The Saga of the Triple Lever---A Trippy Report

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rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Topic Author's Original Post - Oct 28, 2009 - 02:04pm PT
[This is a new and improved version of the original account. Two illustrative videos have been added.]

The "how many pullups could you do before you reached your current nadir of decrepitude" thread got me to thinking about stupid feats of strength, apparently an active sideline for many climbers.

Although I see no hope of achieving either fame or notoriety for mere feats of strength, a very competitive category, when stupidity is added to the mix I believe I can taste the gold, which is not to say that there aren't worthy competitors who have also managed to combine exceptional physical prowess with notable intellectual deficits.

As my entry in the sweepstakes, I offer the saga of the triple lever.

Most of you probably know what a front lever is. John Gill did 'em one-handed. The performer's body is held rigidly horizontal, facing up, suspended from straight arms. Its a bit harder than it looks.

(Gill doing the ordinary two-hand variety)

Now a double front lever requires two idio...er, performers. The first does a front lever on whatever apparatus is available, and the second does a front lever off the shoulders of the first. You can see where this is headed. In a triple front lever, a third person does a front lever on the shoulders of the second person, who is doing a front lever on the shoulders of the first person.

There is, of course, no limit to this process in theory, but in practice the top person, sometimes referred to in the technical literature as the chief idiot, has to support his or her own weight and in addition the weights of the assistant idiots underneath. At some point, the design limits of the chief's sinews will be exceeded, and so there is a practical, if not theoretical, limit to the number of levering losers.

In our case, there were three of us who could do front levers, and so a triple lever it was. In addition to myself, the cast included the legendary Gunks master Jim McCarthy and the much-beloved "Mayor of the Gunks" Kevin Bein.

Of the three of us, Jim was the biggest and strongest in absolute terms, so it was clear that he would be on top. Kevin, who had survived long ground falls directly onto his head, was apparently the most durable, and since it was to be many years before crash pads would appear on the scene, we put him on the bottom. That left the middle position for me.

Before taking our show on the road, we naturally practiced it under ideal gym conditions. Jim did a front lever on the rings, I pulled into a front lever on his shoulders, Kevin popped into a lever on my shoulders and we started to count off the requisite three seconds of holding for full gymnastic credit.

Somewhere around two Jim's hands exploded off the rings and the whole ham sandwich hit the one-inch horsehair gym mat with a loud thud combined with the triple "uuuhhh" resulting from the attending full-body compressions.

Here is a contemporary repetition of our feat:
[Click to View YouTube Video]

Having thus perfected our craft, we went on to our first engagement, a typical Vulgarian rave at Tom Scheur's house. Here, after ingesting various judgment-relaxing palliatives, we determined to perform our feat of strength for an audience unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy and suffering from various exotic and usually pleasurable forms of attention-deficit disorder.

There being no ring set available, we settled on the next best thing, a beefy quarter-inch doorjam at the top of a flight of stairs leading down to the basement. Jim pulled into his lever, I followed suit on his shoulders, and Kevin just barely managed to crank into the horizontal position on my shoulders when Jim's grip on the quarter-inch edge inexplicably failed.

With toes pointed and in perfect form, the team made the rather arduous journey down to the basement, accompanied by thunderous thudding and various exclamations of discomfort, especially from Kevin, doing yeoman duty on the bottom as combination crash pad and rocket sled. The audience treated our sudden disappearance and the subsequent sounds of mayhem with the equanimity one would expect of those languishing in the midst of private miracles.

Our faith in Kevin's indestructibility was well-placed, and we mounted the stairs sore but uninjured to the puzzled looks of our fans, who were unsure where we had gone and why we were now returning from the basement.

Although there were no lasting injuries, our memory of the various impacts argued for retirement, and so the saga of the triple lever came to a premature and inglorious end.

Time marches on, and even the most highly-trained athletes such as ourselves eventually have their most exceptional achievements regularly performed at middle-school talent shows. So it should be no surprise that, our heartbreaking failures notwithstanding, the triple lever is alive and well in the twenty-first century:

[Click to View YouTube Video]

Ray Olson

Trad climber
Imperial Beach, California
Oct 28, 2009 - 02:25pm PT
sweet story well told

thank you for sharing sir
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 28, 2009 - 04:29pm PT
"If this was performed by 3 good looking women- I really like it.
3 men, especially climbers- Not so much."


Yeah Pate, I feel your pain. And I miss Ouch, who could certainly serve up your heart's desire. Peter?
gonzo chemist

climber
the Orange Curtain
Oct 28, 2009 - 05:35pm PT
With toes pointed and in perfect form, the team made the rather arduous journey down to the basement, accompanied by thunderous thudding and various exclamations of discomfort, especially from Kevin, doing yeoman duty on the bottom as combination crash pad and rocket sled. The audience treated our sudden disappearance and the subsequent sounds of mayhem with the equanimity one would expect of those languishing in the midst of private miracles.


I almost sprayed coffee through my nose when I read this. Definitely one of the funniest bits of writing I've read in a while on here...

Thanks for posting that up, rgold!
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C. Small wall climber.
Oct 28, 2009 - 05:40pm PT
Like Daryl's nude bicycle tour of the Four Seasons restaurant, a moment that should have been immortalized on YouTube.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Oct 28, 2009 - 05:50pm PT
another Taco classic


"inexplicably"


yes, most assuredly "inexplicable" is the word I would use too. yep. you betcha.
MH2

climber
Oct 28, 2009 - 08:06pm PT
A lawyer, a mathematician, and a mayor...
klk

Trad climber
cali
Oct 28, 2009 - 08:15pm PT
nice.

that'll motivate me to get down to the basement and hang the rings.

scuffy b

climber
Whuttiz that Monstrosicos Inferno?
Oct 28, 2009 - 09:05pm PT
having thus perfected our craft
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Oct 28, 2009 - 10:41pm PT
Invention of the crash pad:

The "Before" shot.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 29, 2009 - 12:38am PT
Kevin may have served as a human crashpad in our lever misadventure, but his house in the Gunks was a reknowned climber's crash pad, in the original sense, and he is loved and missed by all of us who were fortunate enough to know him. Here's Kevin's cover shot from a 1970 issue of Climbing Magazine.


We lost Kevin in 1988 in a rappelling accident on the Hornli Ridge of the Matterhorn, and our world became just a little darker. Twenty-one years later, it is a rare day when I'm out at the cliffs and do not think of him. The tears are long since dried, and it is usually a smile, albeit a bittersweet one, that accompanies the memories now.
Salamanizer

Trad climber
The land of Fruits & Nuts!
Oct 29, 2009 - 02:05am PT
Ha Ha....

Totally classic.

Why can't the climbing mags find stuff half as good as this???

I swear, if I read one more lame ass, half assed self promoting article by a Bisharat or the same ol same ol from Samet, I'm canceling everything but Alpinist and starting my own rag.
Curt

Boulder climber
Gilbert, AZ
Oct 29, 2009 - 02:09am PT
Great picture of Kevin on Open Cockpit, Rich. Where are the pics of the "triple lever?" Haha.

Curt
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Oct 29, 2009 - 03:22am PT
You are an excellent writer, Rich, and that is fun to read.
It makes me wish I had been part of that eastern group. But then
in some way I guess I was, since both you and McCarthy came to
Boulder and looked me up, and we climbed, and I've known and
respected both of you ever since. I did more climbs with you,
though, through the years, that big wall in the Royal Gorge where
we spent a nice night on a ledge, as cars rattled the wood planks
of the bridge overhead, among the stars... I remember our bouldering
on Flagstaff and in Yosemite. I even have a photo of you when
I was preparing to do a climb of Fairview Dome with Kamps, and
you and Higgins and Kelsey were there watching us sort gear...
You've just always been there. Sorry if I get a little sentimental
at times, but I pretty much only have my memories anymore.

Pat
richross

Trad climber
Oct 29, 2009 - 08:17am PT
Great story rgold.

Kevin belaying Mark Robinson on the first pitch of Country Club Crack,Colorado,summer of 77.

A mayor belaying a doctor.

I sure miss that guy!



MisterE

Trad climber
Canoga Bark! CA
Oct 29, 2009 - 08:25am PT
Great story and pics, Rich. I was always amazed by the picture of John doing the one-arm front lever, toes carefully pointed...
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Oct 29, 2009 - 08:55am PT
What a great story Rich!

And an awesome writing job to boot.
Keep it up!
Chip

Trad climber
Sittin' Pretty in Fat City
Oct 29, 2009 - 09:46am PT
How fitting a piece, Rich. Are you sure you are a math professor? I did not know Kevin as well as you did, but find myself thinking of him riding his bike out to the cliffs most times when I drive up the hairpin turn below the Trapps.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 29, 2009 - 03:48pm PT
"Why can't the climbing mags find stuff half as good as this???

I swear, if I read one more lame ass, half assed self promoting article by a Bisharat or the same ol same ol from Samet, I'm canceling everything but Alpinist and starting my own rag."


Thanks for the kind words, but let's remember those guys have to churn something out every month. We'd use up our best stories in probably less than a year and then we'd have to start faking it. Start your own rag and you too will confront this problem...
Technogeekery

Trad climber
Tokyo, Japan
Oct 29, 2009 - 08:00pm PT
A funny story, and very well told - thanks!
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