R.I.P. Herb Conn of Needles and Jewel Cave fame

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Messages 41 - 60 of total 98 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Hilt

Social climber
Utah
Feb 5, 2012 - 05:12am PT
I'll be missing him. He was a great person to talk to full of wisdom and charm.

Bob Culp

Trad climber
Boulder, CO
Feb 5, 2012 - 09:40am PT
Ah damn! Where's everybody going?
Herb was something else. I loved chatting with him and Jan. Did a new route with Paul Muehl once and the Conns came to watch. Herb thought maybe he might just give it a try. Jan said "You're too old for that." So he didn't. R.I.P pal.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
Feb 5, 2012 - 05:34pm PT
RIP Herb. I met them once or twice over the years but mainly know them for the their climbs which are unbelievably spectacular. My wife texted me the news as I was on my way to Cody. They led the way for many of us.
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Feb 5, 2012 - 05:50pm PT
One time in the late 70's, while I was a caver but knott yet a climber, I watched my caving mentor Chas Yonge solo Conns' East on Seneca Rocks in West Virginia - in his running shoes. He said it felt pretty hard. I was totally gripped watching him. [Having my mentor ending up dead would not have been good]

We later found the guidebook, and it was rated 5.6. "It seemed a bit 'arder," said Chas.

Years later, the sandbag rating was up-rated - to 5.8.

RIP Herb.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 5, 2012 - 07:34pm PT
Not to take anything away from the Conn's, but the route as they did it is 5.6. A direct start at 5.8 was added later.

But 5.6 at Seneca ain't no joke. The rock is steep and unforgiving if you start futzing around. Here's a modern leader on the route, carrying, wearing, and using all kinds of gear the Conn's couldn't even have imagined.



They had a few Army pitons, (nothing that would go where that blue Camalot is) probably scavenged from Seneca since the Mountain Troops used it as a practice area, sneakers, and an 80 foot length of Goldline tied around their waists with a bowline. I don't know the exact year but it would have been before 1947, when they headed West.
Alan Rubin

climber
Amherst,MA.
Feb 6, 2012 - 10:01am PT
Very sorry to hear this. RIP Herb. Condolences to Jan and their loved ones. I'm sure that John is correct that the Conns weren't "climbing bums" but they were some of the the first, at least in this country, to devote themselves to an incredibly simple lifestyle (long before that word was in use)with an emphasis on climbing, caving and love of the outdoors. (though John Muir surely paved the way, as did Norman Clyde a generation earlier).In addition to the climbs on Seneca and in the Black Hills (and elsewhere) mentioned earlier, their on-sight first ascent of Conncourse--probably 5.8 in it's original form--on Cannon Mountain, NH in 1945 (I think)was an incredible tour-de-force climbed in tennis sneakers, surely the hardest route in the region for more than a decade. Not only was the route climbed on-sight, but they had never even seen the mountain before and had no idea of the location of any of the (few) existing routes. Unfortunately the original route has long since been destroyed by rockfall, though some sections have been incorporated into the modern classic Moby Grape. They definitely got around and made their mark on a number of climbing areas during an era when this was much harder to do than it is today.Truly an extraordinary couple.
Hollis M

Trad climber
Laramie
Feb 6, 2012 - 07:21pm PT
Another Conn story -- the Conns as pteridologists (fern enthusiasts). For a more detailed account, with photos of the Conns in action, see:
http://plantsandrocks.blogspot.com/2012/02/plants-rocks-ferns-and-granite-and.html

When I got to know the Conns in the mid 1990s, they had retired from caving and were back into rock climbing (Herb was 76, Jan a few years younger). They told me about an interesting fern they sometimes saw in cracks while climbing. They hoped I could tell them what it was, so we headed out for a look and found the maidenhair spleenwort, the forked spleenwort and a Mystery Fern which I couldn't identify. I sent it to the New York Botanical Garden, where it was identified it as the alternate-leaved spleenwort, at that time known from only three locations in the US, all on the East Coast. The Conns and I ended up publishing our findings in the†American Fern Journal!

It was always sooo much fun to go botanizing with Herb and Jan. We would hike, scramble and even rope up at times in our search for ferns.

One of Janís many talents is rubber stamp art.† Here is a story about the Connís fern adventures.† Stamps by Jan, script by Hollis.
Credit: Hollis M
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 6, 2012 - 08:17pm PT
Thanks for that, Hollis. I've taken the liberty of adding the link to your blog article to the post at the beginning where I listed various sources of information about the Conn's.
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Feb 6, 2012 - 10:56pm PT
Nice, Hollis!
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Feb 7, 2012 - 06:50am PT
What an inspiration!

To live one's dreams and still make it to age 91.

I am glad Jan was the sociable one so that she will have friends
and support during this difficult time.
Hollis M

Trad climber
Laramie
Feb 7, 2012 - 11:31am PT
rgold -- absolutely! thanks for adding the link. And hi jaybro!
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 8, 2012 - 10:48am PT
I added this link

http://rockandice.com/news/1795-herb-conn-death-of-a-brave-one

to the post referring to stories about the Conn's.

According to the link, Herb died at home of prostate cancer.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Feb 8, 2012 - 11:03am PT
A hearty welcome to The Last Pioneer Woman assuming that you are the same Hollis?!?

Thanks for the share!

Is anyone looking after Jan right now?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Feb 10, 2012 - 09:09am PT
A classic Herb and Jan article from the early days of Summit magazine November 1957.







Sharing The Credo of the Craggin' Road Warriors right from the start!

Hollis M

Trad climber
Laramie
Feb 10, 2012 - 01:41pm PT
Hi Steve, thanks for posting the article with the wonderful photos -- I had not seen those before. And note to all: Daryl S of the local guide service in Custer posted a very nice tribute to his friends the Conns, maybe Rich will add it to the list:
http://sylvanrocks.com/_blog/SR_Climbing_School_Blog/post/Herb_Conn_dies_at_91/

Friends report that Jan is doing well -- still living in the Conncave, still independent, still smiling.

LPW
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 10, 2012 - 02:11pm PT
Done, Hollis.

And Steve, thanks for a fantastic bit of history.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Feb 11, 2012 - 09:50am PT
Bump for the Conncave!
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 11, 2012 - 02:08pm PT
Here are two more bits of Conn memorabilia, thanks to Bonnie Kamps.

One of the many ways the Conn's supported themselves was with leather work. Here is a Conn hammer holster that belonged to Bob Kamps.

Bob Kamps hammer holster, made by the Conn's
Bob Kamps hammer holster, made by the Conn's
Credit: Bonnie Kamps

Before he surpassed himself with his survey maps of Jewel Cave, Herb Conn's masterpiece was a surveyed map of the Cathedral Spires. The Conn's used this map as the basis for the following clay model of the Cathedral Spires:

A Conn clay model of the Cathedral Spires
A Conn clay model of the Cathedral Spires
Credit: Bonnie Kamps

For more examples of Conn leatherwork, see Steve Grossman's post http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=1243312&msg=1371988#msg1371988

Something that doesn't appear there that I remember is their Devil's Tower Canteen Holders.
Riley Wyna

Trad climber
A crack near you
Feb 11, 2012 - 02:52pm PT
RIP to a bad ass!

My kids and I visited and explored The Jewel Cave and I soloed a few of his Needles routes two summers ago.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Feb 11, 2012 - 03:36pm PT
That clay model is too cool!

Thanks Bonnie and Rich!
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