It's been a few years – OK, it was way back in 2007 – since Patagonia published Yosemite in the Sixties by Glenn Denny. Now they take the way-back machine even further with Yosemite in the Fifties: The Iron Age by John Long, Dean Fidelman and Tom Adler. It's a book about a time before the widespread commercialization of climbing, for better and for worse, and although it reads a bit nostalgic with nary a villain in sight the narrative and photographs will draw you in and make you for a little while feel a part of what was perhaps a better time.
The narrative is top notch, as expected when the two primary authors are both original members of the storied Stonemasters from the 70s and accomplished authors in their own right. Long in particular has always been a favorite author of mine, and I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed to see much of his irreverence missing from this book, replaced by a more conventional tone.
But this is a serious book, full of colorful if staid vignettes of familiar and eponymous names like Chouinard, Salathe, Steck, Robbins and Harding. It is also hypnotic in its predominantly black-and-white photography, which root the subject firmly in its time: the now-vintage automobiles, plain white t-shirts, knapsacks and hemp rope. There is drama in the race to summit Half Dome, tragedy in stories like those of the ever-inventive and ill-fated Bill Feuerer, and triumph aplenty as men who would not be denied threw themselves at granite walls and raised their chins and their fists on the summits.
In short, it's a great and instantly classic addition to the climbing canon. As a gift to yourself or a climber in your life, especially if they are "of an age," you can't miss with Yosemite in the Fifties.