Herb and Jan Conn. Amazeing routes for the ages.

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tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 3, 2018 - 07:31am PT
They have a bunch of routes back east. I was never impressed or enticed to to venture on the Conn rt on Cannon ( looks like a Heap)but Conns east @ Seneca was impressive and the work they did in the Needles nothing short of Brilliant! Go climb these routes with todays gear and think what it must have been like in 1950!
Credit: tradmanclimbs
Credit: tradmanclimbs
Credit: tradmanclimbs
plund

Social climber
OD, MN
Aug 3, 2018 - 07:40am PT
In the 50's...smooth-soled sneakers...manila rope...a few surplus pitons...forest duff to combat the palm-sweat...nearly complete solitude....

Jan's quote is still the best..."you can climb almost anything in the Needles if you have the guts."
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Aug 3, 2018 - 07:48am PT
Truth
zardoz

Trad climber
Colorado Springs, CO
Aug 3, 2018 - 07:57am PT
I love the Conns. They even have some routes down in Big Bend, Texas. The Boot is a spire there I'm pretty sure they climbed. Not much pro on that volcanic rock.
Alan Rubin

climber
Amherst,MA.
Aug 3, 2018 - 08:46am PT
I totally agree, the Conns were amazing. While their route on Cannon Mountain,N.H. (Conncourse) definitely does not ascend the cleanest section of rock, that was typical for routes on that particular cliff for many years both prior and subsequent to their climb (there are those who consider the entire cliff to be a chosspile--though a grand one). In fact their original route no longer exists as they climbed it, though some of the better portions have been absorbed into subsequent routes, most notably Moby Grape. What is really significant about that climb however, is that the Conns came up from D.C. to climb the crag, the largest in the region (likely significantly bigger than anything they had previously climbed), without any knowledge of what had already been done there, with no one around were help to be needed, minimally equipped, and picked and climbed on-sight a direct line up the tallest, most imposing section of the cliff (the few earlier routes were more on the edges of this extensive crag).Once modern gradings were developed, Conncourse--before it partially fell down, was graded at 5.8--basically as hard as anything climbed in the country at that time (mid-1940s). A really amazing, committing climb.

On a much smaller scale, their routes at Carderock, outside of D.C., such as Jan's Face, were also of an incredibly advanced level of difficulty for the times. Later, in addition to their climbing exploits, the Conns were also pioneering cave explorers, particularly in Jewel Cave near their home in the Black Hills.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Aug 3, 2018 - 08:54am PT
Perhaps their most classic route is the Conn Diagonal route on the Outer Outlet. But to really appreciate what they were up to sixty years ago, you have to do the South Tower of Spire 4 and East Face of the East Gruesome. (These two routes can be combined to make one of the best outings in the Needles.)

One could do a lot worse than trying to repeat all of the Conn's routes in the Needles. As an aid to that endeavor, have a look at http://stores.sharpendbooks.com/south-dakota-needles-adventure-climbs-of-herb-and-jan-conn/

See also http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/1740864/R-I-P-Herb-Conn-of-Needles-and-Jewel-Cave-fame

and http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=2625512&msg=2628425#msg2628425

There is a Wikipedia page at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_and_Herb_Conn . The page lists their South Tower route as 5.9 (it was originally 5.7) and their East Gruesome route as 5.10- R (it was originally 5.8+).
jogill

climber
Colorado
Aug 3, 2018 - 11:28am PT
Thanks for the references, Rich.

The first photo on this thread is of Spire One and the Javelin. I drove down from Glasgow AFB in 1960 and soloed the Conn route on the Spire a couple of times - not the narrow chimney pitch! And then in 1964 did the FFA of the Javelin. Jan and Herb had done a lasso ascent before. I used a bolt for protection that had been placed by John Evans - a climber who was a powerful college wrestler and alligator wrestler in the Black Hills during the summer. He had taken a fall and bent the bolt a tad, but it was still OK.

I visited the Conns several times, and remember Herb showing me an electrical experiment he was running in the Conncave. He had worked for the Navy during WWII as an electrical engineer.

I think I may have made the 2nd ascent of the South Tower in the Cathedrals, but maybe not. Long time ago. But I was always impressed with Conn climbs in the Needles. What a remarkable pair they were!

Nice Wikipedia page. Thanks to someone for designing it and putting it on the Web.
fear

Ice climber
hartford, ct
Aug 3, 2018 - 11:56am PT
Conn Diagonal on Outer Outlet still sticks in my head as one of the most imposing climbs ever. There's just something strange and magical about that dark looming face, as if it were really 1000 feet tall. True to the 5.7 grade there are still a couple spots I remember, over 10 years later.
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Aug 3, 2018 - 12:24pm PT
I climbed Conns East at Seneca 16 or so years ago. Great route!

They did an early (3rd?) ascent of the Great White Throne in Zion.

Amazing climbing legacy.
steelmnkey

climber
Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
Aug 3, 2018 - 12:36pm PT
This photo caption from the Wiki page is interesting:

They used 80[2] foot ropes, which are about a quarter of the length of modern ropes,

Aw mom! Why do I have to take math in school!?!?!
DanaB

climber
CO
Aug 3, 2018 - 12:58pm PT
Alan, thanks for mentioning the Conncourse route. You've basically said all that needs to be said, but it always mystified me their route on Cannon has gotten so little attention.
jogill

climber
Colorado
Aug 3, 2018 - 04:41pm PT
I recall them telling me they used 60 foot ropes, but my memories could be faulty.

"In the 50's...smooth-soled sneakers"

They bought really tight fits, then hatch-marked the soles with some sort of knife.

"forest duff to combat the palm-sweat..."


Not forest duff, rather (greenish) pine cone powder. Forest duff was used by a few Teton climbers at the Jenny Lake boulders prior to the mid 1950s. Maybe elsewhere.
tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 3, 2018 - 06:41pm PT
No way we wanted any part of that tight chimny on spire 1. We did the Reppy variation.
Credit: tradmanclimbs
super cool! we did see a few old yellow paint cans on summits and assumed that they were Conn origionals.
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Aug 4, 2018 - 05:23am PT
Headed to Spearfish canyon
Right now!
tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 4, 2018 - 05:59am PT
We slept there one night in heavy rain but did not get a chance to climb.
tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 4, 2018 - 06:05am PT
Tell us more stories John and Rich.
kingtut

climber
Jingus Newroutaineer
Aug 4, 2018 - 08:22am PT
This was just too cute and had to post it.

OMG what a couple of #vanlife bosses bitd.
OMG what a couple of #vanlife bosses bitd.
Credit: ripped from their wiki page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_and_Herb_Conn


An aging Jan: "Fortunately, the slower we move the more we see."

Words to live by.

tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 4, 2018 - 08:41am PT
I love Lindsys guide book. It keeps the adventure... "Follow the obvious route" trying to find your way in The Picket fence is quite interesting!
Credit: tradmanclimbs
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Aug 4, 2018 - 11:04am PT
In these days of minutely detailed beta, the Conns approach to adventure was from a different age and perspective. They never did describe their hardest route, the East Face of the East Gruesome, and simply suggested climbers figure it out for themselves. Same thing with Spire 3. The Conns climbed an easy but intricate and circuitous route in 1949 and left it for others to figure out where they had gone (I'm not sure anyone has managed to find the Conns original way).
tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 4, 2018 - 11:14am PT
Spire 3 had us quite intimidated.The Conns must have been about as good and brave as anyone in the climbing world at the time..
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