Old Indian legends tell of the first climbers in Yosemite Valley, and the first white man is said to have set foot there in 1833. In November 1958, the famous Nose route in El Capitan was climbed for the first time, equipped with ropes, in 47 days. Over time, local climbers have developed their own climbing technique with special equipment and a different philosophy. The basic rule was to leave the wall clean and untainted by technique after climbing; these were the pioneers of today’s free climbing. In Europe at that time, the mountains in the Himalayas were the dream and the biggest challenge of every mountaineer, but it was difficult to make it to the shortlist with the multitude of excellent climbers. That’s why mountaineers were always looking for new confirmations and new interesting goals. The unknown mighty ostrich in California was just the right amount of mysterious and exciting. But until 1973, only a few Europeans tried it. “If you want to catch the train, you have to run faster than the train,” said Aleš Kunaver more than 50 years ago, when we Slovenians began to catch up with the great mountaineering nations in mountaineering. In 1973, with the ascents of El Capitan, we stepped into the very top of world alpinism. The idea for the expedition came to Janez Gradišar. He managed to inspire already tested climbers for the project: Janez Dovžan and Miha Smole from Dovje, Janez Lončar and Dušan Srečnik from Tržič and Nejc Zaplotnik from Kranj. They managed to justify before the commission that it was a Slovenian and not a Yugoslav expedition by the fact that it consisted only of Slovenes. During the preparations, they studied the descriptions of the wall and the course, unfamiliar equipment and its correct use, and looked for sponsors. When they arrived in the USA, the Slovenians in San Francisco, especially Dr. Dekleva and dr. Storks. At that time, they climbed the famous routes of Salathe Wall over the wall of El Capitan, Triple Direct, East Buttress. The story of the mountaineers, who in 1973 plowed the fallow land in the glistening stone mass of El Capitan, continues with increasingly difficult ascents daring climbers. “In our time, climbing was more of an adventure than a sport. Today it evolved into high-altitude gymnastics. Elite climbers are disciplined athletes who constantly train and repeat movements to perfection. ” Source: Jenkins, Mark: Bold. Challenging. Free from all bonds, National Geographic Slovenia, 5, 2011, p. 71.

You can read the pamphlet accompanying the exhibition at the link. The exhibition will be available for viewing until September 10, 2023.

Photo: Janez Dovžan