Valley Uprising (2014) Script

Why do people climb walls?

That's a really good question.

'Cause we're insane.

Can't be any other reason.

The beautiful thing about climbing to me Is you can't justify it.

It doesn't pretend to be anything useful.

Some of us need to go up there, forging into the unknown.

Your whole being is completely absorbed in the experience.

A moving meditation.

Your sense of awareness just opens up.

You feel like you could go on forever.

If you're a climber And you dedicate your life to the pursuit of gravity, You have to make a pilgrimage to yosemite.

Here is the place.

There's only one yosemite.

The proving ground.

The center of the universe.

The mecca of rock-Climbing.

This is where it all started, where it really took off.

The history of rock-Climbing is written on these walls.

It's a lineage. We all come to the valley To stand on the shoulders of giants.

To push yourself and to push the sport And see what's possible.

# look me up sometime, look me up sometime #

It's a bunch of madmen doing crazy things.

Trying to leave their mark and set new standards.

Pushing the limits and also pissing off the status quo.

People living on the fringe.

Strange, scruffy nut cases.

Seekers, visionaries, weirdos living that dirtbag existence.

Hiding out from the law.

And vigorously following our dreams.

Whoo! Life's pretty good here in yosemite valley, baby!

Whoo! Yeah!

# won't you try me out sometime? #

# won't you try me out sometime, time, time, time? #

Yosemite's rock-Climbing revolution Began with a generation of climbers Who came of age in the 1950s, A time when america was feeling anything but adventurous.

And so they joined the stream of family life in the suburbs.

In the years following the second world war, The nation had settled into a safe, comfortable routine Of well-Trimmed lawns And newfangled kitchen appliances.

Stupid american 1950s dream.

You're supposed to get married, have kids immediately... a dishwasher.

Just look at those gleaming dishes.

Just an absolute bland time.

In mainstream america, Safety and comfort were the primary values.

There wasn't any outlet for the spirt of adventure.

But it was also a time of change.

Out in california, the beatnik movement, Led by writers like jack kerouac, Called on young people to shake off the conformity And explore other ways of life.

Many flocked to the coffee houses And jazz clubs in the city.

Others hit the beach to catch waves, While an adventurous few, Inspired by kerouac's vision Of "a rucksack revolution," headed for the hills, Where they would go on To discover the world of rock-Climbing.

It started in small suburban crags outside san francisco And los angeles.

When i first came across climbing Down there at stoney point, and i thought, "Wow, this is wonderful."

That danger, that commitment and risk...

We got hooked, frankly, on the adrenaline of it.

# i want a purr, all i get is a growl #

# when the lamb is loose, she's on the prowl #

Back then, rock-Climbing was mostly seen As practice for mountaineering With a conservative focus on safety.

Old fuddy-Duddies had all these rules.

You can't climb a certain thing Unless you're a qualified leader.

But we wanted to have fun and said, "fuck this."

# before she eats you up We all started out, you know, in tennis shoes, basically.

Stole some ropes from the telephone company.

No harnesses, you know.

You just put the rope around your waist.

# hey, hey now It was character building.

In the hands of these young rebels, Climbing would become a new adventure sport That seemed to defy gravity and common sense.



That kind of intensity was lacking in a lot of our lives, But also in the culture at large in those days.

It was a counterculture sport, And it felt really good to be on the fringes.

On their quest for first ascents And virgin rock, the climbers Explored ever deeper into the mountains of california.

About 200 miles east of san francisco lies one Of the great scenic wonders of the world.

Until they landed in yosemite.

Yosemite national park Is centered around a 15-Mile-Long valley Bound by glacier-Carved walls of vertical rock.

Just acres of beautiful granite, Absolutely smooth and steep.

Almost made a believer out of me.

Must be a god who can make something like that.

It was a place that we could live out adventures.

Gathering in yosemite valley was a group of climbers Who would go on to etch their names In the history of these walls, Guys like royal robbins...

Yvon chouinard...

Tom frost...

Steve roper...

And chuck pratt.

We was a hard core of really devoted climbers Trying to raise the standards, push themselves.

The primary vibration in the air was one of high adventure.

Up until the 1950s, Climbing in the valley was led by john salathe, An eccentric swiss who foraged for his dinner In the meadows And established the first big climbs on yosemite's walls.

When we got to the valley, The king of yosemite at that time was john salathe.

He climbed with such imagination And daring that we tried to emulate him.

Salathe would mentor this new group of climbers In the rock craft of yosemite Using steel wedges called pitons to ascend the cracks And plotting routes up the faces.

Balls-Out stuff, way the hell up there.

Like i'm going to the moon or something.

The idea of devoting your life to climbing Didn't exist anywhere else.

We have a purpose...

Climb hard, put up good routes.

Only though climbing can you find yourself, Bullshit like that.

None of us expected to ever have a job.

We were gonna be hobos, basically.

And we were gonna climb forever, And that was the extent of it.

The epicenter of the emerging climbing scene was camp 4, A shady patch of the valley floor That became the sherwood forest For this band of merry mountaineers.

# meet me in the morning, 56th and wabasha #

Living in camp 4... Instead of making money, The ideal was to reduce the overhead.

It wasn't the way normal people lived.

# meet me in the morning

One summer, i went to a damaged-Can store And bought a bunch of damaged cans of cat food.

That's what we ate.

# honey, we could be in kansas #

I mean, it was a total dirtbag existence.

# by the time the snow begins to thaw #

Life in camp 4 really took on An antiestablishment/ countercultural tone.

There was a whole revolution of attitudes Going on in our society at that time.

# right before the dawn Climbing was just a manifestation of that.

# they say the darkest hour We were barbarians and vulgar.

We drank a lot and chased women, tried to chase women.

Not very successfully, i must say, but...

# honey, you wouldn't know it by me #

But the beatnik bacchanal in camp 4 was at odds With a very different set of values In yosemite national park.

Yosemite was a park For tourists designed for people from the the suburbs To enjoy nature without sacrificing comfort.

Young and old alike are intrigued By the captivating loveliness of this waterfall.

Uh-Oh, look at our ice cream.

The tourists did not like us because of the raunchy language And loud parties.

Everybody was inebriated, just raucous.

Some poor camper come over and say, "Can you guys tone this down?

You know, you're offending my family."

The rangers would come and break it all up.

We hated authority.

I still hate authority.

Climbing in those days Was not a respectable activity to be doing.

It was an outlaw activity.

They did not like these strange, scruffy, abnormal human beings Coming in and using their facilities An disrupting the decent people.

I was working at the ahwahnee hotel.

The yosemite management was very conservative.

Climbers... They weren't popular Because they'd go in and eat off of other people's plates.

I was not supposed to associate with climbers.

We were actually told that we would lose our jobs, Which made it really even more interesting to do.

The first time i went to camp 4, There was a party in the woods.

A climber was sitting directly opposite me.

He just stared at me and said, "You are a beautiful woman."

My first thought was, "This is certainly an intense person."

The man across the campfire Was royal robbins, a climbing legend in the making.

Even to this day, i consider myself a climber First and foremost.

Whenever i get on the rock, I feel it's something that makes me whole.

It was always about climbing.

It was his life.

He didn't think beyond it.

Well, royal was very competitive with everybody.

Robbins was a driven person.

To earn the respect Of your peers you had to raise the ante, And i remember wanting to do something Better than what's been done.

Robbins was emerging as a leader in camp 4 At a pivotal moment in rock-Climbing history.

The gear had evolved.

The techniques were in place.

The rock climbers had matured to the point Where they are up to tackling The great challenges of the sport, But the great challenges remain undone.

Robbins set his sights on a wall Far bigger and steeper than anything That had been attempted...

The northwest face of half dome.

Arguably the most photographed feature in the world.

Massive and intimidating.

More than just another rock-Climb, This iconic formation, 2,000 feet tall, Would require an expedition into the vertical.

Going up on a wall, something that's 2,000 feet, You're up there multiple days in a row.

No one knew if they had the skills and the equipment And the technique to survive that long on a wall.

It was big. It was scary.

The face of half dome just stood there and said, "try me, If you dare."

Early one spring morning, robbins gathered up A small arsenal of gear and with a team of three, Set off to make history on half dome.

The team would follow a trail of cracks upwards...

...moving slowly as they drove in pitons...

...and hauled their gear and water.

Night's were spent tethered to the side of the wall, And days, climbing higher and higher, Until retreat to the ground became impossible And the only way off half dome was over the summit.

This is one of the great acts of committing to the unknown, Just sort of lighting out into mystery.

We felt like we had entered a different world then.

This was a vertical world.

The five-Day ascent of half dome Set a new standard of difficulty And cemented robbin's status as america's first climbing icon.

You know, when you picture royal...

That crazy name, royal robbins...

The king already... I mean, my god.

...Picture a proto-Beatnik intellectual, Hard at work reading the classics, A very serious, earnest man, absolutely determined To prove himself as a great yosemite climber.

You want to be the first.

You want to be the best.

It's natural.

But there was one man vying for Royal's title as king of the big walls.

Warren harding...

An impish road surveyor with his own appetite for glory.

His mother had named him after a president, But in his 30s, he was still living at home, Boozing heavily, and curing his hangovers With the adrenaline rush of climbing.

When you picture harding, You're picturing a hard-Hat construction worker With a serious drinking problem...

And a penchant for a lot of women, radical sports cars, And really childish sense of humor.

Our personalities were quite different.

They're opposites.

They're personality opposites.

The clash between royal robbins and warren harding Is the clash of the titans in climbing lore.

Both men had long coveted half dome, And when robbins snagged the first ascent, Harding went for the one cliff in yosemite That was even bigger...

El capitan Take the empire state building, stack it up three times, And you've got the biggest wall in yosemite valley.

1,000 feet taller than half dome, El cap was beyond the imagination Of even royal robbins.

El capitan was impossible.

We all knew that.

We didn't even consider it.

I mean, the thing is so huge, You'd be on it for the rest of your life.

El cap was the realm of absurd.

It was futuristic.

But not for harding.

For harding, it was just the only the only way He could beat royal's big achievement.

Selecting a route up the wall's central prow, Known as the el cap nose...

That nose sticking out there, it's magnificent.

...Harding rallied a group of wide-Eyed youngsters And embarked on a climb that was both engineering project...

Thousands of feet of rope, Carts with wheels for ferrying supplies.

...And gastronomic orgy.

He would just take all sorts of food, and wine, brandy.

His mother had baked a turkey for us.

We pulled it up in the dolt cart And had thanksgiving dinner on the ledge.

While most climbs were done In a single push from bottom to top, Harding had a different idea.

As his team climbed, they left ropes fixed to the wall Which allowed them to shuttle up supplies, descend to the ground For extended r&r...

...and and then head back up to push the ropes a little higher.

Good ahead.

It's just this sort of wholesale team siege Of the mountain. Oh, shit.

Are you still alive?!

As month dragged into month, Into years harding's team had had enough.

It got to the point where it was just taking too long.

This is too much. Forget it!

What the hell am i doing here?

I hated the entire time up there.

I couldn't handle the exposure.

With his team members ready to quit, Warren harding soldiered on.

Finally, after nearly two years Of going up and down the wall, Harding inched over the summit of el capitan.

Oh, my god. El cap is climbable.

Unquestionably, the single biggest rock climb In american history at the time.

When harding is standing on the top of el cap, That's the moment when the competitive side Of royal robbins wakes up And the tension between them crystallizes.

After half dome, harding's ascent of the nose Was a darn good move, in fact, A move on the yosemite chess board.

And whoever makes the best moves is going to win.

Royal's response is to go back with a team of four guys And do the nose right.

No fixed ropes, no going up and down.

A route that took 18 months to establish in the first ascent Took them one week to repeat.

Royal was seizing the lead again.

# oh, my waking world Throughout the 1960s, as america explored The reaches beyond our earth And the civil rights movement clamored for justice, Royal robbins was at the vanguard Of a big wall-Climbing boom in yosemite.

After the nose had been done, royal followed up his First new route on el cap, the salathe wall.

The wall is unspeakably massive and mysterious, And anybody who repeats that climb to this day Feels a kind of awe for royal robbins.

By the late '60s he'd done every single route on El cap and put up three routes on the face of half dome.

If you were on a climb with him, You could be absolutely sure you'd get up the climb.

I don't think he ever retreated from anything.

One wall after another.

I mean, he was the kingpin Of the golden age of yosemite.

With a series of impressive ascents to his name, Royal robbins began to articulate a bold philosophy Of climbing.

For robbins, climbing was an elevated, Almost spiritual endeavor, And therefore, should be conducted In the purest manner possible.

Getting to the top is nothing.

The way you do it is everything.

# the earth's just leasing lives to no one #

Robbins was a fanatic about style.

How you get up there is what's important.

Drawing on john salathe's example of boldness And self-Reliance, Robbins and his crew laid out a set of rules For how they felt yosemite's walls should be climbed.

Robbins criticized warren harding's tactics On the nose, like using fixed ropes To travel up and down the wall.

You get on a climb, you stay on it, You get to the top. That's the adventure.

You don't make it certain By using these umbilical cords leading us to the ground.

He reserved particular scorn For harding's reliance on expansion bolts, Permanent anchors that can be placed Anywhere as a means to ascending blank stretches of rock.

If you put a bolt in the rock anywhere you want, You're going to get to the top.

I'd hate to see anything take away from That part of climbing which you have to overcome With what's inside of you.

Royal, he's the guy who dreamed up And wrote down the rules of the game the rest of us play.

Nobody would ever think of going up on a climb And not try to do it in the robbins style Except for warren harding, of course.

Harding did most of his philosophizing in the bar.

Harding himself was ticking off a list of hard climbs With little regard for robbin's rule book...

Harding was drilling bolts all over the place.

...And a refined sense of the absurd.

He would describe the climbs he was doing as a great farce.

Really ridiculous.

Every climb i do is a farce, so why not have fun?

He founded the lower sierra Eating, drinking, and farcing society, Devoted to gluttony and sloth.

It was a reaction against the whole high-Minded ideals Of climbing.

He often described royal robbins As way too serious.

And he always considered robbins And his people to be the valley christians.

The valley christians expected everyone to climb Exactly as they climb.

Does that annoy me? Did it?

Yes. Yes.

That was a derisive comment.

To be royal and to have this vulgar nut case Trying to undermine this beautiful world You're trying to create, It must have been deeply annoying.

And for harding, to have this buzzed-Headed square And his little crew of acolytes...

This rule and that rule...

They must have driven each other crazy.

Oh, yeah, they were just at each other's throats.

After more than a decade of discord and one-Upmanship, The final confrontation between robbins and his archrival Warren harding, came in 1970.

Robbins has been running the show, Doing one sensational important climb after another.

Harding was itching to do another big el cap route.

Harding's eyes were drawn to the only stretch of el capitan That robbins had never climbed.

The last major big blank area on el cap.

The wall of the early morning light...

Or the dawn wall.

But for yosemite's philosopher-In-Chief, The dawn wall was off limits.

It looked too blank, like it would require too many bolts.

Harding said, "fuck it," you know, "I'll do it my way," as usual.

"Nobody's telling me what to do."

And with a bag of bolts in tow, Harding commenced his attack on the dawn wall.

With everybody waiting down below on the ground, Harding is up there just drilling one bolt after another, Just drawing a line up el cap with bolts.

# the kings take my, take my body whole #

This is absolutely anathema To the aesthetic sensibility of royal robbins.

I was rather disappointed, But i thought, "that's what you'd expect from warren."

But this time, harding did take one page From the robbins rule book, Using no fixed ropes to the ground and climbing the Wall in a single, upward push With his partner dean caldwell.

Warren was pretty excited about The idea of just going as light as we could And doing the whole climb in one stretch.

They expected the trip to last about 12 days, But by the end of the second week, They were only half way up the wall With their supplies dwindling...

...when storm clouds began to gather.

And we figured, "well, Let's just hang out until the storm comes."

And we'd open up a bottle of brandy.

We didn't realize how much of a storm was coming.

Concern builds on the valley floor that these guys must be Trapped up there because they just haven't moved.

The park service became nervous and a decision was made To put everybody in place for a rescue.

Did they ask for a rescue? No.

We never thought about a retreat.

Never even considered it.

The only thing we ever considered was going to the top.

But the rescue plan went forward Without the consent of the two climbers on the wall.

Harding essentially screamed down, "the hell with you guys!

Get lost! We don't want a rescue!"

We finished the bottle of wine And started making a battle plan.

We were going to fight them off if they come.

A can came rattling down and there was a message in it.

"A rescue is unwanted, unwarranted, And will not be accepted."

And that called off the rescue.

# well, come on home The media just loved this.

Two climbers, warren harding and dean caldwell...

...Had been climbing the sheer face of the mountain

...Have waved off a helicopter carrying would-Be rescuers.

And they brought harding's mother along, And she's underneath the wall, And she says "oh, this is the longest Warrnie's been away from home."

After a record setting 28 days on the wall, Harding made his final push to the summit.

A lot of us thought that he wasn't going to make it, But he was just determined.

The iron man of yosemite.

Even royal couldn't have done that.

Oh, he did? They must be there.

Are they there?

They did it. Come on and yell!

Awaiting their arrival at the top of el capitan Was a mind-Blowing sight.

Oh, shit!

There was a whole army of reporters on the top.

You would have thought the beatles had just shown up From england for the first time.

Why on god's green earth do you guys climb mountains?

Because we're insane.

Can't be any other reason.

Harding becomes the most famous climber in american history.

Climbing 3,000 feet, Dean caldwell and warren harding Are with me in the studio now.

What was the actual quote That you wound up barking down to the would be rescuers?

Well, i don't think you want that terminology At this particular time.

While harding toured the country, Basking in the limelight, back in camp 4 robbins fumed.

Royal robbins finds this absolutely unbearable.

I believed that harding was not doing it the right way.

He was furious, the number of bolts.

I think they placed something like 300 bolts.

It was either up to me to do something Or to keep my trap shut.

So i decided to act.

Royal started up the dawn wall with a chisel...

# ashes or nothing

...Determined to remove a blot from the yosemite landscape.

And he stops at the first bolt and chops it off.

He stops at the next one and chops that one off.

I said, "royal, what are you doing?"

He says, "chopping the bolts. That's the name of the game!"

Royal trying to make a tremendous statement, obviously.

"Harding, you better never, ever do that kind of shit again, Or i'll go up the day after you get down, And i'll chop every fucking bolt."

Royal's belief in his sense of right and wrong Boiled over into a destructive act, a bitter act.

But an interesting thing happens, which is that royal Gets not very far up the climb Before the undeniable beauty of the climb Seems to overwhelm him.

On the upper pitches of the dawn wall, Robbins found that warren harding Didn't just rely on bolts.

It was bold, creative climbing.

He said, "you know, This route is a lot more difficult than i imagined."

I was just pushed to my limit just to follow his leads, And i was overcome by admiration for the level of expertise.

Warren harding, he was climbing at an inspired level.

And so i thought, "this doesn't make sense.

This doesn't feel right."

And so i stopped removing them at that point.

I decided to just go ahead and climb it And leave the rest of the bolts in.

Royal... It was pretty hard for him to come to humility, But he finally did.

And i think the dawn wall was the turning point for him.

It's hard to admit it, But i have to say that i think Some of my reaction was harding was getting all the credit.

And i felt i should get some.

And that was a personal thing, i suppose.

It was an ego thing.


The clash of egos on the dawn wall took its toll On these two aging gladiators, and neither harding nor robbins Would ever climb a major route in yosemite again.

They both dropped out of climbing.

A rivalry which had gone on for 14 years came to an end.

Robbins and his wife, liz, Went on to found a successful outdoor clothing company.

Meanwhile, harding passed his days on the porch with mom, Drink always in hand.

Remember how long we were on the dawn wall On el cap in yosemite? Yes.

And i'm rich and famous. Well...

Rich? Where's the rich?

As yosemite's golden age came to an end, The cultural rift in america was growing wider.

I mean, we're talking about the early '70s.

Jimi hendrix and watergate.

Vietnam was dribbling on, And there's a lot of discontent.

There wasn't really much to hold on to.

There was an alternative society sort of developing That scared the hell out of the government

'Cause it was changing the culture.

Even the national parks felt the impact As raucous love-Ins from the bay area Spilled over into the meadows of yosemite.

It's just two cultures who are really in conflict here.

It seemed like the valley was ripe for the next revolution.

# nitroglycerine

# nitroglycerine

In the early 1970s, A fresh crop of climbers began to trickle into yosemite.

# when i was just a kid

# they said, "kid, don't you cry" #

Right around '73 or '74, We started coming to the valley.

In camp 4, we started to all connect as a group.

We were a little, cocky tribe.

We just came on the scene.

The new group of hippie athletes included john long...

I was about that far away from abject poverty.

...Dale bard...

I didn't have any money, any food, anything.

...Dean fidelman...

What we had was a lot of style and a lot of balls.

...Ron kauk...

There's a feeling that you get being here.

...John bachar...

I climb on average 300 days a year.

...And the promising 16-Year-Old lynn hill.

It was definitely a macho culture, Lots of testosterone.

If you wanted to hang with these guys, You had to climb hard.

The wise elder of this new valley clan was jim bridwell.

Bridwell, our leader, Ultimately, the coolest climber there is.

Amidst the grand events of the 1960s, Bridwell was a young apprentice to robbins and harding.

This brash kid looked a little bit like alfred e. Neuman, With big fucking ears sticking out.

But the scrawny kid at the picnic table would soon Grow into a leader of the yosemite climbers.

He had a climbed with robbins.

He had climbed with everyone.

That passion and commitment Was something that we were looking for.

Bridwell drove routes into stretches of el capitan Where robbins and harding never dared.

Jim bridwell was some kind of new force, if you will.

New routes on el cap.

Bold, dangerous stuff.

For me, it was mainly a thing about, You know,how far you can push it.

Exploring not only my environment, But myself at the same time.

While blazing trails on the big walls, Bridwell gave the culture of climbing A strong dose of the aquarian age.

That was still when we had good drugs.

You know, psychedelics.

# one pill makes you larger There is a definite fearlessness That comes with that liberation of the personality.

# and the ones that mother gives you #

# don't do anything at all Bridwell, in that period, Created this sort of social tribe.

He had become this almost cult figure.

Bridwell was the high lama. That's who he was.

The man was brilliant, okay?

He could pick a line, he knew what it was going to entail, And then he would go down and pick his team.

It was a badge of honor when bridwell decided he wanted to Climb with you.

But going up on the big wall with jim bridwell Could be a terrifying rite of passage.

If you are in your teen years, to take off on a route That you don't know, who knows what's going to happen?

You didn't know what the fuck you were going to find When you went out on these big things.

You look down, and it's not pretty.

Your mind comes up with all the worst possible scenarios.

We knew we were getting into some serious climbing With some serious potential for falling and dying.

When i look back on it i go, "what were you thinking, man?"

We escaped by the skin of our teeth.

You are up there putting up a new line with bridwell.

The guy is flying on acid.

Bridwell did drugs on the wall.

He's fucked up!

And i go, "whatever, he's tied in.

If he wants to do it, okay."

# feed your head There is a fine line between boldness and stupidity.

I may have been right on the edge of it.

# feed your head Aah! Aaaah!


In 1975, bridwell devised a plan to attempt a feat That only a few years earlier would've been a fantasy.

Bridwell came up with the idea...

We'll climb the nose on el capitan in a day.

Yosemite's most iconic route, the nose, Had taken warren harding nearly two years to complete And royal robbins almost a week.

Now bridwell aimed to climb all 3,000 feet in a single day.

"Are you kidding me?!"

Leaving behind the food, water, and equipment For a multi-Day climb, he chose to go fast and light In a mad dash for the summit.

By evening, bridwell and his team Stood atop el capitan...

I think the important thing was to get down Before the bar closed.

...Leaving no doubt that yosemite's new crew Intended to leave their mark.

Take no prisoners and get out of the fucking way.

Here we are.

# yeah, i feel so good

# we could do what nobody else could#

Before long, bridwell's disciples were becoming Masters in their own right.


We were running on adrenaline and uncontainable ambition.

We wanted to set new standards.

Every time that we went climbing, It wasn't just to raise the bar.

The idea was to blow the whole paradigm away And replace it with an entirely new game, A new way to climb.

The breakthrough for our generation Was free-Climbing.

Free-Climbing revolutionized the sport.

What can we do just with our hands and feet?

In the previous generation, Aid climbing was the norm with climbers Relying on their equipment to hold their body weight As they ascended a cliff.

Put a nail in the rock, Put a nylon ladder to it, climb the ladder, And repeat that process.

Getting direct assistance from the gear.

Free-Climbing changed everything.

Now climbers hung directly by their fingertips In a strenuous vertical dance.

When you're free-Climbing, You're using your hands and feet on the rock.

You have to stuff your fingers into cracks, smear your toes, Periodically placing protection.

Only use your rope to catch you if you fell off.

You're looking up at small holds And not sure if you really have the strength.

Burning forearms.

Your fingers starting to open.

And you just have to go for it.


I'm okay!

Free-Climbing demanded a new level of athleticism Which the valley climbers honed on steep cliffs and boulders.

Bridwell's crew... These guys were dynamite athletes, Pushing the physical limits of yosemite climbing in their era.

All we did was eat, sleep, climb.

That's it, okay? And train.

We worked out like fiends.

We were always trying to get stronger.

You had to have fingers of steel, zero body fat.

But even more than that was the mental aspect of it.

Let me know when you are going to cut loose!

It was really a bold era.

Camera rolling. Ron kauk.

Pushing the level of free-Climb became a real focus.

Leader never falls, man, because you're going to feel it.

Using the crack as a step, he pushes up, And then the rock breaks off.

You okay?

Yeah, just a little loose hold.

God, you scared me to death.

Our focus was to find out what was possible for ourselves.

That's what took our imaginations more than anything.

United around the new free-Climbing movement, This core group of rock jocks soon had a name...

The stonemasters.

Yeah, dude, the stonemasters!

Being a stonemaster meant that you had to climb Like it's your last day on earth.

And you had to smoke lots of weed.

The name stonemasters came out of a bong session In the basement of richard harrison's house.

Some people would say "stoned masters."

We were young, wild, and we thought we were the best.

These new guys coming in And claiming they are better than us.

Jim bridwell had a boom box at his camp, Where as we old-Timers thought that that was not appropriate.

Hey, you're supposed to be communing with nature Like john muir or some goddamn...

Instead of a fucking boom box.

Well, i think they were doing the right thing.

I was pretty stoked.

They were pushing the limits And also really pissing off the entrenched status quo.

Sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, climbing.

Living on the naked brink of society, of sanity.

Camp 4 was a dirty, filthy, mud hole.

It was paradise.

We camped together.

We trained together.

We climbed together.

Come on, hon.

Our little group moving through the boulders With our little tape deck playing.

Somehow we came to this beautiful place, And it connected us.

Kind of a magical, real special time to be in yosemite climbing.

We were in utopia.

We were basically the kings of utopia.

The climbers had it in their mind That yosemite had evolved for them.

It wasn't to have this proliferation of cafeterias And tourist things.

Nah, man, the main feature about yosemite was the rocks.

And who was utilizing the rocks?

It was us.

That place was for us!


But that's not how the national park saw things.

Back in 1970, at the height of protest over the vietnam war, Thousands of hippies from the bay area Crowded into yosemite for a raucous love-In.

When the national park rangers moved to shut it down, The situation got out of hand.

It's an angry crowd.

It's now a wholesale riot.

The mace is burning in my eyes.

Ever since then, park rangers were given firearms And a strict law-Enforcement mandate.

A bunch of long-Haired bums causing trouble And i'm delighted to see the police here kicking them out.

They have no right to be here at all.

While few, if any, climbers were involved in the riots, Their long hair and rebel attitude Put them in the crossfire of the culture war.

The people involved in the riots, I don't think any were climbers, but, you know, The climbers were never really welcome after that.

As time went on, more and more control Went on the whole camp 4 scene.

There was a real battle between climbers and rangers.

We were getting cracked down on.

They'd come through in sweeps, Get all of the out-Of-Bounds campers, Sneak up on our guys smoking pot.

Disorderly conduct, traffic violations, Camping out of bounds.

I had my run-Ins.

I've been arrested, all of that.

Law enforcement was always kind of looking for you Or trying to kick you out of the park.

And so, we became the outlaws.

# you!

The rangers... Some of them really looked down on us.

You know, you're a freeloader.

You're living here for nothing, And you're taking advantage of the resources.

'Cause climbers are so free, you know?

Live out of the cars or wherever and just enjoy life.

Most climbers are pretty fit, right?

So they tended to have their pick of the girls.

I think there was a lot of jealousy.

A lot of these rangers were pretty pissed off That they had to work, And we didn't have to do anything except go have fun.

100 years from now, nobody is going to remember That ranger at all, But they are going to remember jim bridwell.

They're going to remember what the climbers Of that generation did 'cause that was history, And the rangers knew that, and it used to piss them off.

In the winter of 1977, a mysterious cargo plane Flying under the radar Crashed in the high country of yosemite, Killing both people on board.

There's a plane coming back from colombia.

It crashed into a lake, a lower merced lake.

Looks like we got a plane down in the high country.

The climber had a girlfriend Who worked on the switchboard at the time, And she had eavesdropped in on a conversation About the plane and what was on the plane.

Climbers heard about it And hiked up there to see what was going on.

And they just look out onto the lake.

The nose of the plane was sticking up out of the ice.

And they could see some black shapes underneath the ice, And they managed to break through the ice.

And there was a bale with a big marijuana leaf on it.

They open it up, and he goes, "Oh, my god, it's pot!"

High-Grade, red-Haired, colombian weed.

But there's hundreds of these bales, okay?

And then the frenzy began.

Guys running up there in the dead of night with chainsaws, Cutting the ice, pulling bales of dope out of the water.

# it gets me high You know, what started out as a trickle Just turned into a stampede.

Climbers went back there and looted the plane Of every last reefer of marijuana.

And the gold rush was on.

Suddenly you started smelling this stuff in people's tents.

It had an interesting odor to it.

The pot was drenched in gasoline from the crash.

Take a big hit.

And all of a sudden...Poof!

There was this explosion.

It had some airplane fuel on it.


It singed my eyebrows.

Had a little burst of flame to it and people enjoyed it.

Climbers going down to berkeley and los angeles And cashing all this weed in and returning with, You know, fistfuls of cash.

We made a lot of money.

A lot of money!

Suddenly, climbers had new cars...

...Eating in the restaurants...

...Liquor flowing and steak dinners all around.

Leaving $100 tips.

People built houses.

You know, the rangers, they didn't find out about the plane Until it was all gone.

# it gets me high

By that time, quite a bit of marijuana Had been taken out by quite a number of climbers.

These were high times for the stonemasters, Who had fistfuls of cash and a growing reputation, As yosemite took center stage in the world of rock climbing.

If you were going to be a yosemite climber, You wanted to absolutely represent to the World that we were the top dogs.

20-Year-Old lynn hill proved that a woman is a match For any mountain.

A woman might feel that she Doesn't need to be as good as a man, But for me that's not true.

I push myself as far as i can go.

It was like a little revolution.

Ron kauk of yosemite, an american climbing legend.

All these strong, talented climbers created healthy Competition that keeps pushing you to the next level.

But perhaps no stonemaster shone brighter Than the southern california hotshot, john bachar.

When we first met john bachar, we could tell real quick This guy was serious about getting good.

When it comes to climbing and training, i've never seen Anybody even close.

Not even close.

Bachar quickly became known as a specialist in the simplest, Yet most dangerous form of climbing... Free-Solo.

When john bachar climbs, he literally suspends his life From his fingertips.

No ropes, no pitons, just hands, shoes, And a bag of chalk for grip.

This is free-Soloing.

Leave the rope behind, just you and the rock.

The idea of climbing without a rope?

The slightest mistake, a slip of a foot, no margin for error.

If you fall, you fall down the face, And you hit the ground, and you die.

There's no second chance.

It only takes that, you know, that one little split second of Loss of concentration.

But for john, free-Soloing was The ultimate mastery of rock climbing.

I'm working on the dance.

You have to unite your mind and body to do it right.

I look at it as, yeah, becoming one with the rock.

He was slightly unapproachable and could be arrogant.

A lot of people say, you know, i'm suicidal.

They don't understand what i'm doing.

They have no idea.

As far as i'm concerned, there is no risk

'Cause i'm not going to fall.

Everything that he did was just methodical and perfect.

He put the "master" into "stonemaster."

And he started getting famous, really famous.

Get ready to meet john bachar.

John bachar is considered to be The best solo free-Climber in the world.

Bachar just took off, completely in his own sphere.

What we are going to show you Gives new meaning to the phrase, "Hanging on by your fingernails."

The essence of climbing.

John bachar.

You've got to know the rock, every inch of it.

The essence of shaving.

This is the gillette good news...

By the early 1980s, bachar and the stonemasters Were plunged into the mainstream.

But for the once-Scruffy crew from camp 4, It was an abrupt change.

Champion rock-Climber ron kauk knows the thrills And difficulties of conquering rugged mountains.

That's why he likes a ford bronco ii.

When we came in, it wasn't like any of us thought We're going to make a bunch of money Or we're going to get, you know, famous.

That's where the changes started happening.

The lifestyle sort of evolved From, "hey, we are just having fun,"

To "hey, i need to make a living at this."

Fill it up, climb it up!

We're thinking, "what's the next possibility Of making a little dollar here, A little dollar there?"

It's hard when you're young to keep all that stuff In perspective.

When you become famous, Let all those people put you on a pedestal, If you start believing in your own myth...

That can mess you up.

The stonemaster group started developing these Professional rivalries.

The international sport climbing championship.

Many of the stonemasters embraced the emerging Trend of sport climbing, Which involved competitions on artificial walls.

And out on the rocks, power drills were used To place bolts on overhanging cliffs, Creating physically demanding climbs With minimal risk.

For many of us, sport climbing was a natural evolution.

These techniques allowed us to do harder and harder climbs On the most outrageous faces imaginable.

But john bachar, who had become an icon For his feats of solo-Climbing, was a harsh critic Of the sport's direction.

Yeah, here come the guys that are just going to Do anything to get their name in the book.

I'm just going for a lunge.

Ohhhh! Aah!

I just look at it and i go, "ah, man, that's ridiculous."

There's more weenies out there now than ever, So that just makes me look better.

He spoke his mind about people who didn't live up To a standard that, basically, only he could maintain.

Bachar was like royal robbins. He was a purist...

Really philosophical about climbing.

It meant everything to him.

When his fellow stonemasters Brought sport climbing's bolting tactics To the hallowed walls of yosemite, bachar cried foul.

Bachar would go up and chop bolts.

It really did enflame passions with people, and it got ugly.

Bachar chopped some bolts on a route we put in, And i was pissed about it.

And i told him, "if you go chopping my bolts again, I'm gonna kick your ass."

He baited me, egged me on.

I punched him.


Chapman punched bachar in the face.

The stonemasters... We were fighting with ourselves.

I always wanted to be the big, happy family.

That was my family. That's who i grew up with.

I'm like, "fuck, dude. I have to take a side?"

When we came in, we were like-Minded In our ability to live simply, To go climbing together, to do walls together.

# long have i been swept away Certain things start to happen where you just can't relate.

You just go your own ways.

There was no more bond.

We were no longer that same community.

It's sad because, i mean, we were really close.

Meanwhile, the valley that had once united The stonemaster tribe had also changed.

10 years later, the whole place had gone sort of corporate.

There's a parking lot. There was fees.

There were camping spots.

It just became more and more constricted, More refined, more controlled.

And in 1978, an estimated

2.5 million people visited yosemite national park.

The stonemasters fit what it was.

Stonemasters didn't fit what it became.

# i lost my way By 1980, '81, i think, the reign of the stonemasters Was over.

It was the end of an era.

# oooo-Oooooh

# oooo-Oooh After leaving the valley, the stonemasters Went in their own directions.

The old mentor jim bridwell took his wall-Climbing skills To the high mountains, Establishing first ascents from alaska to patagonia.

It was adventure.

Like, that was the only purpose in climbing.

Lionel terray put it quite well When he said, "conquistadors of the useless."

Wall-Climbing is something for young people to do.

You know, you wake up one day And realize you're not young anymore.

John long, the stonemasters raconteur, Went to hollywood, spinning the fabled drug-Plane crash Into a blockbuster.

Wrote a screenplay, Got it in sylvester stallone's hands, And a greatly embellished version of the whole thing Ended up in the movie "cliffhanger."


# every tear rolling down is a lesson learned #

As for john bachar, After his falling out with the other stonemasters, He lived outside the valley, continuing to push the limits Of free-Soloing for another 20 years.

The thing about bachar is he never changed.

John stuck to his guns and kept pushing the standards.

I think bachar was one of the outstanding Action sports figures of the 20th century.

Absolutely. # too young to burn

And then one day, at the age of 52, The master of the stonemasters fell from a climb and was gone.

# too young, too young

But the stonemasters' story did not end there.

When i left california in 1983, i traveled all over The world and explored different types of climbing.

"Come on, lynn!" ...won competitions...

Oh, wonderful stuff, And lynn hill takes the world cup.

But yosemite was always in the back of my mind.

In the early '90s, lynn hill returned to her stomping grounds In yosemite with an audacious vision.

I wanted to be the first person To make an all free ascent of the nose on el capitan.

It's the most historic, famous big-Wall climb in the world, And it seemed like the best culmination Of all of my skills as a climber.

Until now, every party that went up the nose, From warren harding to jim bridwell, Had aid-Climbed the route, Hanging on their gear to reach the top.

The next big step was, when was it going to be free-Climbed?

A free ascent of the nose Would mark the ultimate fulfillment of the free-Climbing Revolution launched by the stonemasters in the '70s.

Free-Climbing the nose was a prize.

All the most visionary climbers Kept trying it and going after it.

They wanted it.

And here's lynn, and she crushes it.

Oh, my god, el cap can be free-Climbed!

It was groundbreaking, earth-Shattering, And it was a woman.

It goes, boys.

Lynn hill's nose climb sent shock waves around the world...

Ladies and gentlemen, please Welcome the best rock-Climber in the world lynn hill.

Hi. Nice to see you. Thank you.

Are you all right? N-No!

...And was a catalyst for a new generation of climbers To make the pilgrimage to yosemite.

A lot of characters started coming Into yosemite valley in the mid-'90s.

The first time i came into yosemite, i shat my pants.

You see el cap. Oh, no!

It's 10 times bigger than you thought it was.

Yosemite was like the big, promised land, This legendary place.

You come to camp 4 having heard Of these larger-Than-Life people, This pantheon of yosemite gods, you know?

Bachar and kauk, robbins and harding.

These are my heroes.

These are the people that You grow up reading about.

You're there to see If you can't make your own legends.

Soon, a critical mass of ambitious young climbers Had revived the dormant valley scene, A group that, over the next 15 years, Would keep yosemite on the cutting edge Of modern climbing.

In homage to the previous generation, they called Themselves the stone monkeys.


Yeah, it's going off now.

The new generation is just bolder, And the wildness is back.

The ranks of the monkeys include wall pirates...

Aye! Hoist the jolly roger!

...Full-Time vagabonds...

Oh, half a sandwich. Sweet!

...And some of the best rock-Climbers The world has ever known.

I mean, i've spent years of my life up there, Grabbing these miniscule edges, jumping between holds, Taking huge falls.

I don't know what's wrong with me, but i love this shit.

The stone monkeys...

They're world-Class athletes.

Just pushing it.

They're a right bunch of misfits, basically.

Anybody that wants to go up on a big wall And shit in a paper bag Is a particular kind of person. Moonwalk!

It's the dirtbags. It's the lifers.

They don't do well with rules and regulations.

Problems with authority.

Near-Death experiences...


Kind of on a daily basis.



In bridwell's period it was the stonemasters.

Now it's the monkeys.

These guys are really carrying the torch.

That fire is still burning in the heart of the valley.

To the top!

Ohh! Aa-Aaaaah!


The era of the stone monkeys began When a 6'5" new hampshire native dean potter Stormed into the valley.

Yeah, at first i was super intimidated.

The walls were so big and, you know, unattainable.

I was overwhelmed with just surviving here, Cleaning out the underside of a boulder And making it into my home.

Camp 4 was filled with people living on the fringe.

Oh, my god! This is so scary!

Yeaaaaah! Yeah It was just all about now.

Enter into the freak show and be free.

Dean started doing some of these outrageous solos.

Dean was one of the biggest risk-Takers.


He was willing to strip it down further than anybody else.

Dean's a silverback monkey.

He's kind of spearheaded the revolution.

Up on the big walls, potter pushed the boundaries in the Fast-Paced, high-Risk game of speed-Climbing.

-3, 2, 1. Go!

Climbing these walls as fast as humanly possible.

# burning up the fire of your heart's desire #

The speed record on the nose of el capitan Has long been a measure of climbing state of the art.

When the monkeys joined the race, The records started dropping fast...

No gear. Don't fall!

...Until potter and his partner sean leary topped out On the 3,000 foot route in a blistering 21/2 hours.

Just absolutely running up the thing.

We barely squeaked it.

It was a callout that a bolder, More mad generation had arrived in the valley.

Next, potter climbed both el capitan and half dome In a day, alone.

Speed-Solo was this new way Of climbing faster and more efficiently Than anybody else.

Speed-Climbing is like a gladiator sport, Doing whatever it takes, pulling on gear.

By any means get up the wall as fast as you can.

I have a little piece of rope with me, But primarily i free-Solo the walls.

Dean was, for the first time in a while, Really taking yosemite climbing in a new direction.

He was doing things that no one had ever done before.

While dean potter was making headlines, An impressionable kid from sacramento named alex honnold Was discovering the sport of climbing in an indoor gym.

As a kid in the gym, yeah, I guess i was obsessed with climbing.

I mean, i wouldn't call it "obsessed."

It's just that i just loved climbing More than anything else.

I would just read climbing magazines, watch videos, And as i was growing up, The person that was making news at The time was dean potter.

Dean soloing the nose and half dome in a day...

It was like one of the most inspiring things I've ever seen in climbing.

I dropped out, hit the road, and started coming to yosemite To test myself against previous generations, To see what others have done and to see if i could do the same, To see if i could be as good as, you know, dean potter.

When alex first showed up in the valley, He was like this lanky kid, sort of hanging in the shadows, Unsure of what to do.

Just this dorky, awkward kid.

You know, big ears and a bad haircut.

"Is that dean potter? Oh, god. Someday, maybe."

The guy that looks mortified And doesn't know what he's doing there?

Yeah, that was me.

When you think of yosemite climbers You think of dean.


Long hair, badass attitude.

Sort of this rebel.

And then you have alex honnold.

Clean-Cut, square.

This wasn't hero material.

But as soon as the guy puts on his climbing shoes, It's like clark kent becoming superman.

Unleashed on the valley walls, Honnold made an immediate impact.

This kid alex is really a step up.

He eats, sleeps, and breathes climbing.

He's definitely a student of yosemite history, And he wants to be a part of that lineage.

On the nose of el cap, he teamed up With dean potter's long-Time speed-Climbing rival Hans florine to smash potter's record.

And where dean had climbed both el cap and half dome In a single day, Alex would raise the stakes, Adding the 2,200 foot mount watkins.

# now it's day

# i've been trying to get back to you #

I definitely have an advantage coming after dean.

He's already broken that ground.

The impossibility of it is gone.

Once you know it can be done, You just climb harder.


Climbing alone in a continuous push through day and night, Alex honnold scaled yosemite's three Biggest walls in just 18 hours.

He's coming up right below us.

That's so sick!

Oh, my god! That was amazing.



Yeah, you know, I had mixed feelings when alex came around, But that's the way it goes, you know.

When the next generation does come and break the barriers, You welcome it.

Alex was really rattling dean's cage, Challenging dean's supremacy, But that's required to push the envelope of the possible.

Alex has made his most indelible mark In the realm of free-Soloing, Taking the rope-Less discipline To bigger and more difficult routes.

Alex honnold is amazing.

He's taken free-Soloing to a whole new level.

He took what bachar started and just kept going with it.

And i can't even believe some of the things that he solos.

I mean, he's soloing stuff that Bachar never dreamed about soloing.

My soloing in yosemite is an outgrowth Of what dean was doing before me And what john bachar was doing before him.

Just a little bit harder and a little bit bigger.

He's done things that really make me uncomfortable watching.

But you've got to respect the next generation's vision.

There's definitely a degree of mastery in soloing.

I mean, it's definitely like the final exam.

Are you solid on this?

Can you feel comfortable in this position?

Are you able to do this?

Part of the appeal of soloing is just the physical challenge, Like, the fact that you have to climb well To make sure you don't fall off.

Then part of it is just being in the position Of being a tiny, little dot on a huge ocean of rock.

You're totally by yourself on this big uncaring face.

The challenge is to feel in control enough that, Even though you're a very dangerous position, You can enjoy the experience.

As honnold continues to up the ante in free-Soloing, Potter explores new ways to test the boundaries Of gravity and risk... taking the classic camp 4 rest activity of slacklining...

Slacklining, you know in camp, Just walking on one-Inch webbing And mastering our balance.

...And elevating it into death-Defying aerial art form.

You know, with everything i'm doing, I'm trying to become more free.

With the highlining, i'm not blocking out the fear.

I'm feeling the fear and, you know, Absorbing everything that's around me, Trying to calm my heart and not, you know, Hyperventilate and keep it together.

Fuck! Fuck!

I see what i do as a picture.

I look up at the wall or see the space between formations, And i want to enter that.

And i kind of get a flash or a picture, And then i live it.

I'm trying to do something completely different, Be creative, find new ways to go toward my fears.



# we are waiting Yosemite's such a power spot, power place.

The perfect rock and the perfect light And the huge walls...

It brings out the best in us.

Like, it brings us beyond what we thought was possible.

The stone monkeys, we have that one thing in common...

A love or a passion for this place.

But the monkeys are not the only ones in love with yosemite.

Hey! Maniac!

These days, around four million tourists Visit the park each year.

Yosemite valley has grown into a small city With hotels, restaurants, gift shops, a courtroom, And a jail, All competing for space in a valley less than a mile wide.

To address the population pressures, The park service adopted a new policy, Which limits each visitor to a total Of seven camping days per year.

From may 1st through september 15th, Campers in yosemite valley, Regardless of where they're camping, Can only stay seven days.

For most tourists, a one-Week visit is probably enough.

I'll point out the sites as we go around.

But for climbers, these camping limits Are an existential threat.

Seven days.

You can barely get your feet wet in seven days.

If you're going to do big things in yosemite, You have to be there for long amounts of time.

You got to put years into those walls.

If you want to be a yosemite climber, You have to break that one-Week rule.

Those who wish to stay longer must do so illicitly, Sleeping hidden among the boulders.

Because i can't stay in camp 4 for more than a week And i just want to climb here all the time, this is my home.

I just live here in the boulders.

Their illegal status has put climbers and rangers In conflict as never before.

Rangers enforce that regulation.

A lot of times, they're not lenient.

It's a cat-And-Mouse game, Rangers hunting down the climbers.

The rangers have tasers and night-Vision.

2:00 in the morning, a flashlight Shining in your eyes, you're getting kicked.

You're like, "ah, what's happening?

What's going on?!"

Oh, you know, the rangers have Gone from having a degree in biology...

No, no, young lady.

Haven't you been told That you shouldn't pick the wildflowers?

...To having a degree in marksmanship.

I mean, that is bullshit.

I totally understand why the park service needs their rules.

I don't want to come out here and cut it down.

But i don't like it when i'm not free.

I get kind of in-Your-Face.

How are you? Hi. How are you doing?

Turn off the camera. Um, no, thank you.

Turn off the car.

How come you're pulling me over?

You didn't yield right-Of-Way at that intersection back there.

Uh, no, i didn't, sir. I think you're harassing me.

Stone monkeys... They're trying to live Like we did 30 years ago, And that's entirely at odds with the laws or regulations, The mentality that's completely taken over yosemite.

I don't know how they do it.

In their efforts to buck the system, The monkeys rallied around an unlikely leader.

Charles tucker, a.K.A. Chongo chuck.

He showed up here probably like 20 years ago.

Just never really left.

Chongo is like a dirtbag survival master.

He taught us how to easily outmaneuver the rangers.

He taught us where to sleep and not get caught.

He was the one who showed you could live under the radar.

I mean, chongo is almost like this adventurous Yoda or something.

The monkeys showed up, And i was teaching them all these tricks About how to make it the richest adventure that you can.

It was chongo who taught newcomers about slacklining.

I mean, chongo really is the godfather of slacklining.

He would just say, "ahh, if i can slackline, You can slackline."

Whoa, that's a lot of trust That you have there, chongo.

He authored books on everything from big-Wall climbing to Theoretical physics...

This is my opus, "the homeless Interpretation of quantum mechanics."

...And shared his secrets To a free breakfast at the yosemite lodge.

Saltines, mustard packets, and butter.

10 butter packets on a piece of bread.

1,000 calories in butter.

Dirtbag survival 101... Do these things And you won't have to spend any money And you can stay here all year.

Rock-Climbing, slacklining...

Those are paramount.

There's only one time that you're going to be young.

And get out there and do things that people Wish they would have done once they get too old to do them.

Because that's what life is about.

It's about living it!


Chongo was kind of our spiritual leader, in a sense.

And the rangers, They wanted to make an example out of him.

After dwelling in the shadows for years, The guru of the dirtbags Had worn out his welcome with park officials Who declared that chongo chuck Had lived in yosemite long enough.

A whole team of rangers tasked themselves with hunting chongo.

Trying to convict chongo of something, anything.

They followed him.

They would stake him out at night.

They used infrared glasses.

There was nothing stealth about this guy, And they could not catch him!

He's this shambling homeless guy with like five backpacks.

He would walk off into the woods so slowly that you can't Follow someone going slow 'cause then you're obvious.

Chongo was just sort of endlessly slipping in and out Of trees and bushes.

He would disappear.

So, the rangers, they had the chongo file And amassed hundreds of pages of information on him.

I've looked at these police reports, And these guys crossed some sort of freaky line in Trying to bring chongo chuck to justice.

And the rangers said that he was like the, "The master of counter-Surveillance."

I mean, it was ridiculous!

After a year-Long man-Hunt, the park service built a case Against chongo and brought him to court.

We had the entire courtroom packed every day of the trial With dirtbags. It really was stinky in there.


They got a judge...

Order. Order.

...And his words were these, "mr. Tucker, Your tenure here in yosemite has come to an end."

# morning has passed for me I went from this beautiful world down to the homeless scene In the state capitol living under a bridge.

And what a stark contrast that was.

To the rangers, chongo was an eyesore.

He's dirty. But to us, he was our foundation.

The expulsion of chongo chuck was a clear sign That the days of illicit freedom may be a thing of the past.

A lot of us younger climbers today are just coming to terms With the fact that it's just a different lifestyle Than it was in the '60s and '70s.

When i see footage of the '70s here, It's like never-Never land or something.

It's the lost boys.

I mean, i can see how that would be amazing.

But nowadays we have to share it With the other four million people Who come to the park every year.

I mean, everybody gets their turn to enjoy yosemite.

And that's fine with me, you know.

I just drive out of the park And just sleep on the side of the road, Outside of the park boundaries, Because that's what you have to do to stay legal.

And that's the compromise i'm willing to make.

Because the important thing to me is being able to climb On the walls here as much as i can.

The rangers had a plan that if we take down the leader, We'll take down the whole tribe.

But no way will they stop the dirtbags.

No way will they stop the stone monkeys.

Chongo and the old dads that have come before me, Really showed that with the spark of the idea And the intention and the will power, You can make it happen.

The next evolution on yosemite's walls would take Climbers in a whole new direction, As dean and his fellow monkeys Took up the sport of base jumping.

Ba-Boom! See you!

Base jumping is just jumping off of objects...

With a parachute. Whoo!

The same dramatic formations that make yosemite A climbing paradise are also a base jumper's ideal.

You can't base jump on this level Anywhere else in the united states.

You got this big diving board Sticking off of a thousand-Meter overhanging cliff.

It's perfect!

Now a lot of the climbers are base jumpers.

It just makes sense.

Climb to the top of the walls and jump off.

All the monkeys have become the flying monkeys.

Pretty much everybody i know base jumps now, And i mean, it's a great way to get down.

Not only do you climb the wall, But you have the skill to fly your body off.

So many climbers see the beauty in flying.

But base jumping is illegal in yosemite national park, And the rule is strictly enforced.

The rangers stake us out and hunt us base jumpers.

The maximum sentence is $5,000 and six months in jail.

The base-Jumping ban has led to dozens of criminal charges...

You check in to the yosemite jail.

...One incident of tasing.

Shooting the tasers at me.

50,000 volts right in the back of the neck.

...And even a tragic death.

They chased him into a river, And they pursued him till he drowned.

But despite the risks, base jumping in yosemite continues.

If you were to go base jumping in yosemite, so i've heard, You would probably want to do it just after Dawn or just before dusk.

Just got up to the top of half dome.

We're waiting for that sun to go down.

If there is ranger activity, You get a heads up from eyes and ears on the ground.

Nothing too out of the ordinary right now.

Just gave them a "clear."

Okay, cool.


At the edge you're definitely freaked out, like, "holy cow.

Am i going to die right now?"


Holy shit.

Even if you know you can do the jump, You still have this thing in the pit of your stomach.

What happens if there's someone Waiting in the trees down there for you?

We should wait for cars, dude.

Do you see any?

I hear some.

Maybe i don't. You're tripping out, bro.

I'm tripping out.

We're clear? All right, my friends.

You guys ready?

3, 2, 1.

See you!

Once you step off, For that brief moment everything's perfect.

You're not thinking. You're just flying.

All the tension's that's been built up in the air goes away.

Everybody thinks base jumping Is the scariest thing in the world.

No, it's the best fun ever.

# give me your eyes, i need sunshine #

# give me your eyes It's a basic human desire to want to fly.

Spreading your wings and soaring with the birds.

It's one of the best feelings on earth.

Especially in yosemite, our home.

# so give me your eyes, i need sunshine #

# give me your eyes, i need sunshine #

# your blood, your bones, your voice, and your ghost #

Going by something 5 feet to your side...


You really feel you're moving a 100 miles per hour.

Scraping terrain all over that entire valley.

# i'll believe in anything

# and you'll believe in anything #

But as soon as that parachute opens, I'm just scanning for rangers and looking for my escape route.

Base jumper. El cap meadow.

# take the fire out from the water #

# i'd take you where nobody knows you #

# and nobody gives a damn either way #

Keep quiet.

The rangers think the base jumpers are trying To rub it in their faces that they can't catch us.

But it's not that.

For me, it's about doing my art and being free.

And, unfortunately, it means that i need to evade the law.

For potter, base jumping would hold the key To a futuristic new form of ascent.

I have been pursuing this vision Of parachute-Protected free-Solo climbing, Climbing with a base rig on my back for safety.

I call it "freebase."

With the parachute, climbing rope-Less is no longer A game with zero margin for error And can be pushed closer to the edge of falling.

Now i can free-Solo at the limit.

Freebase could be kind of visionary.

It does have the potential to open up Really interesting walls for free-Soloing safely.

By practicing freebase in yosemite, Dean rides a fine legal line.

If he slips off the wall and deploys his parachute, He would be saving his life, but breaking the law.


This is a new style of climbing that flies In the face of the laws in yosemite valley.

Basically, dean does whatever he wants.

He just follows his vision.

I mean, that's some outlaw shit right there.


How you guys doing today? Good.

Would you guys like a map and a newspaper?

No, thank you.

Want me to give you a good smile for that camera?

Yep? Thanks.

Over the past 60 years, climbing has evolved to a place That would be unfathomable To the early pioneers of these walls.

But that basic yearning for adventure remains the same...

To step into the unknown and go beyond the possible...

As when alex honnold walked up to the base of half dome, The wall where it all began, And started up the 2,000-Foot route With no equipment but his climbing shoes And a chalk bag.

Half dome was first climbed in 1957, And it was the first big wall ever climbed in the world.

51 years later, alex honnold comes along with the idea of Climbing it without a rope, and that's sort of an ultimate Statement of what's going on right now.

# we were tight-Knit boys

# brothers in more than name The same thing that drew royal robbins to half dome Is the same thing that drew me to half dome...

Just the awe-Inspiring face.

I mean, i don't know how else to say it, Just how impressive the wall is.

# hearing you'd gone away

# but everything goes away

# yeah, everything goes away

# but i'm gonna be here till i'm nothing #

# but bones in the ground

# and i was there when you were restless #

# left in the dead of night Being by yourself on a huge, big wall, It just puts you in your place.

But you also feel a part of something bigger, This rich history of climbing in yosemite.

# who-O-O-O-O-A Alex coming along to free-Solo half dome...

It shows the arc of progress in yosemite climbing.

Climbing in yosemite, it's constantly evolving.

People come there to make a statement about what's Possible with passion and vision and heart.

# oooooooh Yosemite will always be there for people That have a free spirit and plenty of raw energy.

For the one's amongst us That want to adventure on a huge scale.

I'm kristoff churchenallen, and i'm from austria.

I'm from switzerland.

And i am here for the el cap.

"Let's enjoy climbing!"

My name is taylor free solo rees.

My middle name is free solo Because of my hippie rock-Climbing mother.

My name is sean o'neill, And i'm here to climb el capitan.

500 pull-Ups a day for a week.

I can't wait.

# ohhh, oh

# oh, ohhhh Whoo!



As the sport of climbing has matured, Yosemite climbers have been making an effort To recast their outlaw image.

We'll have you sign in right here.

This is yosemite facelift, A clean-Up event that i started 4 years ago.

Climbers and rangers working together to clean up the park.

Even though there's always been that friction Between climbers and rangers, I think the park service is recognizing That climbers really love this place.

They want to protect yosemite, And when it comes down to it, The mission is the same for both groups.

But in an era of increasingly good will, There remains, at the heart of yosemite climbing, a spirit That's not so easily tamed.

# sometimes you've got to lie just to find the truth #

# sometimes you've got to cry just to know you're all right #

# sometimes you've got to die just to know you're alive #

# sometimes you've got to die Aah!


# look me up sometime, look me up sometime #

# when you're trying to get off, but can't just hit the bit #

# look me over when you're done, look me over when you're done #

# when you're trying to get off, trying to get fit #

# won't you try me out sometime? #

# won't you try me out sometime, time, time, time? #

# hook me up sometime, hook me up #

# got you running your mouth, i gotta get you out #

# get me up when you're done, get me up when you're done #

# gotta get gone, get you off of my head #

# won't you try me out sometime? #

# won't you try me out sometime, time, time, time? #


Ooh, la, la.


This is part of the wing from the 1977 airplane crash.

# show me off sometime, show me off sometime #

# when i'm getting it off, you got to shut your mouth #

# won't you try me out sometime? #

# won't you try me out sometime, time, time, time? #

Meet me in the morning

56th and wabasha

# meet me in the morning

# 56th and wabasha

# honey, we could be in kansas

# by time the snow begins to thaw #

# they say the darkest hour is right before the dawn #

# they say the darkest hour is right before the dawn #

# honey, you wouldn't know it by me #

# every day's been darkness since you been gone #

# little rooster crowing

# there must be something on his mind #

# little rooster crowing

# there must be something on his mind #

# well, i feel just like that rooster #

# honey, you treat me so unkind #

# well, i struggled through barbed wire #

# felt the hail fall from above #

# well, i struggled through barbed wire #

# felt the hail fall from above #

# well, you know i even outrun the hound dogs #

# honey, i know i've earned your love #

# look at the sun

# sinking like a ship

# look at the sun

# sinking like a ship

# ain't that just like my heart, babe #

# when you kissed my lips?