Joe Fitschen Appreciation Thread


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climber a single wide......
Topic Author's Original Post - Jul 7, 2011 - 03:43pm PT
It's time for Joe's thread. I sure hope he can publish his book and soon!

But in the meantime, stories old and new?

Joe- I've a question? I recall one of the old newspaper write-ups (2nd ascent of the Nose maybe) said you lived in my hometown of Monterey Park, CA? If true, that would make you Monterey Park's 2nd most famous climber (!) I know Tony Yaniro attended grade school for a few years in Monterey Park...
ron gomez

Trad climber
Jul 7, 2011 - 05:46pm PT

Hartouni and Fitschen
Hartouni and Fitschen
Credit: ron gomez
The legends.  Joe Fitschen, Tom Frost and Royal Robbins.
The legends. Joe Fitschen, Tom Frost and Royal Robbins.
Credit: ron gomez
A Tom Frost print so graciously signed by the three in the photo.
A Tom Frost print so graciously signed by the three in the photo.
Credit: ron gomez
Royal Robbins, Joe Fitschen, John Long, Clark Jacobs, the beautiful ho...
Royal Robbins, Joe Fitschen, John Long, Clark Jacobs, the beautiful host Janie Taylor Levy, Don Lauria, Jerry Gallwas Mike Sherrick Charlie Raymond.

Credit: ron gomez

Joe was one of those early mentors for me when I was "cutting" my ropes. Always an inspiration and a pleasure to meet with.

Jul 7, 2011 - 06:03pm PT
Joe looks fit enough to do the NIAD! Does he post here yet?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jul 7, 2011 - 06:55pm PT
Joe posts as "oldguy".
scuffy b

dissected alluvial deposits, late Pleistocene
Jul 7, 2011 - 07:19pm PT
Joe's got some great stories.

That bivy picture above, the iconic Frost print, autographed...
Taken by Chuck Pratt.

Trad climber
Imperial Beach California
Jul 7, 2011 - 07:21pm PT
Got to meet Joe and hang out with him and my friend Eric Beck this springs at Joshua tree. It was great; Joe is really cool guy with lots of interesting insights!


Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jul 7, 2011 - 10:32pm PT


ScuffyB: I forgot that was a Pratt photo. It was an important image for me in my youth, i.e. what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Good on ya, Joe.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jul 7, 2011 - 11:20pm PT

I'm glad to see the photo of Janey Taylor. She had legendary status by the time I arrived in the Valley but I never met her.

El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
Jul 7, 2011 - 11:33pm PT
Hey Joe-

Knew your son in Prescott. Heckuva climber in his own right.
After he split there were some
"I dunno, I think Fitschen did it" problems.
I worked hard and got the 2nd on one. Named it Gunshy.
Tell him Jefe says Hi!

Would love to hear more "oldguy" stories.

Jul 8, 2011 - 12:23am PT
I'm glad to see the photo of Janey Taylor. She had legendary status by the time I arrived in the Valley but I never met her.

Are we going to have to beg for Janey stories too? LOL

Bring on the Joe and janey stories!!!!!!

Bronx, NY
Jul 31, 2011 - 06:41pm PT
I didn't live in Monterey Park; my mother did at the time. I lived in Camp 4 and then in Curie Co. housing for the winter.

That Darwin wanted to be like one of the climbers in Pratt's photo--it must be Frost unless Darwin aspired to total depravity.

Yeah, Jason was good--won a competition in Tuscon I think and did some hairy multi-day in Mexico-- Trano?

And there is also a Fitschen's Folly in the Gunks. No one wanted to follow it after I led it (short, unprotected). Note that I didn't name either climb and have sometimes wished that my name didn't begin with "F"

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jul 31, 2011 - 07:10pm PT
Haven't seen Joe since I ran into him in Moab ten or more years ago. Guided with him at Exum in the 70's. Great guy with amazing, piercing blue eyes.

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Jul 31, 2011 - 07:30pm PT
I had the priviledge of meeting Joe last fall in the Valley...truly a fine man.


Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Jul 31, 2011 - 09:32pm PT
when i first met Joe and Royal in the Tetons in the early 60s; he was the first guy i'd met who could scramble up a scree slope as fast as me

he seemed to be a poet-philosopher constructed of steel springs and piano wire

my parents thought i went to Occidental College because of the famous violin professor who gave me a scholarship

they never realized it was really because Joe was also a student and had told me about Tahquitz Rock and Camp 4 lore

Joe probably never realized how much he had influenced my life

Dick Erb

June Lake, CA
Aug 1, 2011 - 12:59am PT
I have enjoyed knowing Joe over the years. I remember a very enjoyable summer day in the North Cascades climbing the NE Ridge of Mt. Triumph with Joe and Charlie Raymond.
Here is one of John Scurlock's excellent photos showing the ridge between sun and shadow in winter conditions.
Mt. Triumph in winter
Mt. Triumph in winter
Credit: John Scurlock

Sport climber
mammoth lakes ca
Aug 1, 2011 - 01:53am PT
Did Joe ever live in Loosenville ( Susanville) ?
Dick Erb

June Lake, CA
Aug 1, 2011 - 12:06pm PT
Joe taught English at Lassen College in Susanville for many years.
Rockin' Gal

Trad climber
Aug 1, 2011 - 12:47pm PT
Not only a great climber, but an ace NYT crossword solver!
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Sep 29, 2012 - 07:05pm PT
Bump for my English teacher at Lassen C.C. (Susanville, Ca.) 76-78

He turned me on to the Robbins Route at Pigeon Cliffs, I think I nabbed the 2nd ascent in 77, and 2 FA's there also.

Also told me about a granite formation just south of Thompson Peak that he spied from the road near Janesville. Nabbed many FA's at a place now known as Toms Thumb.

Thanks for the education Joe!
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Sep 29, 2012 - 07:39pm PT
Yes Joe is one of the real ones, the authentic article
and had that great blessing of being a central figure
in the golden age. His piece in that second Ascent
remains one of the best pieces of writing anywhere.
Naturally we have waited for the book and know it will
be another masterpiece.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Sep 29, 2012 - 07:40pm PT
I'm glad this got bumped up to the front. I enjoyed my summers working with Joe guiding for Exum in the Tetons. It was the early to mid 70's , a special place and a special time.
Fossil climber

Trad climber
Atlin, B. C.
Sep 29, 2012 - 07:42pm PT
Joe is a classy guy. I first met him about the time he made the first descent of Fitschen's Folly at Tahquitz, and his survival of that dive was a real boon to the climbing community, and to everyone he ever influenced. Never saw quite enough of him, but plenty enough to respect greatly.
Great to hear you're closing in on that book, Joe! Can't wait.
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Sep 29, 2012 - 08:26pm PT
Here is a Joe story some of you might enjoy.

I used to golf frequently here in Redding with a guy that was the basketball coach at Lassen C.C. at the same time Joe was teaching there.
He told me a story about a time they had a faculty party at this house
that had a large 2 story tall rock fireplace. After a few rounds of adult beverages coach looks up and sees Joe doin bouldering laps on the fireplace to the amazement and cheers of the party goers.

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Sep 29, 2012 - 11:08pm PT
Any idea when Joe's book is going to be published?

climber a single wide......
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 4, 2012 - 02:12pm PT
Joe Fitschen's book is now a reality! He wrote,

"One more little piece of news. I have finished and published my book, Going Up. Pat Oliver (Ament) wondered at one point if I was going for perfection. He should know that perfection is the enemy of the good. The book's good, could be better given another ten years to work on it. Anyway, for now it is only available through my website: I would appreciate it if all of you would spread the word. Better yet, buy the book and read it. "
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Mar 3, 2013 - 01:23pm PT
Bump for Joe and Going Up!
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Mar 3, 2013 - 01:42pm PT
Joe was at the Oakdale Festival this October, by the way. I hadn’t seen him since 1970 when he and then wife Linea came up to join Royal and Liz for a group trip to the Sea of Cortez and I remained babysitting the house and I think RR’s new kitty, Bojangles, or maybe Bojangles came a few months later. It’s all a blur of course. It’s true too, he had the most amazing blue eyes; eyes reminiscent of Kim Schmitz’s. Both these guys were really arrestingly beautiful, if you ask just about anyone. And both are still with us!

The Alpine Journal has asked I review Joe’s book so I am reading it and putting together some notes for that. Joe certainly was a really unique member of the Golden Age and very much admired by all. And his role in that era seems perfectly integral to it even if he might not have experienced it that way at the time. Really gentle book and quiet writing, incredibly detailed, anecdotal to its core. Hard to imagine Joe living in New York City for so many years since, isn’t it. Not sure if that phase will be explained or not as I haven’t finished the volume.

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 19, 2013 - 12:21am PT

A bump for "Going Up". It's a really interesting book for me. More later.

Trad climber
Ketchum, Idaho
Nov 19, 2013 - 02:12pm PT
Joe's book is very, very good, both as literature and climbing and cultural history. Buy it. Read it. Pass the word
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Nov 19, 2013 - 04:49pm PT
Joe's book is very, very good, both as literature and climbing and cultural history. Buy it. Read it. Pass the word

Word passed Yeti,
Great Read!

Joe mentioned he played Trumpet (jazz) pretty well bitd,
wonder if he still has the chops?

T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Dec 27, 2015 - 04:47am PT
Bump for Joe and "Going Up".
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

Out Of Bed
Dec 27, 2015 - 05:16am PT
Hey Big T, great bump.
I'm sitting in a parlor that now contains the Bar
That is new to the mountain House, it was a dry Quaker, retreat until ten years ago.

When I was. 11yrs old I was taken along to picnics; wine and cheese & summer sausage all mixed with group top roping , ~ everyone gets a try ~ deal, that JF ran for the old Appies . who were left to watch as the college boys took over and with the Vulgarians changed climbing.

The only thing that is
Best to yo and Mo,
Merry Merry & a happy . . . . Wait for it. . . .

2016 !

Trad climber
Dec 27, 2015 - 07:37am PT
Another great climbing thread, great stuff
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Dec 27, 2015 - 09:47am PT
A history bump--good man, T Hocking!
Joe Fitschen and Mark Force in discussion midst other climbing luminar...
Joe Fitschen and Mark Force in discussion midst other climbing luminaries at the OCF 2013, a real gala event.
Credit: mouse from merced
Real sorry you missed this gathering, Tad.

Joe Fitschen and the daughter of Mike Sherrick (forgot her first n...
Joe Fitschen and the daughter of Mike Sherrick (forgot her first name) in discussion with Jim McCarthy and an unidentified couple at OCF 2013.
Credit: mouse from merced
I managed to collect many autographs on the end pages of Joe's fine book of the generations older and than mine, as well as others, and thank my lucky stars for the opportunity.

What a great event that was!

And for the hundredth time, thanks, Steve Grossman and all the sponsors!
john bald

Dec 27, 2015 - 06:15pm PT
Going Up is one of the best climbing related book that I have read. A real feel for the times back then. I was fortunate enough to climb with Joe as he was passing through Susanville long after he had left Lassen College.
Thanks for the great read, Joe!

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Dec 28, 2015 - 08:47pm PT
Bump for "Big Joe."
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

Out Of Bed
Feb 5, 2016 - 11:30am PT
I missed this
And this is from The Mans Blog!

Joe Fitschen
Rock climbing and the peripatetic theory of knowledge

Joe Fitschen SearchMain menu
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Goin’ to da Gunks
Posted on February 3, 2013
“Good morning. Today is history class.”

He pauses to rest his bones on a high stool and assess his charges. Some slouch in their seats and doodle on their desks, others stare vacantly out the window, a few girls pop their gum and twiddle their tresses. But telling tales of the past has its rewards, at least for the teller, in that while those who can, do, those who no longer can, can be comforted by the knowledge that once they could.

“Today’s lesson is the beginning of a quest story, although no dragons will be slain, no castles stormed, no cities razed and pillaged. Before the end, though, a fair maid will be wooed and won, albeit all too briefly.”

Noting that no one in his audience was yet asleep, he relinquishes his perch on the stool and begins leisurely pacing the head of the room, measuring his thoughts with his stride.

“September, 1960. After Royal, Chuck, Tom, and I climbed El Cap I got a job as a busboy and soda jerk at the Yosemite Lodge Coffee Shop. The plan was that Royal and I would save some money over the winter and then go to the Alps in the summer. In the spring, however, Royal confessed that he had decided not to go. But I was committed. I wanted to pace the paving stones of Paris and wander the back lanes of London, to essay a yodel or two in the Alps and take the summer sun on the Riviera. Also, a comely English girl was waiting for me. I had met her while she worked as a waitress in the coffee shop, and before she returned to England that fall I bussed her tables and she jerked my soda, if you catch my drift.”

As he looks out at the room in mid stride, it seems as if something has piqued his pupil’s interest.

“In early May I packed all I thought I might need for the journey into my Kelty pack and pinned a sign on the back that said, simply, “NY.” My mother drove me to a place beyond San Bernardino where it would be easier to catch a ride. I won’t go into the details of my journey’s first leg, but five days later and only eleven dollars poorer my last ride dropped me in downtown Manhattan at midnight. I took a cab up to Art Gran’s apartment near Columbia University, was admitted by sleepy Art, and shown the couch. Art and his two roommates were gone during the day, so I explored the city on my own, learning the subway system and eating mostly takeout from delis.

“Over the winter I had saved a finite amount of money for my adventure, so I was frugal. Twice, though, I splurged. One night I went to a concert at Carnegie Hall that featured Miles Davis and a large ensemble playing Gil Evens’ arrangements from the LP, “Miles Ahead.” Another night I found my way to Birdland to hear Gerry Mulligan’s nonet and Dizzy Gillespie’s quintet trade sets. Choirs of angels could not have been more exalting and exhilarating.

“On weekends, Art and I and a few others drove up to the Gunks (no expressway then, just a two-lane road) in his VW bug. Gary Hemming had visited the Gunks earlier, but I don’t think he climbed much, so I was essentially the first Californian to test the mettle of Eastern climbers and take the measure of New York rock.

“I won’t say I was sandbagged, but Art and Jim McCarthy were proud of having raised the standard on their local cliffs and wanted to see how I would fare on their test pieces. Not too badly as it turned out. It took me a while to get used to the steepness of the climbs, especially the overhangs that loomed over the top of many routes and that looked all but impregnable. I learned, though, that if there was a route, there was a way through, and it was best to keep moving so your arms and fingers wouldn’t flame out.

“By the time I arrived, the spirit of the Vulgarians was in full flower. They waged a running battle with the Appies ( hide-bound, staid members of the Appalachian Club) and usually won. One weekend they decided to stage a Vulgarian Grand Prix. Those taking part lined up their cars, then came on foot to the starting line to hear instructions about the route. It was also to be a Le Mans start. I jumped into the passenger seat of one car and we were off. It was night, much of the course was over dirt roads, there were few places where one could pass (although some drivers tried), and if you weren’t leading it was hard to see through the billowing dust. As I recall, a few fenders had benders, but no serious damage was done, surprising considering the wine and beer that was consumed before (and after) the race.

“Although there were over one hundred people at the Gunks each weekend, there were surprisingly few really good climbers. The first Saturday, Art had me lead “Retribution.” I think I did it all free, but I can’t be sure. Then McCarthy took me to “Birdland.” It was wet from rain, and I fell at the crux but then climbed through smoothly. Jim fell three times following. Then we went to “MF,” a climb Jim had put up the previous year. It hadn’t been repeated. I made the first hard move and then psyched out. Jim decided he wasn’t up to it that day either, so we went down.

“The following weekend, a fellow named John Turner, a hot climber from Montreal, led the first pitch, but his second fell repeatedly and unabashedly and was finally lowered to the ground. I had planned on leading the climb later, but no one wanted to follow Turner, so I tied in and floated through the first hard parts. Turner then led up to the three to four foot overhang, the crux, and then came down. I gave it a try, but John’s last piton below the overhang was driven straight up and didn’t look like it would hold much of a fall. On top of that, if you came off trying to get over the overhang, you would slam into the wall below even if the piton somehow held. Frankly, his piton selection was piss poor, and I couldn’t get in anything good. I came down, and he went up again, then traversed off before he even got to the overhang.

“The next day, someone lent him some Chouinard pitons which worked beautifully beneath the overhang, but he still didn’t make it. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to get back on the climb that year. Many years later, though, (forty-five?) John Thackray led me up the climb. I struggled on the overhang, but was surprised to see more fixed pins than you would ever need. Below the overhang you could just reach up and clip into a higher pin so that it was almost like doing the whole climb with a top rope (which I was glad to have in the autumn of my years, although John was older and bolder than I).

“On a subsequent weekend, they put me on “Apoplexy” and “Never-Never Land,” and the next day they had me lead “Double Crack,” and then McCarthy gave me the rope for “Tough Shift.” The climbing was very delicate on small holds, like a boulder problem, although I was climbing in my beat up klettershue. I made it, though, but Jim couldn’t make it, although he had made the first ascent, so I came down.

“Then Art and I did “Never Again” and “Roseland” (it was the era of the “land’ climbs), and we added a pitch to each climb since they were originally only one pitch long. We then came across a route that Jim had started. He hadn’t gotten very far, so we finished it (if you think this was bad form, hear me out). The climb was unusual for the Gunks in that the first pitch was a genuine sixth class climb, just the thing for the old Yosemite hand: sixteen pitons, two knifeblades , 6.7 (on the old system), and three hours. Art led the second pitch, 5.7. Art named it “Transcontinental Nailway.” Four years later, McCarthy returned to the line he had first aspired to and climbed it free.

“I also did some bouldering along the carriage road. Bouldering wasn’t all that fashionable then, but I did one that was harder than any of the existing problems. It involved a fingertip mantle. No one mantled in the Gunks at the time even though opportunities for the technique abounded.”

Looking out in the room, he sees heads on desks, other heads thrown back with mouths agape, hands scribbling in notebooks. Oh, ye yet to be learned. Let me quote Aunt Gertrude. “Let me recite what history teaches. History teaches.”

“My last weekend in the Gunks (that almost-lost-to-memory season, last because I was soon to depart for England on a Dutch liner lined mostly with students [fare: $167.50, Heinekens: 14 cents a bottle]), I consummated a liaison with a lovely and adventurous (especially in those days before the pill) Norwegian woman in an abandoned (as were we) house while the rain rained, and the night seemed it would never end, and then it did all too soon.

“The next day, several climbers and I were having lunch at the Uberfall when one mentioned that the face to the right of “Boston” had been top-roped once but never led. “Would someone give me a belay?” I asked. From the base I could see that there wouldn’t be much opportunity for protection, but I figured I would just go up, and if I felt too uncomfortable I could back off. It was a short climb, so I was soon at the crux, 5.8 they say. I found that I could surpass it by mantling. I liked mantling because it is usually a very secure move, at least until the problem of getting the foot up next to the mantling hand and then stepping on up. If the wall is steep and there is a paucity of holds to keep you in balance the last move can be delicate. Sometimes, as in the present case as I recall, you just have to balance up very carefully. A little higher I came to some cracks and thought I could get a piton in. The cracks were formed by loose blocks, however, which have since become part of the talus. I did manage to place a pin, thinking that if something happened the piton might be good enough to slow me down. Wishful thinking is not a good habit in climbing, but sometimes there isn’t a lot you can do about it. Getting past the loose blocks was a little tricky, no longer a problem for the modern climber. In any case, it wasn’t too hard from the piton up to the tree at the top of the climb, and my “protection” seemed superfluous. I anchored and then asked who wanted to follow. The answer was no one. So I guess it was a solo ascent. I rapped off, removing the pin on the way down. I was right. If I had fallen, it would have slowed me down, a bit. If you really want to take the measure of the climb you should climb it in Kronhoffers, except that they aren’t available lo these many years. Tennis shoes anyone?”

Enough history. The captive audience thought so, too, as they filed out, eager to get on with life, with living in the here and now. Someday, may they also have stories to tell.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Joe Fitschen.
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Hans Florine on February 8, 2013 at 2:06 pm said:
another great read. Since I was a California climber and also ended up in The Gunks with a reputation, the locals wanted to test me on their hard routes. Although I didn’t fair too badly it was clear that the “Yosemite Skills” I had were not readily transferable to the cliffs at the Gunks. Great to hear your telling of it. Especially with the connection that my girlfriend and later wife was the one who got me to NY and she was Sponsored into the AAC by the Jim McCarthy in your story.



Reply ↓
William Rice on March 13, 2013 at 7:14 pm said:
Good one Joe! I had no point of reference on the climbing part and not much more on the consummating with the Norwegian woman, but the quick hitch across the country rang a bell. A friend of mine deserted from the Air Force and I drove him to the edge of Great Falls, so he could start his trip to God knows where. Our good-bye was a final one and therefore solemn. Two days later, I flew home to Michigan and when I walked into my house, he was having coffee with my mother.

Reply ↓
Ganhar muito dinheito on December 7, 2015 at 3:58 pm said:
Hi there to every single one, it’s genuinely a good for me to pay a visit this web
page, it contains valuable Information.

Reply ↓
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mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
May 26, 2016 - 04:24pm PT
Bump & a Happy Birthday wish for Joe!

Joe in the middle of the masters, Camp VI, Nose second ascent, 1960.
Joe in the middle of the masters, Camp VI, Nose second ascent, 1960.
Credit: Tom Frost collection

Joe talks with Mark Force amid other masters.  OCD, 2013.
Joe talks with Mark Force amid other masters. OCD, 2013.
Credit: mouse from merced
Re-post & crop from above.
Mark Force

Trad climber
Ashland, Oregon
May 26, 2016 - 04:42pm PT
Joe is a great guy and his book is a solid good read.
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