Coonyard Pinnacle- 50 Years Later


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Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Topic Author's Original Post - May 12, 2011 - 11:59pm PT
Coonyard Pinnacle 50 Years Later

It started as a lark, at the Nose Reunion several years ago, Calderwood and I talked of a 50th anniversary ascent of Coonyard to celebrate our first ascent in Sept 1960.

Crazy ideas have a tendency to gain momentum and before I knew it, last summer I was working out in the Pacific Edge climbing gym here in Santa Cruz, with my daughter Kali to get into some mode of climbing condition.

BBA, Bitchin Bill Amborn, after a stay in the Valley in July decided to let old memories remain old memories and not challenge the mood and elations of the past in a celebration of the present. “You can’t go home again” philosophy. Not a bad idea but I have always been a slow learner and a glutton for punishment down memory lane. Think high school reunions.

Simon of “I Hate Plastic” notability, offered to lead and we invited my daughter Kali and her boyfriend David along for the excursion. All schedules coordinated into an late September ascent and we all converged in the Valley the same weekend as FaceLift.

It was a wonderful experience to be back on Coonyard. After a late start and with a party of five we were able to climb only to the 2nd pitch. Oddly enough route finding on the 2nd pitch was a problem and Simon took a classic Apron winger trying to suss out the route. We originally went right but he tried straight up, which is a bit more difficult if I remember.

“Slide and glide and save your hide” as we used to say.

Calderwood, at 72 was climbing exceptionally well and still retains some of the stellar form he was renowned for in the old days. His first ascent of Arches Terrace in 1957 was a landmark slab climb and his endurance and work-horse ethics on the first ascent of the Nose was a great contribution to that historic route in 1958.

Moi, I felt pretty good on Coonyard but oddly enough, out of my element on the easy run up Monday Morning Slab.
First time I have used a rope on that part and it felt welcome as things did not flow like I remembered. Too many years living on a boat?

Coonyard was hard in1960 and is didn’t seem to get any easier over the years.

The “kids” Kali and David cruised it and kept us in laughter the entire day.

Perhaps the mood of past and present could best be illustrated by the contrast of the early black and white photos and the color ones of today.

1960 -was dull, faded Goldline, pre-Swami belt, few pitons, skinny ¼ inch bolts, few cars and fewer people, a gray smoke haze drifting up the Apron, hide and seek with the bears and the monotone of the togs and long run-outs.

2010 -The old dumps is now a parking lot and it was filled to capacity. The colors are vibrant: ropes, gear, packs, helmets, and harnesses. Chalk bags are ubiquiitous, a multitude of nuts and cams to draw from and the beauty of 3/8 inch bolts and long run-outs.

I often felt that it would be difficult to surpass that feeling of being on the first ascent with Calderwood and Amborn but I think being on the climb again with my daughter and friends, fifty years later, sharing some of the route and recollections of the past was just as enjoyable, if not more. Pure gold.

For an interesting perspective, go out and do a first ascent this season and then, try to peek into the future to 2061 and fantasize what your life and the world will be like then.

Kudos to Roger Brown, Clint Cummins and others for the bolt replacement on the Apron on a multitude of routes.

The following is copy of the original Register we placed on Coonyard Pinnacle, courtesy of the Mountain Record Section of the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley. Some pages were unreadable but the majority are illustrated here. Copyright Mountain Record Section, Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley.

Of special interest are the four ascents by Bridwell between 1966 and 1970. I wonder how the timing coordinates with the Fatwa he issued against slab climbing?

We can see that Don Whillans ran out of cigarettes, that Lloyd Price was all over the place, Rowell and Beck chopped the illicit bolt placed by Leeper and Kunasz (Kunasz broke his leg?) on the last pitch to Coonyard and Cochrane and Sacherer were headed somewhere from the top of Coonyard.

Also of note is the 2nd ascent to the Oasis where BBA chopped Yvon’s illicit bolt on the third pitch of Coonyard.

Glacier Point Apron Register:

Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
May 13, 2011 - 12:03am PT
Thanks, Joe - very nice!

Had any of you repeated the climb between 1960 and 2010?
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
May 13, 2011 - 12:34am PT
Cool - thanks for sharing.
Simon whipped, yikes!

Some stuff I learned from the register:
 Coonyard Direct is the direct version of p2
 it says the FFA was by Frank Sacherer and Howard Sturgis,
but the guidebooks have said Frank Sacherer and Chuck Ostin.
Many of those initial entries in the guidebook are transcribed,
but I don't think anyone would have switched the name.
I wonder why there is the discrepancy.
 many familiar names in there. The Diana Hunter entry looks the nicest.

Trad climber
fresno, ca
May 13, 2011 - 12:38am PT
Sooo cool. This is what makes Supertopo such a gem. Way to keep the boldness and adventure alive. What an inspiration. Thanks!

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
May 13, 2011 - 12:47am PT
Thanks for the post, guido!
Brought back some wonderful feelings that only polished slabs can give.
Great job in the present, team!
Way to keep climbing.
Captain...or Skully

or some such
May 13, 2011 - 12:55am PT
john hansen

May 13, 2011 - 01:01am PT
Very good history,

Really like "the Kids" photo.

The summit register belongs in Kens collection.

Trad climber
Douglas, WY
May 13, 2011 - 01:13am PT
Great post, Guido!--I always wondered what became of Paul Kunasz, since he introduced me to chimney climbing in the Valley (June 1965) on the first pitch of Split Pinnacle. I recall nearly barfing on it, just something I'd never done before and didn't climb for schizzle. He got a ride to Berkeley with me a couple days later, and I haven't heard of him again until this post!

Inner City

Trad climber
East Bay
May 13, 2011 - 01:17am PT
Micronut said it very well.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
May 13, 2011 - 01:25am PT
That's wonderful, Guido! Especially doing it with your kids!

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
May 13, 2011 - 01:28am PT
I heart me some slab. dig it Joe!
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
May 13, 2011 - 01:28am PT
thanks Guido... this year is the 40th anniversary of my first climb in Yosemite Valley...
where does the time go?

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
May 13, 2011 - 01:44am PT

What an inspiration! You can go home again!
I'm curious about the register.
Are there more like it that could be copied and posted?

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
May 13, 2011 - 01:58am PT

There are registers from Lower Cathedral Spire and Mt. Starr King which have been posted.

Social climber
Butterfly Town
May 13, 2011 - 02:04am PT
Thanks, Guido, for a GREAT POSTING and for keeping at it with Kali & David as well as Simon and Rich! It sure brings back memories seeing all those familiar names in those registers!

Trad climber
Imperial Beach California
May 13, 2011 - 02:08am PT

Big Wall climber
May 13, 2011 - 02:10am PT
very Kool! thanks for the post on Coonyard. i'll tell my friends about it at stoney!

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
May 13, 2011 - 02:10am PT

Paul and Chela Kunasz are still married and living in Boulder where they both have professional jobs associated with the university. I'm sure you could look them up.

Chela spends a great deal of her time raising money and administering a Tibetan charity in south India.

I've posted a bio of her on the Chick History thread.
paul roehl

Boulder climber
May 13, 2011 - 02:12am PT
This is really a great thread... once traversed from the top of the first pitch of Coonyard at about 45 degrees over to point beyond. It was fun and pretty easy. Loved climbing on the Apron in spite of the breasts.

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
May 13, 2011 - 02:32am PT

I have a long and storied relationship with coonyard; it was the first long route i did in the valley, and over the next 25 - 30 years i did it in an unimagiable variety of states of mind. mass assaults, joints at every belay, girlfriends, first time climbers, old time climbers, solo. it's my desert island climb.

i really wanna go do it again, but the whole rockfall thing has me buggin'.

coonyard, July '76. livin' the dream.

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