2nd ascent of the prow-solo


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Trad climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 10, 2010 - 08:15pm PT
I visit here often and have enjoyed reading many stories of climbing epics. Well, after one too many drinks, and time on my hands, I thought some of you would enjoy reading about my epic on the Prow, in Yosemite back around 1970-71
I had returned from Vietnam, one year prior and had partially recovered from a serious injury to my ankle which happened on my last day over there. I was hot to get on a big wall, but the weather sucked. One storm after the other was hitting the valley. I was from Boston and new to the valley and had been hanging out with the locals at the time, John Dill, Phil Gleason, Jim Donini, George Myers etc. I couldn't get anyone to join me on a big wall. The weather sucked and I was a newcomer. I really was frustrated, so I decided to solo the Prow.

As far I knew, it hadn't had a second ascent and it was considered a pretty hard aid route, rated (5.9 A4). I started in good weather. I had never soloed a route, so I decided to tie a knot in the rope every so often, as I proceeded upward. There were a few memorable memories of this climb, which stick in my mind, 40 years later.

I remember an aid pitch, on a dead vertical wall, which slanted from left to right. Well, I had the bright idea of tying my hall bag to a fifi hook. I thought, after cleaning the pitch- I would just pull the bag off the anchor and haul the bag up. Upon trying this-the bag would not release. I pulled like hell and all of a sudden-the rope pulled free from the bag and I was looking down at the bag hanging there all by it's lonesome-way off to the side, on this vertical wall. What a Fu---up! Well, I lowered myself off and after many tries swinging on the rope- I finally grabbed the bag. I rested on the bag awhile and finally cut loose with the bag, for a wild swing across the wall.

It was a long time ago, but I remember about halfway up the wall, there was this long A4 pitch, ( which I'm sure is A2 now). Every placement involved stacked tips of lost arrow etc. I tied them off with nylon shoestrings which I thought was pretty cool. Well, at the end of the pitch, Robbins warned of an expanding flake. I was careless and tired and started to drive in a pin behind the flake. The pin I was standing in shifted for just a second and I tried to react, but I was not quick enough. I zippered the entire pitch. I must have fallen over a 100 feet. I still remember the placements pulling out, some with hardly a tug, others with a little more resistance. I had time to think about my parents on the way down. I felt sorry for them. I thought this was it. John Dill had been watching me from the Valley floor with a spotting scope, (long before he was involved with Yosar), and he said later that I completely went out of his view). Suddenly the rope came tight, with one hell of jerk! I was lucky. I hadn't lost my hammer or jumars and was unhurt. I didn't make the same mistake twice!. After going up again-I placed a nut behind the flake. (I remember that I had one hell of a time untying that rope after I reached the top). The long fall had practically welded the knot together.

On the third day, the weather was turning bad. It was getting dark, and I had to make this belly crawl along this ledge into a corner, which I hoped would protect me from the impending storm. I made it just in time, before the lightning storm hit. I was cozy and dry all night and the valley was getting hit hard. I had these pain killers with me that the VA doctor had given me for my Vietnam injury and I was feeling pretty good. My ego was flying high, knowing I would be off next morning and everyone in the valley was getting soaked. Well, next morning was another day and it wasn't over yet.

I was free climbing up the final pitches when this horrendous lightning-hail storm hit. The strikes were hitting real close and I remember hail going down my armpits as I was making it to the top. Then, as I reached the top, the sky cleared and it was sunny! A few days later, George Myers asked me if I wanted to do the Nose. We got hit by a storm on that too. Jim Donini followed with the Salathe-the weather sucked on that too! Those are the times you don't forget. I'm still climbing with a lot more aches and pains and loving it! Cheers!

Mar 10, 2010 - 08:22pm PT
back around 1971

It hadn't had a second ascent and at the time, it was the hardest aid route in the valley, (5.9 A4).

Are you sure? We did it in spring 71 and it already had several ascents.
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Mar 10, 2010 - 08:22pm PT
I zippered the entire pitch. over a 100 foot fall.
Thanks, Steve - a memorable story. Got any more?

Some of your friends from that time occasionally appear here, including Jim, Werner, Phil, and Peter.
scuffy b

Where only the cracks are dry
Mar 10, 2010 - 08:23pm PT
Man O Man
Show some patience with the Taco, and SHAZAM, amazing content just appears
out of NOWHERE. Hey, I don't mean to imply that you're Nobody, Steve,
it's just that, really, who could have expected this?
What a great story.
Thanks for posting up.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Mar 10, 2010 - 08:26pm PT
Good stuff.

Use paragraphs though and spaces to break it up. Makes for easier reading on a computer.

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 10, 2010 - 08:29pm PT
Hey Wernar
I hope I didn't post an error. I thought it was a second ascent. You could check with John Dill, as I know he is right there, a few hundred yards away from you. My memory is pretty crappy these days. Sorry, if I made a mistake in this. Regards, Steve

Mar 10, 2010 - 08:35pm PT
I don't know either Steve. I have Alzheimers. I need a GPS to find my way home now a dazes.

Hey Steve, remember your helicopter ride down from Half Dome and then when we landed you asked if anyone has seen me around the Valley?

I was sitting right next to you the whole time in the ship during the flight down.

I was laughing my ass off, hahahah

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 10, 2010 - 08:39pm PT
Holy crap
Your kidding me! You were sitting next to me! I must have been out of it! I remember you standing there as I got off. I don't get it? Were both getting old! I love it.

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 10, 2010 - 09:02pm PT
Thanks- that is much better.!
Delhi Dog

Trad climber
Good Question...
Mar 10, 2010 - 09:03pm PT
Paragraphs help but really great story!
Thanks for the share...
Wonder about the solo experience and the 'nam experience...
I would imagine for some depending on the experience a solo would be fairly healing...
And for what it's worth-thanks for your efforts in the military!


Social climber
"close to everything = not at anything", ca
Mar 10, 2010 - 09:12pm PT
thanks for the story

Arkansas, I suppose
Mar 10, 2010 - 09:47pm PT
Nice read, thanks for a bit of inspiration.

Social climber
No Ut
Mar 10, 2010 - 10:02pm PT
Hi Steve-

Welcome to the Taco, where most of the meat is aging, the veggies are wilting and the humor (like mine, in this instance) is a bit cheesy...still, it's an odly flavorful place, and now made tastier by you posting up!

You and I never met but I remember reading some of your stories, I think including one about the Prow that you wrote back then. This current piece is just right in the way it evokes memories of those times. How the hell did so much time go by? In one way it seems it was just yesterday, and in another way it seems like excavating in some ancient burial ground of a reality that once was but can never be again.

Thanks for adding to our collective memory.


Trad climber
Mar 10, 2010 - 10:06pm PT
Great story.
I did the Prow in '76 or so. The book said A3; and that's my story so I'm sticking to it. Truth be told I've never done other A3s so I wouldn't know - but I do remember a long string of tied-off stacked pins. Maybe that was your lost arrow pitch, but by the time I got to it it was stacked angles. ha
Picked up my partner in Camp 4. By the end we weren't speaking to each other - and he kept (by accident?) dropping my sh#t as he rummaged through the haul bag. Lost my vest and my prized #11 hex as I recall. Maybe the only time I remember having had a bad experience with a pick-up climbing partner.

Oh yea, then there were the bivies without ledges. I had a bat hammock and partner slept with one cheek on sloping ledges. ha Not sure who had the more uncomfortable night - but come to think of it, maybe that's why we weren't speaking. lol

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Mar 10, 2010 - 10:10pm PT
Great story Steve!

I have had a couple beautiful rides up the Prow myself, but my first one wasn't until 78....I'm a youngster.

I love a good yarn!

Boulder climber
santa cruz, CA
Mar 10, 2010 - 10:11pm PT
hey great read! thanks a bunch, it's good to hear about the epics of others to get your own balls up and do something rad!

A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
Mar 10, 2010 - 10:46pm PT
Nice share from the way back machine.

Trad climber
the range of light
Mar 10, 2010 - 10:48pm PT
Really cool....still one of my favorite routes. Ive climbed it 4 frekin times.

Thanks for the story!
Wade Icey

Trad climber
Mar 10, 2010 - 11:14pm PT
Thanks Steve, great story. By the way, those pitches all go clean now. You might get a kick out of the SupertopoÖ for the route.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Mar 10, 2010 - 11:14pm PT

Klemens and I were watching you when you fell. We were over in that tourist camp nearer to Glacier Point Apron; the camp they had us all in that year; there was some problem with Camp Four. Peterson was around then too. trying to take his Tis-sa-ack experience further. I think it was maybe 1970 actually; it was Spring and was a really crappy Spring too. Klemens had been watching you carefully forever and came screaming up to us all when you dumped. Very interesting little moment, for sure.

Big Wall climber
Mar 10, 2010 - 11:24pm PT
nice send!
i have a rope-solo ascent of the Prow in summer of 98'.
fun stuff and solid aid for a day an half.
i was totally stoked when i topped out.

Mar 10, 2010 - 11:53pm PT

Mar 11, 2010 - 12:00am PT
Really great tell, steveA. Thanks for the post.

You went from the new guy nobody would climb with to the dood getting the sh#t done with suitors aplenty. Way to put that in their faces, brother.
Double D

Mar 11, 2010 - 12:00am PT
Wow! That's an impressive ascent & good story. Thanks for posting up!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Mar 11, 2010 - 12:08am PT
Cool story. That's a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig ripper!

1970 sounds better for the 2nd ascent, if it had been done a bunch by spring 1971. The FA was in 5/1969.

As for hardest aid route in the valley at the time, the 1971 Roper guide lists the following as A5s:
 North American Wall
 Swan Slab Aid Traverse
 Washington Column - Great Slab
 Half Dome - Direct NW Face
But of course opinions may vary.

Crestline CA
Mar 11, 2010 - 12:50am PT
Steve... you most likely don't remember me but I was there and watched you do the climb... thought you were in deep shiit when the weather broke... I wondered what ever happened to you after that... thanks for the memories! I might even have a picture of you on the route.. have to dig deep in the files to find out... will let you know..
Tom Evans

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Mar 11, 2010 - 02:56am PT
Hi Steve:

Thanks for the trip report. I was always wondering about that ascent for this reason: The Prow was my second wall climb and we (Richard Harrison, Ricky Accomazzo and I) did this as kids shortly after your solo ascent, long before the climb was bashed out. We heard that you had soloed the thing and I was amazed, it being so steep and exposed and us being so green. You seemed very heroic to us just then. Still do.

▀ ╬ ě T ă H

. . . not !
Mar 11, 2010 - 03:14am PT
"Swan Slab Aid Traverse"
Has that ever been freeclimbed ?
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Mar 11, 2010 - 03:46am PT
> "Swan Slab Aid Traverse"
> Has that ever been freeclimbed ?

The guidebook lists the first pitch free at 5.10+, but still A5 for the rest.
FA by Bridwell in 1968.

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 11, 2010 - 07:01am PT
Largo, Thanks-that is quite a compliment from one of the early Stonemasters.
I will always treasure my times there; as will all climbers who really got into it. I'm curious about one thing when you said that you did an early ascent. Do you remember on the 1st or 2nd pitch, a block of rock, about 1 foot square, standing on it's end, like a balancing pencil. Must of been 8-10 feet long. It was just balanced there ready to come off. I tied it off with a sling, I was so nervous. Was it still there when you did it?
I am retired from teaching but still get out often; sometimes with my son who is in Red Rocks right now. I went back into my favorite place last August-Ambush Peak;in the Wind Rivers, repeating for the 3rd time a route I did with John Bouchard some 17 years ago. My son just posted a route description of it on Mountain Project, ( it's in the East Fork Valley). I did the 2nd ascent with him a 6 years ago. I recommend the place highly. Cheers

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Mar 11, 2010 - 09:09am PT
That's the shit!
Man, I remember the energy and exuberance of youth in the valley. That one puts me right back there.


Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Mar 11, 2010 - 09:39am PT
Steve, I was with Dill when you took the whipper. I'll never forget having to eat Spam four nights in a row on the Salathe. You went to the PX in Merced to buy the food and I never checked to see what you bought.

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 11, 2010 - 10:02am PT
Hi Jim,
Sorry about that. Unfortunately, I did the same thing to John Bouchard when I went into the Wind Rivers with him. He never let me forget it! I have reformed my ways and make sure I talk it over with whoever I go on a trip with now.
My son is climbing in RedRocks at this moment. I'll be seeing Mark Richey tomorrow. I'll say hello for you.
There is a local climber here who is heading out to Indian Creek in about a week. He did my kitchen cabinets for me. I know he doesn't have alot of crack experience, ( 22 years old). Would you be interested in showing him around, ( and sandbagging him), which your so good at,ha,ha. I'll get your number from Mark R. and give you a call, just to catch up. Regards, Steve

Trad climber
Mar 11, 2010 - 10:21am PT
Wow, epic story! Thank you.

Mar 11, 2010 - 10:51am PT
2ND 3RD OR WHATEVER, That was out there for back then Steve! Thanks for sharing it.

Trad climber
Mar 11, 2010 - 11:08am PT
Great story Steve, thanks.

Big Wall climber
Mar 11, 2010 - 11:16am PT
What it is with the Prow and soloing it. When I did the south face and looked up and saw the Prow my very first thought was I was going to solo it, it was on of the greatest experiences of my life.

My new goal is to solo elcap. I am drawn to the Muir Wall.

I figure I could do it in Ten Days like Robbins.

I just sold 30,000 dollars in Seismometers so I have all the gear I will need.


Gym climber
Green Cove slabbage BITD!
Mar 11, 2010 - 11:33am PT
God what an amazing resource this place is!

Thanks for inspiring us all Steve.

Mar 11, 2010 - 12:00pm PT

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Mar 11, 2010 - 12:39pm PT
Great story, Steve. I, like several other earlier posters, remember this as being in 1970. I remember Eric Beck climbing it sometime around 1971, and coming back with the report that it was A3, not A4, but that was after Roper's "new" (i.e. green cover) guide came out.


A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
Mar 11, 2010 - 06:49pm PT
this thread is where its at.

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Mar 13, 2010 - 12:14am PT
Great story. Good to hear your still alive and kicking (and even climbing!)
I clearly remember the impact you made on many of us back then. We had been raised to approach climbing slowly, carefully moving up the grades. One wasn't to just come to the Valley and solo a wall!!!
Rumor has it that some "old" climbers are meeting in Leavenworth (WA) in June. It would be great to see you again.

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 13, 2010 - 06:32am PT
Hey Phil
Great to hear from you! Perhaps there will be a posting here of that event in June. I'm finishing up building a timber frame house, up here in N.H.. My building permit expires in June-so that will be crunch time. Can't promise that I could come but it sure would be fun! I miss the old times.
On another note: Apparently, we both passed on our love of climbing to our kids. My son, who rarely gets out on real rock these days, made a quick trip to Red Rocks and Zion. He climbed Iron Messiah yesterday, ( with a bad cold to boot), his 1st ever climb in Zion. It's nice to see him carry on the tradition. Hope we get together someday. Steve
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
May 8, 2011 - 03:56pm PT
Bigtime adventure bump!

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
May 4, 2014 - 08:20pm PT
Good one steve! bump!

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
May 4, 2014 - 08:34pm PT
Yosemite climbing history bump!

Social climber
granada hills
May 5, 2014 - 04:25pm PT
Awesome read. Wow.


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