Sierra Club Productions
Vertical Frontier: A History of the Art, Sport and Philosophy of Rock Climbing in Yosemite
A Kristi Denton Cohen/ Peloton Productions Film in Association with Sierra
Narrated by Tom Brokaw
Order Vertical Frontier from Peloton Productions.
From John Muir in the 1860s to the super athletes of today, Vertical
Frontier tells the saga of the free-spirited climbers whose uniquely American
contribution to mountaineering techniques, equipment, and ethics allowed them
to be the first to conquer the legendary big walls of Yosemite.
Illustrated by spectacular old and new footage shot on those granite walls, the story is told by the climbers. Their ranks include David Brower, Royal Robbins, Yvon Chouinard, Jim Bridwell, Lynn Hill and many more.
About Vertical Frontier
Vertical Frontier is a feature-length documentary that tells the story of the first climbers to ascend the granite walls of Yosemite and the future generations of climbers their creativity and passion inspired, and how their love for the sport saved Camp 4, a place rich in history where all their adventures began.
The story of rock climbing really begins with the explorations of John Muir. He caught his earliest glimpse of the high peaks of the Sierra Nevada in 1868 and later became known as one of Yosemite's first climbers and - to many - the Father of Yosemite.
In the 1930s, Yosemite became a laboratory for developing the craft of rock climbing. Using homemade equipment that often looked like it had been made by cavemen, the pioneering climbers spent months planning and realizing their dreams, forging new paths that led to the first ascent of the oceanic wall of El Capitan in 1958. In the 1960s, climbers began another revolution, one centered on equipment innovation. Their goal was to forge harder routes without damaging the rock. Today, young climbers are finding new ways to scale these walls, faster, sometimes using no equipment at all.
From lost souls and party boys, serious athletes, and independent idealists - climbers of all ages and experience levels have come from around the world to test their abilities and find themselves on the rocks of Yosemite.
Interwoven into this history of rock climbing is the tale of Camp 4, the only walk-in campground in the Valley located on the sunny, northwest edge of Yosemite. Ringed by gigantic boulders, this dusty gathering place has become a mecca for climbers from around the world. Not exactly a wilderness experience, Camp 4 offered a different kind of intense camping experience, becoming a "boomtown" in the 1960s and 1970s where one could live free, play hard and climb.
In 1997, floods destroyed portions of the Yosemite Lodge and nearby employee housing. The National Park Service proposed developing employee housing and motel-style lodging in and around Camp 4, which sits on higher ground. Climbers of all ages and experience from more than 40 countries, along with members of the American Alpine Club, joined forces to prevent the destruction of their climbing home by filing suit to stop the development and preserve Camp 4. The film chronicles their efforts, and tells of their victory to win eligibility for Camp 4 on the National Register of Historic Places.
Vertical Frontier features interviews with pioneering and young climbers alike, including:
- David Brower, the former Sierra Club President and Nobel Prize nominee who climbed Yosemite's walls in the 1930s
- Warren Harding, who made the first ascent of El Capitan in 1958
- Royal Robbins, who made the first ascent of NW face of Half Dome in 1957 and the first continuous ascent of El Capitan in 1960
- His wife Liz Robbins, who became the first woman to climb Half Dome ten years after her husband's historic climb
- Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia and the inventor of climbing equipment that made scaling the big walls of Yosemite possible
- Tom Frost, who made the first continuous ascent of El Capitan in 1960 with Royal Robbins, invented equipment with Chouinard, and later lead the effort to save Camp 4
- Chris McNamara, who climbed El Capitan 55 times by the time he was 21
- Wayne Merry, who made the first ascent of El Capitan in 1958
- Lynn Hill, who made the first free ascent by either gender of the Nose of El Capitan in 1993
- Sibylle Hechtel, part of the team that made the first all-female ascent of El Capitan in 1973
- Hans Florine, who climbed the Nose of El Capitan in record time in 1993 - four hours, 22 minutes (vs. Royal Robbin's 1960 ascent, which took seven days)