The Stigma vs. The Regegade

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k-man

Gym climber
SCruz
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 7, 2011 - 06:11pm PT
I remember when Todd Skinner first free climbed The Stigma in 1986, an A3 seam at the Cookie. After his free ascent, he renamed the climb The Renegade and rated it 5.13b. It was somewhat of a big deal and perhaps the first 5.13 in the Valley.

But there seemed to be a problem. Skinner had rapped the route and placed four pitons to protect the seam. Not only that, he (gasp) dogged the moves. But he did not TR the route and he climbed it from the ground.

Soon after, Alan Watts repeated the free ascent and placed pro on lead.

A look through the guide shows that Watts was given the FA, and there is no mention of The Renegade.

Why was Skinner fleeced out of his FA? Others had certainly dogged routes in Yosemite and many difficult ascents were "tainted" by pre-placed pro.

Todd is a controversial figure in Yosemite and many have bemoaned the tactics that he used in his free attempts. Still, what's fair is fair--I don't recall any shenanigans employed on The Renegade that weren't up the sleeves of other Valley protagonists.

Odd too is the name of Todd's obit in Rock & Ice, Todd Skinner The Renegade.

So what gives?
Elcapinyoazz

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Apr 7, 2011 - 06:25pm PT
Short answer is because Skinner didn't climb the entire crack.

Here's how Smoot (Watts's belayer for it recounts it):

Alan's plan was to aid the crack and fix pins before working on it. When we arrived at the base of the crack, I suggested, "Why not at least try it without the pins first?" Alan agreed. He did aid the pitch first, but mostly clean, fiddling with RPs and TCUs along the way to Todd's no-hands stance. Above that, Alan couldn't get nuts or cams to stick in the shallow, flared crack, so he whacked in a couple of pitons, reached the anchor bolt, and rappelled, cleaning his gear as he descended and making up a rack for his free attempts. On his first day's attempts, Alan got about halfway to the stance, cruising the initial 5.12a section but only a few moves beyond. The next day, he ignored The Stigma, and instead did some soloing and bouldering, while I sat at the base of Cookie Cliff guarding my fixed rope from the Valley locals, whom I imagined were lurking nearby, ready to pull it down and defecate on it, or some such idiocy. John Bachar did walk past, pausing briefly to inspect the route, but departed without comment.

Somehow, we recruited two Japanese climbers to belay Alan the next morning, so I could photograph Alan on the route. These two were very excited to meet the very famous Alan Watts, who was apparently a very big celebrity in Japan. Alan made two tries that morning, and I got some good photos, while Alan got a 40-foot whipper after nearly sticking the crux on his second try, then falling off as his non-English-speaking belayer let out slack when Alan wanted him to take it up. We soon said good-bye to our Japanese friends, who apparently did not understand that they were being given the bum's rush. After they departed, Alan took a long rest, then sent the route on his next try. The crux involved torquing up several small, well-spaced pin scars, including a mono-doight twister and one of the most improbable gastons I have ever seen accomplished. Once established on the stance, Alan was ready to call it quits, since that was where Todd had stopped, but since Todd had been criticized for stopping short of the end of the crack, I goaded him into giving the rest of the crack a try. Under such intense peer pressure, and a threat not to lower him off unless he kept climbing, Alan agreed. Of course, there was the matter of protection. Alan didnít have a hammer and pitons on his rack, but utilizing my fixed rope, he pulled up a few pins and the hammer, then climbed up, whacked in a pin off a 5.12 finger jam, then finished the crack. Unfortunately, the anchor bolt was out of reach from the end of the crack. After a few desperate dynos and falls, I suggested he tie a longer sling on the bolt so it could be clipped from the top of the crack. He yarded up the fixed rope, tied a long sling on the bolt, and on his next try succeeded in completing the crack free.

http://www.climbingwashington.com/features/walkinthepark.htm

To add some visual context, a pic also linked from Jeff's site above, with Watts on the stance with remaining crack above:

all in jim

climber
Apr 7, 2011 - 06:26pm PT
I remember walking up to the cookie when I was about 19 and seeing Todd (belayed by Beth Wald) working on the Renegade. I didn't know any of the rules of climbing and I just thought it was cool that he was trying something so hard that he had to work the moves. I think maybe Alan pushed the route a little higher?

I'm sure there will be posts about what a travesty or something it all was. You can't take away the fact that Todd got it done, and that it opened a door for Alan and others. I imagine that most ascents of the Renegade these days are still accomplished in the style that Todd did it in.
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
Apr 7, 2011 - 06:34pm PT
good topic k-man,

Never heard much about subsequent ascents. Has it had many?

Todd loved thin crack/seam climbing and he was really good at it.
k-man

Gym climber
SCruz
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 7, 2011 - 06:37pm PT
He yarded up the fixed rope, tied a long sling on the bolt, and on his next try succeeded in completing the crack free.

This is a bit unclear. Did he do the whole route again free?

I still think it's Rotten Tomatoes. Skinner freed the crack to a no-hands. Watts obviously did not get to a higher stance and quite likely didn't do the entire crack free in one go to the extended sling.



[Dang I wish I could edit that title!]
WBraun

climber
Apr 7, 2011 - 06:44pm PT
I talked to Todd right before he finally did it.

I had just free soloed a few pitches there and was leaving.

He said he was resting and waiting for it to cool down a bit for another attempt.

I looked up at this thing and thought why waste time monkeying around this stupid thing when you can get many high quality pitches in during that time.

But I also know some people like this stuff. Whatever floats your boat.

Nobody climbs this pitch anymore except Kauk.

He trains on it with a top rope. A crucial hold broke off a few winters ago.

It's much harder now.

But .... I do see people practicing clean aid climbing on it at times ......
Alex Baker

climber
Portland
Apr 7, 2011 - 07:04pm PT
Since the hold broke, has it gone free? Also I think now the anchor is where Alan is at in the photo above?
slabbo

Trad climber
fort garland, colo
Apr 7, 2011 - 09:04pm PT
I also talked to Todd quite a bit when he was working this and after he did it. He sure seemed to be working very hard and he was a damn good climber.

If this goes free then the Salathe will for sure
cultureshock

Trad climber
Mountain View
Apr 21, 2011 - 05:47pm PT
I assume the broken hold was in the upper section. It's nails hard. Tiny pin scars with no feet, a huge departure from the first half of the route.

How many people have done this route? Skinner, Watts, Kauk...

There are still bolts in the location shown in the photo, however, there is lower anchor that would be clipped while standing on the last xenolith, IE where the climber is standing in the shot above. The lower anchor has the most recent hardware.

You can set a TR of this by going up the Enigma and rapping around the corner. You will need to clip bolts on the way down as directionals to get far enough left.

 Luke
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 22, 2011 - 01:02am PT
It's partly because Todd used preplaced gear, and partly because Alan climbed higher.
I think they should both be mentioned in the historical credits, with the relevant details.

Smoot's piece suggests the dates were Spring 1985 for Todd's ascent, and August 1985 for Alan's.
Todd's book, "Beyond the Summit", also says Spring 1985.
k-man

Gym climber
SCruz
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2011 - 02:24am PT
Thanks Clint.

And Werner, I've been thinking about what you said. Mostly it made me curious about what route(s) I would consider soloing at the Cookie. My list is very short, it could fit on the tip of a pin.
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
May 24, 2011 - 11:16am PT
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
May 24, 2011 - 11:23am PT
He was using then controversial tactics, and did not exactly have a lot of credibility back then.
Then Watts did it better.

RIP Todd
k-man

Gym climber
SCruz
Topic Author's Reply - May 24, 2011 - 11:30am PT
Let me get this straight...Climbing to an obvious no-hands rest = contrived.
Preplacing some pro = contrived.

If these statements are true, then there's a lot of routes that still await FFAs.

I'm with Clint, I think both should get credit for the FFA, with Watt's getting credit for the extension. And, as is accepted practice, I think the first section should be named The Renegade.
k-man

Gym climber
SCruz
Topic Author's Reply - May 24, 2011 - 11:35am PT
[lol ...]
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
May 24, 2011 - 11:43am PT
pulls out every base trick in the devils tool box

Whoa! Great quote Coz.

I was thinking about Todd looking at this thread. The controversy about the style has to be seen in the context of the time, but I can't believe that some of the old-time regulars had a problem with him personally. That man had so much positive energy.
k-man

Gym climber
SCruz
Topic Author's Reply - May 24, 2011 - 11:49am PT
Great context Coz, thanks for that addition.

After so many years, it's good to see that the basic ethics are still in place. While pre-placing pro/pre-inspecting and hang dogging are still fairly common, I know a lot of folks who still hold to the highest standards of trying to get up first try, no falls. To me, that's the mindset that I call "Traditional climbing." This is opposed to the "I'm going to work this thing," which to me is the 'sport' mindset.
slabbo

Trad climber
fort garland, colo
May 24, 2011 - 12:01pm PT
Todd was good guy and for sure liked to get people going....

A second ascent should improve on an f/a, if possible. Look at the Salathe- Todd and Paul used the hanging belay on the Headwall as it had been used for years. Now it's done as one.
Off White

climber
Tenino, WA
May 24, 2011 - 12:09pm PT
I'd imagine it was also a conundrum for the Valley cognoscenti because both Skinner and Watts were outsiders who embraced euro tactics, I don't think folks wanted to give either of them credit. Todd was kind of a roving hit man looking for hard projects to apply his approach, and he met resistance any number of times. Consider when he was working on City Park at Index up here in the NW, locals actually went out and put axle grease in the crack to deter his attempts.

I don't have all the dates thought out to support hypothesis, and I'm not really trying to ruffle anyone's feathers, but wasn't this the start of the time that deposed the Valley from it's throne as the world's greatest climbing destination? Somewhere in there we went from "French free" being a derogatory comment to the French being possibly the best free climbers in the world.
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
May 24, 2011 - 12:16pm PT
There might have been an important difference between the Euro hard sport climbing that was getting all the press then and the controversial Skinner stuff. The Euro hard climbing was mostly overhanging rock and really steep face climbing. Todd and Alan were also applying those techniques (pre-placed gear, working routes) to cracks and often in trad climbing strongholds.
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