"StoneMaster Stories" (Part 5) the epic continues

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Blowboarder

Boulder climber
Back in the mix
Mar 4, 2006 - 02:52pm PT
oh yeah, and umm....





Stonemasters, please take back your thread, this drift is getting a little redonkulous.
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Mar 4, 2006 - 06:06pm PT
Well this is actually a pre Stonemasters story but should counter the thread drift.



Master Bates and Snow Creek

Tobin had acquired a pair of crampons for Christmas. He tried them out on a telephone pole in the back yard Christmas morning and was having trouble keeping them on his boots. He called me up and wanted me to check them out thinking that he was doing something wrong with them. They were an early version of a strapless universal fit crampon that used a Rube Goldberg scissors arrangement to clamp them to the boot. On initial inspection it was clear that they were worthless, but since they were a gift from one of his relatives and he was a penny less high school student, returning them wasn’t an option. I was working for an outfit that made car crash test dummies and we had a talented heliarc welder that made the skeletons out of steel tubing. I volunteered to have his Christmas booty modified to accept a conventional set of straps.

On the way back from a J Tree trip the north face of San Jacinto staring us in the face on the drive back, that became the immediate goal. After a couple of weeks a clear and very cold spell hit and we decided to go for it. I showed up at his house on a Friday evening and there was this other kid, (hell I was a kid to, but old enough to drive). My immediate reaction was, who the hell is this? Tobin convinced me that his friend could keep up and knew what he was doing. The kids’ last name was Bates and by the time we got to the end of the road by the water department head-works the Master Bates jokes were getting old, (the reason I remember his name).

In the dark an Saturday morning we snuck past the head-works blacked out, (we only had a flashlight anyway). The caretaker had one mean sounding dog. We were lucky that there was a fence between us. We stumbled up for probably a half mile or so before we risked turning on the flashlight. The rest of the morning we bushwhacked up to the base of the couloirs on a ridge to the left. Occasionally we’d find a hint of a trail, but it never lasted long. It was slow going. By ten or so Tobin was agitating to get into the canyon where he could try out his new toys. Every ice runnel that we saw deep in the canyon got him going. I wanted to stay on the ridge until we hit the couloirs proper. By noon he’d worn me down and we commenced ice canyoneering in the lower part of snow creek.

Now we were really moving slow. Some of the steeper sections involved hauling the packs up so we could climb them with one tool and the flat sections were clear of snow enough to require removing the crampons. On top of that there were three of us and it was becoming obvious that his friend was in way over his head. I finally got it out of them that he’d had in exactly one day of top roping at Big Rock and had never held an axe before. We were burning daylight like a chain smoker going thru a carton of Marlboros. The climbing was getting progressively more difficult on the steep sections and as the canyon narrowed the flat parts were beginning to require tricky traverses around swimming pools of ice water. By now though, we were committed to that route, for a while anyway.

It looked like we had one more section to go before escaping the narrow part of the canyon. A balancey traverse around one more big pool and then about 60 feet or so of moderate rock, (no crampons required) would get us out of the narrows. It was also by now late afternoon. Tobin took off and stepped into the stream as he gained a narrow spindrift covered rim above a natural ice water filled swimming pool. Shortly after he’d set up a belay at the top of the step with only one piece about half way down, fairly easy climbing. It was now Master Bates turn with me providing a back belay. What we hadn’t appreciated was that by stepping in the stream and getting his boots wet, Tobin’s footprints around the rim had now turned to a thin veneer of clear ice. When he got to a place where the wall bulged out a bit Bates came off. He went straight into the pool all the way over his head. With both of us furiously pulling on the ropes he was able to drag himself out gasping from the shock onto a ledge just below the steep section. He was going hypothermic and could not climb up to where Tobin was. He was at least still able to untie from the middle so Tobin could put me on belay. I figured I needed to get over to him as quickly as possible and was rushing it a bit. When I got to the same spot he’d come off it was even worse. The water he’d splashed out of the pool had turned to a thin sheet of ice for six feet or so. I told Tobin to keep the rope tight expecting to come off at any second. When I did come off I batmaned up the rope an arm length or so. That was enough to keep all but my left leg out of the ice water. It also accelerated the velocity of the swing. My left foot hit the wall about a foot under water. The impact hurt like hell only for a second though as the ice water flooded the boot. The focus though was on getting Bates out of the canyon and somewhere we could build a fire. He was pretty helpless by now and I had to take his pack off for him. Tobin was pulling on the rope and he wasn’t moving. I finally got right in his face and hollered at him that if he didn’t climb up to Tobin right now, he was going to die. That worked and with Tobin yarding him in he made it up. I had him lower a loop and haul Bates’ pack up and then made it up to them.

The effort of climbing up had got Bates circulation going again and he looked a little better when I got to them. I told Tobin to scramble up the dirt to the nearest reasonable flat spot haul Bates up get him out of his clothes and into a bag and then start looking for firewood starting with the kindling. Fortunately there was a good flat sandy spot only fifty or sixty feet up what was a walk for the non near froze to death. By the time I got up to them Tobin had Bates striped down and in his bag and had a pile of twigs for me to start with. We soon had a bonfire going just as it was just getting dark. I fired the stove up and we started by getting some hot chocolate down Bates. We sat around the rest of the evening drying his clothes in front of the fire checking on Bates every so often. By nine or so it was clear that Bates was out of danger and we’d all survive intact.

The next morning my foot was so swollen I could hardly get my boot back on. We headed on down the path we should have been on the day before. There was no escaping the caretaker this time. He’d seen out fire the night before and was waiting for us, got out of it with just the admonition that we get permission next time. I think he figured we’d learned our lesson and wouldn’t be back any time soon. Snow Creek is still on my hit list and my heel still lets me know ahead of time when it’s going to rain.
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Mar 4, 2006 - 08:01pm PT
TGT-Enjoyed your story about Tobin, Snow Creek and the often absurd quest for an authentic alpine climbing experience in Southern California. I recall Tobin telling me about going back and finishing that climb later.

Largo-those muscle shots in part III are impressive to this day. I seem to recall that you used to work out with the Governor himself at Gold’s Gym. Reminded me of this:

We are at JT doing one of those mass ascents mentioned way back in this thread. It’s a short, slabby route and we all take turns climbing and belaying. JL takes over the belay from somebody as the next in line ties in and starts climbing. JL is standing, has a camel (no filter) in his left hand and is belaying using his right. However, John disdains the usual method of the hip belay and is simply holding the rope in his right hand, occasionally taking up slack by sliding his hand up a few feet and pulling down, all one-handed. Now, admittedly, the right hand is a massive one, and it is attached to a monstrous forearm, made famous in shots like those in this thread. But, still, this is highly irregular.

Now, I know John is looking for a reaction, so at first I try not to give him the satisfaction. Nobody else comments either. Finally, I stare at him from where I am sitting on a boulder, until he catches my eye. I raise a single eyebrow.

John is nonchalant, “What, Ricky?”
“It’s about the belay, Johnny.”
“What about it?”
“Pretty casual, wouldn’t you agree?”
John chuckles, “Ho, man, I could catch a fall on this climb with my pinky. “

I couldn’t argue with that.
rmuir

Social climber
the Time Before the Rocks Cooled.
Mar 4, 2006 - 08:42pm PT
Your Snow Creek epic with Tobin reminds me of another epic that WE had on Snow Creek back in the Winter/Spring of 1975... (The epic continues...)

In planning for our first BIG mountain trip (to Mt. Foraker in Alaska), Steve West and I decide that Snow Creek would be a good fitness trip. Can't remember who we went with, but the three of us made the same pre-dawn dodge around the caretaker's dog--no flashlights in the dead of night, etc. As I remember, the weather was perfect and the hike went very smoothly. We figured that this would be a hike, so we went VERY light. I had a little Wilderness Experience Kletter Sack, packed with only the basics.

...never saw much ice that Saturday--there was only about 40-50' of forty-degree--but the snow got increasingly deep the higher we got into the upper canyon. For most of the last 3000' it was like knee to thigh deep snow, and quite a slog!

While the day had started-out crystal clear, just our luck, a late-afternoon a storm had started to roll in. As we approached the ridge, conditions turned into a total white-out. Howling winds and driving snow... As we topped-out near what we thought was the summit, we searched for the hut. Now up near the top of Snow Creek, there are several forks of the canyon you can take, and we weren't sure exactly WHERE we had gained the ridge. So the actual location of the hut was unknown to us, and the conditions were so bad that we couldn't spend much time looking. So, in the middle of the storm, on the summit ridge, we huddled under a manzanita bush with bivy sacks, space blankets, tightly-drawn hoods on the mountain parkas. Horrible bivouac and a miserable night!

The sun rose to a clear dawn with 8"-12" of new snow, and the gawd-damned hut about 75 yards up the ridge! One of the guys had taken off his Super Guides over the night which, of course, had filled with snow and had frozen solid. 'Twas a bitch of a hike down to the Tram...

But we were now ready for Alaska!
Off White

climber
Tenino, WA
Mar 4, 2006 - 08:51pm PT

The elusive so cal alpine pursuit (Surprise with both hands)
Klimmer

Mountain climber
San Diego
Mar 4, 2006 - 09:44pm PT
Great stories of the N. Face of San Jac, Snow Creek, especially the one on Tobin and Master Bater (he-he). There is some serious winter climbing, mixed climbing, ice climbing (Tahq.), and great BC skiing in So. Cal. that is for sure when the conditions are right. The N. face of San Jacinto is certainly one of the tallest faces (vertical relief wise) in all the contigious U.S. The coldest I think I have ever been is on San Gorgonio BC skiing during a Santa Ana. Yea, the air warms as it descends from the Great Basin and encounters higher pressure, but it does just the opposite when it goes up over the mountains, bbbrrrrrrrrrrr.

With a friend I've BC skied the north face of Baldy, San Gorgonio a couple of times, and many times San Jac from the tram and back. Everytime we looked at skiing Snow Creek, the conditions were not optimum, very likely avalanche danger. The rangers are also very aware. One evening the ranger was making his rounds and talked to us at our camp just below SJ until he was convinced we were not there to do the descent down Snow Creek. One of these days when the year is heavy in snow and the snowline is really low we are going to do it. Some years the Coulior avys and completely covers the lower cliffs and you can ski right over them. Definately on the hit list. Many have done it. Hope it will still be possible, global warming aside.

Just curious, has anyone climbed any routes on those spectacular pillars in the Canyon on the Tram ride up from Palms Springs? My hunch is yes. You can tell all the climbers on the tram, they are the ones with their face plastered to the tram window trying to see those faces just a bit longer. It would be interesting to know if any of the StoneMasters have.


Doug White -

You might want to check-out the thread on Mt. Woodson off-widths (if you haven't already), it is rapidly turning into a history on San Diego Co. bouldering contests. Perhaps you can add some?
John Vawter

Social climber
San Diego
Mar 4, 2006 - 10:51pm PT
Wow! Doug, is that really the Weeping Wall? I heard stories. Ken Cook and Werner Landry climbed it on a 1-3 inch sheet of water ice, using the bolts they could spot, and chip out, for pro. They said most of the ice had fallen off by the time they got back to the base. But I never saw it in condition.
G_Gnome

Gym climber
The Big City
Mar 5, 2006 - 02:25am PT
Klimmer, The Master himself has put routes up there. Iirc, it was in the early 90s when Bridwell and a few others were putting routes up at the top of the tram. Maybe Kris Solem will comment, I think he added a few lines too.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Mar 5, 2006 - 08:18am PT
Those were good reads.
Off White, yer beta's as phony as Robs Candlestick blow.
No way thats weeping wall in cali, you Norwester spoofhound.
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Mar 5, 2006 - 10:05am PT
Klimmer-Yes, there is ice climbing in So Cal. But an ice climber who hopes to practice his craft a few miles away, as the crow flies, from Palm Springs has to be an incurable romantic, an eternal optimist--maybe a little delusional-- and lucky, given the ephemeral conditions. After Gramicci and I got back from Chamonix in 1976, our standard response to the question, “How was it?” was to paraphrase a comment originally made by a Scottish climber (Tom Patey?):

“Good training for the North Face of Tahquitz in winter.”
John Vawter

Social climber
San Diego
Mar 5, 2006 - 11:23am PT
Tarbuster's laid down the gauntlet. Somebody needs to post a clearly recognizable shot of the Weeping Wall with ice. I know somebody's got one. Actually, I think the rock features in the background on Doug's shot match up pretty well with the top of David/Goliath.
Off White

climber
Tenino, WA
Mar 5, 2006 - 12:28pm PT
It is indeed the Weeping Wall. It's not one of my pics, but rather Galen's that wound up in my crates of old stuff. That's Galen Kirkwood on the sharp end, and it may well be that same trip with Ken and Werner, or a different one with Brad Hughes. I saw Galen yesterday and he confirmed it was the second pitch of Surprise. Is it really that rare for the Weeping Wall to freeze? At the time we thought it happened fairly regularly. Salewa flexis, Chouinard Alpine Hammer, 65cm axe... the world really has moved on, hasn't it?
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Mar 5, 2006 - 12:32pm PT
JL-you owe Rob a burrito at the taco joint at the base of Rubidoux. I’ve got no pictures, but Rob showed me both the Candlesticks and Candlestickless problems about the time he and I shared a place on Balboa peninsula in 1975. Don’t remember any “Gaston” style moves on stickless, but do recall some other ridiculous contortions.
Gramicci

Social climber
Ventura
Mar 5, 2006 - 01:08pm PT
“Good training for the North Face of Tahquitz in winter.”

Still looking for exhibit “R” I ran across these. I thought I would pop them in while we’re on the subject of Tahquitz in the winter. This route was in preparation for our upcoming trip to the Alps the next summer. The winter of ’75 was one to remember on the north Face. This route was in the vicinity of the Swallow we were actually able to connect it bottom to top with perfect conditions of blue ice and extremely hard pack show.


Photo: Rick Accomazzo






Photo: Mike Graham


Tar, Hold on to them horses. More of a concern to me is if you have more hair than I do. Has that line receded any more in fifteen years?
WBraun

climber
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 5, 2006 - 01:11pm PT
Yikes that is really thin. Thank god you survived.

Mike off topic, but I really need to know.

Remember the drought year in the Valley and I believe it was You that went to the Merced river with an ice ax and chopped out the frozen fish in there?
Gramicci

Social climber
Ventura
Mar 5, 2006 - 01:21pm PT
No, I was never that desperate (almost) but I liked looking at them frozen in suspension just under the surface. Those were up below the lower falls. Could have been Dale?

Hey, you got a lot of ice now?
WBraun

climber
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 5, 2006 - 01:24pm PT
Yes, lower falls

Ice was terrible this year, nothing right now. It's very late in the winter.
bvb

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Mar 5, 2006 - 01:50pm PT
off, i recall that you also have a couple of pics of the entire weeping wall with all the disconnected smears, taken on that trip. yo should dig 'em up, it was quite an amazing sight. i also recall that the weeping wall became climbable at least 3 or 4 times between '73 and '79. it was totally iced up when i broke my leg at tahquitz in december of '75...were you on that trip, with the goon and janet?
Gramicci

Social climber
Ventura
Mar 5, 2006 - 01:55pm PT
Werner, It was thin...!

I had some notes on the slides. They read “The White Beetle” I think it was my joke on the “White Spider” on the Eiger. Pretty comparable climbs you know!

And to think just two hours from the beach.
Off White

climber
Tenino, WA
Mar 5, 2006 - 02:08pm PT
Bob, I was there the day you broke your heel, I think that might have been when you first met Mr. Demerol and developed a fondness for narcotic painkillers. I don't have the pic you remember, and I wasn't on that trip with Galen, but he might have a print.

Those tahquitz ice shots are really great.
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