Free (and Aid) Blasts: Yosemite Big Walls, Third Edition


The cover of SuperTopo’s stellar new Yosemite Big Walls: Third Edition, by Chris McNamara and Chris Van Leuven, tells you everything you need to know about the Valley in 2011: instead of an aid climber slamming blades on some A4 seam, we instead see Nico Favresse pimping micro edges out a rooflet on The Secret Passage, a 5.13c R… which also happens to be an El Cap VI. This is the beauty of the updated guide ($29.95,, an indispensable, photo-rich, text-and-topo reference to 77 of the Valley’s big-wall classics: An emphasis is placed on clean aid (with a page of tips, and C ratings where appropriate), with accordingly modern rack suggestions for cam hooks, offset nuts and cams, and the like. The topos also sport green text and dotted green lines that call out the free pitches and variations. In fact, entire pages are given over to the beta and history for many a modern VI free big-wall testpiece, and the book features 14 new climbs not found in the second edition. The authors have sourced and interviewed Yosemite players from the 1960s onward, and McNamara culled through threads and trip reports on to update the descriptions. Their meticulousness shows. The first-ascent histories have long been a favorite part of the ST big-wall guides, and the hand-drawn topos are as crisp as ever. Added bonuses: full-color action photos and a handful of Tom Frost black-and-white classics; a big-wall geology essay; and a historical timeline and section on “The Players,” with memorable quotes from some peer on each. —Matt Samet