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National Park Quiz 55: Climbing

John Salathé on Yosemite’s Lost Arrow. Ansel Adams photo.

1. True or false? The first successful climb of Mt. McKinley, the highest mountain in North America, was completed before anyone attained the summit of Mt. Rainier.

2. True or false? The Climbing Management Plan for Yosemite National Park requires climbers to buy a climbing permit before attempting to climb El Capitan or Half Dome.

3. True or false? The first successful ascent of The Nose route on Yosemite’s El Capitan took more than 40 days, but speed climbers can now climb the Nose in less than three hours.

4. True or false? American climbers typically use the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) to rate the length and technical difficulty of climbing routes.

5. True or false? Ice climbing was much more popular in the national parks during the 1950s and 1960s than it is now.

6. The first ascent of the Diamond, a 1,000-foot vertical wall on Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, was accomplished in 1960 after
a. new climbing techniques were perfected in Colorado.
b. the winter snows melted early.
c. the National Park Service lifted its climbing restrictions.
d. an easy route was discovered.

7. Renowned for its superb rock climbing, ______ has thousands of named climbing routes, including some that are rated extremely high for technical difficulty.
a. Saguaro National Park
b. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
c. Mojave National Preserve
d. Joshua Tree National Park

8. A crux called Friction Pitch is the toughest problem to solve on upper ____, a classic Grand Teton route that is accessible via Wall Street.
a. Exum Ridge
b. Liberty Ridge
c. South Buttress
d. North Buttress

9. In 1957, Royal Robbins, Mike Sherrick and Jerry Gallwas completed the first grade VI climb in North America on a Half Dome route named
a. Tangerine Trip
b. Regular Northwest Face
c. the Shield
d. the Snake Dike

10. Warren Harding and his climbing partner, Dean Caldwell, refused a National Park Service rescue while climbing in Yosemite on a route called
a. the Wall of the Early Morning Light
b. the Nose
c. the Salathe Wall
d. Mescalito

Extra Credit

11. What famous American climber reportedly said, “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space”?
a. Chuck Pratt
b. Alan Steck
c. Jim Whittaker
d. Royal Robbins

Super Bonus Question:

12. More than 200 people have bagged the Seven Summits, a feat that requires scaling the highest peak on each of the seven continents. Can you name the peaks you’d have to climb to gain Seven Summits bragging rights?


(1) False. General Hazard Stevens and Philemon Beecher Von Trump made the first verifiable ascent of Mt. Rainer in 1870. (An earlier claim in 1855 by two surveyors is not accepted.) Nobody reached the true summit of Mount McKinley (the South Summit) before Walter Harper finally did it in 1913.

(2) False. No climbing permit is required anywhere in Yosemite. Furthermore, at present climbing fees are required only at Denali National Park ($200 if climbing Mt. McKinley or Mount Foraker) and Mount Rainer National Park ($30).

(3) True. Warren Harding and his hard-working friends took 45 days (spread over two climbing seasons) to make the first ascent in 1958, but some two-person climbing teams can now make the climb in considerably less than three hours. Hans Florine and Yuji Hirayama established a new record when they climbed the 31-pitch route in two hours, 37 minutes, and 5 seconds on October 12, 2008.

(4) True. The YDS rating of a climb expresses the difficulty of the hardest move or most challenging section encountered on a climbing route. A variety of other rating systems (French Alpine, Brazilian, etc.) are used by the international climbing community.

(5) False. Ice climbing scarcely existed as a distinctive recreational activity before modern ice climbing equipment and techniques were introduced in the 1970s.

(6) c -- The Natonal Park Service lifted its climbing restrictions in Rocky Mountains National Park in 1960, and two California climbers climbed the face that summer. More than 30 climbing routes have since been established on the Diamond.

(7) d -- Joshua Tree climbing routes are not remarkable for their length, but many routes are quite difficult. Some are rated 5.13d or higher, a level of technical difficulty so high that the YDS didn’t extend that far until a few years ago. Some climbers today can handle routes rated as high as 5.15b.

(8) a – Grand Teton’s upper Exum Ridge route is rated at “only” 5.7, which means that a whole host of talented weekend climbers can handle it. You can run into pretty heavy traffic on this route unless you wait until after the guided climbing season is over.

(9) b -- This epic climb was completed in five days. A grade VI climb is a multi-day climb.

(10) a -- Harding and Caldwell were on the Wall of the Early Morning Light for 27 days, never once descending to the ground to restock or replace equipment.

(11) c -- This oft-repeated phrase apparently originated with Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Mt. Everest.

(12) There are two lists for the seven summits, the Bass and the Messner. The most-agreed upon list, the Messner, includes Kilimanjaro (Africa), Mount McKinley [aka Denali] (North America), Elbrus (Europe), Aconcagua (South America), Puncak Jaya [aka Carstensz Pyramid] (Australia/Oceana), Vinson Massif (Antarctica), and Mount Everest (Asia). The Bass list includes Kosciusko (Australia) instead of Puncak Jaya, even though Indonesia’s Puncak Jaya is higher.

Grading: 9 or 10 correct, rest on your laurels; 7 or 8 correct, pretty darn good; 6 correct, passable fair; 5 or fewer correct, nothing to brag about.


Loved this quiz!

My best quiz score ever, only missed #2, plus both extra credit.

Tahoma: Nice going, and thanks for the info about the fee at Mt. Rainier.

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