An afternoon with Kamps


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Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 23, 2011 - 11:46am PT
I wrote this account for the Superpin bolting thread, I think my intentions were far too subtle, and the piece seems isolated and out of place there. So I've deleted it from that thread (leaving a link behind so that the comments following it still have context) and moved it here to its own location, where it has a better chance of stimulating the stories we all love about high and low adventures.

Kamps has his eye on a new route. I think around the back of Fairview, but maybe not; it was many years ago. He hands me the bolt kit and up I go. Not bad for a while, but soon the last pro is a long way down, and each step is just a little harder than the step before.

Confidence slowly drains, anxiety starts to build. The face is steepening, it looks glassy, I'm already way too far above the last piece to fall, and nothing ahead looks even remotely promising for getting hands-free. Up ahead are two nubbins like marbles glued onto the rock. Delicate moves ensue. I'm starting to fight panic now.

I'm pinching the pebbles. Pinching them too hard, trying to stay calm, I really need to get stood up on them so I can drill. What if they crack off? Distribute my weight and hope. My feet are splayed on slippery bumps, the rope is arching down, it's line unbroken by carabiners. I can't figure out how to get my feet where my hands are. I need to do this. Tentative moves. I can't let go of those pebbles, but have to in order to have any hope of standing on them.

Sweat is dripping from my brow onto my glasses. Blurred vision. Time passes. I try various things, each time going up to that edge of adhesion, a hair's breath away from falling, then back down to my slippery bumps and pinched pebbles.

I hear a soft rustling sound above. A bundle of grey fur is heading toward me. A squirrel has somehow wandered out on the route above, and now has fallen. It is bouncing down the slab, then cartwheeling in the air. It is not good to watch a living thing falling when you are a living thing trying not to fall.

The squirrel lies motionless on the ground far below. Watching its trajectory is the last straw in whatever remains of my composure. I turn my feverish attention to the question of getting down. It does not seem promising; there is whole string of moves that are going to be hard to reverse, but I am especially worried about reversing the last few moves to the pebbles.

I hatch a desperate plan. Some hero loops remain in my pocket from adventures down in the Valley. These are rolled and delicately draped over the pebbles. They want to fall off. I admonish them to stay put. Talking to hero loops is not a sign of good mental equilibrium. Will the hero loops listen? Slings and carabiners are installed, and the rope is clipped. This contraption, which looks as if a sneeze would send it down after the squirrel, is going to provide my "upper belay" for the worst of the downclimbing moves.

A deep breath and I start down. Everything feels terrible. I make it down five or six feet, past the hardest moves. Flip the rope, down come the hero loops. A lot more downclimbing to go but getting easier with each step.

Made it.

I hand Kamps the bolt kit, and up he goes. Slight pause at the pinching pebbles, a tentative move soon reversed, some mumbling. I'm just as gripped belaying as I was climbing. Well, no, actually not.

And then something extraordinary. He doesn't try to stand up on the pebbles. Instead, he takes out the bolt kit, drills, and places a bolt. I couldn't even let go of the pebbles there, and he's balancing no-handed tapping on the drill with nothing to stop him for a very long way if he slips. I see it, but I can't understand it. The laws of physics are different for him. I find myself wondering if the squirrel would have fallen at all if it had been Kamps up there first. Perhaps his antigravity aura would have saved it.

And indeed, there is a rustling down below in the talus, and the squirrel soon appears, moving slowly, looking dazed but ambulatory. The second or maybe third miracle of the afternoon.

Most of the time we had was consumed by my futile activities, and it was now too late to continue. Kamps lowers off the bolt, and we go back to our camp in Tuolumne.

I'm not sure if Kamps finished the route at some later time. As for me, I had had enough of it. I imagine the squirrel would have agreed.

The Desert Oven
Sep 23, 2011 - 11:54am PT
Awesome! TFPU!

Trad climber
Chamonix, France
Sep 23, 2011 - 11:56am PT
What a great tale.
Inner City

Trad climber
East Bay
Sep 23, 2011 - 12:06pm PT
Love the story!

Sep 23, 2011 - 01:03pm PT
hah hah! Glad it got it's own place instead of in the middle of an argument over a single bolt on a route. Thanks again Rgold. Maybe Patrick (Pat Ament) Oliver can drag his story's about Kamps over as well.

Sep 23, 2011 - 02:43pm PT
The laws of physics are different for him

Yep. Think you are right!

Trad climber
Sep 23, 2011 - 05:31pm PT
What can I say -- I miss him & think of him every tue. & thur. & on all climbs.
He was a great guy to hang with -- great sense of humor.

Boulder climber
Sep 23, 2011 - 05:35pm PT
From the apt description, somebody should be able to ID the route. Now I'm curious.
Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Sep 23, 2011 - 06:26pm PT
Love the story, especially the flying squirrel! Any comment, Bullwinkle?

The route should be able to be identified. There is a Kamps website with a database of all his climbs and the attempt may be on it.

Kamps was an impressive climber. The only time I got to see him in action was one day when he visited Mt. Rubidoux. John Long and I had just put up a boulder problem called Autopilot, which was not extremely hard, but had some moves well off the deck, with a sloped and uncertain landing. So, of course, we took our illustrious visitor on a tour, with a stop at the latest problem.

Kamps must have about my age now (mid-fifties), but he didn't hesitate and floated up Autopilot first try. He must have been amazing in his prime.

Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Sep 23, 2011 - 10:45pm PT
Claassic story, nicely told.


Trad climber
The state of confusion
Sep 23, 2011 - 10:58pm PT
Rich, wow.

Rick--double wow.

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Sep 23, 2011 - 11:53pm PT

I did read and enjoy your story on the previous thead.

It is a great story, once again!

Please post many more stories!

Best Wishes!

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Sep 24, 2011 - 12:47am PT
Bob Kamps was always in his prime

Boulder climber
I'm James Brown, Bi-atch!
Sep 24, 2011 - 12:52am PT
what about columbia rock?
John Moosie

Beautiful California
Sep 24, 2011 - 02:01am PT
My antigravity aura was made by the same people who made the Yugo.

Great story! Thanks for sharing it!

Trad climber
Sep 24, 2011 - 02:24am PT
Great story. There are so many great Kamp's boulder problems at Stoney Point that focus on balance and footwork. Most of them I could never figure out or even come close to repeating.
Dingus McGee

Social climber
Sep 24, 2011 - 08:56am PT

Yes, I though the story was out of place when I first read it.

good story, you have shown you have more than a cerebral side. Boy psychology ceases to rule sometimes.

Most of my afternoons with Kamps were in the Needles. I met Bob, Mark Powell and others of that crowd in 1971 and climbed with these folks into the early 80's.

In the very early 80's I acquired the 3 sizes of friends available and brought them along on a visit to Kamps one afternoon at his house. He had not seen friends before and had heard only a wisp of gossip about them. He carefully examined them and ask me questions of their working. Soon his face turned red and he began a tirade about these being "crack jumars", "anybody could climb cracks", "I should throw these away" and the rage when on. After several minutes Bonnie insisted he calm down. I suggested we go to Stony Point and do what he had offered over the phone.

But some years later I seen Bob with some friends on his rack. And I will tell a similar tale of James Beyer. He and I were going to free an aid climb at Devils Tower and suddenly while we each carried half the rack along the tower trail Beyer flung the assortment of friends on me. "Someone might be waiting to photograph me", he said. He had recently been interviewed and quoted about his dislike of cams in one of the mags. He too was later seen carrying cams.


Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Sep 24, 2011 - 09:33am PT
Another great post from rgold.

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 24, 2011 - 04:20pm PT have shown you have more than a cerebral side.

Well, Dingus, I hope I'm not always the fuddy-duddy of the bolting debates. Even I get tired of listening to myself in those arguments. You, by contrast, although provocative and perhaps sometimes in trolling mode, are never dull.

In case you haven't been combing the Taco archives in search of a chuckles (and I do hope that life has not reduced you to that), you might enjoy these attempts of mine, however feeble, at humor:
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Sep 24, 2011 - 05:49pm PT
Another great thread Rich!

Everything that you post is worth checking out.

Stopping to drill with EVERYTHING on the line is trial by fire at its finest!

I was just in SLC hanging out with some AZ friends and the topic of Lucky Goes To The Creamery came up. Definitely my personal best!

The lights were going out, the summit just a bit higher...After dropping down and across the maw of the previous chimney pitch I climbed up the rounded prow until I was finally able to consider drilling, forty feet out and away from the belay. No room for error after the 5.11 moves below, period!

Everybody was good and puckered for this one! I couldn't quite let go so I whacked in the tip of my Dolt nutsctratcher and had ground control take in about twenty cautious pounds of tension. The baby went in finally, out came the camera and I raced to the top. There was much rejoicing!

Long no-headlamp grope off the summit and down to the car. Earlier in the day we had heard a news story on the radio about a chap in the midwest who was involved in a nasty accident and decided to take on a seemingly much safer job in a dairy . But "Lucky" couldn't dodge danger so easily and was subsequently involved in yet another gruesome accident soon afterwards!

Hapless or hopeless, Lucky stayed with us and now lives on in Sedona infamy!
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