WARREN HARDING'S LETTER QUITTING THE AMERICAN ALPINE CLUB

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Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 9, 2009 - 10:40pm PT
This is a privately held letter that Warren drafted to the American Alpine Club in 1972. It clearly depicts the ridicule he held for the AAC, the climbing establishment and in pointed remarks, Royal Robbins specifically. After all, his letter here was written quite some time after Royal and Lauria’s erasure of the Wall of the Early Morning Light and we can sense his ill-concealed rage while he nonetheless condemns himself to “farcing” and “drinking”. Although he climbed afterwards, Warren was forced to both confront himself and the community he sprang from and this process did not take place as well as it might have. As with my related post of Warren’s letter written to the AAC (a draft apparently), these two letter arriveds in my hands from Joe McKeown (Guido) who got the image from Roger Derryberry and Mary Lou who actually own them.

Here is the text and following it is the actual retouched raster image of the mounted document.

Truckee, Calif
Stronghold of the
L.S.E.D.&F.S.

Dear Alpine club


Sorry to have been so neglectful of this matter: my membership status.

This must be the year for scandals lf all levels--- from Watergate to the Low Sierra Eating Dring & Farcing Society (LSED&FS). A recent security lock revealed that (the founding Director of the LSED&FS) had in a moment of moral weakness succumbed to pressure and joined the American Alpine Club--- this was a little over a year ago.

The membership of the LSED&FS were stunned--- outraged--- rightfully so!** A High Council meeting was called --- I was called to answer for my incredible conduct. Cleverly following the example of the Watergate people, I freely admitted my sins, and for good measure threw in a plea of insanity.

This satisfied the Council: I was give a chance to continue as Founding Director, provided I severed all connections with the hated American Alpine Club. I, of course, readily agreed to these Terms. This makes sense: as a true “Downward Bounder”, I have never (during my 1 years membership) felt comfortable in the company of the High Minded, Ethical gentlemen (who climb “without fanfare”, etc) who make up the AAC.

Then, there’s the matter of all the wonder--- political in-fighting that seems to go on. Good enough comedy, I suppose--- but I wouldn’t pay anything to see it. The other AAC projects and functions are, no doubt, worthwhile--- to some one, but not for me. I find I just don’t really give a damn about any of this--- it’s entirely possible that I'm simply not “community minded”.

Semper Farcissimus

“BAT”

**It was a shock comparable to learning that Jerry Rubin had joined the John Birch Society or Eldridge Cleaver had joined the KKK.



Lynne Leichtfuss

Sport climber
Will know soon
Nov 9, 2009 - 10:56pm PT
Wish I could have met Harding. Not as a young gal tho, would have needed to meet him on my today time turf. Plumbing the depths of insanity can reveal and teach much if you can absorb the material. Like reading Tolstoy, one must pay attention.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 9, 2009 - 11:03pm PT
Warren wasn't insane at all. He was very very funny and sly and yes also dark. I hardly knew him, Lynnie. And I am not really a huge fan of Warren either. But he was a working man and I deeply relate!

But it is the history that is so important here and to share it with thousands instead of two dozen old guys and a few gals from the era as we quickly vanish. I am hoping for the Stevie Grossman Award of the Eternal Flame with this post!!!!!!!
james Colborn

Trad climber
Truckee, Ca
Nov 9, 2009 - 11:05pm PT
Truckee was the "Stronghold" of the Low Sierra Eating Drinking and Farcing Society? I had no idea.
Did Harding spend much time here in Truckee? No wonder I love it here.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Nov 9, 2009 - 11:07pm PT
I never thought Harding was insane. He drank too much, that's for sure, but when sober, I thought he had much better insight into himself than most climbers of the time. So many were so serious, yet Batso never lost his sense of humor concerning himself or the scene in general. He wasn't a Berkeley intellectual and didn't pretend to be; he was always just himself warts and all. Certainly no one would have laughed harder than Warren at the idea that instead of chopping bolts, civic minded people are now replacing the old classic bolts on places like the Apron for the benefit of all.

This does not mean I agreed with all his bolting, but it was in character for a man who sought success no matter what it took. Meanwhile, a quick perusal of ST will affirm that the climbing world is still full of Valley Christians of many denominations and motives!

Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Nov 9, 2009 - 11:22pm PT
My relationship with Warren was tempestuous.

When we first met in C4 in 12/76 I was just another young wall wannabe, but by the time he moved to Utah we had a sort of bipolar relationship interacting with Kyle's moodiness.
At times simpatico, at others the target of his ire. Often it was merely a function of the level of blood alcohol level.
Eventually I became the repository of some of his memorabilia (the spare BAT tent from the Dawn, his hammers, his home made figure 8) , but we had insufficient resolution before his demise. I last saw him in Telluride.

Perhaps the tragedy was his lack of appreciation of how much of my own climbing career was a homage to HIM.
Lynne Leichtfuss

Sport climber
Will know soon
Nov 9, 2009 - 11:27pm PT
I'm sure Harding wasn't certifiable....I just meant crazy like my husband Dan was....doing things that few thought possible or probable. A person that pushed boundaries. :D
Norton

Social climber
the Wastelands
Nov 9, 2009 - 11:37pm PT
Peter, it is possible to put in the letter in text here for us to read?
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 9, 2009 - 11:38pm PT
THANKS NORTON!! I thought I had, here it is now. I know the "image" is not readable so I transcribed it.


No matter what, Warren Harding was one of the five or six elephants that carried us forward either by example or counter-example. When I think back to those times I realize that although it was more or less concealed, the man felt he was spurned and misunderstood even though he feigned to not give a damn. He wasn't all that much of a hard-ass that he would not have cared how he and his legacy rested with his friends and associates. No one is. Since we all live in community. But his passing was his own undertaking.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Nov 10, 2009 - 12:08am PT
Even those who spurned his climbing methods, enjoyed the parties with him. Perhaps part of the reason he partied so much was that he felt accepted while they were on. Not a few climbers mentioned at various times that they liked him so much, their main regret at his climbing methods was that they felt obliged to oppose him for that, creating dissonance in what would otherwise have been a great relationship.
Lynne Leichtfuss

Sport climber
Will know soon
Nov 10, 2009 - 12:14am PT
Peter, really appreciate what you are trying to accomplish. Getting the history out to "thousands" instead of a few oldies.

Right On, Mon !!!! :D

I like my van .... yo can help me make it psychedelic. It already has the throw down. Smiles, lynnie
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 10, 2009 - 12:14am PT
You are hereby commended to be licked by the Eternal Flames...of controversy. Warren in the AAC at all is a longer reach than his stature would ever allow. LOL

Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C. Small wall climber.
Nov 10, 2009 - 12:15am PT
I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.
 Groucho Marx (of course)

Edit: The quote is widely attributed to Marx, but the true origin seems murkier. A collection of sayings by WC Fields doesn't include it: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/w_c_fields.html
Ray Olson

Trad climber
Imperial Beach, California
Nov 10, 2009 - 01:36am PT
Drinking with him in the bar one night,
we were trashed, Bombay and tonic tall.

I ask Warren -
(with loose reference to the Rostrum)

"so, how come so many of your
FA's are now like, the most
popular climbs around?"

Harding puts down his glass and goes:

"Steve Roper said 'that's not a route,
that's not a route', and I said, fukk you
Steve Roper!"

true story

and, there was true anger in how he said it.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 10, 2009 - 02:03am PT
Ray, awesome!!!!!!! Yeah, that is what I am talking about here. It is even kind of Shakespearean.
BASE104

climber
An Oil Field
Nov 10, 2009 - 02:10am PT
Well, he put up the Nose, which is one of the best climbs on Earth. The East Face of the Column is now Astroman. Everyone likes Leaning Tower, despite all of the bolts on that one. Harding was as much a visionary as anyone else.

I am going to have to steal that Groucho Marx quote.

People questioning each others motives is a shallow and narcissistic act. Why not worry about figuring out your own motives rather than try to figure someone else out. I still don't know what motivates me to have adventures, and for the life of me I have tried.

Sometimes we are all petty. Remaining petty is for fools.

Ethics are in a way necessary, but they change over time. Hell, sport climbing has probably tripled the amount of climbable rock, and I remember everyone (me included, which I now see as childish) getting all worked up over chalk, then friends, then sticky rubber, then rap bolting. Screw it. I look back and see a lot of foolishness. Still do. You hear it every day right here.

Too bad Warren had to dick around with the standards of the day. You had to be a well read gentleman to be respected or something.

Sorry that Warren had to deal with that stuff. After all of these decades, it looks like he did what he wanted, and left some great climbs behind. The only difference these days seems to be taking Olde E on walls rather than cheap red wine.

Thumbing his nose at the AAC is hilarious. I used to write obscene notes in Sierra Club summit registers myself. I mean really obscene.


Ray Olson

Trad climber
Imperial Beach, California
Nov 10, 2009 - 08:16am PT
RE: "Plumbing the depths of insanity...."

What?


RE: "I'm sure Harding wasn't certifiable..."

Thanks for the post mortem Dx, uh, Lynne.



..................................................................>

EDIT:
what The Chief said...thanks.
Norton

Social climber
the Wastelands
Nov 10, 2009 - 08:51am PT
Balls not the size of 20 pound mellons, but he had the "higher spire".


I remember reading on this forum not long ago that Harding was really,
really tough, and did the 215 mile John Muir Trail in 4 1/2 days.
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Nov 10, 2009 - 09:38am PT
Every time I was around him it was pure joy.
I wanted nothing from him, I admired his crusty F*CK everybodyness (Because it was all done tongue in cheek with a giggle when I was around)
and I knew I was hanging out with a real living piece of history that wasn't going to be around forever. I just went with it.
Norton

Social climber
the Wastelands
Nov 10, 2009 - 10:09am PT
Roger Derryberry: "Warren was soooooooo funny."!!!!!!!!
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