Stonemaster stories


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rotten johnny

Social climber
mammoth lakes, ca
Jul 10, 2009 - 09:03pm PT
largo....drove my 62 bonneville up to humber park one fine warm summer evening in 75 into this raging stonemaster was dark and there was a boxing contest and tree climbing contest going on and some guy named jim wilson was half way up this 100 ft ponderosa pine....those guys knew hw to party.....was in the valley when tobin and graham got rescued on the was easter vacation and snowing...mead hargis and dennis miller were on the rescue and hargis took a swig off a water bottle that turned out to be white gas...according to millis , the veins in mead's neck started distending....i remember seeing tobin and mike after the rescue in the c4 parking lot....johnny rotten
rotten johnny

Social climber
mammoth lakes, ca
Jul 10, 2009 - 09:15pm PT
mar...last i heard , steve mackay was working at a trash dump entrance station in oregon....that was several years ago....i think i remember the rock and ice ..was it in santa ana...? bruce nyberg was living in mt. center last time i talked to him getting into teaching....j. rotten

Social climber
Jul 11, 2009 - 01:14am PT
Another great thread.
fred haering

Boulder climber
New Zealand
Oct 6, 2009 - 09:11pm PT
Hi. Just saw the film: Nordwand. Recollecting my own life adventures, I remembered earlier when living here in New Zealand in 1979, when a guy named Tobin Sorenson came through on a climbing lecture. I didn't bother to attend, but at I thought at the time, the name was familiar, mostly as it was unusual.

In the autumn of 1970 or 1971, I had climbed one weekend with a 14-year old lad with that name. It was Tobin's second weekend out. He was donning a pair of a new-age of climbing shoes....what would later become the standard. I remember seeing him clutching in his hands these weird-like women's dancing shoes. They were tourqouise in colour. The Royal Robbins climbing boots (blue with red strings) had come onto the market in recent years, replacing our Clutter shoes or simple hiking boots. Longware pitons and bongs were being phased out by Dolt and Chouinard stuff as the European stuff became more costly (excepting the Bonatti stuff).

Tobin was brought out on our Sierra Club trip to the Granite Mountains. This was a climbing area some of the Rock Climbing Chapter people had found situated deep in the Mojave Desert. somewhere behind Joshua Tree National Monument and 29-Palms. It hosted some awesome, bigger scale Joshua Tree climbing. I later heard that the local Indian tribes had closed it to public access...probably due to increasing accidents and liability issues.

Jack Schirr, a fireman and a well-accomplished climber, was about 5 years older than I, making him about 22 or so. He was well known in the Riverside Chapter as a young, keen type, who even already was well encsonced in the Riverside Mountain Rescue unit. Jack told me he had come across this lad who lived in the vicinity where he lived, somewhere arouund Upland, California. Tobin, Jack and I set off to climb a new route named "The Purple Haze". It was one of the Granite Mountains' more formidable new routes, in asmuch as it was an 80-foot roof that actually started almost immediately from a ledge to which we climbed under a huge boulder-bulge-like buttress. The rock seemed to have a purple hue to it. I led the climb out to about 45-feet with etrier and direct aid (bongs and pins). Jack belayed, as Tobin was still learning "the ropes". Once exhausted, I rapelled off. Jack rigged up some prussocks, then showed Tobin how to ascend. After that, he coached Tobin with the remainder. Tobin continued with ease up around and over the roof, then up a very steep bit of crack climbing, until it panned out on a vertical, still unbolted face. He then rapelled off. It took him only 20 minutes or so, with protection. I was impresseed with this kid's tenacity and ability. He was the first of what would become a new generation of young urban climbing lads.

Later, I heard much about a kid named John Long, for example, who was easily doing direct and even un-roped some of our Joshua Tree direct-aid cracks of the 1960's.

I heard later that Tobin had continued with much zeal and success. Jack once mentioned that he was climbing almost every weekend, mostly at Taquitz or Suicide rocks. After those years, I transferred my university studies from Riverside City College to Chico, then thereafter out of the USA. I think the memory of that weekend of climbing stuck in mind, mostly as Tobin would typify a new era and breed of climbers who emerged in the early 1970's out of Urban America: driven, focussed, almost religious in finding an interest to which they could attach and ossify their fledgling identities. Every male teenager in a competitive nation needs some kind of outlet. Life in the Southern Californian overt-urbanesque human-ridden setting, can smother ones sense of identity in general.

As mentioned earlier, years later, when I was resident here in Christchurch, Tobin came through on a lecturing and climbing Austral-Asian stint. He gave a lecture across the street here at Canterbury University after climbing with many of the local lads at Mt. Cook. He seemed to have made quite a name as an alpinist. I thought his lecture was about an Eiger North Face soloing effort, but it might have been his reknowned mid-winter Matterhorn climb.

Only a corollary now, but here I am in my late 50's. I have a new young lady in my life with a 13-year old Tobin Sorenson-like son. He shows uncanny focus, ability and tenacity for anything physical. Maybe it is a sort of Zen-like obsessiveness, couple with a loner's attitude. I put Connor into some shoes and took him along to "The Roxx", a "Real-Roc" indoor climbing gym we built here (have a look on the web). He is already climbing steady 19's and getting onto 20's. It is his second month of climbing now. I hope his fate is not akin to that of other Tobin's I have met continuously in my life and are no more. Somehow pushing the limits of ourselves is a personal thing that only knowing how to strike the balance of our entire being ensures continuance.

I saw the photo someone had posted of Tobin Sorenson with the characteristic white taped hands (for Joshua Tree-like crack climbing on that big and sharp-crystalled Quartz Monsonite). He was with the same hair style I had met him that weekend sometime in the autumn of 1970-71 (?)

I must find Jack Schirr, if he is still around. He'd be about 62 or more now.


Social climber
Ventura, California
Oct 6, 2009 - 09:36pm PT
Nice story Fred.

A good friend reminded me yesterday was the day Tobin died back in 1980. so its curious to read your post.

When ever I look at any of my Photos of Tobin I see a Man/Boy frozen in time and forever young.

Thanks for the picture you painted for me.



Trad climber
Oct 6, 2009 - 09:52pm PT
LordLovaDuck, MartiniMan (aka rotten johnny). . . YOU KNOW STEVE MACKAY?

I didn't know that!

I'd LOVE to hear from him. . . we go WAY back.


If you ever hear from him, send him to TheTacoStand and tell him to look Brockman up.



Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 7, 2009 - 03:56pm PT

His name is Jack Schnurr. He taught me how to climb.


climber a single wide......
Oct 19, 2009 - 12:52am PT
Bump for The Ages. I can spend a whole evening reading a handful of these 10 Stonemaster threads. That's gold Jerry, gold!

oh and P.S. I got to eyeball Pat Nay's copy of The StoneMasters the other day. Wow wow wow!! Anybody who considered themselves a California rock climber in the 70's has to have this book. Huge kudos to all involved in making a reality.

Social climber
The other "Magic City on the Plains"
May 25, 2010 - 11:35am PT
'bout time for a bump.........

Social climber
Bouncy Tiggerville
Jul 19, 2010 - 02:26pm PT
History Bump - MH's links listed earlier for the rest of the threads:

Stonemaster Stories (Part II)

StoneMaster Stories (Part III) continued onward

StoneMaster Stories (Part 4) continued onward farther

StoneMaster Stories (Part 5) the epic continues

StoneMaster Stories (Part 6) the epic continues

Stonemaster Stories; Part 7-More of the same, only different

Stonemaster Stories, Part 8; More Tales from the Crypt

Stonemaster Stories, IX The Eternal brotherhood

Stonemaster Stories; Part X--What? Still more!? [/quote]
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
May 13, 2011 - 08:42pm PT
Whole bunches of primo tales...
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Nov 5, 2012 - 11:08pm PT

Ice climber
chingadero de chula vista
Nov 5, 2012 - 11:28pm PT
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Nov 5, 2012 - 11:28pm PT
bumping the bumper

There should be a "classics" menu over on the left.

Social climber
Nov 15, 2012 - 05:31pm PT
hey there say, jobee! woww, thanks for the fun story about my brother, ... mark's pretty even keel around home, so--when he's this jumping-wildly, you KNOW he's entertaining something wonderful...

also--i remeber seeing pooch, too... and mama cat finaly went to live with my MOM, when i was STAYING there (after my divorce)... i got to her enjoy her and comb knots-of-yosemite out of her fair-hair... very neat cat... she lived a few more years there (i moved out to michigan, just before the ol' cat-mama passed on)... must have been over twenty years, i am sure...

as to your quote:

Jan 26, 2006 - 03:19pm 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"!

wow, happy to see that john long enjoyed remembering all that, too...
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Mar 16, 2013 - 01:13am PT

Jan 16, 2014 - 08:54am PT
BBST-I regret I don't have time to run a dragnet for gems like these on ST -great reading!
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

Out Of Bed
Feb 16, 2015 - 01:05am PT
here now at four in the morning I send the StoneMasters thread back up. up up
try and find the. gems !
this. will set YA. going!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jul 23, 2017 - 10:47am PT
In the beginning there was stone...
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