George Whitmore, Last Survivor of First Successful El Cap Climb, Dies at 89

George Whitmore, Last Survivor of First Successful El Cap Climb, Dies at 89

On a great November working day in 1958, in the early dawn light-weight, a pair of cracked and filthy arms appeared at the rim of El Capitan, 2,900 ft earlier mentioned the Yosemite Valley ground. The hands belonged to Warren Harding, who’d finally concluded his months-extensive start and stop drive up the wall at the time considered unclimbable. Shortly right after, Wayne Merry topped out, adopted by George Whitmore. The a few adult males have been the very first to scale the mighty El Capitan. Abruptly out of the blue all rock climbs appeared doable.

The staff died in the order they achieved the prime of El Cap Harding in 2002, Merry in 2019. And on New Year’s Day just previous week, Whitmore, the final surviving member, died from difficulties arising from COVID-19. He was 89.

Whitmore joined Harding’s crew after two other climbers experienced dropped out about the a lot of months Harding experienced been laboring to haul himself and a team up the rock experience. Whitmore was 27 many years old, and experienced only been climbing for a few a long time, soon after currently being turned on to climbing as a pharmacy scholar by roommates in his San Francisco house. Harding was casting about for any knowledgeable climbers to be part of him all through his remaining slide drive, and Whitmore answered the contact.

George Whitmore, Last Survivor of First Successful El Cap Climb, Dies at 89

Fresno Bee front site the day they accomplished their climb. That’s Whitmore dangling on the deal with. Screenshot, Yosemite Climbing Affiliation.

Whitmore fashioned pitons from aluminum, and ferried equipment up the rock, supporting Harding and Merry who led the climb. All through the last 12-hour press, it was Whitmore’s load of bolts he brought up to Harding that made the top out achievable.

“I’ve absent down in the textbooks as having been the Sherpa who hauled hundreds although the heroes did the climbing,” Whitmore explained to The Fresno Bee in 2016, “but basically I was on the climbing rope aspect of the time pushing the large level, and in fact, I would have been up there pushing the higher level much more except Wayne could not tackle the hauling.”

At the top rated, the trio clinked glasses of champagne, marveled at what they’d carried out. The doorway to the difficult experienced been kicked open up.

“There was this good uncertainty, is it probable? nobody understood,” Whitmore at the time instructed an interviewer about their climb.

Whitmore pursued a career as a pharmacist, even though climbing in Yosemite and the central and southern Sierra for a long time. He turned an energetic conservationist and a chief with the Sierra Club, inevitably becoming a chapter chief in Fresno. Whitmore tirelessly lobbied Congress with letters, encouraging to establish the Kaiser Wilderness and the California Wilderness Act. He also was a vocal opponent of an try to build a ski vacation resort in superb Mineral King in the 1960s.

He lived most of his lifetime in the San Joaquin Valley, doing work as a handyman and landlord for rentals in Fresno soon after he retired as a pharmacist. As these kinds of, he was a beneficial useful resource for the valley neighborhood that was deeply linked with the nearby Sierra. The Fresno Bee has routinely interviewed Whitmore over the several years, and their archive is a treasure trove of tales about the gracious gentleman who lived for the mountains and built a everyday living all-around defending them.

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