John Muir was not yet the renowned nature mystic he’d become.He was a refugee of the Industrial Revolution back east who had been blinded for months in a work accident and had a case of wanderlust. After all, many of world’s great adventure prizes, including the summit of all fourteen 8,000-meter peaks and the North and South Poles, were snagged more than a half-century ago. But you’d have to willfully ignore the 60-plus years of astounding climbing evolution continuing to take place on the granite monoliths of Yosemite Valley.Today’s firsts, meanwhile, are typically defined by an almost comical list of qualifiers: First blind one-armed climber to stand atop Everest. This month, as part of our continuing celebration of the National Park Service centennial, we’re taking a special look at the most pivotal climbing moments in Yosemite’s storied history.To capture the essence of all these feats, we’ve assembled some of climbing’s most celebrated athletes and voices, including longtime in 2000 in an essay heralding the sport’s Yankee pioneers: “Not long ago, the American climbing landscape and our collective climbing psyche were blank canvases awaiting artists.” That canvas is no longer blank, but Yosemite’s granite continues to be the lodestone that draws the sport’s most inspiring artists.And the radical progression shows no sign of abating.
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In 1875, Anderson had recently finished toiling as a laborer, busting rocks to build the first stagecoach road into Yosemite.The striking peak was cliffy most of the way around but on the west side relented to steep slabs.Up Muir went, balancing on the balls of his feet, the leather soles of his boots gripping just enough to keep from skittering back down hundreds of feet.Affixing himself to a rope, he drilled a small hole six inches deep in the wall, then pounded in an eyebolt, curled his bare toes over the end, stood up carefully in balance, and began hammering away at the next hole.
It was a slow way up and a long way back down at the end of the day.
The view was magnificent: peaks of the national park Muir would later be instrumental in creating spread to the horizon.