John Stannard in Life magazine... 1971


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Tony Bird

Northridge, CA
Aug 3, 2012 - 11:19am PT
nice to see mike freeman here--i interviewed him once by telephone when one of the magazines had given me an assigment(early 90s) to write an article about blacks in mountaineering--an article which they never published.

how's mike doing, anyone know? still climbing? does he lurk here? he had been featured in a calendar of black athletes, hanging in the air on a spectacular one-arm grab.

the other two african-american climbers were friends--virgil shields and leroy russ--both still climbing--a rare and talented bunch.

Aug 3, 2012 - 12:56pm PT
Mike Freeman has a very solid head on his shoulders. He laughs when he says.

"I am the token black."

He is a very clear signpost pointing out where it is we all have to go.

Once we are there, no one will have a clue as to why it took so long.

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Aug 3, 2012 - 02:31pm PT
The following are some words about John I recently posted on, where they are buried in an obscure argument about what I thought was a particularly unfortunate anchor. As the discussion widened, these words seemed relevant there, but they are also just as relevant here.

Some thoughts on climber's interest in preserving cliff resources.

(1) BITD, almost all climbers came to the activity through a progression of other outdoor pursuits. In other words, climbers were all outdoorsman (there doesn't seem to be an appropriate gender-neutral term for this; I am not excluding women climbers here) first and then climbers. This meant that, in general, climbers were attuned to and appreciative of the outdoor environment and inclined to protect it when impacts manifested themselves. The Sierra Club, for example, was started by climbers.

Nowadays, the many new paths to climbing that do not involve any kind of outdoor connection have changed the nature of the climbing population significantly.

(2) Thinking about the specifics of climber concern for the environment in the Gunks, it is clear in retrospect the John Stannard was a colossal influence, really a paradigm shift. I think the general climbing population was ready for to hear what he had to say because of the conditions mentioned in Item 1, but the fact is that no one really thought in terms of concrete action until Stannard took it upon himself to try to awake the environmental sensibilities climbers shared.

Stannard's first actions were simple: he rose early and picked up garbage. He didn't say anything to anyone about it, and there was no internet bully pulpit available. He just did it. People noticed, and soon there was a bunch of people doing the same thing. Stannard's quiet integrity had more force than all the combined hot air the rest of us have expended on the internet since then. He did the right thing. People saw is was the right thing. And they chose to do it too.

No doubt, Stannard's position as the leading Eastern climber of the day helped, and comments he has made suggest that he understood that. He used his fifteen minutes of fame, not to burnish his image or establish some legacy in the annals of climbing, not to enhance his income or support his climbing, but rather to help people realize their own better instincts, to the benefit of the crags he loved.

Many people know that Stannard went on to try to halt the the piton destruction of cracks in the Gunks and, in the process, became one of the preeminent national figures in the move to clean climbing. Once again, in his favor---in the Nation's favor---was the fact that most climbers were then outdoorsman and so primed to hear a message of conservation. But Stannard did something unique: he fabricated his own internet. He published and distributed for free a newsletter, The Eastern Trade, promoting discussion and the idea and desirability of clean climbing. I recall that this cost him a few thousand dollars, which he absorbed as part of the price of protecting a resource he saw as both precious and threatened. In an astonishlingy short time, and rather ahead of the rest of the country, East coast climbers mothballed their pitons and hammers and set sail for the adventures of the modern era.

Soon, these events will be forty years ago. The majority of those who were around then have moved on to other things, including an afterlife, if there is one, and the remaining few witnesses who are still climbing are, with luck, on their last decade. The influence of Stannard's vision has surely been diluted, first because neither his contemporaries or those who came later had anything like his ability to project unquestionable integrity and a profound concern for the climbing environment---sadly, we dropped the baton when he left---and secondly because the audience of climbers is nowhere near as receptive to the messages he so successfully promoted years ago.

I am not suggesting that all has been lost; I used the term "diluted" advisedly. Climbing has entire new genres that didn't exist forty years ago, and with such a diverse population the kind of unanimity achievable in Stannard's time is probably permanently out of reach, and may perhaps no longer be desirable. The old farts may be on their last lap, but there are plenty of young climbers who still believe in Chouinard's original vision: that on every climb, climbers are entitled to experience, as much as possible, the thrills, challenges---and yes, the risks---of discovery that drew the first ascenders to the sport and to the route they established.

Long live the spirt of Stannard!

Alan Rubin

Aug 3, 2012 - 04:35pm PT
As one of the "surviving witnesses" that Rich mentions, I, too, want to acknowledge the incredible influence that John's environmental concern and activities (and his climbing)had on our generation in the Gunks and elsewhere. However, I don't fully share Rich's generally negative views of the current situation. Sure there are many people now involved in climbing who do not come from the outdoors background that was typical of our generation, and a number of those folks demonstrate varying degrees of "denseness" regarding environmental issues (while others are paragons of "environmental correctness"), but overall I think that the climbing community as a whole is environmentally aware and more often than not trying to "do the right thing" in this respect. Organizations such as the AAC and the Access Fund have taken the lead with events such as Adopt-a-Crag days and other environmental and conservation initiatives, and local organizations and individual climbers have followed suit with their own activities. Everytime I go to the Gunks I'm amazed how clean the area of the cliffs and the carriage road always is despite the amazingly intense use the area receives (contrasted with the roads below), Are we perfect--of course not, can we improve--always, but it is wrong to say that we have "dropped the ball" since the '70s.

Trad climber
Aug 3, 2012 - 04:42pm PT
nice post rich.

i also appreciated the schwartz piece, which i hadn't seen before

Aug 3, 2012 - 05:56pm PT
I much appreciate the good thoughts. But the truth is we seldom, if ever, succeed in giving credit to all the people who have richly earned it.

Willie Crowther, my first teacher, was actively cleaning the public roads below the cliff sometime in the 50's. I followed his lead. At first I concentrated on the public roads because climbers are only one part of the population whose welfare is adversely affected. We climbers are not an island. At Facelift I have concentrated on Route 120 for the same reason. The experience gained in Yosemite by our good citizens is materially lifted if, while driving in, they see ten groups of people gathering trash. The good inclinations of all those people are reinforced. When climbers joined in on the roads at the Gunks we got the same multiplication that Ken Yager has so brilliantly achieved. It was not all sacrifice. The squeal of tires at the hairpin gave us many memorable moments those Sundays.

Fifteen years ago Bob Fenischel was out to JT. He said to me, "Did you know we are still picking up cigarette butts on the carriage road?" I suspected they would be. What I saw in the early 70's had convinced me people were entirely agreed as to how the Gunks should be cared for. In the final analysis I think Dan Smiley and the Preserve should be at the head of the line on that one.

Damn! I vaguely remember not picking up some change on the road. Must have been with Steve that day. My memory is shot all to H....


It was an investment. An outstanding one.

I can't resist.

Two scots simultaneously spotted a penny on the road way. It was at that point that copper wire was invented and Maxwell's Theory of Electromagnetism was made possible.

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Aug 3, 2012 - 08:03pm PT

Not only did Jstan lead the way in cleaning up the roads and clean climbing, he got dirtbags doing it because he'd drop change along the road and we poorboys would pick it up for beers later after the trash was picked!!!!

Yay for Jstan!
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Aug 3, 2012 - 08:16pm PT
Trying hard to imagine jstan throwing away money... Not succeeding.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Aug 3, 2012 - 08:31pm PT

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Aug 3, 2012 - 08:36pm PT
Ah Peter, I would have thought you'd av done a wee bit on his bagpipes and all..............Perhaps a clan meeting in Camp 4 bitd?

Trad climber
Aug 3, 2012 - 08:39pm PT
I remember that Life magazine article! Saw it in a doctor's office. I stole the magazine and took it home. Read it over and over.

That article was the reason I got into climbing later that year. Thank you, Mr. Stannard.

Aug 3, 2012 - 08:44pm PT
Well thank you Wivanoff. So I did finally do something constructive.

Everyone be forewarned. There will be no humor when it comes to the pipes!

Joe, you owe us five Hail Marys.

Social climber
Aug 3, 2012 - 09:10pm PT
I can personally vouch for John's continuing clean-up talents as of last year - he is a machine and obviously was taught well by a master.

Boulder climber
Gilbert, AZ
Aug 4, 2012 - 03:40am PT
Ah, the bagpipes...

Credit: Curt

Tony Bird

Northridge, CA
Aug 4, 2012 - 10:03am PT
the man plays bagpipes? can he cook a haggis?
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Nov 11, 2012 - 06:41pm PT
The reference in the inserted quote about Life Magazine prompts distinct memories of "researching" "sensory awareness"--the new age thing about LSD and experiencing things others don't dare--as my project for the fall sem. Psych 1A course at Monterey Peninsula College.

The MPC library yielded a Life article which included a photo of the partners in the GPIW, YC and TF. They were seen as protagonists in the death-defying but life-affirming practice of our sport.

The gurus say and the acolytes absorb.

I must compiment JS on his refined style as I watched him onsight the Lunatic Fringe, then was "sent" himself by the two monkey boys, Werwolf and LukeyLuke running up and down the Fringe like they wrote it, if monkeys could write.

John thought nothing of it, I imagine. The way he climbed, you could tell he was likely as unflappable in "real" life. At least it's good to think this of gents we've only met twice. In fact, I never saw him after that again until Facelift, where he's still the inspiring guy we see here.

I am sorry as sorry to have not watched more of him on other testers, as I am that I just now split an infinitive.,.

Love ya, JS! Next Facelift, I hope.

I have been seeking that Life article, should anyone know of it or how to retrieve it free at no charge, like the Free University we started at MPC that same fall. Cheap-ass hippie bums...

Ice climber
chingadero de chula vista
Nov 11, 2012 - 06:49pm PT
Hey hey hey (that's the tres heys) mouse - i ran into a similar situation with a magazine article I was trying to track down. I can't retrace it right now, but there is a way, I will get back to you.

mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Nov 11, 2012 - 07:15pm PT
I love the song that JS recalled his buds singing:

We're off to do 5.10, etc.

It is the perfect never-ending song title.

We're lookin' to do some 5.15, etc.


Trad climber
Elk Creek, Idaho
Nov 11, 2012 - 07:24pm PT
Very worthwhile thread...

Ice climber
chingadero de chula vista
Nov 14, 2012 - 10:41am PT
hey hey hey mouse

this place charges, i don't know how much

This site told me where I could read an article on Steve McKinney for free at the local libraries

i'd think you could do something similar for John Stannard though maybe not since LIFE was a much bigger magazine than SKI


on the wings of a snow white dove

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