Royal Robbins Falling while Soloing I-12 at Indian Rock


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Gym climber
Berkeley, CA
Sep 23, 2012 - 06:39pm PT
Someone should make an artsy climbing movie sort of like the Red Violin, where Indian Rock is the constant in a sea of changing history and personalities.

I'll be flailing there some time this evening for a bit. Maybe around 6pm?

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
Sep 23, 2012 - 08:51pm PT
"yet too tiny to make much difference other than social."

Do most big crags or mountains "make much difference other than social"?

According to the wikipedia History of Rock Climbing article, the practice and concept of the dynamic belay was invented at Indian Rock.
gonzo chemist

Fort Collins, CO
Sep 23, 2012 - 09:44pm PT
this is actually a really cool thread.

I have a question for BBA or Guido:

the "Borghoff" that is mentioned in the letter this the same Mike Borghoff that put up 'Borghoff's Botch' at the Gunks and 'Borghoff's Blunder' at the Garden of the Gods?

Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Sep 23, 2012 - 09:58pm PT
What I meant Granite, and being one of Indians denizens since 1963 myself, was that Indian Rock's actual rock climbs, though technical as they can be, are still utterly tiny little things and in themselves make no difference within climbing, do not have the import that the "real" routes in the real hills and gorges. What is so rich and important about Indian Rock is its long history, its social power and ability to connect thousands of climbers, all levels, through more than eighty years.

Gonzo, Mike Borghoff was the marvelous poet and father of our very own Mister E. and yes I believe one and the same in your references.

Trad climber
Sep 23, 2012 - 10:31pm PT
Climbed and lived by it for about Five years. Endless laps and countless sunsets. "pine for the dayz". Even got a job as leader of Cal-Ventures leading their climbing course for a summer. What a great place.

Sep 23, 2012 - 11:19pm PT
My year plus at Indian Rock while I was at UC went from August 60 - December 61. Those were great days. One of the interesting memories is the day I heard the screaming of tires and brakes then a large crash. Another one bit the dust going too fast down Marin. In my short time at Indian the only guys who were pretty regular were me, Guido and Foott. Galen was in and out as was his strange pal Scott. Roper was a sometimes presence. Not many could take that place daily. Pratt was in the Army.

I was thinking about the broken flake on the Watercourse and it popped to mind that Janie Taylor asked me and someone else what we were doing on the Watercourse as we were failing by trying to do it a hard way and avoid the flake. I said we couldn't make it she said it's easy and used the flake. I believe I resolved then that the flake had to go.

Bronx, NY
Oct 4, 2012 - 01:17pm PT
This thread seems to be getting some recent traffic, so I'll add a few tidbits. I posted earlier about RR's I-12 & I-13 climbs. Remember, that was still in the days of klettershue.
And thinking about Indian Rock, I once did a fun no-hands traverse on the little boulder to the left of the stairs behind the water fountain. The traverse starts pretty far left and goes right. The hard part is getting your foot on a hold you can't see because your head is plastered to the rock, and then you have to balance over onto it. If you can manage all that it is then a walk off. Royal and I used to work on it, and I'm not sure he ever made it.
One more little piece of news. I have finished and published my book, Going Up. Pat Oliver (Ament) wondered at one point if I was going for perfection. He should know that perfection is the enemy of the good. The book's good, could be better given another ten years to work on it. Anyway, for now it is only available through my website: I would appreciate it if all of you would spread the word. Better yet, buy the book and read it.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Oct 4, 2012 - 02:15pm PT
Ahh, this is great news. I will be one of the first takers, and
yes one can overwork things in a quest for perfection. Many of my
books and articles are loaded with places and passages
I look at now, with so much more experience, and realize I
could have greatly improved. But sometimes one has simply to
let go. Some of my writings were like journal writing, full of
rough stuff and imperfections, but there is a value to such stuff,
perhaps especially when it has a kind of spontaneity. Sometimes
that good, relaxed feel can be killed by too much work....
I know Joe's book, at its "roughest" will be art of the truest sort
and will be the perspective of one who truly was there.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Oct 4, 2012 - 04:04pm PT
Randy Hamm introduced me to the place. He liked it there as well.

I remember Randy! I remember you, Mouse, in the Valley, but I wasn't aware you played at The Rock as well. We must have crossed paths there too, I guess, sometime during my four years (fall of 1969 - June of 1973) at Berkeley.

Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Apr 29, 2013 - 01:16pm PT
Here is a rare image. Just got it from my sister. I am completing I-12 unroped. Only a couple people ever unroped the climb. You end up forty feet off the deck. It was about 1971.


Social climber
Dalian, Liaoning
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 29, 2013 - 07:55pm PT
Wow, Peter. I never had the balls to do that. Heard tell of a flexing flake. No one even top-ropes the thing anymore.

That photo certainly doesn't convey the exposure of that climb.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Apr 29, 2013 - 09:42pm PT
Yeah there is a critical side cling you step over left to reach. You are working above the void while traversing from the notch. The hold is a hidden slot around a bulging rib; you feel it flex, yes, as you cram your tips in it. Long ago it was larger and broke off somewhat. That was before my time namely before 1963. Once you access the side cling, you pull into a kind of two-move lieback on it to gain sloped handholds. You are overhung a bunch when you do this and feet are slopers too. A suddenly exposed mind rattler this route, good to have at a practice rock. Exit is also slopers and not very positive either. There is some real risk and the fall is not acceptable.

Trad climber
Apr 29, 2013 - 09:47pm PT
great shot peter.

several years ago, i headed off to do that and didn't. i'd want to tr (and prolly clean it) first.

prolly deathzone. at least w/o pads. or worse.


Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 29, 2013 - 11:13pm PT
Beautiful photo Peter! Did your sister take it? That's right around when we were climbing most together, but I don't know that I remember that day. Your hair length looks about right and even stikes chords of recognition of blasts from the past, but I think I would have guessed 1970.


ps in edit: I can't tell if you're wearing modified EBs or ???.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Apr 30, 2013 - 12:10am PT
Darwin, I am wearing really new PA's there. Not a great choice for a slopey friction-foothold type of route.

This photo was taken by Jim Crooks. You remember him of course. Older guy in his late sixties, close friend of Bruce Cook.

It turns out he even knew my uncle up in Seattle long time back. Jack Stangle (Stangl) the painter/artist/papermaker. Jim was a wonderful presence at Indian Rock, as we have all said in past threads. He was a retired advertising exec from Seattle, married to Afton Crooks who was Exec. Assist. to the Chancellor and a friend of my mother's. Jim had been climbing for decades by this point. I think it started in the Northwest.

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 30, 2013 - 01:21am PT
I've been meaning to repost these from another thread where I didn't upload or link them correctly:
I've selected out the Indian Rock ones. All these are circa 69-71.

There was a period '68-'70ish that Luke Freeman, Matt Pollock and I went up there almost daily after high school. We/I heard the Robbins falling off of I-12 story, but I can't remember if it was from Vandiver, or before. Justice Drake, maybe?

Credit: Darwin
Peter and Galen

Credit: Darwin
This is just around the corner from I-12. Although it's not the highball that's I-12, I remember thinking about how I would want to bounce if I came off. That's me. Luke took the photo and Peter cleaned it up a bit.

Credit: Darwin
Peter Amy Steve and ??

Credit: Darwin
Amy Mike and ??

Credit: Darwin
Ben Borson, Lynea(???) and ??? (edited)

Credit: Darwin
Ben Borson on Water Course. I sure wouldn't mind hearing from him again if any of you are in touch. (edited)

Credit: Darwin
This is from the Valley, but I just can't bear not to post it. Luke Freeman

Then back to the topic of the thread. One of my dearest friends to this day came off higher on Water Course wrong back in 69 or 70 and broke her back and ankle (being cold sober). She quit climbing after that, but went on to do awesome very remote river trips in Alaska not to mention a slew of travel adventures including climbing Mt Elgon in Kenya.

Social climber
Apr 30, 2013 - 02:04am PT

Wow, just wow!!!!

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Apr 30, 2013 - 02:23am PT
And thinking about Indian Rock, I once did a fun no-hands traverse on the little boulder to the left of the stairs behind the water fountain. The traverse starts pretty far left and goes right. The hard part is getting your foot on a hold you can't see because your head is plastered to the rock, and then you have to balance over onto it. If you can manage all that it is then a walk off. Royal and I used to work on it, and I'm not sure he ever made it.

i loved that little no-hands traverse and had it pretty well wired...i tried it more recently with Tom Higgins and couldn't touch it...

bitd i heard that Royal had soloed I-12 and so played around myself, but was never willing to go for it

but did do the one to the left


Trad climber
Fresno CA
Apr 30, 2013 - 02:32am PT
Darwin and Peter,

Thanks for posting those pictures. They bring back my happiest memories of Berkeley.

Ben Borson was the first person I met at Indian Rock when I was a freshman at Cal in 1969. He gave me a private tour and dazzled me with his ability. It's been over 40 years since I've seen him. Another denizen of that time that I haven't seen or heard from in many decades is Eddie Litton. Anyone know what happened to him?


Boulder climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Apr 30, 2013 - 10:33am PT
Wow Peter, to folks who h, ave climbed that route that photo makes you want to chalk up! You look really relaxed right there. I 12 has gotten very lichen-covered over the years since then. I have toproped it in the last 10 years for sure. I never really considered doing it unroped.

Ben Borson started coming around again some years ago. I believe he had been working at UCSF in molecular biology and he went back to get a law degree. Nice combination. He was much heavier than when he was active in the early 70s but he could still do his little left hand undercling route on watercourse. Scott Frye dubbed that climb the "Borson Boulder Bonus" problem.

I was thinking about Ed Litton just yesterday because I was riding my bike. I got a really cool Pogliaghi in the early 80s from a guy at Velo Sport and Ed painted it for me. He was a bike builder for a while around then.

One guy from those days has surfaced lately, do you guys remember Charlie Loo? He was really skinny with big hair and he shook while doing really hard routes on watercourse. He climbs in the Berkeley climbing gym sometimes. He is now Charles because he is 43 years older now. He is climbing well in the gym.

In the past year my junior high school photo identification surfaced after many years and I am about 80% sure that young kid behind Peter and Galen looking intently at their arms is me at age 15-16.

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