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The Rock of Gibraltar seen from the southeast. Photo: John Robison IV

The Rock of Gibraltar seen from the southeast. Photo: John Robison IV


The Inertia

Mountains awaken the impulse that we all have in varying doses to explore, to go beyond what went before. No wonder, then, that so many people have drawn on their imagery as a symbol of their identities.

What follows are five of the most well-known usages of mountains in art and identity, both corporate and otherwise.

 

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Paramount Pictures

The first thing millions of theatre-goers were presented before settling in with their popcorn and Junior Mints for such blockbusters as Titanic, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Kung Fu Panda, the original Paramount Pictures logo debuted in 1914.

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The image was based on the childhood memory of W. W. Hodkinson’s, “The Man Who Invented Hollywood,” of Pike’s Peak perched above the Rockies high above his Pueblo, Colorado birthplace. By 1930, the image evolved to the much more striking and recognizable star-ringed peak it is today.

The mountain that inspired the contemporary logo is uncertain — Peru’s 19,767 ft Artesonraju…

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…and Utah’s 9,712 ft Ben Lomond Mountain…

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…are often cited.

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Coors Banquet & Coors Light

In 1873, after a long and distracted journey west from his native Prussia, Adolph Coors planted himself down in Golden, Colorado. His intention: to use the crystal Rocky Mountain water of Clear Creek as an ingredient in his Westphalian beer recipe. Fast forward a hundred years and the beer was starting to take off nationally; Denver was developing from cow town into a city.

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Rumor has it — and it’s my dad spreading this rumor — that in the ’70s Coors was the hot commodity to have a East coast college parties: he and his pals would load up the trunk of their jalopy and haul as much of the stuff back east from their summer trips to the Rockies.

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More recently, the iconic frosty mountains were added and the “Cold Certified” label introduced with thermochromatic ink that turns blue when chilled to 39 degrees Fahrenheit. The frosty mountains on the label are located in San Miguel County, Colorado (quite far, in fact, from Golden in the Front Range). 14,023-foot Wilson Peak forms the northernmost 14er in the Wilson Massif, stunningly picturesque from the north. This massif forms the western end of the San Juan Mountains, some of the wildest and least developed terrain in the lower 48.

A photo posted by John Robison IV (@beeofkings) on

Who knew drinking beer could be so inspiring?

Fun Fact: Jeremy Jones and Hilaree O’Neill skied the Northeast Couloir of Wilson Peak on Memorial Day.

 

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Hokusai’s 36 Views of Mount Fuji

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Absolutely THE iconic piece of Japanese art, The Great Wave off Kanagawa is a print made in the 1820s by the illustrious Japanese illustrator and print-maker, Hokusai. The rather small print is the first of his series, “Thirty-six view of Mount Fuji,” often the wave in the foreground is so captivating that the stratovolcano set behind is overlooked. Hokusai was born in 1760 in the largest urban area in the world, the harbor city of Edo. Within 20 years of his death in 1849 the Japanese emperor renamed the city “Tokyo” and moved the country’s capital to the eastern port city.

Hokusai’s talent and humility are astounding: “From around the age of six, I had the habit of sketching from life. I became an artist, and from 50 on began producing works that won some reputation, but nothing I did before the age of 70 was worthy of attention. At 73, I began to grasp the structures of birds and beasts, insects and fish, and of the way plants grow. If I go on trying, I will surely understand them still better by the time I am 86, so that by 90 I will have penetrated to their essential nature. At 100 have a positively divine understanding of them, while at 130, 140, or more I will have reached the stage where every dot and every stroke I paint will be alive. May Heaven, that grants long life, give me the chance to prove that this is no lie.”

 

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Prudential

Prudential Financial is a financial services company that has been in business for nearly 140 years. The company has over $1.2 trillion in assets under its management and employs thousands the world over. The company’s brand identity is built around “The Rock: an icon of strength, stability, expertise, and innovation.” The Rock exists. It is located on a small but significant British Overseas Territory at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea: Gibraltar.

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I passed through Gibraltar in autumn 2013 — I was unimpressed, by the town at least. Presently, it’s overbuilt and gaudy, a haven for tax evaders and traffickers, with the veneer of untruthfulness that’s hard to find elsewhere in continental Europe.

Beneath the surface, though, there’s a pridefulness woven with strands of spite that turned me off. Gibraltar is the symbol of imperialism, the foster child Great Britain doesn’t want any more but has to keep supporting. Its culture is displaced and bastardized, a result of egoistic global expansion — fish and chips and porter clashes terribly with the sweltering Andalusian climate and landscape. When humans force their values and practices into a place from which they did not grow naturally problems arise — Gibraltar is a perfect example. It clings desperately to a foundation that never actually existed; from this, spite springs.

The Rock of Gibraltar seen from the southeast. Photo: John Robison IV

The Rock of Gibraltar seen from the southeast. Photo: John Robison IV

This all said, the rock is worth checking out: a striking 1,398 ft limestone monolith rising directly out of the sea. Hiking trails criss-cross the more gradual western slope, but the real natural enclave is the cliffy eastern side. The rock’s strategic value cannot be understated, and the Brits valued it as a lynchpin of their colonial empire.

 

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Patagonia

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It’s no secret that Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, has been climbing in Argentina for decades. The hallowed environmentalist / businessman got his start on vertical rock in California after learning to rappel from the Southern California Falconry Club as a means to reach the raptors’ nests. Over the next twenty years Chouinard became a known climber in the small, fringe community — he began forging hard, reusable pitons by hand, then scaled his business. By 1970 Chouinard faced a conundrum: the pitons that were the mainstay of his business were irreparably damaging the rock routes he found so much joy in. He made the tough decision to phase out the company’s bread-and-butter product, beginning a long history of environmental action by the pre-eminent outdoor gear company.

Around the same time, Chouinard got his start in the clothing business by importing rugged, colorful clothing from around the world to sell to his buddies. Not keen on sullying the hardware company’s name and image, Yvon decided to bring the clothing to market under a different name: Patagonia. The logo of the company is a stylized image of the famous Fitzroy Massif in Patagonia, just above El Chaltén.

Screenshot: A Line Across the Sky

Screenshot: A Line Across the Sky

Its seven summits were recently traversed by Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold.

Don’t forget to follow John Robison IV on Instagram.

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