1 Image 1 Minute

Micol Hebron

Glen Denny, "Camp 4. Planning the ascent," 1969.

The vertical walls of Yosemite Valley were not made to be climbed, which of course is why it’s compelling to try. And folly must be the sign of the most advanced cultures, since no others have the time or resources to pursue objectives as pointless as this. After all, you can drive a car to the top. These delinquents in the photograph are making a drawing, but the drawing is also a map. It is the route up the southwest face of El Capitan, the largest sheer face of rock in the U.S. It is drafted in a language that they were obliged to invent, more beautiful because it is inadvertently so; noble in its fiction, it’s the sort of metaphor you are going to have to be willing to hang your life on. It took climbers months of the kind of physical struggle and mental exhaustion that permits you to forget you are working thousands of feet off the deck with nothing under your heels, in order to possess this unintended line of agreement between what the stone will offer and what you are demanding. When considering this climb, I recall standing in the restaurant Windows on the World, where the glass windows went right down to the floor, as I suppose they all did in the Twin Towers. Touching my toes to the glass and looking down, I thought to myself, “that’s how it’s going to look halfway up.”

Chris James, Artist

Further Reading