Stonemaster stories


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Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Topic Author's Original Post - Jan 25, 2006 - 05:14pm PT
Anyone out there with old (before, say, 1975) Stonemaster stories, I'd love to hear them as I'm slowly trying to put something together. Hearing other perspectives might help trigger some long lost memories. The Stonemasters were always as much a frame of mind as anything else, but what folks remember--especially in terms of anecdotes, or what they thought the Stonemasters actually were, or stood for--might help give some little shape to what feels like a very amorphous subject.



Jan 25, 2006 - 05:22pm PT
One day I saw a John Long appear. He had much exciting energy. He went on to become a famous Stonemaster under the master tulage of the King Stonemaster, Bridewell.


Trad climber
Jan 25, 2006 - 05:40pm PT
[a recent story, but one I enjoy]

I was in the company of T.M. Herbert, at Joshua Tree one New Years Eve, enjoying my third green label as he downed his tenth Bud Light. We were having good fun joking about the nut cases on top of Intersection Rock, most likely freezing their Asses off as they drank their malt beverages from the Keg. The Keg that was a wonderful tradition, but in a few short years was to end, thanks to the Feds.

T.M. noted that our fire was getting low. I agreed and started looking around for addition scraps of that pallet we had been using for our smoldering blaze.

T.M. returned with so much desert vegetation, that all I could see were his feet and outstretched arms.

“T.M., we really shouldn’t be burning that stuff,” I said as he heaved a good portion of it on the fire.

“Ohh, you damn kids, if it wasn’t for us burning this stuff years ago, you wouldn’t have any place to put your tents.”

I gave this some thought, realizing how distant I was from the experiences of this man.
We tapped our beers together, fired them back and stood by the warm fire.

Trad climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Jan 25, 2006 - 06:59pm PT
I remember the first time Bridwell, Long and Westbay gave me three pieces of this "stuff" on a rainy spring day in the Valley. Don't think they knew I never had the "stuff" before. Anyway, it was pouring rain and we were sitting inside Yosemite Lodge's lounge and I noticed the water was melting the cement outside and it was flowing away. That's when I decided we should all go bouldering. No one wanted to boulder with me as I pumped off traverses on the "hand traverse" boulder by Swan Slab (I couldn't understand why at the time). After the traverse session Long and Westbay took off somewhere and left me with Bridwell. We had some weird conversation about Socrates and Plato and clouds.
After all that I went back to UCLA but things never seemed quite "right" anymore so I quit college and became a climber.
Pretty weird, huh?

Jan 25, 2006 - 07:21pm PT
TM said; "Ohh, you damn kids, if it wasn’t for us burning this stuff years ago, you wouldn’t have any place to put your tents."

LOL, Hahahahah, now that is on hell of a classic line!

One of my favorites

Hack sacking in front of the Tuolumne meadows store was a daily ritual. One day a whole platoon of bikers ride into the lot. A group of people are hacky sacking and the sack goes flying over to one of the bikers sitting on his ride watching.

Bachar goes over to retrieve the sack when the dude on the Harley asks him what’s inside the sack.

Bachar looks at the sack then looks at the biker and says; “Ground up Harley parts”
Dapper Dan

an 89' honda accord
Jan 25, 2006 - 09:20pm PT
did bachar get his sh%t knocked out ... again ?
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Jan 25, 2006 - 10:04pm PT
Back in those days Harley parts could be easily found in the wake of bikers. Its why the rear view mirrors were so big.

Trad climber
Jan 26, 2006 - 11:22am PT
This is something I've never forgotten and laughed about ever since:

Sometime in the mid 70's I was returning to Camp 4 after a day of cragging. It was in the late afternoon and I was approaching camp from the east. The place was PACKED-people at every site, most of which were fixing dinner or hanging out at their camps. Typical noisy afternoon. As I walked past the first bathroom, yes there used to be two bathrooms, one at either end of camp, the place suddenly went totally silent. Everyone was staring at me. People were whispering and pointing at me. I tried to remain calm but inside I was raging. WTF? I had no idea what was going on. My imagination was working overtime. As I went past Columbia boulder it didn't improve. People were starting to follow me. Everyone up ahead had stopped cold and was staring.

Kevin Whorral (sp?) ran up to me and asked, "Is it true, is it true." I had no idea WTF he was talking about and said so. He said, "Is it true? You free soloed Nabisco Wall, including Butterballs this morning?" My response was, "Are you out of your f###ing mind?" This was many years before people started doing things like that. He nodded and sauntered off.

I found out later that Dale Bard and Ron Kauk, two "Stonemasters", had pointed me out to a group of people earlier in the day and, with total sincerity, told them I'd just free soloed Nabisco Wall and had rested and shaken out halfway up Butterballs. People were PISSED. They thought it was an over-the-top arrogant thing to do.

It wasn't till years later that a truely arrogant, talented "stonemaster" did solo Nabisco Wall, a feat way before it's time, and etched a place in history.

I had people coming up to me for years asking me about this. I always assured them that it was true...
de eee

Mountain climber
Jan 26, 2006 - 12:44pm PT
Wow John, a Stonemaster collection would be so cool.
My first brush with the Stonemasters was at Josh in about '73 or'74 (I was about 15 or 16). Angione and I were walking around "North Fourth" (now the Old Woman) and saw climbers on Dogleg. We walked over to watch and it turned out it was Richard and Tobin (and I'm not sure who else). They asked if I wanted to climb it too and I was stoked and accepted. We knew who they were and it was such an honor to be invited along.
Soon after Mike Graham invited Matt Cox and myself to go to Suicide (also Ed Lasly). We all piled in Mike's little car and the next day found us following Mike up "Pass Time" on the Buttress of Cracks. I remember Ed was struggling and called for tension at the crux. Mike laughingly lowered a loop of rope giving Ed the opposite of tension! Ed was pissed and Mike said something to the effect of "climb it free or not at all!" I was next and felt some pressure to make it but it went just fine.
Soon after that I was with Alan and Spencer Lennard (the "Home Made Hash Boys") and we headed off to do what was probably the second FA of my life, Negasaurus. I had tied in and was just about to lay hand on rock when you and a full contingent of SM's came around the corner. It was "Ho man, what's going on here!" Everyone plopped down in the sand to watch but the pressure was too much for me. I had to ask you all to leave lest I fail in front of my heros. You guys complied and we proceded without the horrendous pressure of possible embarrassment (thanks for that!).
Matt, Craig ("Guns"), Spencer and I were always thankful that you all took us under your wings and showed us the ropes in those early years. You were our mentors and shaped the way we approached climbing for the rest of our lives. Thanks again.

Trad climber
Gunks end of country
Jan 26, 2006 - 12:54pm PT
Old stonemaster stories... classic.

Until you write them down, they are probably mostly prehistoric.

Trad climber
Jan 26, 2006 - 01:30pm PT
I remember this one time while walking down from Taquitz with Largo and Mike Waugh. We had all just done some new route that John had just put up. Largo starts asking us what we do for training. We did of course train our asses off, but we were not about to admit that in public. Waugh and I then started harassing John because he 'needed' to train. About the time we hit the road the harassment went overboard and John reached down and picked Waugh up by the ankles with one arm and started shaking him up and down. I ran for my life (cause John still had another hand) and laughed so hard as Waugh's head bounced off the pavement. John, you were too f*#king strong back then!
John Vawter

Social climber
San Diego
Jan 26, 2006 - 02:18pm PT
Not flattering, but true. Easter vacation, 1974 I think, back when most of us were still climbing in white cotton painters pants. Mike and Tobin were on the Prow when a front blew in. Snowed all night and there were murmurs of concern in Camp 4. Some friends and I drove up past the stables on a closed road, hiked to the base and started yelling. We thought we heard some faint cries for help. On the way back down the road I got a ticket from an LEO who seemed unconcerned about wet, frozen climbers. Turns out they were stranded on Tapir Terrace, and too cold to climb. Someone rapped in with dry clothes and hot packs, and they jumared off, or so we heard. Maybe Mike can confirm this. I'd like to think that ranger who ticketed me called in the cavalry.

Trad climber
Jan 26, 2006 - 03:07pm PT
Hey thanks for the great srories. I am not a stonemaster of that era. I am a rockclimber, and that is my life. Well I do have a full time job, but it does allow me to take time off to climb. A week in Josh in april. And up coming trips to Yosemite this year. Thank God I live near Stoney Point and can get out there after work (L.A. Zoo). Thank you for paving the way for the next generation of climbers. I have been climbing for nine years, mostly out at Joshua Tree and Yosemite. I also boulder out at Stoney Point. Everytime I climb a route I think about the first ascent and appreciate them for discovering the route and having it logged for other people to climb. I respect everybody that have contributed to the world of rock climbing. Thank you for all the topos of climbing routes from the places that I climb. Also thank you John Long for the books of knowledge.
Armando (Pasadena)

Trad climber
Jan 26, 2006 - 04:39pm PT
John Vawter-

You remember correctly. I was living in C4 that spring. Mike and Tobin had gone up on the Prow in blue jeans and t-shirts (with some sweaters or such) when a really nasty storm blew in. Snowed several feet if my memory serves me. The rangers finally trolled through C4 for volunteers to hike stuff up to the top of the column for a rescue. Several of us did.

The funny thing was that while Mike and Tobin were jugging to the top, several slingers topped out on the south face. Most of us had a good laugh over that.

I remember Tobin's mother was down in the lodge lounge area before the rescue talking about her son up on "that huge mountain in such terrible weather". I felt kind of sorry for her.

Social climber
Jan 26, 2006 - 04:49pm PT

Pretty much the way it happened. It had rained and snowed all night. I remember being wakened out of a miserable slumber with Tobin yelling for help. I Looked at him and asked what was he you doing? He says back “I’d rather die than just lose some fingers or toes” by the time Chris Vandever rapped down to us we were pretty well warmed up sadly to say. Probably could have saved him the trouble. Damm, that place sure gets cold sometimes. Another wrong time of the year to wall climb story was when I was when I soloed the Aquarian Wall on El Cap. Spent four nights in the same place in the middle of an icy waterfall. Stuck that one out though, owed it to myself.

I miss Tobin, you could fill a book on his exploits alone.

Mountain climber
Louisville, KY
Jan 26, 2006 - 05:11pm PT
Threads like this are why I bother to look at the forums. Thanks for sharing...
John Vawter

Social climber
San Diego
Jan 26, 2006 - 06:15pm PT
Hey Mike, was it you and Tobin who first climbed an .11 at both Tahquitz and Suicide in one day?

Here's my favorite Tobin story. True? Who cares?

He was up on the Shield with Denny Adams, a Poway Mountain Boy (along with Rick Piggot, Greg Cameron, Dave Goeddel, etc.). When they got to the A4 roof pitch (it was still A4 back then) they found a rope hanging down from above. Tobin saw it as an opportunity to speed things up a bit. Denny knew what Tobin was thinking, looks at Tobin and says "NO." They debate about how God might view such a foolhardy act, but Tobin becomes impatient and lets his actions speak for him: he starts to jug the line. He finishes the strenuous free jumar and is into the relative ease of steep rock when he spies the end of the rope . . . not fixed to an anchor, just running into the crack. As he nears the end he sees what he has been jumaring on: a knot wedged in the crack. Divine providence?

Social climber
El Portal
Jan 26, 2006 - 06:19pm PT
Sorry this is 10 years after John but I have often reflected on it!

My first Stone Master encounter:

A Rogue, is A Rogue, is A Rogue, is a Rogue!..or is he?

We were at the Chapman mannor in Yosemite West 1984 and it had to be Thanksgiving because there was a turkey, frost on the windows, a huge fire in the woodstove, and we were psyched to be inside.
Mark was downstairs plinkety,plinkety,plinking, on his guitar a song called "White girl" by a band called "X".

Pooch the dog, the two cats Mama and Sneakers were running laps around the sofa in the living room. The aroma of meat was driving them wild and little cartoon bubbles appeared above their heads read: (MORE GRAVEY) it was insanity.

The house had a rustic appeal and was in the early stages of development. My good friend Nance had promised to make the meal, being a vegitarian I was against the whole gluttonous affair but had promised them a Vegan cake.
I was in the kitchen when I heard a very loud BAM!

Bam,Bam,Bam, Again, Bam,Bam,Bam! I thought to myself geeze that sounds like some sort of ramming device and I hoped it was'nt the rangers. Pooch bolts to the door Woof,Woof,Woof..mouth foaming,fangs out, the works..i'm hot on her heels.. she always had a special way of greeting people.
I open the door and lock eyes with somebodys waist then looking upward lock eyes with a very large man!

The stats:
I'm 5ft. 3ish 110lbs. He' well over a foot taller than me, double my size, has hands as big as my head, and is grinning like the Cheshire Cat himself.
Pooch has now fled and is cowering in the bedroom while i'm thinking I sure wish Mark would get his butt up here and save us!

He then proclaims! "Where's Chapman?" I manage to stammer "downstairs I think" and pray this guys a friend.
Mark comes to the door and upon seeing the stranger goes beserk! He starts doing his Happy Chappy dance waving his arms around wildly as he does his introductions. Jo, Nance, this is John Long!
Holy smokes i'm thinking this guy's a living legend, one of those Stone Master dudes and i'm now face to face with history and history was now in the making!

Minutes pass and it's like we've been living together for years. Marks beaming with delight and filled with nostalgia, Nance is smitten and flirtatious, the animals have fled, while i'm just floored.
Seconds later John walks up to the turkey on the table rips a leg clean off the thing (which I thought a bit barbaric yet mesmerizing!) he starts waving the thing around like a baton as he spits out questions to Mark. "What's happening Man?" "Nice pad!" "Who are the chicks?" and "How's climbing going!" food is flying everywhere ( now i'm thinking the man is a savage).

As the night waned, and the food disappeared the stories told went "LONG" into the night. I wished for more time. Here I was twentyish sitting around a fire with my best friend Nance, Mark Chapman (a legend in his own right), and one of the origianl Stone Masters...Wow! My life was definately on the upswing and Thankgiving that year was'nt so bad.

All the best lads,


I might have the made the Turkey leg thing up...(NOT).

p.s. John come on by any time it's been twenty years folks claim I make a mean Tofurkey!

"Go Vegan"!


Jan 26, 2006 - 06:20pm PT
Hahahah LOL

John Vawter

Hey man that's the rope me and Dale Bard found on the grey ledges and Dale just threads it through that leeper hanger and ties an ovehand knot. Then we hear later Tobin jugged it, YIKES!

An Oil Field
Jan 26, 2006 - 07:34pm PT

I remember being in my teens, late '70's and starting to climb. I drove to Josh and in a month went from 5.8 to .10d. There were these dudes soloing the ski tracks in gangs and running all over the place doing laps in RHV, etc. I knew it had to be those guys, I had heard of the Stonemasters. They could solo both ski tracks in about 5 or 10 minutes total.

Totally changed my life. I went back on days when I couldn't find a partner and soloed about every one of those routes, even the .10d one. It led to a bad habit, but I usually only soloed stuff I had done before.

Painters pants, swami belts, EB's. They were my heroes. That's what I got out of those guys, anyway. Totally defined my style for life. Every new thing after that I had to get used to, which seems to happen to most people over a period of years as climbing changes.

Does anyone remember the "Space Stations" around Josh? The Hobbit hole under the boulder that you slithered into to find the big room inside the boulder? Another time someone took me over to RHV and we slid into this slot and slithered through to the belay on the second pitch of a route. Supposedly there were a bunch of these things called space stations and they had numbers.
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