Dick Erb Appreciation Thread


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Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 7, 2009 - 04:47pm PT
Another California legend has quietly pulled up a chair at the ST campfire!
Welcome Dick Erb!

Whether it is posting beautiful scenery and backcountry skiing shots...



or splendid historical accounts of climbing Valley routes BITD on the Frank Sacherer thread and elsewhere...


Dick is the real deal and we are fortunate to have him on the forum!


Mountain climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Nov 7, 2009 - 05:37pm PT
Erb was both a good climber and a reliable partner. He was one of the denizens at the Great Pad on Regent St in Berkeley, along with Sacherer, Beck, Thompson, and me. He also went with me on two expeditions to the Hindu Kush, Koh-i-Tundy in 1968 and Koh-i-Marchech in 1970. I have a lot of Erb stories; here are two:

Driving into the Valley, he saw a bunch of people taking turns trying to lead Rixon’s East. He got out of his car and watched for a while, then, dressed in Levis and Hush Puppies, he said let me give it a try. He just tied into the rope – no swami belt and many years before harnesses – and flashed it.

In 1965, Thompson, Morton, Peppin & I were climbing in the Dolomites. During a period of bad weather, Thompson & I hitched south to Venice to hang out on a beach for a couple of days. On the way back, we got into a conversation about Dick Erb. Arriving back in Cortina, a letter from Erb awaited us. He described how he had gone to a great martial arts movie. After getting home, he was practicing knife moves in front of his mom’s full-length mirror, and he managed to stab himself in the back of the leg, severely enough to go to the ER for stitches. Thompson & I sat on the curb at the Cortina post office, feet in the gutter, laughing so hard that tears poured down our cheeks.

Social climber
Salt Lake City
Nov 7, 2009 - 05:45pm PT
One of my most memorable avalanche experiences was triggering a huge slide at Alpine Meadows and watching Erb go down in it. The last I saw of him he was chimneying and mantling in between huge moving blocks. Somehow he fought his way out and was just fine.
Cheers, Dick!
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Nov 7, 2009 - 05:53pm PT
I just wrote a big paragraph, hit the return, and the whole
thing erased. Does anyone else have this problem with this
program? This has happened to me several times.

Guess I'll start over, but it will be different, as I can't
remember anything I write.

I met Dick in about 1966, and he was the quietest person I
think I ever met, a man able and true. We used his downstairs
pad as a kind of basecamp during the psychedelic age of 1967.
Layton and I and others were swept up in those voluptuous and
disturbing times. Dick and I climbed any number of routes. I
remember one moment when he rounded a corner, as he followed
an A5 pitch I led. His eyes widened when he caught sight of
an amazing nested thing, where I had placed about ten pitons by
the tip in a single, shallow, rotten little hole. It was tied-off,
but if it went then so would half the rack. I remember another night
after I was walking on the hill and happened to catch sight of
my first love, with whom I had been engaged, and I saw her walk into
Tulagi's nightclub with some guy. She glanced back at me, and
our eyes were on each other as the door slowly closed. I walked
to Dick's pad. One didn't have to knock, and I simply went downstairs
and sat on his bed. I put the headphones on and heard, for the first
time, the beautiful Simon & Gargunkle album with Dangling Conversation
and Scarborough Fair. I looked down and noticed a large pool of water
on the floor and wondered what that was about. I suddenly realized
those were my tears. Dick said nothing and simply sat beside me.
He handed me an apple.

I'm sure I wasn't a perfect friend then, by any means. But still
I hold to the good light that flowed from Dick, that fine climber,
that Yosemite boy... who filled my mind with stories of Beck and
Sacherer, both of whom I later met, probably due in part to Dick
who brought us together...

All hail to one of the great ones,

Pat Ament

Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Nov 7, 2009 - 06:52pm PT
I met Dick first through Eric Beck,when we both lived in Squaw Valley in the winter. I met him, Judy, and Dawn, their little girl when Dick was the main guide at Royal's RockCraft. I don't think I ever heard any of Dick's stories from him, always from someone else. It was always great to work with Dick; he had a knack for keeping Royal happy, the clients moving, and everyone on an even keel. I remember his quick and very understated wit.

Here is a picture of Dick with Dawn on his lap, seated second from the right and Judy, standing, behind him--a group photo from RockCraft in about 1973 or so.


Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Nov 7, 2009 - 07:36pm PT
Three cheers for Dick!
We are indeed lucky to have the extreme quality guys on here.
It keeps me coming back to sort through the piles....
Thanks Dick!

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Nov 7, 2009 - 07:37pm PT
One of the nicest individuals on the planet.

Cheers to the Erb man.


Social climber
Nov 7, 2009 - 08:59pm PT
Pat I think that is the best story I have ever read from you- thanks
Erb sounds like someone I'd like to meet
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 7, 2009 - 09:56pm PT
Nice photo, Roger! Anyone else of interest in what presumably is a staff shot!

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Nov 7, 2009 - 11:53pm PT
Hooray for Dick!!!

Mountain climber
Central California
Nov 8, 2009 - 12:31am PT
Is this the same Erb who donated the amazing rare climbing book collection to the Malibu County Library?

Social climber
Nov 8, 2009 - 12:35am PT
hey there say, steve, pat, and roger...

say, thanks for teaching me about a bit about dick erb here..

very nice write-ups... :)

say, welcome to you dick erb... :)
have a great supertopo time...

and god bless...
rotten johnny

Social climber
mammoth lakes, ca
Nov 8, 2009 - 12:41am PT
met dick erb at the lumber yard and didn't know he was some famous climber.....thought he was just this really nice human being.....just...?
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C. Small wall climber.
Nov 8, 2009 - 12:51am PT
Welcome, and thank you for the entertaining story of the second ascent of the south face of Mount Watkins, and preparatory attempts.

Any relation to TM 'Erbert?

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Nov 8, 2009 - 04:45am PT
I've been trying to remember any stories I might have about Dick Erb back in the day. All I could come up with were the usual "really nice guy" and that he was great at story telling. He used to entertain us with his stories of weekend rail riding among other adventures.

Another thing that seemed to happen to him with some frequency, were epics brought on by others. Here's an account he posted to the Frank Sacherer thread a while back.

Jan 13, 2009 - 06:19pm PT

When I began climbing in the Valley I soon met Frank and we started climbing together. This was a great learning experience for me, but the way he climbed scared me half to death. I think it scared him too, but that was a fascination of his. These experiences peaked for me on the Powell-Reed route on Middle Cathedral Rock. Kamps and Higgins had recently bagged the first free ascent and we were going up for the second. Two of Frank's characteristics that factored into the ensuing events were his impatience and the fact that he never liked to stop at the end of the pitch if he had much rope left. It was up here that I took the longest fall of my life, and most amazingly while following. Somewhere a number of pitches up I made a mistake following a pitch and grabbed a pin to avoid falling. This didn't upset Sacherer too much because the pitch had been led free, but it frustrated me and higher up at a series of traverse moves I decided to just swing across on the rope. I called my plan up to Frank. "OK" "Got me" "Gotcha". I started the short pendulum but was immediately falling through space. My first thought was this was some kind of joke or punishment but I soon realized this was no joke. My mind seemed to enter a very clear space where all of the possible reasons this was happening and their consequences were instantly apparent. One reason I could check right away was whether the pendulum pin had popped. I looked up and saw it still there. Too bad, that was one of the better possibilities. Then I was looking out across the Valley, then at the river , then down at the talus, then I snapped to a stop just a few feet short of a three foot ledge. Good thing our rope wasn't any longer. I climbed back up the rope and figured I'd gone about eighty feet. When I got to the top of the pitch there was Frank staring at the rope burn shredded skin on his hands. When leading the pitch he had passed up the belay ledge and went another forty or so feet and stopped on a sandy sloping shelf where he quickly pounded in an anchor piton. He didn't like it so he tied a slack anchor to keep the weight off of it, and started belaying me up. When I put my weight on the rope he started to slide off the ledge and grabbed at the anchor with his braking hand. The rope took off and he grabbed at with both hands, not in belay position, just his two hands desperately squeezing the speeding rope until all my weight and momentum slammed into the single anchor piton, which held. When I got back up to him he said, "You'll have to lead the rest of the pitches but don't fall because I can't hold you." I believed him. About forty feet up I get to a move that looks to be about 5.8 and slam in a piton. I looked down at Frank bent over with the rope lying across his open hands. A quick mental calculation tells me a fall here would be well over a hundred feet. Let's get out of here. I grab the pin as Frank looks up and yells up, "Let go of that pin Erb". He looks away, I grab the biner and I'm on my way. Higher up at the next pro he yells, "If you grab that pin I'll tie you off right here".


Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Nov 8, 2009 - 04:50am PT
Dick even had adventures climbing on the UC campus buildings at night. Here's his account of one night.

Jan 19, 2009 - 04:36pm PT

Frank and I and others would wander around the Cal campus at night looking for things to climb. Trying to work out techniques for odd sized smooth off widths, Like maybe seven inches wide and four inches deep. We also liked summiting various buildings. We always found an unlocked door on top for an easy descent. One frightening event I recall one night with Frank and John Morton was on a small building no more than twenty feet tall. It had a tile like masonry wall with features for the feet and crimpers for the fingers at the mortar joints. All three of us started off the concrete slab side by side. Near the top, as I was getting pumped, I found the mortar had filled the crack to the lip and I started looking around to get a grip. I must have sounded desperate because Frank reached out over the edge and said, "Grab my hand". I lunged and latched on but was alarmed to see that Frank was starting to tip off the edge head first. Just then John grabbed Frank by the waist and pulled us back as I grabbed the top.

Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Nov 8, 2009 - 08:24pm PT
Jan, I guess I didn't get where Dick fit into
that last story, but then I'm kind of out of it,
to say the least.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 8, 2009 - 09:00pm PT
It is Dick's post, Pat. He is the narrator.
John Morton

Nov 8, 2009 - 11:58pm PT
I love reading these accounts, they bring back Dick's face and mannerisms and many memories. A wonderful person. I am reminded of a couple of things ...
Dick had planned to be with us on the 1965 invasion of Europe that Dr Deeg mentions. To finance the trip he gave $300 to a stockbroker, telling him to invest it in something "highly speculative". It was called Superior Oil. The stock plummeted and he never made the trip.

Upon returning I rented a place with Dick. I guess the most memorable day there was when we got hold of our first LSD. It was a single tablet, so we attempted to split it with a razor blade - it shattered, the pieces went all over the floor and we licked it up. Nothing was happening so we went to see Help at the UC Theatre. By the time we got out we were incapacitated, and walked home in time to see the old St. Joseph's school across the street burn down.

Later I wanted my girlfriend to move in, so Dick got a place with Eric Beck not far away, a 2nd floor apartment. One night he waited on the steps for Eric to arrive, sprawled with an empty whiskey bottle as if in a drunken stupor. Dick was always so mild and reliable, I think Eric was genuinely shocked. Those were two funny individuals, it was very fun to visit. This was not a bad neighborhood: TM and Jan Herbert lived nearby, Tavistock also (his mom's place) and Jan and Frank Sacherer after they married.

Dick moved to Boulder in 1966, a great loss to the community of Berkeley climbers. At that time Boulder was the only place you'd consider moving if you wanted a change of scene. Dick would write to fill me in - each letter ended with his latest count of the number of leaves on his marijuana plant. I have made these references to dope, but being students and active climbers and impoverished we didn't get very far into it. Anybody from Berkeley seemed like a major stoner in Boulder.

I'm just rambling, I'll leave this to Jeff and Eric, who have great memories for detail ...

Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Nov 9, 2009 - 12:10am PT
Ok, sorry. I'm a bit out of it, as I said. Makes
perfect sense now. I should not say anything at all,
if I don't want to get in trouble... until this dumb
leg things settles down.
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