Posthumous, Royal Robbins, 1935-2017, was one of the pioneers of American rock climbing, making first ascent of many big wall routes in Yosemite, but bringing the ethics of the sport into world consciousness by climbing “clean,” that is, without bolts or pitons fixed to the rock faces. In one of his books, Robbins wrote about what drivers all climbers: “a first ascent is a creation in the same sense as is a painting or a song,” and that choosing a climbing line may well be “an act of brilliant creativity.”
After developting In 1978, Robbins developed severe arthritis in his hands, which prevented serious climbing. He took up adventure kayaking instead, and completed the first descents of wilderness rivers from high-mountain elevations. He and his partners three descended the San Joaquin River Gorge from Devil’s Postpile to the Mammoth Pool Reservoir, a 32-mile trip with a 5,000-foot descent. In another trip, they carried their kayaks over Mount Whitney Pass at 13,777 feet, into Sequoia National Park and descended 55 miles down the Kern Trench. His other trips include descending the Middle Fork of the Kings River in Kings Canyon National Park, and the Tuolumne River in Yosemite National Park from Tuolumne Meadows to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.