The day a kayak bounced by our climb: held by Royal Robbins


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right here, right now
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 9, 2009 - 01:27pm PT
As a 1980’s style follow up to these two terrific tells:

At the foot of the Planet of the Apes Wall, adjacent to Malibu Creek, a river runs neat. About 1986, The Gargoyle, E, Mike and Mari, perhaps Mike Ayon, Matt Dancy, a couple others and I were top roping this dirt clod cliff. From the Bubba Deck, Guns and Roses blazed above our pipes and catcalls……

We all turned necks aside the climbing action, ears now stolen uphill along the wall by the hollow thud of a trundling kayak. Two steps behind and attending this curious portage was none other than Royal: the man, myth, scholar…no…make that, Professor, of the steep.

The waterman caught us in his eye, smartly gathered his boat in hand, shuttled it down the slope, plainly dropping the plastic porpoise square within our little circle. Shod in primate-toed neoprene boating booties, the man neatly snatched a string of handy solution pockets dotting the base of the wall and performed a dandy left to right climber-style traverse for us: one part dance, two parts monkey bar routine, three parts Royal!

Without any further ado, and with no break in motion he stepped off the rock, grabbed up his boat, plopped it in the stream, wriggled back into the flow and while Mari sat astride the current with her camera clicking, Royal, resuming his descent and in regal declarative, hollered out to our motley crew:
“Tell all your friends you saw Royal Robbins in a kayak!”

And that we did.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Dec 9, 2009 - 03:00pm PT
Great story, Roy.
He may have shifted into kayaking at that time, but the lure of the rock was still strong!

Social climber
Flatland, Ca
Dec 9, 2009 - 03:35pm PT

That guy just seems to show up everywhere... BITD!!!

Cool story Tar....
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Dec 9, 2009 - 03:40pm PT

Tell me true.... was that the time the lights went out in Georgia?

Trad climber
Dec 9, 2009 - 03:53pm PT
Where did this happen? Malibu Creek? Back in the late 80's to mid 90's I was heavily involved in kayaking local southern California Creeks. I had heard rumor that Robbins was doing some of the same but we never crossed paths. I did a early descent of Sespe Creek after Chouinardm Wasson and Thompson did the FD. We also did all forks of the San Gabriel from the headwaters as well as Big Tujunga Narrows and 30 plus miles of Piru Creek. It was the only sport I was ever on the ground floor of exploration in.

Robbins was quite an accomplished boater or rather is. His FD of the Devils Postpile run on the Middle San Juaquin and Middle Kings were way ahead of there time.

Sewellymon, flash boating never caught on and later became known as simply creeking. I still get on sections of Piru, Sespe and the San Gabriel from time to time if the flow is right.

Trad climber
Dec 9, 2009 - 04:19pm PT
Great stuff Roy!

Thanks for writing that up!



Trad climber
Dec 9, 2009 - 05:09pm PT

Gary and I used to do a lot of boating together. I think there are a few shots of me on his site of our run down Big Tujunga Narrows together.
In fact here is a shot he took of me on Big Tujunga.

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Dec 9, 2009 - 05:26pm PT
Has anyone floated the upper middle fork of the Stan?
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Dec 9, 2009 - 05:31pm PT
> In 1978, Robbins developed psoriatic arthritis

psoriatic arthritis, an autoimmune disorder related to psoriasis.

My climbing buddy Bob has this.
It can be handled very well with some new (though expensive) drugs which suppress the immune reaction.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 9, 2009 - 06:25pm PT
Batrock: yes, Malibu Creek State Park.
Just spoke about this with the 'Goyle to confirm.
(Nevermind the LA Zoo, correction/edit made)

Mebbe M&M will de-lurk and post some photos?

Social climber
Newport, OR
Dec 9, 2009 - 06:30pm PT
I remember Mari telling me about that one Roy!!

Trad climber
Dec 9, 2009 - 06:33pm PT
Munge, I am sure the upper middle Stan has been run. It is amazing what is being run these days and the ballsy drops these guys are running. All major drainages have been run and most tributaries have been run. Check out it's a kind of ST for California boaters.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 9, 2009 - 08:18pm PT
Peter Haan asked:
Tell me true.... was that the time the lights went out in Georgia?

Truth be told: no.

Yet strange events ‘n various doppelgangers coincided…

Fer’instance, just as Royal was demonstrating his natty traversin' skills to all us agog, simultaneously, at the Fish Products Lab, while test piloting an early version of the Taint Abrader … the confabulator blue a rod, the main bearings went AWOL and all production ceased, at the same time Russ’s espresso maker kicked into a 13 Hour rogue spree of double Café Macchiato and the World Wrestling Federation preset on the TV tuner stuck full on in the Dr. Ruth position.

……Per the usual lightspeed response curve,
Fish got on the blower to clean things up..........

Then, just as I got back from Malibu State Park,
We clipped the main leads to the compound, went all analog on it and retired to barbecue exactly as shown below:

Likewise, in an unprecedented time inversion of the Turbo Flange Matrix, three blocks south of the event horizon, Prod & I experienced other problems with reception, attempting to fix the problem with various corks:

And in a similar quirk relating to an anomalous H pattern gin shift of the cosmic gear selector,
BVB, employing much in the way of gallantry, panache, & alacrity, set himself to sort it all out:

Containment was achieved,
Royal completed his engagement with the watercourse,
And generally there were hugs and slaps on the back all ‘round …notably between myself and Yerian:

ß Î Ø T Ç H

. . . not !
Dec 9, 2009 - 08:29pm PT
That was rad coz .

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 9, 2009 - 08:53pm PT
Yes Coz that was very nice!

Now, while we wait all forlorn in hopes that Mari might toss us a picture or two from said day.......
Let's open this up for anyone else's "Royal encounters back in du jour".
Shall we?

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Dec 9, 2009 - 09:05pm PT
Flash boating! A fine tale to share, and no better place to share it. Thanks!

sounding out stuff , in the manner of crickets
Dec 9, 2009 - 09:17pm PT
good to see you back in form mr. buster.

royal and tm were at the cookie one day and my partner and i stolled up, i had a pair of those orange rr varape dangling in plain view. "where you guys headed?"

i told them i had gotten a nut stuck in butterballs the day before, we were headed up something else (waverly?) with a plan to retrieve it on rappel.

"did you climb butterballs in those shoes?" royal asked, a little animated. "these? no way man, i used my eb's," i responded.

that pretty much killed it. royal looked a little... well it was clear we were free to move along.

i should have been a little more diplomatic

Social climber
Berkeley, CA
Dec 10, 2009 - 02:48pm PT
way cool to hear about these climbers boating :)

Trad climber
Dec 10, 2009 - 03:41pm PT
Here are a few shots of creeking in So Cal and even a raft descent of Sespe.


Trad climber
The state of confusion
Dec 10, 2009 - 05:18pm PT
Boy, what great History, mr tarbaby.
I'd love to have seen a pic. . .

Same to you Coz, what a great scene that
must have been.

My hat's off to you both!!!!

(Roy, that's the one I left on the Piz Badile). . .

har har har!!!!

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 10, 2009 - 09:25pm PT
Batrock slings us the goods!!!
Them pics harken good ole' Californy!

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Dec 10, 2009 - 10:08pm PT
Batrock: Cool photos. First descents/first ascents----are the best and were the best: BITD.

Trad climber
Dec 11, 2009 - 03:26pm PT
Thanks, kayaking or rather creeking is much like climbing, both require you to read the rock or water as you go picking the sweetest or safest line, not always the same. Some creeks we did such as Sespe and Big Tujunga required us to bring climbing gear to portage around some of the bigger drops. Other creeks such as West Fork of the San Gabriel we had to keep an eye out for dangers such as loaded diapers and BB gun wielding vandals painting on the rocks, at least they just had BB guns. One of my favorite runs was Arroyo Secco above Pasadena and JPL. We would put in way up Hwy 2 below Red Box, I forget the name of the falls, and we would run it all the way down to JPL.
Fun stuff out there.

Dec 11, 2009 - 04:55pm PT
Tell all your friends you saw Royal Robbins in a kayak!

Probably his sense of humor.


I thought the title indicated a fictitious mix of Erb and Guido. The OP story was brilliantly vivid. The pictured sequelae were like 1950's TV science fiction, which was not cheesy seen through the eyes of a 9 year old. Plus a beautiful historical anti-commercial on RR and SC.

Great value for the # of posts!

Anyone ever see Joe (Brown) in his kayak?

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 11, 2009 - 08:22pm PT
Randisi: of course we did: guffaws went all 'round our torpid little band of rascals!
Then, upon further reflection leavened by copious doses to our very own bodily aging processes ...
We gracefully arrived at MH2's conclusion!

Mountain climber
Los Angeles, CA
May 3, 2011 - 07:58pm PT
Keep this article alive. It is so good to see some adventure in LA area. I am sure we are breaking some 432 laws, because HAY everything is illegal is LA. God made this for us and no one should keep us from enjoying it!
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
May 3, 2011 - 10:07pm PT
This kills my concept that there are no runnable rivers in So Cal.

(Looking up the Big-T as I type this.)

No reason to ever go back to Idaho now. Fritz, you'll just have to come down here.
Tamara Robbins

not a climber, just related...
Sep 30, 2015 - 12:16pm PT
Just came across this - love it. Gonna forward it to mom to read to dad.... he will smile.

My vote is with MH2 by the way..... though Dad in the past has certainly been opinionated and intolerant of the occurrence of others not upholding his own standards, I don't know that I'd ever have called him "arrogant". In fact, humility is one of his biggest defining characteristics - as evidenced numerous times (most publicly in the Dawn Wall saga with Warren) ;)

The fact that he stated his name at all is surprising! Leads me more to the idea that he was good heartedly saying, "in case I meet my demise on this run......" ;)

thanks for sharing the story.... very much enjoyed it!

Dec 14, 2015 - 03:22pm PT
i was with Royal and Chris Taylor when we did the first "flash" descent of the chowchilla river it was fun and not to difficult.

I was also with Royal, Chris, and Reg Lake on the first descent of the lower Fresno river. starts with a curving sluice box class IV. a fun day unlike the upper where we had about 7 boaters including those listed. first 5 miles were all flat with 5 40-50 foot waterfalls in between. then the action started with many IV and V rapids. We ending the day at night with Royal losing his boat after getting trapped in a big hole. Then we carried our boat to a house with a light and got a ride to our cars. Went home and left for Vegas the next day at 4am for the winter ski show.

Good times

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