“I like to go in the mountains to places no one has been before. The world is an astonishingly beautiful place. It is beautiful at the deep level of physics, way down inside things. What we know of the universe that is visible to us is also of astonishing beauty, and I like to see that and explore it. That is why I take photographs…
I have always liked the mountains and the sea…these are places of great beauty. They can be appreciated on a large scale in quite striking contrast to the microscopic things I study professionally.” (Henry Kendall, Nobel Prize Annual, 1990.)
And go in the mountains he did. In his native New England, he skied down the Tuckerman Ravine on Mt. Washington in the 1950s, becoming a member of the National Ski Patrol while a student at MIT; he climbed Mt. Washington multiple times—mostly in winter; explored a number of other heights in New Hampshire’s Presidential Range — Mt. Madison, Mt. Adams — and participated in several ice climbs in Odell’s Gully on Mt. Washington’s Huntington Ravine, and at Cannon Mountain. Other New England ascents included a summit climb of Mt. Katahdin in Maine in 1955.
After his move West in the mid-1950s Henry Kendall became an active member of the Stanford Alpine Club and discovered what he viewed as the more imposing and challenging mountains of the Western part of the North American continent. Adept at both rock- and alpine climbing he made ascents in the Palisades and on Mt. Shasta in California , Mt. Rainier in Washington State, and the Battle Mountains in the Selkirk Range of Canada’s British Columbia. Yosemite National Park, however, is the area to which he he devoted most his leisure hours. Both winter and summer, accompanied by other experienced SAC climbers or on solo expeditions he visited and ascended numerous peaks — Mt. Dana, Mt. Conness, Mt. Hoffman, Mt. Clark among others—and participated in ascents of the rock faces of some of Yosemite’s best known features — El Capitan, Half-Dome, Cathedral Rock, Sentinel Rock, The Tree , The Royal Arches, Lost Arrow, Rixon’s Pinnacle, among many others. Earlier climbs were documented with 35 mm equipment. In some of the later expeditions Henry Kendall carried a 4×5 camera as well; some ascents of Sentinel Rock and Lost Arrow were filmed in 16mm. In Yosemite alone Henry Kendall took over 3000 photographs.
During his involvement with CERN Henry Kendall made a number of ascents in the Alps, often in the company of world-renowned Alpine guides such as Gaston Rebuffat and Riccardo Cassin; his most notable climb, with Gary Hemming, was the first successful American ascent of the Walker Spur in the Grandes Jorasses (1962).
Henry Kendall participated in 3 NAAE expeditions to the Cordillera Blanca in Peru (1958, 1960,1964). Notable climbs included Huascaran Sur, Huandoy Sur, Palcaraju, and Chopicalqui.
After the accidental deaths of a number of his climbing companions in the 1960s — some of which he witnessed — Henry Kendall stopped climbing for more than a decade; yet in 1986 he joined Tom Frost — a frequent climbing companion in Yosemite and Peru — and Jeff Lowe on an expedition to Nepal’s Khumbu valley. In 1990 he trekked through the Langtang region. Both of these trips yielded stunning medium format photographs of some of Nepal’s most awesome peaks and scenery.
In addition to his photography-mountaineering, Henry Kendall kept diaries of his more extensive excursions; these deal with his preparations, day-to-day activities , climbing companions, and technical detail about ascents and photographs.
His list of climbing partners reads like a who’s who of the world-class alpinists of the latter part of the 20th century: Tom Frost, John Harlin, Gary Hemming, David Sowles, Leigh Ortenburger, Hobey de Staebler, BJ Bjorken, Riccardo Cassin, Gaston Rebuffat, Yvon Chouinard, Lito Tejada-Flores, Dan Doody, and many others.