Barry Bates


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Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Topic Author's Original Post - May 9, 2007 - 03:10pm PT
I remember when we were just starting to get good at crack climbing, bagging all the Bary Bates classics was an absolute must. He bagged some of the best short cracks in the world, including Lunatic Fringe, Vanishing Point, Five and Dime, New Dimensions free, and the hardest and least done of the lot, the Center Route on Independencde Pinnacle (the .10d rating seemed really stiff at the time).

Barry basically left the Valley right when a bunch of us were moving in ('71ish) so I never got to tie in with him. Wonder what he's up to now.

Russ Walling

Social climber
Out on the sand.... man.....
May 9, 2007 - 03:10pm PT
How about the "Bates Problem" in Camp 4? Same dude I suspect....

A tent in the redwoods
May 9, 2007 - 03:21pm PT
There's a ton of Bates problems at Castle Rock. I hear the guy could scratch diamonds with his teeth. Hardman.
Chicken Skinner

Trad climber
May 9, 2007 - 03:25pm PT

I have been trying to track him down for the last couple of months. He sold his house several years ago and was last heard to be living on his sailboat in the Santa Cruz area. When I find out more I can let you know if you are interested.


Trad climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
May 9, 2007 - 03:34pm PT
Bates was one strong cat man...I remember when me and Kauk first started working out in C4, Barry would be doing 5 sets of twenty fingertip pullups at the end of each day for his workout - we were blown!

Trad climber
Mountain View, CA
May 9, 2007 - 05:59pm PT
After his Yosemite days, Barry lived in the Santa Cruz mountains on Zayante Canyon Road which is about a 1/2 hour drive from Castle Rock. He worked part-time at REI and also did rock shoe resoling.

Barry also had a significant impact on hard climbing at Pinnacles National Monument. Not hard cracks as in Yosemite, but hard faces most notably Machete West Face, Machete Direct and Mechanic's Delight all in the 5.11+/5.12 range and done with 1/4" bolts in crummy rock for pro.

The dude could man up and climb!


ps - Barry once told me that he looked at Outer Limits with Bridwell, but it was filled with dirt and grass and he thought it would be too much work to clean it out.

Trad climber
Nor Cal
May 9, 2007 - 08:36pm PT
Just a quick question for you, Do you know Jim Fox at all? A master rider and did some climbing and lived in that area.
Anne-Marie Rizzi

May 9, 2007 - 08:39pm PT
Bridwell and others called him "Master Bates."

The last time I saw Barry was in the Valley in the late 70's. Usual toothy grin, shorter mop of dark hair, extremely happy to see me, showing the old stomping grounds to his wife/significant other/fiancee.



May 9, 2007 - 09:03pm PT
Barry Bates was the best valley free climber back then.
Anne-Marie Rizzi

May 9, 2007 - 10:38pm PT
Roger Breedlove and Pat Ament should chime in on this one.


Trad climber
Fruita, Colorado
May 10, 2007 - 01:13am PT
I climbed a lot with Barry Bates, and we remain good friends, though I haven't heard from him for a time. In the late 1960s and maybe also in 1970 we spent hours together on the Camp 4 boulders. He is one of the really sweet spirits of climbing. He got really out of shape after that, gained some weight, and in a phone call to me admitted jokingly that he failed trying to do Generator Crack (something he could have done with a sack over his head in "those" days). One day in about 1969 he showed me a one-finger pull-up with his finger through a sling tied to a limb. He told me I was the best boulderer he'd ever seen, in part probably because that's how modest and humble and generous he was. In fact we weren't at all competitive, because we simply enjoyed climbing together and had nothing but fun. Did anyone read my interview with him in the old Climbing Art Magazine? I have a classic photo of him I took (in my history of free climbing), standing with Bev Johnson and Bridwell. She went back and forth between the two, couldn't make up her mind, I guess, and the photo was a time when she was with Jim, so Barry was looking a bit glum... I love that man. One of the great Yosemite stories is a day Barry led the Left Side of the Slack. He got to the top of the big crux pitch and realized he'd accidentally clipped in the haul rope instead of the climbing rope, having in essence soloed the pitch....


Social climber
san joser
May 10, 2007 - 03:40am PT
When I had just started climbing in 1990-91 Barry Bates was working at the old REI in Cupertino. My buddies and I had heard he was one of the old masters from Yosemite's golden days and he had our reverence. There was a small climbing wall in that old store and on Wednesday nights they used to let people come in and climb and Barry was on belay duty. He was very quiet but friendly and gave us nice hints and suggestions while we struggled up the 20 ft wall. Looking back I feel sorry for the guy having to belay a bunch of bumbly teenagers, makes me think of an old bear in a petting zoo with kids climbing all over him, they have no idea he could crush their skulls if he chose to do so. He was also the guy who resoled my shoes.
When we saw him boulder at Castle Rock our reverence trebled. Back then there were not so many people bouldering at a high level up there, at least not while I was around. Seeing someone good was rare and I sucked so the universe of possibility was rather small. The Yabo roof even had moss on it! I didn't believe there was actually a problem that went over the top. Impossible!
Barry showed up one Saturday morning and I'll never forget seeing him move slow, confident, 110% solid on problems that seemed imaginary to me before seeing him float through them. His fluidity, the open grip on holds I couldn't see, the Tai Chi style inspired me and opened my eyes.
I bought that Climbing Art issue and read the interview over and over, especially the bit about clipping his haul line through the gear on Left Side of Slack. I searched through guidebooks for his name in first ascents to get the little thrill of knowing I had seen him climb. Having a guy like that so close and accessible made the climbing world seem all the more small and closed and like I might be inside of something.

I never really talked to Barry and he probably didn't realize there was a group of 16 year olds stalking him through the REI, but 15 years later I still waste most of my weekends trying to climb a bit more like him.

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
May 10, 2007 - 05:34am PT
I talked to Barry last summer. He’s living on the coast in Oregon. He sounded happy, well and we planned on a meeting to share some wine and stories. I blew it ‘cause I lost his phone number and ran out of time between jobs.
My favorite Barry Bates story involved an ascent of the Salathe-Steck on Sentinel. At that time it was usually done in two days. Only Pratt and a few of the other Gods did it in a day. Barry and I were trying to do it in a day, although we each had the usual summer bivouac gear of a down jacket in our pack. We got as high as the narrows when the wall was bathed in that beautiful, but worrisome orange alpine glow. Barry led the narrows and then it was dark. We were stuck for the night. Headlamps had not become standard equipment. So a long night, I on the chockstone below the narrows, and Barry on a smaller ledge above, slowly passed.
In the morning I was more than happy to climb and warm the chilled blood. I struggled with enjoyment up to the belay ledge. When I got even in height to Barry he said: “Hey, could you hold it there for a minute.” Of course I agreed. He then undid his knickers, and proceeded to release a considerable stream of urine. For hour Barry had endured the pain of a full bladder so as not to piss on me or the beautiful rock I would be climbing.
In many ways, and especially with his bold leads, Barry set an example of the kind of climber I wanted to become.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
May 10, 2007 - 09:01am PT
All the praise here for Barry is well deserved. Barry was a probably the strongest climber in the Valley in the very early 70s. He really could do those one-finger one-arm pull-ups.

But what really set him apart was his climbing skill and his energy to create new routes at a difficulty that was beyond what everyone else had been doing in the Valley. I have stated several times that in 1970, after a relatively fallow period of a few years in the Valley, Klemens and Bates sparked a renaissance—Mark on off-widths and Barry on thin cracks. For sure there were others with important contributions, such as Peter Haan and Steve Wunsch, and ultimately Jim carried the mantle for hard free in the Valley, but Mark and Barry tore the place up (to borrow from our fellow poster, Ryan Frost) and lit a fire under Jim.

Barry was a really level headed and easy going, and very funny. I remember that one year the Rescue Team stayed in one of the camp grounds under the Apron, near the old dumps. There were bears around all the time. Barry and Bev shared a tent. One night a bear nosed its way into their tent. In the ensuing excitement, I think it took a chomp at Bev’s shoulder. She was not hurt, but they told hilarious tales about it for a the rest of the summer.

As Jim has written recently, “I hated climbing with Barry. He was so strong.” Mark and Jim were close; Jim and Barry less so, maybe because of Bev, as Pat states. But I think it was probably just a difference in sensibilities. Barry was very independent and had no need to be part of a group for any validation. He just climbed stellar routes. He was part of the a new emerging class of climbers who focused on just hard free climbing.

This is the list of Barry’s firsts, all in 1970, 71, and 72. Barry had a great eye for fine lines, even including the clunkers. Getting up one of Barry’s routes was a real prize. Several of them are classics, still.

Bongs Away, Center 5.10a 1970 Barry Bates Mark Klemens

Koko Ledge, Far Right 5.10a 1970 Barry Bates Sergio Roch

Waverly Wafer 5.10c 1970 Jim Bridwell Barry BatesBev Johnson

Independence Pinnacle, Center Route 5.10d 1970 Dave Hampton Barry Bates Matt Donohoe

Chocolate Dihedral 5.9 1970 Rick Sylvester Matt Donohoe

Degnan Diagonals 5.9 1970 Rick Sylvester Matt Donohoe Barry Bates

Yoghurt Dihedral 5.9 1970 Rick Sylvester Barry Bates

Dromedary - The Hump 0 1971 Barry Bates Bev Johnson

Pink Dream 5.10a 1971 Barry Bates Steve Wunsch

Dromedary Direct 5.10c 1971 Barry Bates Matt Donohoe Herb Swedlund

Lunatic Fringe 5.10c 1971 Barry Bates Bev Johnson

Supplication 5.10c 1971 Barry Bates Bev Johnson

Five and Dime 5.10d 1971 Barry Bates

Vanishing Point 5.10d 1971 Barry Bates Loyd Price

Application 5.9 1971 Barry Bates Peter Haan

Last Resort Pinnacle, The, Center 5.10a 1972 Barry Bates Rik Rieder

Anathema 5.10b 1972 Barry Bates

New Dimensions 5.11a 1972 Barry Bates Steve Wunsch

Lost Brother, Northwest Face 5.7 1972 Barry Bates Rik Rieder

As you all can see, my name is no where to be found. I was still mastering 'The Harry Daley Route' until Peter smashed my shell and kicked me out of the nest, so to speak, when he dragged me up 'Secret Storm.'

What wonderful days to remember.

Hi Anne-Marie.

Best, Roger

First ascents courtesy of Ed's data base.

The Eye of the Snail
May 10, 2007 - 09:49am PT
What a stack of killer routes.

So assuming everything here is true, I'm dying to know the story on this one: Waverly Wafer 5.10c 1970 Jim Bridwell Barry Bates Bev Johnson.

(Hi, Buzz! Namedropper.)
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
May 10, 2007 - 10:54am PT
Hi Ryan,

Cool list of routes, uh? Some of the scariest leads I ever did were on Barry's routes, with nuts only. Whimpering and crying, rattling around in some loose finger crack with nothing to stand on and nothing in. Like trying to do a one arm pull up without having your arm attached to anything. 'Air Climbing.' Desperate.

I don’t think Barry could even tell the difference between 5.0 and 5.9—he moved carefully like Chuck and then just upped the amps on the hard stuff—never broke a sweat as best as I remember. And as Pat says, totally without a big ego.

I don't know if there is any story on 'Waverly Wafer.' Peter might know. But, if you are sort of asking about Jim and Barry competing for Bev's attentions, then the real story follows along these lines. Barry and Bev were really close for a time, with some expectation that it could last. Jim and Bev were close, but in a different way, more casual.

The main thing about all stories involving Bev is that she was her own person. She did not define herself in any way through the man she was spending time with. More importantly, she would not allow any of us to interfere in what she wanted to do based on any relationship we might have had with her. So we all lived together, at least part and sometimes all year, and life moved along pretty smoothly. She had no tolerance for any head tripping from any of us. Tough as nails, says it pretty well. Bev was pretty amazing. And pretty. I enjoyed our great friendship and always observed her rules. (Maybe it is more accurate to say that if I didn’t, I always instantly regretted it.) We all miss her terribly.

Best, Buzz (the name dropper)

Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
May 10, 2007 - 11:07am PT

I am also thinking, remembering, Bev's absolutely first-rate slightly ribald laugh! It was the best. And yeah, true she really was not only pretty, but also beautiful. Loved her lips especially. She reminds one of Carly Simon. When the heli-ski copter crashed in the Rubies, she expired in Tom Carter's arms, he told me. It was really awful. The last time I saw her was in the Four Seasons in The Valley, dining with her new husband Mike Hoover and others.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
May 10, 2007 - 11:53am PT
Thanks for chiming in Peter.

I loved that laugh too. She was always ready with an aside or quip to lay waste to our pretensions, but without ever hurting any one's feelings--turning on her southern belle charms in an instance.

The mental picture I have is when she would blow her blonde hair out of her face by extending and cupping her lower lip, always with an exasperated look on her face--stupid hair. Unerring accuracy. I don't think that she wanted to push it back with her sweaty caulk covered hands or risk getting it tangled in tape.

I like remembering the great times, not the sad ones.

Bev really had a knack for life and all its complexities.

BTW, Peter, do you know Ryan--Yo?


May 10, 2007 - 12:25pm PT
One more for Bev, Roger

She was an awesome manipulator in the third world. She knew how to deal with roadblocks and political bullsh'it.

In Mali Africa we got shut down at one checkpoint. The guard says we have to wait two days. She goes over and they haggle verbally for a while. She comes back and says all good to go and off we go.

She probably told them there's 5 ugly Americans in the rig over there who will tear you limb by limb and and cut your balls off unless we get to go through.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
May 10, 2007 - 12:31pm PT
Uh...actually, Werner, I listened to the tape, and what she said was:

"Those 5 ugly Americans in the rig over there are too afraid to say anything, but I will tear you limb by limb and cut your balls off unless we get to go through."

Subtle difference. No man could stand up to it. Cross cultural.

Great story, Werner. I am reminded of the jounalist character in the recent movie, 'Blood Diamonds.'

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