MOLLY HIGGINS

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Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 16, 2009 - 11:21am PT
I suspect many of us here knew or still know Molly Higgins. I am remembering she rolled into the Valley around the Spring of 1976. Her arrival was not long after the tragic international expedition to the High Pamirs and Mt Lenin (23,405ft) where an entire team of Russian women were lost. She described how gruesome that experience was and in detail, too. A movie was even created eventually about that trip, ďStorm and Sorrow in the High PamirsĒ, originally filmed in 1990.

Anyway, Molly and I were romantically involved for about 4 months or so in the Valley and did some climbing there as well. Here are five photos I have from that time. I understand she lives way up north these days and married many years ago. In the past she has treated us to a few wonderful stories, most notably the tale of her all-woman ascent of the Nose with Barb Eastman in 1977.

These images show Molly, Barb Eastman?, and another lady with a Rottweiler. These shots are in the Cookie area. The climbing shots are from the Nutcracker. You can easily sense Molly's strong spirit and determined posture to life.





Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 16, 2009 - 11:48am PT
I talked with Barb recently about the Book of Bird and she mentioned seeing Molly so she is still out and about. Still climbing too, I bet!

Speaking of Molly and Barb...Here is an account of their excellent adventure on the Nose from Yosemite Climber.






Barb really hates it that George chose to put the "goofy" summit shot in his book! Perhaps Tom Kimbrough can post up the more dignified one when he sees this thread and persude her to tell a story or two...?!?
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Dec 16, 2009 - 11:59am PT
Molly and Barb first came to the Valley in October of 1973. We had all three taught together at Colorado Outward Bound that summer and I convinced them that they had to visit Yosemite. Unfortunately they didn't get there until a few days before I was leaving for my anthro fieldwork in Nepal. They did Monday Morning slab on my recommendation as one of their first Valley climbs, and then I took them to an easy two pitch chimney route near the first tunnel on the road to Tuolumne, the name of which I don't remember anymore. They'd never seen a chimney like that before so I led with my brand new hexes which were the latest thing.

I kept in touch with Molly and Barb for five or six years afterwards and was amazed at how their climbing careers took off. I got word that they had done the first all female ascent of the Nose while working in a village in Nepal where women were horribly oppressed. Nothing could have lifted my spirits more. I framed the summit photo they sent me and still have it with me in Okinawa.

I remember winning a bet when we taught at Outward Bound based on the outcome of the end-of-course women's marathon. Everyone else bet on another instructor with long legs who had already run a number of marathons. I was the only one who bet on Molly who seemed an unlikely candidate with her short legs. I knew already though since she was my mentor for my first Outward Bound course, that she had more heart and determination than anyone. Sure enough she won.
couchmaster

climber
pdx
Dec 16, 2009 - 12:07pm PT
Great 1-2-3 punch Peter, Steve and Jan! good stuff!
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Dec 16, 2009 - 12:12pm PT
Here's part of a letter that Molly sent to me recently about what she has been doing.


"I now live in Whitefish Mt where husband Larry Bruce and I moved 20 years ago to raise our daughter Marti in a small town with good schools, good skiing, and good rock climbing albeit itís 60 miles away. We spent our time here dedicated to the cross country ski program, serving on its boards, coaching the kids, running the programs. Presently Larry is the head coach of the XC kidsí program and Iím his hard working assistant. Larry has a knack for keeping the training fun and also enabling each kid to fulfill his or her potential. Iím great at keeping the books and making room reservations.

I work at the small and excellent community hospital down the street and last night I got my 20 year pin, so you can see that Iím pretty settled. I still to lab work, now head of microbiology and working with 12 other women who are independent and a lot of fun, kind of like our old Outward Bound tribe.

After 12 years of intermittent rock climbing Larry and I got totally committed again in about 2001. We now live a partitioned life, half skiing and serving our community, half as climbing fun hogs again. Larry has a good sense of keeping it fun but also working toward better leads and so weíve slowly progressed and that feels great. As you know, the gear has improved and so climbing is now so much safer and easier.

I love bolted routes, and camelots for cracks. And during the summer Larry and I travel and hit the many new climbing meccas that have developed over the last few decades, often meeting up with old friends. Itís a gas".




Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 16, 2009 - 12:15pm PT
Tami!

Four months' time back then was a whole season and almost an eternity. We had ever so much more growing and living ahead, each of us. We had a great time together though. I have always assumed I was the "Jim" who left her at the beginning of her story above. Leaving her was appropriate but at the time she was furious and confused; she had never met someone like me before (grin) and had given us her absolute best shot. And she was a completely first-rate person.

And too, I loved that goofy summit shot as well. That is kind of how those gals were you know. Perfect shot. And the accomplishment was quite significant especially 32 years ago. The Nose, though even then a very popular climb, was still one hell of a lot of climbing. And although Barb and Molly werenít arch rockmasters, they were really damned tough and just kept working and it did turn out that the Nose was perfect for them. I remember one morning we found out we had kept Stevie Sutton up for hours with our amorous activities in an out-of-bounds area near Camp Four--- we had no idea anybody was nearby. He gave us death-panel looks for days.

Molly and I even did an ascent of New Dimensions by the way. And I will never forget what a gas she had leading the last pitch of Nutcracker--- you know the little headwall with the mantel (pictured photo #4). She would rave and gush, really fun to climb with; really a passionate person.

Also thanks couchmaster!

And thanks Jan for that info on Molly and Larry. Sounds like a great life, doesn't it! They got together shortly after she and I parted, so that is more than 3o years!
ionlyski

Trad climber
Kalispell, Montana
Dec 16, 2009 - 12:16pm PT
Yes, she did move way up north and yes she married too Peter. He is Colorado hardman Larry Bruce. I climb with both of them but they're at it a lot harder than me. Molly still easily sends 5.11 splitter cracks. They climb a lot in Montana, Idaho & Utah.

Both of them dedicated years to coaching national level nordic skiers, which they're tapering from. I suspect they'll be doing even more climbing now.

Arne
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 16, 2009 - 01:01pm PT
Never met Molly that I know of, but I always really liked that picture of the two of them at the top of the Nose. Quite evocative. Maybe it was even inspiration for Lynn?
Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Dec 16, 2009 - 01:14pm PT
I was on that ill-fated Russian trip with Molly, back in 1974. I liked Molly the first time I met her, but some of the guys on the trip gave her a hard time, claiming she didn't have enough experience to be there. Molly proved them wrong though-pulling her own weight and generally comporting herself in a competent manner.

By the way Jan, I worked for COB in the early 70's, as well. Did we ever meet?

-PamirFlavoredJello
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Dec 16, 2009 - 01:30pm PT
Actually our local boss (the Colorado director was John Evans) was a guy named Lowe and for the life of me I can't remember if it was Jeff or Greg but I think Greg? Tall guy anyway who later went into manufacturing climbing equipment. Was that you?

Were you working there when Molly and Barb were and a guy from Scotland named Davie Brown?
Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Dec 16, 2009 - 01:52pm PT
John Evans was a good friend, Jan. My brother Mike is who you're thinking about. I was an instructor but never a course director. I think I quit working for OB in '73. I think Molly and Barb (and you?) started work after that? I also think the Scotsman you're refering to is Davey Agnew, not Brown. A really powerful guy who was Scottish national champion in wrestling.

Coincidentally, Davey has dropped by my house in Ogden two or three times in the last year. That's after losing contact since '73. His daughter has a house not far from me. Davey periodically comes down from Jackson Hole where he lives to visit his daughter. It's enjoyable to renew old friendships like that, don't you think?

-Jeff
ionlyski

Trad climber
Kalispell, Montana
Dec 16, 2009 - 01:54pm PT
I'll pass it on Tami. I've tried to entice both of them to ST but they're so much of "the real deal" I don't think they choose to spend any time checking out threads. Molly is the nicest person on the planet, though she'd deny it.
Arne
Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Dec 16, 2009 - 02:01pm PT
Ionlyski- give my best to Molly and Larry when you see them, will you? I don't think I've seen either one of them since the late '70s. Good people though, for sure...

-JelloSaysHiMollyHiLarry
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 16, 2009 - 02:02pm PT
right, it was Davey Agnew. Totally legendary character; I heard about him from a nonclimbing restauranteur, Dean Betts, a few years later 1977.

Good on you ionlyski (great handle by the way). Let them know this IS THE real deal; we have just about everybody on here from back in the day, you know.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Dec 16, 2009 - 02:09pm PT
Jeff-

Sorry to be so confused about which Lowe. The summer of '73 is the only one that I worked. I tried for years to get hired by OB since my folks have a summer house in Marble and I worked every summer at a dude ranch there , but was told year after year that it was too tough for a girl? Never mind I tramped through the same hills alone all the time anyway. Then I went to the Valley, married Frank, and went to Europe.

The summer of '73, in addition to Molly and Barb, there was a girl named Susan, another named Leslie who was dating a Udall, and Barbara ? who later lost an eye in an auto mishap. Barb Eastman was doing her first summer in Colorado although she had taught OB in Oregon before. Molly had I think, taught maybe one other summer.

I remember Davey Agnew but I can't remember if he was an instructor or just came around sometimes. The Davie I knew was definitely Davie Brown and he had worked there before. He came to visit me when I was in Nepal and we hiked around the Khumbu together. Later I went to see him in Glasgow when I was teaching in northern England. Nowadays he's married with a teenage daughter and still living in Scotland.

ionlyski

Trad climber
Kalispell, Montana
Dec 16, 2009 - 02:12pm PT
I showed Larry the thread on Grey Ghost the other day, cuz I saw mention of him and Vern Clemenger in it, so they know we're here. Maybe I can get him to post up some good stories. Oli might have a few and of course Michael Kennedy who still climbs with them.

Arne
taorock

Trad climber
Okanogan, WA
Dec 16, 2009 - 02:15pm PT
Jan,

From my tenure with COBS (78,79). Likely, Susan was Susan Kinne. She was my course director a few times and one of the best "bosses" I've ever had. I also knew Carol Lowe who turned out to be a cousin of mine (once removed).

Brent
Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Dec 16, 2009 - 02:27pm PT
Sounds like we overlapped a little in '73 then, Jan. But I only worked winter courses so I could climb the rest of the year, so that might explain why we didn't meet.

I don't remember Davey Brown, but Davey Agnew was an instructor. Leslie sounds familiar but I don't remember the other women you mentioned. I'm surprised they used that line of thinking on you - that beibg a girl you wouldn't be able to take on the task.

I remember several strong women around back then that probably could have challenged even Davey Agnew. One of them was my girlfriend Christie Northrop, who was a real adventuress. Christie worked as an assistant on several courses.

-Jello
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Dec 16, 2009 - 02:29pm PT
Brent-

You're right it was Susan Kinne. I knew Carol Lowe too but she wasn't an instructor then.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Dec 16, 2009 - 02:34pm PT
Jello-

I was in Marble when the first courses were "survival" courses for male Peace Corps. This was Bobby Kennedy's idea along with his 50 mile hike-in-one-day challenge. The Kennedys were big supporters of Outward Bound. Coming to visit Marble was how they got involved in Aspen too.

The years were 1959 - 1964. Paul Petzoldt organized the original courses and Tap Tapley and his wife from the Tetons were the horse wranglers. She was the only woman allowed to spend the night on the premises. There was a kind of military camp atmosphere to the place then- making boys into men and all that.

Horses were used for resupply because they mainly operated in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass wilderness area. One of the several reasons they shifted to the San Juans was for the easier resupplies by jeep.

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