Coonyard Pinnacle- 50 Years Later


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Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Topic Author's Original Post - May 12, 2011 - 11:59pm PT
Coonyard Pinnacle 50 Years Later

It started as a lark, at the Nose Reunion several years ago, Calderwood and I talked of a 50th anniversary ascent of Coonyard to celebrate our first ascent in Sept 1960.

Crazy ideas have a tendency to gain momentum and before I knew it, last summer I was working out in the Pacific Edge climbing gym here in Santa Cruz, with my daughter Kali to get into some mode of climbing condition.

BBA, Bitchin Bill Amborn, after a stay in the Valley in July decided to let old memories remain old memories and not challenge the mood and elations of the past in a celebration of the present. “You can’t go home again” philosophy. Not a bad idea but I have always been a slow learner and a glutton for punishment down memory lane. Think high school reunions.

Simon of “I Hate Plastic” notability, offered to lead and we invited my daughter Kali and her boyfriend David along for the excursion. All schedules coordinated into an late September ascent and we all converged in the Valley the same weekend as FaceLift.

It was a wonderful experience to be back on Coonyard. After a late start and with a party of five we were able to climb only to the 2nd pitch. Oddly enough route finding on the 2nd pitch was a problem and Simon took a classic Apron winger trying to suss out the route. We originally went right but he tried straight up, which is a bit more difficult if I remember.

“Slide and glide and save your hide” as we used to say.

Calderwood, at 72 was climbing exceptionally well and still retains some of the stellar form he was renowned for in the old days. His first ascent of Arches Terrace in 1957 was a landmark slab climb and his endurance and work-horse ethics on the first ascent of the Nose was a great contribution to that historic route in 1958.

Moi, I felt pretty good on Coonyard but oddly enough, out of my element on the easy run up Monday Morning Slab.
First time I have used a rope on that part and it felt welcome as things did not flow like I remembered. Too many years living on a boat?

Coonyard was hard in1960 and is didn’t seem to get any easier over the years.

The “kids” Kali and David cruised it and kept us in laughter the entire day.

Perhaps the mood of past and present could best be illustrated by the contrast of the early black and white photos and the color ones of today.

1960 -was dull, faded Goldline, pre-Swami belt, few pitons, skinny ¼ inch bolts, few cars and fewer people, a gray smoke haze drifting up the Apron, hide and seek with the bears and the monotone of the togs and long run-outs.

2010 -The old dumps is now a parking lot and it was filled to capacity. The colors are vibrant: ropes, gear, packs, helmets, and harnesses. Chalk bags are ubiquiitous, a multitude of nuts and cams to draw from and the beauty of 3/8 inch bolts and long run-outs.

I often felt that it would be difficult to surpass that feeling of being on the first ascent with Calderwood and Amborn but I think being on the climb again with my daughter and friends, fifty years later, sharing some of the route and recollections of the past was just as enjoyable, if not more. Pure gold.

For an interesting perspective, go out and do a first ascent this season and then, try to peek into the future to 2061 and fantasize what your life and the world will be like then.

Kudos to Roger Brown, Clint Cummins and others for the bolt replacement on the Apron on a multitude of routes.

The following is copy of the original Register we placed on Coonyard Pinnacle, courtesy of the Mountain Record Section of the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley. Some pages were unreadable but the majority are illustrated here. Copyright Mountain Record Section, Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley.

Of special interest are the four ascents by Bridwell between 1966 and 1970. I wonder how the timing coordinates with the Fatwa he issued against slab climbing?

We can see that Don Whillans ran out of cigarettes, that Lloyd Price was all over the place, Rowell and Beck chopped the illicit bolt placed by Leeper and Kunasz (Kunasz broke his leg?) on the last pitch to Coonyard and Cochrane and Sacherer were headed somewhere from the top of Coonyard.

Also of note is the 2nd ascent to the Oasis where BBA chopped Yvon’s illicit bolt on the third pitch of Coonyard.

Glacier Point Apron Register:

Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
May 13, 2011 - 12:03am PT
Thanks, Joe - very nice!

Had any of you repeated the climb between 1960 and 2010?
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
May 13, 2011 - 12:34am PT
Cool - thanks for sharing.
Simon whipped, yikes!

Some stuff I learned from the register:
 Coonyard Direct is the direct version of p2
 it says the FFA was by Frank Sacherer and Howard Sturgis,
but the guidebooks have said Frank Sacherer and Chuck Ostin.
Many of those initial entries in the guidebook are transcribed,
but I don't think anyone would have switched the name.
I wonder why there is the discrepancy.
 many familiar names in there. The Diana Hunter entry looks the nicest.

Trad climber
fresno, ca
May 13, 2011 - 12:38am PT
Sooo cool. This is what makes Supertopo such a gem. Way to keep the boldness and adventure alive. What an inspiration. Thanks!

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
May 13, 2011 - 12:47am PT
Thanks for the post, guido!
Brought back some wonderful feelings that only polished slabs can give.
Great job in the present, team!
Way to keep climbing.
Captain...or Skully

or some such
May 13, 2011 - 12:55am PT
john hansen

May 13, 2011 - 01:01am PT
Very good history,

Really like "the Kids" photo.

The summit register belongs in Kens collection.

Trad climber
Douglas, WY
May 13, 2011 - 01:13am PT
Great post, Guido!--I always wondered what became of Paul Kunasz, since he introduced me to chimney climbing in the Valley (June 1965) on the first pitch of Split Pinnacle. I recall nearly barfing on it, just something I'd never done before and didn't climb for schizzle. He got a ride to Berkeley with me a couple days later, and I haven't heard of him again until this post!

Inner City

Trad climber
East Bay
May 13, 2011 - 01:17am PT
Micronut said it very well.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
May 13, 2011 - 01:25am PT
That's wonderful, Guido! Especially doing it with your kids!

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
May 13, 2011 - 01:28am PT
I heart me some slab. dig it Joe!
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
May 13, 2011 - 01:28am PT
thanks Guido... this year is the 40th anniversary of my first climb in Yosemite Valley...
where does the time go?

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
May 13, 2011 - 01:44am PT

What an inspiration! You can go home again!
I'm curious about the register.
Are there more like it that could be copied and posted?

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
May 13, 2011 - 01:58am PT

There are registers from Lower Cathedral Spire and Mt. Starr King which have been posted.

Social climber
Butterfly Town
May 13, 2011 - 02:04am PT
Thanks, Guido, for a GREAT POSTING and for keeping at it with Kali & David as well as Simon and Rich! It sure brings back memories seeing all those familiar names in those registers!

Trad climber
Imperial Beach California
May 13, 2011 - 02:08am PT

Big Wall climber
May 13, 2011 - 02:10am PT
very Kool! thanks for the post on Coonyard. i'll tell my friends about it at stoney!

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
May 13, 2011 - 02:10am PT

Paul and Chela Kunasz are still married and living in Boulder where they both have professional jobs associated with the university. I'm sure you could look them up.

Chela spends a great deal of her time raising money and administering a Tibetan charity in south India.

I've posted a bio of her on the Chick History thread.
paul roehl

Boulder climber
May 13, 2011 - 02:12am PT
This is really a great thread... once traversed from the top of the first pitch of Coonyard at about 45 degrees over to point beyond. It was fun and pretty easy. Loved climbing on the Apron in spite of the breasts.

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
May 13, 2011 - 02:32am PT

I have a long and storied relationship with coonyard; it was the first long route i did in the valley, and over the next 25 - 30 years i did it in an unimagiable variety of states of mind. mass assaults, joints at every belay, girlfriends, first time climbers, old time climbers, solo. it's my desert island climb.

i really wanna go do it again, but the whole rockfall thing has me buggin'.

coonyard, July '76. livin' the dream.


El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
May 13, 2011 - 10:28am PT
Great post!
Thanks guido!
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
May 13, 2011 - 10:41am PT
Guido - great post, really wonderful outing.

This is your daughter on the handcrack, left of center! Great kid.


Trad climber
Imperial Beach California
May 13, 2011 - 10:59am PT

Your writing is such a joy to read and all your threads
are so wonderful - thanks so much for all your pictures
and prose. Your story about the winter attempt on
Sentinal with Kor was really special too!

Many thanks!
Bad Climber

May 13, 2011 - 11:18am PT
Fantastic, really. It's funny, but I was thinking about my own climbing career and how this year, when I go to Lover's Leap, I plan on doing a 34th anniversary ascent of Bear's Reach, and then I figured on a goal of eventually doing a 50th. I'll only be 65, so as long as I stay healthy, it should be quite reasonable. I love stories like this that give us history and point the way.


Trad climber
May 13, 2011 - 11:24am PT
Great post - thanks.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
May 13, 2011 - 12:23pm PT
Just can't get enough of that Guido stuff!!!

What, no original footwear?!? Just could actually unpucker a bit this go round.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
May 13, 2011 - 12:34pm PT
Guido, many thanks! One question, if Mr Coonyard wasn't on the first ascent
how come it is called Coonyard?

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
May 13, 2011 - 12:42pm PT

Feckin' aaaay dudes, how awesome is this? Thanks man, so glad you got up there!!

Trad climber
Somewhere halfway over the rainbow
May 13, 2011 - 12:45pm PT
Awesome Guido just what this place needs more of you and less of most of us.

Guido this was really a joyful delight to share. Thank you.
Seeing the Wunch & Hunter entry was very cool. I was wondering if the Steve Williams who appears to have climbed it twice might just be our SteveW?
Having the younger set share with the elders is way up on the "coolness" factor.
I have had the uniquely poignant experience of returning to climbs with partners who weren't even born when I did the FAs. But I don't really want to imagine what I will be up to in 2061 at the ripe ol age of 104.
Cheers for a wonderful experience!

Trad climber
Fresno CA
May 13, 2011 - 01:08pm PT
Thanks very much for that post. There's a lot of personal history wrapped up there. Calderwood taught me aid climbing in a Sierra Club course in the 1960's. I loved seeing Mike Caldwell's and Fred Miles' entry in 1971. Mike took me on my first hard (BITD) slab climb -- Patio -- in 1970. Their "On to the Oasis" attempt, unfortunately, ended at the top of the next pitch. At that time, someone had already chiseled "F*CK" into the rock. Mike and Fred added an exclamation point.

Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
May 13, 2011 - 04:08pm PT
And Tim Auger and Bob Woodsworth (brother to Tricouni) are in the register too - Canucklehead content.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
May 13, 2011 - 04:14pm PT
Great post! Loved looking at the registers...what a treasure trove of wonderful people. Susan

Guido: we are hauling Mouton on Wednesday, will be at Svens...knowing us ... probably close to a month... not sure where you are in the world but if around stop by. Susan
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
May 13, 2011 - 04:34pm PT
Nice TR, Joe. I too like to read the old registers. Is this the entire register or did you copy selected pages. Nice pictures.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Topic Author's Reply - May 13, 2011 - 09:37pm PT
MIghty-climbed it 4-5 times over the years, two were ascents to the Oasis. Soon after the first ascent, Chouninard, Hempel, Moi and I think Amborn went up and climbed two pitches above Coonyard, Oasis bound. Later Amborn and Foott got within a pitch or two of the Oasis and as you know Kor and Chouinard finished it off. Nice thing about Yvon is he included Foott and Amborn as being on the first ascent when he wrote it up. Bad thing about Yvon is he placed a bolt on the Coonyard route and Amborn later chopped it.

Reilly-See the first ascent Post to get the origin of Coonyard.

bvd-whoa, solo on Coonyard, that is pretty friggin awesome. I was far too much of a lightweight to try any solo games on hard friction. I know Simon soloed Marginal and even that is difficult for me to imagine. The thing about friction is once you start to slide it is difficult after the momentum has built up to stop.

Roger-That is most of the Register I believe. There were some loose pages if I remember and they were not included in the batch. I think the Register was lost for a while and someone put it back up.

Register- The largest collection of Registers of Cal climbs and peaks is part of the Mountain Record Section at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. Last summer Kali and I spent an afternoon going through some choice boxes. Almost got kicked out because we were oohing and ahing too loud and the serious head librarian was not impressed. Serious place with high security and slow response but on the whole very accommodating people. I had the library copy via stat the Coonyard Register plus Rixons's Pinnacle, Phantom Pinnacle, El Cap, Glacier Point Apron, Fairview Dome, Lost Arrow Tip and the Royal Arches. It took months to get this completed and they provided the stats on microfilm. Fortunately UC Santa Cruz has a brand new scanner that will scan direct from the microfilm to disk for free! IThe copying at the Bancroft was not cheap, something like $275 ............

I had to spend 3-4 hours on the Coonyard Register with Photoshop to make it presentable and readable. Somebody like maestro Haan could turn it into an art piece.

I am convinced the way to handle this reproduction would be to film a Register. You can set it up so you can do the photo work yourself at the Library. Film would maintain the mood of the paper and give a more realistic presentation of the actual writing. Filming would also be less damaging to the handling of the Registers. Some of these are very very delicate and they had go go to the Restoration Dept before they would copy them. Copying is more traumatic than filming.

Wouldn't it be fantastic to have all of the Bancroft Register Collection on film. This would be a massive job but certainly doable. Then everyone would have access to these historical gems. Ken could have all the data on DVD for the future Yosemite Collection and they could even be made available online.

The AAC also has a significant collection of Registers.

Perhaps we should put together a project to raise enough dinero to have this accomplished? Maybe Ed or someone else in the area wold be interested. Some of these Registers go back to the turn of the century! Not a small project but an immensely worthy one.

I'm in.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
May 13, 2011 - 09:44pm PT
love the old registers... there are some still out "in the wilderness" as it were...
we should have an email conversation on this project, though I've got a lot of irons in the fire right now...

on top of Andy's Inferno, relatively recently...

Pohono Pinnacle register...

John Morton

May 13, 2011 - 10:41pm PT
Guido, this is one of your best yet, many names of forgotten partners. I don't even remember doing the route, but there it is in black and white.

What's up with the entries through 1966? After the first page they look to be all in the same hand.


May 13, 2011 - 10:41pm PT
For Reilly: The naming of Cooñard is described in this post:

And from Ed's images, I was surprised to see the incredible Pohono Pinnacle route named for me and given a "worst in the valley rating". Makes a guy proud. Thanks Eric.

I opted out of the 50 year event after going to the base of the Apron in July and seeing hangers everywhere. Then I thought of how unsatisfying going to my 50th high school reunion was - hip replacements everywhere. In July I went up Vernal Falls with my daughter and grandson and came down the horse trail because the Mist Trail was so wet - couldn't see with glasses on. Grandson says, "This is a horse poop obstacle course." It was a beautiful day on the trail.

Bill Amborn


Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Topic Author's Reply - May 13, 2011 - 10:57pm PT
John-Appears Lloyd Price is on 4 of those ascents in 66 so perhaps he's the culprit responsible for the similarity? Don't know, I am just the messenger.

Hi yah BBA!
scuffy b

dissected alluvial deposits, late Pleistocene
May 14, 2011 - 03:16am PT
Wonderful, Joe.
Are you back in the States now?

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
May 14, 2011 - 12:27pm PT
Thanks again for taking the the time to obtain and post copies of that old resister.
It means a lot to see J. Goslings writing and recall what an adventure doing the "Complete Apron" was for us in those days. We were not at all sure we were going to make it. John had failed with a different partner in 1967. I was a young climber, untested, and the only other "friction" routes I had done were short climbs at Big Rock (CA).
Your an interesting and positive voice on this web site.
John Morton

May 14, 2011 - 01:42pm PT
John-Appears Lloyd Price is on 4 of those ascents in 66 so perhaps he's the culprit responsible for the similarity? Don't know, I am just the messenger.

And a fine messenger you are, too.

Loyd's ascents were in June-Aug., and that handwriting ends at Sept. 21. Imagine someone sitting on Coonyard copying out all those entries (from the damaged originals?). Or taking it home and returning with it later ...

One thing that suggests Loyd is that his named is spelled correctly.

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
May 14, 2011 - 08:24pm PT
Joe: Read this yesterday and forgot to post my appreciation. I just read & bumped the original ascent article, and find it awesome that you can still repeat that route.


Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
May 15, 2011 - 09:44pm PT
Bump for bookends...
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
May 15, 2011 - 10:44pm PT
Fine set of sealegs on that pirate! Harrrrrrr! Me Bucko...

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
May 16, 2011 - 12:10am PT
Too F*#KING cool!!! What a wonderful inspiring post! Thanks Guido.

Luke and I actually got benighted after doing Coonyard and I left a knot in the rope on the rappell of the crux(?) pitch. Luke being awesome re-led the pitch and we continued down. We're there in Nov 69, or was it March '70?

You know I may have photos of that trip. Of course Luke led the hardest pitches.
tom Carter

Social climber
May 16, 2011 - 01:22am PT
Dr Woo

Nice work. Thank you very much.


Gym climber
Berkeley, CA
May 16, 2011 - 01:28am PT
This living history is wonderful, Joe.

And thanks for putting up an awesome route! I made one valiant attempt, took some big sliders, and look forward to a day when I can sit on that pinnacle.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
May 17, 2011 - 01:03am PT
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jun 12, 2011 - 11:49am PT
Hard-soled Bump!

Trad climber
Jun 12, 2011 - 04:28pm PT
Great thread! Thanks Guido and All.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jul 3, 2011 - 04:39pm PT
Holiday Adventure Bump...
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jun 6, 2015 - 11:13am PT
Bump for Apron adventure stories...

Trad climber
Bay Area
Jun 6, 2015 - 01:53pm PT
A really fine climb. Did it circa '77.
On my To Repeat list. Might try to continue to the Oasis......or not.
Anytime I get high on the Apron is a delight (not necessarily a delight getting there!)
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Jun 6, 2015 - 02:42pm PT
It's weird, but there is a certain "vogue" that some climbs or types of climbs seem to fit into, depending on the generation.

Each gen "re-discovers" what a previous gen "discovered."

These repeat ascents then engender new routes or variations on old routes.

This has happened on The Apron.

And they all end up in a register, which means registers are EXTREMELY IMPORTANT HISTORICAL ITEMS/DOCSUMENTS. So how do we treat them? We use our worst possible handwriting, but it's hard when the wind is blowing, hun! It's so funny/ironic.

I noticed my friends Cowboy Larry and Andy Cox were there, both before me. My turn came just a bit later. I felt right at home up there, once I got there. Never took a fall. Never saw a fall. Naturally-superieur mouse tech-an-eek, I guess. I don't recall a register, though.

My partners up there were many: Tim Harison, Cowboy, the Rev, two of our HS classmates, one a tweet=bus driver at the time, the other an out-of shape PG&E lineman (Throwpie knows), not to mention brother-in-law Ike, Patrick Stewart, Dick Ellsworth, Adrian Rosenthal, and even the dweebish and maligned David Yohalum (DY was a good friction climber, BTW.)

Ike and I made it a single pitch from the Oasis in just a few hours and had to race a storm out of Little Yo back down to the ground. We got soaked as soon as we touched down--fastest raps on record or off, I'm prettty sure.

Not kidding about the memories. There are many. And it's a thinking man's game, too. You really need to see where you want to go next, then find the key.

Thanks a bunch, Guido. I owe you for these memories. See you at Facelift and I'll try to even the score.


Trad climber
the middle of CA
Jun 10, 2018 - 09:47pm PT
Bump for meeting Calderwood today and hearing how much he also enjoyed getting back together for this climb!

Maybe I'll have to try this route now.

Trad climber
Jun 11, 2018 - 06:43am PT
I climbed Coonyard in the early 80's with Dennis Kemp.
Dennis provided much of the material for Meyer's yellow book Apron topo so knew where much of the fixed gear was.
Dennis got excited when I found a fixed pin that he didn't know about so had to take out his topo and add it in.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, California
Jun 11, 2018 - 07:33am PT

Thanks for this TR!

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jun 11, 2018 - 07:39am PT read! Missed this the first time around.

Gross Vegas
Jun 11, 2018 - 07:55am PT
“Too much slab climbing and you’ll grow tits..”
Or something to that effect.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jun 11, 2018 - 07:59am PT
That’s what he said and a few years later she said...” it goes, boys.”

Trad climber
May 29, 2019 - 12:40pm PT
Probably the most intimidated I've ever felt on a 5.9 line, and only 5.9 that I backed off! This is another one that I'll have to get back to.

Cross-linking the TR from my aborted attempt with Davidji:
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