Saturday, June 26, 2010

Paul Gagner: Reflections

I grew up in San Jose California. In 1977, as a junior in high school, I was introduced on a family camping trip to the Tetons to climbing and it immediately consumed me. As soon as I returned from that trip I went out and bought a Goldline rope and some chocks and started to teach myself how to climb – there was a lot of trial and error involved, and I was lucky that I didn’t kill myself. Two of the books that I read voraciously and that I could recite verbatim were George Meyer’s Yosemite Climber and Steve Roper’s Climbers Guide to Yosemite.

Yosemite Climber in particular was a seminal book and led to my big wall aspirations that I still hold on to today, 33 years later. I read the stories over and over and imagined myself in the photos, scaling the cracks, faces and walls of Yosemite. As a highly motivated teenager I made frequent pilgrimages to Yosemite – sometimes we would do the 8 hour roundtrip drive as a day trip, and other times I would stay in the valley for months on end. Before I had a
car my mom would drop me off in the valley where I would live in the dirt of Camp 4, like my predecessors, for 3-4 months at a time on $200-300 dollars before mom returned to pick me up. I lived the lifestyle depicted and celebrated in Yosemite Climber where being a dirt bag,scarfing at the cafeteria, canning, and avoiding the “ranger danger” to maximize the experience was intoxicating and powerful.

Even today, when I open Yosemite Climber, it takes me back in time, replete with the sights, and smells of Yosemite in the 70’s and 80’s, where it represents a carefree time in my life, and what was the beginning of a lifelong passion for climbing and the climbing lifestyle. As a teen this aspirational book was as important to stoking the fires of my dreams as any.

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