Yosemite Years: 1977–1992
Beginning in 1977 while living in the San Francisco area, Phil began making weekend trips to Yosemite to climb. In 1978 he took the first of what was to be many summers off work to live in the park and spend every waking minute on Yosemite’s vast and majestic granite walls and peaks. Although not yet experienced in the world of professional photography, he always had a camera along to photograph his adventures. Eventually, after getting to know and photograph many of Yosemite’s most renowned climbers, he began selling his images to climbing magazines and equipment companies looking for photos to use in their ads.
Notable amongst these climbers were people such as Ron Kauk, Peter Croft, Jim Bridwell, Werner Braun, Kim Carrigan, Jerry Moffat, Christian Griffith and others. Perhaps the most important friendship that arose back then was with John Bachar, who at the time was scraping out a meager existence, living in a beat up VW van in Camp 4, but racking up major first ascents and pushing free climbing standards on the outer edge of the envelope. When John began to make important free solo (ropeless) ascents of some of Yosemites hardest climbs, media attention shifted towards him, and Phil began to accompany him on solos to photograph. During the next 6 years Phil shot thousands of images of most of John’s incredible free solos, many of which found their way into publications ranging from Outside, Climbing to Life magazines, and were staples of ads for Boreal, the maker of the most popular climbing shoe of the time, with whom John developed a business relationship.
Photos of John are included in the John Bachar gallery, there are shots of other climbers in Yosemite Climbing. Below are some of Phil’s moments. living the climber’s life with wallet practically empty but heart and soul filled to the brim.