The First Portaledge On El Cap-Who,Where And When Exactly?

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Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 7, 2009 - 11:19am PT
This bit of news in the July-August 1977 issue of Climbing got me thinking....



Who was the first person to sleep in a tensioned fabric, rectangular portaledge aloft on the Captain? I suppose a lawn chair would barely qualify....LOL

The Turnpike was put up by Bruce Hawkins, Ron Kauk, Dale Bard and Hugh Burton April of 77.

I am looking for specifics, if possible.
Walleye

climber
Inking the deal at Ralph Spoilsport Motors
Mar 7, 2009 - 11:26am PT
Dale Bard and Mike Graham on Son of Heart 1977???? I think I remember Mike telling me something about that. Paging Mr. Graham.
Levy

Big Wall climber
So Cal
Mar 7, 2009 - 11:45am PT
Didn't Jello use the "LURP tent" on a winter ascent of Half Dome in the early 1970's?

The LURP tent was a hanging predecessor of the porta-ledge, with an integrated fly.

I remember seeing pics of it in Chris Jones' Big Wall book from the 1970's.
Double D

climber
Mar 7, 2009 - 11:49am PT
I remember Bruce telling me a story of a fixed cot that they had to cut loose in the wind and I think it was on turnpike but it was not a portable one...like the picture of Billy Westbay in Yosemite climber. I think they were submarine cots.

Interesting question though. One thing I do know is that portaledges were probably the single most important innovation in pushing the boundries of big wall climbing. The difference in being fully rested and clear headed after several days on the wall verses operating in a sleep deprived haze was monumental in my opinion.

More Air

Big Wall climber
S.L.C.
Mar 7, 2009 - 11:53am PT
It was Greg Lowe & Robert Kiesel in 1972 who used their LURP tent on their winter ascent of Half Dome. Great read in the AAJ.
Chicken Skinner

Trad climber
Yosemite
Mar 7, 2009 - 12:06pm PT
Double D, Those submarine cots were easily accessible. They were mounted on the walls of every cabin in Housekeeping Camp.

Ken
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 7, 2009 - 12:42pm PT
The subledge in question is on the left in this Yosemite Climber page along with DD's classic!



The caption sets the mark.

When Billy Westbay and Doug Snively were beneath El Capitan starting the Zodiac, the New Jersey Turnpike first ascent party was topping out and jettisoning their gear to pick up later. Lying invitingly in the brush nearby was their Navy surplus cot that begged for a second trip up the cliff. The photo shows Westbay enjoying its comfort during a civilized bivouac. Since that day in 1977 flat, collapsible and extremely comfortable beds have been designed that guarantee a good night's sleep and protection from the weather.

Anyone earlier, I wonder?!?
Double D

climber
Mar 7, 2009 - 12:43pm PT
That makes sense Ken... I guess I should have hung out with less dirt bags and more working folk and I would have been one of privileged. I always wondered where those things came from. Someone BITD tries a lawn chair rigged with webbing but I can't remember who. As I recall it collapsed on them and didn't work out so well.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 7, 2009 - 01:59pm PT
Steve Bartlett (Crush) travelled up the Captain economy class BITD. He mentioned that fact to jog Werner's memory. "Remember me? I'm the crazy Brit that did the PO in a lawn chair!" Werner remembered him and laughed.
Scott Cole

Trad climber
Jackson, WY^
Mar 7, 2009 - 03:16pm PT
I remember watching Crush and team modifying their Chaise Lounge chairs in Mammoth before the PO. They were hanging out at Ricky Miller's outdoor shop and espousing the benefits of the Chaise Lounge. The ledge could be adjusted to function as a belay seat, as well as for sleeping. Mickey would be proud.

Scole
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Mar 7, 2009 - 06:34pm PT
Those portaledge photos from Yosemite Climber were the pictures I came back to again and again and again. It was the coolest thing. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine actually climbing those walls, and living in a ledge like those guys.
Loomis

climber
*_*
Mar 7, 2009 - 09:37pm PT
Mike Fogarty on an early Gramicci ledge. Knott El Cap.

Chicken Skinner

Trad climber
Yosemite
Mar 7, 2009 - 10:40pm PT
I found a couple pictures with parts of a Housekeeping cabin submarine bed ledge. The ledge is identical to the one Westbay is using. These photos are from December, 1977.



The cool thing about this ledge was you could toss it off and pick it up later from the base. It would flutter in random directions and you never knew where it would end up. The thing was indestructible.

Ken
BASE104

climber
An Oil Field
Mar 8, 2009 - 05:34am PT
Gramicci must have hopped to it, because his ledges were available by '82 when I scored one. It was like sleeping at home. You would have sweet dreams all night and then wake up. At which point you would kind of blink your eyes, look down and then look up, realizing where you are, and go "Awww sh#t."
graham

Social climber
Ventura, California
Mar 8, 2009 - 11:31am PT
I think Billy W. and Bruce H. made the idea a reality for the Captain with the Curry cots. The next version I saw was from a guy called “Big Wally” Steve Brewer? (Werner is that right) I watched him struggle putting his together in the parking lot with his telescoping poles getting stuck and thought there could be a better way.

In the fall of 1977 I arrived in the valley with a hand full of ledges of various sizes for a few friends. Dale B. (5’8”) and I (6’2”) took ours up the Son of Heart for a test run and never looked back to soft hammocks. I left the park that season with about 25 preorders for the next spring. I was still making different sizes for people then. That got to complicated to keep track of whos who so I switched to 6’2” standard. I liked making the special order ones for people though, kind of personalized it. I remember Mark Hudon ordering his. One of the first 25

By 82 they had become quite popular and by around 86 I had made just over 500 of them before retiring the idea. There have been some very nice ledges made since.
Wayno

Big Wall climber
Seattle, WA
Mar 8, 2009 - 12:01pm PT
When I did the Trip in 82 one of us had a hastily made ledge that was destroyed in heavy winds. I think my buddy had one good night in it. After that it was a couple or three nights in 3 butt-bags. A couple of years later we got smarter and built our own collapsible sturdier ones that worked real well for several trips. Oh the horrors of hammocks; you can never have too many spreader bars.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 8, 2009 - 02:07pm PT
When was this shot taken, Mike?

graham

Social climber
Ventura, California
Mar 8, 2009 - 02:24pm PT
April 1978
Sewellymon

climber
.....in a single wide......
Mar 8, 2009 - 02:38pm PT
isn't April known for spring showers??

chuckle
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 8, 2009 - 04:02pm PT
I went looking for a Lurp Tent and Shazzam! From Off Belay April 1974.






















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