bridwell stories


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bruce ostler

Trad climber
new york city, ny
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 8, 2005 - 09:23am PT

jim bridwell is activly putting together his autobiography, which i'm helping to faciliate.

to that end, i'm looking for jim bridwell stories that we might use in his book and/or article.

if anyone out there in climbing land has a bridwell story - and i don't know many climbers who don't - would you please post it on this forum? i'm looking for first or second hand accounts of his climbs, true stories, but also a "tall tale" or indeed big whoopers would also be appreciated. controversial issues are also welcome, legal or otherwise, and anything that is just plain funny would be especially appreciated. please take a moment to compose them them with care (we may want to use them in the publication) - paying attention to any and all details that you can reccolect - names, dates, places, ratings, type of rock, conditions etc. ANY FIRST HAND ACCOUNT OF HISTORIC CLIMBS ARE OF IMPORTANCE. i would also ask that you don't self censure yourself - in other words: just tell it like it is.

please leave your return e-mail so we can contact you if we intend to use your story in the publication. all stories used will be accredited, unless you request annonymity to protect the innocent and the sheep. bridwell will have approval over any story used.

many thanks in advance, if nothing else it could be an e entertaining forum.

bruce ostler


Apr 8, 2005 - 11:05am PT
Not many know that Bridwell was a bad ass skier too.

I have hundreds of fond stories of my good mentor Jim. But Iíll give one about skiing. We all go up to ski Phelipps chute in mammoth once. All the best guys show up. Bridwell decides heís going to drop in at the very top. Nobody makes that entrance back then. Now itís a vertical drop and very narrow there. Bridwell down mantels like the climber he is and hangs on just like a overhanging boulder problem then lets go. Drops in that baby and sends it in grand style. Everyone else turns around and goes the easy way.

Apr 8, 2005 - 12:27pm PT
That's one hell of a great story Dingus and funnier than sh-it. Now how come you ain't the writer for the book man.
Josh Higgins

Trad climber
San Diego
Apr 8, 2005 - 12:52pm PT
My friend told me the poodle/GP story. I don't remember the details, but I remember laughing my ass off.

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Apr 8, 2005 - 01:54pm PT
Jim Madsen, not the Bird, was the guy rumored to have booted Fifi off the Glacier Point Overlook. Then he (Madsen) threatened the cur's owner that she'd get the same ride lest she zipped her cakehole and backed the hell off.

Never happened . . .

Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Apr 8, 2005 - 02:11pm PT
Jim is well known for inventing new techniques and inventing new equipment. So sometime around 1971 or so, Jim decides that we should make our own shoes to fit into thin cracks. I don't think that we had EBs at the time, probably still just RDs and PAs. Anyway, Jim knew someone who managed or owned a boot and shoe repair place in the Bay Area, so he called up and off we drove out of the Valley to design and prototype new crack climbing shoes.

The idea was simplicity itself--the JB crack shoes. Make a thin mountain boot insole several sizes smaller than your foot. Stretch inner tube tire rubber over the last and glue it to the insole. Slit the front, poke holes in the inner tube rubber for laces and glue on a hard rubber smooth sole like an RD or PA. Oh, and make the toe come to an extreme point about 1 1/2 inches off the end of your feet--to stick into thin cracks.

After a few hours in the shoe repair place the guy working there took the rest of the day off to go fishing. We had the place to ourselves. We made three pairs--two for Jim and one for me.

It took about 20 minutes to get these suckers onto your feet and somehow located in the right spot and laced up. Then if you weighted the edges, they rolled and the twisted onto your feet, smoothly and effectively transferring 100% of your weight to your hands.

But the main idea was to make thin crack shoes, not edging shoes. And this this regard, the JB pointy toes slipped into the smallest of cracks, especially when inserted sideways. However, as the rubber deformed to the exact shape of the crack, it slowly slipped out, and smoothly and effectively transferred 100% of your weight to your hands.

Did I also mention that they hurt like hell?

Jim, an eternal optimist and never one to admit any touch of failure until he was damn good and ready, touting the benefits of these new shoes and how a few tweaks here and there would fix the problems. I agreed in part: work really hard on finger and and arm strength and leave the shoes on the ground.

Jim was often right about many things--a skill I am sure he learned by knowing first hand how some good ideas are just down right doomed to failure.

I think that I weaseled out of my fair share of the cost of this adventure by claiming that since I got one pair and he got two, I should only pay 1/3 of the expenses.

I am glad that Jim is getting around to getting his story down in writing before his friends make it up for him.

All the best, Roger

Apr 8, 2005 - 02:16pm PT

You got any pictures of those? They were so funny looking.

NOT Fresno
Apr 8, 2005 - 02:28pm PT
Great story, Roger.

And I believe the poodle story goes: Madsen boots the yapper, he and the Bird shake hands and walk down, leaving their gear, never to climb again. I think.

About the Bird, I was up at the OR show in SLC some years back lurking around with all the other suck-ups, sort of checking out gear but mostly checking out studs like Bachar and Croft and pre-Shishipangma Alex Lowe and what's-his-face the Marmot bitch who was supposed to have gotten up all the 8000ers like five years ago. The dude with the hot wife. I felt pretty special just being in the same building.

Anyway, I hooked up with the Bridwell groupies. I was like number thirty or forty, barely in earshot. This was around the time of his Bear's Tooth or Moose's Tooth route. Some Tooth. So he looked healthy and alive even though he was on the tail end of like fifty years of climbing. (This was also the OR show where Takeda decked during the Esprit rope demonstration and got wheeled out in a chair, giving everybody high-fives, if that rings a bell. Another story, though.)

Bridwell was holding forth on a number of topics in bipolar Bird style, super-psyched about something for a while, then getting all nasty about something else. Talked about his mega-secret belay/rappel device, which he had in his pocket to show vendors but refused to produce. Talked about some death route he'd scoped on Nuptse or somewhere. Bitched about the desecration of (insert name of Bridwell FA) and how climbing (said wall route) now didn't mean sh#t. And so on.

This led--as Bridwell hit his stride--to some incriminations on which climbers, having once been cool and hard, had sold out and were pimping for Company X. Yes, the Bird named names.

"I'm the only man left. I just got back from an FA in Alaska and I got such-and-such planned next week. I don't even have gas money to get home. The only real man left."


Mountain climber
Antelope Valley
Apr 8, 2005 - 02:39pm PT
I worked in the old main lodge building at Mammoth in the mid-seventies, and there were a few impossible looking interior wall routes that he was reputed to have done first ascents on in the high-ceilinged cafeteria dining hall. Never witnessed one of the climbs myself though.
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Apr 8, 2005 - 02:47pm PT
Hey Warner,

I took no pictures and I had very nearly blocked it from my mind. I see that some women's shoes that have those same extemely long, pointy toes, which is what made me think of the JBs when I was visiting my very stylish daughter over the weekend.

I never told her that I had a pair just like when I was her age--might take too long to explain and, ourside of this thread, it might be impossible.

Did you ever try them--the shoes, not the hanging on your fingers?


Apr 8, 2005 - 03:09pm PT
No Roger I never tried them.

Festus if anything those were by Dale Bard. The gondola myster used to come in the mornings and wonder what all that white stuff was on the walls and railings, ha ha.
can't say

Social climber
Pasadena CA
Apr 8, 2005 - 03:20pm PT
I lived one street over from Jim, Kim Schmitz and Krazy Karl (not the Josh one) in Squaw Valley in the late 70s. Man what a crew that was, Karl had successfully been 86ed out of every bar in Tahoe, while Schmitz was trying to keep his car on the road and failing at it, about once a year...and Jim, well he was their ring master...those days ain't ever coming back

Trad climber
Mountain View, CA
Apr 8, 2005 - 06:17pm PT
Bridwell already has a biography:

Climbing Adventures, Jim Bridwell with Keith Peall, 1992, ICS Books Inc.

Of course nothing in there about the antics in Italy while filming Cliffhanger or the 100% off sale at the Yosemite Mountain Shop when it burned down in the mid 70's.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Apr 8, 2005 - 06:51pm PT
I don't suppose there is any chance in making sure a very large number of his photos, and photos of him by others, would appear....

that was a real dissapoinmnet with "Climbing Adventures", which did get through a number of stories... the book is out of print but is still available with a little work, and no picture save the cover
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Apr 9, 2005 - 12:33am PT
The Birdman did about 90 firsts in the Valley. There is a story of every one. Come on guys, cough em up.
bruce ostler

Trad climber
new york city, ny
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 10, 2005 - 09:32am PT
yes, please, everyone, cough em up. roger is right...

if we don't keep the stories alive, they will die with us... and we're talkin' history here.
bruce ostler

Trad climber
new york city, ny
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 10, 2005 - 09:38am PT
ed makes a good point about photos. we are looking for any photos of bridwell that have any kind of historic significance. if any one has or knows people who have any photos that can be dated, and linked to a historic or known climb, have other known and identifiable climbers in the pictures, famous, funny ones, if there is an existing photo of bridwell before he got wrinkles, etc.

please contact me by e

many thanks.

bruce ostler

Social climber
The Deli
Apr 10, 2005 - 01:17pm PT
Hey Klaus, how 'bout your "Captain Grandma" story???

And how about the story of the "GEEK"? Anyone?

Bridwell slept in my sister's bed one night.................................. (but she wasn't home...).


Apr 10, 2005 - 01:42pm PT
Loco ono and the Geeky nerfs. You want to hear that one?
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Apr 10, 2005 - 02:30pm PT
Bruce, I have a good picture of Jim, ca 1973, lined but not wrinkled. I will e-mail it to you. Also, I will see if there is anything else worth sharing in my dusty vault.

I encourage everyone to lie and make up outlandish stories. We have to add some color to Jim's dull experiences and repetitive firsts in just about every category just to help the guy out, don't you think?

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