Décès de Royal Robbins à 82 ans qui a, le premier, exploré les grands murs du Yosemite ouvrant l'ére de l'alpinisme moderne. Un alpinisme sans concession qui perdure aux Etats-Unis loin de nos voies aseptisées.
Royal Robbins, Conscience of Rock Climbers, Dies at 82
By JOHN BRANCH MARCH 15, 2017
"Royal Robbins in an undated photo. Robbins urged those who followed him up the rocks to leave few traces of their path. Credit Tom Frost
Royal Robbins first visited the Yosemite Valley as a teenager with the Boy Scouts a few years after World War II, a time when thoughts of climbing the sheer granite walls of massive formations like El Capitan and Half Dome were mostly in the most vivid of imaginations.
Robbins had one of those imaginations. Within a few years, he had made first ascents and planted routes around Yosemite and other places in California and the West on his way to becoming a pioneer in rock climbing and a respected voice of a sport that grew up with him.
Robbins died on Tuesday at his home in Modesto, Calif. He was 82.
With his short-cropped hair, his horn-rimmed glasses and, sometimes, a trim beard, Robbins looked the part of a college professor. And as the popularity of rock climbing grew, Robbins became part of the sport’s consciousness, a powerful advocate for clean climbing, urging those who followed him up the rocks to leave few traces of their path.
“He set the rules for the game of climbing, and he believed in the rules of the game,” Daniel Duane, who has written three books on climbing, including one on Robbins, told The Associated Press. “The lives of those of us who climbed were enriched by Royal’s insistence on getting the rules right. If it hadn’t been for Royal, all those cliffs would be a total mess.”
Robbins wrote two seminal books on climbing, “Basic Rockcraft” and “Advanced Rockcraft,” and a three-part memoir, the first part of which, “To Be Brave,” was published in 2009.
“When I touched the rock, it had in turn touched my spirit,” he wrote, “awakening an ineffable longing, as if I had stirred a hidden memory of a previous existence, a happier one. While I was climbing, it was glorious to be alive.”
As his climbing career subsided, largely because of arthritis, he found new adventure in kayaking, forging several first descents.
Robbins and his wife, Liz, at the summit of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, Calif., in 1967, after Ms. Robbins became the first woman to climb it. Credit Robbins Family, via Associated Press
He and his wife, Liz, founded a climbing-gear business called Mountain Paraphernalia in 1967, the same year they made a first ascent of Nutcracker in Yosemite. They used only equipment that could be removed from the rock as they climbed, a rare method at the time. It set an example for the protection of rock that climbers continue to heed 50 years later.
Mountain Paraphernalia blossomed into a casual-wear clothing company called Royal Robbins. Robbins and his wife sold it in 2003. The company announced Robbins’s death on its website.
Robbins was born on Feb. 3, 1935, in Point Pleasant, W.Va., and grew up there and in Ohio. He moved to California with his mother as a teenager.
He was 17 when he became the first to make a free ascent — using ropes only for support and safety, not to help him climb — of Open Book at Tahquitz Peak in the San Jacinto Mountains in California, regarded as one of the hardest climbs in the United States. He considered it one of his favorite routes.
In 1957, Robbins and two others, Jerry Galwas and Mike Sherrick, became the first to climb the northwest face of Half Dome. In 1960, he was part of the second team to climb the Nose of El Capitan, but the first to do it as a continuous climb. Warren Harding, who led the first team to accomplish the feat two years earlier, later became a Yosemite rival of Robbins’s, in both climbing quests and philosophy.
Robbins was most proud of his 1961 first ascent of the Salathe route of El Capitan, made with Tom Frost and Chuck Pratt.
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All those feats helped usher in what became known as the golden age of climbing in Yosemite. Within years, the park was awash in climbers and other nature seekers, their lifestyles frequently at odds with the buttoned-up park rangers who tried to keep them corralled.
Robbins was a frequent resident of Camp 4, long the ramshackle home for climbers not far from the major sites that draw millions of visitors to Yosemite National Park.
Camp 4 was where Robbins met Liz Burkner, then a concierge at the stately Ahwahnee Hotel. The couple married in 1963. In 1967, 10 years after Robbins had made his first ascent of Half Dome, he and his wife climbed it together. She was the first woman to climb its sheer face.
She survives him, as do a son, Damon, and a daughter, Tamara.
Robbins demonstrated his insistence on clean climbing early on when he climbed El Capitan’s Nose at Yosemite. To keep the rock unblemished, he removed the pitons he used as he ascended.
“I think that we were drawn to our ethical stance because it was harder that way, frankly, and I think whatever’s harder has to be better,” Robbins told Outside magazine in 2010. “That’s why I have so much respect for free soloists these days.”
He mentioned in particular Alex Honnold — well known for his free-solo climbs (without ropes), including one of El Capitan — and Tommy Caldwell, who teamed with Kevin Jorgeson in 2015 to become the first to free climb El Capitan’s Dawn Wall.
That route was first climbed in 1970 by Harding, a woolly and rough-edged climber. Robbins was no fan. Harding and his partner, Dean Caldwell (no relation to Tommy), used more than 300 bolts and hundreds of feet of rope to pull themselves up the cliff, nearly 3,000 feet high, over 27 days.
Robbins, angered by what he considered an assault on El Capitan, later climbed the wall to cut many of the bolts that had been left behind by Harding and Caldwell.
“Royal set out to erase the route, which was a bold action,” said Frost, his former climbing partner and a longtime friend. “Royal ended up respecting the climbing that Warren had done, but the style was the antithesis for everything we stood for.”
He added of Robbins, “His philosophy was that it’s not getting to the summit but how you do it that counts.”
Robbins climbed around the world, and his first ascents dot the climbing landscape. But he will always be associated closely with Yosemite and its big walls. His longtime home in Modesto, in the heart of California, afforded him a winding drive through the foothills to Yosemite and its monumental climbs.
“The valley has the best,” he said of Yosemite’s big walls in an interview with Climbing magazine in 2010, “and that’s where my heart is.”
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