The Oakdale Climbers Festival 2013 is coming October 25,26, and 27th at the Oakdale Community Center in California. Described as “The history of climbing told by climbers,” I was lucky enough to speak with the Event Co-Chair, Stephen Grossman, about the festival.
The Clymb: What is the goal of this event?
Stephen Grossman: To foster interest in and appreciation of climbing history with a focus on personalities and events in California. I am in the process of applying for nonprofit status to create the North American Climbing History Archives (NACHA).
The NACHA mission: To gather, document and celebrate climbing history in image, word and artifact with special emphasis on personalities and events in North America.
The Clymb: What inspired you to start organizing historical festivals?
Climbing is unusual in that the commonality of learning to climb, going through the fire, makes us accessible to each other. I have a body of work called the Elevated Lives Project where I do full biographical interviews of climbers of record. During the course of this work, it occurred to me that the greater good would be served by sharing these people and their amazing adventures directly with interested people.
The Clymb: Who was your favorite speaker to date? Who are you most excited for this year?
Last year, the great Allen Steck came to share his pioneering experiences with John Salathé climbing the north face of Sentinel Rock in Yosemite over five grueling days in 1950. This year I am very excited to hear from all of the speakers listed especially young master Alex Honnold, the celebrated free soloist.
The Clymb: What kind of tools will be on display? How old are some of them?
Technical climbing in California began in the 1930s, so none of the gear is much older than that. Salathé was the father of the modern alloy steel piton which, by virtue of durability for repeated hard use, opened up Yosemite walls to small, lightly equipped parties. Climbing can be a gear intensive activity and advances in equipment and technique often go hand in hand with rising standards. Salathé pitons were on display last year at the Oakdale Festival along with extensive displays of soft iron and mild steel pitons and other hardware from all over the world. This year I plan on displaying vintage footwear and free climbing racks for each decade from the 1950s to the 1990s so that people can clearly see the progression and evolution of equipment that brought us to the present and appreciate the tool constraints of the past.
The Clymb: How long do you plan for these events?
Planning for the Oakdale Festival is ongoing as I try to set up several years worth of programming at once. I have complete control over the theme and content at the event each year and try to develop a theme based on the available speakers. I contact the key speakers at least six months ahead of time.