High Adventure on Yosemite's Walls
by Gary Arce
Wilderness Press, Berkeley, California, 1995. Softcover, 194 pages.
“Producing a definitive climbing chronicle of an area with the historical scope and significance of Yosemite Valley is a daunting task. Indeed only two books come to my mind as single-volume illustrations of the Valley in picture and print: Galen Rowell's, The Vertical World of Yosemite and George Meyer's pictorial masterpiece, Yosemite Climber. From today's perspective, both books are limited — they are anecdotal and cover climbing developments no later than the mid 1970s.
Now, Gary Arce has delivered a new narrative and anecdotal history of climbing in the Yosemite Valley from the time before the arrival of white settlers in 1833 to modern climbing of 1995. Defying Gravity is a 200-page production illustrated with historic black and white and contemporary color photos.”
Pete Tekada, “Climbing” 1996, No. 160, p. 161
“Defying Gravity is a history of Yosemite rock climbing that provides easy reading and an adequate, if often-seen, selection of photographs. The author states in his preface that the book reflects his bias and is not intended to be a complete history. Instead, Arce claims, it is intended to be "a general outline of rock climbing in Yosemite." As such, it succeeds. (…)
Though there is not much in the way of new information here, this book does nicely condense much of Yosemite's existing climbing history into a single and affordable package. Arce emphasizes the more positive sides of human nature evident in Yosemite's climbing history, and to his credit, does not turn a blind eye to the environment and how climbing affects it. Finally, Arce places a high value on the tradition of ground-up ascents — the spirit of adventure in Valley climbing. Defying Gravity, with its smooth reading and generally positive portrait of Yosemite climbers, will be an asset to beginning climbers, climbers new to the Valley, and especially for the general public.”
Eric Brand, “American Alpine Journal” 1996, p. 345-347
“Those who are new to climbing or to Yosemite lore will be amply rewarded by Arce's book. He digs up all the old stories, plus a few new ones, including good material from interviews with Lynn Hill and Peter Croft. These stories are well-told, and the climbs from the last 20 years.
However, long-time readers of Yosemite climbing stories will be disappointed in Defying Gravity. Though he has climbed many Valley routes, Arce is not an insider in the way authors like Roper or Long were. As a result, he had to recreate his history from interviews and other accounts. Sadly, most of these interviews yielded dull quotes, enlivened only by exclamation points. Arce lifts most of his other stories (with permission} directly from the pages of previously published books and magazine articles, and they'll be very familiar to many readers. (…)
The photos in Defying Gravity suffer from the same problems. The majority have been seen before by anyone who reads climbing literature. It's hard to believe there aren't great unpublished photographs hidden in the closets of aging Yosemite pioneers.”
Douglas MacDonald, “Rock & Ice” 1996, March-April, No. 72, p. 130