Steve Grossman care to reflect for us on Turning Point?


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Cardiff by the sea
Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 29, 2009 - 11:34am PT
I am curious about this route. There is not alot out there about this one.

Is it a independent line, I believe it ascends somewhere around the nose but really have no idea. Is there a topo available?

I did see in another thread that you kept a diary of your ascent. Would you be kind enough to share some of that with us?

How did you scope the line? How long were you on the route?

Please share.

seamus mcshane

Nov 29, 2009 - 12:04pm PT
T2- check with Alpinist #25.

There's a short blurb with 1 photo regarding Turning Point.
rick d

ol pueblo, az
Nov 29, 2009 - 12:36pm PT
there is a start (free?) from nose, but from the half dollar on free blast, go right and up. Follows cracks to left of Muir Dihedrals.

All bolts are 3/8"

If you second it, don't say anything to anyone just nod to Grossman while you two sit down and drink. (or you can write a book about the 23,000#'s of gear and modified hook moves to get up the thing and how you shiat on your own ropes)

Same goes for False Shield as Cole was on it same time and let Grossman have the Muir details.

Charles said Steve read a lot on the route and even just took rest days reading.

Cardiff by the sea
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 29, 2009 - 02:07pm PT
I just read the "Iron Spell" Thanks Seamus!

Great read Steve. Please give us more. I am curious how many holes there are? With the advent of all the new style clean gear these days (ball nuts, aliens and what not) compared to 84' do you think an ascent today would be as demanding as it was 25 years ago?

I want you and everyone else here to know my intentions with this enquiry are sincere and I have no motives other than wanting to hear about this climb.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Nov 29, 2009 - 03:35pm PT
While doing the Free Blast, you can look over to the right and see the (rather few) 3/8" bolts on Turning Point.

A few bits of info on the climb can be found in posts in this forum, by doing a google search on "Turning Point" Grossman
They probably don't tell you much about the overall route; just a nonrandom sample.


(in the "Welcome to Kevin Worrall" thread)
Steve Grossman
Sep 17, 2006 - 04:33pm PT
Mike and Kevin,
Your stories about doing the Graham Traverse en route to a chopfest on the lower Salathe jogged my memory.
Back in 1983, I climbed through that area while putting up The Turning Point. The second pitch ends at the belay where you guys began that huge sweeping downward traverse to the left to reach the Salathe.
After rappelling at the end of the day, Yosemite caretaker John Bachar, approached to ask if I was aware that I had been on hallowed ground. I said yes, and told him that I had added a bolt to protect the very last 5.11a sequence to reach the belay. I watched as his jaw tightened and he pondered his response to the indiscretion. Only after I pre-empted his certain sneer by informing him that fifty feet of runout 5.10 all the way up the down ramp had left The Graham Traverse, with its enormous windshield wiper pendulum fall, essentially intact, did he smile. "Just checking," he said as we parted company, just a little closer for having shared an obscure bit of history that few would know or appreciate.
We old guard carry around a lot of great tales. I thought you guys might appreciate this one.


(in the "Steve Grossman appreciation" thread)

Steve Grossman
Feb 18, 2009 - 09:26am PT
Thanks for the glowing words Paul! You certainly were around for lots of the serious fun.

Regarding the "bad bolts" on the Turning Point. Mostly 3/8" split shafts with plenty of old Leeper hangers and therein lies the problem. As Paul well knows, those rusty old Leepers can be deadly and split shafts are simply not reliable even if 3/8"!!!

A bolt failure on any of the Superblast start would be very bad.

The TP is hands down the best bolted VI anywhere. I only mucked up two or three holes on the entire route! The only exception is a drilled angle that I was forced to place just below the connection point with the Muir up high (just past The Point of Caring). All my drilling gear was toast by then and few options were available. Anyone doing the Muir with a 1/2" drilling setup please pluck the drilled angle and put in a better bolt here. Lots of parties likely have their traversing hauls hang up on that silly pin so I would love to see it cleaned up.

and a few photos of the starting section at:

(in the "Ever been rescued?" thread)

Steve Grossman
Jan 7, 2007 - 04:07pm PT
Great stories from both sides Kevin and Jeff! A friend in need is a friend indeed.

Though not exactly rescued, I have been helped out by friends big time along the way.

I had one pitch up the Muir remaining to cap a fourteen-day solo odyssey on The Turning Point. I was collecting what remained of my wits to do an end around past the last huge overhangs that cap the sweeping corner below. "Black death!" said a familiar voice from way out over my head. "You gonna finish this thing today?" he grinned. I didn't have much light left and expressed my doubts. This prompted Fig to spur me on with a "Well, I guess I will have to eat this cheesecake and drink these cold beers myself then."

I got my act together and began traversing out left. I was wearing a pair of ultra comfy, full steel-shanked leather Galibier Sassous. Two weeks of drilling and boot stacking in top steps had completely worn away the toe of the boot, exposing the end of the shank. As the angle finally eased off and the sun was setting, I was faced with a dreadful situation to climb the last twenty feet to reach the beginnings of a manzanita patch and security, pure friction! Every time that I would try to settle onto the inclined toes of my boots in a dish, the steel would contact and skate. I had no protection anywhere nearby and things looked grim until the light came on. "Fig, ahh, any chance that you could toss me a rope?" "Sure thing, Steve," he said sounding a little puzzled that 5.7 slab moves were giving me trouble. I explained the situation as I tied in and finished the biggest adventure of my life while he laughed away at the absurdity of it all.

Soon, we gave each other a hug and took stock of the situation. My haulbag was almost directly beneath us, but oh so far away, and we laughed some more about retrieving it. So we opened the beers and built a roaring fire in a perfect spot just back from the lip. We consumed everything he brought and talked late into the night, eventually splitting up one set of warm clothes to sleep a little by the fire.

The next day, I finished cleaning the last pitch and, with Fig's much appreciated assistance, hauled everything up, over and down to the Valley floor. The Turning Point was the first full length solo first ascent on El Cap in the dozen years since the first two in 1972. While reacclimating in the Camp Four parking lot sombody handed me a can of beer in celebration. I fumbled with it weakly for a while before before comically handing it back to the donor to finish the job! That pretty much summed it up. My bandaged and wasted hands would no longer cooperate! The wall rats all around roared with laughter at my pitiful state!


(and The Iron Spell, from Alpinist 25)
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 29, 2009 - 03:43pm PT
I have too many writing assignments right now to put together a long account of this one. It starts on Pine Line and joins up with the Salathe on the pitch six bolt ladder. The third pitch aids up a clean corner just left of the second pitch of the Nose. The rest is hard free climbing with a couple of bolts per pitch.

The route swings away right from the bottom of the Half Dollar and climbs directly to Band of Gypsys ledge on the 3D. It climbs systems left of the Muir and crosses it briefly before exiting and staying left until the last couple of pitches.

All freeclimbing and belay stance bolts are 3/8/" placed on stance. This is the best bolted grade VI anywhere although the mild steel split shaft bolts and Leeper hangers that were used have proven themselves to be sketchy. The route required about 125 holes and all of them are filled with steel but not stainless.

I don't enhance hook placements, chisel copperheads or resort to any trickery and never have. The lower free pitches were established with a belayer and no chalk. These pitches need to be retrofitted BY ME before they are remotely reasonable for a repeat. I should be able in the process to produce an all free start to the Free Blast at 5.12a or so. I have to respectfully ask people to stay off the route if they are not up for the demands of the lower pitches. These pitches are the reason that the route remains unrepeated in its entirety.

I have never released a topo because I have held out some hope that this route and my typical micronutting efforts might survive some repeats if my climbing style is better understood and respected. With so many wall climbers willing to chisel and stuff copperheads into everything they see, my concern is well justified.

The Central Scrutinizer has only one repeat and is already trashed and I am sick of this sort of mindless route degradation by climbers that can't be bothered to try a nut before slamming in a head. When I asked the second ascent party about the extent of their nutting efforts, the conversation ended. In their defense, some local Valley climbers shot their wad before even reaching Dolt Tower and may have left them nothing to nut by the time they got there.

Improvements in hardware aren't going to lessen the technical challenge posed by the Turning Point and the party to repeat it should be skilled enough to have put it up. Runout 5.11+ is part of the picture and some old school A4+.

The Alpinist article has several errors. The route was the first item of business during the 1984 (not 1985) season. The Competitive Edge (aka Real Nose) and the Horseplay variation of the Horse Chute also went up that season. The begining and ending are the editor's work and the remainder is my writing. I did keep a journal and a detailed topo. I never had the time to read a book and took one rest day on Band of Gypsys after weathering two storms below it. The final push took two weeks after one false start as the article mentions. Hard to do this route justice with an 800 word limit but I tried to give folks a taste.

I hope that provides some insight and information. This was the grandest adventure in my climbing experience.

Trad climber
Lake Oswego, Oregon
Nov 29, 2009 - 04:24pm PT

I just realized we share an old friend! Blanchard and I have known each other since nursery school! We started climbing together, did our first walls together, etc. Small world!

Cardiff by the sea
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 29, 2009 - 07:01pm PT
Thanks Steve for sharing some insight on this incognito El Cap route.

Cool Stuff
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 29, 2009 - 07:36pm PT
When that article came out in Alpinist 25, I was a bit amazed that only one or two STers ever let me know that they liked it. One was Guido!

The Turning Point was the first full length solo FA that had been done in quite a while on El Cap along with Charles' effort on the False Shield that was going on at the same time. He ended up bailing out over to the Muir several hundred feet above me when his hopes of another set of Shield cracks didn't pan out. It was a bit strange having my regular partner nearby in the midst of a solo and I wasn't too upset when he finally disappeared and solitude returned. Soloing as a style option took off big time after 1984.

Mark Blanchard is a master wall man and a big influence on my decision to solo this route. Initially, the excitement of a new route of my own discovery was all that I needed. When Mark had to return to Santa Cruz late in the 1983 season, I started to solo the TP but got chased off by the closer storm that year. Once the seed was planted, I couldn't really consider any other option for the following season and jumped on it.

After finishing the Jolly Roger with Charles in 1982 it was clear to me that a strong team could overcome any obstacle that a wall could throw at them. Uncertainty is the core of adventure so as most committed wall climbers come to realize, the way of the soloist was the next step. Having said that, however, I also came to know that I learned what I needed to from the experience and that I really value partnership and the time for contemplation that climbing as a team allows you. Though you own the route in the sense of doing all the leading and work, savoring just being up there does get lost in the necessary toil and business of it all.

Trad climber
Nov 29, 2009 - 09:32pm PT
Awesome job, Steve, Beautiful routes, this and JR and CE are SOOOOOO visible, hundreds climb/rappel near these routes every year yet they remain smooth, imposing, sweeping, clean. Thanks for sharing. Any way you can post anything about the golden days on the Lemmon? You guys really were up there with the big boy cali stonemaster crew. I'm jones'n for some gneiss, old pictures...

Cardiff by the sea
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 29, 2009 - 10:19pm PT
I am ashamed to admit that I thought I read Alpinist #25 cover to cover but had missed reading your page on the Turning Point. When it was brought to my attention earlyer today I got that issue out and was amazed I never read it. (All though it was a tasty, left over tid bit to read today.)
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 29, 2009 - 10:44pm PT
MattB- I haven't even begun to dig into my slide box from the old AZ days.
I will do so when time permits. You just have to stick around.

We really had a great climbing scene in Tucson and more stone to explore than we could ever want.

Trad climber
East Wenatchee, WA
Nov 30, 2009 - 09:17pm PT

I hope you don't mind me saying so, but soloing a new route on El Cap is pretty much the coolest thing I can possibly imagine in rock climbing. And to have done one this hard, over two weeks, in what I am sure was impeccable! Most impressive. No response sought, just had to comment.

Nov 30, 2009 - 11:35pm PT
SG -

Thanks for the input. Nice job.

beneath the valley of ultravegans
Dec 3, 2009 - 09:55am PT
So in the copious amounts of free writing time that I know you have, penning a "Grossman Mouths Off: Advanced Nut Craft" would be a marvelous addition to any climbing bookshelf, let alone crag. I'll place my order now if it comes with a chapter on CrackNUps!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jan 14, 2010 - 11:44am PT
I would be happy to share some tech tips on nutting once the Frost book is finished. Learning how to sling test and set brass is really the key to moving with confidence on the tiny stuff. You have to be willing to step out on true bodyweight placements that will not withstand the agressive bounce testing that everbody has become addicted to.

The real thrill in aid climbing has always been mastering the bodyweight game! If you are not going to crash and burn get creative up there!

Cardiff by the sea
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 14, 2010 - 11:59am PT
I definitely fall into the over testing bracket. After doing a couple of the moderate, thin, clean lines in Zion last year were there is maditory thin nutting, and you don't want to bounce test them for fear of breaking the rock and placement, I will make an effort to take this practice to the granite. Plus it just jacks your nuts up getting them back out. I look forward to experimenting more with thin nutting on the granite. I was programed to bounce test evrything suspect early on in my aid climbing and that practice allowed me to get through some difficult stuff. I want to make more of an effort to not just bust out the hammer this year.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 18, 2010 - 12:51pm PT
Big Solo Bump!

A long way from where I started
Apr 18, 2010 - 02:49pm PT
Hmmm. I guess I have to go back and dig out #25
Off White

Tenino, WA
Apr 19, 2010 - 12:17am PT
When I moved to Tucson in the winter of 85 as my then girlfriend (now wife) went to grad school, before I'd even met Steve I'd heard that ever since the Turning Point he'd started to hug everyone. I've never actually discussed it with you Steve, but I assumed the rumor was true as you've always been the biggest hugging guy ever since I've met you, and that's a good thing too.
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