Musings on perfect moves and memorable routes


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Trad climber
Mill Valley, CA
Jan 6, 2010 - 09:38pm PT
a this shouldn't be on the bottom of the second page bump
Eric Beck

Sport climber
Bishop, California
Jan 6, 2010 - 09:58pm PT
Thanks Roger, a fertile thread. So many non climbers like to focus on the possibility of heroics and climbing epics as our drive to climb.
Yet, this idea cannot account for the climbs every climber loves and does over and over. I think you have hit on what it is that pushes a climb into this category. Pratt did the Steck/Salathe every year he was in the valley. Some of the ones I've repeated regularly:
Hoodenett (Tahquitz): at least 6 times.
Fairview (Tuolumne): 6 times.
Truckin Drive (Tuolumne): uncountably many times. The move over the arch, while improbable, is not very hard, your thesis precisely.
Snake Dike (Half Dome): At least 6 times.
Rated X and One Hand Clapping (Donner Summit): uncountably many times.


Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Jan 6, 2010 - 11:51pm PT
Nice list, Eric I've never done that route at taqhuitz, but those others are all favorites!
mark miller

Social climber
Jan 7, 2010 - 01:12am PT
Many great routes....Although Knott as difficult but arguably as classic, the 1st pitch of Fantasia at the Leap after reading Robbin's literary account of the 1st ascent in Advanced Rockcraft( almost 100x)...Truely sublime. 3 manky knobs....Finding yourself in that position, Ahh....Thank you.

Jan 8, 2010 - 03:22pm PT
A Will Nicolls quote:

Passionate climbing is a hopefully endless, delicious series of movements
over rock, interspersed with wonderful moments when you do something you
weren't sure you could do.

Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Jan 9, 2010 - 12:13pm PT
Fun thread. Thanks to Roger and the other contibutors. I have never done Hoodwink, but maybe next summer. Now that I know the moves so well from this and the Hoodwink thread, it will be cake!

The mention of the Vampire up thread prompted this recollection. I was on the first free ascent in 1973 with Mike Graham, John long, and Bill Antel. John had led the Bat Crack free and Mike got in the key bolt to protect the blank section barring access to the forbidding West Face bulge.

I started the traverse left and it looked impossible. There is a thin flake that goes straight up the bulge, but it faces away as you traverse towards it, and I thought it would be too thin to be of any use. But the flake had an 8-inch horizontal break in it forming a perfect handhold that was quite a ways out of my grasp, no matter how I tried to approach it. Our group was quite enamored with dynamic moves on boulders and we had chatted about how great it would be to find a dynamic move on a climb.

So, the idea occurred to me to try to launch myself up and to the left off the insecure footholds and try to grab the jug with my left hand. I tried it a couple of times and came whipping off with swinging falls. About the third time, I hit it just at the deadpoint, gripped the indentation in the flake, stepped up onto it, and slotted a perfect stopper. A glance up and I knew the rest of it would go free. The feeling when I latched onto that hold and didnít come swinging off is still vivid. It was later discovered that the leap to the big jug was not needed, because if you extended way out to the flake you could get your fingers of your left hand crimped on it and grab the big hold with the right.

Dick Erb- I felt the same way when I heard that the late Mike Reardon had soloed the Vampire. Utterly incomprehensible that someone could climb that route with only shoes and a chalk bag. To paraphrase an old adage, yesterday's last great problem is today's rest day diversion.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 9, 2010 - 02:21pm PT
Hi Rick,

Happy New Year. When I read your post about climbing with Mike and John and 'lunging' on lead, I remember how Mike introduced me to 'history' (as in "You are history, dude!) when he lunged on our FAA of the Outside Face of Phantom Pinnacle. This is my post from September 2003:

The route was climbed with aid in 1965 by Chris Fredericks and Joe Faint. In 1975, I guided a client up the Left Side which had some nice cracks and a good summit at only 5.9. It was also kind of out of the way-it faces south on the South side of the Valley.

On the rappel off, I swung around to the outside face and checked out the cracks and corners. It looked very clean and doable. 'Very clean' was the big excitement--lots of all free, first ascents required excavation work to get to the cracks. It was possible to spend more time on the cleaning than the climbing. Anyway, the following spring, I recruited Mike Graham to come with me to give it a shot. As we working out the details, whatever they were, Bridwell walked up and we invited him. Hey, I know how to put together a high-probability-of-success team.

For reasons that I cannot remember, Mike and I had been climbing for a while that spring and Jim had just gotten to the Valley. I think that this was his first climb of the season.

The first pitch moves off a large ledge and around a corner. I believe that Chris and Joe had placed a bolt to gain the bottom of the crack system. It was Mike's lead. Without much to-do, he said that there wasn't much to hang on to before you got to the crack. "There is a big hold, but I would have to lunge for it."

There was a slight pause, and I am thinking this is the end of my project, then a little jerk on the rope, and Mike is calling for slack.

He had lunged for the hold, nailing it the first try.

A lunge, in Yosemite, on the sharp end of the rope? I don't think so. This is right up there with the "leader does not fall," and clearly wasn't in my play book. I'm a free climber, not a lunger. "How the hell did you do this, anyway?" As it turned out, the lunge was not going to be in my play book that day. I either grabbed the bolt or the rope and reached up for the hold, which was quite large.

The middle pitch was my lead and is not so hard, although it involves face climbing on hollow sounding flakes. They weren't loose, just thin. The third pitch was Mike's lead again. Good hand cracks in very steep corners. As Mike was leading, I was offering encouragement and telling him that the upper section kicked back. Mike was very smooth and calm. When I followed the pitch, I realized that my perspective was all off. The upper section was very steep and the lower section was even steeper. I remember long reaches past thin sections.

Jim was not in good climbing shape, but I remember that he just cruised up the third pitch.

It was a great day and great fun to be climbing with friends on a good route in the sun on the south side of the Valley.

I had a personal 'perfect' move experience on the last pitch of this route. It is very steep, as I point out above, but has mostly really good hand jams in a thin corner, but in a few places the crack closes down to fingers. There was a small roof on the overhanging wall close to the top of the hard climbing with the crack pinched down above and below the little roof. Jim, who had followed Mike up that that pitch, positioned himself so he could watch me climb up.

Do you remember how Jim would sort of get a 'concerned coach' look and offer beta to us when we were young? I wasn't young any more, but I hadn't climbed with Jim in several years, and he was getting ready to offer advice on how to get over that last bit. I was climbing really well and sized up the options on the fly as I approached the little roof. I kept my hands really low in good sinkers with my upper hand cocked down and bunched my feet up under them. Just as Jim was about to tell me the sequence he had used, I used my 80-inch span to reach to a perfect jam above the roof. It looked improbable but felt perfect. Jim just smiled. I still have the muscle memory burned in after 35 years.

It was a great day climbing with Jim and Mike on a fine new route.
August West

Trad climber
Where the wind blows strange
Jan 9, 2010 - 04:51pm PT
Fun thread to come back to. There are lot of different things that can go into a memorabl pitch/route. A fun sequence of hands (bishop's terrace, sons of yesterday, last pitch of gripper), a sustained pitch (sacherer cracker to mark of art), different moves (lunatic fringe, 3 cruxes of similar grade but very different moves). Or something sustained with a variety of moves (one of these days at woodfords packs a lot of different 5.10 climbing into one pitch).

I like the improbable pitches. The last pitch of sellagenalla (the traverse left variation) has always been a favorite of mine. I took forever to onsight it because I kept looking up thinking, "I'm off route, there is no way that leads to 5.8 climbing":

From the very exposed hand traverse start, to the committing overhanging bulge (overhanging face moves on sierra granite is not supposed to be 5.8), blind corners, and Yosemite wide finish over the lip and into the forest.

Jan 9, 2010 - 08:42pm PT
Nice contributions. Vivid memories for all.


El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
Jan 25, 2014 - 01:31am PT
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