man with black cape

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Oli

Trad climber
Fruita, Colorado
Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 3, 2007 - 12:51am PT
Another story to tell is about the man with the black cape.

I was hanging out with Jim Erickson. We were fighting over a couple of different girl friends, sort of the way Bev Johnson bounced between Bates and Bridwell and back... Anyway, this guy came around, real strange, who wanted to convince us to agree to a plan he had concocted to universalize climbing. I mean, he wanted everyone to carry carabiners exactly the same way: clip them like sausages in one long linking group hanging off a person. It didn't make any sense, and he said he wanted to revolutionize climbing signals. If someone was leading above and far out of sight, to communicate you would yank hard on the rope! And so on and so on. He had this ridiculous idiocy all written down and handed us contracts to sign.

To disgress briefly, before continuing the story, this reminds me of Harvey Carter who approached John Gill and me and asked us to participate in what was apparently the first ever bouldering competition -- way back in my day. I didn't want to and Gill didn't want to, but later we learned Harvey had wired all the rotues in advance, served as judge, and won the competion. He's a good man, mind you, and it's just a funny story, but one thing he wanted climbers to do at the moment of arriving at the top of a boulder was let go with one hand and yell "Finished." I could imagine people falling to the ground at that moment of letting go, a bit too early. Anyway, back to the story of the man with the black cape.

We didn't sign anything mind you. No way could he make us put our John Henry on that garbage, the half of which I haven't even mentioned, but I kept running into him. He was heavy into this "yin yang" health philosophy and had a rigid diet, but one day I saw him coming out of a store with a desperate look in his eye, clutching a huge package of Oreos. He saw me and ran away in a panic. Maybe he felt suddenly exposed. I never knew. I learned he had started a climbing school. Promptly he injured someone. He led up about 20 feet, put in a nut, clipped it, then traversed about 30 feet left to a belay, without protection. The beginner second began to follow, and slipped. The nut pulled, and she fell to the ground, fortunately not dying. His comment was, "Now this is an illustration of a bad angle on a nut sling." No, it was an illustration of a horridly bad climbing instructor. Had she gotten past the piton, of course, it would have been a completely unprotected traverse, and she would have risked an even greater fall. Anyway, he began wearing a black cape around town, and he wore it while climbing, I was told. I never saw him climb. I imagine he didn't actually know how. I have no idea what significance the black cape was, unles he thought he was superman or something. The story eventually gets to Yosemite, where he decided to go and revolutionize climbing in the Valley. He was really missing a few marbles. One day in Yosemite Charlie Porter, who could obviously see through this screw box missing a few wrenches, invited him to do a climb on El Cap. The pretender gathered gear and walked with Charlie up to the base of the North America Wall, over in that direction and told Porter he had to go down for a moment into the forest. Low and behold, Steve Wunsch was sitting on a boulder down there, unbeknownst to the black-caped man. Steve watched as the guy bent over at the waist, with his face and eyes toward the ground, and like a bull ran fifteen feet as hard as he could, crashing with head into a boulder. Blood started gushing out of the top of his head. Wunsch couldn't believe his eyes, but to make a long story short the guy went up and told Porter he'd had an accident and bumped his head on a rock and wouldn't be able to climb. That was an incredible way of getting out of doing a route. I can't understand why I didn't try that a few times. The day I tried to climb Twilight Zone when I had a bad case of the flu, heck, I could have simply rammed my head into one of those guillotine flakes. I have no idea what happened to that character who was hell bent on revolutionizing climbing, but I still see that yin yang guy running out of the store away from me desperately clutching a bag of Oreos.

Pat Ament
WBraun

climber
Jun 3, 2007 - 01:03am PT
Great stories Pat and funny too. Keep em coming they're so cool.

I wish I could write like you.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jun 3, 2007 - 01:03am PT
Wasn't it Warren who liked to wear a black cape, at least in his imagination?
Raydog

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
Jun 3, 2007 - 01:24am PT
good one Pat - classic
Ouch!

climber
Jun 3, 2007 - 02:29am PT
Jude Bischoff

Ice climber
Palm Springs
Jun 3, 2007 - 02:53am PT
Ouch and Pat, great thread!
Oli

Trad climber
Fruita, Colorado
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 3, 2007 - 03:15am PT
Pratt was great, you know, but he sometimes got tired of things. He said to me one day, "I'm tired of being social director of Camp 4." He was also tired of some of the bears that kept raiding his camp. He had names for all of them, El Cid being one of the worst. Chuck told me he looked out one night and saw one of his furry friends unscrew a jar of jelly, get his paw in and polish some of it off, and then put the lid back on! I assured Chuck he'd had one too many the night before. I think it was the next night or next few nights I heard him in a rage, yelling at some campers who were in Camp 4 in some kind of Winnebago. They had left their dogs out, and those two dogs kept barking noisly, keeping everyone awake. He would simply walk over and untie them. They'd shut right up. And then the owners would go out and tie them up again, because obviously the barking had stopped. The dogs had no intention of leaving that location, but without the leashes they'd sit still, with them they'd bark. Pratt went through this process several times until it all exploded...

But one image I have is of a hot day around noon or early afternoon in Camp 4. Pratt had obtained a little square about the size of dice, and it had some kind of chemical in it designed to kill flies. Pratt was ready to test this thing. He brought it to his picnic table, set it down, and he seated himself at the picnic table and waited. I was there with him, eager also to see if anything would happen. A fly was supposed to land on the little square, attracted to some scent, whereupon it was supposed to be rendered ineffective as a fly. We watched the square intently. Suddenly a huge fly landed on the square. Our eyes became like microscopes. Our consciousness expanded, and the fly took a drink of the chemical. Suddenly it stood up on its back legs and, like a ballerina, spun around in a circle about thirty times perfectly, then keeled over dead. Chuck got his patented cynical look, with his eyebrows raising almost together where they nearly touched above his nose, and his lips tightening in a smile, as though to say, "That was sick." He stood up laughing, and walked away. The strange manner in which we sometimes entertained ourselves.
Crimpergirl

Social climber
Hell on earth wondering what I did to deserve it
Jun 3, 2007 - 10:38am PT
These are awesome. Thanks!

I think I was making the exact same facial expressions that you described as I was reading the last one.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jun 3, 2007 - 11:00am PT
Priceless images Pat, a real breath of fresh air for the forum.
Rocky5000

Trad climber
Falls Church, VA
Jun 3, 2007 - 11:02am PT
I don't know whether the biography of my Zen master hero, Chuck Pratt, has been written. Oli, if you write it, I'll buy it! and so would a few other old farts, I imagine. Some classic black and white photos - a labor of love, to be sure, but it would join the canon of climbing literature.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Jun 3, 2007 - 11:28am PT
what happened when it all exploded?

ranger time dance?

or tourist dance?
Oli

Trad climber
Fruita, Colorado
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 3, 2007 - 02:49pm PT
I heard the Pratt/camper thing all in the dark, so I don't know if rangers were later involved, but Pratt was yelling at the campers, probably after they finally drove him to it, and they were yelling and pretending to be assaulted by a madman. If the rangers came at all, which I never saw, they probably would have recognized the situation, as on occasion they did, and knew Pratt... and wrote it off... No one was about to oust the master.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Jun 3, 2007 - 04:27pm PT
My theory; the cape man had butted his head a little too hard against an immovable object long before he ever saw El Cap.
Shack

Big Wall climber
Reno NV
Jun 3, 2007 - 06:51pm PT
You sure his name wasn't Chongo?
Oli

Trad climber
Fruita, Colorado
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 4, 2007 - 05:50am PT
I don't get the feeling too many people cared about this last story about the man with the cape, probably because he was too outrageous and too far from a person with which we are able in a more human sort of way to relate. It's simply more intersting to hear about Pratt or one of our other heroes than some nut case.

I'll tell you another story, but I'm going to start a new thread so the new story isn't connected to the man with the black cape and so that we can kill this one now.
TwistedCrank

climber
a luxury Malibu rehabilitation treatment facility
Jun 4, 2007 - 10:17am PT
I liked the man with the black cape story. The NA headbutt was classic. I've met a few like him in the valley that live in my memories as nicknames. Anything about the valley that predates my tenure there (early 80s) I find fascinating, even if it's just Yosemite after dark.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Jun 4, 2007 - 10:34am PT
Well Oli you can start all the new threads that you want but now having been immortalized by Ouch The Man With The Black Cape will live on in the lore of the Taco and no doubt appear periodically and unexpectedly in these discussions.
He could become a stand in for a team member from some ancient climb where the ascensionists are hard to recall, or the explanation for the disappearance of some item.

"Oh yes. That was The Man With The Black Cape."



A legend is born...
Oli

Trad climber
Fruita, Colorado
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 4, 2007 - 02:20pm PT
Well maybe I was wrong. Maybe the guy in the cape is/was interesting. I keep thinking I should try that some time, lower my head and charge like a bull into a boulder. My luck, I would probably just die right there.
hobo_dan

Social climber
Minnesota
Jun 11, 2007 - 02:00pm PT
Pat that was a great story. I loved it.
murf
James

climber
A tent in the redwoods
Jun 11, 2007 - 02:05pm PT
funny stuff
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