G Rubberfat Overhang - First Ascent 1961


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Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 27, 2010 - 11:24pm PT
Rebuffat, along with Terray, Bonatti, Buhl, Gervasutti and others were our heroes as kids growing up in the climbing scene of the late 50s and early 60s. Many hours were spent consuming the classics like Starlight and Storm, On Ice Rock and Snow, Lonely Challenge, Annapurna and other celebrated books of the era.

The classic overhang shot of Gaston in his etriers, knickers and Tyrolean sweater, flamboyant hair, stunning posture and his long reach out under the edge is burned into the cortex of more climbers of that era than just about any other photo.

For years when we ventured into the Valley we would talk about climbing the Gaston Rubberfat Overhang. That beautiful and overhanging rock on highway 140, between El Portal and the Entrance Station. The GRO is situated below what today is called Parkline Slabs but the area was unclimbed and unnamed in those days. How many times have you cruised under the GRO while entering or exiting the Valley?

You know the mood, when you reach El Portal and begin that winding climb into the Valley with the rapidly descending Merced River, the granite, the smell of trees and the first glimpse of the Rostrum and Elephant rock it’s guaranteed to kick the adventure juices into high gear

Is there a route in the Valley with a shorter or easier approach than the GRO? Just a couple small problems to circumvent. Objective dangers seemed a bit high on the survival scale, kind of akin to playing croquet on the LA Freeway during rush hour.

Sitting around the Lodge one cold and snowy day in Dec of 1961, Jeff Foott and I came up with a plan on how to manage a first ascent and not end up as another California Roadkill. What we needed was a major snow storm to shut down highway 120. Several days later the road was closed at the junction of 140 and 120 to Crane Flat.

Opportunity beckoned and we were onto it. The approach was a bit longer than we anticipated with several feet of snow but we had the road to ourselves. Several knife blades, rurps and two bolts and it was ours! Our biggest concern was the possibility of a snowplow descending onto the scene.

Compared to our hero Gaston we were probably quite lacking in style. With Army fatigue pants, wet klettershoes doubling as snowshoes, funky cotton shirts and short hair we were not the epitome of class. Absent were the stylish alpine togs, aluminum etriers, athletic posture, finely coifed hair and classic Rebuffat pose with his pipe. The pipe would come years later along with other things.

I often wonder if there has ever been a 2nd ascent? Casually driving by this past summer I was able to spot the ¼ rawl bolt studs and it appeared the cracks were somewhat scarred? I know highway 120 was closed for quite a spell in the past and perhaps the route had more ascents?

Alas with the widening of the road perhaps there is an opportunity for an ascent in under a minute and the risk of collision between climber and car could be mitigated. You know, G-Ruberfat-Overhang-In-A-Minute. GROIAM. No radar detectors allowed.

Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 27, 2010 - 11:50pm PT
Nice one, Joe! TFPU!

I wonder if we can talk Chris into adding it to "The Road to the Nose"?

Dec 28, 2010 - 12:11am PT
Well do I remember a movie made by Ghastly Rubberface. We loved it. You see this edge of rock with the sky behind. A huge hand comes around and feels around the crack. A big piton comes into view, is inserted in the crack and is driven. Then a monstrous boot comes into view and stands on the pin.

Had to have been a really cool dude.
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 28, 2010 - 12:12am PT


Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Dec 28, 2010 - 12:28am PT
The dood oozed style - never a hair out of place. I'm pretty sure he
got it on with Coco Chanel.

Trad climber
Bay Area
Dec 28, 2010 - 03:06pm PT
Ghastly Rubberfoot (fat)
It's been eons since I've heard that name.
Makes me laugh.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Dec 28, 2010 - 03:13pm PT
Great story, Joe. I wondered about it in the late 1960's and early '70's, but never quite went to your lengths -- i.e. actually doing it.

One of my favorte entries in Sheridan Anderson's "Abominable Mountaineering" calendar is his charicature of "Ghastly Rabbitfat," with his pouch of Midi pipe tobacco and his bottle of Breck's.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 29, 2010 - 11:36pm PT
Another classic tale, Joe!

I love that formation and will invoke Gaston when I drive by from now on!

You have to have taken a hero shot?!?

Dec 29, 2010 - 11:38pm PT
That roof on 140 is called "Dog Rock".

It's an "official" name for that land mark.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Dec 30, 2010 - 01:26am PT

Of course I heard the tale differently though just apocryphally. It came to me as we were driving up in Max’s english sports car, roaring away incessantly as it was so designed and for four hours from Berkeley to an early Sixties Valley. Maybe it was a Triumph. We were going climbing but on the way there was the inculcation. Passing on the legends to the young. And I was then, the young’un.

The tale involved someone on the roof of Dog Rock, aiding of course, slings a’draping when a bus cruised unhesitantly by and the tails of the footslings grazing the roof of the vehicle in a display much like an avalanche, at least as Max saw it. Forces beyond our ken, flying through our 1-inch lives, taking randomnly. Total power afoot.

Max Wolfgang Julian Heinritz. He even had a plaque with his full name, attached to the car. A fabulous german bohemian character who was nested in soon-to-be Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley with his gorgeous partner Waltraud. A good friend of Les Wilson. Though he must have been quite young then, for me at age 15, he was old as dirt and must have known everything. So I listened mile after mile to the tale of our tribal origins as the four-banger droned on and on to take us to a bed of pine needles and the holy smells of our sacred and oracular Valley.

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Dec 30, 2010 - 01:56am PT
What a great tale Guido!

GROIAM, has a ring to it eh? It's sure to catch on, the next big thing, yessiree, I'm on it....

Pictures and everything, nice.

No style? Naay I say unto thee, those lads had plenty of style.

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Dec 30, 2010 - 09:54am PT
Hat's off to Guido! Another "must do" route for any true Yosemite hardperson.

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Dec 30, 2010 - 10:14am PT

Hey we're all equal in climbing Fritz, it's ok for you to call the ladies Hardman. After all, some of them are more hardman than most of the men...heh heh...
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
Dec 30, 2010 - 11:33am PT
Another classic Guido story - thanks!

I wonder if we can talk Chris into adding it to "The Road to the Nose"?

Better than average Anders!

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Dec 30, 2010 - 12:11pm PT
Ah, Gaston, now, because of his lack of knowledge of offwidth climbing, permanently immortalized as a technique.

I hope it does not stray too far from the original topic to repost here a reminiscence that owes everything to the influence of Rebuffat.

I was a teenager just getting into climbing as the Vulgarians were coalescing, and only became a part of the group four or five years later. My first encounter with the Eastern Wild Ones occurred in the climber's camp in the Tetons, a place that used to be at the epicenter of American climbing.

Except for what one would nowadays call minimal instruction from a few Exum-guided climbs, I learned about climbing on my own, primarily from books. My impressionable adolescent psyche had been deeply influenced by the purple pro---uh, the lyrical writing---of Gaston Rebuffat. From his books I learned about the beauty of the mountaineering experience, the brotherhood of the rope, the necessity of being fashionably attired at all times, and that under no circumstances was the leader to allow the perfect vertical line of his rope to be broken by pictorially distracting protection points.

After suitable period of marination in matching-patterned-sweater-and-knicker-socks idealism, I made my way to the Teton climbers' camp. Oh, the horror! The place was infested with badly dressed, apparently unwashed, and thoroughly unkempt vermin, drinking, copulating, disrupting Teton Tea parties, roaring around the loop road in their Triumphs, sounding the Vulgaraphone, and indulging in all manner of activities impossible to carry out in woolen knickers. I feverishly consulted my copies of Neige et Roc and Etoiles et Tempetes for protective incantations against these alpine demons, no doubt the same ones feared by the early peasants venturing into the heights for the first time. Now these dybbuks had somehow been transplanted from Chamonix to Jackson, screaming like the hounds of hell in the throes of a feverish blood lust stimulated, no doubt, by the tell-tale scent of my dry-cleaned climbing outfits.

As I cowered behind Orrin Bonney's teepee, watching the End of Days in progress before me, I realized that the apocalypse had arrived, probably during my AP Calculus class, and that from now on Fire and Brimstone would be replacing Starlight and Storm. Still, I managed to cling to one eternal verity: these were not Real Climbers. No way.

Rebufattian sartorial influence at work; yours truly on the South Buttress of Moran, mid-sixties.


Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 30, 2010 - 05:46pm PT
Dog Rock? That isn't very exciting.

Love Haan's story and I always get to pull out the dictionary when he writes. Apocryphally? Prophetically or denouement of sorts?

Rgold- Steal my thread anytime with such fine writing. That was a wild and crazy time in the Tetons with the Vulgarians on the rage and no climber, nor animal nor sheila safe from the rape and pillaging. You were stylin' on Moran. Triumph? Was that Craft?

Sorry no photos of the GRO. Forgot the camera and we were too naive to bring gloves, being Berkeley Hardmen and all. Our first experience with the lovely sensation of circulation returning to the fingers.

On another note, here are some photos from the boat today in this beautiful anchorage in a most protected bay in New Zealand. This is really good rock. Very similar to the Pinnacles but far superior. Everything here is unclimbed. Went to the summit of the "Nose" yesterday. Tonight is our New Year's Eve.

If I can find a bolt kit and some young lads we just may have to tackle some of these climbs.

Tuscon Again! India! India! Hawaii! LA?!?!
Dec 30, 2010 - 05:50pm PT
hey... is there any chance there are fixed draws on that thing? I'd love to give it a run!

Dec 30, 2010 - 07:37pm PT
Life, the luxury of being (Starlight and Storm)

I translated Niege et Roc by Ghastly Rubyerfat word by word from a French-English dictionary in 1961 when I should have been studying. I didn't know any French, and those irregular verbs were hell. I can't recall what happened to that book when I dropped out. Did you get it, Guido?


Dec 30, 2010 - 07:44pm PT
I hope it does not stray too far from the original topic to repost here a reminiscence that owes everything to the influence of Rebuffat

Although we denigrated M. Rabbitfat at the time, we secretly hungered for his sense of style. I well remember the corduroy knickers and argyle socks of a few of the luminaries of the period. When in the mountains I savored the sartorial charm, but it did put crimps in bouldering.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Dec 30, 2010 - 08:23pm PT

What we lacked sartorially we superceded with technique--- the cleanest, most dramatic , the most balletic. You sure did! There has always been this belief that in the most concise movement lies some immutable truth, hidden to everyone else. It would be a discovery rather than just “somewhat more superb movement”. Like discovering fractals.

We forgave you your sartorial dowdiness because of this and had no problem ignoring Gaston’s superb but specious sense of fashion because we knew even then that style had to be one of the original theorems of life and not something made by Sporthaus Schuster.

I started in such corduroy knickers and socks; that worked for a couple of months until the damned pants ripped even though they were Ski Hut’s best and a bunch of money. I think I ruined them on a tree on Monday Morning Slab. What a newbie but in 1963 anybody climbing was “happening” and a pilgrim of style as we were coming to understand it.

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