Hot Henry changed climbing!


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bob d'antonio

Trad climber
Taos, NM
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 16, 2007 - 07:38pm PT
Amazing what he did, where he did it and how he did it.

One of the best free climbers ever..period!

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
Sep 16, 2007 - 07:42pm PT

Social climber
The West
Sep 16, 2007 - 07:47pm PT
He changed my world! made me realize that offwidth was something I wanted to pursue (also pointed me toward freesoloing, the jury is still out on that one ....) I gather that some of his other changes were less positive.
bob d'antonio

Trad climber
Taos, NM
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 16, 2007 - 08:08pm PT
Who remembers his solo of the Strand on American Sportsman.

He told me it was the closest he came to buying it.
the museum

Trad climber
Rapid City, SD
Sep 16, 2007 - 08:09pm PT
One of the closest fins in the picture is where the Henry Barber Route is located in the South Seas. The guide book says "follow the exposed corner between Duckbill and Cornflake. The rib takes you to the top and a fall takes you to the emergency room".

Photo taken today September 16, 2007. The big crag in the back is Mount Rushmore.


Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
Sep 16, 2007 - 09:02pm PT
" Who remembers his solo of the Strand on American Sportsman. "

never heard about that one, what's the story?

Sep 16, 2007 - 09:16pm PT
not much of a story to it. Good TV though. Did you get a copy of the dogfather dvd?

Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Sep 17, 2007 - 11:20am PT
What kinda blew me away, was, watching him in the footage from climbing in England, and free soloing that route and seeing how high he could place his foot on a hold. Was almost like his feet were extra hands, and, I'll have to watch it again, but, seemed like he could high step up around face level, on vertical rock. Amazing!

He was hilarious in Uncommon Ground. "Joe who"?

-Brian in SLC

Trad climber
Placerville, California
Sep 17, 2007 - 11:46am PT
solo of the strand....
barber free soloed a sea-side route in the .10 range on camera for a tee-vee show. he states that his head wasn't there but he was pushed on by the pressure of the cameras rolling. i believe that he slipped at one point and barely scummed redemption. i'm recalling it from his biography by .... skip lee?

Trad climber
Fruita, Colorado
Sep 17, 2007 - 04:58pm PT
I happened to catch that film, TV presentation, of Henry soloing in England. I believe in was on Wide World of Sports. That remains one of the best little films on the planet, for its really good spirit. So many films have a lot of production but lack something at the core. That film had all the beautiful essence -- in part because Henry is and was the real thing. No one could see him climb and not feel as though they were watching one of the genuinely great artists of all time. Henry has been my longtime friend, and I don't think there was a better climber on the planet, all things considered, when he was at the peak of his form. Sure, there were stronger people (I might have been a better boulderer, when I was in shape, or of course Gill), and of course there were phenomenal talents, such as Ron Kauk and John Bachar. But Ron and John climbed in Yosemite all the time. When you climb and train all the time you get good. If you also have talent, you become great. Henry didn't train like that and would only visit the Valley but put up (in flawless style) such routes as Butterballs or the Fish, or solo Sentinel in two and half hours... I was his belayer one day when he made a sight-lead of Pratt's Twilight Zone. Henry went up without a whimper. Absolute control and mastery. Henry and I did a lot of climbing around Boulder. He led Briggs' "Death and Transfiguration" (5.12) with only three or four points of protection and didn't stop to take even a moment's rest. It looked like a 5.4 climb, in Henry's hands. It was almost a miracle I could follow that, with a nice top rope.

I am one of the few people with whom Henry has shared some of the inside story of certain controversial events that seem to have cast him into a strange light on occasion in the past. He wasn't willing to defend himself against most of what was being said against him way back when, I presume because he felt it would make him look "defensive" and might only strengthen some of the falsehoods. He was never a perfect human being, anymore than any one of us is, but I know there were definitely two sides to the stories.

I only want to remember his greatness of character, which remain undiminished in my mind. I don't know of anyone with more of a sense of style, along with ability, in climbing.

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
Sep 17, 2007 - 05:24pm PT
never met him, seen him around, I was always in awe.

Trad climber
Moscow, Idaho
Sep 17, 2007 - 05:30pm PT
Anyone read "On Edge: The Life and Climbs of Henry Barber"? I highly recommend it.

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Sep 17, 2007 - 05:47pm PT
The amazing thing about HB was he was never athletic but did the hardest climbs of the day. He might have had one of the greatest heads in the history of climbing. And man was that guy driven. I only got to climb with him a few times, unfortunately.

Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Sep 17, 2007 - 06:04pm PT
It's a testament to his influence and earned respect when a climber like Patrick Edlinger, after flashing a comp route at that really early Snowbird comp (the one Kauk took a huge whipper off of), lowers off and flashes Henry a thumbs up and says "for you."

Trad climber
Fruita, Colorado
Sep 17, 2007 - 06:37pm PT
I know what you're saying John, and I agree somewhat, although athleticism has many faces. There is the football, run, jump, hit hard kind. There is the weight lifter kind. And there are the endurance, triathlete, marathon kind. And there is the gymnastic kind. Henry's athleticism was, as you accurately state, partly the effect of his great mind. But it also was physical. He has/had tremendous balance. He had tremendous coordination and kinesthetic awareness, all elements of the true athlete. He had a kind of martial arts mentality (I'm not speaking about all the phony mainstream martial arts, but the real stuff of hard work, awakening, and mind over matter). He had focus and creativity. He had remarkable footwork and finger strength and unbelievable technique. He could solve a problem at a glance. He wasn't some paragon of pure brute, animal strength. But he did have plenty of strength. To go up and solo sentinel in two and a half hours is a bit of a cardiovascular workout, I would think. I always thought of myself as an athlete, being a wrestler and sprinter in high school and a university gymnast, and then all the years of karate, but I pretty much was tired after doing Sentinel in 5 hours, with Pratt. I don't think Henry gym-trained even half as much as any other serious climber I know, but he developed his strength largely at climbing itself, the way Kor, Sacherer, and Kamps did. And that is a form of training. So, while not really disagreeing with you, my friend, in spirit, I would have to say Henry was indeed quite an athlete in his special ways.

Sep 17, 2007 - 08:38pm PT
As usual I have not read any of the literature out there so I may be repeating something already written somewhere. If so my apologies.

My acquaintanceship with Henry came before the time when he became really well known. While he was supposed to be going to school in Philly he would come up to the Gunks on weekends full of stories about what he had learned by watching the apes in the zoo all that week. This went on for quite some time and he probably could have added very substantially to our knowledge of the body mechanics of the apes had he gotten a grant to do the study. As it was I suspect his findings were never published. Without being critical in any way I was sad he chose the career he did. Wharton would have given him an excellent start in the business world. With his intelligence and energy I thought at the time his career could have extended up to and gone beyond things like running Exxon Mobil. Had he been in that company things might have turned out much better for us.

I have a few stories but the one I think best captures the scene in the 70’s involved Stewart’s Ice Cream down in New Paltz. The story comes in two parts, the first setting the scene for the second. We usually had dinner at Slime’s, a restaurant that forty years previous had been called Emile’s..We, of course called it Slime’s. On this particular occasion I got to Stewart’s before everyone else. While waiting there in the parking lot I saw two locals, who would today be called homies, both sitting their cars( one behind the other )– with both engines running. Abruptly the car in the rear revved to perhaps 10,000 rpm and moved forward 20 feet with a great cloud of smoke, coming to rest passenger window next to driver’s window. Other than the engines which continued to run, I saw no evidence of a conversation. Then just as abruptly, and with comparable smoke their original positions were reassumed – both engines still running. I should have taken this as a clue to make my exit.

Shortly thereafter everyone else rolled in. In addition to Henry, Bragg, Mike Freeman, and Wunsch there was another person who will remain nameless but I will here call Ghand. It was indeed an unusual day and I could see the cashier’s face assuming a stern look as our festivities worked their way to a climax. Now Ghand had tried the gallon bottle of strawberry topping and had found it was about one full week rancid. Keeping this information close he decided to challenge Henry for the alpha dog slot then and there. In a loud voice he challenged Henry to mix the chocolate marsh mellow topping with the strawberry topping for a competition. The fat was in the fire. Never one to delay Henry grabbed both gallon bottles and raised them high overhead with those godawful long arms so everyone in the restaurant could see what was about to pour out of the containers. Thereupon he fired both triggers and the strawberry poured into the left( his left) side of his open mouth and the chocolate goo into the right. Had I been better read it would have been my job to chant, “We don’t need no stinkin ice cream.” Ghand was a true gentleman and signaled resolution by firing his straw wrapper over Henry’s head, as did the rest of us. Like one o’them military ceremonies with the swords.

Believe it or not, thereafter we were still permitted inside Stewart’s.

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Sep 17, 2007 - 08:44pm PT
posted elsewhere... but Henry was working for Asolo shoes and knew his product... he took the time with a tard noob like me back then to know how to fit a shoe to a foot, and not a foot to a shoe. still sound insight.

bob d'antonio

Trad climber
Taos, NM
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 17, 2007 - 08:55pm PT
The only thing harder than following Henry up a climb was trying to keep up with him partying.

John...I will call Ghand...Greg Hand. Sound right??

right here, right now
Sep 17, 2007 - 09:36pm PT
Although the Strand solo film featuring Henry has been attributed to American Sportsmen, I'm with Ollie in that I remember it as an offering during Wide World of Sports. Perhaps American sportsmen followed the WWS. At any rate, I was just getting into climbing and knew for sure that was the real thing.

Henry is one of my heroes, and although I never climbed with him, boy did we party! After dinner and a few bottles of wine, he amazed those few of us at the dinner table with a most excellent parlor trick, which in itself was fitting to his career as a gutsy climber, because it contained some of those traits which we esteem in Hot Henry: boldness, commitment, and outlandish behavior.

I watched very carefully as he ate half a wine glass, chewing, shrewdly looking us in the eye throughout. I don't know how he accomplished, what must be some slight of hand, or tongue, but it sure looked real to me. He said it's all about commitment. (Of course). Henry said once you start with what you've chewed off, you gotta finish it! He said the trick is to chew it until the shards of glass return to a state of sand.

Then the others went to bed, and between the two of us, Henry and I polished about two thirds of a bottle of fine Armagnac. We talked about all kinds of great stuff; I remember not a bit of the rambling conversation, but hey, I partied with Hot Henry.

Ice climber
Sep 17, 2007 - 10:29pm PT
Hey, you guys are forgetting to mention the great sense of STYLE that Hot Henry brought to the climbing scene here. Those white pants. Plaid and rugby shirts. No one, with the exception of Royal Robbins, ever wore a white flat cap better than HH!

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