History of Rock Climbing

  • @jgill - I went straight to that chapter the other night and realized that you are mentioned in the footnotes , regarding an email exchange you had with the author in 2014, that chapter was a pretty interesting read.

  • My old friend Jim McCarthy is leading an effort to record on video old timers who were in the climbing game before they vanish from Earth. Jim led the AAC in the 1960s when he was a trial attorney in NYC, and he has been very involved with the organization since. Unfortunately, some of us in this generation - layton, Royal, etc. - are or were fading or have passed before being interviewed. This is being done supposedly under the auspices of the AAC, but I'm not sure how much that really means. The AAC seems to be moving in another direction, with grants for kids who like to climb and competitions. I may be entirely off base about this, and if there are AAC officials who can provide a counter-argument, please do so. I dropped out several years ago.

  • @jgill John, I don't know if you know Steve Grossman, but he has been recording that history for many years. He set up a non-profit, The North American Climbing History Archive (NACHA) and has hundreds of hours of video (as well as some audio) of the recollections of the people you are talking about, many of whom are gone now.

    He also has put a significant collection of equipment from the past, and a huge library of books and other printed material, into NACHA.

    I'll be happy to put you in touch with him if you like -- just message me here on this site.

  • Yes, I know Steve through SuperTopo. Unfortunately, his website has never gotten off the ground, although as you say he has hundreds of hours of recordings. They may just be sitting there, stored away somewhere. If he crops up here he could discuss his project. Jim, on the other hand, has sufficient funds available for his expensive enterprise. Hopefully, the AAC will truly buy into it rather than sending out letters soliciting money for youngsters.

  • @jgill Hello John, While I am not always in agreement with the AAC 'powers that be' and some of their policies, I do think that the Club strives to support climbing in many ways. In light of that, it seems reasonable to assume that the Club's support for Jim's project is 'legit'---and I'm sure that Jim still has sufficient 'clout' to make sure it is. I do that that it would be great for Jim , Steve, you--and others, to pool 'historical resources' so that there is a common and accessible repository of such information available to all who are interested--now and in the future.

  • I've sent Steve an email inviting him to chime in if he wants.

  • " In light of that, it seems reasonable to assume that the Club's support for Jim's project is 'legit'---and I'm sure that Jim still has sufficient 'clout' to make sure it is"

    Apart from preserving the finest mountaineering library in the world, I'm not sure where the AAC is going. But you are correct about Jim's clout ☺ .

  • Here's one for all of you who are interested in climbing history. A short film of the first ascent of one of the first desert towers to be climbed. Agathlan, in 1949. Definitely worth watching. And then worth thinking about as you sort your gear for your next climb.


  • Thank you David for sharing the magic! I thought your essay was great and admit that that same sentiment was what motivated me in the past to post TRs on rec.climbing and Supertopo back in the day as well as publish some photos and writing in the climbing mags 20+ years ago.

    I'm curious what issues did David Brower and Galen Rowell have with your talk?

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