The history of New Dimensions?


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Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 10, 2009 - 03:37pm PT
New Dimensions
FA Jim Bridwell and Mark Klemens 5/70
FFA Barry Bates and Steve Wunsch 1972
I climbed this route several times and think this is one of the best routes I climbed in the Valley.
Last time - I was imaging how bold and determined was first assent party in early seventeens . Since Pitch 3 and 4 hidden from the view you have no ideas what you going to meet after pitch 2. And you can see the rest of the route only after turning small bulge at the beginning of P3 - and what you see at this point -is striking line.
As from the name of this route - it seams that it was first route which change YDS from Decimal to open ended. Was it first 5.11 route?
And what is the story of nearby "Klemens Escape" (FA Jim Bridwell and Mark Klemens 5/70) - was it bypass to avoid last two hard pitches same year Bridwell and Klemens climbed ND?
It should be very interesting history of this first assents and first free assent,- would you share?
BTW, One of the member of FFA party was recently welcomed to ST

Edit: thanks ihateplastic- I edited my typos

Trad climber
Lake Oswego, Oregon
Apr 10, 2009 - 03:44pm PT
I just sent a nag message to Barry... hopefully he will chime in.

Tiny correction: Mark Klemens

EDIT: Looks like the correction has now been made.

Gym climber
above the play park
Apr 10, 2009 - 03:46pm PT
The purity of the Decimal System was violated by 5.10- it is, after all, harder than 5.1.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 10, 2009 - 03:51pm PT

We discussed what routes might have been the first 5.11 in Yosemite, back in 1999 on rec.climbing. Part of it discussed New Dimensions:

>Scott Presho wrote:
>>According to Gary Arce in Defying Gravity: High Adventure on
>>Yosemite's Walls New Dimensions (5.11) on Arch Rock
>>Bridwell and Klemens 1970
> This sounds close, but not quite right. In the Brave
>New World article, Bridwell discusses a 1971/72 ascent of New D,
>and says it was "originally done free by Barry Bates and
>Steve Wunsch". Bridwell also mentions that the FA was
>done by Klemens (perhaps with Bridwell), but the implication
>is that they used some aid originally.
After casual research (looking in various guidebooks),
maybe* Arce is right. The 1971 Roper guide has the 5/1970 version
of New Dimensions (Klemens and Bridwell) as 5.11 A1. And the
current guides show the FFA (5.11a) by Bates and Wunsch in 1972.
Roper's 1971 description is strange. The first pitch is
"A short, very difficult pitch" (actually I agree it's tough,
although given a semi-moderate 5.10b in the current guide).
This just echoes what Peter already posted. Roper's description
also indicates it might have been considered the 5.11 pitch.
[postscript/2001: Dave Altman said that this first pitch was
originally rated 5.11, but Bridwell decided to downrate it to 5.10
after Bev Johnson followed it with no falls!]
The final pitch (now 5.11a) was given in 1971 "The 4th pitch
continues straight up to a fixed pin where a pendulum right leads to
easier climbing." This seems weird. The pitch leads continuously
upwards, straight to the top. It's hard, and the last few moves
are tougher than those below, but I think they could be aided.
So it seems weird that Klemens and Bridwell pendulumed.
Maybe they hadn't fully cleaned it yet?
[postscript: it was clean; they just got defeated, one move
from the top, partly due to poor protection. They swung
10' over to "Slyline/The Voyage".]

[Edit: as Pat points out below, the above excerpt is not a proper discussion of what was the first 5.11 in Yosemite, as it leaves out the other routes discussed.
This was just meant to shed some light on the rating of New Dimensions in the 1971 Roper guide, and subsequent developments when it was freed.
I am happy to believe that Slack Center and Serenity Crack were the first 5.11s in Yosemite, even though they have since changed and are no longer 5.11.]

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Apr 10, 2009 - 04:54pm PT
What a great route. Wish I had pix of Rudy and I on it.
Mebbe he's got 'em.....the dog!

Trad climber
Mountain View, CA
Apr 10, 2009 - 05:18pm PT
I can confirm the Bev Johnson story about the first pitch. One day Bev and I were climbing and she recounted that tale. As a bit of a side story, on that day we were attempting a very early repeat of the route Whack and Dangle on Five and Dime cliff. Bev warned me that if she succeeded there was a good chance that that route, too, would get downrated.


Gym climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Apr 10, 2009 - 05:28pm PT
Kauk was the first to on sight flash it. I was the second...

Then some kook free soloed it.

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Apr 10, 2009 - 05:30pm PT
"Then some kook free soloed it."


Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 10, 2009 - 05:42pm PT
John, how many times you did climbed this rout before decided to free solo it?
Tell us how it was ? Do you still remember detail ?
Correct me if I am wrong it was also first 5.11 solo?

Gym climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Apr 10, 2009 - 06:01pm PT
Ron and I used to top rope the last pitch for a workout. We must have done it twenty to thirty times. After a while we wouldn't even get a pump.

I had soloed Left Ski Track, 11a in Joshua Tree but the crux on that is close to the ground. New Dimensions was a whole other ball game. Ron watched me when I first did it. We walked back to the Cookie and on the way he soloed River Boulder, 11d. The road was closed and we met up with Vern and Ray - they gave us a ride back to Camp 4. Vern and Ray didn't believe I had done it.

Ron and I drank Tequila that night under a full moon....quite a day.

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 10, 2009 - 07:28pm PT
Thanks John. What a great feeling climbing without being pump. Big respect for what you done
I also want tequila now
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 10, 2009 - 07:30pm PT
Way cool! Thanks for sharing this, John.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Apr 10, 2009 - 10:21pm PT
As Bachar and Bates and Higgins and others who were
there know, the first two 5.11 routes were in 1967,
Center Route on the Slack (Pat Ament) and Serenity Crack
(Tom Higgins), both of which were later altered, the first
when a big block broke out creating a couple of bomber
hand jams right at the crux move, and Serenity
got easier when aid climbers and pitons made big holes of the
crack. Pratt gave Center Route its 5.11 grading and reported
as such to Roper, because he and Royal, Kamps, Hig, Chouinard,
and others had tried it and felt it would be 5.11 if done. Pratt
also tried Serenity and confirmed its 5.11 grading. Center
Route especially got easier, but it was significantly more
difficult with the block. Then in 1970 Bridwell and Mark Klemens
did New Dimensions, but there was no 5.11 on it
until Bates, with Wunsch, led the last hand-finger crack
free in 1972. Whether or not a route changes, is
altered some way, it remains that it was 5.11 when done.
Kamps always told me he thought Center Route and Serenity
were the first 5.11s. For unknown reasons, some have disputed
the validity of these routes. Those who were there don't,

Trad climber
The Great North these days......
Apr 10, 2009 - 10:58pm PT
Jb, good grief. I TRed river bouldered in the early seventies, I am sure after you. I never knew I was doing 11d that early (on tr).....

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Apr 11, 2009 - 01:23am PT
I think (not positive) I did the 3rd free ascent of ND. 2nd went to Bridwell and Barber, probably July, 1973. I did it with Gib Lewis, no falls, right after Jim and Henry.

I must have done that climb a dozen times, and top roped the last pitch twenty times at least. I can only get the very tips of my pinky and ring fingers in the last few moves - way too thin to free solo. Hat's off to Bachar. That's the shizzat. But John was soloing much harder stuff at Josh.

While ND remains one of my favorite climbs anywhere, it's only hard on the last ten feet of the first pitch (c/d), and the last body length of the last pitch (11a). You can totally run the rope on the rest (mostly 10a).

An all time classic - 4 short pitches of gold, on diamond hard rock. Nothing at the Cookie really compares. Only thing at Arch that compares is Gripper, but that's mostly 5.9.


Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
Apr 11, 2009 - 01:54am PT
this little reminiscence from John B. is an excellent example of why it is worth wading through all the ST noise. Thanks!

Monument Manor
Apr 11, 2009 - 02:54pm PT
Pat - according to Reid/Meyers, the first 5.11 was Swan Slab free by Lloyd Price.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 12, 2009 - 11:04am PT
This seems like a good place for this bit of clarification.

What is the story behind the chiseled foothold at the crux? Enough people are here to answer this one with any luck.

Way back when John Dill was a Camp 4 climber just like the rest of us, he was headed out for the day all covered in rope and nuggets. When I asked about his plans, he replied,"I am going to do New Dimensions......without THE FOOTHOLD!" with a grin. That was the first time that THE FOOTHOLD entered my consciousness and I never have gotten the stright story as to its origin.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Apr 12, 2009 - 02:08pm PT
Well, Stevie. Right. I did ND a couple of times. Once with Vandiver in 1974 and again with Molly Higgins in 1975. We all know that nearby Gripper, done back in 1970, had a ton of weirdly enhanced foot and hand holds in the crux above the roof which you pretty much don’t even need. It was as if JB (Bridwell) was up there on acid--- at least that is what I thought when I did a really early ascent of it. Gripper is not even that interesting, especially compared to ND. (Everyone ululates about the long final straight-in crack up top but I frankly found it boring.) Bridwell was a better climber than that but somehow thought he had to take special measures to make it a climb. It was really upsetting to basically everyone once we all got up on it. Fortunately he kept his holdmaking down to a dull roar and knew it was really an unpopular tangent of his. Freestone is probably the most notorious of his "creations"--- a crack was widened by pinning the crap out of it for quite some time so tips could go in up there. And this silly activity was shared by others, leading to Jardine's Ice Traverse of the Nose.

There was an incredible amount of hyperbole surrounding New Dimensions, especially before the whole route was done--- it was done in pieces at first. Looking back it is actually quite funny. Quite a few climbers could have lead that pitch quite reasonably back then but the Bad JuJu was just over the top!

The first pitch was supposed to be insane 5.11, was nearly impossible yah-dee-yah-dee-yah and right away it became known as medium 5.10 and that only in the last bit at the top, to the tree. Lloyd had been on it and had come back screeching about its difficulty. Overall, group had been scaring themselves with ghost stories, really. This happens a lot.

The last pitch is really a classic beautiful dihedral crack problem, has some natural knobs and other edges in it. I remember the dihedral twists a little, like a plant. It builds and builds slowly as you ascend it. What is it from the belay stance, maybe 80 feet long?? Some good locks, some off-finger issues too. The tendency is to get tunnel vision leading it, thinking the bastard is going to eat you alive and that the winning approach is to gun up the crack--- this is before you realize that there is the inobvious semi-thank god handhold up and right from the actual crack just below that exact top as the crack gets really tight. And to stabilize those last two or so moves, isn’t there “The Foothold” ? It is not much and it looks enhanced as I recall. But only slightly. And very reminiscent of Gripper’s handiwork, certainly. "Rockfall did it". So I guess I am saying although JB and I never discussed if he resorted to "male enhancement" up there, it looks like it, wasn't required if it was, and was looking this way within a year or so of the FFA...and holdmaking was not one of Wunsch's nor Barry's pastimes, and very very few climbers came before me.

I suppose if you were going to do laps on the thing as so many have, avoiding the exit-right move and just staying in the crack, that would be a good exercise especially since after awhile it is hard to get a pump on the thing, so much of it is actually mental. What you suspect John Dill was up to that day.

Social climber
Apr 12, 2009 - 05:14pm PT
Peter, Pat, Largo, Al Dude, JB, et al:
A hearty hello to all. About the chipped hold John Dill referenced: I always thought it was that face hold that magically appears at the crux of the first pitch (the overlap) If I remember right it was sort of a horizontal crack that looked like a section had been knocked out creating a nice face hold just where you need it. A classic and well thought out thank Bridwell hold. As mentioned by others this pitch was originally thought to be 5.11 which might explain why Jim felt it necessary to chip here. I don't recall ever seeing any chipped holds on the last pitch. It seems unlikely that Jim would have chipped here as he and Mark didn't free it. As Peter mentioned neither Steve nor Barry were into this. Why Jim felt so inclined to chip always baffled me. He was,as Peter said, more talented than that. However, he was always an outside of the box sort of thinker. He did revolutionize aid climbing by introducing chipping here as well. It was in the form of using a cold chisel to create/enhance copperhead placements. I always wondered if that bumb of a foothold on the right hand wall of Waverly Wafer where one can get the no hands rest before launching into the lieback was enhanced. Rik Rieder did what I believe was the third ascent of New D with Jardine in the fall of 1972. This ascent was also the first all nut ascent. I would think Rik flashed the last pitch as well. Rik, as all who climbed with him that year can attest, was an outstanding climber. He had perfect technique, he was bold as well as principled. He was easily climbing as well or better than anyone in the Valley that fall. I remember how impressed Jardine was with his climbing on their ascent. I seem to remember him telling me how Rik climbed up to some fixed pin on the last pitch and calmly tapped it with his finger attempting to assess by the tone it made whether it was any good prior to clipping it. I would love to hear Rik or Ray's thoughts and memories. Rik and I earlier in the year also climbed the Center route of the Slack and the Swan Slab aid route (the latter along with Dale Bard). When we did the Slack I am vitually certain the block Pat mentions was still in the route. It was a big spike that had rappel slings on it. It didn't seem like 5.11. It certainly wasn't as hard as the last pitch of New D which I probably wasn't capable of climbing at the time. I remember there being some bouldery thin moves off the ground. I did it in Robbins boots. The Swan Slab aid route definitely seemed like 5.11. It was a short bouldery thing involving making a long reach with your left while pressing out a shallow pin scar with your right hand. At the time Rik led it, it didn't have the bolt that's there now. He took an awkward ground fall or two on it before getting it. Pat, I don't believe people doubt the validity of some of these early test pieces, its more a case of history and time sorting things out. Often times it takes a number of ascents before a climbs true rating and place in history become apparent. This works both ways of course. Both Donini's Overhang Overpass and Kevin's first pitch of Birchef Williams were perhaps, initially, conservatively rated and now deserve stiffer grades. New D's 5.11 rating has stood the test of time. It involves endurance, sound and varied crack climbing skills, and the crux comes after several hundred feet of challenging climbing. The Swan Slab aid route, though not an endurance problem still deserves its 5.11 rating. For whatever reason the Center Route of the Slack's grade just didn't hold up. This of course doesn't reflect negatively on your ascent which was still cutting edge for the day.
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