What was your first climb in Eldorado Canyon?


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Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Jul 17, 2013 - 02:14pm PT
Jeez, Pat, thanks, I went there with visions of you in my eyes all the time!
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Jul 17, 2013 - 05:39pm PT
When I think about Eldorado I think about how many people I
and others have connected with, how a single exhilarating
climb can bring people together and then remains a memory that
unites them through the years. With some people I did countless
climbs, such as Larry Dalke, and with others it was a whole
lot of climbs, such as Layton. With some, such as Royal, it was
his yearly visit. Still others, well, one climb was that one
really good experience not to be forgotten.... I had so many young
kids, such as Christian, Roger Briggs, Eric Doub, Cam John.... who
listened to the pied pipe of the Patrick Oliver piper, and we
did one climb after another.... I often think of individuals
I climbed with who no longer are with us, such as Warren Blesser.
That was quite a story in and of itself, the day Larry, Rearick, and
I rescued Blesser off the Grand Giraffe, when he took a huge
leader fall, soared past his belayer, Tom Quinn, and crashed hands
and arms first into the wall. He broke both wrists in about
ten places each and smashed his head (which turned out to be only
a minor injury but at the time was very bloody and worried us).
Well, that's another story for another moment.

Trad climber
Douglas, WY
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 18, 2013 - 06:57pm PT

I recall hearing the stories about the massive Warren Bleser whipper, but I was away in Germany at the time...wearing a free green suit of clothing. The Grand Giraffe is not to be underestimated. I recall doing it with Bob Culp as well. The chimney/OW has really gained a reputation over the years, hasn't it? I think it was about 1966-67 that Bob and I climbed it; we were still driving and pulling pitons and wearing Kronhofer's.

Trad climber
Douglas, WY
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 18, 2013 - 08:12pm PT

Re: Our time on Ruper...somewhere in my "archives" (i.e. pile of junk)I may have about 5 minutes of 8 mm movies of that day in December 1962.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Jul 18, 2013 - 09:17pm PT
Wow, please find that stuff Rodger. I love that sort of

I think Bob made it a regular practice to climb the Grand Giraffe and
took many of us up it. He made it a work of art, as he did every
boulder I watched him do.

I could tell the Bleser story (can't recall if it's spelled with
one "s" or two). Larry and I were kids, and one day after a climb
we were gazing up at the wall from the road, when the huge arc-ing
fall took place. I moved my eyes away for a split second and missed
the actual fall, but heard Larry say, "Did you see that?" I turned
my eyes again to where the climbers were, and Bleser suddenly was
far below his belayer, when a second before he had been rather far
above, at that last bulging section of the Giraffe crack. We told a
person on the road to run as fast as possible down and contact Dave
Rearick. Larry and I ran up the talus slope, climbed the west side
of the lower ramp, and I led both the short first pitch and tough second
pitch, in one long lead. As I pulled up to the square, slightly sloping
ledge at the top of the second pitch, with just my head
peeping over, there lay Warren. His belayer Tom Quinn had
lowered Warren to this precarious ledge. But it was a ledge.

Warrn was in great pain but smiled and said he was glad to see me.
He kind of half chuckled at the same time he agonized. He
held his forearms up in a position somewhere in front of his face,
as he lay on the ledge, somewhat on his back and somewhat curled up.
He held his forearms up in that position near his face
as though to elevate his clearly broken wrists. I got him anchored and
belayed Larry up, giving a little tension on the rope here and
there to speed his ascent. Very quickly the Rocky Mountain Rescue
Group arrived, ran up the talus, and Dave Rearick too arrived
at the start of the route. Everyone set driving speed records
through Boulder and out to Eldorado.

Larry and I pulled Rearick as he climbed speedily up the wall. Whenever
there was the slightest difficult move, Dave simply said, "Pull." We
got him up fast. Now, though, there were three of us on this
small ledge, too many. Tom Quinn rappelled to us, so it was
a very cramped, overcrowded place.

Jonathan Hough was at the bottom of the climb and wanted to come
up. He was the head of the rescue group at the time, but there
simply was not room for another. He seemed a bit miffed when we
said no to his request to come up. We tried to think of how to deal
with Warren's injuries, and later we would learn he broke both wrists
in about ten places each. It would take a great deal of surgery
to get those arms and wrists back into a state of repair. An
ugly, serious-looking head injury turned out to be nothing more
than a scratch, but it gushed blood and made us wonder if it was
the injury of most concern. Warren would not let us
touch him or try to clean any wound. He screamed if
we moved him even the tiniest bit. Very quickly it became apparent
it was best simply to lower him into the waiting hands of Hough
and the group below. Again and again, as we tied Warren in or
did anything, if we touched him, or in the smallest way flicked
a rope or leaned an arm or thigh against any part of him,
he let out another terrible scream. We hauled up a metal litter. With
Warren screaming in pain, we managed to get him into the litter. We
had little to no experience with litters or lowering. Quinn now
insisted he go down with the litter. So we hooked him with a sling to
the side of the litter and had a separate rope on him that
Rearick would belay. Larry and I each would hold a rope tied to one
end of the litter. This was not exactly right, because as soon as
Warren and the litter went over the edge, the litter tipped
downward and outward, and Warren was lying on his left side and
almost downward, horrified as he looked at all the exposure below.
Quinn ended up in a hang from his arms, as from a pullup bar, from
that side of the litter, about at Warren's waist. Both were tied
in and safe, but it was horribly airy and open to be lowered
virtually face down, and with Quinn below him in a dangle from
his arms. Fortunately no rope jammed, and we lowered this
circus affair into the care of the waiting Rescue Group.

Warren was a very likeable fellow and often came around my parents
house to see if I could climb. It made him somewhat irritated when
I introduced him to my parents as "Warren Bleser, the guy who
fell off the Grand Giraffe." I remember him looking into my young
teen eyes and saying, "How about, Warren Bleser, the guy who
climbed Mount McKinley." Warren soon after died on the North Face
of the Matterhorn.
Casey Bald

lower refuse, NH
Jul 18, 2013 - 09:47pm PT
Blind Faith, I think it was the easiest hand crack to find after werks up and we climbed that after. Both amazing routes.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jul 18, 2013 - 10:13pm PT
My first climb (Bastille Crack) was in 1968....shooting for a last climb (Perilous Journey) in 2068.

Trad climber
Douglas, WY
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 18, 2013 - 10:20pm PT

You probably recall that Warren Bleser (only one "s" needed) was a certified Canadian Mountain Guide from the Lake Louise area?

Jonathan Hough was the best man, my first marriage, to Catherine Burnett (RIP).
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Jul 19, 2013 - 12:17am PT
I did not know any of that. I think Jonathan was a competent
rescue man. He always seemed to be there, when they would
call me out, which they did often... even when I was not a member
of the rescue group. I wanted for a time to be a member of the
rescue group, but when I took the required first aid course, it
was taught by Jane Culp.... and Bob would come and sit in the back
of the classroom. I wanted to sit next to him and talk bouldering,
instead of pay attention to first aid. Thus I did not pass that class.
They finally realized my climbing skills made up for any lack in
first aid, and I could be a rope monkey, as needed.... Is Jonathan
still with us?
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Jul 19, 2013 - 06:44am PT
I apologize for the times in this thread I have digressed.
The subject is the first climb we did, yet just to say the
word "Eldorado" triggers so many memories for me, arouses
such a variety of sensations, that pure exhilaration and
friendship. To Eldorado I attach in my very blood those
oot-ooty-oot pigeons, strong wind filled with smells of
pine, a scent of the white mountains to the west, that high
country great wind streams brought down through the canyon.

First impressions, of
course, are so vital and beautiful, and give us our keen sense
of the world. For a climber so lucky as to have made his young
home a canyon so brilliant and imaginative as Eldorado,
there are countless little autographs of the soul. The
snap of a carabiner. A freight train that roars through
tunnels of a mountain high and to the south. As I wrote in
another small piece, "Acquitting oneself well in a first attempt
at a leading role," the rope hangs down vertical rock. A
quiet goes inside its own softness to an inner stillness.

In Eldorado in spring, each hold is a new
incarnation of the world. About fifty climbs seem to fall into
that sense of the first climb. I have clear flashes of the
steep moves up the initial pitch of C'est La Vie, of which Larry
and I made the first ascent, a little step around right, out
of a tiny, shallow dihedral with a bent over, soft-iron piton
I placed and, at last visit decades later, is still there. Then,
a move or three higher, the lieback against that big hollow flake.

I remember my first lead (and climb) of the Bastille Crack. I went
about a hundred feet without protection up that dark, shadowy
north wall. I was under the strange notion one was
not supposed to place a piton unless at the verge of
a fall. It was such a wondrous surprise to find so many ready
hand and footholds. They were everywhere on that perfect sandstone.

I remember our first ascent of Tagger, in a frigid, eardrum-
piercing, nose and finger numbing, wind, the temperature
somewhere around zero or below. That day I had the small maroon
camera my parents gave me. I still have a few of those snapshots.
We climbed in our lightweight down jackets and hammered in

There was Redguard Route, and I emphasize the word "red."
It seemed indeed there was the color red in the rock, as yellow,
green, orange, purple, white, black, and gray all joined the
visual palette. Pseudo-Sidetrack, a route given the strangest
name, indeed had some false sense about it. One could get lost.
Route finding was part of the essence of the Eldorado
experience. This route, like many in Eldorado, was simply a
land of holds on steep rock. Pseudo-Sidetrack follows
a long upward, leftward traverse above great drops. We moved
toward the sun, I recall, blinded somewhat by the glare of
the sky that afternoon....

Larry and I did our first climb with Layton in Eldorado. On a
wintry Thanksgiving day we made the first known ascent of
Calypso, that light-colored, tan sandstone, that shallow
dihedral up to an overhang, then a lovely, wide step or
two right, across smooth, near-white rock, and up a
steep slab.... The climb was of less interest than the tall man
who took us to the canyon that day. That was the beginning of
a lifelong friendship with a most amazing friend and probably
Colorado's greatest climber.

Always, there was the great wire, a steel cable, far
above our heads, where the aerialist Ivy Baldwin strolled
some 89 times. He last crossed that three hundred-foot high,
five hundred-foot long, wire on his 82nd birthday!
The whole canyon had a spirit of adventure to it, no matter the
climb, no matter the difficulty. Every Eldorado climb has an airy
sense about it, even today. And there is the roar of the river...,
which seems to thrust a person into the full effect of nature,
the reach to the next hold, how one positions the edge of a shoe,
aromas of lichen and air, pure exposure, a canyon where youth
was not wasted on the young, a sense of balance, and a sense of
the promise of so much unclimbed rock.

Trad climber
Denver, Colorado
Jul 19, 2013 - 11:34am PT
Over the Hill with a partner I met in the campground....1983 I think
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Jul 19, 2013 - 12:45pm PT
That would be a great first climb, though somewhat removed
from the main part of the canyon (a blessing when it's busy
in Eldorado).

Trad climber
Mancos, CO
Jul 19, 2013 - 01:23pm PT
Bastile Crack, 1976.

Arrived on road trip from Wyoming. Stepped from car seat to first pitch. Immediatly impressed with steepness of El Dorado Canyon, having just climbed in the Tetons, Winds.

I ran into Kevin Worral living out of a VW van, as I remember. We didn't talk. He was a climbing GOD; I was just another "Chuck Climber" - and I still am. I was traveling with a great Brit, Paul Bell, who was amidst a two-year round-the-world walkabout. He left England with $700 in his pocket and indeed stayed on the road for two years. After two days in Eldo, we drove to SLC and Little Cottonwood Canyon, then Yosemite.

Trad climber
Is that light the end of the tunnel or a train?
Jul 19, 2013 - 01:28pm PT
My first climb in Eldo was out of the car. It was all up hill after that.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Jul 19, 2013 - 04:04pm PT
Those are two climbs with which I'm not familiar, "Out of the Car"
and "All Uphill."

Trad climber
Is that light the end of the tunnel or a train?
Jul 19, 2013 - 05:12pm PT
LoL good one Pat.
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Jul 19, 2013 - 10:03pm PT
Crack 1977, with Jim Angione.

I would have rated it 5.8+.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Jul 22, 2013 - 01:08pm PT
Yes it's definitely a good 5.8 route, probably the crux being
the first pitch. But if you do the lieback (right variation)
at the top, then that's the hardest part.

Trad climber
Is that light the end of the tunnel or a train?
Jul 22, 2013 - 01:10pm PT
Pat I love the classic pic of you in your youth leading the 2nd pitch of the Bastille Crack.

Jul 22, 2013 - 01:21pm PT
I arrived there for the first time after having led a few 11s and thinking I was pretty badass. Stepped up to Supremacy Crack, and got humbled.
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