The death of Jim Madsen

Search
Go

Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
This thread has been locked
Messages 1 - 98 of total 98 in this topic
Dick Erb

climber
June Lake, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 9, 2009 - 10:39pm PT
I was in the Valley that fall when the tragic attempt to rescue Chuck Pratt and Chris Fredricks took place. In those days most of the time there was no one on one of the several existing El Cap routes, and if any one was, all the climbers in Camp 4 usually knew them and kept track of their progress. While Chuck and Chris were high up on the Dihedral Wall a big storm came in. It rained and blew all day and night. The next morning someone went over to check and saw them on their bivy ledge. In the afternoon they were still there. They hadn't moved all day, and we became concerned. There was no YOSAR then, and Jim Madsen was the prime motivator for a rescue. The rangers were contacted and a number of climbers were helicoptered to the top of El Cap. At first light Jim Madsen and Loyd Price rapped off the top. They fixed one rope, and Loyd watched Jim rappel out of sight on the next one. He then heard something like, "What the...". Loyd pulled on the rope. It was limp. Jim was gone.

Down in Camp 4 climbers got the word that Madsen had fallen from the top and was dead. People were stunned with tears in their eyes and flowing down their faces. The dynamo of our generation was gone. How could it be that the birds were still singing in the trees. Some rangers came in to camp and asked if someone could take them to the body. I had a rough idea where he would have landed and volunteered. We drove over there and got out of the car. Steve Williams and Bruce Kumpf came walking out of the woods and told me the exact location. Walking up to the wall with a group of rangers and a body bag I was wondering what this was going to be like. At this point in my life I had never even seen a dead body, and I was going to see what was left of one of my close friends and climbing partners. Then there was the body lying in the talus, split open but recognizable. I felt somehow so detached. It was almost like I was staring at a side of beef. I walked away and left the rangers to their job. Once I was a ways away some other friends came by and we looked up at that great wall. Way up there thousands of feet above we saw Chris and Chuck. They were climbing, above the ledge where they had been so long, and heading for the top.

The next day I sat with rapt attention listening to Chuck recounting their experience. They had gotten totally soaked and cold in the storm. When the morning dawned clear, and they were sitting on a big ledge with plenty of food and water, they spread out their clothes to dry, ate food, drank water, basked in the sunshine, and rested. The next morning they arose and were ready to continue. Chuck said they heard something sail by and thought it was a large rock. Higher up he saw a coiled rope in a crack. He thought it must have been left from the first ascent which was done as a siege with many ropes. Then he saw some blood and part of a pair of glasses. It then struck him what had happened. He was looking at the blood of one of his friends who had come to rescue them. They continued to climb all day and arrived on top at dark. They saw a nearby campfire and walked over. Chuck asked, "Who was it?"
mrtropy

Trad climber
Nor Cal
Dec 9, 2009 - 10:42pm PT
What a question to have to ask.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Dec 9, 2009 - 10:47pm PT
Thanks for sharing this. There was also some discussion of the accident in the Chris Fredericks thread:
http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=367615&msg=949376#msg949376
Prod

Trad climber
Dodge Sprinter Dreaming
Dec 9, 2009 - 10:55pm PT
Dick,

That must be a hard story to retell. So sad.

Prod.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Dec 9, 2009 - 11:24pm PT
Thank you Dick. That story has needed telling here in this forum. I would add that the way you related Chuck's account of it from his perspective is word for word the same account he gave me. However, Chuck and I then had a lengthy discussion of what went wrong and how it could have been prevented.

As I recall, Jim rappelled off with five ropes around his neck and only one overhand knot at the ends of his rappel line and no prussik loops or jumars. It was an end of season, at the height of physical powers and feeling overly confident type mistake, as so many of the fatal accidents are. Coming so soon after Jim Baldwin's death when his rappel ropes were too short and he jumped for a ledge and missed, it definitely made everyone pay more attention to their rappels after that.

The saddest thing was that it couldn't have happened to a nicer person. Jim had dinner with Frank and myself in Berkeley just a few days before the accident. Afterwards Frank and I remarked at what a fine person he was, so thoughtful for someone his age and how we looked forward to getting to know him better. It made perfect sense in retrospect that he would have been the person to launch a rescue.

Meanwhile, I wonder if anyone knows about his family? The climbing community in America didn't have much experience with fatal accidents at that point in time and were not as supportive to family and friends as we are nowadays. It would be nice if somehow we could let his family know that he is still well remembered among us.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Dec 9, 2009 - 11:43pm PT
Another aspect of Jim Madsen's death and what it taught us is the fact that Tom Gerughty attributed his accident to the same end of season carelessness, but survived his because everyone was a little more careful after that.

I can't remember the details exactly but Tom was jumaring up El Cap and absent mindedly clipped in his jumars upside down. When he stepped up he went flying down to the end of the rope and was arrested there because everyone was careful to put more than one knot in the end of their line after Jim's accident. As it was Tom hung on to the rope with his bare hands all the way down and burned them hideously, needing surgery to deal with some of the scar tissue.

Anyway, Tom gave credit to Jim's example for saving his own life.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Dec 9, 2009 - 11:45pm PT
I'm not sure if this is following ST protocol or not, I am taking the liberty of posting the relevant comments about Jim Madsen's accident which appeared on the Fredericks thread directly to this one so that there will be some consistency to Jim's thread.


From John Morton:

climber


No one has mentioned this, but ... it saddens me to say that one of the most enduring associations of Chris Fredericks and Yosemite is that it was while attempting the rescue of Pratt and Fredericks with Kim Schmitz that Jim Madsen fell to his death. Dick Erb wrote me with this news, and I was numb for a few days, thinking about those people and how our whole community would be affected. I remember Dick telling me that after they figured out what happened (overhand knot pulled through a biner brake) they set up that rig in Camp 4 and it pulled through every time (!!!)

John

........................................................................
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan

Sep 4, 2009 - 10:38am PT
Jim Madsen's death had a profound effect on Chris, particularly given the circumstances. He and I had a long talk about it afterward as Jim had eaten dinner with Frank and I in Berkeley only four days before. Chris and Chuck knew nothing of the rescue but on their way up came to realize that something or someone had fallen, and then had the horrible realization of who it was when they came across Jim's glasses lying on a ledge. The last few pitches were climbed under that dark cloud, and was the experience I believe, which caused Chris to go from being a dabbler in meditation to a serious practitioner.

........................................................................

TomKimbrough

Social climber
Salt Lake City

Sep 8, 2009 - 02:55pm PT
I was on top of El Cap with Madsen checking on Pratt and Fredricks.
As Madsen was rigging the rap off the top I walked around to near the top of the Salathe to peek over and heard sounds of P & F climbing. They were OK; we didn't need to go over the edge. As I was walking back to call the effort off Loyd Price met me with the news that Jim had fallen.
Most of the crew left but Schimtz, Bridwell and myself waited for P & F who didn't arrive until almost dark.
I think the accident took a lot of the joy out of climbing for Fredricks.

.......................................................................

Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA

Sep 8, 2009 - 03:20pm PT
Tom/K, it was also not clear how well Kim Schmitz did afterwards. A really horrible moment in our history. I think it was the first really wretched thing to befall any of you guys back then and at times when I climbed with Kim a couple of years later I could feel it working in him and he did not want to talk about it.

.......................................................................

guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific

Sep 8, 2009 - 03:39pm PT
It was only a month later when myself, Schmitz, Kimbrough, Steck,Robbins and I believe Fredricks were all together on Half Dome to pull Rowell and Harding off the South Face.

I had forgotten the close proximity to the Madsen accident until a recent e-mail from Kimbrough. Christ that was 41 years ago!

When Baldwin fell off the East Face of the Column in 1964, it was Sacherer, Herbert and myself that first arrived. That was a wretched experience.

.......................................................................

TomKimbrough

Social climber
Salt Lake City

Sep 8, 2009 - 05:10pm PT
Yeah, that accident did affect us all. Kim has had his problems and some this year as well. Even Pratt's best climbs may have been before that black day. I didn't do much in the Valley after that for about 10 years. Steve Williams was the first to find Madsen and I don't think that image ever left his brain. What about Bridwell? Well, he is a hard man.

........................................................................
jstan

climber

Sep 8, 2009 - 07:39pm PT
Momentarily I ran into Madsen Schmitz in C4 right after they had their first amazing year. Jim was kind enough to answer my silly eastern question. It is always good to run into very able youngsters driven purely by the excitement to be found in the world. You can tell when there is any other reason.

What happened affected those of us in the east also. Of course we wanted to know why this had to be. When told it was Pratt on the wall

nothing more needed to be said.

Edit:
I have not seen it mentioned so I will. Both Chuck and Chris must have been devastated by what happened.

When we all are off doing whatever, maybe we should think about this, more than we do. About what will be left behind.

.......................................................................

Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA

Sep 8, 2009 - 07:56pm PT
Johno Stannard, I agree. That Pratt was down there on the wall was a huge part of the situation. A fact not always accounted for. We all loved him so and it appeared to be a huge situation to those/you guys..

TomK, I did not know that Slings (Steve Williams) was the first to find Jim’s body. god...when I knew him he was in desperate shape by 1970. Badly.
......................................................................



Dick Erb

climber
June Lake, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 9, 2009 - 11:55pm PT
In Tom Gerughty's accident, he was jumaring up the rope with them right side up. He arrived at a carabiner where the rope beyond it was horizontal. He unclipped the top jumar from below the biner and reclipped it above. He did not however push the bottom of it into alignment with the rope and the cam did not fully engage. He then unclipped the lower jumar and the uppper one popped off. He fell to the end of the rope to which he was tied.
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Dec 10, 2009 - 12:02am PT
Dick

That just slows life. I cannot imagine having to live
through something like that.
I hope letting it out might help some.

Be well.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Dec 10, 2009 - 12:14am PT
Dick-

Thanks for the clarification. If I understand you right, Tom was able to grab the rope while he was free falling and hang on to the rope until he hit bottom?

In any case, thank goodness he was well tied in at the bottom of the rope. That was the true lesson. I distinctly remember Tom saying that he normally didn't tie the end of the rope, but remembered Jim and had an intuition that he should the day that he took his fall.



Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 10, 2009 - 12:21am PT
Dick- Thanks for revisiting that dark event. Have you written about Jim's death before this because you really describe the entire situation so vividly.

Jan- Thanks for transposing the text from the Fredericks thread.
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Dec 10, 2009 - 12:29am PT
Unbelievable how seemingly simple things can be our undoing.
I've read this before but it's still hard to fathom.
Thanks Dick, you have posted some amazing stuff.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 10, 2009 - 12:37am PT
I went looking for a picture of Jim and found this in Roper's Camp 4.


Dick Erb

climber
June Lake, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 10, 2009 - 12:45am PT
Steve - I have never written this before. Much of the past is unmemorable but there are some times and events when life seemed more intense or I was much more in the present. I haven't really written much about any of it until I got into Super Topo where the threads and writing has prompted me to recall some of these times. It has been fun and satisfying and this one came out as sort of a catharsis.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 10, 2009 - 01:11am PT
Thanks again for doing so. Your writing makes the events so immediate and personal.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Dec 10, 2009 - 01:23am PT
Thx Dick. I think you've hit onto what is at core of the writing in Supertopo forum and the peoples that make it work that way.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Dec 10, 2009 - 01:27am PT
Thanks Dick.

There's so much value in your story, finely told, for our community.

It is history with heart, and speaks to the dark and light extremes of climbing that make it an intense experience of life.


Peace

Karl
MH2

climber
Dec 10, 2009 - 03:34am PT
Well done, Dick Erb. A good friend, Don McPherson, was among the many affected by Madsen's death. Your account is good medicine for old pain.
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Dec 10, 2009 - 08:37am PT
Hi Dick. Thanks for posting--a painful story to recall.

I did not know Jim--before my time--but knew many of his friends, all of whom were deeply affected by his death. Can you comment on any overarching effect Jim's death had on the Valley climbing community? Jim's death seems to coincide with the beginning of the 'lull' in climbing activity in the Valley, at least for new routes, that lasted until 1970 when a newer generation of climbers showed up. Do you think there was a connection?
SGropp

Mountain climber
Eastsound, Wa
Dec 10, 2009 - 03:36pm PT
Thank you for posting this story. I will forward it to a friend of mine who was an early friend of Jim Madsen. He was not a climber and never knew the full story of Jims death.

About 1973, Steve Hong and I came unawares across the grisly remnants of a fatal rappelling accident at the base of North Gateway Rock in the Garden of the Gods. This being a city park , the body had been taken away and the place was empty. There was only a chalked outline of a spreadeagled body with a pool of blood where the head had been , slowly drying in the afternoon sun.

It was a vivid reminder to us of the dark downside of this beautiful and dangerous game we so blithely played.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Dec 10, 2009 - 09:42pm PT
If any of the people who knew Jim post on ST, it would be good to hear something about him besides his tragic end. He had a lot of friends for good reason.
Camster (Rhymes with Hamster)

Social climber
CO
Dec 10, 2009 - 09:48pm PT
Dick,
Thanks for this .. another sad story. Not sure what the learning/moral is, but there is always something. Maybe it's just be more careful.
Best,
Cammo
Eric Beck

Sport climber
Bishop, California
Dec 10, 2009 - 10:06pm PT
I was grateful to be out of the valley when Madsen died. At that time he was the best climber in the country; it wasn't even close who was second.

I'd like to add that Dick and Jim did the 2nd ascent of the South Face of Watkins. This after our debacle the previous spring.
Dick Erb

climber
June Lake, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 11, 2009 - 12:27am PT
Roger, you ask if there was a connection between Madsen's death and a lull in Valley climbing. There was, and the biggest reason was that he was not there. Jim had climbed more grade VI's in a shorter period of time than anyone ever had as well as doing some of the hardest free climbs in the Valley as well. He was obsessive, strong, and talented. I never heard him talk about wanting to be the best climber, but I did hear him talk about wanting to do the biggest and hardest climbs he could find. The routes on El Cap that he and Kim Schmitz were knocking off one by one in record time he said were practice for the five thousand foot walls he wanted to do in Patagonia. But, alas, we all found out he was no unstoppable force.

We the young ones thought of ourselves as the younger generation. The older generation, Robbins, Kor, Pratt, etc. were not even ten years older but we tended to look up to them and thought of them as the better climbers. There certainly were some great accomplishments here and there from the younger generation, but overall it wasn't even close to the rise in standards and opening up of the big walls that preceded us. Even Bridwell, talented as he was, never really broke through until the next generation came and he teamed up with them. Jim Madsen was the exception, but just as he was breaking through, he died.
Studly

Trad climber
WA
Dec 11, 2009 - 01:36am PT
Here in Washington, whenever I would do one of Madsen's routes thru the years, I would always wonder....who was Jim Madsen and what happened to him? Just vague stories and rumors of a legend. These posts kind of bring it full circle for me, thank you.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Dec 11, 2009 - 02:02am PT
Roper's portrayal of Jim Madsen isn't as accurate as it might be.
I found Jim to be quite reflective and calm much of the time.
He instantly became my friend and looked me up when I arrived in
the Valley one season. He brought me several presents, and we
strolled through the Valley and had great conversations. He must
have come across, though, at times as frenzied. Not really so.
He was the first to cross the line in a more full way from pitons
only to the use of nuts, and that greatly decreased the time on
climbs. I had done the West Face of Sentinel faster than he, in June
1967, and that was not an effort to go fast, with my 17 year old
partner, and then soon after I did what was then the fastest
ascent of the Nose, again not trying to go fast in that hot June
heat, Jim did the Nose in a day less time, in part because of his
growing ability and speed, and his raw physical power, but also
the improving equipment. He and Dalke did the Upper Yosemtie Falls
route, as I recall, that grade VI done by Royal and McCracken, and
those two fired up that wall quickly. Jim had all sorts of questions
for me about bouldering and free climbing. I think he was on the verge
of wanting to become a serious free climber, instead of the speed
demon on big walls his reputation was fast becoming. I liked that
guy so very much. He was just simply pure and beautiful and a really
good climber and good man. I have the memory I was there when he died,
but it's possible I had just left or was just about to arrive. Somehow
or other I was near it all, though, and it touched me very powerfully.
There were various stories about what he said at the moment the knot
slipped through. One was, "Here goes," which made sense. He was about
to swing side to side (pendulum) and get another rappel anchor going.
That's the comment that first reached me, although then others began
to crop up....

Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Dec 11, 2009 - 11:55am PT
Morning Dick,

Thanks for the note. That is a powerful piece of the puzzle of what happened in those years between the earlier 60s climbers and the 1970/71 seasons.

It always seems a bit mysterious to me why certain periods seem to take off and some sort of slacken—there always seem to be good climbers around, but something has to happen to cause them to push into new methods or terrains. Or course climber’s tastes change and with changing tastes some areas are more favorable than others. But the 1967 to 1970 period in the Valley always seemed to me to be an oddity. There were really good climbers in the Valley during that time, not the least of which were Bridwell and Schmitz. The fading of the earlier generation, the names you mention, is easy to see as the sum of the individuals moving on to other things in their lives. And, it easy to see the affect, in the 1970/71 season, when Barry Bates, Mark Klemens and Peter Haan shook up the place with hard free climbing, all of which caused/allowed Bridwell to come into his own as the Valley impresario.

From a historical perspective, Madsen’s position in the Valley as the strongest young climber with a vision and drive probably would have been the piece to drive climbers to push the envelop—whatever that special communal catalyst is—and his death, as you confirm, would have just as easily have created a void that didn’t get filled until Barry and Mark showed up and Peter took off his belay.

neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
Dec 11, 2009 - 01:00pm PT
hey there, dick, jan, (chuck and chris) steve and anyone else...

say, i wish i could you give you all some kind of special hug right now, as to these very sad memories.... :(

god bless your hearts this day...
thanks for helping others, as you share this...
Dick Erb

climber
June Lake, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 11, 2009 - 02:52pm PT
Sorry I dissed my own generation. I just realized my mistake when I was reminded that Beck made the first one arm solo ascent of Starr King.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Dec 11, 2009 - 03:23pm PT
Once again people comment about times they weren't part of,
and thus the sense is off somewhat, but neither Jim or Kim S. was
much focused on free climbing (Kim, yes, in years to follow).
They were big wall climbers. As I said, however, I think
Jim was really at a point where the idea of free climbing
had begun to peak his curiosity, and had he lived I imagine he might
well have done some wonderful stuff. But the biggest part of his
whole career was about going up the walls fast and strong. Jim
was part of a strong Northwest cadre, several of whom were better
free climbers than Jim. But he simply was a force, somewhat like
Kor, full of energy and love for life. It's wrong to say he
played much of a roll in the free climbing scene of those years,
pre '70 or post... He often told me the free climbers were an
inspirtion to him.... His temperament was a bit different...

Thanks, Dick, for your thoughts.

mastadon

Trad climber
quaking has-been land
Dec 11, 2009 - 05:02pm PT

"Jim was part of a strong Northwest cadre, several of whom were better
free climbers than Jim."

Who might those Northwest climbers be (have been?)??
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Dec 11, 2009 - 05:22pm PT
Hey Dick, maybe you could remind us of Eric's one-armed ascent of Mt. Starr King.

Edit: Oops, I missed the thread on Eric's recovery methods: One armed solo ascent of Mt Starr King


Regrading Pat's swipe
Once again people comment about times they weren't part of, and thus the sense is off somewhat
, I respond here: Ebs & Flows; Booms & Busts: Valley FAs 1954-1980
elcap-pics

climber
Crestline CA
Dec 11, 2009 - 05:52pm PT
MMmmmm a long time ago... I remember feeling so sick when I learned of the death of Jim.... A few years later, in 72, Bob Norris and I were up for giving the Dihedral a go and went to Pratt for some beta... he just shook his head and said.... "you should go do something fun, like Snake Dike, and forget about the Dihedral". We went anyway and bailed after 4 in really cold conditions.... It was 1992 before I went back, this time with the remarkable Brad Jarret, who comfortably hauled me up most of the the route. I was an Eastern climber when Madsen died and like JStan said, it really hit us hard, as we followed the Yosemite scene with great interest and building ambitions. Madsen was already a legend to many of us. Gone but never forgotten.
TomKimbrough

Social climber
Salt Lake City
Dec 11, 2009 - 06:29pm PT
Thanks, Dick for remembering Madsen. I went to Peru with Kim and Jim the summer before his death. We had a fine time. After his fall I tested a single overhand knot and a six biner break. The knot will pull right through.
Kimbrough
Dick Erb

climber
June Lake, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 11, 2009 - 08:32pm PT
One time a bunch of us were sitting around up in the boulders behind Camp 4, and we got to talking about nightmares. Some guys described some pretty weird and frightening stuff they had dreamed.

Then Madsen starts talking, "I was hanging in a hammock on a wall up in the Cascades. I was soaked and cold. Masses of wet snow kept sluffing off the wall above filling my hammock with snow. The wind was howling and-"

"Wow," I interjected. "I've never had a dream that bad."

"No. This is where I was when I Had the dream."
MisterE

Social climber
Across Town From Easy Street
Dec 11, 2009 - 09:00pm PT
I remember Mom telling me this story for years, about how completely shocked the Yosemite climbing scene was that this could happen to someone so vibrant.

It's actually good to hear some clarification about this after so many years, I was under the impression there was no knot at the end of the rope.

But that is probably third-hand information over 40 years old now...

Thanks, Erik Wolfe Borghoff
Reilly

Mountain climber
Monrovia, CA
Dec 11, 2009 - 09:33pm PT
Who might those Northwest climbers be (have been?)??

I think Masta is being coy.
I nominate John Marts, the Hargis boys, and Al Givler; dem boyz waz baad.
I only climbed with Marts and Givler but I've not seen many better. Not many know of Marts but he was smoooth. Masta and Timson came on very shortly thereafter.
Eric Beck

Sport climber
Bishop, California
Dec 11, 2009 - 10:50pm PT
Here's a measure of how strong Jim was. For a reason which is dim, many of us in camp 4 had to move to new campsites. One group had a car apart with the engine out and were in despair as to how to move the engine. This was a 327 (those of you who were hot rodders will recognize this). Jim came over and asked "Where would you like it moved to." He picked it up and carried it to the new site.
mongrel

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Dec 11, 2009 - 10:52pm PT
Thanks for posting this. Can't have been easy. But all of us (well, many of us anyway) greatly appreciate all the recollections, whether good bad hilarious informative wild or tragic, of the 60s and 70s climbers who post here. Thanks.

It is striking how lasting and widespread the impact of this accident has been. It happened right about when I started climbing, and I've always been wary about rappel descents because of this and other incidents. We like to talk about the "lesson" to be learned from one or another accident, in this case that a single overhand isn't a stopper knot, but that isn't really the core lesson. Instead, it's that a climbing accident profoundly affects everyone in your immediate circle of family and friends, and to some extent the whole community, for many years to come. Dave Roberts's Moments of Doubt considers this thoughtfully but without resolution (or, arrives at the conclusion that there is no resolution, and for many, no getting over a friend's or family member's accident, ever).

It's worth remembering every time you consider not backing something up or replacing a grody-looking rappel sling or checking a knot or clip or re-placing a piece that wasn't quite as secure as you hoped. Sure, there are many climbing risks that are nearly impossible to control, but also many that are, and we owe it to everyone around us, especially our non-climbing family and friends, to be sure that we eliminate the latter whenever we can.

Edited to add, right after posting: Holy crap, Eric!
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Dec 11, 2009 - 11:44pm PT
Yes, I was about to say, Mastadon, you could start with
Mead Hargis, one heck of a fine climber... I don't really
want to compare any of them, because each was unique and
different, but those guys from the NW were indeed some of the
best...

Jim had ferocious strength yet struck me as gentle as a lamb.
I remember arriving in that campground over near the Apron.
They were renovating Camp 4 or some such, and so we got
relocated. Madsen heard I had arrived and promptly searched
me out and brought me a bag of goodies as a welcome
present. I recall a long walk we took through the forest. We
didn't talk at all about climbs...

I don't remember anyone who didn't like Jim.
MisterE

Social climber
Across Town From Easy Street
Dec 11, 2009 - 11:58pm PT
It is somehow fitting, that at the end of a tragic year, I find something on the Topo that touches my recollection, and set my sensibilities as a child - to have freedom, but be careful. Even the best of us can perish.

Thanks DE
Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Dec 12, 2009 - 01:32am PT
I was just a sixteen year old rube from Utah on my first visit to the Valley. Although I was doing one climb after another, when I heard Jim Madsen and Kim Schmitz planning a trip up the West Face of Sentinel, I volunteered a morning to help them lug their gear up to the start. It was invaluable time for me. I was a sponge, then, able to soak in or grok the subtle nuance and brilliance of accidental mentors, and make some of it my own.

On the hike up, I absorbed the power of the conversational flow between two young budding masters, not really so much older than me. As I watched Jim do the first pitch, unhesitatingly liebacking thirty feet up the initial corner, stopping all of thirty seconds to slam in and clip a 3/4" angle before continuing the essence of going-up-ness, I was imprinted forever with a vision of the grace of power that instantly raised my own climbing to another level.

I was devastated when I heard of Jim's death a couple years later.

-Jello
hooblie

climber
sounding out stuff , in the manner of crickets
Dec 12, 2009 - 05:32am PT
"imprinted forever with the vision of the grace of power"

there's a lot more giving in this sport than would meet the eye of the casual observer. clearly jello, you had prepared yourself
to be able to see jim madsen, in the manner of a receptive vessel. as in, when the student is ready, the master will appear.
such a process shouldn't be assumed to be passive so much as resonant.

top moment for me here on the taco stand jeff, the clarity with which you painted the instant of transference.
i feel included as a witness across time to something akin to a sacrament.

it galvanizes the image i carry of meeting kim schmitz, next to rigged tarps on a primative guide's hill, standing tall and aglow
like a beacon, despite being unfairly obliged to describe for the umpteenth time his own broken frame. his true hopefulness
that covered the dubious prospect that his rightful prowess would be fully restored.

i was taking in the stark distinction between just before disaster, and from then on. the cussed irreversability that is the hallmark
of a terrible accident. at the time i was consumed by the injustice of his story, a client pulling him off,
but i see now that it was my time to absorb the message of it
mastadon

Trad climber
quaking has-been land
Dec 12, 2009 - 07:09am PT

Not coy Mr. Reilly, just curious. I never met Madsen, he was a few years before my time, but I could hear the echo of his footsteps wherever I went. It was like following smoke. He'd be gone before you got there. It was hard to get a handle on what he was like. This is by far the most discussion of him I've ever seen.

I would have thought that Hargis or Givler were a little young to have been much of a free climbing force by the time Madsen died but I can't think of anyone else from the NW in that era that did much climbing in The Trench.
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Dec 12, 2009 - 11:19am PT
Dick:
Your thread brought back vivid memories of that awful day: Steve so shocked that he wandered around the meadow hallucinating. Bruce returning to camp pale and talking in a whisper. Days later around the campfire Chris recounting how they had come upon a huge amount of blood ("we thought a large animal had fallen"), until they found the crumpled glasses.

Sitting back now and reflecting so many years later, the gloom that then descended over the Valley is still almost palatable.

Of all the things I learn that first year in the Valley that incident had the most impact: to even the strongest hero, gravity was undeniable if one made a serious mistake. Your thread has brought to the surface what an important lesson that was.
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Dec 14, 2009 - 11:16am PT
This is a follow up to Madsen's free climbing.

Dick metions that Jim was doing some of the hardest free climbs in the Valley, obviously not frist ascents. I would like to hear more about those.

Also, on the surface, it seems that Mastadon's question was given short shrift. In Wizards of Rock Ament notes that Madsen climbed Easter Overhang at 5.10a and Primate at 5.10c both in Leavenworth, WA in 1967. Madsen and Fred Becky climbed the West Face of South Early Winter Spire at 5.10c in the high country of the Washington Cascades. Seems like pretty high standards for the time. The other strong climbers from the NW that are mentioned up thread are not mentioned in WofR and seem to be younger climbers.
Studly

Trad climber
WA
Dec 14, 2009 - 11:33am PT
Madsen and Beckey were doing new routes togather up at Liberty Bell in Washington, and in that same time period I noticed that Jello also put up a new route close by. Jello, can you elaborate on that by chance, what motivated you to come up to Washington, was it Madsen who told you about the area and route possibilites? As that was before the North Cascades highway was in, and kind of remote and hard to access area.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Dec 14, 2009 - 11:48am PT
I agree PhilG.

There was this "thing" still in camp and in our climbing for years afterwards. It wasn't just that Jim was well-liked, a cool guy in our midst and of course a luminary, it was also the horribly violent nature of his passing.

It is barely possibly even 41 years later to remember him without also the cinema playing inside one's head of his going off the end of his rope and his subsequent gigantic fall. It is the stuff of our worst, deepest fears and nightmares, always will be. It recast our sport/art in a light no one wished it in. Just too terrifying; it was just about the worst thing that could happen. I think only when new climbers came who weren't part of that earlier community were most of us able to lift our vision to something more hopeful, to a new vision of modern, often joyful, rockclimbing.
Darryl Cramer

Social climber
Dec 14, 2009 - 01:15pm PT
Here is a pic of the Golden Arch route on the Upper Town Wall at Index. The large white ledge below the climber is named "Madsen's Ledge."

Madsen was on the FA. Despite the passing of 40 years it still is a classic route and local rite of pasage for those learning hooking. Which raises the question: When were hooks first used? Perhaps Madsen nailed this section. Photos by a young Bringmedeath.

mastadon

Trad climber
quaking has-been land
Dec 14, 2009 - 08:26pm PT

I doubt that Madsen and Burgner had hooks, at least commercially made hooks, when they did Golden Arches in the 60's. I didn't know Madsen but I know Burgner wouldn't have been caught dead using ghey little tricks like that. Those were the days of creative nailing. Burgner almost hit me with a 2" bong one time when we were doing Midterm in 1973. I told him it went with hexes but he insisted on taking a rack of pins. He was in the wide hand section and getting pumped when he pulled a 2" off the rack and tried to fit it into the crack. When it wouldn't fit (and I started laughing), he hucked it, full force, at me. I stopped laughing. He sucked it up and went for the top.

As for Madsen's free climbing---some of the cracks he free climbed in Washington in the 60's are still something to be reckoned with. He was always such a mystery to those of us that came after him. It was like he left some kind of magic behind when he died.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 14, 2009 - 08:59pm PT
The Chouinard Cliffhanger hit the market in 1966 and the Golden Arches went up the following year which is not to say that Madsen was ghey but I bet he used hooks.
Jim Logan

climber
Boulder
Dec 15, 2009 - 12:38pm PT
Reading this makes me really sad. Jim Madsen was the best climber I ever climbed with, and over the last 50 years I have climbed with some really great climbers. He had great expectations of taking the valley big wall techniques to the high mountains that obviously were never fulfilled. He wrote me a letter the week before he died (I was in the army at the time) that said the valley was a crazy place and he was leaving forever to climb in the big mountains. I miss him.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 15, 2009 - 12:48pm PT
Jim- do you have any photos from your climbing with him that you would care to share as this thread has become a memorial to the man?

A thousand thanks for inventing Logan hooks, by the way.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Dec 15, 2009 - 02:26pm PT
Good to hear from you Jim. I remember you were right there
with us that one year, can't just recall which year, but
just before Madsen's death. I remember driving out to the Valley
with you one year, with Goss, can't remember exactly when that
year was either, and I recall I was kind of out of it then,
and you had a lot of clarity and focus. Yes Jim was the big
wall master of his day. It makes me feel glad that we can
remember and know how much love we had. Sometimes we can't
get to such feelings when people are right there, alive,
with us, the dull mindset of the moment sometimes.... And
yes he had his opinions about the Valley, which changed about
every day. I heard him say he had to get out of the Valley,
then later was back and caught up in some great
time. We all hated the madness of living there at times, and by
then the numbers of climbers and people had wildly increaed --
nothing compared to today. Imagine what Madsen would have thought
(or any of us would have thought) had he
been given a little window into the future -- a look at the Valley
today! Those times back then would have seemed as primitive as
the stone age... and quite private, by comparison. I mean we
could still do a wall and have the entire grand edifice to ourselves.
Tell us about the climbs you did with Jim. And letters. Post that
one if you feel so moved to share something so personal. I always
saved them. I have piles form Kor, Robbins, Pratt, Gill, all my
friends through the years. I cherish them. I think I have a few
from Jim even. He was trying to get me to come out and do some
wall, but I had lost interest in big walls at that time. He
thought for a short time he would change my mind, but it was futile.
Pratt too wanted me to do the Arrow Direct with him, and I frustrated
him by talking about some short hard cracks I wanted to do instead.
He took my friend and protege Ruwitch up the Arrow instead, and I
hung around the edges of the climb as moral support. Now I wish I
had done those climbs with Madsen and Pratt... But at least we did
the climbs we did, and I'm pretty sure the love we all had was the
same, whatever the climbs...
Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Dec 16, 2009 - 01:39pm PT
Good observations, Hooblie. Kim Schmitz was influential too, with that piercing intelligence shining through his eyes, but it was Madsen's energy that picked me up by the bootstraps, and set me down on a higher course than the one I'd been charting just moments before.

That might be an interesting thread, for people to think back on their climbing lives and try to identify those sudden times when their own climbing notched up a level or two.

-Jello
Jim Logan

climber
Boulder
Dec 16, 2009 - 06:50pm PT
I realy like Jeff's statement "the essence of going upness". I think that covers both Jim and Kim. It is dificult to think of one without the other. One spring, possibly 1967, we had a haul bag on Sickle ledge and after spending several days in a wet snowstorm sleeping under a tarp that Bridwell had, we decided to seek refuge in Berkeley. When we went up to the Nose we found huge sheets of ice breaking loose from the top and smashing up on the lower slabs, but occasionally spinning out into the forest and hitting trees. Somehow it was decided that Madsen and I would jumar up to Sickle and get the haul bags. On the way back down I was rappelling down to Madsen and when I got to the anchor I looked over and it was a total mess with no place to clip in. Just then another ice sheet cut loose and we could hear it in the air above us. Without a word being spoken, Jim reached out and lifted me up with one hand by my coat like a puppy being held up by the scruff of his neck. I unclipped from the rope I was on and swithed my carabiner brake to the next rope just as the ice exploded above us. We just had time to protect our hands as the ice shattered around us. While I was switching the rappel my only tie in was Jim holding me there one handed. I think that exresses the idea of Jim Madsen being someone you could totally trust.
I am sad to say I have no pictures or other artifacts of those times.
MisterE

Social climber
Across Town From Easy Street
Dec 16, 2009 - 07:08pm PT
Thanks so much for sharing your stories, Jim. Much appreciated.

Erik Wolfe Borghoff
Dick Erb

climber
June Lake, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 18, 2009 - 01:49pm PT
I certainly could not make a list of the Valley free climbs that Jim Madsen did, but I know he did an early ascent of Twilight Zone, and us other guys were generally in awe of his free climbing. There were other awesome free climbers from the Northwest, but we in the Valley never saw them until a while after Jim showed up. In the late 70's I moved to Seattle and was impressed by the standards of free climbing up there as well as the stiff grades. It had gone way over my head. Talking to the locals I found that Madsen was quite a legend and was definitely a step above his peers.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Dec 18, 2009 - 08:28pm PT
That would really impress me if Jim did the Twilight Zone. I wasn't
aware he did that route. Does anyone here know for sure about that
one or who he did it with? That's pretty impressive. I
remember him telling me he didn't like off-widths.
By the way, my comments were in no way intended to be
derrogatory. I was as much in awe of Jim as anyone, and I liked him
even more than I was in awe, but he had always given me the impression
his goal was to get up the walls and do so fast. He was strong in that
area. If he also did those hard free climbs, that's one more tribute
to him... of which I just wasn't aware. On more than one occasion he
followed me around the boulders, and that was definitely not his cup
of tea. As I said before, of anyone he reminded me of Kor -- a real "life
force," to use Huntley's words.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jan 14, 2010 - 11:30am PT
Madsen Bump!
Dick Erb

climber
June Lake, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 14, 2010 - 09:13pm PT
When Eric Beck and I went up to do the second ascent of the south face of Mt. Watkins, the pitch that scared me the most was one that Pratt described as a jam crack at the limit of his ability. I was hoping it felt that hard to him because they were so wasted by heat and dehydration. A few pitches below this an accident ended our attempt.
http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=778437&msg=978220#msg978220.
Returning several months later with Madsen, I chose to lead the pitches I hadn't led previously, and he ended up with the pitch. It is now rated 10d. There were no 11's in that Valley at that time. Jim took off from the belay and was quickly out of sight. He paused just long enough at the crux to call down and say, "I don't know if I can do this pitch", then went right up it.
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jan 14, 2010 - 09:23pm PT
That is a very telling and cool story about Madsen, Dick. In hanging around Jim and Kim and Loyd a few years later, his free climbing skills never came up.
Dick Erb

climber
June Lake, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 14, 2010 - 09:33pm PT
Jim could be a mellow guy but he did have a temper. There is a story I remember, but I can't remember who told it to me. It may have been Tom Hargis. He and Jim had done a route on Half Dome, and were descending. Jim decided to walk down the slabs without the cables. Some where a ways away from the cables he had to stop and work out a move. There were a couple of young guys hiking the dome that saw him out there not moving, and started gooning him. Stuff like, "Hey show off, your not as brave as you thought. gettin' scared eh." This got Jim's dander up, and he told them he was going to rip them limb from limb, or something like that, and started traversing back toward the cables. The guys took off and Jim went after them, chasing them for miles with a big pack of gear on his back before he finally cooled off enough to let them go.
Dick Erb

climber
June Lake, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 14, 2010 - 10:40pm PT
Eric and I arose in the predawn darkness of Camp 4 to get an early start on some climb. Eric had one of the few cars among the climbers there and we were going to give a ride to Schmitz and Madsen. Jim was up but Kim was still in the sack. Madsen declares, "Time to get up". Kim groans, "It's still night". Madsen, "The birds are singing". Schmitz, "They've been singing all night". Enough, Madsen grabs a picnic table and hurls it into the air. Stuff is flying all over the place. Kim rolls over and says,"If that's the way you feel then I'll get up". So Eric and I hang out for awhile while they get their act together, until Jim comes over and tells us that they can't go now. He is going to have to stay and deal with the folks whose stuff he broke like that record player over there on the ground.
MH2

climber
Jan 14, 2010 - 11:07pm PT
He paused just long enough at the crux to call down and say, "I don't know if I can do this pitch", then went right up it.


That's the spirit.
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Jan 14, 2010 - 11:24pm PT
Dick

Just read the write-up on Eric dislocating his shoulder on Watkins in 67. On a free ascent with Eric of the Regular Route on Phantom Pinnacle around 1961, we got into a similar episode with "the" shoulder. I think he was leading the first 5.9 pitch when it popped out of place. I not sure if it was his first dislocation but it was my first experience and I recall how difficult it was physically and and how painful it was for Beck to reposition the shoulder.

Admirably, he was able to climb the rest of the route and handle that strange set-up getting into rappel from that exposed position near the small tree at the top. Hardy soul!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jan 15, 2010 - 09:28am PT
Another gem of a thread being lovingly faceted by friends...Awesome!
Shameless Yahoolihan

Trad climber
west malling, uk
Jan 18, 2011 - 06:37pm PT
Don't know if this is true or not, but it was said that when Schmitz and Madsen were doing the East Face of the Column, they discovered they were both too thick for the Harding slot. So Madsen freed the outside. If so, it would have been (and still would be) an incredible lead.
steveA

Trad climber
bedford,massachusetts
Jan 18, 2011 - 07:28pm PT
Funny I never noticed this thread:

I was a newbie in the valley. It was a long time ago, but I remember one night, Schmit and Madsen came by my campsite. I was immediately struck by the intensity of these 2 guys. I still remember it 40 years later. There was a certain energy that these 2 guys radiated which was kind of unique.
MisterE

Social climber
Cinderella Story, Outa Nowhere
May 8, 2011 - 08:35pm PT
Bump for the memory of Jim.
CaNewt

Mountain climber
Davis, CA
Jul 6, 2011 - 08:54pm PT
John Howard and I were sitting at Degnan's having a beer shortly after lunch when Madsen and Schmitz walked up. We started to kid them as they said that they were going to climb the East Face of Washington Column that day. Their reply was, "We already have!" Then we just bought them a beer. If I recall, Jim couldn't fit in the Harding Slot and did climb the outside of the crack. Must have been summer of '68?
Steve Hickman

climber
Norwood, CO
Jan 12, 2012 - 11:00pm PT
I was there- - the lone ranger along with Lloyd and Jim and ??? I was supposed to depart the next day with wife Janice and babies Don and Jeff for new assignment in Rocky Mountain NP, but put that on hold. We (Camp 4 and rangers) got wind of the situation and shared concern for Pratt and Fredericks and impending mean weather forecast. Swedland was particularly anxious. So we walked in (rain) all night from somewhere below Crane Flat with mostly lots of rope. Got situated under the shelter rock on top of El Cap and pretty soon it was beginning to get light. Lloyd and I went to a spot above the route with a nice protective overhanging roof. We rigged some anchors and Madsen loaded himself with a ton of rope / anchora / some hot thermos stuff / dry gear and a NPS radio. We (Lloyd and I)actually checked his rigging and rap system-- rope up through a biner and across two biners and back down. Pretty standard approach with one overhand know at end (n0 biner). Jim backed off and rapped down a single perlon, then got started to set another anchor- - the rope made a wierd jump and he screamed "what the fuuuucccckkkkk- - we heard him bounce/hit a couple of times and froze in brief traumatic shock. Lloyd grabbed the radio and called park dispatch and said-- simply- - "Madsen fell" and- - as sort of an snticlimatic comment- - a practcal suggestion to send some people up to the base to find him. Comment later in Camp 4 was that he "landed on his feet". Rather useless info. Lloyd and I regained composure, pulled up the empty rope with shiny compressed squeezed knot at the end. NPS flew some people and rescue gear to the top, including Schmitz, who remarked that it would probably happen to him some day. The weather was not bad as predicted abd the helicoper was able to fly by Chuck and Chris and determine that that they were in fine shape and needed no assistance. I think after they topped out they recalled a disturbance in the force as a UFO whizzed by. I checked out with the Superintendent, Chief Ranger, et al- - somebody gave me a pint of good whiskey in case it would help and I headed off for Colorado. We probably should have encouraged him to have a bigger knot or carabiner at the end of the rope, but we didn't. Steve Hickman, retired in southern AZ.
Steve Hickman

climber
Norwood, CO
Jan 12, 2012 - 11:30pm PT
I just wrote about being the lone park service ranger when Madsen fell-- but I don't see it in the replies. Lloyd and I were at the top of the rope and last to see Jim alive as he went down,
pyro

Big Wall climber
Calabasas
Jan 13, 2012 - 12:30am PT
thank's for posting steve.
what a sad story.
fsck

climber
¯_(ツ)_/¯
Jan 13, 2012 - 12:36am PT
epic thread
Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Ca
Jan 13, 2012 - 01:41am PT
Wow, Steve - thanks for sharing.
Dick Erb

climber
June Lake, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 13, 2012 - 09:26pm PT
Steve Hickman, Good to see you here. I remember Michael Covington telling me how helpful you were when he broke his leg. I was glad to see Stich's post right below yours. Indeed, sometimes talking to Madsen was about as useful as talking to a locomotive.
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Jan 13, 2012 - 11:23pm PT
Steve:
Thanks for posting and adding to the history of this meaningful thread.
Hilt

Social climber
Utah
Jan 13, 2012 - 11:29pm PT
What a horrible thing to remember and a wonderful way to honor his memory. May the best of us and who we are never be forgotten.
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Jan 14, 2012 - 12:17pm PT
Yo Steve

Good to see you back on ST.

In many ways you were always the "Lone Ranger" back then. I remember a wild night in Camp 4 when we were all a wee bit toasted, how unusual, singing and partying away with some of the Brits, Mick Burke and crew, and "the Rangers" came over to hassle us and you dove across the fire and tackled one and they went ballistic until they realized you were their boss. That was pure gold.

Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Jan 14, 2012 - 04:29pm PT
Jello mentions shlepping loads up to the West Face of Sentinel when Madson and Schmitz did a fast ascent. Maybe ten years later, around 1975, I was back up there with Schmitz, who'd I'd hounded into joining me for yet another speed ascent. Somewhere on the route Kim held me on tension (hip belay) so I could rack a nut or pin or something and he said, "Jesus, Largo. You weight as ton. It's like being up here with Madson all over again."

I had always heard the stories about Jim Madson, mainly from Jim Bridwell, who I climbed with extensively in the 70s, and I always wondered who Madson really was. Now I know. Much obliged, fellows.

JL

Jennie

Trad climber
Elk Creek, Idaho
Jan 15, 2012 - 04:06am PT
...appreciation for a worthwhile (and sobering) history thread.
Dave Davis

Social climber
Seattle, WA
Jan 18, 2012 - 03:19pm PT
I was a young aspiring climber,still in high school, when Madsen met his demise, but he was already a local legend. I never met him, but got to know many of his friends and former partners here in Washington. I've always loved the location and ambiance of Midnight Rock and think of it as a bit of a local monument to Jim Madsen. On my first trip up there in 1969 there was still a register on the summit which recorded many of the first free ascents by Madsen and his contemporaries. Unfortunately, somebody made off with this little piece of local climbing history a few years latter.I remember being at Midnight once with Ron Burgner, Thom Nephew, and Garrett Gardner when we found an old piton.Burgner says"Hey that's one of Madsen's old pins. That's the color his were painted!" Then he scrutinizes the flattened old angle with the broken eye and grins,"Yeah that's what Madsen used to do to his pins."Latter Ron led us up Black Widow which he had been on the FFA with Jim and which I always thought was the most difficult of the routes Madsen did there.
I never realized that you were in on the body retrieval, Dick. That must have been a pretty traumatic experience. This has been an interesting, albeit sad thread to follow.






dirt claud

Social climber
san diego,ca
Jan 18, 2012 - 05:18pm PT
Thanks for posting/bumping this historical and informative thread, much to think about here.
John Marts

Mountain climber
Edmonds, WA
Dec 11, 2012 - 12:08am PT
Jim and I were roommates at the University of Washington. He was in Honors Engineering. We met in my brother's (Brian Marts) U of W Intermediate and Advanced Climbing classes while in high school.
Much of the bouldering and climbing in Icicle Creek, Tumwater Canyon, Peshastin and Liberty Bell was done without route names, without any knowledge as to whether it had been done previously. Tom Hargis and Madsen hopped freights to Yosemite Valley and brought back and demonstrated "How to Jam." Tom Hargis spent several hours trying to work out a jamming ascent of our layback route of Damnation Crack, Castle Rock. My father, the Vice Provost at the U of W, and a former Rainier Guide before WWII, watched Madsen and I climbing "some routes" on Midnight Rock. My father after watching, commented, "It was interesting to hear you climb, Jim ....."

I guided in Estes Park, CO in the summers, and knew Steve Hickman. I spent 1968 in the Alps. I returned and in the Fall, Jim asked me to find him a job as a ProPatrolman skier. Madsen had received a waiver from the Vietnam Draft. He was off to do something in the Valley.
I received a call from Steve Hickman concerning Jim's tragic error. (Steve, I got to Canyon de Chelly in 2008, 40 years later! Hired a fabulous guide there who taught my wife and I how to use Datura and how to find Mormon Tea.) We were on the way to run the Grand Canyon on a private permit, and looking for Petrillo.

For those who expressed concern about Madsen's parents and siblings; I immediately after the phone call contacted his father, mother and sister by phone. Jim's father, a decorated WWII Tank Commander with I believe, Patton, felt that Jim should follow his lead and go to VietNam, as Jim was doing nothing productive with his life. His reaction was hard and stiff.
He thanked me for calling. His sister, who had an understanding of how successful Jim was at climbing, took it very hard. His mother emotionally thanked me for notifying them. I spread the word to others including Givler and Burgner. I was not notified of any ceremony.

20 years later, I ran into his father. He asked a few questions at the time. I believe he had been grieving as he aged. I again conveyed that he had died trying to rescue friends and was regarded as an icon in climbing circles.

Jim's father should have had the opportunity to read your Posts, and all of the interest you have shown about Jim's talent. The only problem that ever slowed him down in life was Differential Equations.

Thank you, Steve, for that call.

marts
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Dec 11, 2012 - 12:31am PT
John, I pm'd you a while back but I'm thinking you didn't get it. That seems to occur fairly

frequently so you could try pm'ing me.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Dec 11, 2012 - 01:26am PT
Wow. I hadn't seen Steve's post before.

This thread has GOT to make it into the permanent Supertopo archive.

So damn good. Thanks again guys.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Dec 11, 2012 - 01:27am PT
We have all lost loved ones. It's an important part of life to keep on living when they leave. It's our turn sooner than we know....It's equally important not to forget the departed. We are doing well. It's not too much to think there's only heaven, never hell.--from another thread

The death of Jim Madsen.... is THE accident everyone hears about sooner or later. It's good to see it talked about. Thank you all.
Gottfried

Mountain climber
Seattle, WA
Feb 15, 2013 - 09:08pm PT
This was many years ago. I went to Ingraham High School in Seattle with Jim. A friend and I who had worked for the Rainier Guider Service took Jim on his first mountain trip, a simple spring slog up to Camp Muir on Rainier where we stated in the Guide hut with no planned summit attempt. It was a good start. He had never climbed before but knew it was something he wanted to do. I lost track of him while in the Navy in the late sixties but heard about his death while home on leave. Later I met and climbed in the San Diego are with one on his Yosemite partners, Jim Butler. We both had good memories of what a good fellow he was and I wished that I could have reconnected with again. What a loss. RIP, Jim.

Geoffrey Braden
Seattle
guyman

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Feb 16, 2013 - 08:03pm PT
Steve ... Thank you for sharing your experience.

rottingjohnny

Sport climber
mammoth lakes ca
Feb 16, 2013 - 08:11pm PT
Gottfried....Have you heard from Jim Butler....? RJ
ms55401

Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
Feb 16, 2013 - 09:19pm PT
Geoffrey, thanks for your thoughts on Jim.
guyman

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Feb 16, 2013 - 09:40pm PT
Geoffrey.... thank you for posting.

ralph matthews

Boulder climber
saigon
Apr 11, 2013 - 05:55am PT
late to the party...

Most of what I recall about the accident was what came out in Mountaineering magazine, which I got secondhand from my neighbor Bob Boyd, who was going with Randall Henderson and that crowd into Baja after the war.. I remember the rangers wanted to put a cable down but Madsen didn't want to wait. The two climbers originally thought a deer had fallen off the cliff, as they didn't know any attempt at a rescue was being made. Also I thought it was near dark, but could be remembering that incorrectly. Was in the valley in the early 70s with Gary Kirk, when he taught rock climbing, and looking down at a beaner he had lent me, it was stamped "J.M."... America's leading Alpinist, and some funny stories about him climbing with folks who came to the valley and hired him to drag gear up the climb with them. Back in the days of filing the threads out of nuts to make chock nuts, in the British fashion... blimey. There were maybe a dozen people total climbing.. Royal Robbins, everyone who died on McKinley in '67, etc...
G in AK

Boulder climber
Jan 12, 2014 - 01:53am PT
When the post many entries above indicated Jim's knot at the end of his rope was too small, my distant recollection was that this was a kernmantle rope, fairly new to climbing at the time. They also stretch more than the older style hemp ropes and this might have been the reason the knot was smaller. I can't verify this, but others might be able to do.
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
From Panorama City, CA
Jan 12, 2014 - 01:34pm PT
They also stretch more than the older style hemp ropes and this might have been the reason the knot was smaller.

Maybe you mean Goldline. Bump for Madsen
Rollover

climber
Gross Vegas
Oct 8, 2015 - 06:22pm PT
BBST
Rollover

climber
Gross Vegas
Dec 12, 2015 - 10:22am PT
Bump for history
Messages 1 - 98 of total 98 in this topic
Return to Forum List
 
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks


Try a free sample topo!

 
SuperTopo on the Web

Recent Route Beta