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Pilgrims of the Vertical: Yosemite Rock Climbers and Nature at Risk Hardcover – November 14, 2010
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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)
Pilgrims of the Vertical (a phrase borrowed from climber-turned-entrepreneur Royal Robbins) is at once a chronicle of how the sport evolved in Yosemite and a fascinating social history that considers climbing in the larger context of American life...For the general reader, the book makes a fine introduction to the history of climbing and Yosemite's special place in its development. (Michael J. Ybarra Wall Street Journal 2010-10-30)
During the second half of the 20th century, Yosemite Valley was the center of development for the sport of rock climbing in North America. Techniques of extreme rock climbing were developed on the rock walls of Yosemite, and modern attitudes toward this high-risk sport were developed by the valley's climbing society...This well-documented book makes a significant contribution to the literature about climbing. (A. Spero Choice 2011-04-01)
Through his examination of rock climbing in Yosemite, Taylor illuminates important shifts in masculinity (and gender relations more broadly), morality, risk, environmental politics, constructions of nationhood, and consumerism that extend well beyond the rock climbing community to tell us something about (principally American) society more broadly. Even this list is not exhaustive, further testifying to Taylor's socio-historical insight...The breadth and depth of Taylor's analysis is impressive...Without a doubt, this book makes valuable contributions to a number of different bodies of literature, both within and beyond the sport history field. I recommend it to readers without reservation. (Jason Laurendeau Journal of Sport History 2011-09-01)
About the Author
Joseph E. Taylor III is Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in History and Geography, Simon Fraser University.
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So, in summary, this is a very good book. But be forewarned it is heavier reading and not really just an entertainment book. Approximately the last 50 pages are cites of research references which is not typical of my entertaining books. Do not take this as a negative; just know what you are getting into. By the end, I enjoyed it very much.
I found this book to be a very interesting social history of Yosemite climbing. It filled in many gaps That I had in my understanding of this fascinating web of charactors and challenges.
I wouldn't call it a gripping page turner but is should be required reading for anybody who has any interest or connection to California climbing.
Taylor pulls no punches in his assement of the main personalities or their motivations. It is rightfully a story filled with primadonnas and humble, retiring heroes.