Nuts To You- Royal Robbins Clean Climbing Intro Summit 1967

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karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Jul 19, 2010 - 09:56am PT
Last September at Royal's "climb in" I led the 5.10 crack on the right side of gianelli edges with just nuts in his honor. Royal commented, "nice work, I don't think anyone has led it without cams". It was very satisfying indeed. My father Blair followed the climb, and gave me much praise as well for my protection skills (which of course he taught me!). Ever since, I've enjoyed the added challenge of using nuts only when possible.

Kalen.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Jul 19, 2010 - 10:04am PT
Ydp, I should have said that I learned the double-strung stopper technique from Stannard. I thought he had made it up himself rather than learning from someone else, but I could be mistaken. At some point, pictures of it appeared in the literature (Chouinard catalog?) and then it was broadly adopted.
ydpl8s

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
Jul 19, 2010 - 10:16am PT
Rgold, I have no idea where that started, but we were trying anything at that time. See the thread containing Philo's pictures of creative hex stacking by Chuck Grossman, that guy was a master of ingenuity!
bergbryce

Mountain climber
Berkeley, CA
Jul 19, 2010 - 10:39am PT
These articles are awesome. Especially for someone who wasn't around to experience this era of climbing. The historical perspective they offer is incredible. Thanks :-)
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jul 19, 2010 - 10:43am PT
These articles and threads also remind us all that we share a common history and ethos, which needs to be cherished. Plus they're informative, fun, and edumacational!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 19, 2010 - 12:23pm PT
Repeating Joe Brown's classics in as close to original style as possible with respect to quantity and character of protection is a true testimony of Royal's respect for the celebrated clean climbing anchorite. As was said of Stannard upthread, no matter how compelling the idea, some brave soul has to climb the climb and consistently lead by example. Joe Brown did that great service for British climbing more than anyone else.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 19, 2010 - 06:50pm PT
The old school Clog nut selection from the 1968 Chouinard catalog. Rgold sent his money in!


Note the citation!
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Jul 19, 2010 - 08:17pm PT
Note too the recommendation to give 'em a tap with the hammer. Clean climbin' ain't here yet, because when it arrives, you ain't gonna have no hammer, Jack.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 19, 2010 - 08:36pm PT
Aye, when does a chock become a peg?
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Jul 19, 2010 - 09:37pm PT
Steve:

Aye, when does a chock become a peg?

That quote has been stuck in my mind since the early 70's.

I converted it into a tune, and whistled it: while beating copperheads into a thin crack on Elephant's Perch in 1977.

It must have come out of Mountain Magazine.

Do you know the origin?

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 19, 2010 - 09:49pm PT
I believe that to be Joe Brown concerning the love tap. 72 Chouinard catalog talking again!
Off White

climber
Tenino, WA
Jul 19, 2010 - 10:35pm PT
Donini said:
Not only were nuts important ecologically, they also made free climbing easier. Carrying a hammer and pins on free climbs wasn't much fun.

I agree. I've long made the argument that nuts really caught on because they were faster, easier, and safer than pins. The desire to get rid of pin scarring was sincere and certainly an important part of the package, but I don't think the clean climbing revolution would have been so rapid and complete if nuts were slower, harder, and much less secure than pins. I think nuts also opened up the climbing game to more people by making protection better.

I particularly liked Robbins line at the end, "though pitons are here to stay, jam nuts have a place in the modern rock climber's bag of tricks." He had a glimmer of what could be, but the way free climbing would be completely revised was still inconceivable in 1967.
scuffy b

climber
Eastern Salinia
Jul 20, 2010 - 09:07am PT
Based on a sample size of one, I would add that learning to trust a good
nut was easier than learning to trust or even recognize a good piton.
The few times I placed pitons in granite, to protect hard moves, I over
drove those suckers like mad and thought they were going to pull.
Then my partner would tell me the pins would have held a house and were
hell to get out.
Nuts were so intuitive. You just knew a good one. What you saw was what
you got.
It was a relief, actually, when my hammer got stolen.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Jul 20, 2010 - 10:05am PT
Off White wrote, "I've long made the argument that nuts really caught on because they were faster, easier, and safer than pins. The desire to get rid of pin scarring was sincere and certainly an important part of the package, but I don't think the clean climbing revolution would have been so rapid and complete if nuts were slower, harder, and much less secure than pins. I think nuts also opened up the climbing game to more people by making protection better.

I've had signifcant portions of my climbing career during all three equipment genres, and I don't agree.

It certainly wasn't true for the Gunks, as I've already tried to describe. I don't think it was true for Eldorado, where Wunsch and Erikson made significant new ascents without pitons. I don't think it was true in Yosemite either, where long sections of nearly parallel-sided cracks made nut placements subtle and difficult. And the early hexentric-protected ascents at Indian Creek couldn't even remotely be viewed as being faster, easier, and safer.

In the Gunks, getting good protection in horizontal cracks was, much of the time, considerably slower and harder than slamming in a pin, as well as less secure. And there were quite a few places where it couldn't be done, so that people started looking at much bigger runouts. And as for small wires, which had to be used a lot, one could get protection by using many placements, but virtually none of them had the security of a decent pin.

As for safer, I think that is doubtful too; you could always overdrive your pins and feel quite confident about their holding power; a single piton belay anchor was not at all uncommon. Donini's single blue Camalot notwithstanding, you won't find many climbers entrusting their belay stance to a single nut or cam, and for good reason---they are simply harder to judge than pitons were. As protection points, pitons were secure, whereas nuts are subject to lifting, and even the most experienced climbers today have nuts lift out on them with some regularity.

It may be that some subset of climbs was faster, easier, and safer, but this was definitely not something you could count on ahead of time. The climber starting up a climb with a rack of nuts faced a much higher level of uncertainty about protection than the climber equipped with pitons. This is one of the reasons why there was a transition period in which climbers carried both.

Off White overlooks the fact that the challenges presented by the use of nuts were intrinsically appealing to climbers. It seemed like the "right" way to climb in spite of the possibility that in some cases it would be slower, harder, and less secure.

Cams changed everything once they were fully accepted and refined. Contemporary climbing is both "faster, easier, and safer than with pins" and even more so faster, easier, and safer than with just nuts.
ydpl8s

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
Jul 20, 2010 - 10:52am PT
There definitely was an "elegance" factor when using nuts and stoppers. It felt like you were using the rock rather than abusing it.

We looked at it as an environmental thing, which is why we eschewed chalk at the time, packed out our deposits, used camp stoves instead of burning wood, we believed in the "leave no trace" motto. Those hexes and nuts were sort of the early 70's version of driving a Prius.

If I felt like bashing something, I went ice climbing.

I'm remembering all of this in my air conditioned office with my SUV parked in the garage (although I take the bus to work). I've lost a lot of the golden earth view that I had in my youth.
Off White

climber
Tenino, WA
Jul 20, 2010 - 12:15pm PT
Good counterpoint rgold, worth considering. I started climbing in 1972 and was using nuts from the get go, so I don't really have the background in pins that you do, they just always seemed harder and slower to place, especially when dangling with only one hand free. Back when the book Yosemite Climber came out, I looked at that picture of Bridwell on Stone Groove with a hammer and pins and thought, "Geez that looks hard, I'm glad I didn't have to do that."

I'm sure I've placed no more than 30 pins in my life, and that mostly knifeblades or arrows when alpine climbing. That's not enough experience to really support my hypothesis. As one who made that transition, was your motivation really based on environmental impact, despite feeling more insecure? Was the gear really harder-slower-less secure, or was it also the change from your usual-and-accustomed to something new and unfamiliar? I can certainly see your point as you've described with regards to the Gunks, but as a Californian hobbled by my clean climbing upbringing, your first hand description just doesn't mesh with my more limited experience. I can see though that I need to knock some of the certainties off my soap box position and qualify things with more of that "for me" kind of language.

I certainly agree on the changes cams brought, its funny to climb things I led long ago on just a rack of nuts and contemplate how much harder it must have been without that plug and go convenience. Funny because aside from some barely stuck on a crystal #10 & #11 hexes on Moby Dick Center, I don't recall the insecurity. It must have been there, but it was just "normal." I must confess that I do prefer the new normal.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 20, 2010 - 07:01pm PT
Rgold- When did the fixed piton ethic take hold in the Gunks? I don't notice a lot of piton scarring climbing there.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 21, 2010 - 08:25am PT
To finish setting the table, several of the early articles that Royal mentions in the OP.

Two from Summit April 1965.













And one from Summit May/June 1965.





Now let's see if the cooking smells good enough to get Jstan and Royal to step into the Wayback Machine!
ydpl8s

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
Jul 21, 2010 - 09:29am PT
Very cool! I've never seen these before.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 21, 2010 - 06:59pm PT
Have to include Tom Higgens in the mix, too! I hope that he will reflect on this pivotal period in history. He also had to go see what those Brits were on about!
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