The final preparation to climb El Capitan was to gather the party’s hardware together into one selection.  Here, at the Camp 4 table, Robbins lays out the pitons and carabiners that will be carried on the second ascent of the Nose in September, 1960.  These include:  knifeblades, hand-forged Lost Arrows, Bugaboos, standard ring angles, and Bongs to 4 inches.  Most of these pitons were handmade by Chouinard from 4130 steel and 7075 aluminum.  These tough alloys enabled hundreds of placements and removals without deformation.  On this climb alone many of these pitons would be placed 30 times.  None were left in place in adherence to our leave-no-trace philosophy.  Also carried were 60 quarts of water, chocolate, salami, cheese, gorp, and bivouac gear.  It was an exciting moment.


     If successful, this would be the first continuous ascent of El Capitan.


     Royal and Liz Robbins describe this place, Camp 4, the campground that served as a launch pad for our climbs and, I believe, also for our lives.


Camp 4 is situated on the north side of the road just across from Yosemite Lodge.  It is, and always was, a scruffy place.  That’s one of the reasons we like it so much:  it wasn’t neat and orderly like other campgrounds in the Valley.   When we first went there, in the early 1950’s, it was already the climbers’ camp, a spot dotted with large boulders and with campsites in irregular places.  I guess the Park Service thought it was good enough for climbers.  They were right.  We loved the boulders and were happy to have a spot on the ground to throw our sleeping bags.  We could find a table for our campsite, and if we didn’t like where it was we would move it.  Camp 4 was our “home”, our refuge from the “world out there.”  The 1960’s were a time of great upheaval in society, with war, protests and universities shut down.  But we climbers mostly ignored it.  We concentrated on the walls of Yosemite.  And we spent a lot of time in Camp 4, talking about literature, philosophy, girls, life in general, and of course, our next climb.  (Royal Robbins, Camp 4 Restaurant (Modesto, CA) Menu)


Sometimes things that make no sense on the surface make perfect sense inside.

At first Camp 4 was just a dusty landscape:  cluttered tables, dirty tents, people coming and going.  Yet something there seemed to hum with a raw, unselfconscious honesty.   As the climbers gathered at dusk, this sensation became almost tangible.  Whatever the energy was, I wanted some of it.  Here, individuals were what they were, like it or not.  When someone asked me if I wanted to go on a little climb, I said yes….

Initially Royal Robbins reminded me of a Berkeley professor.  After climbing with him on Cathedral Peak, I realized this aloof, quiet, contemplative demeanor concealed intensity and passion.  Royal required unproven feats of his imagination, spiritual and physical tests not yet dreamed of – a need that would drive him to make ascents other people couldn’t comprehend.  Climbing was new to me, but the integrity underlying Royal’s pursuits was something I knew I could rely upon in any circumstance.  To the bewilderment of my family and friends back home, I adopted his eccentric-seeming way of life.  (Liz Robbins, Alpinist 23, Spring 08)



ONE CUP OF TEA, Robbins sorts hardware for the Nose of El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, California, second ascent, seven days, September 1960, by Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt, Joe Fitschen, and Tom Frost.