Why do we idolize John "Yabo" Yablanski?


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Social climber
Jan 19, 2011 - 03:27am PT
My little brother shares a lot of personality traits with Yabo, including many of the dark ones that I am sure bore on him every day. All I can say is love the ones around you and hope they see it.

Trad climber
quaking has-been
Jan 19, 2011 - 09:25am PT
Yabo was a good guy (with self esteem problems). He'd give you the shirt off his back if he thought you needed it.

Mike White said it best, "Loan him 5 bucks? Sure I'll loan him 5 bucks, it might buy him the last meal he'll ever eat".

Yabo would always pay you back.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Jan 19, 2011 - 09:35am PT
Never ever met the man. I only know of him what others have written. The following is an impression, or maybe a vision.

Think back toward your youth, to some perfect summer's day. The sun is shining bright, so bright it hurts your eyes and makes you squint. Think on it some and I expect you'll find that perfect day.

Everything was new and fresh under a young sky. Grass grew tall and green, trees enveloped in their mantle of leaves. A breeze surely blew for how could it be a perfect day without breeze? It blows across honey golden fields of wheat, first rolling the tall stalks one way and then another.

You are strolling around with your honey on your arm, dressed for the occasion and proud as a peacock. This might be down at the beach, up in the the mountains, out in the desert, on the deck of a cruise ship - I don't know. Its your vision and your memories, not mine. Visions can jump from fields of wheat to decks of cruise ships, no problem.

This perfect day of your youth, when your mind was filled only with possibilities and none of the later 'I can't do that' negativity that experience brings. There is so much to do and so much that could be done, often you feel manic and want to run about all over the place and DO IT ALL!

This day, this bright sunny perfect day in your youth... it might have gone on forever? If only forever existed, eh?

The seemingly tragic but at once beautiful flaw to this perfect day of your youth?

It came to an end.

It was finite.

It could not last.

This image, this fleeing image, of being young in a universe of unlimited possibility, strong and young and beautiful, flowing through time, tasting it all and then....

the sun set and the day was over.

A person can sometimes think back on those days with varying degrees of pride, regret and pleasure. Some might think you idolize that perfect day and perhaps you do just that... but it is your guilty pleasure and your memory of that perfect day and I for one think you are probably entitled to remember your youth any way you wish.

How's that?


Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jan 19, 2011 - 09:38am PT
With John, the words "care for" seem more appropriate than "idolize."
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Jan 19, 2011 - 10:18am PT
Disaster.......uh, we don’t idolize our friends, we love them in one way or another and fill up our days alongside. In fact I bet no one is idolizing Yabo but many are fascinated by the wildass doings of the man. Among many things, Yabo was a phenomenon, and we often have “phenomenon-type” climbers in our history. Tobin was another. Waterman another. Gary Hemmings in the sixties. The stories that came out of these characters really are legendary; they are accounts from the nearly superhuman. So some “idolize” but probably as I say, their own fascination with them is personalized. And in all these cases, Tobin and John, Gary and Waterman, they’re sadly dead which is what you (Disaster) are also dealing with here I think, dear bro. That which makes the idolization of Yabo even more likely for some is they are finding symbolic his life and undoing.

If nothing else climbing should never be forgotten to have stemmed from the Romantic Tradition, going back to Byron and others. And so idols seem to stand in our landscape and contain powerful value and meaning to some.

Here, Wikipedia says it well:

The Byronic hero presents an idealised, but flawed character whose attributes include: great talent; great passion; a distaste for society and social institutions; a lack of respect for rank and privilege (although they possess both); being thwarted in love by social constraint or death; rebellion; exile; an unsavory secret past; arrogance; overconfidence or lack of foresight; and, ultimately, a self-destructive manner.

Social climber
State of decay
Jan 19, 2011 - 10:32am PT
And now Peter has nailed it.
End of thread.
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Jan 19, 2011 - 11:20am PT
Dingus, Peter AND Bullwinkle nailed it.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Jan 19, 2011 - 11:21am PT
Kevin defines it
Peter refines it
Dingus reminds us

Trad climber
Lander, WY
Jan 19, 2011 - 11:45am PT
He was a great guy, really fine climber, and had a good heart. He had a lot of demons inside, but he remained a good man. That's the finest any of us can hope for in our own lives.

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
Jan 19, 2011 - 12:48pm PT
My comments are on my take on his legend, not the person, who I didn't know.

I've known a couple of people who were really fascinated by his legend. These seemed to me to be the aspects of his that they envied:

1. He climbed like he wasn't afraid of death.

2. He went through with it and was remembered well.

Although I've had way too many friends and acquaintances kill themselves and a few more who seemed close to the edge in the last few years, I think even happy, emotionally solid people are drawn to empathize with a way of feeling and being that is pretty far outside of our own.

Fearlessness, recklessness, whatever he had that most don't, had it's upsides. While hardly anyone would want his emotional pain, he was able to do some things that our careful/fearful ways keep us from achieving or experiencing.

His legend is of the sort of climber that most of us want to be and never want to be all rolled into one, so it gives us a lot to consider.

from where the anecdotes roam
Jan 19, 2011 - 12:48pm PT
wow peter, you've got more than a knack for putting your finger on things and then getting the point across.

yabo laid himself so wide open to others one could see his gyro spin.
that alone was enough to make me care for him, but in a paternalistic way
that summoned some discomfort at being called upon to promote those pesky issues
surrounding prudent constraint of wild ambition.

it's a pleasure really, to see him mythologized beyond the grave.
that his life force should spin on in creative ways seems right,
and if i may presume, would spark that sly, redeeming grin ...

and scores as success
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Jan 19, 2011 - 01:25pm PT
I grew in up OC and spent most of my weekends at Josh in the early 80s and suumers in the Valley/Meadows during the same period, so it was pretty much impossible not to see Yabo often. However, I and the guys I climbed with--Eric Held, Bob Cox, Andre Olibri, Bob Critchfield--were several years younger than that core crew of Sheepbuggers, et al., and so, for me at least, I never really got to know him.

From that perspective some of Yabo's behavior seemed a little off, especially since I didn't have that friend-type interaction with the guy to counter balance it. He wasn't a bad dude, he just seemed to occupy a different level than most.

I think the most unfortunate thing about him (apart from how he died) is that the overblown and often untrue legends that sprung up about him have defined him more than his friends warm recollections of him.

Trad climber
Jan 19, 2011 - 01:31pm PT
I think the people who really knew John don't idolize him, seems the ones that do idolize him didn't know him.
Mark Not-circlehead

Martinez, CA
Jan 19, 2011 - 02:36pm PT
I knew Yabo....

Also, I would like to point out (as some poeple are suggesting he died while soloing...) that he committed suicide, and did noit die while climbing.

Truly a sad event for someone who was as full of life as anyone i've ever met.
rich sims

Social climber
Jan 19, 2011 - 04:01pm PT
With John, the words "care for" seem more appropriate than "idolize."
Too true
I like him from the start even if he lost (or gave to someone else) my head lamp I loaned him for TD.
I only wish I had met him the time I set up my tent below a problem on Colombia Boulder. After I move my tent I may have ended up climbing a few years sooner.
I found many really great climbers open and generous with us noobs of the 70s. Can't say I ever loaned John money after the head lamp but I know we shared a lot of meals. I liked to cook John liked to eat (he was not alone Ha Ha)
Heloise Pendergrast

Social climber
Tahoe City
Jan 19, 2011 - 04:03pm PT
because he's the only dude who actually ASKED to see my bare breasts. politely i might add. you got to hand it to the guy.

Trad climber
quaking has-been
Jan 19, 2011 - 04:10pm PT

Heloise Darling,

So did you??

Call me!!
Heloise Pendergrast

Social climber
Tahoe City
Jan 19, 2011 - 04:25pm PT
i'll never tell...
Disaster Master

Social climber
Born in So-Cal, left my soul in far Nor-Cal.
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 19, 2011 - 06:52pm PT
Excellent! Smart posts about a very interesting person. People agreeing instead of flat out arguing....

Is this Supertopo?
Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Jan 19, 2011 - 08:17pm PT
I knew John Yablonski and climbed with him some. I didn’t idolize him, but respected him. Camp 4 was a meritocracy and no matter how offbeat the personality, a person was respected if he or she could climb well. And of course, John could climb as well as almost anyone back then.

He could also be crazy and obsessive, as chronicled elsewhere. But I had times with him when he was a different person than the one usually talked about. He could be as earnest, kindhearted and eager to please as a child. I prefer to remember that side of John.
Messages 21 - 40 of total 96 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
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