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Extreme Art: Rock Climbers as Emerson's American Poet

Submitted by maculated on 2004-03-28

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It’s a hard-knock life for a rock climber. Eager college students travel in their ramshackle vehicles for hours or days at a time to get a fix of the rock they crave; corporate executives will nurse bruised bones and egos throughout the work week; old men look up to great sandstone walls and dream of more spry days. There are the weekend warriors with their expensive brand-name pants and hats; there’s the gym plastic-pulling wannabes; and don’t forget the posturing boyfriends with their pretty girlfriends breaking manicured nails. Some are responding to a highly addictive adrenaline high; some respond to the societal pressures to be “extreme” or “tough” and find their solace by plugging mechanics into stone cleavage. You see climbing in commercials for MasterCards and deodorants, there are gyms in every major US city, and cars are being sold with caribiner features to up their outdoorsy appeal. Climbing is beginning to exhibit the same type of rise in popularity that yoga and chiropractors have seen in the last twenty years.

To many, this increase in the climbing population is a travesty. Too few individuals taking up climbing take the time to learn respect for their predecessors, striving for harder and harder goals with the help of safer and more efficient equipment instead of valuing the lessons that come with a lifetime spent in the company of fellow rock scalers. There are still many, however, who remember what climbing was all about before the surge in its popularity, but those who do are growing fewer every day. Climbing at one time was an adventure, a dream, a way to escape, it satisfied an intangible need. Many climbers today climb for exercise or to tackle some sort of goals, but there is also another, very different, set of climbers. These climbers live in Volkswagen Vans, dig through grocery store garbage bins for expired breads, and travel the country searching for adventure and soul mates. For these dedicated individuals there is a Mecca: Yosemite National Park. The history of United States climbing can be pinpointed to every ascent, scuffle, and beer downed in Yosemite National Park from 1869, when John Muir became the first ascentionist of Cathedral Peak in Tuolumne Meadows to the present day, where climbers are still pioneering new routes and trying to break speed records on established ones (Roper 18).

While the history of rock climbing spans more than a hundred years to date, many climbers fondly look back to what is referred to in Camp 4 by Steve Roper as the “Golden Age” of climbing, the years between 1947 and 1970 (12-14). It is during this time that the true pioneering of rock climbing was happening, in the days before harnesses, airline-grade aluminum, rubber-soled shoes, and synthetic fiber dynamic ropes. These men sucked it up, tied the rope around their waists, rammed nails into their shank boots, and tried like hell not to fall. In the days before commercial sponsors and corporate guiding services, they weren’t out to impress anybody but themselves. Most of them were bored, nerdy Cal Berkeley undergrads looking to do something that set them apart from their mainstream roots. Many had a wanderlust they couldn’t satisfy with a cause they were unable to pin down. They simply knew that the real world of the era they were in wasn’t calling to them.

These adventurers found solace in the pine forests of Camp 4 in Yosemite Valley, in the alpine waters of the Merced, and the narrow ledges eight hundred feet from the ground below. As they began to feel the influence of the life of nature and solitude, they began to realize something else about this life they found themselves living. It seems inevitable that while dangling from two anchors of metal and cloth, soaking wet, hungry, thirsty, and scared, climbers would find a strange sort of solace in the suffering of it all. In a passage from the novel, Looking for Mo, Daniel Duane shows his characters pondering the point of their dilemma:

“Think we’re having an actual experience?”
“You mean, like art where you could get hurt?” (212)

Sometimes it takes climbers years to acknowledge the effects that a climbing lifestyle brings with it, but once they become aware of the visions they receive through their deliberate choices to stop making climbing a sport and more a lifestyle, something magical happens: climbing stops being a diversion and starts becoming a search, a search for truth, for meaning, for life. [page] Ralph Waldo Emerson says in his essay, Nature, “In the woods we return to reason and faith” (24). Henry David Thoreau took this to heart when he sequestered himself at Walden Pond and wrote Walden as a response to his experiences. Upon a complete read of the account, the reader may feel that, while Thoreau may have had some sort of epiphany leading to a greater understanding of his place in the world, he/she also gets a sense of the incompleteness of this vision. Rather than exhibiting a self-conscious episode that leads to a blinding flash of the Truth, Thoreau leaves Walden Pond eager to return to the secular world he left behind. Emerson’s vision for the American poet implies that simply gaining some insight and leaving it behind is not enough – one must actively make use of, and seek to continue such epiphany with the help of nature.

While the percentage of rock climbing devotees who are aware of Emerson’s tenets is relatively small (we will explore one such climber soon enough), many climbers come to the same conclusion to which Emerson directs his audience. Those who truly grasp the point of the vision they are given while steeped in nature are then spurred on, as Thoreau was, to make record of it and share it with their contemporaries. Whereas Thoreau falters in his hypothesis that nature can incite change in humanity, the big wall climbers of Yosemite Valley’s Golden Age succeed, in effect making them a valid answer to Emerson’s call for the Great American Poet.

But just what is the point of a “Great American Poet?” In Plato’s Republic, Socrates states that which does not get us closer to the truth is something of worthless value. He claimed that artisans were disposable in this regard, appearing in the guise of imitators: “The imitator is a long way off the truth, and can reproduce all things because he lightly touches on a small part of them, and that part an image”(32). In his theory of the Ideal, the heavens have one form that fits an ideal and all others in tangible existence are merely copies. Socrates argues that the only way to the Truth is through Reason, all other faculties must be put aside. And while it is this ideal Truth that Romantic artists are seeking, they are different from those that precede them in that they are believers in self-inspiration rather than attempting to circumvent Reason in favor of the divinity that in theory lies within. Emerson’s goal, as is the goal of the poet-philosophers before him, is to seek that which is virtuous and therefore closest to God. Both Emerson and Plato wanted to get away from the “lightly touching” that such crafting would entail, and both end up going about it in the same way, though Emerson believed that poets differ “from the philosopher only herein, that one proposes Beauty as his main end; the other Truth” (47). Not concerned so much with factual or empirical Truth, Emerson stated, “Beauty is the mark God sets upon virtue” (28). Though Plato encouraged the exploration of Truth on an individual level (that each man should study until the understanding comes), Emerson felt that this consideration would be better communicated through sharing the process of realizing Beauty through the form of creation, what Plato would have regarded as imitation. This creation would then make the individuals who were witness to it that much more virtuous, and thus understand a greater sense of the beautiful. Emerson felt that what was paramount to finding the beautiful was the discovery that an individual understood their role as “part or parcel of God” (25). Emerson’s take was that we go through our lives clouded by day to day existence and fail to see the beauty within. Climbers enjoy a bit of respite from this while on the rock, but usually fail to pin down the experience. Duane explains it in his book through the character of Raffi: “The soul’s always blissful . . . but it’s covered by the body, like the sun’s covered by clouds, so you think; ‘Now I’m suffering; now I’m happy, now I’m an American, now I’m a stool-eating hog.’ You see how the coverings are? So you get that little blissfulness when you climb” (156). What Duane is attempting to show and what the Romantic authors are seeking is a concept of the effects of Beauty on individuals crusted over by day to day society. Based on his epiphanic experiences, Emerson came to believe that once an individual discovered their own divinity (that blissfulness, he argued, was a sense of the God within); it became doubly easy to see the divinity in the rest of the world. He claimed that in nature an individual would have a direct connection to the divinity within and around him or her. The concept of this direct connection is something I will call “namaste.” Namaste is a Sanskrit word that can be translated into “I bow to the divine in you.” In essence, when an individual is aware of the “godness” within, they are better able to appreciate the “godness” without, as well, which follows perfectly with Emerson’s description of the kind of power such an experience has over an individual with a sense of namaste. It is the search for this sort of understanding that drove Thoreau out into the woods by Walden Pond, and “if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion”(61). The theory behind all of this was: if one can discover the namaste, one should also be able to then discern Pure Reason (that is, the theoretical truth that Plato was out to claim). The poet’s role, then, for Emerson, was one of interlocutor: between the individual and divinity, the poet was to insert himself and facilitate enlightenment of others. If one can facilitate the enlightenment of others, then the world will then grow by leaps and bounds into an enlightened – and therefore Beauty-loving – society. [page] In “Nature,” Emerson calls out to the poet who can fulfill the needs of one who understands the concepts of namaste. He calls for a man of beauty – one who can surpass average man and stand to the end of time. He calls for a man without impediment – one with a clear vision and zero obstacles preventing him from reaching that vision: “A man is fed, not that he may be fed, but that he may work”(26). He gives the power of “namer” to this man – one who is part and parcel with the divine making nature his own through the process of art: “Art is applied to the mixture of his will with the same things [nature], as in a house, a canal, a statue, a picture”(22). And finally, he gives the power of liberation to this poet. If a poet serves successfully as interlocutor, he will have become the liberating god that is able to communicate the power of namaste to the masses. Thoreau takes all of these ideas and heads off to Walden, hoping to gain some insight into the namaste that Emerson describes. He says, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived” (61). Although the resulting work is fairly expansive, and Thoreau does an excellent job communicating natural beauty with his attempt to convey this concept to future generations, he misses out on some key aspects of Emerson’s process to namaste. By “living deliberately,” that is, by living with a specific purpose in mind, Thoreau is essentially watching the pot boil. Sitting around and wondering, “Is anything happening yet?” could conceivably negate the epiphany that would be waiting around the bend. In Emerson’s account, a specific event brought him the essence of namaste: “Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration” (24). The omission of a feeling of exhilaration which Thoreau does not appear to convey in Walden is certainly a clue to the failure of his experiment, but he also is missing out on a key part of Emerson’s experience: that of non-intent. Emerson was just meandering along when beauty struck him. Thoreau may have been disappointed by his experiment because he was too busy doing just that: experimenting. If the key is to not actively search for something, then why don’t more common people stumble upon such experiences of happenstance? The key is in the awareness of a deeper possibility of the individual’s influences. Climbers do have a sense of the larger aspects of their undertakings; in Duane’s Looking for Mo, he describes the draw of the big climb: “El Cap belonged right up there in the same cosmic top ten – the same ontological short list – as the Hagia Sophia, Joyce’s Ulysses, the hypothetical tenth planet, continental subjection zones, and well, you get the point. It counted” (135). It’s the knowledge of that something more that leads to awareness of namaste. Climbers may not know from where those stirrings come, but what’s more important is that they are able to recognize that whatever it is – it counts.

It is hard to prove the existence of a process of something so subjective, although the case can be made that poet-climbers (for purposes of clarity, from this point on, “climbers” presupposes this sort of climber and not the weekend-warrior type) are subject to the powers of namaste because they live the sort of lives that Emerson envisioned as being conducive to opening the channels of awareness. As introduced earlier, the truly dedicated climbers are the ones that eventually give up their nine-to-five life in order to satisfy some innate need to commune with nature through the ascent of its rock formations. The process is slow, yet it is not quite deliberate. In his novel, Looking for Mo, Daniel Duane expresses the first step through his character, Ray:

I’d recently developed a problem with staring at people – probably from trying to figure out how the hell they lived their lives. How they woke up every morning and just did it. Without regret. Without grinding their teeth or shaking with the strange feeling that they were meant to be someplace else, doing something else. (6)

This sentiment can best be applied to Thoreau’s description of “quiet desperation” (5). While much of the population resigns itself to this feeling, climbers begin their process of namaste by recognizing the feeling of unrest that the rest of the world seems to happily ignore in favor of stability and comfort. Climbers, once aware of their desperation, will then feel that they must take steps to discover its source. Ray exhibits what could casually be described as “whiny desperation” which is a healthy sign in the emerging poet.

During the Golden Age of rock climbing, climbers began to answer the call of nature and begin to experiment with giving up the trappings of conventional society. They gave up their jobs and schoolwork and began taking up residence in the campgrounds of Yosemite Valley: Life was cheap in the Valley: one didn’t pay camp fees, didn’t need any shelter bedsides a flimsy tent, and didn’t even think of suits and ties. One had no real need for a car, or insurance policies, or haircuts. If one cooked in camp, in lieu of grabbing a burger at nearby Yosemite Lodge, a dollar a day would suffice. (Roper 84)

These resident climbers were mostly men. More and more women are now taking their cues from the guys, but in general, even the subject of relationships is rarely breached. Most relationships involving resident climbers are purely sexual gratification rather than emotional, parting amicably and leaving the climber to his or her own devices. These unfettered climbers aren’t doing anything different than Thoreau attempted at Walden, but they chose to allow themselves even more Spartan accoutrements: tents rather than cabins, camp stove versus heating, etc. What is even more pertinent, however, is that rather than following a model with an expected reward at the end, climbers make the choice to live without impediment solely because their poet-souls call them to do so. [page] An integral part of Emerson’s theory of attaining namaste is poet-as-namer. He states: “That which was unconscious truth, becomes, when interpreted and defined in an object, a part of the domain of knowledge, - a new weapon in the magazine of power” (36). While Thoreau tackled this through empirical methods, cataloguing, measuring, and analyzing whatever was within reach, climbers apply this naming in two very different ways. The first of these is creating an activity-specific lexicon. has a list of 234 distinct words that are climbing-specific. Feeling nervous about putting your foot on a pendulous hold? Don’t “sketch.” Climbing through moss, lichen, and generally dealing with plant obstacles that haven’t been cleaned by previous ascents? What a “mungy” route! Building an anchor that you think could take just about anything you throw at it? That’s quite a “bomber” anchor. Need a little information about something? Ask for the “beta.” ( Some of these words are so specific that a climber may find that no other word can suffice in an everyday conversation with non-climbers. Another way in which climbers find words to describe their experience is through the traditional naming of routes; guidebooks filled with route drawings and distinctions are chock full of poetics. Climbers don’t stop at naming an area; they name the rock formation itself, any routes that might be on the rock, and even specific features along each route. The power of names can affect the time someone has on a route, some routes have scary death-related names, others have drug-related, and others simply reflect the spirit of the ascent. For an example of a well-named route, Steve Roper’s Camp 4, cites “Wyoming Sheep Ranch” on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley contains named ledges (Calaveras Ledge, Sheepalope Bivy, and Wooly Box Bivy) and features (Welcome to Wyoming, Gumbie’s Gallows, Cattle Prod Pillar, Ewe-Phoria, Liz is Tight, and Home on the Range). (Big Walls 84) These names came with a particular experience the first ascentionists of the climb were trying to convey: Slater and Barbella were tired of the grim names associated with dangerous leads on El Cap routes. They renamed the Psycho Killer pitch to Welcome to Wyoming and continued the sheep theme when naming pitches and bivies for the rest of the climb. They also brought along a variety of sheep paraphernalia. A deer skull was left at the Sheepalope Bivy; a sheep doll placed at the Wooly Box Bivy; a double-headed dildo was left on the Cattle Prod pillar. Randy Leavitt contributed this last item as he knew “that Slater’s rack for the route was a dildo short.” (84)

It is a proud climbing tradition to name routes according to inspiration, and if you’ve got a climbable rock anywhere nearby, chances are it has a name. This tradition comes from rock climbing’s roots in mountaineering: for centuries, alpinists have peaked mountains and laid claim to them by naming them according to their intent. The power of naming can be traced back to the dawning of man, Adam being given dominion over nature by naming all that he sees. This same owning the language of nature makes the climber more open to that flash of epiphany that Thoreau misses with his attempts to claim nature through science.

While Thoreau was spending a good deal of time working out the details of Emerson’s ideas of the kind of discipline it takes to meditate upon namaste, he fails yet again. Emerson says, “Space, time, society, labor, climate, food, locomotion, the animals, the mechanical forces, give us sincerest lessons, day by day, whose meaning is unlimited. They educate both the Understanding and the Reason” (36-37). Thoreau does a marvelous job as he catalogues each of these aspects in the account of his time at Walden Pond, devoting a chapter or more to each influence, but nowhere do we see this deliberate study revealing the kind of beauty Emerson is out to share. Climbers, on the other hand, experience (but do not catalogue) each of these aspects for the simple reason of survival. A climber committing him or herself to a day, perhaps a week, on the face of a rock must be intimately aware of the logistics of time versus consumption of goods versus likelihood of rats chewing through unguarded ropes. Those that have worked their way up 3,000 vertical feet over the space of a week or more know very much the costs of labor and locomotion, much less the mechanical forces involved in their ascent, and it is during this space of time that begins the process of namaste awareness: “There’s nowhere to go but up on a big wall, and the tasks at hand are totally absorbing. Day after day, you think of nothing but climbing, dealing with ropes, and getting to your bivouac ledge before dark. It gives life the kind of comfortable plot that normal existence never has” (Duane 36). This process of not-thought is what begins the sort of discourse that leads up to the epiphanic moment of namaste. Often climbers will experience namaste in times of dire straits: situations they’ve gotten themselves into in the name of fun. Interestingly enough, since it tends to come right after a particularly harrowing episode, this also directly reflects Emerson’s description of the epiphany, “I am glad to the brink of fear” (24). In Looking for Mo, Ray and Mo are stranded under a rocky roof formation in the middle of a storm, soaking wet, hypothermic, hungry, and most importantly scared. The morning after, as they wake in their soggy sleeping bags, Ray looks around:

The way those first astronauts wept at our small blue planet’s beauty, I saw at last a bonsai California . . . Eventually felt dry through and through, stood with shirt off on the ledge and walked up and down, feeling reborn. Saw clearly crystals in the granite that I’d always known were there but had needed four days of constant scrutiny and the spaciness of this complete yang deficit to truly appreciate – salt-and-pepper scatterings of feldspar, hornblende, and mica bonded at the earth’s core, the billions of little parts making the whole, the whole maybe, just maybe, big enough to actually count. (218)

Though this is a fictional account, this book is popular in climbing circles for the truths it presents. Every climber, given the dedication and bravery, will experience one or many of such moments. When suddenly a veil is lifted, the clarity of the climber’s place in the world is obvious: a perfect counterpart to Emerson’s vision of being “part or parcel of God.”

Just what the climber is inspired to do with an understanding of namaste becomes particularly interesting from an academic perspective. One famous climbing pioneer, Royal Robbins, felt himself pressed to understand the namaste he was experiencing and “He was deeply influenced by Emerson’s masterpiece, Self-Reliance. . . Royal had become convinced that the surest path to success in life lay in the development of character and spirit, and the best way to acquire such attributes was through an adherence to timeless principles”(Ament 177). A close read of “Self Reliance” will reveal the last lines read: “Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles” (168). Royal brought this lesson and other Emersonian ideals (along with other great works) into the realm of climbing which made him famous for his ethics. Battles rage on today about the prudence of placing bolts that aren’t necessary, and it is Robbins that led the camp against such practice. He is still looked to today as an example of the proper sort of ethical climber. His understanding of namaste and the insistence of Emerson helped Robbins shaped his life’s meaning into a “desire to encourage people to have more confidence in their abilities and to believe in their worth, to set their goals higher” (Ament 276). Though Robbins is the only documented case of deliberately taking up the Romantic’s ideals, the spirit of interlocutor is not lost on climbers who have not read his works. [page] While the vast majority of climbers tend to come from the ranks of engineers or scientists – traditionally favoring Reason over Understanding – they feel the inevitable need to write about their experiences. In the early 1960s, when these climbers were becoming aware of what was happening around them, they manifested their burgeoning poetics through silly limericks. These climbing pioneers would spend a good deal of time penning them to make fun of each other’s flaws. Roper’s Camp 4 has a good offering of such limericks, this from an account of Eric Beck’s fall and subsequent need for pins to be inserted into his fractured arm:

A climber named Beck was wrecked
Low on the North Buttress Direct.
Alas poor Eric; he’s now part ferric,
And his season, we’re afraid, is fekked. (162)

What starts out as jocular good fun continues to snowball, and we are currently in a very literary part of climbing history. As the older generations age, they begin to reminisce and put out a healthy collection of climbing history books, which the modern day climber has begun to treasure – seeing it as a way to hold on to the adventurous spirit of days gone by. A search for “rock climbing history” at yields over 35,000 results. Web sites and newsgroups on the Internet have devoted large chunks of space to trip reports, and there are four mainstream climbing magazines available on newsstands in the U.S. alone.

Many hobbies have their own trade journals, but very few focus on the spiritual and salient elements of the hobby’s effect on those who practice it. One of these is “Alpinist,” a journal cataloging the climbing lifestyle past and present, whose mission statement is: “We believe in sinker jams high off the deck, a bomber nut, the crescent moon, your partner’s whoop, sand-washing the fry pan, road trips, one-swing sticks, remembering to breathe, alpine starts (more for the alpenglow than the early hour), espresso in the desert, the plungestep, PB&J on tortillas, lenticular cloudcaps, rest days, the focus of a runout, a cold beer at the end of it all. If you believe in these things too, join us.” It has become the home of some of the finest adventure writing anywhere. When it came to define what exactly a climber was, Yvon Chouinard put it best: “If at times I hate [Yosemite Valley], it is probably because I love it so. It is a strange, passionate love that I feel for this Valley. More than just a climbing area, it is a way of life” (Roper, 168). This recognition of the kind of dedication a climber must make to fully exact the meaning of what comes upon him or her as the ascents increasingly affect the individual’s outlook on life, spurring on the namaste effect – which is much like Plato’s allegory of the cave: once you know the truth after coming out of the darkness, you cannot keep it from the others. According to Roper, in 1962, when the first journal was formed, climbing pioneers began to submit accounts of their first ascents – what are commonly referred to now as trip reports – and “Interestingly, the last sentences of the three climbing articles were similar. It is difficult indeed to close out a climbing account: one has to say something about the meaning of it all.” Climbing, for these Yosemite Valley - Valley residents, was a way of life, and this way of life, “an absolute truth.” (Roper 168)

Alternately, instead of writing, some climbers take that flash of Beauty and run with it – it becomes their source of life. These are the climbers you’ll find traversing the country in Volkswagen Westphalia vans or pick-up trucks with camper tops, sitting by a campfire at night and recounting the day’s climb with a continually renewing excitement. These individuals come from normal backgrounds: promising college graduates, advertising executives, starry-eyed high school students. The namaste, however, creates an addiction for them, and while the prior inkling of wanderlust may have occurred in the secular world, it becomes all the more important when steeped in the understanding that they are a part of something great. Many take up yoga or Eastern religion to make sense of the feelings they are experiencing. These particular individuals refer to themselves as “free spirits.” They flit about, never rooting too long in one place, never forming permanent, intimate relationships – they see the divine in everything they touch and that is quite enough to get them by. The “free spirits” manage to slough off the worries of the world and live life in a way they imagine is unfettered and positive.

Those in the middle of these two extremes – non-writers but also those unwilling to give up the trappings and comforts of life full-time – find their need to share the namaste through the people they touch. These are the old-time climbers that take out the ingénues, teach them to tie knots and pick up trash, and while they’re at it, facilitate their protégés’ discovery of the namaste. After a hard day of climbing, unwinding with a beer and a slice of pizza, these climbers will really get to talking about the issues of the day, and through discourse they facilitate the same sorts of ideas that the free spirits live daily and that writers ink enthusiastically.

Once the climber grasps namaste, and finds a way to share it (nomadic climbing life experience, writing, or encouraging ‘brink of fear’ episodes by simply partnering up on a climb and talking about it later), like Thoreau, the climber must eventually step away from the experience at some point in life. It is enough that the namaste as been achieved; living out of a tent in a dirty campsite for eighty years is simply not a sustainable way of life. As people age, they inherently deign to take on more responsibility in the form of lovers, children, and means. But, though they must return to a life far removed from the one in their precious valley, climbers still feel the effects of namaste, as Roger May expresses in the Alpinist: “There’s a common thread in those big, wild places, one that I feel a part of. Though I’m no longer there, I’m still connected . . . even if it’s from behind my desk” (52).

From the days of Plato to the present, one thing remains clear – the inherent need to discover the Truth in all its forms and, once discovered, to share it. Though traditionally writing has been viewed as a craft which must be learned to be appreciated and produce quality literature, there have been a few wunderkinder that were noteworthy because of the seeming genius backing up the works of an ‘uneducated’ author. If it can be proved that quality literature (quality being defined by the grasp of Beauty and the sense of its importance being communicated through the work with an aim to change humanity for the better) can arise through the inadvertency of a select group of climbing enthusiasts out to enjoy a sunny day – certainly there are other ways to come to the realization of namaste and the ways it manifests itself. Though climbing literature will never become part of the academic literary canon, its aims are similar in that it does convey to its readers the greater sense of self and purpose. While most of today’s more revered climbing literature revolves around what has happened in the past, for the sole purpose of preserving history, the inherent messages about the Beauty in nature are clear. Steve Roper closes his account with a fond farewell to the Golden Age at Camp 4, “The solitude, the feeling of doing something unique, the naïve excitement, the ‘sacred’ aspects of climbing – all are gone. If we older climbers mourn this, then let us remember that each generation can – and will – enjoy its own special age” (233). Roper shares the sentiments that climbing is bigger than merely adventure and history. His admission allows each new generation of climber to discover that climbing has something to give us all in its own way: namaste. Works Cited Ament, Pat. Royal Robbins: Spirit of the Age. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 1998. Duane, Daniel. Looking for Mo. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1998. Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Nature.” Selections from Ralph Waldo Emerson Ed. Stephen E. Whicher. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1957. 21-56. Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Self Reliance.” Selections from Ralph Waldo Emerson Ed. Stephen E. Whicher. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1957. 147-168. May, Roger. “Urban Hunter.” The Alpinist 2 (2003): 52. McNamara, Chris. Yosemite Big Walls: Supertopos. San Francisco: Supertopo, 2000. Roper, Steve. Camp 4: Recollections of a Yosemite Rockclimber. Seattle: The Mountaineers, 1994. Thoreau, Henry D. “Walden.” Walden and Resistance to Civil Government 2nd Edition. Ed. William Rossi. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1992.

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