"Up rope I'm not moving!" First ascent of Basketcase


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Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 2, 2009 - 06:55pm PT
When I first showed up in the Valley in 1970 the Spring monsoon was going full bore. Generator Crack had just been discovered and being one of the few overhanging pieces of rock in the Valley, it was the perfect place to get some exercise. My first time there I couldn't get up the damn thing, but the monsoon persisted and we soon began making daily pilgrimages. The days rolled on wet and cold and Generator Crack was tamed. First right side, then left side in followed by right side in solo and on and on. Eventually I got to where I was soloing it with running shoes on. Finally the monsoon ended and damn- I could go wide.
A couple of years later I drove into Camp 4 and bumped into TM Herbert. TM immediately told about his secret project. "Donini, I've discovered one of the last good lines out there. I've been looking at it with my birding binoculars, let's do it." TM was pretty guarded about where this climb was, he told me to meet him the next day and we would hike up and spend the night and do the climb the next day. "Don't worry" he said, "I really checked it out, I'll bring the gear, I know just what we need." FAMOUS LAST WORDS

The next day we started up the endless switchbacks leading up out of Mirror Lake. Eight long, hot, dusty miles later we came across a trail sign that said: Porcupine Flats 2 miles. TM looked at the sign, his jaw dropped, and he sprawled on the trail and began beating the ground with his fists. We now new a better way to the climb.

TM"s plan was to bivouac above a steep, heavily wooded gully that led to the base of the climb. Good idea....except for the mosquitos. TM immediately fell asleep seemly impervious to the hovering swarms of mosquitos. Not me, I spent the entire night slapping the damn things, and I nearly near took out my frustration on a blissfully sleeping TM with the piton hammer that lay nearby.

TM woke up in good humor and led us down the brush choked gully to the climb. I'll never forget the look on TM's face when he looked up at the line, his jaw dropped as he sheepishly emptied his pack of the hardwear he had picked. Out dropped knife blades, lost arrows, even a few rurps and precious few nuts hand sized or larger. This was way before Friends became available. Unfortunately, the impressive crack system that rose above us had a lot of very difficult looking wide sections. TM apologized for his mistake as I was suggesting he get new binoculars and that he get his eyes tested. Having endured a hot, dusty hike and a nearly sleepless night, I was in no mood to bail without giving it a try.

TM wasn't comfortable with wide cracks so the sharp end fell to me. Things went okay until the crux pitch. There were some interesting run outs and a lot of back cleaning of the few pieces that we had that worked. As I recall the crux pitch was steep and it steepened even more near the top. I ended up doing a lot of sketchy back cleaning and strenuous climbing up and down to get the pieces I needed. I never lowered off of a piece because I didn't think it was fair and also, frankly, I didn't completely trust some of my gear to hold body weight. Finally wasted by my efforts, I gave in, did a single point of aid and finished the pitch. What followed gave me the line that as a medicare climber I now use as my only climbing command. TM, eyes wide, reluctantly started up the pitch. A fierce struggle ensued followed by a weak "up rope" from TM. "What was that" , I said, and a more forceful "up rope" floated up from below. I pulled the rope in tight, another "up rope." I pulled the rope tighter, "up rope" again, louder a little more desperate. "TM, I'm pulling the rope as tight as I can." The final plaintive plea from TM, "up rope, I'm not moving."

TM recovered nicely and led a steep, more fingery crack up higher. Back in Camp 4 I ran into Bridwell and Klemmons and made the tactical mistake of telling them about the easier approach from Porcupine Flats and also what gear was needed...duh! The rest is history.

Social climber
Apr 2, 2009 - 07:00pm PT
Russ Walling

Social climber
Upper Fupa, North Dakota
Apr 2, 2009 - 07:04pm PT
A++ Nice!

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Apr 2, 2009 - 07:08pm PT
Thanks, Jim!

More, MORE, MORE the crowd shouts!!!!!

(like how's about Torre Egger!

Trad climber
Apr 2, 2009 - 07:09pm PT

miles of needless hiking to a mosquito bivouac followed by poorly protected wide.

the sport climbers are giving thanks right now that they missed out on the golden age.


Trad climber
Apr 2, 2009 - 07:15pm PT
^^ ha! awesome. thanks for sharing.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Apr 2, 2009 - 07:19pm PT
Bravo! Peter Haan's fine account of the second free ascent (third overall?) is at http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.html?topic_id=229851
Lynne Leichtfuss

Social climber
valley center, ca
Apr 2, 2009 - 07:22pm PT
Great story, I can only imagine :D Thanks for the share.

Apr 2, 2009 - 07:25pm PT
Many thanks.

Apr 2, 2009 - 07:28pm PT
Good story, Jim! Hope's there's much more to follow.

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Apr 2, 2009 - 07:30pm PT
Like a puppy dog I piddle on the floor of my office in excitement.

/my tongue wagging

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 2, 2009 - 07:46pm PT
> "Don't worry" he said, "I really checked it out, I'll bring the gear, I know just what we need." FAMOUS LAST WORDS

So true!! :-) I have been there before.
Something about the drawbacks of secrecy.

I've blundered in similar ways on new route attempts. I'll see a potential route when climbing nearby, but not go back to check it out for a couple of years. By then, I usually have forgotten about what was wrong with the climb, just remembering the positives. In the meantime, I've dragged a partner out to the middle of nowhere, usually to find something not so worthwhile.... Fortunately you guys did find a good route.

P.S. Generator Crack was first climbed prior to 1963. Source: Peter Haan:
So perhaps it was "re"discovered in 1970.

Trad climber
One Step Beyond!
Apr 2, 2009 - 07:53pm PT
Great story, Jim!

Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Apr 2, 2009 - 07:53pm PT
Yeah. Thanks Jim for posting on Basket Case. Good story and, I hear, a great climb.

I razzed TM about laybacking: "the technique of no technique," after Basket Case. It is the only time, TM looked threatening. Climbing with TM was so much fun.

Great name, by the way.

More stories please. The rest of us are about plum out. Resorting to bumping. Unsightly and potentially dangerous at our age.

Best, Roger

Trad climber
Apr 2, 2009 - 10:54pm PT
ROTFLMAO. Sweet story.

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Apr 2, 2009 - 11:16pm PT
Great story telling, Jim
I seem to remember you being naturally good at all sorts of crack climbing, wide and otherwise.

Social climber
wuz real!
Apr 2, 2009 - 11:20pm PT
Great tale, thank you, very much, Jim

Mountain climber
Monrovia, CA
Apr 2, 2009 - 11:26pm PT
Yeah, nice!
So what was sticking out of the glacier below Torre Egger?

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Apr 2, 2009 - 11:32pm PT
Short but sweet. What a great tale!!
Thanks Jim

Having been in a few valley epics myself, I can just see it going down....that was great.

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Apr 2, 2009 - 11:46pm PT
Jim: I marveled at your ability to pull that dangling, gear-dropping, over-weight Polish climber up the crux over-hang on the Snaz in the Tetons in 1982! (As Kevin & I cowered below).

Guiding must have built those muscle groups up after Yosemite.

Good to see more stories from you! Fritz (Ray Brooks)
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