El Capitanís Salathť Wall- The Proudest Rock Climb On Earth

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Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 11, 2011 - 05:07pm PT
This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of the Salathť Wall by Royal Robbins, Tom Frost and Chuck Pratt in September of 1961. This lavishly illustrated account of the first ascent and first continuous ascent appeared in Galen Rowell's superb Vertical World of Yosemite, 1974. Many of the photos are Galen's own shots along with the classic Tom Frost images.





































A gathering in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of this great route is scheduled in Yosemite Valley on Saturday October 22 this season.

Stay tuned for more details from Ken including getting T M Herbert to attend. He was involved in the second attempt at a continuous ascent after Roper and Chouinard gave it a go! Maysho or TC you guys have to rope him into it!

Royal and Tom will be signing books and prints at the Mountain Shop in Camp Curry from 3 - 5 pm on Saturday 10/22 and in front of the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Village on Sunday 10/23 from 11 am to 1 pm. Stop by and take home a bit of what these amazing men are offering!

The main event will be starting earlier and ending later than ususal so that everyone with questions will be accomodated. The evening will start at 6:30 pm as per my last conversation with Tom.

Check this OP for any updates or changes.

Don't miss this one!
the goat

climber
north central WA
Sep 11, 2011 - 05:28pm PT
Thanks Steve. My favorite shot of Kor, a great man, a great climb.

A day or two after finishing the Salathe, a bespectaled, wiry looking guy approached us along the road at El Cap meadows asking what we had just climbed and what kind of rack he should take for it. We gave him our recommendations and he thanked us and headed back to his rig. My partner and I simultaneously looked at each other blurting out "that was Royal Robbins, wasn't it?" A very curious juxtaposition, mega noobs being asked what rack to take by the master first ascensionist. A 15th anniversary ascent in the bi-centennial year of 1976, way to go RR, what a masterpiece.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Sep 11, 2011 - 05:55pm PT
My 40th or 39th, can't remember which, anniversary. My first and most memorable El Cap route, did it with Steve Arsenault.

edit: When I did the Salathe I had yet to do a Grade V and people questioned my preparation. I responded by saying that a Grade 6 was merely a collection of Grade 4's where instead of going back to camp at the end of the day you stayed up on the wall- worked out just fine.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Sep 11, 2011 - 06:26pm PT
Thanks Stevie for posting this great classic account and pointing attention to the route. Yeah, my fortieth too, J-Do---just past, this July!

Imagine 13 bolts on the whole shebang, all located in the lowest 1/5th of the line. That was why it wanders so, of course. It is one of the 'greatest stories ever told' on rock and continues to be a major focus in modern climbing, now both as a free route as well as the great classic mixed route of our golden era.
Walleye

climber
The Hot Kiss on the end of a Wet Fist
Sep 11, 2011 - 07:49pm PT
The Salathe was my first El Cap route. The first time I met Royal at a book signing at the Mountain Shop in Yosemite Valley I asked him about the climb. I told him about what a proud accomplishment I thought it was and congratulated him for, what was in my mind, an ultra proud climbing achievment. He looked at me, smiled, and said "Yeah, if I had to give all of them away forever and only keep one, that would be the one I would keep"..
Wayno

Big Wall climber
Seattle, WA
Sep 11, 2011 - 07:56pm PT
It would be interesting to hear from all the Supertopo posters from that generation and what ascent(if they can remember) did they do. IE first , third, fourteenth. I bet there is quite a collection. Post up, men.
gf

climber
Sep 11, 2011 - 07:57pm PT
Nice quote walleye, it rings true.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 11, 2011 - 08:04pm PT
Thanks to Bill Amborn this gem in the Mountaineering Notes section of the December 1962 Sierra Club Bulletin.

spidey

Trad climber
Berkeley CA
Sep 11, 2011 - 08:08pm PT
Great pics and thread. The Salathe was my first El Cap climb, first big wall, and an amazing experience all around. I popped a cam and took a nice lead fall at the lip of the great roof, had to jug my lead line about 10-15 feet to get back on the wall. Wild!!!!!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Sep 11, 2011 - 08:20pm PT
The article in Rowell's book certainly inspired many to do it, including me and my 2 college climbing pals.
By the time we got to it (1985), cams, sticky rubber and topos had mostly tamed it.
And having a giant cam eliminated some of the hardest mandatory wide moves, except for a little on Hollow Flake and The Ear, which still keep the crowds down.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Sep 11, 2011 - 08:23pm PT
One of my favorite articles. Classic Royal. One small detail,
for you finer tuned souls. Nothing important, really, but
the photo by Frost of Royal doing the so-called friction pitch...
(it's my favorite climbing photo of all time)...,
the second photo down from the start of this thread....
If you magnify the photo and look close, of course, Royal
is standing with right foot in an aid sling. That's
ok. Nothig at all wrong with that, but this and other
captions aren't quite accurate....
It does look as though he is doing his characteristic pushing
down, half manteling, friction moves. He didn't do that section
all free. And, as I said, that's ok. It doesn't matter in the
slightest, but we sometimes exaggerate things a bit, as time
moves us away from the original experience.... The goal was to
get up in good style, and not simply put up another route with
a hundred bolts.... Royal told me they were worried about their
goal, after placing so many bolts right there. But then things
went boltless the rest of the way....
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 11, 2011 - 08:40pm PT
That those guys were able to keep the bolt count at 13 and not exceed 5.9+ is truly amazing!

All of 5.10 right where Royal is in that shot and above one of the original aid cruxes so no harm in a little etrier...LOL
The Warbler

climber
the edge of America
Sep 11, 2011 - 09:44pm PT
Seems Royal could've freed the bolt ladder and eliminated about 5 bolts too, Steve, making his bolt count more impressive still. It's only 10c or so, and Royal must have climbed stuff that hard at Tahquitz.

Still a great line and the first one of the few El Cap routes I ever did.

Our ascent was in Fall 1972, and seems I remember Jello having kept track of the early ascents of it well enough to put that somewhere in the first forty or so. Does that sound right?

I would love to get dragged up Freerider and do as much free as I could before I croak....
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Sep 11, 2011 - 10:00pm PT
When I did it in 74, we had forgotten the guide book so my buddy ran back to the road and copied the description on a piece of lens cleaning paper, a very abbreviated version, maybe six sentences for the whole route.

Back then, we could count on one fixed piece per pitch and one fixed piece per anchor. I was the "free climber" of the team but didn't consider myself a confident 5.9 leader.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Sep 11, 2011 - 10:10pm PT
Warbler and Mark Hudon, I so wish I had known you guys
back then and been on some adventures with you. Both of you
are among my heroes.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Sep 11, 2011 - 10:12pm PT
Steve, you mention that Royal's article appeared in Vertical World of
Yosemite. Yes. But that wasn't the first place, right? Just to be
clear...?
bluering

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
Sep 11, 2011 - 10:13pm PT
Maybe I'll do wall someday...

Good post, Steve-O!
The Warbler

climber
the edge of America
Sep 11, 2011 - 10:13pm PT
I'm honored you feel that way, Pat.

The feeling is mutual...
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Sep 11, 2011 - 10:16pm PT
I remember approaching the Ear with a lot of trepidation because Kor had said it was scary. Turned out to be a lot easier than expected with good footholds and even gear.
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Sep 11, 2011 - 10:28pm PT
Dang! Thanks, Pat, the feeling is completely mutual.

PS, given that I'm not dead yet and the 40th anniversary of my first ascent of the Salathe is coming up in 2014, I'm planning to gather a group of young bucks to haul the Freerider for me so that I can go back and climb it "as free as can be" for me!
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