Valley of Giants: An Excerpt from Lynn Hill

Enjoy an excerpt by Lynn Hill from Mountaineers Books upcoming title "Valley of Giants," an anthology of Yosemite's women climbers. Readers also have the opportunity to donate to the project and see their name in the book.
Erika Lundahl Erika Lundahl
Conservation Impact Manager
October 25, 2021

Many books have been written about mountain adventurers of the male persuasion. The accomplishments of women? Not so much. As a mission-focused, nonprofit publisher, Mountaineers Books is committed to broadly sharing the transformative power of the outdoors from unique perspectives.

In spring 2022, we are thrilled to be publishing Valley of Giants: Stories from Women at the Heart of Yosemite Climbing, the first-ever anthology of women, and by women climbers in Yosemite. Edited and compiled by climber and writer Lauren DeLaunay Miller, one of the members of the first one-day all-female ascent of the Triple Direct on El Capitan, Valley of Giants is a snapshot into the world of some of climbing’s greatest names. 

We invite you to become a part of this special project, with all gifts at or above $100 by October 31 granting your name in the book. Become a part of the story and support Mountaineers Books legacy of publishing powerful titles, in Washington and beyond. 

Donate 

Can’t wait for spring? Enjoy this special sneak peek excerpt from climbing legend Lynn Hill, one of 38 women featured in Valley of Giants:

Excerpt from “The Shieldby Lynn Hill

After two days on the wall, we became accustomed to living in a reality where survival required us to concentrate on each move and to evaluate the consequences of every action, whether it was hammering in a piton or clipping ourselves into our batlike hanging bivouacs. Night was a precious time when we could relax, eat, drink, and gaze up at the stars.

On the fourth day Mari led us up to the headwall. The pitch she followed to get us there was dubbed the Shield Roof, and it was indeed a giant of a roof. Hanging upside down under the roof to place each piece of gear, she dangled in her aid ladders, whacking in pitons and placing nuts whenever possible. Finally shouting down through the afternoon wind that blew our hanging rope in a swirling dance, she let me know that she was off belay. I jumared up while removing a few precarious-looking copperhead placements she had hammered in. When I pulled around from the underside of the ceiling and joined Mari at the lip of the roof and at the start of the headwall, I found that we were poised in an outrageous position. Under our feet, there was nothing but air. Above us rose 1,000 feet of smooth, overhanging orange granite. To either side of us the walls curved around out of sight. We seemed to be suspended on the edge of the world, and the two of us and our pig (haul bag full of equipment, food, and water) hung from three steel bolts the length, yet not quite the thickness, of a half-smoked cigarette. Feeling vulnerable, I instinctively checked the knot at my waist, the only thing securing me to the anchor.

We had reached the point of no return. It would be impossible to rappel down from here. It was now summit or bust.

***

Years later, after I had done the first free ascent of the Nose, and then again in one day, I had read with some chagrin in Galen Rowell’s book The Vertical World of Yosemite, “Women are conspicuously absent from the climbs in this book. I have no apology to make here because it is not my place to change history. There simply were no major first ascents in Yosemite done by women during the formative years of the sport.”

Our sport back then was directed by a fraternity of men, and there was little encouragement or, frankly, inclination for women to participate. Yet women climbers were out there. There were women such as Beverly Johnson before me, who had done the first ascent of a big-wall route on El Capitan with Charlie Porter, the same person who also did the first ascent of the Shield. The fact that this woman who had done the first ascent of a big-wall route in Yosemite back then was not given credit or even an acknowledgment during those times was disgraceful to me. It was very important for me and others to know that there were other women out there who shared a passion for climbing and adventure.

Get Your name in the book 

For more information on how to make a gift, reach out to  Erika Lundahl at erikal@mountaineersbooks.org.

Lead Image of Shelley Presson Dunbar. Photo by Charlie Fowler. Cover illustration by Rhiannon Klee.


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