the rock with technology; use sophisticated

gearùbut use it wiselyà these three men did a splendid job. They are the

first modern-day climbing heroes of Yosemite." (Roper, p. 25).


During World War II, many of Yosemite's best climbers answered their

country's call and put their skills to work at the same time. "Among this

group were Captain David Brower, Captain Raffi Bedayan, Major Richard

Leonard, Lieutenant Fritz Lippman, and Colonel Bestor Robinson. Their main

assignment was training U.S. troops in the fundamentals of climbing and

mountain travel." (Arce, p. 28).

Camp 4 was established as an official, numbered campsite on the north side

of Yosemite Valley in 1941 (according to Linda Eade, Yosemite Research

Librarian). Roper, in his book , notes, "Enormous, incense cedars

dominated the site, though oaks and ponderosa pines rose here and there.

Boulders dotted the entire camp, where climbers usually stayedà. Into this

soon-to-be-famous campground came the post-war climbers. (Roper, p. 30).

Indeed Camp 4 is famous, and fame does not come without history and without

certain principle-based attitudes that underlie what is achieved.

The greatest, humblest, boldest, most visionary climber to enter this

post-war stage, and the one having the greatest impact on subsequent

generations, was John Salathe. A Swiss blacksmith, Salathe arrived in San

Francisco at age forty-five and took up climbing a year later. After

familiarizing himself with Yosemite cracks, he forged by hand the world's

first hard-steel pitons. This enabled placement in otherwise hopeless

seams of rock, eliminating the need for many bolts. Additionally Salathe

was willing to travel light and self-contained up some of the Valley's most

frightening walls. Such intelligence and forethought, such courage,

allowed him to establishùwithout siege techniquesùthree of the greatest

climbs in the world: the Southwest Face of Half Dome (two days, in 1946),

the Lost Arrow Chimney (five days, 1947), and the North Face of Sentinel

Rock (four and a half days in 1950).

John Salathe left an enduring legacy. He "was the first to see that

artificial climbing would open up vast new possibilities." (Roper, p. 12).

He set the big wall process in motion. "But for Salathe, more important

than reaching each summit was the mannerùthe styleùin which the climbs were

completed. He neverà tried to bring the difficulties down to his level.

On the contrary, he worked hard to build himself up to the level of each

climb, whether by training to do without water or devising new tools to

eliminate bolt placements." (Arce, p. 34).

Royal Robbins recently called Salathe "the father of American climbing."

(Slide lecture, Boulder, 7 November 1997). In respect for this man, an

edified later generation of Yosemite climbers would name the magnificent

Southwest Face of El Capitan "The Salathe Wall."

As the 1950's progressed, southern California climbers Royal Robbins and

Warren Harding began to take residence in Camp 4 and to build on the

big-wall legacy left them by Salathe. During five days of 1957, master

climber Robbins pioneered a route up the two thousand-foot Northwest Face

of Half Dome. This was the biggest wall that had ever been climbed to this

time. It was a profound achievement, considering the youthful age of

Robbins and the quality of their footwear and other gear.

Immediately after Robbins' success, Warren Harding laid siege to the three

thousand-foot Nose of El Capitanùwhich ended after forty-five days and

thirty nights of climbing spread over a year and a half. "Harding's ascent

represented a major breakthrough in Yosemite rock climbing. The

psychological barrier of El Capitan had finally been overcome. The Golden

Age of Yosemite big-wall climbing was now well under way." (Arce, p. 46).

Steve Roper writes, "The Northwest Face of Half Dome and the Nose of El

Capitan showed that the biggest walls were possible, and the names Royal

Robbins and Warren Hardingà will forever stand for vision and courage."

(Roper, p. 12).

The decade of the '60s started fast, with historically cornerstone

activities. One was the arrival of truly modern Yosemite hardware in the

form of hard-steel pitons of all sizes from Yvon Chouinard's shop in

southern California. Designed for Yosemite, these pitons ranged from

postage-stamp sized "RURPs" and near paper-thin "knifeblades," up through

forged horizontal pitons and angles in sizes from _ inch to 3 or 4-inch

"bongs." The critical tools for efficient climbing of all widths of

Yosemite's cracks had arrived, and these are in use todayùbasically

unchangedùin the mountain ranges of the world. One can recall the photos

of pitons spread out across the full length of a Camp 4 picnic table as

Robbins and Pratt prepared for another new ascent of some imposing,

conspicuous wall. The history includes the fact that these men were

experimenting with this new equipment, finding out how it worked and IF it

worked, as they ventured upward vertically and on overhanging rock.

Chouinard's new-design carabiners (which allowed the gate to open under

load) helped in the development of aid climbing, whereas a leader could

climb up in his aid slings on the new piton before having to clip in the

climbing ropeùan efficiency still almost universally employed. The silent

realms of Yosemite's big walls, the soft sounds of blowing air, were

accentuated by clips of carabiners and tapping soundsùpiton hammer against

pitonà. Such breathtaking discovery, such exploits, stand as the bedrock of

climbing history and integrity.

Another epoch-making breakthrough was the continuous ascent of Harding's

Nose route in seven days in 1960 by a four-man team headed by Royal Robbins

and Chuck Pratt. Here, using no fixed ropes to ensure retreat, was born

the true spirit of adventure on big walls. Steve Roper observes,

"It is difficult to imagine now what a psychological breakthrough this Nose

climb was. Without fanfare, the best rock climbers in the world had simply

gone up and done the planet's toughest climb without using fixed ropes. In

a single stroke, this changed Valley climbing permanently; never again did

top-level climbers string fixed ropes from ground to rimà. In short,

Robbins believed in commitment. This attitude, as visionary as Harding's

original El Cap plan of three years earlier, was to have far reaching

implications during the next few years, leading to stern words and actions

among two camps: those who thought fixed ropes were fine and those who

thought them wholly unnecessary. For a few years, this polarization

causedà countless discussions in Camp 4." (Roper, pp. 116-117).


One year following this continuous ascent on the Nose, the trio of Robbins,

Pratt, and Frost were together, in Camp 4, organizing "to embark on one of

the great endeavors in Yosemite climbing." (Arce, p. 51). Their goal was

the ascent of the Salathe Wall of El Capitan. Roper analyzes the


"And so ended what Robbins was soon to call the finest rock climb on earth!

Nine and a half days, two pushes; less than two weeks had elapsed. Fixed

ropes had lain on the cliff for only three days, and the thirteen bolts

placed low on the route became the total for the entire route. àThe time

was ripe for evolution. Harding pioneered the big-wall concept; Robbins

refined it." (Roper, p. 128).


Indeed there were ethical developments, as exist in any area worth its

weight in history, and the setting was one of building upon the

achievements of others. Climbers were somewhat obsessed with the urgency

of the opportunity, and it was natural perhaps that some began to succumb

to less ethical, less bold methods. In the end, the higher ethics would

hold supremacy. Yet the little emotional struggles between the

participants on any side were vital and would express, in some unusual way,

the value of the various spirits involved. The conflicts were not so much

a representation of division as they were of growth. Later, in Galen

Rowell's book The Vertical World of Yosemite, Robbins would acknowledge

Harding as participating in another great, siegeless ascent: the South Face

of Yosemite's Mount Watkins.

Steve Roper calls Robbins' philosophy "noble and calculated." (Roper, p.

125) As of this writing, the Salathe Wall is still widely considered to be

"the greatest rock climb in the world."

On all these climbs, and until 1963, climbers ascended their fixed ropes

using prusik knots and hauled loads by sheer arm strength. Or a climber

whose duty it was to handle the hauling would prusik with a heavy,

sometimes 50-pound, haul bag hanging from his waist loop. In 1963, Jumar

ascendersùdeveloped in Switzerland for cavingùwere brought to Yosemite.

Jumars allowed more efficient ascending of ropes and were perfectly suited

for use in hauling a heavy bagùa vital, labor saving technique invented by

Robbins. (Roper, p. 171). In this new, Yosemite big-wall method, the

second man cleans the pitch by jumaring the climbing rope while the leader

hauls the bag with his two jumars. This Yosemite invention opened the

largest walls to two-man parties and is a method still used today on

multi-day ascents of big walls. (Roper, p. 171 and 190)

In October, 1964, the forbidding, overhanging North American Wall of El

Capitan was climbed. About this climb, Steve Roper muses,

"If you assemble the four best rock climbers in the countryùprobably the

worldùand stick them on a steep, unclimbed Yosemite cliff, you may not have

too many stories to tell afterward. On October 31, nine and a half days

after starting, the quartet had completed the most difficult rock climb

ever done. The exposure had been awesomeùmuch more so than on the Nose or

the Salatheùand the nailing difficulties [piton work] unprecedented.

Mightily determined to avoid bolts (only thirty-eight were placed), the

team performed miracles and made wild pendulums and traverses. Robbins

wrote me a few weeks later: 'The best way to sum it up is to say that there

were at least a dozen pitches which on almost any other climb would be the

crux pitch. This is the greatest climb I have done, but the Salathe is the

best.'" (Roper, pp. 191-192).


Chouinard suggests that "àthe basis for this type of climbing was

established by the naturalist John Muirà. He used to roam the Sierra for

weeks, eating only bread and whatever he could pick off the land, sleeping

under boulders in only his old army coat and rejoicing with the summer

storms. He chose to accept nature as it was without trying to force

himself onto the mountains and to live with them, to adjust himself to the

rigors of this sort of life." (Muir WallùEl Capitan, American Alpine

Journal, 1966)

Steve Roper's history of Yosemite climbing's "formative years" (his book is

significantly titled "Camp 4") proceeds on this basis:

"I focus on the most significant climbs, the most visionary climbers, the

most far-reaching equipment advancesà. My choices are subjective, of

course. By significant climbs I usuallyùbut not alwaysùmean first ascents

of either big walls or fierce jam cracks, climbs that by their very

boldness upped the ante. By visionary climbers I mean those who saw that

the big walls could be climbed using no fixed ropes, or with few bolts, or

in a more efficient style, or perhaps with a new kind of equipment. Such

people, and there were but few, thought long and hard about rock climbing

and then acted on their ideas." (Roper, p. 13).


In the book Climbing In North America, author Chris Jones notes, "When

John Harlin and Robbins made the direct West Face of the Dru [in the

Chamonix Alps], it became apparent that Les Americains were ahead of the

Europeans on granite walls. The locals [Europeans] were in awe of the

technological wizardry, and American chrome-moly pitons commanded a high

price in Chamonix. Before long Europeans adopted many of the Yosemite big

wall innovations." (Jones, p. 363)


Roper closes his story by describing his general departure from Yosemite

climbing in 1971: "The relative solitude of Camp 4 had given way to the

crowded conditions of Sunnyside, the renamed camp. Thus the early 70's, to

my mind, signal the end of a special era of Valley climbing." (Roper, pp.


It must be realized that "Sunnyside" was and still is viewed by most

climbers as Camp 4. The name really did not change because a bureaucrat

decided to offer a new name and paint it on a sign. No uniformed mandarin

was able to destroy any of the history or the lore or the magic or the

memory of eras gone by. Kevin Worrall writes in Climbing Magazine of

May-June 1994,

"Camp 4 will never again be the community it was in its heyday, and I feel

fortunate to have lived there so easily during such an exciting and

historic era. It's much more difficult now for a young climber with

limited financial resources to really get to know Yosemite. The changes

imposed on Camp 4 and Yosemite's climbers by the National Park Service are

an example of their misunderstanding of climbers and the essence of our

sportà. Yosemite Valley is the cradle of American climbing, and the

undefeatable spirit that was nurtured here is as strong as ever among the

boulders of Camp 4." (Climbing Magazine, p. 152)


Regarding Royal's new route on Half Dome in 1969, Gary Arce writes,

"It was fitting that Royal Robbins should complete a demanding new Half

Dome route at the end of the Golden Age. His 1957 ascent of the Northwest

Face had opened the era, and Tis-sa-ack [another Half Dome route] would be

the closing chapter. The Age had come full circle.

"In the short span of twelve years, Yosemite climbers advanced from

youthful mountaineers to the best rock climbers in the world. They were a

rag-tag assortment of serious thinkers and whimsical jokers, but the routes

they established would come to be revered in the climbing community.

Drawing strength and inspiration from their predecessors, these climbers

were able to accomplish routes of unbelievable length, severity, and

elegance. But even as they pushed ahead, they had a clear sense of where

Yosemite's climbing heritage had come from. Personal challenge and

adventure were what drew them to the sport, and the familiar Valley walls

always seemed to offer something new.

"With each bold step forwardùfrom the ascent of the Northwest Face, to the

Nose, the Salathe Wall, the North America Wall, the Muir Wallùtheir

techniques and philosophies revolutionized the sport. The methods and

attitudes developed in the Valley would soon have a major effect on how

climbers applied their skills." (Arce, pp. 77-78)


As far back as the American Alpine Journal, of 1963, Yvon Chouinard wrote,

"Yosemite Valley will, in the near future, be the training ground for a new

generation of super-alpinists who will venture forth to the high mountains

of the world to do the most aesthetic and difficult walls on the face of

the earth."


Recent decades have verified that Chouinard's vision was on target. In

Camp 4 in recent years, English is just one among many languages spoken.

The climbers that now come to "mecca" are just the tip of the iceberg

compared to those who want to come and those who will come.

Among all the varieties of spirits and nationalities that now congregate

in Camp 4, are those climbers who go to the rescue of climbers. The

"rescue site," a group of camps within Camp 4, is where the rangers turn

(and have turned since the 1960's) when they need the true expertise and

help necessary to bring someone in trouble off a Yosemite wall. Countless

times, over and again, the rescuers of Camp 4, many of whom are among the

world's elite, such as Jim Bridwell or Peter Croft, have risen to the

challenge on a moment's notice and saved livesàmany lives. These climbers

are real life heroes, and the evolution of their skills has produced

state-of-the-art rescue techniques. Some of the most dramatic, and simply

amazing, rescues ever performed in the world have occurred in Yosemite.

This will speak of the importance of climbers to each other but also should

prove the value of climbers to the National Park Service.

In the early days of Camp 4, there were no rescue services. A serious

accident on a big wall was just thatùa most serious situation, and there

were few (if any) climbers with abilities far reaching enough to aid in

such a rescue on a big wall. Thus one can sense the commitment required of

those early days, the dread seriousness and responsibility involved in

beginning a big wall. That mystique has never lessened, even in the face

of today's high standards of ability. The many adventures of the early

pioneers, combined with the many rescues through later years, add up to

important history and a kind of folklore all its own that very much adds to

the story of Yosemite. Indeed the folklore of climbing in general, much of

it centered in and around Camp 4, is as valuable as any aspect of the

history of Yosemite.


The Ongoing Pilgrimage

For today's climbers to gain a sense of their heritage, it is important for

them to return not only to their routes but to their roots. In America,

and the world, the look backward historically takes the eye, heart, and

mind right to Camp 4, as though blown there by the wind, and to the

pioneers, the great heroes, the legends who early ventured from their home

base campground onto the most difficult and aesthetic routes known in the

world. In this process, and isolated in their Valley home, climbers of

exceptional individuality developed new techniques, specialized equipment,

and a pure ethicùwhich would become the worldwide model. Camp 4 became and

remains "the home place." Visiting climbers will think of staying nowhere

else. It is part of the pilgrimage to stay in Camp 4 and, in some sense,

to live as the pioneers and become a part of that history.

Yosemite's Golden Age on the big walls was followed in quick succession by

a renaissance in free climbing and bouldering, as small cadres of dedicated

climbers continued to raise the standards of Yosemite climbing. Many

climbers now come to Yosemite just to try themselves against the free

climbing test pieces or the classic boulder problems. Many of the world's

free climbing test pieces are located in Yosemite, and names such as Pratt,

Bridwell, Kauk, Barber, Bachar, Croft, and Hill, and visitors such as

Gulich, Moffat, and Moon will long be remembered.

Now, decades later, in the 1990's, the Nose remains the most famous and

sought-after climb in the world, followed by the Salathe Wall. Examples of

free climbing test pieces that are known far and wide include the runout

classic Bachar-Yerrian and the milestone Phoenix. One of the two most

famous boulder problems in the world is still Camp 4's Midnight Lightning.

(Kevin Worrall, Climbing Magazine, May 1994, p. 89)

A new generation now begins to inhabit the campground in the persons of

teenagers Chris Sharma and Tommy Caldwell. These lads are representative

of a new wave of American climbers whose abilities equal any on earth.

They are true athletes in the world-class tradition and carry a banner

passed on by many generations that have occupied their individual and

collective places, sleeping on the ground amid the boulders and the

ponderosa pines in this center place for rock climbing worldwide.




Camp 4 has been a vital, living domain of Yosemite from 1941 to the present

(the Camp was actually designated as a camp as far back as 1906, according

to a U.S. Department of Interior report in 1987 by Linda Wedel Greene).

The capital features of Camp 4's history are all the constructs of not only

the Park Service and the renowned climbers who have left an aura there but

the Master Craftsmen, and they remain perfectly in tact. And not only does

Camp 4's integrity meet the 50-year criteria, but the site isùas the above

treatise should showùof exceptional importance.

To be determined eligible for listing on the National Register, districts,

sites, buildings, structures, and objects must "possess integrity of

location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and

association" and must underà

Criterion Aù"be associated with events that have made a significant

contribution to the broad patterns of our history." This is met. Climbing

is a broadly based activity and one of the fastest growing sports in

America, enhanced by the explosive growth of indoor climbing. (1997 State

of the Industry Report, Outdoor Recreation Coalition of America, p. 11).

There are an estimated 7.5 million rock climbing participants in America,

two million of which (1 percent of the population) are considered

enthusiasts who account for 78% of the total days rock climbing. The total

sales of technical climbing equipment in 1996 were $108,200,000. (1997

State of the Industry Report, p. 17). Beyond this broad participation,

many additional Americans have a keen interest in the sport. In El Cap

meadow, astonished climb-watchers far outnumber the climbers doing

pendulums or struggling up difficult new terrain. Interest is evidenced at

the El Capitan meadow stop of the Valley floor tour by the rapt attention

given to the guide as he exclaims, "I'd like to say they are not crazy,

folks, they just like to enjoy the beauty of the park." (Overheard by Tom

Frost, in Yosemite, October 1997).

Certainly the Yosemite Mountain Shop is a thriving business and contributes

to the interests of the Valley concessionaires. And a simple walk into

that shop will enable one to realize that literature on the subject of

climbing is in abundance. Widespread interest is evidenced by the millions

who have read the current No. 1 best sellers about the Mt. Everest climb.

The development of rock climbing, stories and history of how it has come to

be what it is today, and the way it is practiced, appeal more and more to

the world's readers. And the broad popularity of rock climbing in America

and worldwide is proof of a huge influenceùeven a revolution. For this

revolution to have taken place, to have begun, right in Yosemite and Camp

4, is more than significant. It is not only a history of a real people and

some true artists but represents a very, very important contribution to the

way things are in the worldùto the shaping of actions and

thoughtsùliterally the lifestylesùof millions of Americans and countless

others around the world.

Criterion Bù"be associated with the lives of persons significant in our

past." The persons named in this history suffice. They are world-class

athletes, artists of the art of climbing, and pioneers par excellence.

They are among the greatest individuals in the world, and their influence

extends beyond the immediate experience of climbing. David Brower is the

most influential American conservationist in the second half of the

century. Ray Jardine invented spring-loaded cam devices that

revolutionized rock climbing protection. The address he used on his patent

application was General Delivery, Yosemite National Park. He was a Camp 4

resident (or "bum"), one of those Bohemian in appearance who in fact was

simply looking for a constructive and purposeful place in life. He found

it. Yvon Chouinard is always a great innovator. The climbing equipment

business Chouinard founded, now called Black Diamond, employs 250.

Chouinard's line of Patagonia clothing is equally well known throughout the

world. If you have fleece hanging in your closet, the connection runs

directly to Camp 4. Galen Rowell is respected throughout the professional

photographic industry as one of the finest wilderness photographers in

America. Brower, Bedayan, Leonard, Lyppman, and Robinson's training of

10th Mountain Division Troops made a difference in the Italian

campaignùwhich was one of the smoothest running of the war. Royal Robbins

is world famous and not only an internationally successful clothing

entrepreneur but a highly respected contributor to communities and lives.

Many other one-time Camp 4 legends have made their name in the world:

David Breashears, for example, has gained international fame for his

ascents, rescues, and film work on Mt. Everest. And so on and so on. It

is very easy for a single observer to say, with cheaply flowing words, that

such individuals are not significant in our past, but such a statement

lacks all of the foundation that bears up the tower that is the truth.

Criterion Cù"embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or

method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that

possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and

distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction."

The significant elements of Camp 4 not only represent the work of many true

masters of an art but also The Master. Consider a black oak. Or the

flawless, streaked granite and intimidating overhangs of the boulders

dotting the site. Moss and lichen grow on the trees and rock. Air blows

through the pinesà. The work is perfectly fashioned for the purpose

intended and for the legacy it was to leave. As for "artistic values," as

the criterion mentions, climbing itself has always been more artistic than

it is a sport. Suited so well to individual implementation and expression,

those with the flair of an artist have found their way in rock climbing and

painted the canvas of gorgeous granite with their own slants on life amid

sunlight and storm. Climbing technique not only requires the precision

selection of strokes but is akin to the artistry of the gymnastùrequiring

grace, balance, exactness, hours-months-years of severe trainingà. What

the climbing artists give to their art is no small matter. It is

dedication of the highest order, with very life and safety dependent upon

the degree to which the art is mastered. Unrau does notùor is not able

toùrecognize the mastery expressed in climbing, or the true masters and who

they were. Nor is he apparently inclined to know their artùwhich is every

bit as great as any produced in the world. Unrau would likely have spurned

the Bohemian art of Greenwich Village or written off Picasso, orùas the

Spaniards didùpersecute and defame El Greco. It would be an interesting

lesson for Unrau (or any uneducated observer) to simply attemptùeven with

the safety of a top-ropeùChuck Pratt's crack The Twilight Zone. If ever

there was a work of art, and not just art, but art of a combined physical,

mental, spiritual, and creative nature, the horrendous, steep crack of The

Twilight Zone should suffice as a small example.

Criterion Dù"have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important

in prehistory or history." Gettysburg is a historical siteùhowever plain

and open it may appear to tourists and however mean and roughly hewn some

of the participants were who suicidally ran and shot at each other there

with rifles. More than any other site of its type in the world, Camp 4 has

yielded and continues to yield more information of more importance to our

history than any other. It may well be the scene of greatest significance

in all of grand alpinism, exceeding places of renown such as Chamonix. Nor

is it rivaled in any measure by the beautiful Jenny Lake campground and

bouldering area in the Tetons, another famous location central to

mountaineering history.


The significance of Camp 4 is precisely historical. Rock climbing is the

foundation of it, and Yosemite Valley is the crucible.