Generally I try to spend my weekends outside, either exploring a new hiking trail, trekking on a backpacking adventure, trail running, kayaking, biking, etc! But this weekend was different: I decided to check out the Granite Frontiers Exhibit at the Gene Autry Museum in Griffith Park (Los Angeles, CA).
There has been a lot of buzz about this exhibit (Blog post about and video about the exhibit), and rightly so! Finally the underfollowed sport of rockclimbing is getting a moment in the limelight.
Granite Frontiers: A Century of Yosemite Climbing is a fascinating view into the world of rockclimbing and mountaineering at Yosemite. The exhibit traces the history of climbing in the Yosemite Valley, arguably the premier climbing spot in the West. The two most famous (and most challenging) granite faces of Yosemite, El Capitan and Half Dome, get a lot of attention. The pictures are breathtaking, and it sure is fascinating to learn about the pioneers of the sport and see the images of their climbing achievements. The likes of Warren Harding, Royal Robbins, and the woman rockclimbing pioneer Lynn Hill are profiled among others.
The multi-day process to attempt an El Capitan or Half Dome climb is explained, with an interactive view of camping (bivouacking) on the rock face. One of the highlights is being able to climb onto a portaledge and get a feeling of what it is like to “camp” on a multi-day rockclimb. Sleeping with a 2000 foot drop below and suspended from the side of a behemoth rock face like El Capitan clearly takes guts of steel!
Another fun interactive exhibit, especially for kids and non-climbers, are small granite slabs where you can practice inserting cams (spring loaded camming device is the official term!), stoppers, and hexes, plus see up close what a piton looks like when attached to a rock face.
There are video displays of climbers scaling inverted rock faces, pictures of life at Camp 4, the rockclimbing hang out spot at Yosemite, and a fascinating view of all of the climbing routes of El Capitan.
The only thing that was a disappointment was that it was a small exhibit!
Tip: Be sure to pick up the “Self-guided Tour” brochure when you walk into the exhibit. It is full of great info about the history of climbing, equipment, and what words like “cam” and “piton” mean for those non-climbers out there!
Granite Frontiers: A Century of Yosemite Climbing will be at the Autry Museum until October 4, 2009.