John Stannard in Life magazine... 1971

Search
Go

Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Messages 1 - 20 of total 43 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Ihateplastic

Trad climber
It ain't El Cap, Oregon
Topic Author's Original Post - Feb 23, 2010 - 09:17pm PT
This article appeared in Life Magazine's special "Endless Weekend" issue, Sept. 3, 1971.

There is some overlap on the images since Life magazine does not conveniently fit in my scanner and I am a lazy SOB.


Credit: Ihateplastic
Credit: Ihateplastic
Credit: Ihateplastic
Credit: Ihateplastic
Credit: Ihateplastic
Credit: Ihateplastic
Credit: Ihateplastic
gonzo chemist

climber
a crucible
Feb 23, 2010 - 10:10pm PT
What an awesome article IHP! Thanks for post this up! I started climbing in the Gunks and John Stannard is one of my climbing heroes...
I have serious respect for the folks there that put up routes with strict ground-up style.

Mr. Stannard definitely comes off as thoughtful and well spoken in the article.


IHP, I don't know how you keep pulling these articles out of the woodwork, but please keep doing it.
Curt

Boulder climber
Gilbert, AZ
Feb 23, 2010 - 10:18pm PT
Stannard insisted that no good pictures be used in the Life Magazine article...true story. Heh. Still, I kind of like the pic of Suzie A.

Here's another pic of the same problem, with Mike Freeman giving me an attentive spot.



Curt
Pate

Trad climber
Feb 23, 2010 - 10:22pm PT
"Beth, a woman with a fine bespectacled face and the supple sleekness of an otter..........."

jstan- did you get a chance to punch this man?
Mimi

climber
Feb 23, 2010 - 10:26pm PT
haha! Pate. Don't quite see John answering that one.
Pate

Trad climber
Feb 23, 2010 - 10:28pm PT
Seriously, that's one of those comments that always make me think "Should I be flattered or he did completely insult me?"
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Feb 23, 2010 - 11:41pm PT

I just might have that article. . .
MH2

climber
Feb 23, 2010 - 11:43pm PT
It turns out that my memory was wrong. I thought that jstan had been asked, "What do you feel like after a climb?" With the expectation that, like Beth, he might own to a degree of satisfaction, if not a sense of elation. And that he had answered, "I just feel like going and doing another climb."

Well, 38 years is a long time.
jstan

climber
Feb 23, 2010 - 11:52pm PT
Right now I could use some help from god.

No, I got a chance to talk with Marshall Frady. He told some wild stories about past writing assignments. If you think being a writer is boring, think again. A writer is under a lot of pressure on almost no notice to take something not at all interesting and turn it into something people will actually take the time to read. He being a person determined to do something really difficult, it was a given that he would figure out what climbing was. I was saddened to see he had died a few years ago.

Oh, and being insulted is a lot like being angry. Both are something that happen only when you allow them to happen. They are not involuntary or imposed states. Both also serve only to reduce one's effectiveness. If you have something you want to accomplish, neither should be engaged in.

I think it is probably constructive for old stuff like this sometimes to be dug up and hashed over. Steve Grossman's visitations to old times have been excellent examples. This particular episode did not really amount to much then and it should not amount to much now.

I don't know that that is what I said. But I do remember saying it. Climbing isn't about elation or beating someone or something. Climbing is nowhere near that inconsequential.

Climbing ranks right up there with taking a deep breath of cool fresh air.

You are going to live a little while longer.
bluering

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Feb 24, 2010 - 12:04am PT
Haha!!!! John is a legend. Give the dude his props. I always disagree with the old man, but he is wise and a legend amongst us.

F*#ker still goes at it too!
skipt

Mountain climber
Washington
Feb 24, 2010 - 12:30am PT
Well it just goes to show you...

with a little patience jstan may still amount to something yet.

:-)

Just kidding,

Great article.

Great man.


Skip
Ottawa Doug

Social climber
Ottawa, Canada
Feb 24, 2010 - 09:04am PT
Myself, Gene Malone and Mike Burke had the pleasure of sharing dinner with John at Facelift '09 this past fall. What a blast. Awesome sense of humour. John, if you're out there lurking, it was great to spend some time with you in the valley this past fall.

Cheers,

Doug Pratt-Johnson
Fish Finder

Social climber
THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART
Feb 24, 2010 - 10:24am PT



Hey Doug , John doesnt Lurk . He goes as jstan and has a post a few up from yours.

Nice article from the wayback machine. Good job plastic and great job John .
graniteclimber

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
Aug 2, 2012 - 05:11pm PT
Jstan bump!

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=1097594&msg=1097594#msg1097594

Also in the same issue: http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=1097377&msg=1097377#msg1097377
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Aug 2, 2012 - 05:26pm PT
Stolen from rockclimbing.com

"Certainly Doesn't Look Like Much (Rock and Ice Magazine 9/94)

John Stannard recounts the following story gleefully. He says, "I was walking down the roadway in Eldorado, sometime in the 'seventies. There were some climbers about one hundred feet away. I overheard one say to the other. 'See that guy? That's John Stannard.' There was a distinct pause. Then the other says. 'Certainly doesn't look like much.'" Stannard laughs heartily at the memory.

In fact, when you meet John Stannard-short-sleeved shirt en vogue with accountants and actuaries (torn at one or both shoulders); double knit pants (revealing six inches of white athletic socks); shoes reflecting his budget of $15 ("I never spend more.") -- you might be excused for mistaking one of the great climbers of all time, as, say, a physicist who researches gallium arsenide. Actually, Stannard is both. He wears the same outfit to the lab as the cliffs.

When Stannard free climbed the eight-foot wide Shawangunks roof on Foops in 1967, it changed climbers' perceptions about what was possible. It was five years before anyone else could repeat it. For many years, Foops was among the hardest climbs in this country, and a "destination climb" for foreign visitors. Through the mid seventies, Stannard continued creating some of the hardest climbs in the world, while introducing a revolutionary idea -- repeated falling. Jim Erickson, comments, "Stannard saw that if you could fall three or four times, you could fall twenty-five times." More than anyone, Stannard shaped the course of contemporary climbing.

But Stannard's greatest legacy to climbing is his humanism, expressed in his respect for the rock, the land, other climbers, and the climbing environment. It's hard to imagine a parallel in today's climbing. Along with Yvon Chouinard and Royal Robbins, Stannard was a major force in climbing's most fundamental change: the movement away from ecologically harmful pitons to natural protection. He was also responsible for many other conservation efforts in Yosemite, Seneca, the Mohonk Preserve and the Shawangunks.

Then there was the garbage: Here was one of the top climbers in the world, spending Sunday mornings walking the base of the cliff, plastic bag in hand, picking up trash. Russ Clune, a leading Gunks climber of the 'eighties, recalls, "It wasn't unusual for Stannard to collect climbers, give them plastic bags, and say, 'Let's pick up trash for an hour.'"

Uninterested in publicity or fame, by the early seventies, Stannard stopped reporting many of his first ascents, feeling "I had gotten more than my share." The last interview Stannard gave was in 1970.

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

Nowadays, Stannard only climbs several times a year. He still doesn't place much pro, but it's bombproof and distinctive: sliding nuts, slings secured behind nubbins with friends, jammed knots in cracks. He still uses body belays and swamis, or ties directly into the rope. And he's still among the safest climbers leading or belaying.

Eventually, Stannard will retire to Joshua Tree, to a house overlooking the desert mountains, and maybe resume his college hobby of playing the bagpipes. He says, "When I want to feel warm about the past, I don't think about Foops or any routes, but what climbers did in the conservation area in the early seventies."

He recalls his most moving experience, on a beautiful spring day over twenty years ago, when he and two friends tried to move a thousand-pound boulder to build a trail. Stannard laughs, "I knew there wasn't a prayer in hell we could."

One of the toughest men you'll ever meet chokes up with emotion at the memory of what happened. "I started hearing climbers throwing their racks down. They were running over to help us. Pretty soon there wasn't any room around that rock. You couldn't get your fingers under it. And we all rolled that rock off the road."

He pauses, collecting himself. "That story has deep implications. It shows that when people cooperate, there's no limit."
graniteclimber

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
Aug 2, 2012 - 05:51pm PT
Found this more complete version on rc.com:

http://www.susanebschwartz.com/acclaim/index.html (doesn't work anymore)

which said...
John Stannard: Certainly Doesn't Look Like Much (Rock and Ice Magazine 9/94)

John Stannard recounts the following story gleefully. He says, "I was walking down the roadway in Eldorado, sometime in the 'seventies. There were some climbers about one hundred feet away. I overheard one say to the other. 'See that guy? That's John Stannard.' There was a distinct pause. Then the other says. 'Certainly doesn't look like much.'" Stannard laughs heartily at the memory.

In fact, when you meet John Stannard-short-sleeved shirt en vogue with accountants and actuaries (torn at one or both shoulders); double knit pants (revealing six inches of white athletic socks); shoes reflecting his budget of $15 ("I never spend more.") -- you might be excused for mistaking one of the great climbers of all time, as, say, a physicist who researches gallium arsenide. Actually, Stannard is both. He wears the same outfit to the lab as the cliffs.

When Stannard free climbed the eight-foot wide Shawangunks roof on Foops in 1967, it changed climbers' perceptions about what was possible. It was five years before anyone else could repeat it. For many years, Foops was among the hardest climbs in this country, and a "destination climb" for foreign visitors. Through the mid seventies, Stannard continued creating some of the hardest climbs in the world, while introducing a revolutionary idea -- repeated falling. Jim Erickson, comments, "Stannard saw that if you could fall three or four times, you could fall twenty-five times." More than anyone, Stannard shaped the course of contemporary climbing.

But Stannard's greatest legacy to climbing is his humanism, expressed in his respect for the rock, the land, other climbers, and the climbing environment. It's hard to imagine a parallel in today's climbing. Along with Yvon Chouinard and Royal Robbins, Stannard was a major force in climbing's most fundamental change: the movement away from ecologically harmful pitons to natural protection. He was also responsible for many other conservation efforts in Yosemite, Seneca, the Mohonk Preserve and the Shawangunks.

Then there was the garbage: Here was one of the top climbers in the world, spending Sunday mornings walking the base of the cliff, plastic bag in hand, picking up trash. Russ Clune, a leading Gunks climber of the 'eighties, recalls, "It wasn't unusual for Stannard to collect climbers, give them plastic bags, and say, 'Let's pick up trash for an hour.'"

Uninterested in publicity or fame, by the early seventies, Stannard stopped reporting many of his first ascents, feeling "I had gotten more than my share." The last interview Stannard gave was in 1970.

From the beginning, Stannard was bred tough and smart, traits that define his climbing. He grew up on a farm in rural upstate New York, where his mother taught high school math and his father was a physics professor at Syracuse University. Stannard recalls fondly a childhood where he birthed calves, slaughtered goats, milked cows, cleaned ditches, operated tractors, dynamited for local farmers, plowed and dragged fields, and nearly died several times in farm accidents. He can still identify the make of tractor by sound, or its function at a glance. The Stannard family house was unheated, and in winter, snow drifted through window cracks onto the beds as the family slept.

"The farm generated a lot of good experience in dealing with real things that happen outdoors and in climbing," he says. It also generated fierce self-reliance. Stannard can be shy, even reclusive. Several younger Gunks personalities who climbed with him in the 'eighties recalled he didn't speak all day. One mused, "I wondered if he was mad at me. Then I figured out he just didn't talk."

Yet in other situations, the 55-year-old Stannard is witty and outgoing, with a rare ability to laugh at himself and a scathing sense of the absurd. He laughs recalling his aborted attempt on the Nose. "For food, I brought six roasted chickens. One per day." he explains, ever logically. "We had to come down because we were a couple of chickens short."

All three Stannard brothers studied physics, including John, who received his B.S. in 1958 and PhD. in 1967 from Syracuse University. Afterwards he joined the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C., to research solar energy for satellites. He was inspired to rock climb after snow shoeing and hiking in the Adirondacks with his younger brother. Climbing was an instant fit. Stannard loved the outdoors, the fringe community of social misfits, and the outlet for self-exploration.

After only two years of climbing, he did a new route: Foops, first aid climbed in 1955 by Jim McCarthy. Even in a mecca of roofs, Foops seemed a preposterous free climbing undertaking.

In part, Stannard pushed technical standards because he had discovered a new strategy: falling. On Foops, it took five separate trips, reaching the lip nine times, before he successfully pulled through. He'd go up, place several pieces at the crux, back off, maybe fall, maybe downclimb, then try again, in a process Gunks climbers called, "siege tactics." Without modern gear, this was a serious business. Henry Barber says, "Think about swinging off on a swami belt. You're hanging in space off tape."

However, Stannard's falling might have been overplayed. For starters, his falls were short by today's standards, rarely exceeding eight feet, usually shorter. And he made sure they were safe, often placing three pieces at a crux.

Stannard was helped by his protection, which several climbers called "the best ever." In the Gunks, the higher the grade, the smaller the pro. Stannard's protection on 5.11 and 5.12 often consisted of small nuts, none individually good, but as a unit could hold a fall.

From the start, Stannard followed self-defined rules. No previewing, resting on the rope, or toproping before leading. You started from the ground; if you fell, you started over, pulling the rope down. Rich Goldstone says, "Stannard failed on Foops many times because he never noticed there's a hold to the right of the lip. If he had, he would have done it the first time he got out there. But to go up to look was considered cheating."

Belying his mild mannered, bespectacled appearance, Stannard developed a reputation for extreme boldness. Yet Stannard says he rarely stuck his neck out, a claim supported by virtually everyone who knows him well. Fellow physicist Curt Shannon, who has climbed with Stannard for ten years, theorizes, "John is the most thoroughly analytical person I've ever met. He figures out all the possibilities and risks before every move, so in a way, if he decides to do it, there's no longer any risk. And he's not embarrassed to back off." Rich Goldstone concurs, "'Crazy' never applied to Stannard. I never saw him take an uncalculated fall."

It should be noted that Stannard, in nearly 30 years of climbing, never had even a minor climbing injury.

Why was Stannard so good? John Bragg comments, "He wasn't a natural climber. He didn't look particularly strong or muscular. But he had incredibly strong hands, endurance and control." Stannard cites his short fingers -- less leverage -- and his "+six ape index" -- unusually long arms -- as his greatest climbing physical assets.

In an era when climbers rarely trained systematically, Stannard stood out with his disciplined weekday routine of running, bouldering and fingertip pull-ups. Stories about how he built training machines duplicating climbing problems were apocryphal, possibly inspired by his lab regimen: He practiced hand jams and foot work on a wooden door jam at work, hung off the end of his desk, and drummed his fingers against the lab's cinderblock walls to develop the calluses he considered essential. He says, "I needed a blood test, and the nurse couldn't get the needle through my calluses. She pushed, and pushed, and pushed! Couldn't get it in! She finally gave up and tried somewhere else."

Stannard's dogged persistence has overshadowed other elements of his talent. An early expert in dynamic moves, Stannard displayed remarkable footwork and edging ability. John Bragg recalls he led Never Never Land 5.10, a delicate, balance climb on polished rock, in pouring rain. Stannard still moves with cool and control twenty feet out from protection on 5.11, placing no pro -- essentially soloing -- on 5.6.

After Foops, Stannard continued banging out new routes at the top of climbing standards. In 1969, came the turning point: Persistent. The name is self-explanatory. Stannard decided it wasn't worth working harder on a climb. He says, "At the last move on Persistent, I stopped and looked down, to savor the moment. I knew I wasn't going to do this any more. If I hadn't gotten into the conservation activity, I probably would have quit climbing completely in sixty-nine."

By 1970, as more climbers entered the sport, Stannard worried the greater numbers would exacerbate land and rock erosion, and undermine the quality of the climbing experience. Aid climbing particularly concerned him, because of its greater wear on rock.

In his campaign to free climb the remaining aid routes, Stannard enlisted the help of the next generation of Gunks stars: Wunsch, Bragg, and Barber. Kindred spirits with the requisite physical talents, under Stannard's influence, they began to chance more falls and push into higher grades.

Their efforts were wildly successful, producing many of the enduring hard Shawangunks classics. Of 33 aid routes existing in 1972, two years later, they had free climbed all but two. Russ Clune, who freed the last, Twilight Zone, earlier this year, sums up Stannard's success. "He persuaded people that free climbing was the hip thing to do."

In tribute, the other admiring Gunks climbers dubbed Stannard and company, "The Front Four." Rich Romano says, "Everything they did made news. We considered them the "A Team" and we were the "B Team." When other climbers repeated the Front Four routes several years later, they joked they made, "The First Human Ascents."

Concerned about land erosion, Stannard organized climbers to build trails to the cliff base. Instead of cutting formal steps, they placed rocks and tree branches. "So you'd end up climbing up rocks, without even knowing there's a trail." he explains.

Of his garbage collecting, he says, "I wasn't the first to do it, but I wasn't naive. I realized if people saw me doing it, so much the better. Eventually, anytime someone saw a cigarette butt, they'd pick it up. As far as I was concerned, it was a real fine way to spend Sunday mornings."

Stannard's impact was extraordinary. Almost single-handedly, he created a revolution in Eastern climbing. By 1972, years ahead of Yosemite, no one in the Gunks still climbed with pitons. No one removed his fixed pro, much of which is still in use. Everyone at the Shawangunks, hikers and climbers, unknowingly uses the trails he built.

"My really gung-ho climbing ended in 1974." he explains. That year, Stannard came down with Menard's Disease, a virus that attacks the inner ear, causing dizziness and weakness. The worst bouts lasted for eighteen months. Eventually, he recovered, but he never regained his previous conditioning. Then in 1978, his daughter Christy was born. He felt it was time to move on.

In 1983, reeling from a wrenching divorce, growing impatience with theoretical research, and needing a change, he moved to California, where he joined the Santa Barbara Research Company to research infra red imaging systems for combat missions.

Nowadays, Stannard only climbs several times a year. He still doesn't place much pro, but it's bombproof and distinctive: sliding nuts, slings secured behind nubbins with friends, jammed knots in cracks. He still uses body belays and swamis, or ties directly into the rope. And he's still among the safest climbers leading or belaying.

Eventually, Stannard will retire to Joshua Tree, to a house overlooking the desert mountains, and maybe resume his college hobby of playing the bagpipes. He says, "When I want to feel warm about the past, I don't think about Foops or any routes, but what climbers did in the conservation area in the early seventies."

He recalls his most moving experience, on a beautiful spring day over twenty years ago, when he and two friends tried to move a thousand-pound boulder to build a trail. Stannard laughs, "I knew there wasn't a prayer in hell we could."

One of the toughest men you'll ever meet chokes up with emotion at the memory of what happened. "I started hearing climbers throwing their racks down. They were running over to help us. Pretty soon there wasn't any room around that rock. You couldn't get your fingers under it. And we all rolled that rock off the road."

He pauses, collecting himself. "That story has deep implications. It shows that when people cooperate, there's no limit.
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Aug 2, 2012 - 06:07pm PT
(jstan blushes...)

John is very good company, hard working, and patient. Plus fun to climb with, which we've done once, in JTNP.
Curt

Boulder climber
Gilbert, AZ
Aug 2, 2012 - 06:54pm PT
Wow, I still remember being interviewed by Susan for that article--almost 20 years ago. And, I'll still stand by my comments related to Stannard.

Curt
jstan

climber
Aug 2, 2012 - 09:08pm PT
Got to get this thread drifted.
Bercaw: Truly excellent climber. Always in control, always upbeat. Reminded me a lot of Goldstone.
Climbing always fun.

McGowan: Years ago John broke an ankle falling off a solo at Carderock. A day later I walk up to the base of the same route to find John sitting there with a cast that now is also broken. Complaining bitterly, "There is just no quality control in the medical profession now." You blokes can't possibly understand how much fun Carderock was BITD. But then maybe it is just as good.

Curt: On the way back from a JT route they had just done Curt says to the guys who were wondering how hard the route was, "Yes, on a scale of one to ten that route was pretty hard."

These are the kinds of stories we all like to hear.
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Aug 2, 2012 - 09:46pm PT

Bump for some good people, Jstan, Bercaw, and McGowan!!!
I'm better for knowing them.
Messages 1 - 20 of total 43 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
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