RECORD of Royal Robbins Alpine Accomplishments?


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right here, right now
Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 18, 2017 - 09:23am PT
Royal Robbins Alpinism, Big Walls, Rock Climbs: FA, FFA, Notable Ascents

Now looking for any and all Robbins FA or FFA, and notable Alpine climbs.

Yosemite information compiled by Ed Hartouni and Clint Cummins.

Alpine list was started by nah000, on this thread: Royal Robbins (RIP).

A good chunk of additional Alpine data added by Hartouni.

Many other additions crowdsourced during the course of this thread.

Came up with quite a few extra FA here:

Source for two Alaska additions was the 1970 ASCENT, from an article called Up Against the Walls, by Joe Fitschen.

In the 1970 Ascent, Joe opens up with:
In July and early August of 1969, Royal Robbins, Charlie Raymond and Joe Fitschen made first ascents of Mts. Nevermore, Jeffers and Sasquatch (formerly South Triple Peak) in the Cathedral, or Kichatna Spires of the Alaska Range. It could well be that this area, with its harsh weather and forbidding walls, is destined to become a mecca for those interested in El Capitan type climbs in Alpine conditions.

If anybody wants to kick in some more, that would be great and I will update the OP.


Robbins Alpine, Big Wall, Rock Climbs, FA + FFA & Notable Ascents 3.7

[FA dates] listed in brackets to help with chronological organization.
This was not done with Tahquitz, because those routes are arranged as they are encountered at the crag, starting from the northeast side and moving to the southwest side.


French Alps, Chamonix:

Aiguille Du Dru, American Direct [7/26/1962] FA Hemming + Robbins (1962, Royal's first season in the Alps, per interview in Mountain 18)
Aiguille Du Dru, American Dirretissima [8/13/1965] FA Harlin + Robbins (Route destroyed by rockfall in 2005)

Swiss Alps, Leysin:

Sphinx d'Aï, Tour d'Aï , Voie Harlin-Robbins, (3) (6a+, 6a+, 6c) 5.11b, FFA Royal Robbins + George Lowe, 1965
The story:

Sphinx d'Aï , Petite Diagonale, 6+ [1965] FA Royal Robbins + John Harlin II
Diamant, Tour de Mayen, Voir de Diedre, 5 + [1965] FA Royal Robbins + Layton Kor + Don Whillans

Les Calanques

Buttress Americaine, En Vau [1963] FA Royal Robbins + Gary Hemming + John Harlin


Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Cima Piccola, Yellow Edge, (12) (5+/6-) 5.9/10a, repeat ascent: Royal + Liz Robbins

British Columbia:

Squamish, Sugarloaf, Thriller of the Void, 5.11b [1971] FA Royal Robbins + Jim Sinclair
Squamish, Right Side of Yosemite Pinnacle, 5.9 [date?] FA Royal Robbins
Squamish, Murren Park, Milkman's Wall, Mr. Crabbe, 5.11c [date?] FA Royal Robbins (?), FFA unknown

Canadian Rockies:

Mt. Geikie, North Face, V 5.8/5.9 A3 [8/15/1967] FA Hudson + Robbins
Mt. Edith Cavell, North Face [1967-First SOLO] Robbins

Northwest Territories:

Logan Mountains:

Mount Proboscis, Southeast Face, VI 5.8 A4 [8/6/1963] FA James P. McCarthy + Layton Kor + Richard McCracken + Royal Robbins.


Alaska Range, Kichatna Spires:

Mt. Nevermore, III 5.7 [7/18/1969] FA Fitschen + Charles Raymond + Royal Robbins
Mt. Jeffers, III/IV 5.8 A1 [7/22/1969] FA Fitschen + Charles Raymond + Royal Robbins
Mt. Sasquatch, IV 5.8 A2 [8/2/1969] FA Fitschen + Charles Raymond + Royal Robbins


Prescott, AZ, Thumb Butte, Mecca, 5.9 [1971] FA Royal Robbins + Rusty Baillie
Granite Dells, High Rappel Dell, Siege, 5.10b R [1971] FA Royal Robbins + David Lovejoy + Rusty Baillie


Joshua Tree:

Intersection Rock, Lower Right Ski Track, 5.10 [1954] FA Royal Robbins, on-sight free SOLO. (Secondhand reportage via Mark Powell)
(Vogel guide shows: LRST, 5.10b [1966] FA Al Ruiz + Rich Wolfe, FFA John Long, 1972)
The Blob, Buissonier, 5.7 [1965] FA Mark Powell + Royal Robbins

San Bernardino County:

Running Springs, Deep Creek Narrows, The Overhang, 5.7 [date?] FA purported to have been by Royal Robbins

Sierra Nevada, California:

The Balls:

Most routes were put up by guides and members of the Rockcraft Climbing School in 1973 and 1974. (Roper's High Sierra Guide)

Donner Pass:

Snow Shed Wall, Karl's Gym, 5.10d [1973] FA Chris Vandiver + Royal Robbins

Fresno Dome:

Many other routes were done later by guides and members of the Rockcraft Climbing School. (Roper's high Sierra guide)

Kings Canyon National Park:

 Royal climbed in King's Canyon w/ John Mendenhall, Darrell Towler, 7/1951

Grand Sentinel, V 5.9/5.10 A2 [6/1967] FA Yvon Chouinard + Royal Robbins

Lover's Leap:

Craven Image, 5.7 [1969] FA Royal Robbins + Steve Roper
Crud Gully, 5.8 [1969] FA Royal Robbins + Steve Roper
Lover's Leap, Incubus, 5.10b X [1972] FA Royal Robbins + Steve Roper
Lover's Leap, Fantasia, 5.9 R [1973] FA Royal Robbins + Ken Wilson

Queen's Throne:

Coronet, 5.8 [1973] FA Royal Robbins
Specter, [rating?][1970s?] FA Royal Robbins
Pit and Pendulum, [rating?][1970s?] FA Royal Robbins

Sonora Pass Highway - Burst Rock - Gianelli Edges:

Bright Light, 5.6 [10/2000] FA Royal Robbins, Tom Frost, Brad Young, David Harden
Solo, 5.1 R [10/2000] FA Royal Robbins, SOLO
Crackside, 5.7 [10/2000] FA Royal Robbins, David Harden, Brad Young
Lani's Leap, 5.9 [9/2001] FA(toprope) Lani Holdner, Royal Robbins, Tom Frost
Easy Finish Corner, 5.10a [9/2003] FA(toprope) David Harden, Royal Robbins
Frosty Fingers, 5.9 [9/2003] FA(toprope) David Harden, Royal Robbins
Jamcrack Joe, 5.8 [9/2001] FA(toprope) Royal Robbins, Tom Frost
I Can't Believe It, 5.9 [9/2001] FA(toprope) Royal Robbins, Tom Frost


Midway Rock, Self Abuse, 5.10b [1967] FA Royal Robbins
West Face, Fat Merchant Crack, 5.10b [1967] FA Royal Robbins et al


Pigeon Cliff, The Robbins Route, 5.9 [1969] FA Royal Robbins, Joe Fitschen + Steve Roper

Tuolumne Meadows:

The Lamb, Passover, 5.9 [6/1971] FA Royal Robbins, TM Herbert + Jim Bridwell.
Lembert Dome, Interrogation, 5.10B [7/1970] FA Royal Robbins, Dick Dorworth + Lance Poulsen
Gray Ghost, 5.9 [7/1970] FA Royal Robbins + TM Herbert

Tahquitz Rock:
(compiled from Tahquitz & Suicide guide, Vogel and Gaines, 1993)

 Royal's first trip to Tahquitz Rock, W/ Don Wilson, Frank Hoover, John Mendenhall, 7/1951

 Royal climbed Sahara Terror w/ John Mendenhall, 9/1951

Tahquitz routes listed from northeast to southwest:

Northeast Face East FA: Don Wilson and Royal Robbins, September 1954.
Whodunit FA: Joe Fitschen and Royal Robbins, September 1957. FFA: Tom Higgins and Bob Kamps, 1966.
The Swallow FA: Chuck Wilts and Royal Robbins, June 1952.
Consolation FA: John Mendenhall and Chuck Wilts, May 1953. FFA: Royal Robbins and TM Herbert, 1959.
Long Climb FA: Royal Robbins and Don Wilson, May 1952.
The Illegitimate FA: Royal Robbins and TM Herbert, May 1959.
The Step FA: Royal Robbins and Jerry Gallwas, 1957. FFA: Royal Robbins and TM Herbert.
The Flakes FA: Royal Robbins and Don Wilson, July 1953. FFA: John Long, Tobin Sorensen, Richard Harrison, and Bill Antel, 1973.
The Vampire FA: Royal Robbins and Dave Rearick, June 1959. FFA: John Long, Rick Accomazzo, Mike Graham, and Bill Antel, 1973.
Lower Royal' s Arch FA: Royal Robbins, Don Wilson, and Chuck Wilts, May 1952. FFA: Rick Accomazzo and Tobin Sorensen, 1973.
Upper Royal' s Arch FA: Royal Robbins, Jerry Gallwas, and Chuck Wilts, 1953.
Gallwas' Gallop FA: Jerry Gallwas, Chuck Wilts, and Royal Robbins, 1953.
The Jam Crack FA: Royal Robbins and Don Wilson, September 1959.
Dave's Deviation FA: Tom Frost and Royal Robbins, 1960.
Dave's Deviation FFA: Tom Frost, 5/1960
Dave's Deviation, extension to top, FA: Tom Frost, Royal Robbins, 1960
The Blank FA: Royal Robbins and Jerry Gallwas, May 1954.
Frightful Fright FA: Royal Robbins and Don Wilson, July 1953. FFA: John Long and Mike Lechlinski, 1978.
Human Fright FA: John Mendenhall and Royal Robbins, June 1952. FFA: Bob Kamps.
El Camino Real FA: Royal Robbins, Harry Daley, and J. Taylor, November 1961
The Hangover FA: Royal Robbins, Jerry Gallwas, Frank Martin, and Mike Sherrick, August 1954. FFA: John Long, Rick Accomazzo, Robs Muir, and Mike Lechlinski, 1978.
Open Book FA: John Mendenhall and Harry Sutherland, September 1947. FFA: Royal Robbins and Don Wilson, 1952.
The Unchaste FA: Royal Robbins and Mike Sherrick, September 1957. FFA: Tobin Sorensen and Gibb Lewis, 1974.
The Reach FA: Mike Sherrick and Royal Robbins, September 1956. FFA: Erik Eriksson, John Long, and Rick Accomazzo, 1978.
The Innominate FA: Chuck Wilts and Gary Bloom, August 1947. FFA: Royal Robbins and Jerry Gallwas, 1957.
Lizard's Leap FA: Royal Robbins and Harry Daley, November 1961.

Yosemite Valley

First Ascents of Yosemite Big Walls & Major Formations (6+ pitch routes)
[FA dates] listed in brackets

Liberty Cap - South Face 5.8 A3 (9) [9/1956] FA Mark Powell + Royal Robbins + Joe Fitschen,
Half Dome - Regular Northwest Face 5.12 or 5.9 C1 *** (24) [7/1957] FA Royal Robbins + Jerry Gallwas + Mike Sherrick (5 days)
FCA Doug Robinson, Dennis Hennek, Galen Rowell, 8/73
FFA (except last pitch) Jim Erickson, Art Higbee, 1976
FFA (complete) Leonard Coyne, Dennis Jackson, Doug Lorrimer, 5/1979
Lower Cathedral Rock - North Face 5.9 A3 (15) [6/4/1960] FA Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt, Joe Fitschen (3 days)
Arches Direct 5.8 A4 (15) [6/1960] FA Royal Robbins + Joe Fitschen (3 days)
Half Dome - North Ridge 5.10d R *** (10) [6/24/1961] FA Chuck Wilts + Royal Robbins
FFA Walt Shipley, John Harpole, 1989
Higher Cathedral Spire - Northwest Face 5.8 A3 (12) [6/8/1961] FA Tom Frost + Royal Robbins (2 days)
El Capitan, Salathé Wall 5.10 C2 (35) [9/24/1961] FA Royal Robbins + Chuck Pratt + Tom Frost (3.5 + 6 days final push)
Sentinel Rock - Direct North Face 5.12a (12) [5/7/1962] FA Royal Robbins + Tom Frost (3 days)
FFA Adam Wainwright, Kevin Thaw, 10/1994
Half Dome - Direct Northwest Face 5.13c/d ** (24) [6//13/1963] FA Royal Robbins + Dick McCracken (4 days)
FFA Todd Skinner, Paul Piana, 1993
Misty Wall 5.11d A0 (17) [6/23/1963] FA Dick McCracken + Royal Robbins (3 days)
FFA (less pendulums) Walt Shipley, Kevin Fosburg, 1991
Bridalveil Falls - East Buttress 5.8 A3 (6) [1963] FA Royal Robbins + TM Herbert
Lower Cathedral Rock - North Face, 5.9 A3 (15) [1963] FA Royal Robbins + Chuck Pratt + Joe Fitschen
El Capitan, North America Wall 5.8 A2 (29) [10/31/1964] FA Tom Frost + Yvon Chouinard + Chuck Pratt + Royal Robbins (10 days)
FCA Dougald MacDonald, Chris McNamara, 1997
Goodrich Pinnacle - Right Side 5.9 *** (8) [5/1964] FA Royal Robbins + Liz Robbins + TM Herbert
Boulderfield Gorge 5.9 (9) [10/1966] FA Royal Robbins + Liz Robbins + Mike Dent + Victor Cowley
Nutcracker 5.8 *** (6) (left finish) [5/1967] FA Royal Robbins + Liz Robbins
FA (direct finish) 5.9 [5/1967] Yvon Chouinard + Royal Robbins
El Capitan - West Face 5.11c ** (19) [6/7/1967] FA TM Herbert + Royal Robbins (4 days)
FFA Ray Jardine, Bill Price, 5/1979
The Prow 5.6 C2F (11) [5/1969] FA Royal Robbins + Glen Denny
Tis-sa-ack 5.10 A4 (22) [10/7/1969] FA Royal Robbins + Don Peterson (8 days)
Sentinel Rock, West Face, In Cold Blood 5.8 A4 (14) [5/27/1970] FA Royal Robbins SOLO (2 days)
Ribbon Falls, Vain Hope, V 5.7 A3 (10) [5/1970] FA Royal Robbins + Kim Schmitz + Jim Bridwell
Half Dome, Arcturus [7/1970] FA Royal Robbins + Dick Dorworth (4 days)

First Ascents or FFA of Shorter Yosemite Climbs (1-5 pitch routes)

Higher Cathedral Spire - Robbins Variation (p2) [5/1952] FA Royal Robbins + Roy Gorin
Rixon's Pinnacle - East Chimney 5.10a * (3) [1956] FA Don Goodrich + Dick McCracken
FFA Royal Robbins + Dave Rearick, 6/16/1960
The Crack of Dawn 5.9 (1) [9/1959] FA Royal Robbins + Chuck Pratt + Tom Frost
Nevada Fall - Left Side 5.6 A4 (1) [7/1960] FA Royal Robbins + Lin Ephraim
Bridalveil East - Aqua var. 5.8 * (1) [1961] FA Royal Robbins + Rich Calderwood
Slab Happy Pinnacle - Center Original 5.9 A4 (3) [5/1961] FA Royal Robbins + Tom Frost + Harry Daley
The Dihardral 5.10c * (4) [5/1961] FA Tom Frost + Royal Robbins
FFA Frank Sacherer, Tom Gerughty, 8/1964
Slab Happy Pinnacle - Left 5.11a * (4) [5/1962] FA Royal Robbins + Jack Turner
FFA Mark Chapman, Art Higbee, 2/1974
Little John - Right 5.8 *** (3) [1962] FA Jack Turner + Royal Robbins
Rixon's Pinnacle - Far West 5.11 (4) [6/1963] FA Royal Robbins + Dick McCracken
FCA: Bruce Carson, Dave Anderson, 5/1973; FFA ?
The Slack - Left Side 5.10b (3) [1965] FA Chuck Pratt + Royal Robbins
Eat at Degan's 5.9+ * (1) [1965] FA Royal Robbins
The Pulpit - Notch Route 5.10b R (1) FA unknown, probably 1950s
FFA Royal Robbins, 1966
Reed's Pinnacle – Direct 5.10a (p3) [5/1964] FA Frank Sacherer + Mark Powell + Wally Reed + Gary Colliver + Andy Lichtman
Reed's Pinnacle - Direct 5.9 (p2) *** (1) [6/1964] FA Frank Sacherer + Wally Reed + Chris Fredericks
Reed's Pinnacle - Direct 5.10 a (p1-p3) [10/1966] FA Royal Robbins + Gordon Webster + Terry Burnell
Vendetta 5.10b * (5) [6/1967] FA Loyd Price + Roger Gordon
FFA Royal Robbins, Galen Rowell, 1968
The Remnant - Left Side 5.10b (1) [10/1967] FA Pat Ament + Larry Dalke
FFA Royal Robbins, Loyd Price, 1968
Cookie - Left 5.10a (2) [2/1968] FA Royal Robbins + Loyd Price
Cookie - Right 5.9 ** (3) [2/1968] FA Royal Robbins + Loyd Price
Meat Grinder 5.10c ** (3) [3/1968] FA Royal Robbins, TM Herbert

Notable Yosemite Ascents:
(Compiled by Ed Hartouni & Clint Cummins)
(2A indicates 2nd ascent and so forth)

Lost Arrow Spire, Royal Robbins, Don Wilson, Barbara Lilley, 3A or 4A, 10/1952
Yosemite Point Buttress, Royal Robbins, Jerry Gallwas, 2A, 5/1953
Steck-Salathé, Royal Robbins, Jerry Gallwas, Don Wilson, 2A, 2 days, 6/1953
Half Dome - Regular Northwest Face, Royal Robbins, Don Wilson, Jerry Gallwas, Warren Harding, (attempt), 6/1955
Steck-Salathé, Royal Robbins, Mike Sherrick, 3A, 1.4 days, 8/12/1956
Lost Arrow Chimney, Royal Robbins, Joe Fitschen, 4A, 2 days, 9/1957
Middle Cathedral Rock - North Face, Royal Robbins, Joe Fitschen, 2A, 2 days, 8/1959
Steck-Salathé, Royal Robbins, Pete Rogowsky, Lin Ephraim, 8A, 9/7/1959
Elephant Rock - Worst Error, Royal Robbins, Tom Frost, 3A, 9/1959
Steck-Salathé, Royal Robbins, Joe Fitschen, 12A?, 10 hours, 6/1960
Lost Arrow Spire, Royal Robbins, Janie Taylor, 6/1960
Arrowhead Arete, Royal Robbins, Janie Taylor, 6/1960
Lower Cathedral Spire, Royal Robbins, Janie Taylor, 6/1960
Higher Cathedral Spire, Royal Robbins, Janie Taylor, 6/1960
Higher Cathedral Spire - NW Face, Royal Robbins, Joe Fitschen, attempt 1 (needed larger pitons), 6/14/1960
Half Dome - Regular Northwest Face, Royal Robbins, Dave Rearick, 3A, 2 days, 6/21?/1960
Bridalveil East, Royal Robbins, Tom Frost, Joe Fitschen, 6 hours, 8/1960
Nose, Royal Robbins, Tom Frost, Chuck Pratt, Joe Fitschen, 2A, 7 days, 9/13/1960
Yosemite Point Buttress, Royal Robbins, Janie Taylor, 6 hours, 9/1960
Higher Cathedral Spire - NW Face, Royal Robbins, Tom Frost, attempt 2 (forgot bolt kit), 5/15?/1961
Higher Cathedral Spire - NW Face, Royal Robbins, Steve Roper, attempt 3 (fixed 2 pitches), 5/22?/1961
Sentinel - West Face, Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt, 2A, 2 days, 7/14/1961
Steck-Salathé, Royal Robbins, Tom Frost, 16A, speed ascent, simulclimbing, 3 hours 14 minutes, 9/1961
Steck-Salathé, Royal Robbins, SOLO, 17A, belayed on 3 pitches, 9/1961
Washington Column Direct, Royal Robbins, Liz Burkner, 4/1962
Salathé Wall, Royal Robbins, Tom Frost, TM Herbert, attempted 2A, rain/sickness, 9/1962
Salathé Wall, Royal Robbins, Tom Frost, 2A, 5 days, 10/13/1962
Washington Column - East Face, Royal Robbins, Tom Frost, 2A, 10/1962
Leaning Tower - West Face, Royal Robbins, SOLO, 2A, 4 days, 5/1963
Middle Cathedral - Direct North Buttress, Royal Robbins, Layton Kor, 5/1963
North America Wall, Royal Robbins, Glen Denny, recon 1 (600'), 10/1963
North America Wall, Royal Robbins, Glen Denny, Tom Frost, recon 2 (1200'), 5/1964
El Capitan - West Buttress, Royal Robbins, Bob Kamps, attempt, 5/1964
El Capitan - West Buttress, Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt, 2A, 6/1964
Dihedral Wall, Royal Robbins, Tom Frost, 2A, new hauling system, 6/1964
The Slack - Left Side, Chuck Pratt, Royal Robbins, FA, 5/1965
Steck-Salathé, Royal Robbins, SOLO, 34A?, 3 hours 35 minutes, 9/9/1966
Half Dome - Regular Northwest Face, Royal Robbins, Liz Robbins, 2.5 days, 6/1967
Nose, Royal Robbins, Liz Robbins, attempt (600', needed more water), 6/1967
Crack of Doom, Royal Robbins, Dave Rearick, Pat Ament, 10/1967
Nutcracker, Royal Robbins, Liz Robbins, Dave Rearick, Steve Roper, Yvon Chouinard, Pat Ament, Fritz Wiessner, 10/1967
Muir Wall, Royal Robbins, SOLO, 2A, 9.5 days, 4/1968
Mt. Watkins - South Face, Royal Robbins, Joe Fitschen, 3 days, 6/1968
Steck-Salathé, Edwin Ward-Drummond, Royal Robbins, 42?A, 9/3/1968
Tis-sa-ack, Royal Robbins, Dennis Hennek, Chuck Pratt, attempt, 10/1968
Steck-Salathé, Doug Scott, Tony Willmott, Royal Robbins, 46?A, 4/8/1970
In Cold Blood, Royal Robbins, Egon Marte, Johanna Marte, 2A, 10/18/1970
Wall of Early Morning Light, Royal Robbins, Don Lauria, 2A, 6 days, 2/4/1971
Attempt at FA of Tangerine Trip, SOLO
Free SOLO of East Buttress of El Capitan in Tretorn sneakers

Mt. Woodson:

Robbins Crack, 5.10 [1969] FFA Royal Robbins, on-sight Solo
The story:


Boulder Canyon:

Castle Rock, The Final Exam, 5.11a [1964] FA Royal Robbins + Pat Ament
Boulder Canyon, Castle Rock, The By Gully, 5.9+ [1964] FA Royal Robbins + Pat Ament
Castle Rock, Athletes Feat, 5.11a [1961] FA Stan Shepherd and Don Davis, FFA Royal Robbins and Pat Ament, 1964

Eldorado Canyon:

The Yellow Spur [1959] FA Layton Kor + Dave Dornan
FFA Royal Robbins + Pat Ament, 1964

Lumpy Ridge:

Sundance Buttress, Turnkorner, 5.10a [1962] FA Layton Kor + Jack Turner (IV+ 5.8 A3)
FFA Royal Robbins + Bob Boucher, 1964. Freed with a few falls and renamed by Royal (think Kor-Turner)

Ophir Wall - Cracked Canyon (Telluride area):
(1) = number of pitches

Ophir Wall

Arachne, 5.10, (2) [6/26/78] FA Royal Robbins + Dan Langmade (6 attempts and aid cleaning required)
East Buttress, Adam's Rib, 5.9, (1) [6/30/1978] FA Royal Robbins + Allen Pattie
Adagio, 5.9, (2) [7/8/1978] FA Bill Kees + Royal Robbins
Rickety Split, 5.8, (2) [7/8/1978] FA Bill Kees + Royal Robbins
Rickety Split, variation, 5.10, (1) [7/8/1978] FA Bill Kees + Royal Robbins
Chestnut, 5.9, (1) [7/9/1978] FA Royal Robbins + Bill Kees
East Buttress, South Face, Loose Goose, 5.7, (2) [6/29/1978] FA Royal Robbins + Allen Pattie

Cracked Canyon

Chewbacca, 5.8 [1977] FA Bill Kees + Royal Robbins
Cello, 5.10b/d [1978] FA Royal Robbins + Chris Vandiver
Javelin, 5.10d, (2) [7/14/1978] FA Chris Vandiver + Royal Robbins
The Crock, 5.10, (1) [7/14/1978) FA Chris Vandiver + Royal Robbins (John Long/Lynn Hill, 1980, MP?)
Thor, 5.10, (1) [7/15/1978] FA Bill Kees + Royal Robbins
Detour, 5.8, (1) [7/22/1978] FA Chris Vandiver + Royal Robbins
Nid D'Oiseaux, 5.9 (1) [7/29/1978] FA Chris Vandiver + Royal Robbins (right of String of Diamonds)
Where the Wild Things Are, 5.9, (2) [7/30/1978] FA Royal Robbins + Chris Vandiver
Lago, 5.8 FA 1978 Jim Sweeney + Royal Robbins
Othello, 5.9+ [1978] FA Royal Robbins + Jim Sweeney
String of Diamonds, 5.10 [1978] FA Kevin Cooney + Royal Robbins
Attica, 5.9 [1979] FA Jim Sweeney + Royal Robbins

Rocky Mount National Park:

Longs Peak, The Diamond, Jack of Diamonds, V 5.9 A4 [8/13/1963] FA Royal Robbins + Layton Kor
Mt. Meeker, Ships Prow, Gangplank, III 5.7 A4 [1963] FA Royal Robbins + Pat Ament
Spearhead, Syke’s Sickle, III 5.9+ FA 1958 (?) Richard Sykes + Dave Rearick + David Isles + John Wharton
FFA Royal Robbins, Layton Kor, 1964 (?)

Duluth Area, Minnesota:

Ely's Peak, Robbins F12 Overhang, 5.8 [date?] FA Royal Robbins (?)

Organ Mountains, New Mexico:

Royal Robbins established routes in the Organs while stationed at nearby Fort Bliss in the 1950s. (AAJ 2014-John Hymer)

Shawangunks, New York:
Grim-ace Face, 5.9 [1966] FA Royal Robbins + Jim McCarthy

Needles, South Dakota:

Cerberus a.k.a. Tricouni Nail, 5.8 [1964] FA Royal & Liz Robbins + Dick Laptad + Sue Prince
Sandberg Peak, 5.8 [8/1964] FA Royal Robbins (belayed by Liz Robbins)
Queenpin, 5.9 [8/1964] FA Royal & Liz Robbins + Dick Laptad + Sue Prince
Tent Peg, 5.7 [1964] FA Royal + Liz Robbins


Big Cottonwood Canyon:

Storm Mountain Picnic Area, Storm Mountain Island, Amphitheater Overhang Left, 5.12d [date?] FA Royal Robbins (presumably on aid)
FFA Jim Karn or Steve Habovstak
Storm Mountain Island, Amphitheater Overhang Right, A1 [date?] FA Royal Robbins

Little Cottonwood Canyon:

The Thumb, Direct South Face, IV 5.9 A3 [7/3/1964] FA Ted Wilson + Royal Robbins
The Thumb, East Side, Robbins Route, 5.10 [date?]FA Royal Robbins + Ted Wilson

Moab Area

Valley of the Gods, Mexican Hat, (SW of Bluff) Robbins Route, 5.6 A2 [1962] FA Royal Robbins + Jack Turner


Devils Tower:

Dance Macabre, II 5.10d [8/19/1964] FA Royal Robbins + Peter Robinson
The Window, IV 5.6 A4 [8/20/1964] FA Royal Robbins + Peter Robinso


Garnet Canyon, Big Bluff [8/12 1960] FA Royal Robbins + Joe Fitschen (1961 AAJ)
Middle Teton, North Face, route east of northwest chimney route [7/30/1960] FA Royal Robbins + Joe Fitschen (1961 AA J)
Middle Teton, Northeast Face [8/16/1960] FA Royal Robbins + Jane Taylor (1961 AA J)
Teepe’s Pillar, Northeast Face, between Merriam's east face and Chouinard's north face routes [8/24/61] FA Royal Robbins + Jane Taylor (1962 AA J)

Grand Teton Notable Ascents:
Notable ascents, from a list published by Leigh Ortenberger in 1975 of ascents of the Grand Teton from 1898-1974:

Northwest Chimney Direct [1960-repeat] Robbins (+ partner?)
Lower Exum Ridge [1960-repeat] Robbins (+ partner?)
North Face [1961-repeat] Robbins (+ partner?)
Northwest Ridge, via the "ice gulley" [1967-repeat] Robbins (+ partner?)
Lower Exum Ridge [1971-repeat] Robbins (+ partner?)

Wind River Range:

Mt. Hooker, North Face, VI 5.9 A4 [7/25/1964] FA McCracken, Raymond + Robbins
Cirque of the Towers Traverse, IV 5.7 [7/16/1964] FA Royal Robbins + Dick McCracken + Charlie Raymond
Watchtower, South Buttress, IV 5.9 A3 [7/18/1964] FA Royal Robbins + Charlie Raymond
Cathedral Buttress, Orion's Reflection, 5.9 A2 FA Royal Robbins



Salathé Wall, FA 9/21/1961 or 9/24/1961 (need correct date)

Washington Column, The Prow FA 5/1969 or 6/1969 (need correct date)

Squamish, Right Side of Yosemite Pinnacle, 5.9 [date] FA Royal Robbins ( (need date plus partner)

Mt. Edith Cavell, North Face [1967-First Solo] Robbins (need rating + date + FA data)

Joshua Tree, Intersection Rock, Lower Right Ski Track:
Guy Keesee said Royal performed an on-site solo FA of Lower Right Ski Track in Joshua Tree, 1954.
This comes secondhand from Mark Powell. I've heard Powell's got a memory like a steel trap, so it may well be true. 1964 may be more accurate?
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Mar 18, 2017 - 09:41am PT
The one that stands out quickly to me won't be found unless you have done the problem,
though it may be listed in a bouldering guide for the Valley.

Robbins Crack, east end of Camp 4.

Any photos?

I recall doing laps on it with Mathis and Hamm.

It is conveniently located off the trail leading to the Village Store.

A humble field stone in a string of more notable accomplishments.

edit: Gee, Roy, I had not had my coffee yet. I kinda doubt he needed an ice axe, crampons, goggles, or even a belayer, but the icefield gets really tricky near the stables. I'm talking about Yosemite Village, too, not that horrid deer mice-infested rockfall gallery.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 18, 2017 - 09:51am PT
Did he carry an ice ax?
Were there open crevasses getting from there to Curry Village?
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Mar 18, 2017 - 10:00am PT
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Big Bluff. Probably no one who has camped at the Platforms in Garnet Canyon has given any thought to climbing the overhanging cliff directly above, that is until Royal Robbins and Joe Fitschen climbed it on August 12. This may represent the climax of the rock climbing efforts which have been concentrated in the lower portions of Garnet Canyon in the past five years. They started from the gully to the west of the overhang and ascended easy ledges to the broad terrace below the 150-foot overhang. Next, a red flake was attacked and passed to a sloping ledge where the first bolt was placed. From there the next extremely difficult lead traversed horizontally 30 feet to the right and then upward to a quartz-like rock formation where the second bolt was placed (it fell out after being used). The final pitch of difficulty diagonals upward to the left and emerges from the overhang to the level ground above.

Middle Teton, North Face. To the east of the northwest chimney route, first climbed in 1955 by Goodrich and Reppy, is another similar chimney less attractive than the first and separated from it by a smooth face. From the Lower Saddle on July 30, Royal Robbins and Joe Fitschen ascended the glacier to the bottom of this chimney and then followed cracks and blocks for about 500 feet of moderate climbing to the ledge at the beginning of the final 300-foot face. A vertical crack 25 feet to the right of the chimney (which on close examination was even more unattractive) provided easy direct-aid work for one rope-length. The final pitch diagonals steeply upward to the right, passing the final overhangs on the right and involving extremely difficult free climbing, but no direct aid. From there a scramble led to the summit, which was reached at five p.m. after a start at 12 noon.

Middle Teton, Northeast Face. This climb by Royal Robbins and Jane Taylor on August 16 is perhaps the most difficult yet completed in the Tetons. It ascends the ledges and cracks at the corner of the north face and the east face of the summit block of the Middle Teton. From the glacier a prominent ledge that slants steeply upward to the right was ascended for 400 feet by moderate climbing to a broad, grassy area some 25 feet wide. Direct aid was then used to climb a crack in the overhanging wall above. This process was repeated on the next wall and again on the third overhanging wall until a pendulum could be made around a bulge and into a recess on the right. From this recess more direct aid was required to ascend the crack above, bringing the party to some ledges, the second of which provided a convenient belay spot. The next lead, partially aid and partially free, followed cracks in the face above to a steep ledge. The next lead past three overhangs, the first of which was wet, was extremely difficult free climbing (5.9). The final 60 feet to a broad sloping ledge involved poorly protected face climbing and a strenuous jam crack. Considerable use was made on this climb of the newer types of pitons and future parties should carry a good selection, especially of the knife-blade varieties.

Teepe’s Pillar, Northeast Face. On August 24 Royal Robbins and Jane Taylor climbed this route which lies between the direct east-face route of Merriam and the north face route of Chouinard, passing by difficult direct- aid climbing the band of nearly vertical rock which seems to encircle the Pillar. Just to the right of the edge of the east face, this party climbed diagonally upward on easy rock to a right-angle recess directly below a huge roof which is on the east ridge or face. After 100 feet in the recess the easy climbing continued in a zig-zag manner on two slab-ledges. Direct aid was required in climbing right and up from the second ledge to an overhang which was passed to the right. A recess containing two black overhangs was then reached and climbed. A gully then led to a small notch, just beyond which is a ledge leading out to the north-face route. More direct-aid climbing left and up followed by face climbing brought the party to a broad sloping ledge from which a traverse left around a corner to the old east-face route was made. The final 150-foot wall was not attempted because of lack of time and the fact that a large number of bolts would apparently be required.

Longs Peak, The Diamond. In August, 1960, two Californians, Bob Kamps and Dave Rearick, made the first ascent of the Diamond (A.A.J., 1961, 12:2, pp. 297-301.) Their route goes straight up the center of the 1000-foot face. Two years later Layton Kor and Charles Roskosz, both of Colorado, completed a new route, “The Yellow Wall”, about 100 yards left of the Kamps-Rearick route. Though on less steep and better rock, the Yellow Wall is more circuitous and has a harder aid pitch. On July 13, after making the second ascent of the original route, Kor and I established a new one, “The Jack of Diamonds”. The “Jack” stands just right of the Kamps-Rearick, and like that route, has a rotten section which overhangs for 400 feet. Although the nailing is slightly easier on the Jack, the free climbing is more difficult than either of the other two routes. The night before the ascent, we bivouacked on Broadway, a huge ledge at the base of the Diamond. Kor slept placidly, but next day all his famous energy and drive became focused upon the problem of getting up this new route. The day dawned with the sun shining warmly through a clear blue sky, but by noon clouds had gathered and a strong wind numbed our fingers. The weather worsened as we climbed higher, and in the afternoon snow flurries swirled around us. Nearing the top, we fought an insidious exhaustion caused by altitude, cold, and our daylong struggle. Racing against the setting sun to avoid a bad night in slings, Kor led the last pitch, a long, strenuous jam-crack. On my last reserves I struggled up this final pitch, topped the Diamond, and shook the hand of a great climber.

Statistics: NCCS V-9-A4, 161 pitons, 1 day. Detailed route description left at Long’s Peak Ranger Station.

Royal Robbins

Devils Tower, The Window. In August, Pete Robinson, of Fort Collins, Colorado, joined me in an attempt to climb the "Window” of Devils Tower. This is a 300-foot high recess in the east face of the Tower. It had been attempted twice before. Rain fell all day, but did not hit us until we passed the ceilings forming the top of the recess. Passing these ceilings was the crux of the climb. The last pitch was dangerous because of poor piton protection and slick rock. (NCCS IV, F6, A4.) A few days later we put up a new free route about a dozen columns east of the Durrance route. We named this "Danse Macabre”. The hardest part is the first 30 feet, but it is strenuous for 75 feet, after which it becomes easier. (NCCS III, F10.) Complete descriptions for these climbs are available at the Park Service Headquarters.

Royal Robbins

Cirque of the Towers Traverse. When our party of six arrived in the Cirque of the Towers, Dick McCracken and Charlie Raymond and I were immediately struck by two fine challenges: the unclimbed south face of the Watchtower and a traverse of the Cirque from Pingo to Warbonnet. On July 16 we traversed from Pingora to Pylon Peak and bivouacked at Wisconsin Pass. We finished the climb after 2½ hours of trudging on the second day. The trip went smoothly except for a harried rappel from the Shark’s Nose ridge when lightning threatened. The most enjoyable sections were the east ridge of Wolf’s Head and the standard route on Shark’s Nose. These routes offer the most in mountain adventure for the least in danger and technical difficulty. (NCCS IV, F7.) Route Description: From the southwest corner of Pingora, climb down west face 200 feet and traverse to southwest buttress. Rappel from large horn. Rappel again from small horn to notch between Tiger Tower and Pingora. From Wolf’s Head, rappel and climb down west face several hundred feet and traverse into couloir. Climb out of couloir and return to arête. From Overhanging Tower: climb down southwesterly and rappel from piton. From Shark’s Nose: move south and rappel from a block without a sling, then make a second rappel from a block with a sling. From Block Tower: climb down south to broad, sloping ledge. Rappel from piton to enormous, sloping ledge, and continue same rappel to angular ledge on the right 40 feet lower. Second rappel goes to notch. From notch, ascend Watchtower by climbing a steep gully on left for 50 feet and then ascending diagonally back R and up to ridge. The above description includes only those areas of the traverse not obvious or not covered in Bonney’s guide.

Royal Robbins

South Buttress of the Watchtower. Viewed from Lonesome Lake, the Watchtower presents an elegant 800-foot buttress. On July 18 Charlie Raymond and I began from just inside the couloir south of the Watch- tower. The first pitch went up a ramp leaning right. On the second Charlie finished the ramp and then went diagonally right to a belay in slings in a vertical crack above a black dike. When he hauled the pack, it dislodged a rock which bounded down toward me and wedged itself in a crack above my head, temporarily imprisoning the climbing rope. The third pitch went straight up except for a 30-foot flirtation with a crack on the left to avoid a white overhang. On the fourth Charlie climbed free straight up 75 feet (except for one zig-zag right) and then began the first nailing on the route. He soon set up a belay in slings and I pitoned above him to a large, flat, somewhat detached ledge. I then climbed an unpleasant ramp leading left and belayed in slings at the foot of a 30-foot flake. As Charlie was leading the next pitch a three hour period of rain and lightning began. From 20 feet above the top of the flake he traversed right and nailed up to a good ledge. The following pitch, the 7th, was a long, free climb somewhat leftward up a series of cracks to an alcove. From the alcove easier climbing leads 200 feet to the summit. Although this is perhaps the most difficult route in the Cirque of the Towers, with perhaps the finest "line,” the actual climbing did not meet the expectations engendered by the beauty of the buttress. The rock is often poor and the belay spots not well situated. Some sling belays can be avoided by shortening pitches to utilize ledges. We often used horns for belay points. (NCCS IV, F9, A3. 60 pitons.)

Royal Robbins

The Balls. There are four main domes at the Balls, an area just north of Bass Lake and Oakhurst. All are immediately north of a dirt road leading to the area. From west to east, the domes have tentatively been named Ski Track Dome, Little Dome, Tempest Dome and Big Red. Since many climbers, including Royal Robbins and his rockcraft group, have visited the Balls but not recorded ascents, it is difficult to know what are new routes. Nevertheless, on July 14 and 15 several members of the Sierra Nevada section of the AAC did a few routes in the area that are most likely new. The most significant routes are on Tempest Dome. On the north side of the rock are Little Froggy, Jerry Koch and Jerry Boch, NCCS I, F7, and Shady Lane, Bruce and Kathy McCubbrey, NCCS I, F7. The first follows a green, lichen speckled wall; the second takes the main dihedral. On the south face, toward the left side, is Odyssey, Tom Higgins, Shary McVoy, Alan Nelson, NCCS II, F9. The route follows a large indenture and arch for two pitches, then a 30-foot flake to a fantastic, steep, knobby wall, F9. Havana Ball, Higgins, McVoy and Nelson, takes the blank face left of the black waterstreak toward the right end of the south face. It begins on a flake, continues past two bolts to a two-bolt belay above a short roof. It then passes the large roof above (F10) about 15 feet right of a break marked by two fixed pitons set for another route.

Thomas J. Higgins

The Southeast Face of Proboscis

Technical Climbing in the Logan Mountains

James P. McCarthy

"Pick an objective that you feel will contribute something to the development of American climbing, gather the strongest group of technical climbers available to do the job and the AAC will back the venture.” This was the invitation offered me by the Council of the American Alpine Club as part of a program of vigorous encouragement of modern technical climbing in North America.

Picking the objective was perhaps easiest. Yvon Chouinard’s lead article in the 1963 American Alpine journal suggested that as most of the classic lines in Yosemite Valley had already been completed, the climbers, trained in the most demanding area in the country, should turn to the challenging routes in the high mountains. Now this project was to provide the means for the best American climbers to attempt the biggest wall they could find in a remote area. Obviously the Logan Mountains in the Northwest Territories of Canada offered both huge rock walls and an extremely remote location. One particular part of the area had even been given the intriguing name of "Cirque of the Unclimbables.” We would go to the Logan Mountains.

The next question was who would "we” be. Although I had never met him, I was well acquainted with Royal Robbins by reputation. For those less well informed on the latest goings-on in technical climbing I shall simply say that Royal is now and has been for some years one of the finest American technical climbers. As much as any one person can be, he is responsible for its present high level. Royal indicated that he was interested and recommended Richard McCracken. Another Yosemite climber of proven ability, Dick had done amazing ascents in the Valley during the spring. Layton Kor had also been issued an invitation almost as soon as the venture was under way. When he accepted, the team was rounded out. Layton is surely one of the most astonishing climbers anywhere. His tremendous reach and energy combine to permit him to climb some of the most difficult routes in the country with incredible speed. His technical proficiency is combined with an appetite for the most difficult climbs that can only be termed voracious.

We decided to convene in Boulder, Colorado, make our final preparations there and head north. When I arrived in mid-July, the first difficulty soon presented itself. Although we had counted on making the trip to Watson Lake, Yukon Territory, in two vehicles, one was clearly too decrepit to make the trip. We faced the unpleasant and chancy proposition of crowding the four of us into the interior of my aged Volkswagen sedan, piling 700 pounds of gear on the roof rack and hoping for the best. We finally got started on the evening of July 21, shock absorbers fully compressed and tail pipes dragging. After a nightmarish interlude of enforced immobility, sleeplessness and incipient mechanical breakdown, we creaked into Watson Lake four days later.

The next morning found us flying north in a BC-Yukon Air Service De Haviland Beaver. After three hours the towers and spires of the Cirque of the Unclimbables loomed up. A five-minute swing through the area revealed what we had expected. The southeast face of Proboscis was the most impressive high-angle face. The next few minutes found us landing and unloading our gear from the aircraft. From now on we would be completely on our own for three weeks with no possibility of outside contact. If we ran into trouble, we had to be prepared to handle it ourselves. After our spectacular aerial view of the wall, this was a sobering thought, but the practical problem of transporting gear to Base Camp required our entire attention and left no time for moody speculation.

It took a couple of days of thrashing through swamp, stream and blowdown, varied only by an endless grind up scree and talus, to establish Base Camp on a meadow at the base of Mount Sir Harrison Smith. The weather, up to now cloudy and threatening, closed in with both snow and rain, but Royal and Layton were soon scampering around the meadow in the wet, looking for interesting boulder problems. Since even these can become dull in time, three days later we packed up again and headed for a break in the cirque called "What Notch”, which would take us to the base of the wall. Several hours later we were looking up the face we had come so far to climb. And it was spectacular!

It seemed as if an ordinary mountain had been sheared in half. There appeared to be a crack system almost directly in the center of the wall, which towered two thousand feet above our heads. The prospect of being the first to do such a face and by the most direct route was most intoxicating. Since it continued to storm for the next several days, we had a chance to work off both the intoxication and the hangover, crouched in a makeshift cave and trying to catch a glimpse of the route between breaks in the clouds. On the third day, July 31, as it was apparent that our supplies of food and patience were not sufficient to wait out the weather in our uncomfortable bivouac quarters, we trekked back to Base Camp to await a break in the weather.

In a more determined mood we found ourselves on August 3 once more at the base of the wall. In clearing weather after a bad night and a stormy morning, we quickly sorted our gear and made last-minute decisions about what items of personal equipment to take. Layton made a fatal choice. Early in the spring he had ordered a bivouac hammock from Germany. No sooner had the group gathered in Boulder than he began to describe the torments that Royal, Dick and I would suffer when forced to bivouac on a featureless wall with slings cutting into feet and back, while he would be suspended in perfect comfort, enjoying our travail. However, close examination of the wall for several days had convinced my companions, the most experienced technical route finders, that we could arrive at a broken section near the middle of the wall at the end of the first day. Therefore Layton left his little perlon hammock behind.

We worked in two teams. While one leader climbed and his teammate belayed, the other team would haul equipment, food and water on fixed lines using Jümar prusik handles. Royal and Dick drew the first half of the wall, where Layton and I would haul. After two pitches of moderate difficulty, Dick engaged in unpleasant nailing in a chimney where ice-water ran down his sleeves, a veritable freezing waterfall. At length he arrived at a stance, brought Royal up and fixed ropes for Layton and me. As Dick’s pitch had slanted upwards, we two were faced with a diagonal prusik. Here I discovered a disturbing tendency on the part of the Jümar devices to slip off a diagonal line. Finding myself hanging by only one handle with close to fifty pounds hanging from my waist, I rapidly placed several old-fashioned prusik knots on the rope as insurance. Meanwhile Royal was encountering very difficult direct-aid climbing. As the wall steepened, the crack, which was so encouraging from below, got worse and worse. Clouds appeared and the temperature dropped. Forced to considerable ingenuity in placing pitons that would hold his weight and slowed by the cold, Royal made haste slowly. When he finally decided to belay in slings and bring Dick up, we noticed that it was getting late. Layton preceded me up the fixed line, and by the time I had arrived, everyone was preparing to bivouac in slings, one above the other like pictures on the wall. When Layton discovered a parallel crack system that would have made his sojourn on this steep, featureless wall comfortable if only he had the hammock, his cries of anguish alone made the bivouac bearable for the rest of us. It snowed continually that night, but the wall was too steep to catch it.

When morning finally came, we were only too eager to get climbing. Royal led off, but as the crack got worse and worse, his progress became slower and slower. At the end of the 150-foot line he placed a bolt and brought us up. The crack was still shallow on the next lead and Dick had to tie off every piton. It was still relatively early in the long sub-arctic day and a strong wind cleared the sky temporarily. Hanging in my slings watching Dick’s colorful blue figure struggle high above our heads on the overhanging wall, I felt very much at peace. Then I noticed Royal nodding while he belayed. The warmth of the sun was putting us all to sleep. Dick struggled on and finally reached the ledges we had expected to get to the first night, and soon we saw that they would have offered only a very uncomfortable bivouac at best. Layton started up a chimney. It was the first time that our feet had been out of slings in more than thirty hours. Climbing at top speed, Layton finally managed to reach some ledges below yet another overhanging section of the wall. After assiduous digging and scraping, we were able to enjoy the utmost in bivouac living that night — lying down.

It stormed most of the night, but we were protected by the overhanging wall above. Royal and Dick had done their turn; as Layton and I prepared to tackle the first pitch next morning I noted smirks of satisfaction on their faces. Layton led off and finding the crack receptive, he quickly ran out the full length of rope. On the next pitch the second piton pulled out. Without much help from friction, I was unable to stop the fall before my left hand had been pulled rather messily through carabiners. Layton finished the pitch, but as my hand had stiffened, Royal came up to switch leads with him. The difficult direct-aid leads gradually gave way to mixed fifth and sixth class climbing. One final lead of fifth class brought us to the top at eight p.m. Wearily we dragged ourselves to the summit and on down to hunt for a reasonably comfortable bivouac spot. We finally settled for a cramped, sloping ledge under an overhang. Royal and Dick produced their meta stove and brewed tea from melted water, which partially quenched our thirsts and let us doze fitfully.

During the night it had stormed once more and we found the going very slippery as we picked our way down the route that Buckingham’s party had used in the first ascent of Proboscis in 1960. (A.A.J., 1961, 12:2, pp. 312-314.) However some six hours later we arrived once more at the base of the wall and that evening finally reached our Base Camp.

Next morning I staggered out of the tent, awakened by a strange noise. A helicopter was hovering high above the meadow! Though 150 miles from the nearest habitation, a completely equipped survey party had moved into the area while we were on the wall. Their hospitality was boundless. They fed us magnificently while we waited out bad weather and even gave Royal a lift down from the meadow in one of the 'copters.

We placed 251 pitons and two expansion bolts, spent three days on the wall and had three bivouacs. We feel that this is one of the most difficult technical rock climbs ever done under remote alpine conditions, as well as one of the most elegantly direct routes that one can hope to climb. Its difficulty was NCCS IV-8-A4.

Summary of Statistics

Area: Logan Mountains, Northwest Territories, Canada.

Ascent: Mount Proboscis, August 6, 1963 — First ascent of southeast face and second ascent of mountain.

Personnel: James P. McCarthy, Layton Kor, Richard McCracken, Royal Robbins.

The Golden Age of Mountaineering is still with us on great, impressive faces in the Wind River Range. The 1,800-foot north face of Mount Hooker was one of the better-known, though not the only one of these unclimbed walls. After a week of climbing in the Cirque of the Towers region, Royal Robbins, Charlie Raymond and I made a reconnaissance of it from Base Camp at Graves Lake. The face has a prow-like bend in the middle, which appears in sharp, nearly vertical profile as you approach from the lake. A network of cracks cover it, and two long, sloping ledges high up slash across the left side. The upper one, which we dubbed Der Main Ledge, diagonals up to the summit, and the lower one, Der Minor Ledge, parallels it a few hundred feet below. Its appearance from the base discourages the climber and it is easy to see why at least two other parties surveyed the wall but did not climb it. Although the face is covered with a maze of cracks, there is no obvious line of attack. Various cracks appear climbable but many are useless because they either have inaccessible beginnings or lead nowhere. We noticed a promising series of chimneys and jam-cracks, starting 800 feet above the ground. They lay on the prow and led to Der Minor Ledge and eventually the summit. The route on this chimney system was circuitous and had blank sections but seemed feasible.

When we started, we were uncertain about parts of the route through the lower section and expected to place more bolts than we actually did. The climbing began with moderate difficulty, and 250 feet up we traversed to a direct-aid crack in an open book. One lead up the open book brought us to the giant detached flake that had been the final discouragement to one of the previous party’s attempt and marked their high point. We used three bolts interspersed with pitons behind the ominous, creaking flake to gain the crack beyond it. This was our first day’s high point and we rappelled down to a ledge 200 feet below for the night.

We prusiked up our fixed lines the next morning and spent the rest of the day crossing a 300-foot relatively blank section to the chimney system we had seen from below. I was prusiking with the gear and had a lot of time on my hands, as is usual if the climbing party is doing continuously difficult direct aid. Hauling is a tiring drudgery but it does have its advantages. When one prusiks past the leader’s pitons before the second man has reached and removed them and sees how many are sticking out for most of their length or how insignificant are the nubbins on which a fifi-hook was used, one can not help being glad it was someone else’s turn to lead.

Charlie and I spent most of the afternoon hanging side by side from a couple of bolts on a vertical holdless wall, while Royal led the pitch above. The wind coming from the peaks to the west swung us to and fro in our belay seats. An occasional gust would rattle our parka hoods, about our heads and we would have to shift our feet to maintain balance. The strong wind made the delicate climbing that Royal was doing nerve- wracking. Once he sandwiched three pitons together in a crack. Just the tips were caught, but they held his weight. After Royal reached the crack system at dusk, he rappelled down to join us at the bolts. Since he placed several in a horizontal row, it was ideal for hanging our bivouac hammocks. The wind died by evening, but as the night wore on, I wished that I had an elephant’s foot to supplement my down jacket.

Starting in the morning from the hanging bivouac was chaotic. Ropes and slings ran everywhere in a tangled spiderweb. Pitons hung in clumps here and there, and everything was suspended on the bolts in the wrong order. Whatever carabiner you wanted to unclip was always on the bottom with ten others clipped on top of it. We finally untangled the whole mess and began climbing. Much of the chimney system was fifth class, as we had anticipated, and the direct aid was fairly easy, but there was unsound rock. On one pitch Charlie had to lead past a large, detached flake using it as a part of a jam-crack and finally did a mantel-shelf move on top of it. Belaying was comfortable as there were usually ledges to sit where it was tempting to doze in the warm afternoon sun. We tension- climbed to the right to a large dihedral with an overhang part way up and hurried in the waning hours of the afternoon to make Der Minor Ledge by nightfall. The dihedral was mostly direct aid but had some beautiful free climbing near the top of it. We were benighted 30 feet below Der Minor Ledge but found another ledge big enough to lie down on.

The fourth morning began with a short but spectacular traverse, a perfect example of extremes. One minute we were sitting on a relatively spacious ledge eating breakfast and sipping tea and the next we were traversing above a 1500-foot drop. Once on Der Minor Ledge, we walked along it to a steep crack. Both pitches of this were very difficult free climbing and the first one was complicated by icy water running down the rock. We followed the crack to Der Main Ledge along which we walked to the right for 200 yards. Then we were on top and before us lay a broad rocky meadow full of green grass and yellow wild flowers. Down the middle ran a small stream. Beyond stood the summit a few hundred feet higher, but it was hand-in-the-pocket walking all the way.

Summary of Statistics

Area: Wind River Range, Wyoming.

Ascent: First ascent of north face, Mount Hooker, July 22 to 25, 1964. Technical Data: NCCS VI, F9, A4; 19 pitches, 6 sling belays; 207 pitons, 13 bolts, 8 fifi-hooks.

Personnel: Richard K. McCracken, Charles Raymond, Royal Robbins.

New Routes on The Thumb, Little Cottonwood Canyon. Since the first ascent of the Thumb’s south face, it has been felt that a much more direct route to the summit was possible. On July 3 Royal Robbins and I climbed unroped up a low-angle shelf to where the rock shot up vertically. The first pitch went free for a few moves, then required direct aid for four pitons and finished free via cracks. From the first belay point, a smooth granite slab, 15 feet wide, blocked the way. Climbing straight up from the belay, the leader was able to get in a pin head down under an overhang. Thus protected, he passed the 15-foot section by a scampering pendulum swing to a rib on the other side. The lead continued for 80 feet of difficult free climbing to a comfortable stance. An exciting move over an overhang then led to extremely hard finger-tip climbing up two small slanting cracks. A moderate pitch was then climbed to the intersection with the old south-face route. After ascending the large chimney of the previous route, we made a variation by climbing the rest of the chimney. Then low-angle slabs led to the summit pinnacle, where Royal made a brilliant lead of the many-times tried west crack. We used 25 pitons, of all sizes, four for direct aid. (NCCS IV, F9, A3.) A graceful S-crack slices the smooth granite of the Thumb’s south face. From the canyon floor, Steve Ellsworth, Mark McQuerrie and I could not judge the width of the crack and so on August 2 we filled our rucksack with every available bong bong to be prepared. About 300 feet of climbing were needed to reach the S-crack. Difficulties began immediately as the first pitch went up the side of a giant flake. Bushes increased the climbing problems, but a semi-hanging belay was soon reached 150 feet up. Above, it looked as if we should have to use direct aid up a wide crack requiring 6-inch bong bongs. Since we had only two for the 80-foot crack, Mark courageously set out to climb it free and soon was solving the repulsive problem by a scraping arm and knee jam. He reached a large ledge but the bottom of the S-crack was still 30 feet higher. While contemplating a bolt ladder, we saw a thin crack to the right, leading high enough to allow a pendulum to the crack. After tedious work, Steve finally reached a microscopic hold that gave access to the crack. After entering the crack, we found our large angle and bong bong selection adequate. Climbing mainly on aid, but sometimes free, we followed the crack for 250 feet to its completion. Near the top, it flared badly and our 6-inch bong bongs barely gained purchase. We had to tie off the corners so that the leverage would not pull them out. I finally stepped onto a good belay stance. From the top of the crack, we climbed the south chimney and slabs to the summit. No bolts and 45 pitons were used. (NCCS IV, F7, A4.)

Ted Wilson, Alpenbock Climbing Club

Grand Sentinel

Royal Robbins

She’s got everything she needs;

She’s an artist, she don’t look back.

—Bob Dylan

CHOUINARD don’t look back. He’s an artist of life. He delights even in the stray bits of wickedness which flit through his soul. He doesn’t care much for intellectuals, or chess, or Mozart. For he’s a humanist. And although apparently agreeable and even pliant, he has an adamantine core which, when he senses something going against his central being, makes him as obdurate to outside influences as the granite on which he climbs. It happened to me once in the Dolomites. We were attempting a new route on the Cima Ovest di Lavaredo. I wanted to go on, but Chouinard demurred. There was something wrong with the climb and he felt it. Perhaps we were climbing for the wrong reason: going too gung-ho for glory in mountains new to us, when we should have been enjoying ourselves. In any case, there was no moving him, and so down we went. Yvon has the good sense never to climb when he does not feel right.

So I was apprehensive as we drove up the canyon to view Grand Sentinel. It was not without difficulty that I had persuaded Yvon to leave Yosemite and join me adventuring in a canyon 100 miles south. Would he sour on the wall when he saw it? He might, but he didn’t. "Hey, man, that looks great. I’m all for it. Let’s go!”

Del Rey. And Camino del Rey. Kings Canyon National Park and in it the Kings River, originally Río de los Santos Reyes, and a canyon cut by that river and carved by glaciers, much as was Yosemite. But the Kings is a rougher land than the Yosemite, and suffers in comparison with that almost painfully beautiful masterpiece of Nature. Yet it has some fine rocks and tumultuous rivers and retains the feeling of wildness Yosemite has lost: for Kings Canyon knows not the crushing mobs which are throttling the Valley. It is still a picture into the past.

That night, warmed by a cozy fire as we sprawled on the coarse sand of the canyon floor, we lit up cigarettes and fell to philosophizing and occasionally to looking up in perfect silence at the stars. "Yvon,” I said, "Do you know that some of those stars are so big that our entire solarsystem would fit inside them?” "Yeh man,” he replied. "And that’s only the ones we know about.” It suddenly struck me that it had been years since I had marveled at the ever astounding magnitudes of the stars and the incomprehensible distances between them. For awhile Yvon joined me in celestial speculation, then shrugged his mental shoulders, and turned to discussing drugs, hippies and the love generation. Chouinard likes to keep his feet on the ground.

In the grey morning we dutifully dragged ourselves from our bags, brewed a pot of tea, and loosened our joints strolling through the high grass of Zumalt Meadows: which the reader will hopefully take as a token of the real events that occurred to us in that uncertain period when night is changing to morning and sleep-clouded minds are moving from the domain of Morpheus to that of Aurora; and indeed Aurora was all too quickly ceding her place to Helios, whose radiant presence and warm personality were keenly felt as we scrambled sweating over enormous talus blocks, finally and thankfully reaching the cool grey world at the foot of the north wall of Grand Sentinel.

It was presumptuous of us to consider doing the route free, but we presumed. The first two pitches went well: face-climbing on the left wall of an open-book. Sure, a couple of tricky moves, but nothing severe: with pitons, nuts and runners for protection. Then the free climbing began getting a bit sticky. It looked impossible, but Yvon did it anyway by following a ramp up left, turning a corner, and climbing a magnificent classic crack, the sort of free climbing you can really get your teeth into. It was now unavoidably my lead, and so I traversed out above the void fearing I might be voided. The stroll ended in a hanging hand traverse and a gymnastic scrabble into a niche. Getting out of the niche looked easy—with pitons for aid. Doing it free was another matter. And we were playing the "free game”: artificially limiting our methods to make the route harder. That’s called "good style.” It was perhaps rather silly, but to the existentialist alpinist all games are rather silly, so he plays only those meaningful to him.

With a pin and a nut backing me up I was soon spread-eagled, then a toe-hold broke, or something, and the air was rushing by when the rope grabbed my waist just as my feet touched the ledge. I was OK, but a rough corner had cut through the sheath and two strands of my Jannu perlon rope, so I tied in on the other side of the damage and adjusted my belays to lessen the danger. Oddly, I wasn’t scared. I thought of my friend Mark McQuarrie and how he had died in a similar accident and felt uneasy but still not afraid. It was strange, for fear is no stranger. Itried again and after a desperate struggle got over the worst. It was hard above, but manageable.

Yvon came up and gave the next pitch a go free but it was no go. I don’t think he had his heart in it. I fretted whether someone might come and do the route free. But Chouinard wasn’t worried. He didn’t care about that. And there’s no worry anyway for the upper wall won’t go free.

We reached a large terrace and I led on toward the Green Corner when a good handhold turned not to slush but to a missile which I promptly dropped grabbing wildly and just successfully to catch my balance. "That’s how I’ll go,” I thought, heart pounding, "on easy ground, like Terray.” And I thought how that wouldn’t have happened to Chouinard. He’s so cool, man, in climbing as in life.

We entered the Green Corner and nailed two pitches, one in the bed of the corner and the second on the left wall which took nuts well. I then belayed in a tiny slot while Yvon led a fine pitch up a steep wall ending in an overhang. This unusual pitch involved climbing a crack filled with many rectangular blocks, mostly secure, and utterly unlike anything we had ever seen in Yosemite. Darkness was upon us; so Yvon set up a bivouac in a hole while I swung to a good ledge below. He declined to join me in comfort, preferring cramped quarters to the trouble of descending. Besides which he wears the blue cagoule of the Masochistic School which holds to the tenent that a big wall is scarcely worth doing unless suffering is involved. The night passed quickly for me, slowly for Yvon. And as the first hint of the sun turned the eastern sky from black to pastel blue, a grumpy voice from a hundred feet above suggested we continue with the climb. I sent up some salami and cheese to placate my groggy friend and received in return a down jacket and instructions to give him a belay. I therefore belayed in the warmth of two duvets as Chouinard finished the pitch by going right on tension and climbing a corner to a steep groove where he set up a hanging belay. The climbing above continued difficult and the route intricate and always interesting. It was good rock climbing—mostly free but with some artificial, and we moved upward carefully and steadily. It’s a fine wall, and were it in Yosemite this route would be a standard classic equivilent to, say, a combination of the regular route and the Chouinard-Herbert route on the north wall of Sentinel Rock.

The sun was low and yellow-golden in the western sky when our feet trod the summit, actually the false and lower summit of Grand Sentinel. We surveyed the scene—the still snowy peaks, the bald domes, the beckoning wilderness, and the western slopes dropping into the haze of

the San Joaquin Valley. We felt good. But there was something nagging in our consciousness about the way we did it, the Jiimars, I mean. We had seconded all the pitches with Jümars, and the method didn’t seem appropriate to the problem. There was too much free climbing. As we descended, fighting our way through manzanita and scrub oak, we discussed the ethics of Jümaring on Grade V’s. We both felt a little guilty. But as I continued to ponder the right or wrong, Chouinard’s thoughts had turned to the cold beer awaiting us in the valley. He was no longer concerned. He don’t look back.

Route Description

(Key: L = left; R = right; r = runner; p = piton; n = nut)

Climb up 30 feet to gully and follow it, using wall on L to avoid steep waterfall. Belay at large block on R. 5p lr 1n F8 (F9).

Follow gully 40 feet, traverse L across slabs, go up steep trough with overhanging chockstone at top, continue up to good ledge. 4p 5n lr F8 (F9) .

Follow ramp up L, turn corner, then go up crack to good ledge. 5p 2r 1n

F8 (F9).

Traverse R, turn corner and climb overhanging trough. Continue up cracks above to small ledge. 4p 4n lr F9 (F10).

Climb crack on L, then wander face to belay. 4n l0p 4r A2 F8.

Climb up L to large sloping ledge 30 feet above green terrace. F4

Go towards green corner, lr 4p F8 (F7).

Climb up into green dihedral. Belay at top of ramp. 14p 4n A2

Climb crack on green wall. Belay in tiny slot. l0p l0n A2, F7.

Continue straight up wall to overhangs, tension traverse R, climb up corner and belay in slings in steep groove. 9p 4r 6n A2, F7.

Nail crack on L, turn corner on R and return to bed of dihedral. Easy climbing leads to sloping terrace on L. 8p 8n A2, F7.

Move up R to re-enter dihedral. After 30 feet take crack on L. Sling belay in corner. 5n l0p A2, F7.

Traverse L, then go straight up to good ledge. (Short pitch.) 4p 3n F7.

Take ramp diagonally up L, then move straight up to belay by horn directly below furthest R tree. 2n 4p A2, F6.

Nail crack on L. Free climb L at small overhang. Go 20 feet L then come back R to good ledge. 8p 8n A2, F6.

Easily follow crack up left. 2n F4.

Continue up L to large low angle area. Crack summit wall on R. F4. Summary of Statistics.

Area: Grand Sentinel, near Zumalt Meadows in Kings River Canyon, Kings Canyon National Park, California.

First Ascent: Grand Sentinel, June, 1967, 2 days (Yvon Chouinard, Royal Robbins). NCCS V, F9 or F10, A2. 99 pitons, 15 runners, 63 nuts. Vertical rise: 1700 feet.

The North Face of Mount Geikie

John R. Hudson

"I am sure you have given me all the heaviest stuff," said Frodo. "I pity snails, and all that carry their homes on their backs”

T. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

IAPOLOGIZE, dear reader,for the ratherordinary article which this sentence introduces. How I had hoped to write something that would be more entertaining than the typical account of a climb with its all too predictable pattern. The introduction, in which the names of the members of the party, the name and side of the peak climbed, a sentence or two in praise of the peak and/or of the party, a bit of history and often some humorous yarn are skillfully woven into the fabric of the story, e.g. "We were … climbers who had come … to attempt a great alpine face,”1 "a challenge on ice and rock,”2 (located) "in one of the more remote valleys of that sub-arctic rain forest called the Canadian Rockies.”3 "In Jasper National Park”4 "a tower of rock dominates the main chain of the Canadian Rockies”5 (rising) "on its north side a full 4000 feet above its base.”6 "The size is so great that your perspective view completely hides the details of the route and the nature of rock and ice.”7

The body, consisting of a guide book description of the route sprinkled with hair-raising adventures and occasionally some poetic insight or philosophical comment, e.g. "A short traverse right and moderate climbing took us to an easy chimney, which we followed for two pitches to third class rock”8… "My hand hold turned to slush …,”9 "Here is where, if

Royal were not so eminently qualified for this kind of climbing, there would be but one decision—to go down… while those ballerinas, hope and confidence dance in the shadow of a stone roof …”10 "we can…. learn to face with a calm spirit the chilling specter of inevitable death.”11

And the conclusion consisting of an appropriate aesthetic experience, e.g. "We were”12 "happy as pagans”13 (and) "feeling very spiritually rich indeed as …,”14 (we realized that it is) "the simple and grand things of nature which are really the best—better even than Mozart ….”15 (They turn) "satisfaction to pure joy.”16

How I had hoped to spare you all this, dear reader! Originally I planned to write a play, perhaps titled "Geikie’s Grisly Face, A Farce in Three Acts.” Only one and one half acts were written, however. Then I thought of trying to write a series of short, intense, descriptive scenes—"flashes of reality.” That failed, as did an attempt to use a philosophical framework in an article tentatively titled "Peak Experiences and the New Existentialism.” Another idea was to attempt to write an apparently simple narrative which would actually contain subtle references to the works of Joyce, Musil, Kafka and Proust.

But no, time is running out, has run out. This article is already overdue. How I wish I had followed my better judgment and had not attempted writing this article, had not followed Royal’s suggestion!

One day last summer, near the middle of August, I found myself in a similar mood. Then too, I regretted following a suggestion of Royal’s. That time his suggestion had been that we try the north face of Mount Geikie together.

As I reach the end of the pitch, Royal called up, in a voice completely lacking in the justifiable irony which he must have felt, "Nice going, John.” I was fuming and cursing at myself, completely disgusted. I had had enough. From now on Royal would lead and I would carry the pack. Perhaps I would crawl into it and let him drag me up like so much baggage.

Before this pitch I had been able to convince myself that the climb was a team effort. I was in good mountain shape and had carried my share of the equipment into the Ramparts with less trouble than Royal. We hadnot been able to rent horses for the day that we wished to pack in and so, thinking of Frodo and of snails, we crawled into our packs. The weight had been kept down somewhat by the use of nuts and of light-weight food, both of which I regarded with some scepticism. This slight advantage, however, was offset by another factor. Royal much to my secret glee, but feigned sympathy and regret, left his camera at a "watering hole” at one point. By the time its absence was noted Royal had to retreat five miles to retrieve it and during this interval I was able to relay both packs quite a distance up the trail.

That night we camped at Moat Lake, hoping to start the climb the next day. However, after a late start, indecision over the weather and indecision over where to start the route, we spent the next night on a boulder near the base of the face. After much discussion we had decided to climb a prominent buttress which forms the left (east) side of the face. This route looked safer than a route directly up the center, and though perhaps a rationalization of this fact, looked more aesthetic as well. A further advantage was that a small hanging glacier, to the left of the center of the face, provided a relatively easy way to gain altitude quickly.

Even during the first day of the climb I felt as if I were generally pulling my own weight. Royal’s slightly exaggerated respect for snow slopes, coupled with the shortness of his ice hammer, let me feel comparatively confident. My hesitation, and at times downright reluctance, on the third class I was able to ascribe to the weight of the pack or the clumsiness of my double boots. Royal got the two difficult pitches of the day and he partially convinced me that, as he said, "I’m sure you could have done as well, John.”

"Yes, perhaps I could have,” I thought. "Just because I haven’t done any aid in a year, and never was terribly good anyhow, doesn’t mean I won’t perform well when the time comes. Yes, and so what if I couldn’t climb that jam crack even coming up second. I’m just not used to the boots.”

However, the second pitch I led on the second day, the pitch I had just reached the top of when I began my present digression, proved the extent of my "bad faith.” After much oscillatory motion in both horizontal and vertical directions, hesitations, rationalizations, recriminations … I surmounted the last fifteen feet and gained a ledge. Luckily we did not have a watch so that I was spared knowing how much time I wasted.

The next pitch proved to be the crux of the climb and was admirably led by Royal. A crack, perhaps averaging three inches wide, and a small

inside corner led up the center of a buttress. Due to careful free climbing and cleverly placed pins and nuts for aid, this became a pathway to the top of the headwall.

At first, as I watched Royal on this pitch, I was really tense and was all "psyched up” to catch a possible fall. He climbed slowly but calmly and as I watch his progress I relaxed somewhat. It seemed that somehow he could get up, would get up.

"Hey, nice going Royal. Wow! Beautiful! Too much!”

The only trouble was that our success seemed a bit too certain. From here on Royal did the leading. I was too disgusted with myself to reverse my previous resolution, despite Royal’s encouraging comment: "You did that pitch faster than I.” I reminded him that he had been leading and I following, and resumed my sulking. Each time he ran out the rope I put on the albatross-like pack and struggled after him. By the time we found a place to spend our second night, just below the summit ridge, I was exhausted.

The nearly perfect weather we had enjoyed up to this point continued while we cleaned our bivouac site and ate dinner. As we sacked out, however, a strong wind came up which yanked at our bivouac sack all night. I had down pants and slept all night; Royal had a bit worse time. In the morning the sky was still clear. We had breakfast and a few minutes later had scrambled to the summit. The views in all directions were perfect.

"Hey, wow! Look at Robson! What a great place to be early in the morning! ”

It was such a beautiful day that it was truly difficult to think of an obscene comment to enter in the register. Thankfully, however, the obstacle was overcome. After I had noted a dissenting opinion, put forth by Royal, we started down.

The descent is long and time-consuming. Even though I had been down the west face only about a week before and even though the rappels were set up, we were not back in camp until sunset. By now I was in good spirits. Though Royal’s later description of my "nursing him” down the snow slopes is exaggerated, I was feeling more essential than I had the day before.

The following two days were spent slogging out of the swampy "Valley of the Mosquito” and driving south to Banff. The evening of the second day found us in the Alpine Club of Canada’s Clubhouse.

Oh yes, the aesthetic experiences: As we walked out of the Tonquin Valley in the "children’s hour” the light shimmered on Amethyst Lake,the sinking sun poured light down between the clouds and the peaks while deer lept gracefully through the enchanted forest.

And: Later, in Banff, as I drank a bottle of Calgary Stock Ale (won from Royal who had been foolish enough to bet that I could not finish a large salad I had prepared), looked longingly at a girl who looked longingly at a banana (both on a poster obtained from a supermarket), and listened to Dylan ("Oh mama, can this really be the end . . .”) I was very happy indeed.

Summary of Statistics.

Area: Canadian Rockies.

New Route: North Face of Mount Geikie, August 13 to 15, 1967, by John R. Hudson and Royal S. Robbins.

Technical Data: Height of face: 4000 feet. NCCS V, F8 or 9, A3. 10 runners, 40 nuts and 60 pitons. Iron list: 3 knifeblades, 10 assorted horizontals, 3 stubby angles, 3 ¾" angles, 3 1? angles, 2 1½" angles, 1 2? angle, 15 assorted climbing nuts.

1. Arthur Gran, "The East Face of Mount Chephren,” A.A.J., 1966, 15:1, p. 41.

2. Henry Abrons, "A New Route on the Wickersham Wall,” A.A.J., 1964, 14:1, p. 47.

3. Henry Abrons, "The Northwest Ridge of North Twin,” A.A.J., 1966, 15:1, p. 30.

4. Yvon Chouinard, "The North Wall of Mount Edith Cavell,” A.A.J., 1962, 13:1, p. 53.

5. Arthur Gran, "The West Face of Mount Brussels,” A.A.J., 1965, 14:2, p. 326.

6. Yvon Chouinard, "The North Wall of Mount Edith Cavell,” A.A.J., 1962, 13:1, p. 53.

7. John Harlin, "The Eigerwand,” A.A.J., 1963, 13:2, p. 362.

8. John Hudson, "Mount Moran:—West Face of the South Buttress,” A.A.J., 1963, 13:2, p. 418.

9 Henry Abrons, "The Northwest Ridge of North Twin,” A.A.J., 1966, 15:1, p. 31

10. John Harlin, "Petit Dru, West Face Direttissima,” A.A.J., 1966, 15:1, p. 81.

11. Royal Robbins, "The North America Wall,” A.A.J., 1965, 14:2, p. 336.

12. Royal Robbins, "The Salathé Wall, El Capitan,” A.A.J., 1963, 13:2, p. 336.

13. Royal Robbins, "The North America Wall,” A.A.J., 1965, 14:2, p. 338.

14. Royal Robbins, "The Salathé Wall, El Capitan,” A.A.J., 1963, 13:2, p. 336.

15. Royal Robbins, "The North Wall of Sentinel Rock,” Summit, March, 1963, p. 11.

16. John Harlin, "The Eigerwand,” A.A.J., 1963, 13:2, p. 374.

The Organ Mountains are about 60 miles north of El Paso, Texas in southern New Mexico. The history of climbing in the Organs is vague prior to the 1940s, when a group of German rocket scientists began climbing technical routes. Royal Robbins established routes in the Organs while stationed at nearby Fort Bliss in the 1950s. Dr. Richard L. Ingraham, a longtime professor at New Mexico State University, also was active in the early days, authoring the area’s first guidebook in 1965.

Sugarloaf is perhaps the most prominent peak in the range. It was from that summit that I became intrigued with the “The Great East Faces,” as Dr. Ingraham described the east face of the Organ Needle and its adjacent walls. I spent hours studying a prominent buttress in the background of my Organ Needle summit photos taken in the 1980s: Minerva’s Temple. The formation became an obsession.

In June 2000, Dave Head and I began exploring an approach to the base of Minerva’s Temple from Aguirre Spring, on the east side of the Organ Mountains. [See PDF extra for detailed maps and route overviews.] We found that approaching via the Sugarloaf Trail required the least amount of bushwhacking. Continuing past Sugarloaf and around the south side of a large rocky knoll, we found a ravine leading to the south end of upper Indian Hollow, a heavily vegetated drainage originating between the Organ Needle and Minerva’s Temple. Indian Hollow continues northeastward, and the approach favors the south bank of the ravine until crossing to the north near the base of the cliffs. The three-mile approach takes approximately three hours.

Dave Head, Jason Spier, and I climbed the north face and east ridge of Minerva’s Temple (IV 5.12b) with eight days of effort, starting in June 2000 and culminating in a two-day push on September 9-10, 2000. Although established as a Grade V, it is typically climbed in a single long day so Grade IV should suffice. Figure on headlamps for the approach and walk out. Two ropes and rain gear are mandatory.

In May 2001, we began an attempt on the east face of the Organ Needle. After approaching from the Pine Tree Trail, we determined it more practical to use the same approach as for Minerva’s Temple. We reached a previous party’s high point on the second day, at the top of pitch five, where fixed pins on a steep headwall marked retreat. We climbed about 15’ left from that anchor and placed one bolt (the only protection bolt on the route), which allowed us to turn a shallow 5.10 roof above. Quality, exposed climbing on the next few pitches led to easier ground. We finished the route on July 6, 2001, after five days of work (IV 5.10). In 2003, Dr. Ingraham told me the retreat anchor on the east face of Organ Needle was his, and he had attempted the climb twice but was unable to finish it. Dave Head and I returned in July and August 2003 to climb high quality variations on pitch 6 and pitch 8 of the route.

Back on Minerva’s Temple, Dave Head and I completed the southeast face (IV 5.11d A1) on September 7, 2002, after seven days of effort. This route has some of the best rock in the Organ Mountains but has yet to go free. (The overhanging finger crack on pitch six remains A1.) Pitch nine links up with our earlier route on the east face and north ridge. A standard rack and aiders will suffice.

On May 6, 2007, Dave Head and I teamed up once again. This time we began work on the east buttress (IV 5.12a) of Minerva’s Temple, a feature that starts about 20’ left of our original route. After a 10-day effort, we rejoined the north face/east ridge route at a feature called Onion Ledge (see topo at the AAJ website). Surprisingly, we discovered a fixed nut and quarter-inch bolt with a SMC hanger near the top of pitch two, which appeared to mark the high point of an unknown attempt that traversed in from the left. While rappelling from Onion Ledge, our rope was cut in half by rock fall. It made for an interesting descent.


right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 18, 2017 - 10:05am PT
As usual, Ed Hartouni is out there making the world a better and more interesting place!

You the man!!!

Mountain climber
Portland, Oregon
Mar 18, 2017 - 10:17am PT
Summit Probiscis including RR
Summit Probiscis including RR
Credit: Farley


Mountain climber
Portland, Oregon
Mar 18, 2017 - 10:22am PT
Royal photo of Harlin following on the Petit Dru, shortly after being ...
Royal photo of Harlin following on the Petit Dru, shortly after being hit by a rock.
Credit: Farley

Photos courtesy of Royal a few years back. Always very supportive of my interest in climbing photography. A gentleman.

Social climber
carmel, ca
Mar 18, 2017 - 11:17am PT
Ed, crushing 5.14 as a historian. :)
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Mar 18, 2017 - 11:24am PT
Would be great long term project for this thread to organize a list of all the first ascents that he was a part of, that let's say we're grade III and longer and have length/# of pitches and difficulty at the time (for routes where that is possible). And list from 1 to whatever by year. Not include first solo ascents and second ascents (keep those separated in another list). That way it will be very well organized and we can see a cool progression record from the earlier days to bigger climbs.

Ed, we'll done on the list!

The Hot Kiss On the End of a Wet Fist
Mar 18, 2017 - 12:01pm PT
That Jack of Diamonds route and story always intrigued and fascinated me. Robbins and Kor storming the Diamond for a take-no-prisoners, one day, all-out assault, first ascent, of a formidable wall during the "Golden Age" - surely it is the stuff of dreams and legends.
wayne w

Trad climber
the nw
Mar 18, 2017 - 05:28pm PT
Thanks so much for posting that Ed! Humbling, to say the least.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Mar 19, 2017 - 09:24pm PT
Harlin's ascent of the Eiger in 1963 didn't involve Robbins.

Trad climber
Mar 19, 2017 - 09:35pm PT
Great posts, thanks.
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
Mar 20, 2017 - 07:55am PT
Ed making ST great again, again and again......thank you!

Trad climber
colo south
Mar 20, 2017 - 08:01am PT
wasn't there an FA on the Fou ? with frost and hemming i think...

Around the same time as the Dru routes
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Mar 20, 2017 - 09:55am PT
In the summer of 1963, Tom Frost accepted an invitation to join John Harlin as the two American representatives at the Reassemblement Internationale in Chamonix. Royal recommended Tom for this international climbers gathering and Tom had already spent time climbing with John Harlin at Stanford University at the very beginning of his climbing career. Frost, Harlin, Hemming and Scotsman Stewart Fulton climbed a new route on the south face of the Fou ahead of the gathering. Harlin and Frost then established the Hidden Pillar of Frêney on Mont Blanc during the event. Both climbs were cutting edge and set the mark for technical difficulty at the time.
Alan Rubin

Mar 20, 2017 - 01:15pm PT
These records are mostly 'first's' done by Royal. He also repeated established alpine routes--in the Tetons, Sierra, Winds, Alps, and elsewhere, I'm sure. For instance, I had a chance to travel with Royal and Liz during one of their east coast visits. They had recently come back from a trip to the Dolomites, and during the drive told us of their ascent of the Yellow Edge in the Tre Cime--they were very impressed by the climb. I'm sure that they did other climbs during that trip as well. These will be much harder to track down, though he surely kept records for intended future volumes of his autobiography--likely Liz has copies of these records.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 20, 2017 - 05:32pm PT
Okay, I just compiled everything from Ed Hartouni's AAJ purge.
It's all in the OP.

Thanks everyone, for your interest and input!

 Next up: I'll comb Steve Roper's The Climber's Guide to the High Sierra for more highlights in the Robbins alpine oeuvre.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Mar 20, 2017 - 05:43pm PT
Would be great to add a separate list of all his Yosemite and not Yosemite Big wall FAs!
Well done with the list!
Alan Rubin

Mar 21, 2017 - 05:36am PT
Following up on my post yesterday concerning Royal's alpine climbs beyond those which were FAs, I checked a list published by Leigh Ortenberger in 1975 of ascents of the Grand Teton from 1898-1974. In that compilation he is listed as making the Direct of the Northwest Chimney in 1960. Also in that year he did the Lower Exum. The following year he climbed the North Face. He returned in 1967 and did the Northwest Ridge starting via the "ice gulley". Finally in 1971 he repeated the Lower Exum. Likely he did other climbs in the range during the same seasons.
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