You Want Climbing Lore - Here's Part 2

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Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 22, 2019 - 12:44pm PT
A little over 10 years ago I published about 8 stories relating some climbing history (see You Want Climbing Lore - I'll Give You Climbing Lore, Nov 2008). Over the years I've posted a bunch of short climbing anecdotes. These are scattered through dozens of threads.

I've decided to gather these anecdotes into one location so that I can keep track of them and keep myself from repeating them elsewhere. So you want climbing lore?

In the redacted words of William Mulholland when he opened the aqueduct bringing Owens Valley water to Los Angeles in 2013, "Here it is. Take it."
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2019 - 12:45pm PT
A Day on the Rock

Hennek and I were on the Vampire at Tahquitz back in 1968. We weren't even thinking of doing it free -we just wanted to do it.

As we started up to the climb we noticed two young boys beginning the Trough. The oldest looking of the pair was quite overweight and seemed to be the leader. Hennek quipped, "There's an accident going somewhere to happen." My thoughts were in concurrence.

As the day progressed, Hennek ran into a real problem on the Vampire where the flakes were thin. While he griped and complained I was watching the young duo on the Trough - they were struggling on the lower pitches.
Hennek felt it was unsafe to continue due to the looseness of the terrain. I don't remember exactly how
it all went, but I remember we called down to Lunch Rock and Chuck Wilts was there. Hennek wanted to knock some of the looseness off and asked if it would be safe. Wilts surveyed the area and then assured him that there was nobody in harm's way. I made sure the Trough boys understood they were in no danger and Dennis screamed rock a few times and let it rip. The rock fall was just a single large flake, but it shattered into hundreds of pieces. Everyone on Lunch Rock applauded.

We continued up the route and reached the summit after using up most of the day. We coiled our rope and raced down the Friction Route and the down the trail. As we emerged from the bush on to the asphalt we notice a woman standing next to a car with binoculars. She was crying. Dennis asked, "Are you okay?"

"I'm okay, but that's my boy up there", she sobbed, her arm extended, pointing up at Tahquitz Rock.
"She must mean the kids on the Trough, Dennis". I asked her if I could use the binoculars. I zoomed in on the Trough and there they were, still about 3 pitches from the top.

We determined that they were first-time climbers. Her son, the obese kid, was the leader. He was 15 years old and had talked a buddy of his into going climbing. The previous weekend he had seen a special pictorial article in the LA Times on climbing at Tahquitz. He talked his mother into buying him a rope and some shoes. Then on this day she drove him and his buddy up here.

I didn't have the nerve to tell her that I was one of the climbers in the pictorial article that her son had read. I looked at Dennis. He looked at me. "We'll go get them", I said as we threw our rope in my car and started back up the trail.

We didn't waste any time. We were on the Trough in record time and caught up with the boys. It was getting dark. The mother's kid saw us coming and didn't want any help. I asked him if he knew the way down. He said that he didn't. I said it's getting dark. Think you can get off in the dark? That made him think. Then I sprung it on him. I told him it was I, Don Lauria, the one in the LA Times. That was all it took. They were putty in our hands from that point on.

It was pitch black all the way down the trail. The kids slipping and sliding and falling most of the time, but we got them to Mama's car all in one piece. Mama was grateful.

Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2019 - 12:47pm PT
The Soy Sauce Story

It was November 9, 1962 - Yvon’s 24th birthday. At the time he lived in a room built in to the garage behind his parents’ home in Burbank. In front of his room, which was separated from the garage by a lawn, sat an open BBQ – maybe one of these Webers. It, of course, was without a lid and an anvil sat next to it with the necessary tools of the blacksmith trade. John (Jack) Hansen, the “original” Vulgarian, the one that gave the Vulgarians their name, had brought me out to Burbank to visit Yvon. I’m not sure whether we knew it was Yvon’s birthday – cranial cobwebs obscure the details.

In this small room, we sat with Stratton, and Yvon chatting away – Hansen, in contrast to me, was a great conversationalist. My memory on this is vague, but as I recall, later in the evening, Peanut, Yvon’s tiny longtime girlfriend (and later his first wife), arrived with a small birthday cake. The conviviality of the affair was dampened somewhat by Yvon’s obvious somber mood. Yvon was appreciative of all the good wishes, but he was contemplating his next day’s pre-induction physical exam for the U.S. Army.

Yvon, like most of us, had no particular interest in serving in the armed forces. Yvon’s aversion to authority and interest in continuing his “little climbing business” was causing him concern. He was mulling over a plan to fail the physical. He had heard or read somewhere that drinking a sufficient quantity of soy sauce would elevate his blood pressure to 4F levels. Hansen jumped up and offered to make a soy sauce run to the local market. Hansen and I went out and bought a six pack of 6 oz. Kikkoman Soy Sauce. Yvon managed to down maybe two of them before he began to feel sick and gave up on the idea. The party broke up a little later.

A week later, I met Hansen at Stoney Point and he informed me that Yvon had passed the physical exam and was on his way to Fort Ord. Yvon told me later that he was still feeling sick all the way through boot camp. For further reading on the subject, I refer you to page-20 of Yvon’s Let My People Go Surfing.
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2019 - 12:48pm PT
One for the Road

In the Winter 2001-2002 issue of the Backside I wrote a memoir relating the life and times of Warren Harding – the Yosemite Valley climbing pioneer – the prime mover in the first ascent of El Capitan in 1958. I have managed to collect a few classic “Harding stories” through my long friendship with him – none necessarily complimentary of Warren, but I’m sure Warren would be amused by most of them – not caring a fig about what others thought. Here’s “One for the Road”.

In the years beginning in 1982 through 2001, I had been riding in the annual Death Valley to Mt. Whitney bicycle race – a two-stage road race between Stove Pipe Wells in DV and Whitney Portal out of Lone Pine, California. The first day ended after 80 miles in the town of Lone Pine and on the second day proceeded up, not very directly, 20 miles to the Mount Whitney trailhead at Whitney Portal - a total of 100 miles and 13, 000 feet of elevation gain over the up and down route.

Each year I would have someone accompany me to Stove Pipe Wells in order to have a
driver to shuttle my car back to Lone Pine the next day. It was in the mid-1990s that Warren
was visiting in Bishop. One evening over many glasses of Red Mountain on Bardini’s patio, he volunteered to be my driver. I had some reservations about foisting the responsibility upon him – mostly because of his tendency to imbibe, but acceded and explained the details of his responsibility. He was anxious to do me the favor.

The next day he arrived at my doorstep with a smile, a cooler, and his luggage. Before departing Bishop I snuck a peek at the cooler contents – a few bottles of red wine, a fifth of cognac, and a variety of beers. He placed the cooler in the back of my pickup – close to the cab’s rear window within easy reach from his front seat perch. Surprisingly over the 130 miles to Stove Pipe Wells, he did not even hint at getting into the cooler. We arrived at the motel and had a pasta dinner in our room over my propane backpacking stove. Warren opened a bottle of wine and we each had a couple of glasses and went to bed early.

The next morning it was necessary to be up and ready to go by 6 AM when the race began. I reviewed his responsibilities to him – leave Stove Pipe Wells any time after the race begins, just make sure you get to Lone Pine ahead of me and you have a cold six-pack in the truck. Okay, he got it.

During the 5 hour ride to Lone Pine I was vigilantly watching for my truck to pass me with Warren at the wheel. Finally, after about 50 miles, Warren raced past me with a wave. When I arrived at the finish line he was waiting with the prescribed six pack and all was well. We went directly to our motel where I showered and we finished the six pack.

That evening we went out to dinner at the Seasons Restaurant instead of eating the picnic meal at the park with all the riders. Warren loved that restaurant and mentioned that the last time he ate there he had tipped the waitress $100. She brought his check back and assuming he had made a mistake. “No, I appreciate service, especially from beautiful women” was his reply.

Our dinner order consisted of escargot, filet mignon Bourdelaise, Caesar salad, and a bottle of fine Zinfandel. I had two small glasses of wine, Warren drank the rest as well as a glass of white “to go with the snails”. During our dinner conversation, he barely touched his filet mignon and requested a doggie bag. After tipping the waitress $50, Warren insisted on treating” me to a thimbleful of Courvasier, for which he tipped the flabbergasted waitress another $50 - by mistake - he thought it was a twenty.

He staggered ever so slightly as he rose from the table and we proceeded to the sidewalk in front of the restaurant’s large glass windows. I was in the driver’s seat as Warren attempted the high step from the sidewalk into the cab. I saw it coming but was helpless to assist. He lost his balance and careened backward toward the large window that separated us from the table we had just left in the restaurant. It was a near catastrophic event that ended with him on his back and me rushing around the truck to retrieve him. As I lifted him from the concrete, the restaurant owner’s wife came rushing out with Warren’s doggie bag. “Mr.
Harding, Mr. Harding, your dinner!”

Back at the motel I went over his next morning’s duties with him. Tomorrow, Warren, all
you need to do is get the Toyota to Whitney Portal by noon with some cold beer. It’s only
about a two and a quarter hour bike ride over the 20 miles with over 4000 feet of elevation
gain, so I should be there about 10:30. It usually takes until noon for all the riders to finish and for the awards to be presented. “Oooo ... oh, I think I can do thaa....aat, Don.” We retired immediately at 9:00 PM - I was exhausted.

At 7 AM the next morning we arose. Warren was more alert than I expected he would be. He was sipping motel coffee as I dressed and reviewed his routine with him. As I headed for the starting location, I rolled my bike out the door and I glanced back to spot Warren pouring cognac into his coffee. Oh, oh, I thought.

Part of the second day’s ride is through a residential area off the main road to the Portal, so it was quite possible that he could precede me up the hill without me seeing him. I was, again, very vigilant on the ride, but did not see him pass me. When I crossed the finish line he was nowhere in sight. It was early – 10:30 AM. Since I came in second (in a field of two), I awaited the awards ceremony. An hour later, still no Warren. One of my awards was an unwieldy hibachi. Without Warren, I was anticipating a 4300-foot descent to Lone Pine on a bicycle with a hibachi under my arm – a suicidal thought. I found a friend and resident of Lone Pine to carry my hibachi down. The bicycle descent on the Portal road is always adventurous due to rocks on the road, the multitude of pot holes, and the steep terrain. I had the additional distraction of looking for Warren in every approaching pickup and scouring the sides of the road for my wrecked Toyota. As I approached downtown Lone Pine I had to think about where to go. The sheriff’s station? The hospital? I opted for the motel - I’d go there first.

I rode into the parking area at Best Western to find my truck right where I left it. The maids were busily refreshing the rooms and all the motel doors were wide open. I went into our room. Nobody visible. I called out, “Warren?” No answer. Again, “Warren?” This time a low agonized groan emanated from behind the closed bathroom door. “Warren, are you in here?” The door knob rattled and finally the door swung open and out staggered Warren. He offered, “I over schlept!”

I put him up against the wall, hands over his head, and told him to hold it up while I packed my stuff and put my bike in the truck. When I finished I said, “Okay, let’s go.” He turned from his wall-holding position and tumbled into the dresser next to him. On the way down his head hit the corner of the dresser and opened a slit above his right eye that began to bleed profusely. I grabbed a towel from the bathroom and pressed it to his forehead. He was sitting on the floor dazed, but smiling. “Here hold this against your eye. Do you have any first aid stuff in your luggage?” He muttered affirmatively and I was able to retrieve a Band-Aid, cut it into a butterfly, stanch the wound, and lead Warren to the truck.

Warren began to sober up as we drove the 60 miles back to Bishop. He managed to converse intermittently and occasionally uttered complete sentences. When we arrived in front of my apartment all the parking spaces on the apartment side of the street were taken so we had to park across the street – right in back of Warren’s car. My job ... get him across the street and into my apartment without the neighbors noticing. At the rear of the truck I asked him to assume the “wall- holding” position while I removed the bike and luggage.

In my apartment, after the last load, I turned toward the truck and my heart skipped a beat – Warren wasn’t there. Simultaneously, I heard to door to the upstairs apartment slam and realized my neighbor – a wonderfully conservative woman – was on her way across the street headed for Warren. He had left my truck and was bent over, leaning into the back seat of his car rummaging through a cardboard box. I raced across the street to arrive just as my neighbor finished asking Warren what he was up to. He reared up, wheeled around and with his nose inches from hers uttered, “What the [expletive] do you care?” Damn, just what I was trying to avoid. “Excuse him, he’s a little drunk.”

Warren continued his search through the box, mumbling something about an upcoming slideshow. My neighbor explained that she initially thought he was into her friend’s car, but now realized that her friend’s car was further down the street. She was very
understanding of the situation and was not offended by Warren’s remark. Relieved, I ushered Warren to my apartment where we settled in and minutes later he was asleep on the sofa. It was about 3 PM.

Around 5 PM the phone rang. It was Bardini, Allan Bard, asking how the race went and how Warren had performed. After my long response, Allan invited us over to a backyard party at his place. Warren had regained consciousness, seemed completely sober and alert, and was all for going to Allan’s party. So off we went. Hours later and many glasses of straight scotch later, Warren was arm-in-arm with Morpheus being led astray once more - down the road.
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2019 - 12:49pm PT
Pratt's Memorial

I thought about this a long while. Should I throw it in? Would it be disrespectful of Doug’s tribute?

More of Pratt’s life has been revealed – but there’s not that much more that any of us could have known.

Yes, he visited Jeanne Walter‘s place in Bishop just about every year and we sat around and reminisced. We sat at the bar in Wilson and drank into the wee hours. But there was so much more to know.

At his memorial in the Tetons, a bunch of us were lined up – Foote, McKeown, Millis, Chouinard, Swedlund, Robinson, et al –a bunch of us listening to the tributes and memories of those that knew him best.

There were many adoring women in his life and more than a few of them showed up. At least three of them rose to the podium one after the other to reflect on their remembrances of Chuck. All of them fought back the tears – as did we all.

Now this is where it gets edgy. The last gal to speak had obviously been seriously in love with Chuck and was sobbing incessantly as she related her times with him. She went on and on at length, the tears flowing. It was touching and sincere, but as we stood there the length of her outpouring began to reach the limits of our propriety – not an unattainable goal. As we stood there anxiously shifting our weight from one foot to the other, Swedlund leaned in and in his inimitable voce sotto uttered, “Now there’s one he should have never f%$ked”.

With all due respect to the woman, we did our best not to totally destroy her moment and muffled our impending outburst, but man did we roar later. I think maybe Chuck laughed too.

I hope this didn’t offend anyone.
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2019 - 12:51pm PT
Roper

I first got to know Steve Roper on the back side of Half Dome in 1966. He and Chuck Pratt were camped beside us (me and Michael and Valerie Cohen) in preparation for a NW face climb. Both ours and their intentions were foiled and, as it worked out, Steve and I hiked back to Happy Isles together.

That evening in Camp 4 Roper asked if I had ever done Phantom Pinnacle. Nope! I hadn't, but I was anxious to do it, especially with someone who knew exactly where it was. It was agreed - we would get an early start in the morning.

With Steve rousing me at 6 AM the following day, we were off and running. With no hesitation at any point along the approach (we walked from Camp4), we arrived at the pinnacle. Roper kept asking me if I thought I could lead the final pitch which he considered the crux. Hell, I didn't know. If he thought I could I would certainly give it a try.

I remember little of the interim pitches -they went by so quickly, but I do remember the final pitch which was my assigned lead. When Steve arrived on top he immediately set up the first rappel while quizzing me on my reaction to the last lead. Three rappels later we were on the ground.

As we approached Camp 4 around 8:30 AM, Steve stopped in his tracks and said, "Come on we're going back to the Lodge for coffee!" I asked why and he replied, "S##t, if we go back this early no one will believe we did it."
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2019 - 12:55pm PT
Beverly and Alan

Sometime between April of 1966, when we opened our first little 600 sq. ft. store on Pico Boulevard, and September of 1969 when we expanded into our new 25,000 sq. ft. store on Olympic Boulevard, somewhere in that brief period, something wonderful happened at West Ridge Mountaineering.
Those early days at West Ridge we opened the store at 5 PM because the owners worked in aerospace from 8 to 5. We also only hired climbers to work sales. On that particular wonderful evening,I happened to be the working owner. As I recall two young climbers were also working that evening when a stunningly attractive young woman wearing an exceptionally short mini skirt entered the store.
She announced that she was a student at USC and was interested in rock climbing. She had no experience -zilch. She was a student taking ballet and gymnastics. All the while, she is doing these incredible stretching exercises - one leg up on the waist-high sleeping bag table, her forehead pressed to her knee. These are very vivid memories.

She wanted someone to teach her rock climbing. My co-workers that evening were crawling all over each other trying to set up lessons.

As it worked out neither of these handsome young lads was to land the job. Instead, one of our newest employees, and one of our least experienced, a lad named Alan Roberts, happened to be working the weekend she walked in and set a date for Stoney Point. Alan Roberts was, at that time, sort of the Woody Allen of West Ridge - not considered by his peers as anybody that should be teaching others how to climb.

Ends up, he took her to Stoney twice and then to Tahquitz - where they failed miserably on the White Maiden – the classic Tahquitz 5.1 route.

Alan went on to become a highly respected rock climber and Tuolumne climbing guide. She went on to become Beverly Johnson.

Other Version:
Just a little aside on Alan Roberts. Alan was an employee of mine at West Ridge back in the late 60s. Alan had very little climbing experience - though he was learning.
A very attractive young woman walked into our tiny little store on Pico Blvd. one evening in a mini skirt and was inquiring about learning to climb. She introduced herself as Beverly Johnson. She was a USC student and was currently taking a ballet class - climbing interested her.

There were just a few employees in the store (me, Roberts, and at least two others - I think maybe
Hennek, Boche, or McLean). As she conversed she went through a few ballet stretching exercises in her mini skirt - she maintained everyone's close attention. She asked if anyone was willing to give her some climbing lessons and received four simultaneously overlapping and immediate offers.

To our consternation, it was Alan Roberts she chose - probably because he looked harmless compared to the three other leering males surrounding her. Over a period of a few weeks, he took her to Stoney Point and Tahquitz for her first climbing lessons. As I said, Roberts was as much a climbing neophyte as she and their success at Tahquitz was minimal. They couldn't even get up the White Maiden.

Well we all know the result of this improbable relationship and the subsequent climbing history, don’t we?

The last time I saw Roberts I was climbing with TM and we were waiting for him to get his client up El Condor so Herbert could test my mettle on pebbly run-outs - probably 100 years ago.




Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2019 - 12:56pm PT
An Art Gran Story

Yes, Art Gran took his share of kidding about his famous descriptions of “hard” moves on his latest climbs. Always with animation – and total re-enactment , sans rock.

I first met Art at Stoney Point in Southern California - a bright Sunday afternoon with a large Sierra Club contingent in attendance. I was there with Jack Hansen (the “original Vulgarian”) and Yvon Chouinard.

We were bouldering at Boulder #2 and Gran and I had just climbed a steep route on the south side. We dropped the rope to Yvon and he tied in. For whatever reason (it was a very nice day), Yvon was wearing a full length heavy wool overcoat – a thrift store bargain. It was buttoned closed from bottom to top. When he signaled that he was ready to climb, Gran whispered to me, “Grab the rope. Let’s pull him up.” So, the second Yvon yelled, “Climbing”, the two of us hauled. In a matter of seconds Chouinard was on top gasping for breath and laughing nervously. He literally had not used any of his extremities in the ascent. His overcoat had spared his body from abrasion, but in the dynamic contact with the sandstone the coat had lost most of its buttons.

Gran was in stitches. Yvon had stopped his nervous chuckling. He was untying and seriously inspecting his damaged coat. I quickly explained that it was all Gran’s idea – sorry about the buttons, Yvon. Chouinard was no longer amused, but Art, still laughing uncontrollably, had dropped to his knees and began rolling around the top of the boulder. Yvon and I left Art with his rope and downclimbed to the road.

As we trudged toward our next objective, Chouinard was mumbling and staring down at the front of his coat, feeling the texture of the abraded material. Glancing back at Boulder #2 - Art was still on top coiling the rope and still laughing. Chouinard looked back and mumbled something about hyenas and burros – or was it jackasses?
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2019 - 12:58pm PT
After Six - How Hard Is It

In June of 1965, I was camped in Camp 4 with Russ McLean, and Aaron and Ruth Schneider. Yvon Chouinard came over and asked if anybody wanted to do something. Well, Russ, Aaron, and I already had plans to climb at Swan Slab so Yvon took off with Ruth for parts unknown. At the end of the day Yvon and Ruth reported back in with the announcement of a new route, "After Six" they called it. Yvon said it was really neat and ONLY 5.6

So the next day Russ and I went over and did it. We had no argument with the rating. A year later I did it with my 13 year old daughter and she cried. It seemed a little harder than 5.6.

In about 1968, Yvon talked Dennis Hennek and me into doing After Six in the rain with mountain boots and no rope (good mountaineering training he said). I'm alive to report about it now, but I had my doubts regarding longevity back then.

cleggy

Trad climber
Derby, UK
Apr 22, 2019 - 12:59pm PT
Thanks Don. Great stuff.
Steve
‘cranial cobwebs’!!
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2019 - 12:59pm PT
Who's Bobbo?

Many were the times that I noticed Allan Bard sporting a stem of Pennyroyal blooms in his ever present white hat. One day, while hiking into our Third Lake camp, I asked him if there was any particular reason for always wearing that flower. He answered, “Yeah, it’s for Bobbo.” I had no idea what he meant.

I queried, “Bobbo? Who’s Bobbo?’

“My old friend Bob Locke” was his answer. I didn’t know Bob Locke. Allan explained that Bobbo died in a climbing accident and that Locke used to wear Pennyroyal in his hat. Allan wore Pennyroyal in his memory.

Since Allan’s death I have always picked a stem of Pennyroyal in the backcountry and worn it in my hat for Bobbo - and Allan.


Tom Patterson

Trad climber
Seattle
Apr 22, 2019 - 01:02pm PT
What a bunch of great reads, Don! You made my day!
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2019 - 01:03pm PT
Cable Memories

October 4, 2007. Up at 5:30 AM after illegally sleeping in the “closed” backpacker’s campground. Reached the base of the Snake Dike via the Mist Trail only to be delayed by a party of three ahead of us. Finally, on route, and on the summit by late afternoon. Lazed around and left the summit in early evening. The cables were down so we had to lift them to use them as hold holds. Reaching the base, I realized I had left our coiled rope on the summit. Oh well, not going back. Wrote it off. Although we did ask two young climbers that were going up the cables if they might contact us later and we’d reimburse them. Never heard from them again.

My knee wouldn’t take the steps of the Mist Trail going down, so I took the Muir Trail and promised to meet my partner, who was going to use the Mist Trail, at Curry Village for dinner and a beer. We both took off with headlamps aglow.

I reached the parking area and my partner’s car was gone so I scurried over to Curry Village. No partner to be found, so I had a beer and headed back to the parking area to see if his car was there. Nope. It was about 9 PM by then so I decided to sleep in my car, right there in the parking area with the bear boxes. Well, sleep was intermittent at best and interrupted by bears making their rounds around 1:30 PM.

I gave up and headed back to Bishop. Avoiding a few herds of deer cluttering the highway to Tuolumne, I arrived home at 3 AM – 21.5 hours after arising. It was a long day.
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2019 - 01:06pm PT
Five Ten October 22, 1994
528 Amigos Dr Suite D
Redlands, CA 92373

Re: A dilapidated pair of Five Tennies

To Whom It May Concern:

A while back I bought a pair of Five Tennies because TM Herbert was always beating me up Toulumne approaches in his. What I didn't know was that his were an older vintage than mine and that my newer pair had some inherent flaws. Almost immediately the rand around the toes started to separate so I quit wearing them thinking that I might return them to the mountain shop in Toulumne for a refund. But I didn't. Tony Puppo at Wilson's Eastside Sports gave me his prognosis - the shoes should be taken off life support. So I did it.

This past summer I guided in the Sierra and wore the shoes until they finally died. The last two days of a week-long backpack trip my toes occasionally appeared through the rent that caused their death. I respectfully return the remains to their place of origin. May they rest in piece(s).

You folks should be ashamed of having released your progeny into this rough world without preparing them for the inevitable beating to which they most certainly would be exposed. It has been rumored that you are aware that some of your offspring were physically deficient and that subsequent generations have been adequately inured. Life goes on.

Respectfully,
Don Lauria

P.S.
Before Five Ten gets all upset, the conclusion to this episode resulted in my being presented with a brand new pair with an apology. Subsequently the replacement pair lived a full and respectful life being resoled a couple of times due to wear. Old age caught up with them eventually and they died peacefully at home surrounded by relatives.



Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2019 - 01:07pm PT
Hammocks

I have nothing but fond memories of my nights spent in a Robbins hammock way up above buildings (an old Bud Couch phrase). I loved those bivouacs and looked forward to them on every wall climb. I found the hammock bivouac to be a comfortable alternative to lying on cold granite or sitting in slings all night (as Boche and I did on the 6th ascent of the Leaning Tower – three months after the 3rd ascent with Kor).

Granted, all these hammock bivouacs were subject to summer conditions. When Boche and I did the 8th ascent of the Nose in 1967 we spent 7 days in cold pouring down rain – not exactly hammock weather – no place for hammocks on that route anyway. The water tumbling down the face would enter the sleeve of the uplifted piton–placing arm and pour through the shirt’s torso into our pants, down our legs, into our Kronhofers. The suede leather of the Kronhofer klettershue was very absorbent and could soak up hundreds of CCs of H2O. Quite conveniently, however, when one stepped up into the next aid sling … squish, out came all the water and the shoe was ready to accept the next load. Oh, the memories!

I also admit to a prejudice in that my mountaineering store, West Ridge Mountaineering, was selling our own version (an exact copy) of the Robbins hammock. The prejudice was further ingrained by my mother-in-law’s participation in the manufacturing (she was the manufacturer).

An aside: I noticed a photo of Frost in a net hammock. Robbins, of all people, insisted we take net hammocks on the 2nd ascent of the Dawn Wall. Big problem with those mothers was that if you dropped any peanuts or M&Ms in them they were irretrievable – lost to the abyss below. Robbins hammocks, being less porous – impervious in this case - allowed one to recover lost morsels – a big plus!
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2019 - 01:09pm PT
Helmets

Been climbing for 57 years. Started in 1961 at the age of 28. Wore a helmet once on Whitney’s east face in 1963 (not sure what sport it was designed for, certainly not climbing). I hated it. Kept hitting my head on little overhangs and projections. Haven’t worn one since. Not proud of that fact.
Yes, even before he put it in print, Yvon told me “You don’t need a helmet unless you’re climbing where rockfall is probable”. He had just (1961) climbed Edith Cavell with Beckey and Doody. Lots of rockfall.

So with that in mind and my experience on Whitney, I never purchased a helmet. However, I considered it late one day in August of 1964 when, on the first ascent of Pingora’s north face in the waning light, Aaron Schneider loosed a fusillade of rocks from the top of the last pitch. The last pitch is a steep rotten gully. Ed Speth (RIP) and I were positioned at the gully’s base when the rocks and Aaron’s “Rock!!” got our attention. I could see the sparks of the rocks as they approached our ledge and instinctively ducked just below the top of the ledge in front of me – just barely behind the lip. One very large rock struck the ledge and the back of my head simultaneously. I luckily was wearing a thick wool stocking cap and suffered nothing more than an accelerated heartbeat. Speth was unscathed.
After that experience you’d think I would have driven straight to Jackson and bought a helmet, but no. By the time I exited the Winds the rockfall experience was secondary to the jubilation of having done a first ascent and the experience was filed away for occasional “epic recounts” at parties and campfires.

I still do not own a helmet, but in my decrepit state I probably have seen the last of leading – especially alpine routes. However, thanks to this thread and Goldstone and Donini, et al, I’m ordering a BD Vapor today.

[Speaking of Ed Speth, I’m thinking about writing an anecdote about his life – later.]

Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2019 - 01:12pm PT
Ed Speth

I met Ed Speth in 1962 at North American Aviation where I worked as an aerodynamicist from 1955 until 1971. I was introduced to him by an engineering colleague and fellow mountaineer. It seems Ed was interested in rock climbing. So it was that he became a good friend.

Ed was 23 years old, tall, about six feet, dark hair, lanky, handsome, and bespectacled. Ethnically he was white – culturally he was black. He was a graduate of a small college in New York and had just moved to the Los Angeles area to take his engineering job at NAA. He had an obvious New York accent and a tendency to use phrases that he picked up from his fellow black students in NY – sort of “jive talk”. He lived near USC in Los Angeles with a beautiful black girl in a predominately black neighborhood. My concentration on ethnicity here should reflect no bias – it was an important part of his personality. He would sort of bounce into the room, snapping his fingers, and never quite stand still. “Let’s beak on down to Stoney, man.”

As he developed as a rock climber, he was a decent boulderer, but a lousy trad climber – couldn’t place a decent piton to save his soul. He was the brunt of a lot of derision for his lack of “nailing” talent. My family loved him and he was a frequent house guest and climbing companion.

Ed and I went to the Tetons in 1963. We climbed Symmetry Spire and Exum Ridge on the Grand. Coincidently, Exum, Corbett, Sinclair, Jackson, et al, where escorting the Sherpas from the West Ridge Everest expedition on the Ridge. They were just ahead of us and we all summited together.

Ed accompanied me on our first attempt on Pingora’s north face in 1963. My wife and three kids had hiked in with Ed and a Sierra Club family group, where my family was safely stowed with the Club around Big Sandy Lake while Ed and I hiked over Jackass Pass. We, in our ineptitude, without climbing any other route, just walked up to the base of Pingora from Lonesome Lake, skirted around to the north until we found a weakness in the verticality and began our ascent with absolutely no idea what was above. The idea of scouting a route from afar was not in our mutual repertoire.

As I was finishing the fourth pitch, the weather began to abruptly change. I set up a belay on a small ledge that allowed be to sit with my legs dangling over the edge. Then came the thunder. The lightning was getting closer. She–it! Now we have to bail. So while Ed waited below me, I placed my first-ever bolt right between my thighs and attached one of those Gerry pop-top hangers. I brought Ed up and we rappelled off the hanger (according to Kelsey, it’s still there and is one of the very few ever placed in the Winds). I also now admit to Joe that I lost “a sense of the sport’s dignity and a reverence for the rock”. My excuse was “there was no other way to safely escape the wrath of the oncoming storm”. Little did I know how important the bolt would become the following year.

Aaron Schneider was another engineer from New England that I befriended at North American Aviation. He and his beautiful wife, Ruth, and their dog Shane, had become family friends. They both were climbers and frequented the Valley, in fact Ruth did the first ascent of After Six with Yvon. Aaron, Ed, and I returned to the Cirque of Towers in August of 1964 to finish the North Face route.

As Kelsey relates in his guide, the North Face is “a perverse classic”. His description, I think, is apt. The perversity begins were Ed and I left off in ’63. We three swung leads up to the bolt, where I belayed with Aaron as Ed led a traverse right around a corner and out of sight. “Days” passed.
“Ed are you alright”? We could hear him pounding in some protection. “Lauria, you’d better come over. I can’t get up this”. Okay, I was anxious to get on with this and began, according to Kelsey, “a long terrifying traverse”. Around the corner, standing on a small ledge was Ed. Getting to him was terrifying. “Helluva lead, Ed!”

I was happy to have been anchored to that bolt. If he had fallen on that very delicate traverse with no intervening protection it would have been drastic. I’m sure that anyone who has done the route will agree that it is and was appropriate – even Kelsey.

Ed was stuck. He couldn’t manage the vertical crack leading off the small ledge. I got to him and thank god he didn’t attempt it. The anchors to which he was attached would have probably pulled if he leaned over to tie his shoes! I quickly replaced the pins and led off the ledge. Many pitches later, much later, we finished in the dark. Luckily we had climbed the South Buttress the day before and knew the rappel route. We also knew that our ropes wouldn’t completely reach a ledge on one rappel, so we tied my swami belt (about 12 feet of 1” tubular nylon) to the ends of the rope. We had no headlamps, so this was backcountry Braille.

After Pingora Ed began getting involved in the civil rights movement. Eventually he moved to Alabama and participated in a lot of protests, including those in Selma. All this time he was writing me letters, keeping me apprised of his involvement. In the summer of 1965, he mentioned in a letter that he was scared he might be killed and that he would be leaving for the Tetons shortly. He had a girlfriend waiting in Jackson.

On July 10th, I received a letter from his girlfriend. “Don, I’m writing to let you Ed was killed yesterday in a climbing accident on Symmetry Spire. He had hooked up with a climber from Colorado in the climber’s camp and they were a few pitches up when, while leading, Ed fell. Some pins pulled and his rope [9mm] caught on a flake and was cut. He fell about 300 feet …”. It went on, but I was unable to finish it. The tears that ran down my face that moment are still visible on that letter. Ed was the first person and climber that I ever knew that died in an accident and it was a shock to me and my family that none of us has ever forgotten.

We live on, as does Ed in our memories.

Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2019 - 01:13pm PT
A Tahquitz Tale

Or the Sunday morning that Mclean and I, having spent the previous sunny day climbing at Tahquitz, with Michael and Valerie Cohen, crawled out of our sleeping bags to Cohen's berating of the weather gods. It looked like it would snow any minute - no climbing that day for Cohen! Russ and I, however, decided, "a little snow, a little ize, it eez nussing" (a favorite McLean Hermann Buhl imitation).

So up we went to do the Trough in a blizzard. Half way up the route, with Russ belaying me from Pine Tree Ledge where he was anchored to a huge pillar of granite, Russ yelled up, "Are you in a good place?" I wasn't. In fact, I was trying to figure out how to get across a ten-foot section of verglas in my Kronhofers. I answered back that I was not in a good place. The wind was picking up and communication was difficult. Russ yelled back that I had better find a "good place" quickly. The block to which he was anchored was moving. I cautiously backed down to a sheltered gap between the face and a huge boulder. Just as I fell into the gap I heard the horrible sound of an immense rockfall. It took a full 30 seconds for the noise to subside. Then total silence except for the wind.

Russ are you okay? No answer. Again, Russ are you okay? No reply. Finally, a weak voice from below in the gloom, I'm okay.

What happened, Russ? I had not felt a thing on my end of the rope. Can't explain now. Got to get back on the rock. Can you belay me?
Yeah, come on up.

Several minutes later Russ climbed into view. He was a mess. Blood all over his face, his clothes in shreds, his right arm limply dangling at his side. He had been dragged off the ledge by the huge rock pillar and had fallen, accompanied by tons of rock debris, to the end of the rope. He was temporarily unconscious and when he came to he was dangling in space staring at his belay rope. The sheath in front of his face had parted, and exposed in front of him was the rope's core. Two of the three internal braids were severed and he was suspended by the one remaining braid. When he was able to get his feet back on the rock, he tied off the exposed portion of the rope and climbed to my location.

Russ was on the verge of going into shock. He had lost some teeth; he had a badly cut arm, and a broken nose. I managed to belay him up the remaining pitches and down the icy slabs, around the Rock and back to Lunch Rock. I took him to the fire station in ldyllwild for first aid. I can still hear the crack when they straightened his nose. After the repair, we headed back to UC Riverside where the Cohen's were living.
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2019 - 01:14pm PT
A Camp 4 Tale

Not all tales will be heroic. Some are classic. This one is neither.

I was a climbing neophyte compared to my companions. They were climbing legends. We were friends assembled in Camp 4 trying to keep warm around a fire that was slowly dying. Mark Powell and Bob Kamps had become my life-long friends. Life-long not that we retained a close intimate relationship over the years of our time climbing together, but life-long in that we shared memories that we mutually had never forgotten.

It was probably 1964 – that would make me about 31 years old, Kamps a year older , and Powell maybe 3 or 4 years older – not a group of mindless adolescents.

I was a married aerospace engineer from southern California with three children and a questionable urge to climb amongst the legends. They were legends – married legends.
It was late night in Camp 4. My kids were in their tent. We, husbands and wives, were cold. The wood fire around which we were leaning was no longer aflame - mere embers - we needed more wood. What to do?

Powell looks at Kamps knowingly, “Let’s go get some wood.” Kamps, “Where do we get more wood?” Powell, “I know where the Park Service keeps theirs. We’ll have to crawl under a fence and we better not get caught.” Kamps, “No way am I gonna to go steal some Park Service wood!” I, the adulator of legends, respond, “I’ll go.”

So it is that two of the small group of non-adolescents, Powell and I, drove down to somewhere around Manure Pile Buttress, exited our vehicle, and stealthily scurried into the woods, squeezed through the barbed wire fence, and absconded with four arms full of neatly cleaved hunks of firewood.

Hours later in Camp 4, we, husbands and wives, were warmly leaning in around a blazing fire of ill-gotten wood with no feelings of guilt and with great appreciation of the Park Service and their contribution to our comfort. Legends all.
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2019 - 01:16pm PT
Stumbling

Harding was in the Mountain Room late one evening, as was his custom, and he was in his customary state of inebriation. When the Room closed he and a few friends staggered out and moved sinuously toward Camp 4.

The group broke up as they headed for their respective tents. Harding, being considerably more drunk than the others, was staggering in the general direction of his tent, but lost his balance, stumbled, and crashed headlong into a small two-person tent. He fell across it and totally collapsed it as the occupants within began screaming and swearing. The male half of the occupancy came scrambling and cursing out of the tent, “You drunken son-of-a-bitch, what the f**k are you doing? I’m going to kill you, you stupid bastard!”

Harding, taken somewhat aback, blinked, stumbled back a bit more, stood straight up, sucked in a chest full of air, and replied, “You can’t kill me, you as#@&%e, I’m famous!”

Needless to say, he lived through it.


More ...

Warren was up before the judge after one of his numerous DUIs. After reviewing Warren's record, the judge looked down at Warren and said, "Mr. Harding you seem to have a problem with drinking." To which Warren replied, "Oh, no sir! I don't have a problem with drinking, I love to drink."
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