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Where Everything Grows

The golden age of rock climbing

Black and white photos capture the people behind the humble beginnings of the sport.

 

If you flipped through Jim Herrington’s The Climbers without reading the title, you might not realize that the subjects defined rock climbing and mountaineering. In black-and-white photographs, aging climbers pose, wearing oxygen masks or sitting underwear-clad in their kitchens. By capturing its figures modestly, The Climbers humanizes the “golden age” of climbing, when skill made up for feeble gear and mountains weren’t dressed with bolts and chalk dust. The book opens with a simple portrait of Glen Dawson, who ascended Mount Whitney in 1931. Subjects vary in age and fame: Some, like Reinhold Messner, are clothed in celebrity, while others, like French mountaineer Sonia Livanos, climbed more quietly. According to Greg Child’s introductory essay — climber Alex Honnold also contributes a foreword — the golden age was simply “decades of innocence, exploration, and experimentation … uncertain, like the outcome of a good climbing adventure.” Herrington’s resolute images ask for a long stare — much like a mountain in the distance.