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Item #: BK2475A-942
PILGRIMS OF THE VERTICAL: YOSEMITE ROCK CLIMBERS AND NATURE AT RISK Joseph E. Taylor III 2010 Hardcover DJ Fine
By Taylor III, Joseph E.
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Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 2010. 384 pp, b/w photos and illustrations, index. Hardcover with dust jacket. Fine

Few things suggest rugged individualism as powerfully as the solitary mountaineer testing his or her mettle in the rough country. Yet the long history of wilderness sport complicates this image. In this surprising story of the premier rock-climbing venue in the United States, Pilgrims of the Vertical offers insight into the nature of wilderness adventure.

From the founding era of mountain climbing in Victorian Europe to present-day climbing gyms, Pilgrims of the Vertical shows how ever-changing alignments of nature, technology, gender, sport, and consumer culture have shaped climbers’ relations to nature and to each other. Even in Yosemite Valley, a premier site for sporting and environmental culture since the 1800s, elite athletes cannot be entirely disentangled from the many men and women seeking recreation and camaraderie.

Following these climbers through time, Joseph Taylor uncovers lessons about the relationship of individuals to groups, sport to society, and nature to culture. He also shows how social and historical contexts influenced adventurers’ choices and experiences, and why some became leading environmental activists—including John Muir, David Brower, and Yvon Chouinard. In a world in which wild nature is increasingly associated with play, and virtuous play with environmental values, Pilgrims of the Vertical explains when and how these ideas developed, and why they became intimately linked to consumerism.

Clear, original, rigorous, and convincing, Pilgrims of the Vertical is like nothing else written on the subject. It represents a huge advance in the history of climbing as a sport and lifestyle. Taylor argues that climbing was always a complex social activity and offers valuable context in which climbers can accurately assess the value and risks of their sport. I believe this book has the ability to alter the way climbing literature is written, and I recommend it with great enthusiasm. - Michael P. Cohen, author of The Pathless Way and The History of the Sierra Club

Well written and highly readable, this narrative history of climbing culture in Yosemite National Park demonstrates the ways in which environmental history can enrich our understanding of climbing. I thoroughly enjoyed it and expect it will find a wide audience of scholars and general readers inside and outside the climbing community. - Kerwin Klein, University of California, Berkeley

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