A Base Jump in 1938? Off Yosemite Falls?


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Trad climber
los angeles
Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 26, 2012 - 10:08am PT

I'm no climbing historian but I've come across an ancient Hollywood movie reel that features rock climbing--at Tahquitz, at San Antonio Falls on Baldy, and at what appears to be Stoney Point in Los Angeles.

Many of you have probably already seen "Three on A Rope" (1938)

It shows some great old-timey climbing that will make yer palms sweat; pitons being pounded, leader falls onto clothesline, funky rappels, etc.

At the end, this HAWT platinum blonde in her cute climbing shorts nags a climbing Noob for being weak--so he goes MACHO by leaping off the cliff!





Mar 26, 2012 - 10:18am PT
LOL, .. Man .... I love this kind of climbing.

This modern now a days climbing sh!t blows compared to that crazy ass stuff they did back then ....

Mar 26, 2012 - 10:41am PT
Seems just like the typical morning romp Yeller Piners do during Facelift.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
Mar 26, 2012 - 10:52am PT
It takes a lot to film, to cinemate, ANYTHING in the outdoors with b/w technology and this is quite an effort. I think the film should be shown nightly at the Ahwahnee, or Yos. lodge, along with the old color short featuring the YMS guys (its title escapes me) on Reeds Direct. It's not funny that memory no longer serves. It's why there's film: aside from the dicactic qualities of informing and entertaining, it aids memories. One is fortunate to see such an old flick, ten years older than myself. I liked the climbing, as it is just so effin' thirties. Me pard from Box Canyon, Chatsworth, and his family control land there. It is hard by the old "movie ranch" (Manson family country) and overlooks the SFV, the old reservoir. I have recognized many "locations" on the ranch in old westerns filmed there, having hiked by them to get to a shortie in the sandstone. I had some of the best times there with my pard when I was exiled to Oxnard, kicked in the stones by my fed-up climbing/fishing/golf widow-wife. I know, guys: Oxnard? Merced? What did he do to deserve that? My life would make a neat film, a didactic film, one that seeks to help the noobs avoid the pitfalls of avoiding contact with someone who cares about you, but there's a third person on the rope of the marriage, the siren who seeks to bring your soul on the rocks! I have a screenplay, who's got the camera? "Didaction!"

Gym climber
squamish, b.c.
Mar 26, 2012 - 10:59am PT
"The old parachute in the napsac eh"


Awesome share, so funny

Mountain climber
Eastsound, Wa
Mar 26, 2012 - 11:19am PT
They need to get that narrator to emcee the Piolet D' Or awards ceremony.
Tony Bird

Northridge, CA
Mar 26, 2012 - 12:13pm PT
holy moly, is that ever a blast from the past. we need to pick this one apart.

harwood lodge at the outset--still looking that way, still available for a cheap weekend in the mountains--all you have to do is join the sierra club.

the first hijinks at san antonio falls, with some 4th classing up the falls canyon. but then they're on a big crag with big views--can't think of anywhere in the san gabriels like that. tahquitz? sierra?

familiar-looking faces from past sierra club slide shows, but i can't tell you who they are. they deserve credit. will try to link this to some who might know.

there's a movie of about the same vintage of skiing on mt. baldy, involving the sierra club ski hut up there. nice strike here, toadgas.

standard practice then, btw, court echelle, the "short ladder" of standing on your partner's shoulders. pretty fast dulfersitz, but people will endure great pain to get into the movies. heck of a base jump--wonder if it was spliced from other footages. nice pendulum on that single piton too--didn't seem to go in very hard.

lawrence kansas
Mar 26, 2012 - 01:11pm PT
Fancy that.

Trad climber
the crowd MUST BE MOCKED...Mocked I tell you.
Mar 26, 2012 - 02:49pm PT
little green army man with plastic parachute filmed from a hundred yards out.


Mar 26, 2012 - 04:36pm PT
Note the rope between the leader and the girl, is fairly taught; that's an important rule.
Ol' Skool

Trad climber
Oakhurst, CA
Mar 26, 2012 - 05:34pm PT
Herman or Harpo?

Gotta love the Levi smear, also.

Trad climber
los angeles
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 26, 2012 - 05:59pm PT

the first hijinks at san antonio falls, with some 4th classing up the falls canyon. but then they're on a big crag with big views--can't think of anywhere in the san gabriels like that. tahquitz? sierra?

Toward the end of the film "Rope One" seems to be climbing below Traitor Horn, near Jensen's Jaunt, at Tahquitz. My guess is portions of this were also filmed on White Maiden's Walkway and The Trough. Lotsa splicing going on, though.



Social climber
Mar 26, 2012 - 06:00pm PT
hey there say, toadgas... thanks for the really neat old share here...

i will try to get it--can't really get youtube (dial up)...
but after all the neat comments etc, (as i know) there is
really nothing quite like these old time black and white films,

thanks again...

Social climber
So Cal
Mar 26, 2012 - 06:24pm PT
The players were Johnson, Rice and Smith and they got stiffed by the producer and were never paid.

Now that I have a nice large high rez monitor, here's what I can recognize.

2:37 looks like the first pitch of Toetip with the dihedral that forms the start of fingertrip in the foreground.

The traverse that follows does not look like Tahquitz, but it could be on Lunch rock, but more probably Stony or somewhere else.

3:53 Back to somewhere on the S Face from the back ground

The rockfall sequence is probably not Tahquitz.

3:44 looks like the start of Ski Tracks if you do it the easiest way possible.

7:23 is somewhere on what would now be the first pitch of El Camino Real

Can't place where the fall sequence is.

Boulder climber
Dalian, Liaoning
Mar 26, 2012 - 06:35pm PT
"He won't be doing the apple anytime soon."

A dance?

Anyway, that was way better and more realistic than Vertical Limit.

Boulder climber
I'm James Brown, Bi-atch!
Mar 26, 2012 - 07:12pm PT
i saw those dudes simul climbing the nose last weekend,

hey, what happened to the base jumper,

talk about leaving us suspendedended,


Trad climber
los angeles
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 26, 2012 - 09:26pm PT

Hey, neebee, you're welcome! Funny little movie, is it not?

Can't place where the fall sequence is


I've climbed The Trough only once (and did it ropeless), but I think the fall sequence might be at its 5.1 "crux traverse"...a pretty airy location!

btw, the guy gets beaned on the head with a large rock, wonder if they were using cork or foam rubber "rocks"
Tony Bird

Northridge, CA
Mar 27, 2012 - 05:52am PT
i've copied the link to what few sierra club geezers we have left--will try to get some credits and locations. i've heard a lot of old names, and rice, johnson and pete smith don't ring any bells.

btw, the los angeles RCS depression era climbers commune was legendary--guys and dolls pooling their resources and living as chastely as possible, climbing every weekend. the inevitable romances led to enduring marriages--john and ruth mendenhall, chuck and ellen wilts.

harwood lodge is a delightful place, though haven't been there for a long time.

one thing about the climbing shots--they had to have convenient camera angles, given the technology of the time and the probable budget for this little short.

hey, bring back shorts!

Jim Henson's Basement
Mar 27, 2012 - 06:14am PT
I've actually seen 3 on a Rope before. Totally classic! Such an awesome film with great footage. Lots of footage from Taquitz and, yes, a clip or two filmed at Stoney Point as well. I'd forgotten about the base jump at the end. I think there is a former ST thread about this film but I can never find it.

I tried to get this film to link to another thread a while back and it seemed like all the online copies were protected or blocked somehow, so it's great to see it again.

Edit to add: Tony- I agree- bring back the shorts. It would be fun to do a mini- parody of this film. I'll bring the shorts and the 30's pincurls. You bring the piton, the cara-biner and the scratchy rope. I'm sure we can find a clueless noob to play the third around here somewhere.


Jim Henson's Basement
Mar 27, 2012 - 06:55am PT
Info is sort of vague to non-existent on google and the full cast + identity of the blonde is not revealed

Three on a Rope:

Directed by
Willard Van der Veer (as Willard Vander Veer)

Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Willard Van der Veer (as Willard Vander Veer)

Cast (in credits order)
Pete Smith ... Narrator

rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Arthur Johnson ... Himself (uncredited)
William Rice ... Himself (uncredited)
James Smith ... Himself (uncredited)

Produced by
Jack Chertok .... producer (uncredited)

Cinematography by
Willard Van der Veer (uncredited)
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