John Bachar

Phil Bard Photography John Bachar

John Bachar was a major figure of Yosemite’s climbing history in the 70’s and 80’s. Along with other young and talented climbers from all over California, he made daring first ascents and pushed free climbing standards far beyond what the early Yosemite climbing pioneers ever envisioned. He garnered tremendous amounts of worldwide recognition and it was not uncommon for him to be referred to as the “world’s best climber,” though certainly this kind of statement was always debatable. There is no doubt, however, that he was amongst the first to move onto the bold frontier where routes with extreme difficulty, 5.11 and above, where climbed alone and without a rope. This opened the door to today’s cutting edge solo ascents, which are commonplace in Yosemite lately, but during the early years such things were rare and mostly regarded as the pastime of lunatics.

It takes remarkable technique and complete control over one’s fear to move on thin holds hundreds or thousands of feet off the ground with no protection, but there is a simplicity and a purity in ropeless ascents that is deeply satisfying to those who make them. Over his career its been estimated that Bachar soloed over a million and a half vertical feet of rock. Free soloing for him was clearly not just a passion, it was his lifestyle.