Who Did The First Ascents At Big Rock- A Historical Survey

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Messages 61 - 80 of total 114 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 28, 2013 - 09:49pm PT
Post that topo up Phil!

And raid your slide box for any Big Rock shots.

Lee showed up when there were only two routes so this should be really fun filling in the blanks.
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Jul 28, 2013 - 11:27pm PT
I bet The Trough is real greezy now days,
was slick in the early 70's.
Hope the old bolts have been upgraded as well.
Thanks for the memory bump Steve!
Tad
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Jul 28, 2013 - 11:36pm PT
'like' thread bump
Lee Harrell

Social climber
Santa Fe, NM
Sep 5, 2013 - 03:42pm PT
Since I am inclined to be less than proficient with "threads" i will give Steve Grossman a call and he can pick and choose what he wants to put in. Suffice it to say I guess I was one of the first people to actually climb at Big Rock. The SAR folks from Riverside used to play there but it consisted almost entirely of lowering people down the face in a stokes--I never saw one of them doing anything from the ground up except the central "gully." I learned about the place when I went over to Riverside to buy something at a climbing store--I believe it was "Highland Outfitters." There were a couple of young fellas who I talked with and they told me about these horrific walls which were very difficult or maybe impossible--obviously I had to see such things. I went there one time with them and I guess they had enough of it so I had to find other folks to climb with. When I first went there much of the rock had a good covering of moss on it--clearly no one had been up it and when it rained it good pretty snotty. I know the first climb I did, after going up the obvious gully and a flake to the left of it--which I did solo--no one to go with and pretty easy anyway, was the route which went up to the arching roof about 100 or so feet left of the gully. I put in a bolt to belay from or to protect the roof part--the moves were reasonably hard but what made it tricky was the damn moss. I actually backed off the first time since there was water running down it and I saw no reason to be silly. In addition my wife was belaying me from the ground and there was no way she could get up it . We only went there during the winter between trips to the desert. There were moderate boulders around and we used those to keep our skills up. About this time I ran into Phil Gleason who was on a "Hot Shot" fire crew and who was interested in climbing--he brought along his brother Phil, Keith Leamon, Jim Barker and others. I was the "old man" and somehow we all clicked, our house in Claremont kinda became the central place. I will try to get info to Steve G. and see if I have any photos to send along.
Keith Leaman

Trad climber
Sep 5, 2013 - 06:11pm PT
Thanks for posting, Lee! Remember the "Ring Climb"? Such an excellent boulder problem, now underground~Three slightly indented ring shapes, one above the other becoming progressively more perfectly circular. The mantle into the last red-orange ring - being about 16" in diameter - and a little higher off the ground than many would like. Here's Phil on the steep polished slab back in 1965.

On a recent trip there I believe I spotted the top foot or so sticking up above grade. I still recall many evenings at your place in Claremont. Pat's dinners and your classical guitar. Good times!

Hey Phil...scan Merrill's topo.
Phil Gleason gripping the second of three rings on the 'Ring Climb' ca...
Phil Gleason gripping the second of three rings on the 'Ring Climb' ca 1965.
Credit: KL
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Sep 5, 2013 - 06:40pm PT
Thanks Lee!
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Sep 5, 2013 - 11:13pm PT
Yes, thanks Lee for posting! Your story brought back recollections of the feel and smell of that noble rock back then.

Keith: I have some days off coming up, I'll try to get that topo scanned.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Sep 6, 2013 - 12:28am PT
Credit: edit:Peter Haan
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Sep 6, 2013 - 12:43am PT
Credit: edit; Peter Haan
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Sep 6, 2013 - 12:52am PT
Credit: edit; Peter Haan
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Sep 6, 2013 - 12:57am PT
Credit: edit; Peter Haan
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Sep 6, 2013 - 09:01am PT
Peter,
Thanks for cleaning up those relic photos!
Nice work,
Tad
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 6, 2013 - 10:59am PT
Welcome Lee!

Thanks for pulling up a chair here at the ST campfire. A rare treat to go all the way back to the beginning of route development here and see what comes of the discussion.

Don't edit your writing on my account. LOL The ST is far more reliable than my memory so consider this thread a journal and fill er up!

How many of the routes on the topo in the OP are yours do you think?

Hopefully Phil will provide some more grist with that old topo.
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Sep 11, 2013 - 02:49pm PT
Keith, Steve, Lee and anyone else interested: below is the scanned Topo. It was a large piece of paper so I scanned it in two images. As it mentions in the text, it not an "original" but a copy of an original. I'm not sure I agree with all of the ratings!
Phil

Credit: PhilG

Credit: PhilG
neversummer

climber
30 mins. from suicide USA
Sep 11, 2013 - 03:12pm PT
Bump!
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Sep 13, 2013 - 10:33am PT
Historical bump.
DonC

climber
CA
Sep 13, 2013 - 10:49am PT
Phil - I remember that Topo. English Hanging Gardens at 5.9?? I recall the Giant Step moves to be pretty tricky also for 5.10. Left Flake at 5.8 seems high, a few others done't seem right either.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 13, 2013 - 11:18am PT
Nice topo Phil!

Is this the first one that anyone put out?

What is Pat Merrill's story?

DonC- How many routes existed at Big Rock when you first visited to climb there?
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Sep 13, 2013 - 01:14pm PT
Steve,
As far as I can recollect, this was the first Topo. There might have been a route list compiled prior to Pat's topo. Lee might have a better idea. As he said, his house was the climbing center for the group. If anyone had a different, earlier guide, he would have seen it.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Sep 13, 2013 - 01:33pm PT
I'm just getting down with a big project co-written with Peter Croft called the Trad Climber's Bible. I included a short chapter about our early, high school visits to Big Rock. Here is what I included in the book.

Haunted House

Big Rock was a longtime practice climbing area frequented by the local military base, the Sierra Club, and the Riverside Mountain Rescue Team, comprised of a few big-ass Jeeps and several dozen mountaineers dispatched to find lost hikers and cars that had driven “off the edge.” Legend has it that Big Rock saw its first activity in the late 1940s, when soldiers from the local Air Force sieged the water-trough running up the middle of the 150-foot high face. In the ensuing years, several generations of Los Angeles and San Diego-based climbers filled the gaps, mostly via bolt protected face climbs on the smooth diorite slab. When we finally showed up, the innovative work had been done. The place was largely abandoned and felt like a lost wing of the Smithsonian, the forty something routes so many relics of the pioneers who used Big Rock as a testing ground for evolving face climbing techniques.

We were still in high school, anxious to follow the chalk marks of the cast of knights who had dominated Southern California climbing for over a decade - then largely and suddenly vanished. We’d heard all about these guys and yet rarely saw or had met one. Naturally they became mythical figures in our young minds.

Their numbers included Paul and Phil Gleason, Pat Callis and Charlie Raymond, who developed Suicide Rock when both were grad students at CalTech, the preternatural Phil Haney, who cranked V10 boulder problems in the late 1960s, Keith Leaman, John Gosling, the ebullient, chain-smoking Don O’Kelly, and a few others (many were members of an ambitions Eagle Scout group, we later learned). On the gritty Big Rock slabs this gang had established a score of difficult, and in a few cases, desperate face climbs, right into the 5.12a grade, including the improbable English Hanging Gardens. Then they moved on and apparently never returned or looked back. Where were they now? What had gone on here?

Photo by Doug White
Photo by Doug White
Credit: Largo

Problem was, by the time my generation started climbing, the public was locked out of Big Rock while county workers built the Perris Lake Recreation Area. That never stopped us. We’d park out on the road and sneak in. We were well out of the way of the derricks and skip loaders so by the time a foreman was bothered to chase us off, we usually had ticked a handful of routes and were good to go. When the same cranky boss kept catching us, we worked out an arrangement of leaving a half pint of Old Forrester (in a brown paper bag, of course) on the boulder near the base of the slab. Then we were free to climb all day – no questions asked. These were simpler times.

Several of the more notorious formations, such as the Trapease, had been destroyed, the rock used for dam ballast. But the majority of the routes were still en tact. Giant Step and Let it Bleed – to mention a few - felt like stiff 5.11 in the lug-soled Kronhoffers and Robbins boots fashionable in the 1960s, were a touch easier in smooth soled Varappe boots that appeared around 1970, got easier still with the EBs of the mid 1970s, and ultimately were moderate 5.10 in the modern sticky rubber shoes of today. It was always an ego boost to return to Big Rock once every couple seasons, with the stylish new slippers, sticky as a chameleon’s tongue, and waltz up routes that spanked us silly in the hard-soled articles. Man, we were sure were getting better . . .

Credit: Largo

Above: Early 1980s, when you could drive your car to the base of the wall, tape deck blaring.

But the glorious days out at Big Rock were when we first visited the place and seemed to have it all to ourselves, knowing we were using the very footholds of the climbers who established the spectacular climbs up at Suicide and Tahquitz, where we came of age as adults and as climbers. We might have known next to nothing of these shadow figures, but we came to know their handiwork. Their names were lavishly strew across the guidebook pages of all the local venues, but they were gone now and there was nothing but rusty quarter inch Rawl Drive contraction bolts, widely spaced, to suggest that here at Big Rock they had smoked their Marlboros and told lies and took huge skidding falls, if the rumors are true, taking pictures of each other with Keith Leaman’s Kodak Brownie stuffed in a gym sock inside a Folgers Coffee can as they mastered small hold and friction climbing and learned how to engineer face climbs. Back in the day.

I had visited Big Rock perhaps a dozen times over several years before I was made aware (by former Big Rock regular Don O’Kelly) of another formation called The Nose, a 120 foot high, glass smooth arête with several extreme lines including the supposed “last great prize” (the Roman Nose, which followed the very arête) leftover from the previous generation. Located some quarter mile from the main slab, the lake nearly lapped the lower wall. Of course we had gazed across at this impressive prow many times while belaying from slings on the main face. I was unsure we could ever get onto the rock without a row boat. Turns out we could, and Tim Powell and I snuck over to The Nose one afternoon and managed the first free ascent of the Roman article - by the skin of our teeth.

Such was our crowning achievement at Big Rock, and it knitted us into the continuum with the heroes we silently grew up with. Climbing their routes at Big Rock was another rite of passage and by finishing the work they had started on the Roman Nose, we finally connected with the others whose shadows we’d chased, up all of those slabs, for all of those years.

Of course Big Rock was but a brief aside of the larger drama we all eventually found in Yosemite and beyond. Its charms are mostly lost on outsiders but were dear to us owing to its regional legacy, which read like the college diary of the home team. One’s early history always exerts a special hold on us; and to every successive generation, Big Rock will feel like a wall of phantoms, when the past meets the present where the rubber meets the rock. It’s an unremarkable place but it still feels enchanted, as for a moment in time we had it to ourselves, when the dam was forming up and the entrance fee was a short dog of cheap bourbon.

Credit: Largo

At an old abandoned crag the anxious silence reaches back to the long lost who worked out a way before them on the rock. Decades later at the juncture of back then and not yet, we rope up for a route and climb it right now. Riding old routes into the future. Following the line of phantoms whose bones might well be dust. We are the same ghosts following the same holds. Made real at the short span between our fingertips and a razor edge. We dangle side by side at the belay, paying out the memories. The collected astonishment, engrained in the rock, murmurs to those still on their way. Every route is an enchantment. Every crag is a haunted house.
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