History - Harding and.....?


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Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Sep 16, 2012 - 02:03pm PT
That's a great OP Wayne!

Please keep it coming.....

Tussle thee forth with the keyboard.
Fossil climber

Trad climber
Atlin, B. C.
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 16, 2012 - 03:13pm PT
Park Rat - I suspect he did little soloing because many of us at the time got started with Sierra Club Rock Climbing section practice sessions, which were notably conservative. This wasn't a hell of a lot past the age when the dictum was "The Leader Shall Not Fall!" And climbers were encouraged to be conservative. Soloing was an ultimate no-no.

When we are experiencing something for the first time, those early directives get pretty well embedded - especially if they are delivered by the reigning authorities.

Free climbing techniques were pretty primitive at the time, too. And the shoes were ridiculous.

Of course, some of his routes later were anything but conservative, but they were usually protected.

That's just a guess. We never discussed it that I can recall. But then some of those discussions couldn't be recalled next morning. Maybe one of his other partners has an answer. Anybody?

Social climber
Flagstaff, AZ
Nov 28, 2012 - 06:18pm PT

Social climber
Flagstaff, AZ
Nov 28, 2012 - 06:21pm PT

Social climber
Flagstaff, AZ
Nov 28, 2012 - 06:26pm PT

Is it possible that you meant John (not Jim) Ohrenschall? WJH really admired O's tenacity in climbing the NW ridge of Mt. Williamson.

Trad climber
Nov 28, 2012 - 10:27pm PT
Hi Wayne!

How about some tidbits from the post-attempt round-table discussions over coffee with Warren, et al.? Oh, to have been a fly on the wall for those... What were the dynamics like between the...er...personalities? :D Were there any particular discussions that stick out in your memory?

Really wonderful having the honor of meeting you at Oakdale!

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Nov 28, 2012 - 10:35pm PT
Swifter, are you Bob Swift ?
Yes, he is.

What I want to know - who killed the snake?
tom woods

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
Nov 29, 2012 - 12:28am PT
What's the Merry Old Ledge on the Three Brothers? I've always been curious about routes up the westish side of those.

Harding routes often end up as classics.
Fossil climber

Trad climber
Atlin, B. C.
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 29, 2012 - 02:38pm PT
Audrey -

There were surprisingly few post-attempt planning sessions. We'd drive frantically up to the Valley on Friday night, thrash ineffectually around on the wall for a couple of days, and drive frantically back to work and college when we got down, somehow managing to survive the drive. My classes still suffered, and I imagine Dick's did too. There were a few planning letters that went back and forth. I might just possibly have some stuck away in some box in the attic. Will post if I find any. I know I've got some B&W negatives too but can't find 'em.

Personalities got along very well. I remember you asked about some possible friction, but I don't remember any. Maybe I missed it

The most spirited discussion I can recall was in the summer of '57, having coffee at the "Greasy Spoon" in old Curry Village, which was near the chapel. Harding, Dolt, Powell, me. (I couldn't climb much that summer, being a seasonal naturalist.) We were discussing the route. Harding was set on the Nose. I thought the Salathe was far more beautiful. We got out a few times and glassed the routes, felt either could possibly go, though the idea of being up there was mildly terrifying. Anyway, WH being the spiritual (or should I say spirituous) leader, had his way.

Audrey, I'm the one honored to meet you. You brought unprecedented warmth and humanity to the Taco and touched everybody. Thanks.

Trad climber
Lander, WY
Nov 29, 2012 - 02:47pm PT
Wayne: Good to see you on here. I remember watching Harding nail up Taurus on Sugarloaf Rock back when I was starting to climb in the early 70s. He was having a great time of it and was certainly most efficient at it.

Kristi and Juniper are well. Juniper is a senior this year. Can you believe that?

Say hello to Cindy for us all and stay well......Bob Branscomb

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Nov 29, 2012 - 03:49pm PT
1969 Firefall Face, Glacier Point, Yosemite Valley, CA, with Galen Rowell.

Ron, the FA was over Labor Day weekend in 1969. I was in the Valley then and watched them from Stoneman Meadow.

Also regarding the Worst Error. When I was President of the UC Hiking Club in 1972-73, I came across some archives including quite a bit from or about Chuck Pratt. One item, unattributed, was a graph in the shape of the positive side of a parabola. The X-axis was labeled "Height," and the y-axis labeled "Difficulty." The graph was titled "The Worst Error."

Since I know Pratt and Fitschen made the first free ascent, I wonder if this was Chuck's handiwork.


Nov 29, 2012 - 06:38pm PT
Hi Wayne - Just thought I'd check in and let you know how much I appreciated your help getting my climbing partner down from Sunnyside Bench after the rattler bite. Bill Amborn
Fossil climber

Trad climber
Atlin, B. C.
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 29, 2012 - 09:05pm PT
Hey Bill -

That was a LONG time ago! How did he make out in the long run? I heard he just lost some tissue from that finger.

At the time, the first aid was ligature and spray with ethyl chloride to cool it. Between that and your dull knife, we may have done more harm than good!

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Nov 29, 2012 - 09:39pm PT
On the first ascent of the Firefall Wall I had promised the boys I would rap off Glacier Point and get some photos. I kind of lost track of their progress and had to jam down a quick meal at the good old Hanging Judge Ottonello's house, drive like a maniac, aka Rowell, to the rim and rap off for some cool photos. Dam near got a classic case of indigestion with all the rush.

Social climber
Flagstaff, AZ
Nov 30, 2012 - 10:53am PT

I regret to report that I was one of the only two bipeds on the trail the day Snake died. Immediately following Snake's demise we regretted our action because, in retrospect, we might have enlisted the Crotalid to lead and then hang on by its teeth to provide a prussik line up some difficult pitches we envisioned.

Now, 60+ years later I no longer place bolts or kill anything bigger than an insect. (With only one exception that I can think of, but though snake-related it had nothing to do with climbing.)

Nov 30, 2012 - 05:59pm PT
Wayne - here's what I said in another spot about that adventure. I was under the impression he lost his middle finger...

In early June, 1962 I was approached by a newcomer to the Valley and asked if I would take him up Sunnyside Bench by the waterfall route. He said he had steaks in an ice chest in his car for later. Of course I agreed and we set off. He wanted to rope up at the base, so we did, and I led up the third class part. He considered that was pretty easy and asked if he could lead the next pitch, the “crux” if you can think of a fourth class climb as having that, which takes you to the top. Sure, OK by me. So he goes up a ways and I ask him to put a sling around a tree or a branch before the steepest part for protection, and he does. He continues up a couple of moves and I hear, above the roar of the lower falls, “I’m hit”. “What,” I holler. “A snake.” He had been bitten on the middle finger of his right hand as he put it in a crack. So I say “Step down and relax” and I pulled in the slack and lowered him down to me. Then the trial began. “I have to lower you down and we have to get you to the hospital right now. Are you ready? You walk back and I’ll keep the belay tight on you.” The reply: “No.”

Our conversation was the most difficult I have had in my entire married 44 years life. He wouldn’t do anything, wouldn’t move, just looked down and kept refusing whatever I suggested. So I said I should go down and get help, and he said no to that. What a quandary. So I tried screaming at people walking on the trail, and they didn’t respond to the obvious madman on the ledge. Or maybe it was because the falls were at high volume. Then Joe Fitschen (Fitschen’s Folly at Tahquitz) comes strolling along and, miracle of miracles, he looks up, he hears, and he seems to understand and asks where is the bite? I hold up my middle finger and he starts turns and starts walking away thinking I’m joking around and giving him the finger. And I start screaming and jumping up and down and he comes up and sees we have a real problem and heads down to get the rangers.

Soon Wayne Merry arrives and says we have to give the victim cryotherapy which he happens to have in his pack to administer. That is where you more or less freeze the affected part so the poison doesn’t spread. In my academic “career” I had taken a biology course at UCLA from a herpetologist who insisted that cryotherapy was the worst thing to do. Anti-venin was the only way. The venom of a hemotoxic snakebite (like a rattlesnake bite) injects a digestive enzyme that wrecks tissue big time. I mentioned this to Wayne and he ignored me and got to freezing the affected finger by spraying it with something from a small canister, maybe CO2. As your physics tells you, an expanding gas cools. The idea is that the venom wouldn’t spread, although in this case the swelling already appeared localized. After that my climbing partner seemed OK and agreed that if embraced by Wayne they could be lowered together. Done.

I visited him in the hospital daily and his finger was all bandaged. He ultimately lost it. Snake venom digested so much that it had to be amputated. On the third day he thanked me for trying to help him and gave me his car keys so I could at least have a steak for my troubles. Wow! Cool! A reward for being good! How unexpected! Unfortunately, after three days the meat had gone bad, and boy, did that ice chest smell. Later that day I returned his keys to him and the next day his car disappeared and he left the valley.

By the way, your rescue of Glen Denny and Colliver from the Lost Arrow notch was quite interesting to me as a participant in helping haul the winch and cable to the top of the falls in the moonlight.

Bill Amborn


Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Nov 30, 2012 - 08:34pm PT
When I met Harding in the early 70's his climbing days were largely over but he still had a larger than life persona especially when he held court around a campfire, much younger woman at his side and a glass of cheap red in his hand.
A legend already, I remember thinking that he was still young and vital but seemed to be in the first stages of throwing it all away. Here at ST we seem to be guilty of either seeing no wrong in our heroes or cloaking there excesses with humor and even a form of reverence....boy, can he drink!
If you consider the toll alcohol, drugs and depression have taken on our community, sugar coating and tacitly approving destructive behavior helps no one.
Our legends deserve more than slavish, unquestioning glorification. They are heroes to us because of who they were and what they accomplished. In the end, like all of us, they are/were also flawed. An honest examination of their lives can serve as beacons to help us all get thru this gauntlet we call life.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Dec 1, 2012 - 01:44pm PT
Listen up lads, well spoken by one of our elder statesman-I'll drink to that!
tom Carter

Social climber
Dec 1, 2012 - 05:36pm PT
Jim well said - I concur.

Social climber
Butterfly Town
Dec 1, 2012 - 07:49pm PT
Ya' hit the piton on the head, Jim!
Messages 21 - 40 of total 45 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
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