RIP Bob Kamps?


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Dingus Milktoast

Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 4, 2005 - 01:14am PT
Unconfirmed, but I read a post to that Bob Kamps died of a heart attack while climbing Wed night. RIP Bob. Condolences to family and his many friends.



Trad climber
Nor Cal
Mar 4, 2005 - 01:18am PT
Just read it too. I hope it is not true but if it is go out and climb one of his routes. One good way way to remember him as a person and a climber. RIP

Social climber
N. California
Mar 4, 2005 - 01:27am PT

taken from

Mar 4, 2005 - 01:31am PT

His last breath was a climbing consciousness. He probably will reappear soon as some hotshot climbing kid 10 – 12 years down the line. He will never die only his body has ceased. His soul will go on to his next life.

No disrespect meant and heartfelt condolences to those whom loved him.

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Mar 4, 2005 - 09:18am PT
Bob Kamps died suddenly Wednesday at the age of 73. A number of the old-timers on this site must have known and climbed with him. Kamps and I climbed a bit in Tuolomne, a bit in the Gunks, and for years and years in August in the Needles in South Dakota.

He was one of the unsung greats of his generation. It was his misfortune to excel at steep face climbing at a time when the climbing world viewed big walls and off-widths as the ultimate achievements, and he was never accorded his rightful place in the climbing pantheon of Robbins Pratt, Kor, Chouinard, and Harding.

Kamps' most noteworthy achievements occured in the iron age before nuts. His ascents in Tuolomne, onsight and ground up---armed with a few pins and a bolt kit and shod in footwear that nowadays would be considered as substandard for approach shoes---are classics, and I'm sure there are folks on this site who can attest far better than I to the quality of the routes and the boldness of heading up them, not knowing where or whether one would be able to stop and drill. Although it was not really his main interest, Kamps did do a bit of big wall climbing, as was obligatory for any serious American climber in the sixties. Along with Dave Rearick, he made the first ascent of the Diamond on Long's Peak. This ascent was something of a coup at the time, since the pair from California snatched what at the time was the biggest prize in Colorado out from under the noses of the Colorado climbing community.

Kamps came to climbing relatively late in life, especially by current standards. I think he was nearly thirty when he started, attracted to the mountains as an employee at Yellowstone National Park. He made up for the late start by longevity, consistently climbing at or above the 5.10 level for forty years. His climbing style might best be characterized as playful, cunning, and crafty. He was not a graceful climber, with small feet and an extreme turnout, he often edged way back on the balls of his feet rather than on the big toe, bringing his body unstylishly close to the rock. His partners learned the hard way that when he looked just a bit awkward, they were in for a major struggle, and many a leader has arrived at one of his bolts and wondered how to let go to clip in, much less achieve a stable no-handed stance and drill.

Bob was a sixth-grade teacher for a good part of his life, but he also had a passion for collecting what he called "junk." His junk jones took various forms, all of them involving some type of adventure. He collected barbed wire, telephone line insulators, and old bottles. The insulator collecting involved climbing poles and trees of varying degrees of slipperiness and replacing the "valuable" insulator with a modern and uninteresting one he carried for the purpose of switching. His passion for old bottles took him on various cross-country tours of old dumps and junkyards, which he enthusiastically dug up in the search for rare specimens. A beautiful and valuable display of old bottles on shelves on a picture window in his Los Angeles home was destroyed in a few minutes during one of Southern California's earthquakes. After retiring from teaching, he found he could make an excellent living bidding sight unseen on the contents of abandoned storage units, a practice that combined his love for junk with his delight in gambling with the unknown.

Bob is survived by his wife Bonnie. Together, they modeled the steadfast constancy, tolerance, and devotion of a classic midwestern American Gothic union, a kind of marriage that survives today primarily as a mythical icon from a time when Americans somehow knew and agreed on the meaning of values.

One of the elders of the twentieth century tribe has passed on. May he rest in peace.


Cardiff by the sea
Mar 4, 2005 - 11:04am PT
R.I.P. Bob! Or as Werner believes maybe you will never rest and keep cranking in some other life form. If this is true, I am sure we will see some hot shot kid come from the Boulderdash climbing studio to set new standards. I can see it now " hey is that little Bobby over there? He just flashed that 5.15."

Bob, you truly are a Ledgend in our tribe of climbers! Thank you for that, you will be missed by many.

Flagstaff, AZ
Mar 4, 2005 - 11:12am PT
It was an honor to meet Bob at Stoney Point. You could feel his positive force on climbing and the climbers around.

RGold - thanks for that tribute. Though it was a of sad way to enjoy my morning cup it's a wonderful piece of writing.

You'll be missed, Bob.

Big Wall climber
Phoenix, AZ
Mar 4, 2005 - 11:15am PT
Excellent eulogy, Richard. Condolences to Bob's friends and family. It sounds like he led a very fulfilling life.


NOT Fresno
Mar 4, 2005 - 11:27am PT

Just last week my buddy was describing how badly he had his ass handed to him on Mr. Kamps in TM. Seems a good tribute in a convoluted way, a tribute within a tribute.

Mar 4, 2005 - 11:58am PT
One incredible inspiration and legacy. Never met him, but have felt his impact on climbing (as in shaking in my boots). Thanks for it all, BK. Condolence to his family and to all who knew him.

looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Latitute 33
Mar 4, 2005 - 12:08pm PT
Bob Kamps was truly one of the greats of U.S. rock climbing. Though Bob may have not garnered the attention given to the Hardings, Robbins and others, his impact on our sport is no less significant. I don't think Bob ever sought the limelight or trumpeted his own successes. Always friendly and generous with his time, he climbed actively and at a high standard til the end. His spirit may live on, but his presence will be sorely missed.

Trad climber
Mar 4, 2005 - 12:12pm PT
I grew up climbing with Bob. He was always 20 years older than me and will continue to be an inspiration for my next 20 years. He set a high standard of climbing that I can only hope to continue to emulate. He will be badly missed at Stoney Point, Tuolumne and everywhere else he climbed. It is too soon to lose Bob, though if you have to go he did it the best way possible. I am a very sad panda today.

Trad climber
near Fresno, CA
Mar 4, 2005 - 12:47pm PT

Trad climber
Slippery Rock, PA
Mar 4, 2005 - 01:27pm PT
I sold Bob a campsite in Tuolumne two or three years ago. He looked vaguely familiar, then he handed me his credit card and it said "Robert Kamps". I think I said something like "You shouldn't have to pay to camp here anymore...."

A very friendly gentleman, who put up some incredibly bold routes in his day.... He'll be missed.

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Mar 4, 2005 - 02:01pm PT
Kamps, dead? It doesn't seem possible. I'm in shock.

Tony Puppo

Mar 4, 2005 - 03:15pm PT
Always the consumate gentleman, he will be missed.

Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Mar 4, 2005 - 03:49pm PT
I have a superstition that for a rare few, the manner of your death is a testament to your life. I have a lot of respect for those codgers who drop dead on the golf course instead of wasting away with tubes in their nose.

But to have a heart attack rockclimbing? That is so proud!

My condolences to all those who will miss Bob. It's hard to let go of fine people.

But to Bob himself...Way to go brother. Enjoy the next adventure


Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Mar 4, 2005 - 04:53pm PT
Let us all remember a great member of the climbing community. His legacy is out there for us all to celebrate.

Mar 4, 2005 - 06:24pm PT
Bob was a great guy. I learned alot from him and will miss him. :(

Mountain climber
Templeton, CA
Mar 4, 2005 - 06:58pm PT
He will be missed greatly...Bob and my dad are the same age and were from the same era. Really hit me hard although I have never met him in person. The following is from John Gill's website:

I met Bob in the late 1950s in Grand Teton Park. He already had a formidable reputation as one of the best Yosemite climbers, and was equally adept at extremely sensitive face climbing and difficult aid work. And he took bouldering seriously. Over the years, Bob and I bouldered and climbed a bit together in the Tetons and Needles (SD), and I enjoyed the company of he and his wife, Bonnie.

The following photo was taken by John in the Needles of SD in 1973

After a stint in the USAF in the 1950s Bob got a degree in elementary ed (as did Bonnie) and they both started teaching in the LA public school system. A few years later Bob decided that teaching didn't appeal all that much, and quit his job to become an entrepreneur and private businessman. And he continued to climb, and climb, and climb . . . I met him in April of 2003 near Phoenix where he had just finished a 5.10a sport climb. This guy is ageless perfection, and I have enormous respect for him, both as a climber and a person. He asked about the kind of soloing I do, and said "yes, I could do that". (I suspect he could do much more!)

Of the FA of the Mace (5.9+) in Arizona in 1957, Pat Ament (in Wizards of Rock ) says "Able to sneak past a crux like a cat, the wily Kamps was becoming known as one of the most remarkable climbers in America". And in 1960, Bob and Tom Frost climbed the Blank , probably the first 5.10 in California. But his talents went far beyond short rock climbs: for years climbers had speculated about the rigors of the Diamond on the east face of longs Peak in RMNP, and in August of 1960 Bob and Dave Rearick succeeded in climbing the monstrous thousand foot cliff at 14,000 feet. They used aid in places and free climbed elsewhere, and they gained widespread rocognition of their feat. Time Magazine (inaccurately) reported Dave saying "We burned our bridges behind us!" The pair were given a celebratory parade through Estes Park.

Kamps continued to set standards during the 1960s, with climbs like the Inverted Staircase (5.10b) in Tuolumne Meadows – Ament says: "With his renown footwork, edging in Cortina boots, Kamps made impossible-looking smooth slabs go somewhere – and, as always, in impeccable style. He was at the leading edge of free climbing in Yosemite." (I climbed in Cortinas as well, but never felt as secure on edges as Bob did !). In 1967, Kamps, with Mark Powell, led the first free ascent of Chingadera (5.11), at Tahquitz. During this climb, Bob placed a bolt on lead (the old fashioned way – muscle and hammer) that is one of the most spectacular bolt placements ever . Climbers today have trouble just clipping in to it, and it's abundantly clear that Kamps was at the very leading edge of delicate face climbing at the time.

This photo of Bob (courtesy B. Kamps) was taken at the end of March, 2003 as he led a climb in Joshua Tree at the age of 71.

Bob and Bonnie stopped by to spend the night a few years ago – when he was still a youth in his mid 60s – and he was busy leading 5.11 sport climbs. We compared notes about geriatric training techniques and reminisced about old times. The next morning he was off to Shelf Road to enjoy its strenuous verticality.

As for bouldering, Bob dominated the scene at Stoney Point year, after year, after year. In the Tetons, we combed over the Jenny Lake Boulders and went off into the bush looking for no-hands problems, at which Bob excelled. In the Needles, he and I spent hours at the Sylvan Lake Boulder and other spots hidden among the towering spires. We had different sized bodies and different approaches to our craft, so that Bob would prevail on some problems while I prevailed on others. It was great fun, and a privilege for me merely to be around this great American icon!

Here is Bob at Penny Ante boulder near Pueblo in 1978

Here is a snippet from John's short biography about my dad on

"He and Bob Kamps present strong images of men in their early 70s who have maintained their physical abilities to the extent that they simply can't be compared to others in their age group. Both Jim and Bob are 2nd generation American rock climbers – for they both learned their craft from those legendary first generation gurus Don Wilson and Chuck Wilts, as did Royal Robbins in the very early 1950s."

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