Any Jimmy Dunn stories?


Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
This thread has been locked
Messages 1 - 20 of total 117 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>

Trad climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 13, 2010 - 01:04pm PT
I'm a very old friend of Jimmy Dunn. Since he isn't mentioned here too often, I thought that I would start off this thread with a little known amusing story. I'm sure many of you know of his near fatal demise, when a haul bag; ( which he was tied to), slipped off a ledge on some big wall.
He made a diving leap, and grabbed the rope, somehow arresting the falling bag. This must of happened awfully fast, since within seconds, he would of been plucked off.
An "event" which happened many years ago in New Hampshire and is little known is his encounter with a BEAVER. He was in a sleeping bag near Cathedral Ledge when he was rudely awakened by a beaver who bit him on the ass! It was a nasty bite, which took weeks to heal up. Jimmy always laughs when he tells the story.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jun 13, 2010 - 02:48pm PT
Cosmos 5.8 A4 VI FA 1972 Jim Dunn

from the AAJ 1973

'Jim Dunn made a solo new route, “Cosmos,” which lies between the Dihedral and Salathe routes. He had started with the Canadian Gordan Smaill, who was hurt in a fall some 800 feet up. The pair descended, leaving several fixed ropes and a few slings to bypass places where piton placements were poor. Then Dunn returned alone to complete the route in nine days. He placed some 70 bolts.'

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jun 13, 2010 - 03:01pm PT
Royal had just come off of failed attempt to do a new route solo when Jimmy did Cosmos. I recall running into Liz who was none too happy that a Valley "outsider" stole the thunder.

Trad climber
Jun 13, 2010 - 03:51pm PT
In the early seventies... seventy two perhaps, a tweaky little kid I knew in Merced, came knocking on my door. He had two or three loaded haul bags he wanted to sell me. Fifty bucks! What a deal! His story was that he knew a guy that was getting out of climbing and wanted to sell all his stuff. I smelled a fish, but I plonked down fifty...not a small sum then, at least to me.
The next morning I drove up to the valley and brought the gear into the Mountain shop, to see if anyone was missing any climbing gear. "Thats Jimmy Dunn's stuff! was the answer. It had been stolen a few days earlier. Rangers were called and I surrendered the bags. A few days later, I got a call from the FBI office in Merced, and was told I had to give up the name of the thief of face theft charges myself. No problem. I heard the kid was selling the gear for the real thief, who was arrested shortly. The kid got quite a beating when the guy got out of jail.
Thats my Jimmy Dunn story. Never did get my fifty bucks back.

Jun 13, 2010 - 04:43pm PT
Jimmy Dunn is one of my heroes, period.
Never met the man.
Bold, creative, definitive old school hard man forever quitting climbing and selling his gear and then getting back on the horse that threw him.
Favorite quote as best I can remember it;

"We used to regularly downclimb stuff we thought was 5.9+ that people would call 5.11 today"

Hats off to Mr. Jim Dunn, a legend of North American climbing!

With greatest respect,


Social climber
the Time Before the Rocks Cooled.
Jun 13, 2010 - 06:31pm PT
An unqualified amen to that one. I, too, have never met the man face-to-face, but I feel like I know him...


By Robs John Muir

Climbing is such a great sport! The rumors fly fast and furious, and the quantity is limited only by our imaginations and the number of six-packs consumed...

Having done the second ascent many moons ago, and hearing all the stories back then, here is yet another rumor to add to your haulbag... As the story goes:

"After Jim's partner smashed his leg on an aborted earlier attempt, Jim was forced to solo Cosmos. He was so fried and frightened after the many days he spent in the unknown, that he left the Valley immediately after topping-out, headed back East, where he sold all his gear supposedly never to climb again."

The route was a total mystery to all of us. According to some Valley locals at the time, Jimmy said nary a word about the route and he never even drew a topo for anyone before he split to join the monastery. Another rumor. Speaking of habits...the story around here was that it was FEAR that drove Jim to kick the climbing habit for a time, not the ennui of "having done it all".

We carried a rack to end all racks, since we were heading into the unknown. And after days of route finding, we were left with a single quart of water to last us for the final two days. (But that's another story.) When Jack Roberts and I did that route four years later, I was struck by the the portrait in stone left by the man who led the way. There is some brilliant stuff lower down, but the higher you climb the more desperate the climbing becomes. The conclusive evidence--to my mind--can be seen on the final pitch below the traverse to the West Buttress. A straight-forward diaganal ramp with 5.9-5.10 face stuff was totally avoided, in order to nail a slightly overhung incipient rurp crack with a "chicken" bolt placed in the middle of the wall! There was never a choice; given a belayer and the courage engendered by a second soul on the route, no one in their right mind would try and nail that too too poor crack. The ramp is the obvious choice...

The deteriorating mental state of Jim was writ large on Cosmos! I have a profound respect for his achievement, and I don't mean to take anything away from his first ascent. But I highly recommend this line to anyone interested in the history of climbing and psychology of climbers.

under a coconut tree
Jun 13, 2010 - 06:42pm PT
I met jimmy in Indian Creek. Truely a desert rat to me at the time when I met him 6 years ago. He was living out of a red Ford 350 van and in the off season mining for jems in Az. I believe.

One day he told us he was doing a FA desert tower with Earl Wiggins and Billy Westbay. Back then it was all swami belts and bowline around the waist tie-in's he told us.

Some how he was belaying Earl Wiggins up one of the harder offwidths and Jimmy told us "Earl was cruz'n so I was pulling in the rope as fast as a could..... all of the sudden the tail end of the rope was in my hand.... but no Earl."

Moments later Earl arrives at the belay soloing the pitch. How he came untied off the belay Jimmy never knew.

He said he had many other terror stories of "lessons" learned climbing with Kor, Wigging, Webster and Westbay.

Jimmy is a cool dude.

Trad climber
Chatham N.H.
Jun 13, 2010 - 06:52pm PT

Jun 13, 2010 - 07:01pm PT
He Dunn it ......

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 13, 2010 - 07:03pm PT
I'm glad I started this thread! He deserves it. Probably off mining minerals as I speak.
I talk with him every month or so. I'm sure he will be back on the rock soon. It's hard to get it out of your system. Jimmy is one of the great ones!

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jun 13, 2010 - 07:45pm PT
Jimmy is by a country mile the most obsessive/compulsive climber I have ever met. He once did Drumbstick Direct (South Platte old school 10+) on top rope 40 times without resting.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Jun 13, 2010 - 08:20pm PT
Jimmy called me last week. The mineral thing isn't working, but come fall Helen has a gig and Jimmy will be full time dadding Charlie Joe. We usually talk more about mutual friends, lizards, minerals and guns much more than climbing.

The Chief has me intrigued with his story as Jimmy has been sober now for decades.

Allen Hill

Social climber
Jun 13, 2010 - 08:34pm PT
He's compulsive/obsessive about everything. I was on the phone with him last weekend all the while he's dealing with putting on a new roof and taking on a major sewage problem and a having a long catch up chat with me. He's a great guy and fun to be around.


Big Wall climber
From Back to Big Wall Baby
Jun 13, 2010 - 08:38pm PT
There was someone awhile back that was trying to sell an used original A 5 Ledge here on the Taco. He wanted $1,000.00 for it. Saying that you too could own a true original A5 Of course several of us said he would be lucky to get half that for the Ledge and Middendorf chimes in and says yes, you would be lucky to get $350.00 and then goes on to say that He personally gave that Ledge to Jimmy Dunn. bet the guy never knew it was Jimmy's
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Jun 13, 2010 - 08:47pm PT

Quite interestingly, an incredible eighteen years later, (1990), Jimmy came back with John MIddendorf (Deuce4) and did the direct finish to his route, effectively erasing his panic 800 ft exit on Thanksgiving Ledge northward in 1972. This last addition was relatively easy compared to the climbing lower down and was only 6 more pitches. So, in the final analysis, he finished the thing up the way it should have been and fortunately returned to climbing as well.

Once again, this was the first solo first ascent of a new route on El Capitan. Jimmy aced RR and others who were about to try a new route alone. I was around when he was up there; we were watching him and concerned too. He was up there quite a long time and it was looking like maybe problems might develop. Thanks god they didn't and Jimmy made it through!

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jun 13, 2010 - 08:52pm PT
Chief, without a doubt, if it was 1999 Jimmy did not have anything to drink.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jun 13, 2010 - 08:53pm PT
When Jimmy did Comos as the ultimate Valley outsider, and from Colorado at that, he was treated pretty badly by some of the locals. A little bit like Henry Barber's reception when he did Fish Crack. Folks could be pretty petty in those days. Jimmy didn't rub it in people's faces like Henry did.

In God We Trust
Jun 13, 2010 - 09:07pm PT
"40 times without resting"

My kind of Dunnlaps!

Trad climber
Charlottesville, VA
Jun 13, 2010 - 09:56pm PT
This is secondhand, but John Bouchard told my wife and I a story (about 25 years ago, I should note), about Jim racing into his house one night in NH and saying, "John, it's the salamanders! Salamanders! You've got to come see!" As I recall the story (but Bouchard would be the authority), they hopped in a van, drove out to some road, and sure enough, there were hundreds of salamanders all over the place....

Anyway, I used to run into him bouldering in the Garden, in the early seventies, and he was always incredibly friendly and non-arrogant to me, and I wasn't anything like the climber he was/is!

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 13, 2010 - 10:03pm PT
The 1st time I went to Turkey Rocks, Jimmy was my partner. Soon after we arrived Leonard Coyne shows up. I got on Drumstick Direct with Leonard. What a beautiful climb!
I can't imagine doing it 40 times in one day.
Messages 1 - 20 of total 117 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Return to Forum List
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks

Try a free sample topo!

SuperTopo on the Web

Recent Route Beta