John Rosholt, RIP


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Trad climber
Nov 22, 2010 - 06:21pm PT
Sometime back in the mid 80’s we had an especially long and drawn out winter.
We hardly climbed other than occasional bouldering sessions at Morison.
My primary climbing partner in those days was Maurice Reed.
We were planning a road trip to somewhere with better weather.
After hearing about our plans our friend Pierrette wanted to go.She was a great cook and had some cash to help with expenses.
This put us with a party of three so we set out to find a forth.
After exhausting all of our usual possibilities Maurice said,” How about Johnny Rotten? He‘s always up for something”.

We go over to where John was living at the time.
His truck was parked in the street out in front of the house.
We left a note on the door. GOING CLIMBING NEED A FOURTH, J-TREE/RR.
There had been a lot of snow that year and the shady side of John’s truck still had a drift against it. There were no tire tracks. It obviously hadn’t been moved in a very long time. In passing we peeked in the passenger window. Maurice said,” Man check this out!” I looked inside and laughed when I noticed that out of the debris and dirt on the flour there were a number of healthy 6 to 8 inch plants growing directly out of the carpet.

John found the note and he was totally up for a climbing trip. His only request was that when we were in Vegas he would like to sit in on a poker game or two just to offset his expenses. Maurice, Pierrette or myself knew nothing about John’s poker interests so we said, “sure no problem”.

With our team assembled we maintained the van and packed the camping and climbing gear for a great early spring climbing road trip.
Our first stop was going to be Indian Creek near Moab but it was so cold that we decided to keep going to Las Vegas.

We pulled on to the strip and John asked if we could stop at a casino just to look around a bit.
The next thing we knew he was absorbed a game and we couldn’t get his attention. When we finally got him to acknowledge us it was way late and he said that he was on a streak and if we would bear with him he was sure that he would make enough to pay for all the expenses for the trip.
Well,we wound up sleeping on the parking lot of the casino that night.
At daylight there was a knock on the door of the van and it was John ready to go climb.

This scenario went on for the whole trip. Several times we dropped John off at the casino in the evening and picked him up in the morning. There was no such thing as just a few hands with John on that trip.

We did quite a few notable first assents on that trip. In fact everything we climbed was ether a new route or we had no knowledge of it being climbed.
Back in those days there was no guide book to Red Rocks.
Also in those days Red Rocks was not a park. It was rugged, drive anywhere, unimproved trails out in the desert.

I woke at dawn one morning to the sound of automatic weapon fire right next to our camp.
There was a Cadillac convertible with the top down parked no more than 50 yards away from our van. Standing next to the Caddie was a guy the size of a box car dressed in a business suit with a machine gun in his hand and he was just mooowin the desert down with blasts of gun fire.
We hunkered down in our sleeping bags and prayed that he would go away.
Maurice and Pierrette were having mild desert romance so John and I usually teamed up for climbing after he had played cards all night.
He never minded taking his leads but was more than happy to second when I wanted the sharp end. Back in those days I was somewhat of a lead hog any way.

One particular climb that still stands out that John and I did on that trip was in Oak Creek Canyon.
The details of the first pitches are a blur but the final pitch will stay in my quiver of unique climbing memories.
This pitch was Johns lead.
The climbing up to this point had been on those solid dark purple, almost black, mushroom holds that are unique to Red Rocks.
The pitch before was mine and the shrooms had been getting exponentially lighter in color and protection scarcer by the meter. In fact I had a hard time finding enough pieces to construct a sound belay when I finished the lead.
At this point I expressed to John,” I think we should bail and leave all this stuff in as anchors!”
John wasn’t having any of that and started setting up the rack for the next pitch!
He set out climbing on brown shrooms and getting very little gear in. The further he climbed the gear got scarcer and the shroom holds got lighter in color.
I didn’t mention that we had NO bolt kit.
Silently John calculated the hold sequences and face climbed with smooth deliberate progress.
He never backed down or even looked down.
That’s when it started to rain!
Not water, but, white sandstone mushrooms!
Every time he unweighted a hold to move to the next one it fell away!
I was terrified by the fact that he hadn’t placed a single protection placement for a very long time.
The dynamics of a leader fall from that far out would have ripped my belay anchors right out of the rock.
Every hold that he unweighted dislodged and to make matters worse he was nearly out of rope.
It seemed the he was way past half rope since he placed a piece.
At one point the thought of untying from the rope crossed my mind.
I held on in stupefied silence for what seemed like a long time to me. Finally I heard him say that he was off belay.
I didn’t even ask what the belay anchor was like. I just pulled the gear and started climbing.
The same thing happened as I climbed but a lot sooner. Each hold that I used popped from the face as I unweighted it all the way to the belay ledge!
He had found some cracks for a belay so I was protected while seconding that pitch. We found good rappel anchors for the decent.

Around the fire that night I asked if John if he minded calling the route, “Toxic Shroom Syndrome”.


Trad climber
Okanogan, WA
Nov 22, 2010 - 06:48pm PT
My old friend o-man has inspired me to add a Gambler story.

In the late nineties I was doing alright on the ever increasing stock market. I had got to know John as an Arizonan and he was very curious about trading. It was around the time that the stock high tech bubble burst and John was putting up routes at the Homestead.

He queried me for what I knew, set it aside and then got into the bear market as a short trader. From all accounts (his own and others) he excelled at it. I think it fascinated him the same as gambling. He loved to tread in a down market.

That sort of trading is not dissimilar from your disintegrating hold story Olaf.

RIP John and condolences to family and friends.


Social climber
So Cal
Nov 22, 2010 - 07:06pm PT
Some time in the 90's a climber hitched a ride with us from the LA area to Vegas/ RR. A friend of mine at the time was day trading for a living and had gotten me into reading a couple of books on technical analysis. We had a long really insightful conversation on the subject during the long drive. This guy also spoke of making a living at gambling for a while. We were a fairly large group and he may have climbed with some of our bunch, but I think Ed and I had our own agenda and we split off from the rest of the group. I don't remember climbing anything with him.

Can't remember for sure, but in some of the photos he looks vaguely familiar, and there can't be to many climber/pro gamblers out there.

Ever since the first disappearance posts I've wondered if our passenger was John.

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
Nov 24, 2010 - 01:00pm PT
I was told that there was a profile on John, that I've never seen, in a back issue of Climbing. I looked it up and it looks like it is in issue #174 from March of 98. Does anyone have this in their stash? I'd love to read it.

Trad climber
Somewhere halfway over the rainbow
Nov 24, 2010 - 01:04pm PT
Me too.

Anyone have it?

Trad climber
Somewhere halfway over the rainbow
Nov 24, 2010 - 01:18pm PT
Peder posted

john kept that shredded piece of Plunge rope for years.

If that is true it should be found and sent to Neptunes or some such archive of climbing history.

Boulder, CO
Nov 24, 2010 - 02:47pm PT
Philo, here's the article:


Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
Nov 24, 2010 - 03:16pm PT
Thanks Eric, Philo actually gives a link to that article upthread. The one we are talking about is from Climbing in 1998. It was a profile on The Gambler when he was still around.

Trad climber
Nov 24, 2010 - 03:35pm PT
I just started to scan some photos of Johhny. I'll post more of climbing in Thailand later. We were living the dream climbing here. I'll put the old Gunnison ones on my first post.

Jean Scott, Johnny, and Tom Cecil enjoy some Cambodian in front of our...
Jean Scott, Johnny, and Tom Cecil enjoy some Cambodian in front of our bungalows Rai Lai Beach Thailand 1995.
Credit: ddscott

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Nov 24, 2010 - 07:28pm PT
As requested:
John Rosholt profile by John Heisel - "Players/Perspectives", Climbing...
John Rosholt profile by John Heisel - "Players/Perspectives", Climbing #174, March 1998
Credit: John Heisel
John Rosholt profile 1998, part 2/4
John Rosholt profile 1998, part 2/4
Credit: John Heisel
John Rosholt profile 1998, part 3/4
John Rosholt profile 1998, part 3/4
Credit: John Heisel
John Rosholt profile 1998, part 4/4
John Rosholt profile 1998, part 4/4
Credit: John Heisel

Thorp, WA
Nov 25, 2010 - 03:20am PT
Mescalito Spring '79
Mescalito Spring '79
Credit: RadDad
I have enjoyed reading all the, thanks everyone!

When I think of a memory for John it would have to be him rescuing me from Aspen in '79. I had tried to make a go of living in Aspen that summer and it wasn't working. I was stuck and down on my luck. How it all lined up I cannot say... but, he picked me up (could it have been that infamous orange truck?) and brought me back to the great Northwest. Thank you John! With a quick stop at my folks place in Tacoma, (you know the place Peder) we were off to Squamish where we did lots of stuff I can't remember. I'm sure we did some climbing too.

My condolences to all John's family and friends.

Doug Klewin

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Nov 25, 2010 - 09:32am PT
I never met John but I feel I know him now from this thread. In a sport with so many characters, he really seems to have stood out as one of the most colorful. Whenever the phrase "living the life" pops up, it will be his that I think of as the best illustration.

I hope that his family can take consolation from the positive impact that he had on so many others.
Allen Hill

Social climber
Nov 27, 2010 - 04:21am PT
Doug, post the photos!

Bishop, CA
Nov 27, 2010 - 12:35pm PT
I met John in the fall of '91. He was playing in the World Series of Poker and I was doing Desert Tortoise biology and climbing at Red Rocks. We were both crashing at Waterman Bob's house. He would leave in evening to play and sometimes not get back til the following day. I asked him enough questions about playing poker that he wrote out a list of what beats what and said he'd give me $40 to play in one of the seven card stud side games. He made it pretty clear that all I had to do was be real patient and bet conservatively until I knew I had solid cards. I followed his advice was up a little, and over time, up a little more for several hours. His strategy was working. At some point I got a little bored, and it not being my money, I started to bet a little more liberally. I crashed out going for the big hand in a half and hour or so. I went and watched John in a Texas Hold 'em game at one of the main tables. It was pretty interesting to see him with big stacks of chips playing high stakes poker. A few days later he asked if I could return the favor by driving him to the casino so he could pick his bank. I guess he'd bought in at the start of tournament and had all his money in chips and it was time to cash back out. When we got near the casino he told me to drop him off in front and to drive around the block as slow as I could and that he'd get back in my truck as I came around again. As I pulled into the front drive of the casino, like clockwork, John pushed through the front door wearing sunglasses with bulges throughout the front of his leather jacket walked with determination to my truck. He told me to keep it rolling and got in. He had more cash in his jacket than I could comprehend at the time. That couple of weeks was a view into a world I was completely ignorant of. John was really fun to have conversations with and really generous with sharing his knowledge of poker.

We didn't get to climb together during that time. The only climbing story I have isn't really a climbing story. We got a little sandbagged bagged by our friend George Smith. George told us there was an excellent five or six pitch 5.6 we could solo. He told us there was no way we'd need a rope based off the ropeless climbing we had on our resumes. We stopped by Desert Rock to get chalk or something and ran into Peter Mayfield and another guy. This is digging deep so the details might not be exact. Anyway, four us jogged out Oak Creek I think it was, and without a topo all concluded we were looking at the route. The four us all decided we didn't want to onsight solo the exposed looking arete with only enough beta to identify the first pitch of the route. We walked back to the car somewhat dejected but reassuring ourselves that it would be better to at least climb the route with a rope before bringing it into the solo circuit. All and all it was really fun hanging out with John that fall.

I saw John again at the Needles in 2004. It was brief, and again, we did not get to climb together. I wish I had had the opportunity to share some pitches with him. I feel for all his family and friends. I admire that he lived life without the security of the 9-5 grind. This isn't the way I had hoped the story would be be resolved.
edit: I had originally said Needles 2006 but got a note from a ST member that he disappeared in 2005 and was last in the Needles in 2004. I apologize for the huge mistake.

Nov 27, 2010 - 01:14pm PT
John Rosholt the true American classic.
Betty Uno

Boulder climber
Lafayette, Colorado
Nov 30, 2010 - 11:40am PT
I am so glad there is closure for his sisters and family. That is undoubtably where he'd wish to be. What a legend. Goodbye John Rosholt.


Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Nov 30, 2010 - 11:50am PT
I saw John again at the Needles in 2004...

Interesting you mention this. I think this was the same time, the only time, I met John Rosholt. Dr. Yoho was there too?

John was a larger than life figure. Amazing.
Allen Hill

Social climber
Dec 3, 2010 - 08:39pm PT
John about to fly off the big roof in Taylor Canyon.
John about to fly off the big roof in Taylor Canyon.
Credit: Allen Hill
Betty Uno

Social climber
Colorado native
Dec 4, 2010 - 03:11pm PT

Oh look, there's that green belt again.

Trad climber
Somewhere halfway over the rainbow
Dec 4, 2010 - 07:23pm PT
Thanks Coz, that was a great tribute to an old friend. RIP
Messages 101 - 120 of total 133 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
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