David Brower? What do you know?

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Crimpergirl

Sport climber
St. Louis
Topic Author's Original Post - Oct 8, 2006 - 10:47pm PT
I’m currently reading a fun book entitled Condor: To the brink and back – the life and times of one giant bird by John Nielsen (Harper Collins, 2006). In this book, David Brower is repeatedly mentioned. Seems he (among other things) worked for the Sierra Club, was the Director of the Sierra Club, fought victoriously against several dams proposed in the Colorado River Basin (including one to flood part of Utah’s Dinosaur National Monument), and was very active in the Condor wars.

What primarily caught my attention is that David Brower mentioned his love of Condors began in the 1930s when he was a “daring and extremely accomplished rock climber” (page16). I feel badly that I’ve not heard of this individual before. What do you guys know about this individual climbing or otherwise? I believe he would be 94 years old today (if he hasn’t passed yet).

Also, the book mentions several professional rock climbers who helped during the Condor Wars. For example, several climbed in the Grand Canyon with an Ornithologist named Emslie. Anyone know more about this?

Thanks in advance!
hossjulia

Trad climber
Eastside
Oct 8, 2006 - 10:53pm PT
If you hav'nt already, Google his name. Then read on, for days.

You must be really young
Crimpergirl

Sport climber
St. Louis
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 8, 2006 - 10:56pm PT
I mean, I see some of his stuff. But given the folks here, I thought there would be some interesting stories about him, climbing, and the Condor Wars.

And I'm not sure what "young" is, but I doubt I can pass for that! More an artifact of growing up in the flatlands where climbing information is non-existant (i.e., Houston).
Jaybro

Social climber
The West
Oct 8, 2006 - 11:17pm PT
You really do owe yourself an extensive google on this one; but that is going to be mostly the ecological stuff; Founder, Friends of the Earth, Grand pooba of the Sierra Club, subject of a John Mcphee book, Author in his own right, etc etc,

I met him at Indian rock in Berkeley when I was 19 or 20 (he was in his sixties), "This guy did the second ascent of the Durrance on Devil's tower" (which we had just done)my friend said. This old guy? I thought. (apparently he was 16 at the time of the Deto climb, belaying was a new concept, sometimes ropes broke, etc etc) He also did an early (the first?) ascent of Shiprock and maybe placed the first bolt in North America, if I'm keeping any of this straight.

His last big Crusade was the attempt to clean up Lake Baikal, in Russia (said to contain 25% of the fresh water in the world!) a Climbing buddy of mine (and Engineer) Damon Williams,(and others as well) traveled there with him to work on that project. Perhaps STEELMONKEY can add something to that one.

I didn't even know about the Condor thing.

& BTW, I'm 50, definitely young.
Chicken Skinner

Trad climber
Yosemite
Oct 8, 2006 - 11:30pm PT
I met him at least twice. The most memorable time was drinking whiskey with him at the Ahwahnee Bar. He told me that he had placed 63 pitons in his life and seemed to regret placing every one of them. He inspired me to do my best and try to climb clean on the walls I have done since. I have a picture of him climbing at Indian Rock in the 1930's somewhere and I will scan it when I find it.

Ken
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Oct 8, 2006 - 11:36pm PT
63 pitons!


He placed the first bolt in North America.
k-man

Gym climber
SCruz
Oct 8, 2006 - 11:39pm PT
One thing I heard he did was fight vigorously about the routing to the Tioga Road, the one that goes up through T-Meadows.

I don't know all the details, but apparently the subject of Brower's fight was the routing of the road by Tenya Lake. He thought this was a gross mistake.

Imagine the canyon without 120 going through it. While there'd be a LOT less climbing in the Yosemite high country if the road didn't run by Poly Dome, Medlicot, DAFF, Fairview, etc; it would sure be something if the road didn't run by that beautiful lake.
k-man

Gym climber
SCruz
Oct 8, 2006 - 11:46pm PT
He placed the first bolt in North America.


I wonder if it had a Leeper hanger.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Oct 8, 2006 - 11:51pm PT
He was one of the most accomplished climbers in North America, and Yosemite, in the 1930s. When he died a few years ago, the New York Times obituary was about a half page - only about a paragraph of which had to do with climbing.

Much later, he was executive director of the Sierra Club. During the fight over damming on the Colorado River, the responsible government agency claimed one of the benefits was that it would enable boaters to better see rock art. Brower had the Sierra Club to take out a full page ad in things like the New York Times, stating that the cretins would flood the Sistine Chapel so people could get a better look at Michelangelo's frescoes. As a result, the club lost its 501(c)(3) status, and soon after Brower moved on.

In the 1990s, he stated that he regretted that the Sierra Club had phased out its climbing and mountain programs, given its roots.

Plus he did lots of other environmental stuff.

Read "Encounters with the Archdruid" by John McPhee. Excellently written, like everything from McPhee, and quite thoughtful. Though it says very little about his climbing.

Anders
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Oct 9, 2006 - 12:48am PT
he had a very interesting eye for a line... some classic, some outright amazing...

Arrowhead Spire, South Arete 5.5 Yosemite Falls Upper, East Arrowhead Arete Area 1937 Dave Brower Richard Leonard
Castle Cliffs 4 Yosemite Falls Upper, East Yosemite Point Buttress 1940 Dave Brower Morgan Harris
Cathedral Chimney 5.7 Cathedral Rocks Higher Cathedral Rock 1936 Dave Brower Morgan Harris
Circular Staircase 5.8 Sentinel Rock 1940 Dave Brower Morgan Harris
Glacier Point Terrace 5.2 Glacier Point 1937 Dave Brower Morgan Harris
Glacier Point, East Face 5.6 Glacier Point Apron, East 1939 Dave Brower Raffi Bedayn Richard Leonard
Grizzly Peak, South Gully 5.5 A1 Half Dome 1938 Dave Brower Morgan Harris
Leaning Chimney 5.4 Cathedral Rocks Leaning Tower 1940 Dave Brower Ken Adam Morgan Harris Richard Leonard
Lost Brother, Regular Route 5.6 Sentinel Rock Lost Brother 1941 Dave Brower L. Bruce Meyer
Lower Brother, Southwest Arete, Left 5.6 Three Brothers Lower Brother 1937 Dave Brower Morgan Harris
Middle Brother, Southwest Arete, Right 5.7 Three Brothers Middle Brother 1941 Dave Brower Morgan Harris
Panorama Cliff 5.4 Upper Merced Canyon, South Panorama Cliff 1936 Dave Brower Morgan Harris
Rostrum, The, From the Notch 5.4 Lower Merced Canyon, South The Rostrum, West, Base 1941 Dave Brower Ken Adam Richard Leonard Rolf Pundt
Stanford Point, North Face Cathedral Rocks Leaning Tower, Fifi Buttress Area 1942 Dave Brower L. Bruce Meyer Morgan Harris Alan Hedden
Sunnyside Bench 5.2 Yosemite Falls Lower, East Sunnyside Bench, Left 1935 David Brower William Van Voorhis
Sunnyside Bench, Waterfall Route 5.7 A3 Yosemite Falls Lower, East Sunnyside Bench, Left 1935 Dave Brower William Van Voorhis
Yosemite Point Couloir 5.7 Yosemite Falls Upper, East Arrowhead Arete Area 1938 Dave Brower Morgan Harris Torcom Bedayan
cintune

climber
Penn's Woods
Oct 9, 2006 - 12:57am PT
One time I was with Brower in the back of a pickup truck, along with a live deer. Brower goes up to the deer and says, 'I'm David Brower! SAY IT!' Then he manipulates the deer's lips in such a way as to make it say, 'Davidbrower' ... It wasn't exactly like it, but it was pretty good for a deer!
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
one pass away from the big ditch
Oct 9, 2006 - 12:58am PT
Some early first ascents at Pinnacles National Monument.

November of 1933...

Original Route- South Summit
Original Route- North Summit

Done with Hervey Voge and George Rockwood.

The next year April he did

North Finger - Regular Route with the same guys.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Oct 9, 2006 - 01:03am PT
Wasn't the "first bolt" on Shiprock? At least allegedly? Somewhere I read that Brower always regretted that he was the first. Though I suspect he wasn't, depending on how you define "climbing" and "bolts". Half Dome in 1875 has to be in the running.

Brower also said he was one of the first in the environmental movement to have a sense of humour about it - he thought that it was a group that needed to lighten up a bit.

Anders
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Oct 9, 2006 - 01:06am PT
Brower's House of Smoke,...
cintune

climber
Penn's Woods
Oct 9, 2006 - 01:07am PT
Did I ever tell you about the time Brower took me out to go get a drink with him? We go off looking for a bar and we can't find one. Finally Brower takes me to a vacant lot and says, "Here we are." We sat there for a year and a half — until sure enough, someone constructs a bar around us. Well, the day they opened we ordered a shot, drank it, and then burned the place to the ground. Brower yelled over the roar of the flames, "Always leave things the way you found 'em!"
LuckyPink

Mountain climber
north bay today/someplace else tomorrow
Oct 9, 2006 - 01:16am PT
Yes, he placed the first bolt on Shiprock near 4 corners in the 50's, very circuitis route , I got to climb it 2 years ago with some locals. It's a closed area. I was into an historical climbing phase.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
one pass away from the big ditch
Oct 9, 2006 - 02:46am PT
not sure I would have posted climbing shiprock. meh.

On bolts and Brower, I seem to recall that the Shiprock use of bolts was the first time bolts had been used in North America. (see Pat Ament - Wizards of Rock pg. 40-42)
Crimpergirl

Sport climber
St. Louis
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 9, 2006 - 08:27am PT
Thanks, so far. These are great. Correct Riley, he was vehemently opposed to the capturing of the Condor to save them. He said he'd never live to see a captive raised bird released to the wild. Fortunately he was wrong as he did live to see this happening. From the book, he sounds like a very colorful character! I think that is why I was surprised I'd not heard some great climbing stories about him. I'm really enjoying them!

Oh, and Jaybro, I date men older than you so I suppose that makes me young too. Yay!
steelmnkey

climber
Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
Oct 9, 2006 - 10:04am PT
Only know the basics, like you Jaybro. But DSW lives within half a mile of me. I'll have to ask him about that next time I see him. I'll tell him ya said hi.

Someone said the FA of Shiprock was in the 50's, but it was way before that.

"David Brower was the first American climber to place a bolt. He installed a few of them at the Pinnacles in California before employing them on Shiprock in New Mexico in 1939. On that climb, he and his three companions used a handful of bolts for aid, and afterward they sheepishly referred to themselves as 'engineers'."

Patrick Sawyer

climber
Originally California now Ireland
Oct 9, 2006 - 10:38am PT
I remember meeting him at Indian Rock too.

You know Jaybro, we must have met at some point over the years as we both climbed at Indian Rock and Mt Diablo around the same.
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