Modesto's Royal Robbins recounts some of his legendary ascents in "The Golden Age," the recently released third volume in his "My Life" series.
He focuses on climbs in Yosemite National Park in the 1960s making the second ascent of the Nose of El Capitan, the first ascent of its Salathe Wall and the direct route on Half Dome. "The early 1960s were arguably the golden age of Yosemite climbing," said Robbins, 78, in an interview at his Magnolia Avenue home. "It was a heady time in Yosemite."
He also talks about his marriage to Liz (the couple will celebrate their 50th anniversary in the fall), his previous romantic relationships and his friendships with climbers.
Robbins' earlier autobiographical volumes are "To Be Brave" (2009), about his risk-taking childhood in Los Angeles, and "Fail Falling" (2010), about his early climbs in Southern California. He originally planned to write seven books, but has decided to cut back to five. The final volumes will focus on additional climbs in Yosemite and his experiences kayaking. He decided not to write about his successful Royal Robbins clothing business because he wanted to focus on outdoor adventure.
Robbins said that while he generally had confidence in his climbing abilities, he had doubts early on about whether he could make his pioneering climbs.
"You don't know for sure until you do it," he said. "When you get to the top, you feel powerful, like you can do anything. When you're at the bottom, you wonder if it's true."
Liz Robbins said she was drawn to Royal because of his intense focus. "What he wanted to do and what he meant to do was fabulous," she said. "He had a passion and followed it, and was committed to himself. I respected his love of life and his way of thinking about things."
Liz said she didn't worry about Royal too much during his breathtaking climbs because he always thought things through and took safety precautions.
While Liz wasn't as serious a climber, the couple did many climbs together and shared a love of the outdoors. Royal Robbins credits his wife with smoothing out his tumultuous life.
"She was very steady and secure," he said.
Both husband and wife said they enjoyed recalling the details of Royal Robbins' major climbs in his book. Liz Robbins said those days don't seem that long ago. "We have to blink and remind ourselves how old we are and how long ago those things were," she said.
This book is the first of his autobiographical series that is really aimed at mountain climbers the others offered more general details about his life. He hopes to inspire today's young climbers, though he avoids learning too much about them.
"I don't like to read about other climbers doing things I wish I had done," he said.
"The Golden Age" is available in paperback for $19.95 at Camp 4 Wine Café, 1508 10th St., Modesto, or through www.royalrobbinsthebook.com. It is published by Royal Robbins Adventures.