The day I could have killed Royal Robbins

Search
Go

Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Messages 1 - 46 of total 46 in this topic
Dick Erb

climber
June Lake, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 7, 2009 - 07:19pm PT
In the late 1950's I learned to climb with the Sierra Club Rock Climbing Section in southern California. I was only fourteen and eager to hear stories about the best climbers. The most awesome stories were about Royal Robbins. He had climbed the sheer and unrepeated face of Half Dome. When he started climbing his ability and audacity so exceeded that of his elders that predictions of his life expectancy ranged from two weeks to two years. I heard these and many more stories from elders I looked up to. At the time I was hearing this Royal was in the Army and was never around. He truly seemed to be a mythical figure.
One weekend day my friend Jim Crary and I hiked up the trail to Lunch Rock, a meeting place at the base of Tahquitz. There was Royal Robbins. It must have been like a teeny bopper meeting a rock star. He actually seemed quite friendly, and I mentioned hearing about a route he had done on the downhill face of Lunch Rock. Somehow I offered to belay him if he wanted to do it again. He was game and headed down to the bottom of the rock, while I grabbed a rope and went over to a ledge near the top. The edge of the ledge was rather exposed so I sat down about five away, back to the wall, and threw the end of the rope down. I had been through belay practice and had even held some practice falls, so I felt OK sitting there with no anchor. Royal started moving up, and I carefully took in the rope keeping my breaking hand on at all times as I had been taught, when all of a sudden I hear "Falling". There is a big jerk on the rope and I am sliding on my butt across the ledge. I dig in my heels and aim them at two knobs right on the lip. It worked. Everything stopped momentarily, and Royal calls up, "Climbing again". Now I'm sitting right at the edge taking up the rope but not so confidently. At last he pulls over the top and asks if I would like to try it. I declined.
matty

Trad climber
los arbor
Dec 7, 2009 - 07:21pm PT
Fun read. Thanks for sharing. Wonder if RR would remember this?
TomKimbrough

Social climber
Salt Lake City
Dec 7, 2009 - 07:25pm PT
Erb - Great story.... and one I had not heard.
Thanks,
Kimbrough
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Dec 7, 2009 - 07:25pm PT
Dick: Thanks. I love stories like this.
rotten johnny

Social climber
mammoth lakes, ca
Dec 7, 2009 - 07:30pm PT
dick..you should have yelled off belay and got the hell out of there.....
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Dec 7, 2009 - 07:30pm PT
Great micro-tale, Dick, and thanks. RR was not a god but he was certainly his own person and climbed really well, and at times brilliantly. If nothing else, he was not as consistent as he would have liked but no one ever is. How about more of your interaction, you two? Can you fill us in or make mention? You went on to know him much more fully and even worked for him, Dick.

ph.
Jingy

Social climber
Flatland, Ca
Dec 7, 2009 - 07:34pm PT
Dude..

that's just friggin insane..

Giving a body belay at the edge of the precipice...


The abyss very near...




Way good that you and Robbins did not fall!!!
Fletcher

Trad climber
Pasadena, CA
Dec 7, 2009 - 07:35pm PT
Nice short and sweet tale for an after dinner desert... thanks!

Eric
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 7, 2009 - 07:39pm PT
Dick- Another great story! Did you ever have the nerve to tell the tale to Royal?
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Dec 7, 2009 - 07:39pm PT
What a great tale Dick!

Almost as good as the one about the second ascent of S. face Mt. Watkins!!
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Dec 7, 2009 - 07:40pm PT
Too Funny

Makes me think of "Advanced Rockcraft" where Royal disses the use of belay devices as extraneous gear! If only he knew?

Peace

Karl
Pate

Trad climber
The Lost Highway
Dec 7, 2009 - 07:59pm PT
How you guys made it past your 20's is beyond me.
Ray Olson

Trad climber
Imperial Beach, California
Dec 7, 2009 - 08:10pm PT
charming story Dick,
thanks for posting.
Dick Erb

climber
June Lake, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 7, 2009 - 08:20pm PT
No, I never did tell that one to Royal. In fact I didn't tell it to many people at all. I mean you gotta be able to find climbing partners.
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Dec 7, 2009 - 08:35pm PT
Great, Dick!
Thanks for sharing!!!!
mucci

Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
Dec 7, 2009 - 08:43pm PT
Where is this "Lunch Rock" Located?

Great story! Not many people can say they "Belayed" Robbins let alone Dropped him! HA!

Thank god for those knobs!

Mucci
couchmaster

climber
pdx
Dec 7, 2009 - 08:44pm PT
These kinds of things are why I love this site. Thanks Dick!



I never did tell that one to Royal. In fact I didn't tell it to many people at all. I mean you gotta be able to find climbing partners.

LOL!
Wack

climber
Dazevue
Dec 7, 2009 - 08:46pm PT
Props dude, you didn't let go. Team work.
ron gomez

Trad climber
fallbrook,ca
Dec 7, 2009 - 08:54pm PT
Mucci I would venture to guess, this is Lunch Rock at Tahquitz, but I will hope this will be confirmed by the author of this thread. It's a great story!
Peace
MisterE

Social climber
Across Town From Easy Street
Dec 7, 2009 - 08:58pm PT
Nice tell, Dick. I can tell that one really stayed with you through the years, it was told like it was just now.


Erik
MH2

climber
Dec 7, 2009 - 09:01pm PT
I wonder what estimates people may have made of your own life expectancy, Mr. Erb.

Great story.


Dick Erb

climber
June Lake, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 7, 2009 - 09:02pm PT
Sierra Club trips at Tahquitz Rock, near Idylwild California, would generally meet up in the morning at Lunch Rock a much smaller crag near the base, not far from a Route called the Switchbacks. It is a short easy scramble from the uphill side, but as I recall from the top you can look out over the treetops on the downhill side.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Dec 7, 2009 - 09:06pm PT
Just a note. RR was using a Sticht belay plate before anyone else. I am talking the 1970/71 winter. I hated it of course because he was kind of funky using it for my leads; Shortroping of course. He was so pre-occupied then, tortured almost. But all said and done, he was ushering a lot of the stuff we take as basic today. My perception then was that he was old but awfully cool. You see, he was forty or so, back then. Ancient. Today, I am 61 and RR must be about 80.
Tami

Social climber
Vancouver, Canada
Dec 7, 2009 - 09:09pm PT
Now THAT is what ST is for. Great story, hilarious finish. And it's about Royal.


Who I hope reads it, laffs his ass off & posts that you were SUCH A LUCKY SCHMUNTZVIK and , now, lookitchya both..........forty years later & still here.


Yey !!!!

Signed Tami - didn't start climbin' till 1977 :-D
hossjulia

Trad climber
Eastside
Dec 7, 2009 - 09:17pm PT
Dang that story sounds familiar, but I don't remember it being RR!
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Dec 7, 2009 - 09:18pm PT
Best thing about reading your story is that it brings back the flavor of those years. Here's to the view from Lunch Rock!
Thanks for your post.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 7, 2009 - 09:45pm PT
ah, the good old days!

gotta get back to Tahquitz after many years away (probably something like 40?!) my first lead was there with the Riverside chapter RCS... pitons, goldline, RRs... and hip belays...

basically climbing can't be all that unsafe, most of us seemed to survive it
MH2

climber
Dec 7, 2009 - 10:09pm PT
Most of us survived? Any exceptions care to post up?
WBraun

climber
Dec 7, 2009 - 10:59pm PT
The title "The day I could have killed Royal Robbins" sounds like something out of a spy novel.

And the secret agent let him escape ........
Ray Olson

Trad climber
Imperial Beach, California
Dec 7, 2009 - 11:13pm PT
there was controversy about the stich-plate
not providing a "dymanic enough" belay for
a while too, but it mainly ended pretty quick,
tho Ed Leeper maintained his "campaign"
for some time :-)

PH, your comments shed valuable light on RR
as a real human being, one of rock climbings
most treasured heros.

My respect for him only grows.

many thanks
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Dec 8, 2009 - 06:03am PT
The best part of your story Dick is that you didn't tell anyone so you could still attract climbing partners. Royal was about 22 when he climbed Half Dome in 1957 (born in 1935). Pretty amazing stuff.

By the way, your thread title should read, "The day Royal Robbins almost killed me."

mooser

Trad climber
seattle
Dec 8, 2009 - 06:21am PT
"Most of us survived? Any exceptions care to post up?"

That's funny!
rockermike

Trad climber
Berkeley
Dec 8, 2009 - 11:17am PT
ha. I took the thread title to mean "The day (I was so angry) I could have killed RR". then I read the piece and my first thought was "why are you so angry, was that RR's fault?" A second reading got it straight, but it sounds like you were the one closer to getting killed. Next time try the standing shoulder belay. It worked for years I hear.
Nate D

climber
San Francisco
Dec 8, 2009 - 11:34am PT
Thanks for sharing the tale, Dick!
GDavis

Social climber
SOL CAL
Dec 8, 2009 - 11:36am PT
do that in this day and age and they put you away.
scuffy b

climber
Whuttiz that Monstrosicos Inferno?
Dec 8, 2009 - 11:46am PT
It's more than ten days now since I last used a hip belay without being
anchored.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jul 2, 2010 - 08:03am PT
Mortality Bump!
Flanders!

Trad climber
June Lake, CA
Jul 2, 2010 - 07:16pm PT


what ever happen to "the leader must not fall", the cread of the day I believe ?
Hawkeye

climber
State of Mine
Jul 2, 2010 - 08:18pm PT
Too Funny

Makes me think of "Advanced Rockcraft" where Royal disses the use of belay devices as extraneous gear! If only he knew?

Peace

Karl

i would argue that being anchored is the point, not what belay device.
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Mar 31, 2011 - 04:20pm PT
Bump
GnomicMaster

Mountain climber
Ventana Wilderness
Mar 31, 2011 - 04:35pm PT
Anyone remember that cartoon in an old Summit magazine (maybe an Ascent?), circa 1970/71 that depicted RR as a super-hero replete with cape and his initials "RR" in the center of the costume's chest area? The cartoon shows RR hanging onto a blank, featureless over-hanging face with one hand while with the other hand he's reaching behind his back and into what should be his chalk bag. The caption of the cartoon said "My god, he's reaching for the grease!"

That was the aura that surrounded RR in those days. There was the sense that if RR couldn't climb it nobody could. But then came the Bachars and Osmans and Crofts and Herseys and Yabos and Gullichs et al, and suddenly they were reaching for the grease, if you get the metaphor. Ropes became passe' for that very rare breed of men, but it was RR who pioneered the belief that the impossible was possible if the mind had the power.

Now there's Honnold who free-solo'd RR's great route up Half Dome. I must wonder, who will attempt to free-solo the Nose? It's do-able, but who will chance it? Odds of a screamer are huge.
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Mar 31, 2011 - 05:16pm PT
Great stuff! But WHY didn't you at least give it a try??
GnomicMaster

Mountain climber
Ventana Wilderness
Mar 31, 2011 - 05:42pm PT
Tahquitz, Feb. 9th, 1971. The day of the FUCKING San Fernando earthquake, and I fell attempting a route the name which now eludes my leatherizing brain, and ripped a gash in my ASS and had to have stitches. Were you there that day, too?
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Mar 31, 2011 - 08:09pm PT
Gnomicmaster: Here's that Sheridan Anderson RR cartoon.

RR in action
RR in action
Credit: Fritz


and the more human side of Royal "winding-down" from another new route with Liz:

Credit: Sheridan Anderson

RR kicked my ass at "drunk-foozball in Moscow Idaho in 1974. (sorry no photos)

GnomicMaster

Mountain climber
Ventana Wilderness
Apr 1, 2011 - 09:16am PT
Actually that is not the cartoon to which I alluded. That cartoon you show with RR wearing a cape and leaping from rock to rock is a totally different cartoon, and that is the one that RR told me he does not like, and for good reason. No, the cartoon to which I alluded showed RR "CLIMBING", not leaping, with a super-hero costume, and he was reaching behind himself, thrusting his hand into what would seem to be his chalk bag, and the caption said "My god, he's reaching for the grease!"

Totally different cartoon, and perhaps totally different cartoonist. It appeared in either a Summit magazine or Ascent magazine, circa early-1970s. I had all the Summits and Ascents from the late-1960s until the late-1970s, boxed up for years, but I finally tossed them all 5 years ago, so unfortunately I can't now go back to find that cartoon.

I even had all the Mountain and Climbing magazine issues from those years. Mountain was a Brit publication, and all its stories and photos were of European and Himalayan climbs. Very internationally informative on the topic of global mountaineering.
Batrock

Trad climber
Burbank
Apr 1, 2011 - 10:02am PT
Hell, screw Royal, it sounds like you would have bit the dust too if your feet hadn't caught those knobs.
Messages 1 - 46 of total 46 in this topic
Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
 
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks


Try a free sample topo!

 
SuperTopo on the Web

Review Categories
Recent Route Beta
Recent Gear Reviews