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right here, right now
Topic Author's Original Post - May 17, 2006 - 09:31pm PT
We can all raise the level of our forum in many ways.

Let's put up some personal climbing writings here.

Trad climber
Sierra foothills, CA
May 17, 2006 - 11:10pm PT
The following story was written by Paul B., all rights reserved. Reprinted here without his permission (I'll email him after I post it). Names have been edited (slightly) to protect the innocent, but you may still know these folks ;) He sends these things after every trip. These climbers in the story are my friends and climbing partners. I didn't make this one.

Last Man Standing 3/9/2004

I looked around at the dusty parking lot. I was surrounded by tourists who had taken the shuttle into Red’s meadow to see the waterfall. Tea and Ali crouched under the Eurovan to escape the brutal afternoon heat. As Todd ’s van rolled up the hill, I realized I was the last man standing. The great July road trip had started out with 8 eager climbers, but by Friday afternoon, only one remained. Perhaps the following tale will explain how I came to be standing alone in a hot, dusty parking lot contemplating the long drive home as the rest of California was just about to start their weekend.

It was actually Frosty who had suggested the Great July Road trip. He had been punching code into the Mutual of Omaha computers in his cubicle in Nebraska for the better part of a year. After almost getting arrested for climbing a railroad trestle, he decided he was in dire need of a climbing vacation. After convincing his better half to join him, he asked me to find a partner and come along. He proposed a climbing & canyoneering adventure in the great state of Utah.

When I banged an email to my regular climbing partners, I got not one, but five replies. John was definitely a go and he had invited his friend Brad. Todd was also in and Carol thought she might be able to join us for the first weekend of the trip if we ended up somewhere within driving distance of Jackson. Tom was eager to join us if we ended up with odd numbers…. kind of like a swing voter. With that, I assumed the role of trip coordinator, or as Carol affectionately put it, official cat herder for the great July road trip.

Things began to unravel when Frosty suggested we change the venue to Banff, Alberta. The California contingent was leery of a 22-hour drive for an unknown area and Carol definitely wouldn’t be able to join us. Being somewhat self-contained, Frosty politely told the Cali crew to go to….. well, anywhere they wanted, because he and Kat were headed to Canada. The Cali crew settled on a high Sierra trip and it looked like Carol would have to spend the weekend tending to house projects. The trip took another turn when John ’s grandson was born prematurely and experienced some serious complications. When John’s participation in the road trip became doubtful, Brad decided he wasn’t going either. As the trip grew nearer, Frosty decided the weather forecast for Banff was unappealing, so he suggested another change in venue to the City of Rocks in Idaho. Todd was up for the City, as was Carol, so it looked like 5 of us would meet in Idaho.

The day before departure, however, John tossed me a curve ball. It looked like his grandson, , was out of the woods & he wanted to re-join the adventure. With ’s situation still somewhat precarious, however, he wanted to stay within easy reach of home. He had checked in with Brad, who was also back onboard, as well as Todd and it looked like the Sacramento crew was leaning toward re-organizing a Sierra trip. I was outside packing the van when John called and was caught off guard by the sudden change of plans. After a brief verbal tirade, John asked me to stop using the F-word so much. He informed me that he always knew when I was upset because my vocabulary went from that of a gentleman to that of a sailor.

“Well”, I informed him, “I am sick and f%%ing tired up herding this unruly group of cats.”

Using fatherly patience, John was able to assuage my frustration and put the great July road trip back in motion. Frosty was literally hours away from departure when I informed him of the latest change in plans. Daunted by the long drive to the Sierras, he and Kat decided to stick with their City of Rock plans, which put Carol back in the game. As I drove North on 395 to join the Sacto contingent at Lake Tahoe, I called Frosty to inform him that, being the gentleman that I was, I was bequeathing him the prime campsite I had reserved at the City. His reaction was less than appreciative however, because for some strange reason, he was under the impression that I had cheated him out of that particular site.

Meeting Uncle John at Woodford’s Canyon Friday afternoon, we decided to start the great July road trip with the “best crack climb in Lake Tahoe.” The 150-foot 5.10c crack lived up to its reputation and gave us enough of a workout that cocktails seemed in order. We drove a short distance to our pre-arranged rendezvous at a beautiful campsite along a babbling brook in the Sierra high country near the Pacific Crest Trail. Margaritas flowed freely as the rest of the gang arrived and the alcohol helped keep the voracious mosquitoes at bay.

Brad, a semi-retired dot-commer with a penchant for Japanese green Tea, stunned the group when he announced that he was nursing an old injury and wasn’t sure how his shoulder would hold up to a week of hard climbing. Although we wanted to pump him full of Tequila to pre-dull any pain he might experience, he forsook our margaritas in deference to the Japanese leaf and, as such, set himself up for a painful weekend. We spent the weekend climbing 5.10 and 5.11 sport routes in a beautiful wilderness area known to climbers as Elephant’s Graveyard. Brad’s shoulder gave out Sunday afternoon as he followed Todd up a particularly strenuous route. We toasted our independence that night with a proud feast and bid farewell to Brad, who would return to Chico the next morning to pursue a new venture distributing Japanese Tea.

John, Todd, & I decided to spend the next day climbing in a new area high in the Sonora Pass called Chipmunk Flat. The road up Sonora Pass was absolutely gorgeous and the superb climbing was the icing on the cake. After 3 pleasant routes, we decided a night at the hot springs was in order and agreed to meet at the Bridgeport Ranger station where we hoped to check on the camping situation in Red’s Meadow. John was eager to explore the climbing near Red’s Meadow and since neither Todd nor I had been there, it seemed like a grand adventure. Additionally, since our group was down to 3, our dream of climbing the classic 5.11 route in the Incredible Hulk seemed unlikely. When we met in Bridgeport, however, Uncle John was ready with a knuckleball. He had checked in with his daughter on the drive down the hill and it seemed like little wasn’t quite out of the woods yet. With his heart 300 miles away, John elected to return to his family.

“Well,” I said to Todd as John’s rig lumbered down the highway, “It looks like we will be able to do the Incredible Hulk after all.” Todd chose this moment to inform me that life in Todd-town wasn’t exactly wine & roses either. He had a lot on his mind and wasn’t sure that a long alpine route was the cure. “Let’s head to Mammoth to check out the area John told us about” was Todd’s suggestion for the remainder of the trip. The promise of a night at the hot springs was all the motivation I needed to head for the green church in Mammoth.

We decided to spend the next day at the Dike Wall so that we could enjoy another night at the hot springs before descending into Red’s Meadow. I had climbed at the Dike Wall once before and although I didn’t remember much about the area, a note in my guidebook gave a hint as to the climbing we were about to experience. Scribbled enigmatically at the bottom of the page was a four-word verse in pencil: “best sport route ever”. I wasn’t sure which route the comment alluded to, but after climbing 6 routes on the wall, it could have been any one of them.

After a rest day involving a mountain bike loop through Rock Creek and more hot springs, we drove into Red’s Meadow and set up camp at Soda Springs, which would be our base camp for climbing at Trenchtown Rock. A vigorous 45-minute bushwhack led us the base of the crag where we found several bolted lines on a polished granite slab. Although not extremely steep, the slab was slick enough that there weren’t many routes below 5.10. After a few of these, Todd was eager to get on a crack, so he chose to lead the first pitch of Catch a Fire 5.10c. I knew something was amiss when it took him an hour to lead the pitch. Following the route, I discovered that it was more of a flared seam than a crack, and the seam was filled in with dirt and moss. He would dig out some moss to reveal a marginal placement for protection, try to wiggle a cam into the flared seam, and then proceed upward without knowing where the seam would open up again. It was nerve wracking. I got my chance to experience the excitement on the 5.10a second pitch, which although easier climbing, was no less demanding. We were both mentally exhausted when we returned to our packs and decided to spend the rest of the day back at camp with a book and a cold beer.

Hoping for better luck on Friday, we marched down the dusty equestrian trail past Rainbow Falls to the elusive Rainbow Wall. After an hour on the trail, we arrived at the base of a large chunk of dirty, weathered granite. Judging by the amount of greenery growing in the cracks, we should have guessed what was in store, but Todd, the eternal optimist, was excited about leading a 5.10b crack up the center of the formation. After a long, 150-foot pitch, Todd called down to let me know that the crack was so overgrown and dirty that he was willing to leave gear to bail rather than complete the second pitch. Seeing as how it was my gear, however, I volunteered to lead the second pitch and scurried up the dirty crack, which probably hadn’t been climbed in 5 years. Although the second pitch started out a bit cleaner, as soon as I turned the corner above, I discovered a 40-foot layback that was completely covered in moss. I declared the pitch “unclimbable” and proceeded to aid through the slimy green wall. Not wanting to subject ourselves to another Rainbow Wall surprise, we humped out packs back up the trail to the parking lot, which by now was sweltering hot and mobbed with sightseers.

“It’s time I hit the road”, Todd said, obviously contemplating other issues “Not much here to keep me climbing for another day”.

“Yeah”, I agreed. “It’s all John’s’s fault. It was his idea to come down here in the first place.”

“No one is to blame for this trip”, Todd said in his most cheerful tone. “I had a great time and would do it again tomorrow if I didn’t have pressing issues at home.” “Life”, he said, “is just a series of adventures. That’s what keeps it interesting.”

He gave me a hearty hug and a big Todd smile before stepping into his Van and driving up the road. As I stood there among the tourists and the trees, I realized he was right. Todd’s optimism is contagious. I loaded up the dogs and headed south on 395 looking forward to the adventure around the next bend.


right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - May 18, 2006 - 07:24pm PT
A World Outside: A Universe Inside

In the early years which Bruce Hawkins and I shared, I suffered from limitations acquired as a result of frostbite injuries to my fingers, while Bruce was laid low from the fatiguing effects of the cytomeglia virus. In addition, he was experiencing the trailing setbacks from a back injury incurred from a skiing accident. These early years were, for our time together, 1986 through 1989.

At this time, I had enough reserve fitness to get us up things like the Crucifix and the DNB on the Cathedral Rocks of Yosemite; in Tuolumne we would do things like the Oz on Drug Dome or Middle Earth on Mariuolumne. Bruce would follow my lead of traditional crack routes up until the very beginning of the '90s, at which time he recovered some strength and started toting the sharp end for himself. He called it "Stone Mashing" or just "Mashing". In Tuolumne Meadows, mastering one of his own leads of the Direct North Face of Lembert Dome, I witnessed his durable character when he led through the vertical finger cracks in wet conditions.

In the early '90s, I had moved to Boulder and began to suffer from soft tissue injuries in my arms. I also lacked the financial reserves to get out to Yosemite much more than once a year. With our more continuous climbing days behind us, we began a phase of our friendship marked by a wonderful potency. We shared and developed a keen philosophical interest in enjoying the slim remains of our climbing, our discussions, and our wilderness experience.

A key bit of coping brilliance which Bruce applied to our days was this: he'd say, "Seek to express your potential in terms of what you can do today. To do not be confused by an expectation based on what was once possible". Employing this simple wisdom, we'd always wholeheartedly embrace what was evidenced as possible on the given days that lie before us. And he meant this in terms of our combined potentials as a team, along with any adjustments we would be called upon to make in terms of each other's infirmities. In the mid '90s, that meant Bruce would follow me out hand cracks over roofs, me leading free, with Bruce following in slings. In the late '90s, I was finished and we'd go for walks or pleasure drives in the foothills, or I would belay Bruce while he expressed his renewed health on sport routes. At that time we took great satisfaction just from being together and in sharing our observations of the external and internal natural worlds: those of nature and of human nature.

Coping skills, that was one of our chief areas of inquiry and application. He'd do his vigilant reading, and come up with things like, "Roy, an Indian myth says that we were once beings of light, without bodies, and we came here to experience limitation, the limitation of physicality, to learn what it has to teach". In October of '97, we were standing on Fairview Dome's northern shoulder, looking up at a mass of ravens in swirling congregation above our heads. Bruce said to me, "And they live to be really old, as much as 70 years". I responded, "So, they have time to develop great coping skills right?". He smiled and nodded saying, " This is so and we're being given an opportunity to witness a piece of that harmony right now". On the topic of perspective and temporal existence his favorite axiom was, "In the big picture, you're already dead, or dead soon enough -so, now that you have a moment's reprieve, which is your life, in its totality just a wink, now, what are you going to do with it?"

In '98 we ended one of our days at the southern edge of Mono Lake. This experience held a markedly sweet and subtle crystallization of our shared feeling for the surroundings: a crisp moment in time. It was late in the day, at that time when the air is pure, clean, still. Bruce and I walked out upon the yielding soil towards the lake's edge and beheld a glassy calmness of the waters; smooth,flat, and thin was our perspective of the lake during those moments. Noticeably, the temporal dimension shifted within us, unifying to the timber of the scene and we became aware of a mesmerizing waltz organizing before us; a slow movement of various birds upon the water. It was visual music. It reached within us like the sweetest kiss of time. You could not detect their means of movement upon the water, as though the water's own slow migration carried the peaceful waterfowl in opposing directions like cutouts in a kaleidoscopic dream.

In '99 high above Tuolumne Meadows we enjoyed a scramble along the ridge from the Unicorn through the Cockscomb, over Echo Peak and on to Cathedral Peak. There I followed Bruce up a tenuous solo through either the Cockscomb or one of the Echoes, where we worked through steep finger locks high on the loose ground of some obscure northern aspect. Hawkins moved above and out of sight. This took me a few minutes to negotiate safely. When I summited the cool wall, a view opened upon the remaining 200 ft. of arete which commanded a marvelously exposed position high above the range of flight. Up there in my memory's vault, the furious evening sun illuminated thousands of golden knobs and spoke to Bruce's strong and gentle frame. He patiently awaited my arrival as he sat perched, grinning down from the apogee of a radiant experience.


In the year 2000, Bruce Hawkins died in a car accident. I wrote this story essentially as a eulogy and was unable to present it due to various other concerns.

His wife, Ellie Hawkins, now lives outside of Joshua Tree National Monument. We stay in touch.

I re-typed this story today using a nifty voice recognition software: a pretty cool coping skill.

The day of our climb on NW Face Direct,
Lembert Dome crack route, upon return.

Bruce Hawkins, Tarbousier.

Social climber
kennewick, wa
May 18, 2006 - 07:36pm PT
Thanks guys. Voice recognition software? thata worked really well. I could never speak that eloquently.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - May 18, 2006 - 07:37pm PT
thanks for your story rags.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - May 18, 2006 - 07:41pm PT
thanks for the compliment golsen.
i don't speak that eloquently.
i wrote it long hand in 2000,
then typed it.

today i dictated it it from the typewritten copy.
voice recognition thofltware, itss the tic,thicket!

Social climber
kennewick, wa
May 18, 2006 - 07:43pm PT
I posted this on another website. Jaybro and some others on this site knew Lynn.

Wheels on Fire

If you climbed in LCC in the late 70’s to early 80’s you may have run into a quiet guy with long, curly, bright red hair and wired rim glasses. I first met Lynn Wheeler in the late 70’s. My first impression was that there was something wrong with the guy because he was so quiet. When I got to know Lynn better and after I climbed with him a few times I realized that there was this very intelligent, guy inside, perhaps one of those people who are born with huge skills and intelligence in some areas but has a hard time communicating at other levels.

The first time I climbed with Lynn I went up to the Gate Boulders looking for a partner. I ran into Lynn on a fine Saturday and I was psyched. The week before I had followed MB up Equipment Overhang Left without any falls. It was my first 5.11a. I think this was 1980. Lynn was also looking for a partner so we headed up to the dihedrals. I was pretty well excited and going for it. My friends told me that if I could follow something that I should be able to lead it (I listened to that for many years before I finally figured out they were BSing me….)

That is an awesome climb and everything was going well right up to the crux. I was absolutely terrible at remembering moves and for me, the crux of that climb is very sequential. The bolt at the crux had a bail sling of 1” tubular webbing hanging from it so I clipped directly into it with a RR Salewa Hollow Aluminum ‘biner. These were RR’s attempts at making an ultralight (I think they were all recalled later for safety reasons). I had the rope clipped into the biner, but the gate got hung up so that the webbing was forcing the biner open and the sling was halfway onto the gate of the biner. That is not a good place to hang around and we were not smart enough in those days to have draws, that is just how we did things…I was pumped out and I knew I was coming off that sucker. I fell on the biner that way and was surprised that it held. Not a long fall only about 8 feet or so. I climbed up again and found that the biner was now bent open and it was not going to work. After fiddling with another one and getting clipped in I was toast. I felt kind of shitty, my first time climbing with the guy and I am falling all over the place. I lowered down and Lynn was smiling. I apologized for thrashing so bad and he kind of chuckled at me.

I asked him if he wanted to give it a go and all of a sudden he got serious. A man of few words, he was up for it. Lynn pretty well fired the thing up to that last hairy lie-back at the top. He just couldn’t get himself to go for it, even though he had done the crux. He lowered down. My turn, this was what they would later call yoyo – ing. I called it thrashing up the route to get your gear. I was able to get up the thing and perform those last hairy lie-back moves to the anchors. Lynn followed the thing with absolutely no problems. We were pretty happy just to have gotten up the thing and our relationship now had something to go on besides struggling on the boulders.

“Wheels on Fire” up the Green A is named after Lynn. He did some other good routes in LCC. One of them is State of Confusion, a 5.11 slab climb on the Gate. I ran into Wheels and went up to do what was maybe the second ascent of State of Confusion. The Spanish climbing shoes with the sticky rubber, Fire’s were out and Lynn had done the climb in those. They were made by Boreal had sticky rubber but the edge wore off them pretty fast and they stretched out since they were unlined leather. After we climbed the approach pitches we arrived at the ledge below the climb. Lynn proceeded to take his shoes off and switch feet. WTF? “Lynn what are you doing?”

“The edges on the outside are a whole lot better than the inside edges, you are going to want good edges for this climb.”

Alright, well I left mine on the right feet. He tells me the approximate number of bolts and says it is all bolted and you don’t need any other pro. But then he hands me some wireds. “Lynn, why do I need these?” Well, I didn’t have enough hangers, so some of the bolts only have nuts on them, just loop these small wireds over the bolt and snug it up.”

Damn, this is getting interesting. I had been climbing lots of slab and feeling pretty good about it, but 5.11 slab should never be taken lightly, especially in LCC. And here I was headed up one of Lynn’s routes with no bolt hangers? Lynn was excited to have someone climb his route. LCC slabs play with your head anyway, but sticking those wireds over the bolts added to the effect. Because of the nature of the rock and it being a new route there were a lot of micro edges that were very friable but I managed to make it up the thing. Lynn cheerily followed the route without falls, with his shoes on the wrong feet and switched them over at the top.

I didn’t stay in touch with Lynn when I moved away from SLC. I heard he worked at BD in the early 90’s and most unfortunately, I heard that he took his own life. If you have ever been at a friends service, it all comes back to you, all the times you have shared, the times that you should have shared. All of the dead persons friends say nice things about the guy. These are things that you should have said when they were alive. I didn’t make it to Lynn’s service and I know I am many years late, “Wheels, I didn’t get to climb with you much buddy, but I enjoyed the times I did have, and you were a hell of a climber. I just wish I could have been a better friend.” Wheels routes are still up there. I think he even managed to put hangers on those bolts.

BTW, I hope this does not turn into a thread about our fallen comrades, but Tarbusters story reminded me of this...

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - May 18, 2006 - 07:51pm PT
thanks golsen for that.
james if you don't whip out your neato story i'm going to para-pharse the darn ending for us...

A tent in the redwoods
May 18, 2006 - 08:30pm PT
some other time-don't butcher a good thing.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - May 18, 2006 - 08:48pm PT
ok cool.

Social climber
The West
May 18, 2006 - 09:22pm PT
thanks, Roy, Rags, Golsen (somehow missed yor Wheels peice on the first go round) can't wait to read what's next.

How does voice recognition software deal with a midwestern drawl over-stuffed with decades of,like califonisms?

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - May 18, 2006 - 09:27pm PT
if you train it like a good pup, it works.
but by the si-ound uv it, yer gunna like, tootily need teh impart a heap a trainin'!

Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
May 18, 2006 - 11:18pm PT

Not many people here know who Bill Sewery was, but he was a long-time Phoenix climbing fixture, and the owner and proprietor of Desert Rock Sports, a climbing and outdoors shop here (now gone). He was an exceptional person and one worth remembering. I wrote this for the Arizona Moutaineering Club newsletter back in 1998.


A while back, I attended a memorial for Bill Sewery. There wasn't so much a feeling of "memorial" to the gathering, but more of "celebration" of Bill and his unique and personal joy for life. The turnout of his friends and partners was quite impressive. Bill had a heck of a lot of both. The hall was standing -room only. For the next couple of hours, we watched Bill's life and adventures flash across the screen while friends related stories of trips with Bill. While I'm sure tears were shed, the laughs filled the room repeatedly during the show, something that spoke volumes about Bill’s life.

Like a lot of climbers, I knew Bill mostly through my trips to Desert Mountain Sports, his local Phoenix shop. We had lots of conversations over the last few years, most of which centered around the Superstition Mountains, a subject that Bill was obviously happy to discuss with me. I was always amazed at his positively dictionary-like knowledge of the area. With his finger tracing across the map, Bill would describe in detail, "You head down this canyon and there's a nasty patch of cholla on the left, some pretty rocky spots, but some good campsites down here on the right." Although the years had left him unable to continue his exploratory hikes in the Supes, he clearly had memories that had not faded. His eyes would glow while he described trails and climbs from his past.

Bill was a Phoenix climbing fixture for over thirty years. He was rock climbing in the 1960's, when ascending vertical stone was still in its Arizona infancy. His natural curiosity and desire to explore meant that he would be in on a lot of the original first ascents at many areas within the state: Granite Mountain, Tom's Thumb, Camelback Mountain, the Superstitions as well as very early climbs on Shiprock and in Yosemite. Before his medical condition sidelined him later in life, I get the idea that Bill went everywhere and did everything he could cram into his life. Experiencing life was obviously a big thing with him and he did a boatload of it.

After the memorial, I had a chance to sit down with Bill's slide collection. I wanted to find and hopefully preserve in my own way, some of the climbing photos that Bill had taken over the years. Maybe I would find elusive shots of first ascents and secret crags. I found a few shots like that, but I didn't expect what else I found in that collection. As I scanned through about four hundred slides, I got pulled into them. I went back thirty years to a time when Bill was built like a clock spring, wiry, lean and strong. Faces of youthful men and women from another era passed across the monitor. On the rock, in the snow, hiking, climbing, skiing…you name it, they were doing it. Lots of AMC outings reflected my own discovery of climbing. As slide after slide passed through the scanner, I could almost hear their laughter. Belay calls echoing off rock walls. The “plink” of hammers setting and cleaning pitons. Long rappels, stuck ropes, epic adventures and nights in the middle of nowhere, telling stories by the campfire. Memories the slides brought back about my own outdoor experiences crept up on me, wrapping me in a nostalgic quilt of friends, partners, and remembered climbs.

In the end, I started wondering. One day, when I'm gone and someone is going through my slides, a collection that will number in the thousands by then, will someone see the faces on my partners, the photos of rugged landscape and sun-caressed climbs, and know that I had also enjoyed such a life? Will they celebrate it for me? I resolved right then to take more shots of the “faces” of my climbing adventures. To change the direction of my viewfinder in a more personal direction, away from just exposure.

Belay off, Bill.

Trad climber
Sierra foothills, CA
May 18, 2006 - 11:28pm PT
TarB & golsen, great stories, but you almost had me weepin.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - May 18, 2006 - 11:49pm PT
cheers Rags,
more to come.
I'll dictate something tomorrow.
anyone else?

beneath the valley of ultravegans
May 18, 2006 - 11:59pm PT
This is something I wrote a while back for Black Diamond, but it didn't run. Anyhow, see what you think.

by Marty Roberts

“You people!” That’s what my girlfriend says to dismiss those without a full complement of Y chromosomes—especially climbers. My baby loves me, but there are some things honeydip won’t tolerate. For instance, she draws the line at toenails that flake off in bed, and me shopping for commercial vacuum cleaner solvent to heal an aching shoulder. If it’s “not intended for use on skin,” why did they package it in a roll-on? I rest my case.

Winter means bouldering, but for some reason she frowns on my peers buying C-clamps at the hardware store to mend blown out tendons. “You people,” she mutters. “It’s a miracle the species continues.” Am I really that far beyond the pale when I look at a roadside pull-out deep in the mountains and think aloud, “If I lived here I’d be home now…”? Is that really so wrong? She should take her case up with Lito and the Funhogs.

But somehow, along the way, compromise entered into the equation. She concedes that stinky poly-pro may in fact be the new black, and I, in turn, get to send the El Cap of laundry on Sunday mornings. I am not to digress into endless accounts of anything involving a Roman Numeral 6 or the letter V while in mixed company. In exchange, I get to hatch my plans for a satellite-up-linked web-cam of pie selections at the diner in Tuolumne Meadows. So long as I don’t drop veggie-chicken nuggets in the toaster to feed road-tripping visitors, she’ll give me a wide berth when I need my space – and not just because I’m wearing the poly-pro. After all, let’s face it. The topo and I need to be alone.

Social climber
The West
May 19, 2006 - 12:25am PT
First Wheels and then Bill Sewery, really glad to see stuff about them. Nice, guys. I worked for Bill and climbed a bunch with lynn.

Where to begin? Too much for now. maybe for other threads, later.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - May 19, 2006 - 12:40am PT
nice cocktail marty(r)!
rough to swallow, us people sometimes, (even for BD: haha!).

hey steelmonkey:
i sure hope someone feels the life echoing out of your slides; they should be so lucky...

on that note, risking the eulogy drag on, (so what risk really):
i had a very close friend go over the bars in a bike race a few years back. her exit was swift, like walking through a door. we had dated, done a really stellar climbing trip in the dolomites among other neat things together. a bit before she died, she sensed it's approach and asked me, "who is going to end up with all my pictures when I go?". well, i did. i put a bunch of them in the local history museum, along with a very complete record of over 100 works of pastel landscape which she painted throughout the west.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - May 19, 2006 - 04:09pm PT
Here is a piece I wrote about that woman, whose name was Randi Eyre.


I have made a few forays into the ridges and valleys which stretch downward from the Continental Divide. While enmeshed with the ancient folds of those high ramparts, I seek a state of absorption and exhilaration loosed from my core. Those places act upon me. My challenges and plans are matched with a set of highly developed expectations, all keeping me tuned in. So all that marvelous experience is well anchored, it unfolds almost on its own.

Then, during the quiet mornings, I saw the water in its various forms.

Randi and I were feeling our way across the darkened trail and reached the edge of Loch Vale. The forest comprised small strands of blackened trunks which grew blacker still as the reddened waters of the Loch rose up from a still born night. The watery fire made from this affair was most brilliant in its emergence. The trees, their slender lives were accounted for each one by the generosity of deep red blackness served upon the water. I will always remember our encounter with such a visual masterpiece enabled by the gracious waters of the Loch Vale.

After her passing, I visited a little tarn that lives amidst the icy world in the cirque below Flattop's northern flanks. I came upon it early one morning and paused to say hello to this clarity huddled and vibrating in the wind. Not so much placed within the dimple of highland, but rather more upon it, clear as a crystal diadem this pool was made as if barely leashed to the earth. As the wind fluttered it so it appeared free to communicate itself to realms unconcerned of gravity. I thought it both receptive and communicative; a living prism carefully placed and charged as a lens within the Cosmos.

Yet another early morning, from beneath Hallett Peak I surmounted a brow of trees overlooking the silence of Emerald Lake. The waters were slightly teased by a steady breeze. The fringes of the lake were peopled by various parties who held gentle position at the water's edge; all were quiet and I felt they were in a reverent abidance to the mountain song. I checked my breathing for fluidity and economy. I sought to minimize my intrusion of foot fall and breath. In this fashion I carried on, passing through and by, struck by the sermon of the lake. I continued on from Emerald Lake to gain the thinner air of the Great Divide. Standing up into the brilliant winds and gold burned grasses of a continental peneplain I loosed some of Randi's ashes to the winds. They were so dry. All her water gone. The water cycles around and crystallizes, melts, flows, evaporates, rains, sustains, nourishes, and erodes. It is a malleable and transformative stuff, with tension and fluidity, reflectivity and conductivity. Some of it found its way out into a tear up on my cheek.


Trad climber
Moorpark, CA.
May 19, 2006 - 05:03pm PT
Roy, nice.

Not being a poet, as one can tell. I wrote this while killing time, waiting to go on a road trip. Used those magnetic words people have stuck on the refrigerators. It sort of tells it all I think.

The rock is a gift
A thousand delicate smears
A trip above the void with friends together
In the cool winds
I leave my life behind

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - May 19, 2006 - 08:03pm PT
thanks guy.
now go reshuffle those 'fridge magnets-
and have a great weekend!

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - May 23, 2006 - 11:55pm PT

Canyonlands, N Six Shooter:
(Day after Castleton N. Face)

I flit myself up the throat of a dusty chimney and cling to the underbelly of a desert headwall. Click, pop, shift, now stop: look around but hurry along or the whole show is gonna drop. While wagering addictive glances into the arid Utah void below my toe, I wiggle in a little loosely cradled stopper.

A game is balanced between tequila extruded sweat and slipping sandy hand jams. I see the haul line drop deeply beneath me and arc under like a kite string toward my blond peer at the belay. A rappel from the summit of this cardboard tower breaks us free from inspiration and commitment: A militant march through percolated soil and sun raped terrain drags us through sunset. Our team is poised for a seven hour drive into Colorado and sparse dreaming.

Nancy, my partner for Castleton (N. Face) and N. Six Shooter (Lightning Bolt Cracks)

Switching Gears, A Guiding Appointment:

I’ve awakened dogged and groggy and begun to claw at the road trip wreckage. I must organize our sandstone tarnished gear. I'll remold it into mountain guide paraphernalia, tightly bundled for jet plane and big wall summit. The task grows arduous; suddenly my attention is drawn up along wooden stairs to the porch. My partner stands with dark eyebrows and feline enthusiasm softly, she offers, "Would you like a cappuccino sir?” surely this is an angel; no, better, a simple pleasure. I must draw out from half sleep and grope and answer, “Oh yes. Please Nancy, coffee!" Straight away, by auto we blitz from the hills and drop in to Boulder, recoup more supplies. Another friend jeeps me to Stapleton dare-port, (land of wind-shear). Ya: baggage. Buckle up, we have liftoff. I drop into dreaming and then stir awake for some attention from Afro-Indonesian stewardess. I'm feted with strawberries, pineapple; then arrested once more by slumber. I can do this.

The jet's wheels plop down. Like bread from a toaster, my mind pops up. I relearn balance on steep steps exiting the planes gut. There on the musty tarmac I squint under the broad light and agrarian mist of California's San Joaquin valley. Fresno. I need ground transport, luggage.

I come alive and briskly dispatch baggage claims and repair to the transportation desk. Here I learn I've missed the single daily bus to Yosemite, by ten minutes. Plane taxied too long. I'll be a day late for a client I can't contact. Yup. Adventure: can't have it without turns, pitfalls, f*#k ups. I desire adventure, so I accept its trappings. A taxi driver lassoes me and we chase the buss, to no avail. This quandary rapidly leads me to honor my appointment by burning my latest final C-Note. I pay for a two hour cab ride up through pine trees into the den of granite monoliths. Yosemite: The Granite Chalice. I have maintained professional promptness and reliability, for tomorrow I will be there for my client when he arrives. I have been away for a couple years and it's a chance to play with good friends. My cup runneth over.

Stood Up:

Jubilantly flanked with two packs, an overnight bag, and a Polaroid camera, I jaunt straight from the cab into the Mountain Room Bar. They're I'll chat with a familiar bartendress and swallow my final two bucks. I come and go unpredictably these days, so when I crash into town, people can look me straight in the face without recognizing who I am, at least for a moment. It's the force of the un-expected. So Karine serves up a beer and follows the play. I enjoy my little trick. "Ya, Karine it's me." "0h! Roy, I didn't see it was you; but, wow, what are you doing here? This is $20 I owe you." I secretly grimace at fate, mashing the bill in my fist, and splash some beer down my arid throat. Two friends materialize, then Karine gets off her shift and we collect over beers at a nearby table. We break early and the couple spot me their cozy camper for the night. I gratefully swan dive into my first deep sleep in several days.

Upon awaking friends gather round outside of the vehicle. They query, "Where you been? What are you doing here?".”I'm just messin' around. You know: usual stuff". Easily, they understand my story of $100 cab rides and jet plane tickets does not portray stock climber fair. They know I must be smuggling or bootleg guiding, the latter being less risky and more predictable.

Breakfast is trailed by a sobering client stand up. Oh, a client no-show separates my $10 pocket from $200 days with brutal clarity. Perhaps I'm stricken with another case of... Adventure.

Reset Button:

Word has it that an old flame is tappin' her way up a big wall down valley; she is a prized protégé, so I settle into my running shoes, don a brim, and trot down to El Cap for a look see and a holler. A good run in familiar forestation can help to stabilize one's perspective. While I stomp the trail my lungs purge the remnants of a Colorado cold. I hock and spit it into the Sierra dust. A scuttle up and over talus disposes me to yelp and chat with my friends. "What are you doing here?", wafts down from above. They are hundreds of feet above on a wall, "It's good to see Roy!" With loud reports from my lung cannon I deliver a salvo of encouragement and bid farewell. I pause and look at the two of them; they are like flies on a great sheet of sticky paper. Giggling, I turn and dash down through sticks and stones to the valley floor.

Tim and Denise intercept and treat me to beer and barbecued fish for the evening. It's good; downstream from the park at Tim's cabin, lying here on a rollout bed outside on the back deck. I'm listening to crickets, looking at oak trees, smelling the river, and writing this story under a yellow porch light.

Dawn brings fresh San Franciscan coffee, a ride up into the valley, and five fresh 20's. Friends offer a welcome safety net as well as ample and fervent entertainment. Back in Camp 4 parking lot, I shoulder the Polaroid camera and harass buddies that toil with their Volkswagen engines. Jimi Hendrix tunes rip out of a tape deck, while I sun myself and write. Billy Russell receives mild electrical jolts from the arse end of his resplendently disheveled VW bus.

Billy, after getting jolted by faulty electrical diagnostics

Geek Towers, Freestone:

Dan and Sue are married now. I've always maintained he married well as she will lead him up the many routes on his wish list. It is true: little Sue is small at 5 ft. tall; but she talks about little matters and climbs like nobody's business. Three days away from the crack laced, arm bustin’ towers of the desert and my left forearm still holds a knot the size of an avocado pit. Sue and I scamper for an hour across gravelly ledges and up mossy, warped third class granite. We rope up next to the roar of Yosemite Falls and run vertically; trading leads, Sue and I ascend big, difficult crack split slabs. Sue punches it out with a near vertical shallow crack that has little protection and fewer holds. She shakes out an arm and declares, "This is bad ass!". I belay from below, observe and sing, "Wake up little Susie, wake up". We race through the sun up into the upper reaches of myth and shade of Free Stone. It is a long free climbed touted for arm wrenching finger, fist, and offwidth cracks. The route rears out the double overhung left side of Geek Towers.

Above me on overhanging, greasy, and insecure thin cracks, Sue stems and frets, “This is hard man stuff ". She is simply correct and livin' it on lead. Higher along, I stuff a black Lycra knee into a brilliant peach colored fat crack. I pause and gander beneath me; our turquoise trail line hangs free from my waist and floats in the breeze. Tucked into a corner 50 ft. below is 5 ft. of plutonium girl. 500 ft. below her lie the chalk laden vertical slabs we fried up for breakfast. Dangling from fists engorged by the granite crack I look down upon the slabs. Our lower route resembles a gigantic Sanskrit tablet inscribed with the language of chalky fingertip travel. Stabbing in a wild turkey sized protection device, I jump into layback and bellow a war cry. My shout is met by a faint echo: an Indian screamed when he put the arrow in Custer's crotch.

My partner wears an aqua halter top and sports knee length Lycra. She has long pony tailed hair the color of oiled coal. With the polished aplomb of a Yosemite veteran, little Sue stacks both feet together and wiggles on up the orange fat crack above my hanging stance. The climb is named Freestone after freestone peaches; the tower is named "geek" after the chiseled inscription on its spiked summit. The sun of crashes down upon us and the fall's crash aside even harder. Six rappels later we are geeks and loving it.

Dan & Sue, after Geek Towers

Television fuzz and sunrise slap me on the face; I passed out in front of the tube on Nancy's bed in her tiny company room. Nancy had lent me the pad for the night, on the condition that I didn't "Leave food or anything dead in there". She didn't want me dribbling sandwich crumbs or the like. Following yesterday's climb, I was so blasted, dehydrated, and fulfilled it could have been me that was left for dead.

So I get out and fumble down three flights of stairs, step in to cool pine air and across an open walkway into the next dorm. I'll swill coffee with Dan and Sue and they'll depart for their guiding jobs. Soon Karine will arrive to grab me up, drive me down and drag me up Waverly Wafer, so I can slug us up Butterballs in full sun. Karine stomps Waverly's overhung hands and fingery layback back with all the poise and strength her angular physique would promise. I follow, stemming the whole number as I feel I have maybe three good pulls left for my lead.

Twenty Two pulls and four number one's later, all my angularly poised strength has been vanquished in the fracas. I have on site flashed butterballs. "Whop-de-do ". Baked white granite. Yes. "Nice lead Roy". "Thanks Karine".

Down below in the Merced River, Karine reveals a swimming hole and we sunbathe on a large granite tabletop. We're surrounded by crashing, roaring Sierra snowmelt. Mesmerized by the dialogue of the falls, we linger and receive sunburns. Sluggishly, we pry on cotton clothing. We share an apple, swill tropical juice, grin widely. Karine starts her car and steers us up canyon toward the Ahwannee hotel. There we will swarm a haven: the umbrella dotted sun deck.

Ahwannee Sweet Shop:
Walking to the patio we pause at the bar and say hello to Brenda. She works the taps for us and stairs into me incredulously. She erupts with Puerto Rican flare, "Roy dude. Unbelievable! "

Karine and I seek an open Table outside and settle in. We ask Denise to bring water for Karine; I summon a Brenda-Colada. The cocktail soon arrives: icy cold, rum dark, and twice as volatile as the Latina who inspired its concoction. Joe materializes in a spare chair and pictures for us the wonderment of his San Tropez vacation. Nancy drops in on break and suggested I try Red Tail Ale; I do. I suggest she promise to periodically ignite my desire for a French-Italo vacation. Karine splits to an early shift in the bar and I depart to splash into a malt liquor brawl at the Village Deli.

Denise serving Karine and Me, after Butterballs.

Deli Wars:
You see, I'm supposed to meet Billy at the deli so we can prepare for a barbecue. It appears the only cue here will be for the bottle. It seems that two lad's ventured a tough nail-up on El Cap, supported with 70 cans of Old English malt liquor. They opted for three pitches and three rappels in three days: Billy was nice enough to meet them and their beers at the wall's base just as they touched down. Billy escorts the foolish caravan to the deli and I render assistance by drinking some of their stash.

The Foz peeps in and suggests 5:00PM is a little late to blast the upper two-thirds of the Rostrum. I grow a grin and agree with him. Next I switch from malt liquor to coffee and pound down a steak burrito while inhaling a spinach calzone.

With minimal rack in hand, Kevin and I cavalry from road down through forest toward the climb. Together we waddle out the walk on ledge to the base of Rostrum's finger crack crux. We climb with haste and zero hesitation. It is summer. We each carry at T-shirt as gym towel, to quench the sweat from our dolphin like exteriors. We take smooth draws from a fourth generation Dakota peace pipe and feed on two long leads a piece. Each pitch features overhanging finger, hand, fist, off width, and layback aerobics.

With little concern and less protection we surge to the summit, jump into our huaraches, and race for the car like little boys trying to cheat nightfall.

Kevin, my Rostrum partner, the following year.

Keep on rockin' in the free world.
-Neil Young

The story was written as a correspondence to Nancy, as it was happening, during a week in July of 1990. I had moved to Colorado from California and been away a bit more than a year.


climber a single wide......
May 24, 2006 - 10:34am PT
Superb stuff, Tar

plus- I always would rather read about a day out with the girls. well, at least ....look at their pictures

Social climber
kennewick, wa
May 24, 2006 - 12:36pm PT
Thanks Tar. Great stuff. I felt myself sunning next to the merced, how I wish...

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - May 24, 2006 - 04:25pm PT
does any body have more climbing stories, huh?

jaybro- if you read this one last night and found difficulty wading through typos: my apology.

i had voice dictated it, word checked it, but failed to clean up a bunch of voice recognition errors. yata. yata.

idle threat: i'm going to start posting my sappo (not sapho) poetry if ya'll don't join in.

Sport climber
Buzzard Point, TN
May 24, 2006 - 04:43pm PT
Patience young tarhopper.

You have built it...they will come...we just don't have fancy pants Voice Recognitioners yet.

Social climber
The West
May 24, 2006 - 09:54pm PT
I actually did read it and liked it a lot , typos?

Put me in a reverie of other times, but present time caught up with me and I haven't yet parsed a contribution.

Perhaps a major old hardisk harvesting is in order.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - May 24, 2006 - 10:58pm PT
good jay:
glad to hear it; i'd be cryin' if ya stubbed yer toe, or worse, banged yer shins while strolling through my natty prose.

point taken.
always open to a clue over here.
nonetheless, i'm momentarily rampin' up some weepy waxin'...

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - May 25, 2006 - 12:50am PT
none of my unconventional poetry is bluntly climbing centric,
but it drops a bucket down the same well of passion.


The day the earth
Swallowed you
I shivered in the silent frost
Of alone-ness

A picture perfect armory
Of memories,
Girding my silence,
Brought stale air
From old gifts

There is lightness
In your absence.
A bright star burns
Beneath my skin,
Reminding me.


Big Wall climber
33° 45' N 117° 52' W
May 25, 2006 - 12:55am PT
here is a poem I wrote

A Place I Hide

There is a place I travel that no one else knows
Its a place where the sky always flows
A place where no road will ever dare to go
And the respect for the mountain will always grow
A place where my soul is allowed to roam free
And the true extent of life is plain to see

No one dares to visit this place of mine
It is far too difficult for most people to find
It is on my way here that I cleanse my soul
Or risk the mountain taking it as a toll
The only way for a path to be found
Is to break the law that governs me to the ground
Yet courage has a way of flowing through my fingertips
And the dangers have far been eclipsed
Because of my determination to find this place
Far outweigh the perils that I must face

One may attempt to find another way around
And surely they believe that my place has been found
Yet the few that dare to see the mountain from my side
May begin to see this place that I hide

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - May 25, 2006 - 01:06am PT
can i go?
um, er, what's the price of a ticket?
like, that was truly cool.

thanks for the words.

Big Wall climber
33° 45' N 117° 52' W
May 25, 2006 - 03:10am PT
sure dude, glad you enjoyed it

Trad climber
Austin, TX
May 25, 2006 - 05:45am PT
...a good natured bump to raise the cream.

Trad climber
Austin, TX
May 26, 2006 - 07:22am PT

May 26, 2006 - 09:46am PT

The thought of an old friend, now gone, suddenly popped into my head this morning -- why, I'm not sure. I googled her name and came up with your story, The Water of Life. Thanks.

I heard Randi still had the BMW 2002 I had sold her years ago.

All the best,

Jeff Butterfield

Truckee, CA
May 26, 2006 - 09:56am PT

Thanks for sharing the well written stories about Bruce and the Valley crew members. and a pic of my (then or around then) wife Denise was a super bonus.



right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - May 26, 2006 - 11:46am PT
Hi Jeff, that BMW 2002 is parked out in our driveway.
Randi called it her "Fudgsickle" : we call it "Nellie".

I bought it from her parents; a bit of a memento you see.
Randi had a very strong engine put in it, with a burly clutch.
Lots of rust now, but I keep it going.
Come on up and let's take a spin in it!

Here Lisa and I are on our honeymoon in 2000, driving to Canada:

If you look to the right above, you can see the back side of the Grand Teton!

While we are talking about Randi:

She loved mountains and wheels.
Randi had a knack for putting people together.
This photo was taken by Karl Arndt, here in the Rockies.

For those of you who knew Randi, keep an eye out for my upcoming Dolomites Picture Thread.


right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - May 26, 2006 - 11:51am PT
Hi Peter,
Here's a shot of you and me in the Meadows, behind the YMS "Rat Room"

*not that there's anything wrong with it*

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - May 26, 2006 - 11:55am PT
OK Kideos,
Lotta thread drift here.

I'll whip up a short story shortly:
'Bout an ascent of Wunsch's Die-Hedral,
With my buddy Jeff Maxim Jugg-Monkeyin' behind me.
Jeff had never done ANY roped climbing...

Trad climber
the blighted lands of hatu
May 26, 2006 - 12:15pm PT
here is an article in a heavily edited version I tried to sell...the original is longer and goes into more details, like how guilty I felt and still feel for thinking I miss my ex more than my friend (love sik chump...), and how hard it is to just keep moving sometimes...
feel free to comment - feedback is the only way to get better at writing...

"Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation." - last words attributed to Buddha

I am standing in the lobby of a funeral home north of Denver, Colorado, looking at the first rope I have ever climbed on and wiping my eyes on the sleeve of the fanciest shirt I own. My friend was an organ donor and after his suicide there isn't even a coffin or body to look at, just the rope and some flyrods and other outdoor gear, and various photos. In all of them my friend Eric is smiling. It is not quite exactly how I remember him. I've been shaking hands and hugging crying strangers, repeating over and over again "yes, yes, me too...he was my friend..."and fleeing to lay down in the grass outside when it gets to be too much. It is not easy for anyone there, but somehow we all get through it and some of us head back to my house for a small wake.

Eric was the person that introduced me to climbing. He was one of the first friends I made when I moved to Colorado some thirteen years back, but it wasn't until after an ugly divorce 6 years ago I finally started climbing with him. He knew I needed something fun to do, so he dragged me out and set up a toprope at the Tropics up at Horsetooth Reservior. We created quite a scene when I refused to let go of the rock after topping out and he refused to take the last 6 inches of slack out of the rope, screaming back and forth for twenty minutes before I finally let go and dropped. Eric had some weird ideas about how to teach people to trust, that was certain. I never did get to ask him how he had learned that one, I wonder what in his past made him feel that was the way to teach people.

Later that same summer Eric took me to Vedauwoo, Wyoming, for a crazy afternoon of struggling up a nasty handcrack to break in my first rope. Testing my new shoes and undeveloped skills on a brutal left leaning fist crack that kept spitting us out onto the thin face, where we would leave little trails of blood as the knees bounced across the quartzite empregnated feldspar, Eric sat there and laughed and pulled me up my first 5.8 on top rope. I owned 3 quickdraws and 5 locking carbiners and now a new purple and yellow PMI 10.5 mm rope, and I was starting to think I was really a climber after all. I think I climbed real rock only once more with Eric after that, just one more top rope on the side of Aurther's Rock with him and a girlfriend. And then he just sort of stopped climbing, he was either too busy or not in the mood or just something, some reason why he was going to just sit there and watch television instead of go outside and play. In retrospect I think that might have been the beginning of the end, the beginning of a whole lot of nothing that started to occupy Eric's life as little by little he just sort of shut down inside.

Its the day after the service and I am rapidly losing my marbles. I think the shock has worn off and now the depression is setting in, and I am starting to think I could die today. I don't want to go though, not now. I went through my own little personal suicide phase during that divorce some years back, stood on that edge and stared the emptiness of life straight in the face and turned back, clawed my way out if the pain and loneliness and decided there is no way I am going like that. Today I am feeling like I absolutely just don't care any more, that I am tired and sad and, well, between losing my girlfriend, quitting my job, finally dealing with chronic depression, and then having my best friend shoot himself I really am not too worried if I live or die any more at this instant in time. Uncanny, the way each moment is so charged it literally shimmers when you don't know if you are going to see any of this ever again. The mundane becomes special - the curve of the fender on the car, the song on the radio - everything seems electric around me in this state I find myself today. I've decided to go free solo a long long route somewhere with lots of exposure, to make sure I can hang on and focus and just drive the reality of life out of my head and for a time have absolutely nothing to think of except the climb. I leave a note on my bed for my room mates, just in case I fall, stating I didn't jump. I know I won't jump, at least I think I won't, and I can't help but feel it is important that I leave that fact behind me as I grab my shoes and chalk bag.

I've been reading a lot about the concept of enlightenment lately, about how there is really no past and no future. There is just this moment, this instant in time, and that what it really takes to achieve happiness is the ability to focus on just this moment and nothing more. The secret to happiness is to not waste energy worrying about things that have already passed or things that may never be, but rather to focus all the love and joy one can raise in the heart, mind, and spirit and just enjoy the instant that existence really is. I think that might have been part of what I was looking for with the long free solo, the immidiacy of the situation and the potential for death were going to hopefully force me into the moment in a way that should keep me there long enough to work past some of the pain I was feeling after Eric's death.

I'm on my way out the door, feeling scared and weird and utterly alone, when the phone rings. It's my former girlfriend, and she convinces me to bring some gear and not go free soloing in the horrible mental place I am in. I know she is right - the time to try a free solo would be some day when I am full of the joy of life, not staring down death's ugly mug. I end up humping 50 lbs of rope and rack and water 2 miles up and down a horrible choss pile just to aid solo the front of some rock. By the end of the day I am smiling ear to ear, trying to slot a Black Diamond #1 Micronut into a tiny crack and ooze my weight onto it without it popping out. The rain has been threatening but has held off all day, and a raptor is circling a nest one cliff band over from where I am flailing around in aiders and a fifi hook. I'm sweating and alone and talking to myself and my dead friend, but I know that life will go on, because it simply has to. It will still be capable of being just as good as I can strive to make it be.

It is the Tuesday a week after the memorial service for Eric, and I am out exploring a local bouldering area that I have always wanted to visit and never found the time for. Bouldering in the Fort Collins area just isn't the same with all of Horsetooth Reservoir being closed - the only really accessable spots that everyone seems to congregate at are the Piano Keys and Duncan's Ridge. The Tropics are gone, you have to hike in to Rotary park, and the Land of the Overhangs is currently off limits. I don't know if you can get to the Scoop and the Sunshine Area or not, but the road is closed so any access would be a hike or a bike ride at this point. The area I am at is the easternmost portion of the Torture Chamber, an area developed by John Gill and company way back in the early days of bouldering. There are many people up near the parking lot, hanging all over the notorious torture chamber traverse problem, but I've hiked down the ridge to almost the bottom, past the Nemisis Tower, and am staring at one of the tastiest sandstone S cracks I have ever seen. It's a little higher than I am willing to go without a toprope, after a strenuous layback entrance the crack shoots up and right and just sort of disappears as the feet get sketchy, then there is a weird sloping not quite jug out to the right and one more high hold as the upper portion of the crack starts to kick you backwards a few degrees. Its really a beautiful problem, the moves are very fun and the balance a challenge. I'll come back with a friend and a rope and we will spend 2 hours working on it before we get it clean, and later discover it goes at 5.10c, but for today all I really want to do is run some nice laps on some low fun rock. Its been a rough week.

I work the rock wall up and back for twenty yards, taking the hard feet and the smaller holds to make it interesting, and am soon happily sweating in the sun. Its weird being alone, I can't help thinking about all the people I know and used to know and who I still talk to and who I wish were still around. It seems like when you get down to it, you might not have as many people around to climb with sometimes as you wish you had. I remind myself that I need to make it a point to meet more people that do the things I do, to have friends to share the world with you sort of have to make an effort sometimes to actually be a friend. Its sad, my friend Eric didn't seem to want to make that effort sometimes, and now that he is gone I have to push myself to do that very same thing. Yet here, fingers and toes on some sandstone and my back in the sun - all that seems to really matter is making my left foot stick for just one more second while I reach up and right for a hold that I think is there, around the corner I am working. I'm 2 feet off the ground, but it could be a hundred for all I care. I want to make this move, want to make it with elegance and power, want to make it stick so bad I can taste it in my mouth (In case you were wondering - it tastes like sandstone and lichen Smile ). I stretch and reach and pop off several times before I get the balance right. But I don't stop trying, keep getting on the rock three moves back and working out to the corner, and ten minutes later I have made it happen. My hand hurts and I've torn open a scab on my knuckle during a finger lock, and even though I am alone I can't stop smiling and talking to myself about how beautiful the day is turning out to be. I am in the moment again, and that is all that matters right now.

I guess, if I may be so bold as to try to paraphrase the great Buddha - Everything changes, just try your best.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - May 26, 2006 - 01:16pm PT
i don't know about lit crit per se,
as i have very little formal education.

i enjoyed the thrust of your content.
Pagan you wrote:

*Uncanny, the way each moment is so charged it literally shimmers when you don't know if you are going to see any of this ever again. The mundane becomes special - the curve of the fender on the car, the song on the radio - everything seems electric around me in this state I find myself today.*

i once worked in theater; i say there is a still point in writing, works of art, and experiences.

there is a set up within a narrative, and a corresponding sweet spot.

in a dance performance, it might be that place where the troupe crystalizes the theme and for a fleeting moment, all the dancers achieve a levity, a unity within the choerographic expression. as in a number of ballerina in pirouette, all tutus up and spinning at once.

sufi dancers do this.

for a climber, it might literally be expressed as still point, or the dead point crest of a dyno. or that spot on a wall at 2/3 height, where you look up and see your budddy struggling away in perfect harmonious context.

in family, it might be achieved when the kids are out playing and your spouse is quietly reading a favorite book: it's a benefit of being a relaxed and focused observer and it is a sweetness for sure.

in your story, it was set up by the emotional intensity plummed by dispair, which can galvanize a sense for life's vital urgency.

Social climber
kennewick, wa
May 26, 2006 - 01:34pm PT
pagan, I am not too big on the critique thing. But I like the way you integrate your own feelings and bring things around to "in the moment". Thanks for sharing bro.
scuffy b

Chalet Neva-Care
May 26, 2006 - 02:18pm PT
Where Was I?
First, the obvious answer. I was in Joshua Tree, North Astrodome, Figures on a Landscape. That’s not the real answer, though, because that’s not the real question.
I don’t mean to ask, “WHERE was I” but rather Where was “I”, that is, the guy
I am used to encountering and talking to and being counseled by when I am on the
sharp end.
When we got to the dome, looked at the guide, at the rock, guide/rock/guide/rock,
figured out where exactly it was that we were going, the inevitable question arose:
“Well, Mr. Moyles, are you going to lead this thing?” Well, yeah, sure. Why didn’t
that perk me right up? OK, rack up. Followed my week-long tendency to take about
2.4 times what I could possibly use on the climb. Steve, are you there? Yeah, sure.
Are you sure? Yeah, I guess so.
Harness up. Chalk bag. Tie that water knot. Shoe up. There yet? Well, tie in then.
On belay? Climbing then. Calling all Steve. I guess he’ll show up in a few moves.
Looks hard. No it doesn’t, this is just the kind of thing you do. Yeah, I guess you’re
right. It wasn’t that bad. This next bit looks scary, though. No it doesn’t, just look at
that edge you’ll be standing on. Look, just stand up, see, that’s how it works. Yeah,
it looks just like something I know how to do. It even looks like something I’d
really like. If only I were here to enjoy it. It’s nice hearing the occasional “nice move”
from the ground, but I want to be hearing it from Here! Where are you, anyway?
So there I am, grinding along in this fatalistic mindset, intellectually filing away
sensations: Look over there, Steve, isn’t that pretty? Didn’t that move feel cool?
Yeah, I guess, whatever…
It helps out some when I get to a spot with an actual choice of moves. The obvious way
has a move that feels less than 100% secure in the hand, and though I know it would
usually be perfectly fine, I come back down to the stance and check out an alternative
to the side. It has smaller holds but is more of the rock-onto-solid-edge-stand-up type
which the climb has been so far. This way works out great for me. It’s really secure
and the “route finding” episode has stripped a layer of fuzz away, leaving me only
with about 3 spiritual sweaters between me and the fresh air. Hello? Not here yet.
I think he might be just around the corner, though. Well, just keep climbing, he might
show up. I make my way to the first anchor, the old one. From the ground: “Don’t
stop there, go to the next anchor.” OK, this next bit looks more, um, demanding. Do
you think you might want to Pay Attention now? All right, remember you have to
protect this traverse. Stuff that thing in there. That’s fine. Step on over here. Get more
stuff. Good. Uh-oh, it gets hard. Have to start yelling at myself. “Come on. Use that
foot. Wake up. Do it right. Will you just do it right? Come on, Steve. Climb this thing.” And suddenly, I was right there with me, where I should have been all along.
I got that good hold, and I was wide awake on the middle of a nice exposed face, stepping
to that stance, clipping the anchor bolts, as happy as if I had been climbing the whole
time instead of watching somebody else do it through a helmet cam. What a climb! I
wish I’d been here to enjoy it.
“Off Belay!”
“Belay Off. It sounds like you found religion up there.”
Jesus, I don’t need this crap.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - May 26, 2006 - 02:56pm PT
hahahaha and yahoooo!
man i love this stuff.

Social climber
The West
May 26, 2006 - 03:36pm PT
Nice stuff, thanks all, keep 'em coming.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 20, 2007 - 09:06pm PT
Stich recently posted,
"What's keeping you from writing?"

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 20, 2007 - 09:09pm PT
Here's a story, as told by a couple few of us recently, from a Supertopo thread:

Tell us a story Werner.

I'll give you a story Roy

One day I go drink out of the Fern Spring that Kauk is trying to keep clean and pure (it is anyways).

Some woman is there and she tells me I can't drink the water.

I ask her why not?

"See that sign there sonny, it says unprotected water not for drinking"

Too fukin bad for you woman I'm thinking, and I keep drinking. I wish she would have seen the the green sh'it we were drinking out of that water hole in the Sahara desert.

Anyways I keep drinking and she's starting to get pissed at me telling me she's going to report me to some Ranger.

Mawhahahaha ....

Wow, that Kauk guy, protecting the spring.
Such a sacred warrior dude 'n stuff.
I just have to post this photo I conscientously ripped from Bachar's Klemens thread:

-Russ Walling:
Kauks lips in that pristine roadside Spring... and the dead cat that someone threw in there to try and poison the King.... something about a bolt war...... real cloak and dagger stuff going on around that Spring. At least run the water through one of Chongos tube socks before imbibing.

...Holy Water!
Then there was the tyme, Shoot, Russ:

When the rangers told you to git the fuc out and escorted you to your new camping spot out of C4, down below the sewage treatment plant below El Portal right? Yeah, we'd have coffee till 11am or so and one morning I almost ignited an itsy-bitsy propane cylinder & you backed away over the bridge and flopped back sides into the boulders and poison ivy. (Sorry bro).

Most importantly to my story (wrong thread really), was the deal when the laundry, wafting freely in the stream all nicely tied to rocks and cleanin' up fer free got, well, um, contaminated.


Hahahahaha LOL

Now we're gettin somewhere ......

-Tarbuster: then Russ, the regal, lazy basta'd, say's "shoot, Andre (Andre, the Bull Testes, The Schmutsvink, but that's another story) was supposed to take care of that laundry yesterday!"

"Damn, Roy help me in the van with this poop infested, well, now that it has had time to rinse, formerly poop infested laundry"... Which I did Russ, cuz, I'm yer bro right? and, "and we're gonnah get it all nicely rewashed and dried out over at Curry yah?"


Like we drove around the loop for the next week with me, you and that stink and both of us with our heads hangin' out the side windows as you drove the bus scopin' for killer OW projects.

-Russ Walling:
Here I am filling my bottles in Fern Springs for an ascent of the Odyssey:

-Russ Walling:
yeah... that damn laundry... I put a rock in each Tube sock (eat your heart out Jim Collins) and tossed them in the river for a nice cleaning..... two days later the fukkin socks were about 5 feet long and covered in brown fur from the sewage plant..... All the rest of my clothes, which were all strung out along an old 9mm rope and chucked in the river too, also turned brown from copious stool remnants that must escape from the plant.... Fuk man! We never did wash those things again... just tossed them out... a 165ft of clothes!!!

Got' Damnit Russ!

It gets better: that was the same 9 mil we used as a fix/haul line on The Prow dammnit, with a big torn spot on the sheath.

...'member rackin' up for that pup on 'cid, middle of the night, with the rack selection a mediocre jumble of pegs 'n what-knott thrown down Then, we get to the base and you jerry rig a harness out of fuchin' old bale slings that found their way onto our racks.

-Russ Walling:
Same one.... red... core shot... bought it off some Brits in camp 4...

The Prow... what a deal that was... how about how we lost all the rack when the bag exploded after it hit something on the way down after we tossed it... and once back down into the forest we would shake the trees and stoppers would fall down to the ground..... All the pins shot through my sleeping bag and it looked like a Chinese lantern when I held it up to the light..... then we tied the haul bag up with some aiders and a daisy or two and hauled it behind our bikes all the way back to camp! Through the Deli, past a horse ranger on the Lower Falls Bridge (Moses?) who sh#t herself and the horse went all spooky.... then I sold the haul bag immediately to some Germans who speedy stitched the hopeless rag back up and went up on Mescalito the same day. Unreal!

Fuchin' made my decade, as laughter goes, totin', draggin' that haulbag between our bikes by the aiders: we'd rip a right turn and the bags would track left behind us. I could hardly pedal I was laffin' so hard. That was the same trip we mixed cans of Chunky Soup with Cracker Jacks and declared it "wall ready gourmet"...

You guys are on a roll.

"the fukkin socks were about 5 feet long and covered in brown fur from the sewage plant ...."

That was too funny, I can't stop laughing.

-Russ Walling:
Best part is all this good stuff is well hidden in a thread nobody will read.... mwhahahaha!
scuffy b

The deck above the 5
Jul 20, 2007 - 09:26pm PT
One day we're walking along the Horse Trail, it's maybe a little
drizzly, we're headed west when we encounter a big, big group
of teenage girls, mounted up and headed east.
Well, the best place for us to stop and get out of their way
happens to be where the trail gains a few feet elevation. You
know, of course, that if a horse has been traveling on level ground for a while, a sudden climb (of just about any size) will
cause something to leave the horse, either gaseous or semi-solid.
So, Every Horse farts or craps, exactly when the 15-yr old girl
on the next horse back comes into Eye Contact with several Men.
The way their faces turned bright red, one after another, it was
as if they were on light switches.

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
Jul 20, 2007 - 11:52pm PT
Tarbuster - showing us how it's done!

Thanks for all the words everyone, great - and the pics, Tar.

And for your piece about Bruce Hawkins.

Maybe I can dredge some text up from the San Diego archives...

Sport climber
Buzzard Point, TN
Jul 21, 2007 - 11:31am PT
Heh, scuff, "elevation gain"!

I don't know if I should C&p or just link....Tarbooze, you ever see this one?

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 21, 2007 - 11:35am PT
Missed this one.
Here is your story 426:

---Bones, drop me a line.---

Jon Fox, a bro-brah from Berkeley. A 74’ Lincoln Mark IV Continental with no speedometer. 10/29. Around 10 pm, we leave the East Bay, Valley bound. Fox and I are headed to do the Nose... It’s a route deeply versed in history, from Warren Harding’s first steps on the moon in 1957-58, to Lynn Hill’s first free ascent that fall, at a stiff grade of 5.13c. I've gazed up at the headwall many a time--how long I had longed to become a "granite astronaut" in Longian vernacular.

I take over driving around midnight while Fox grabs some Z’s. I am really wondering if I am going 40 or 70, my exhaustion from work seeping into the reality of no working speedometer. The lines seem to be moving, but who knows? Jon’s Mark IV has an enormous trunk with all the wall sundries easily packed in and room for more.

I wake Fox after a while to take over helm. We stop for water at the entrance to the Valley. 1:30 a.m. Our mission won’t be complete for the night for a while…there’s 15 miles of curvy roads and then a short hike up to the base of El Cap, where we will sleep on a flat sandy bench beneath the Nose route.

We roll up to El Cap meadow, pack our haulbags, and hike. It’s a 10 minute hike at 2 in the morning. We arrive to find 4 other climbers nestled cozily in sleeping bags in "our" spot. Ugggh. Not only will we contend for space, but there will be a clusterf*#k in the morning. I tell Fox that we should camp 100’ away, get up earlier than them and pass them on the climb before they’ve left the ground.

4:17 am. "Pop." "Ping." These are the sounds on the outside of my sleeping bag. Jon is throwing small rocks at my head to wake me up. I find my headlamp and struggle to gain a purchase on conciousness. After 2 hours of sleep, I feel like I’ve been punched in the head. Repeatedly. By a cage fighter. It’s like a bad hangover, more accurately, replete with the "nerves of (near) vomit". We plan quietly, a couple of spies on the subterfuge hauling mission.

I tell Fox we will use fake European accents if we get caught. It is still pitch dark, but I’ve been up the first third of the route, and know it will go quickly, if we can only pass these four cocoons who are napping at the base right now.

I shoe up with climbing boots and step out on ledges above their small camp at the base of Pine Line. The rock is cool, and my beam shines on a small circle of illuminated granite. My sticky rubber soles edge their way above the other climbers in their sleeping bags. I shuffle and then hear:

"Whaddya homos think you are doing?" The agitated voice comes from one of the sleeping bags.

I reply in my best, brusque Austrian accent, "Yah, vee have twvoo sixty meeeter ropes und go veddy fast, yah!"

"Oh, you think so?" The sleeping bag asks.

"Yah, yah!" is my response.

There is silence from down below. What are they going to do, get up at 4:20 am and race us? I feel the slightest tinge of guilt and am curious about karmic reprecussions.

I free climb the 5.7 pitch in a few minutes, and, instead of hauling (normal procedure,) I rappel back down and give Fox the game plan.

He goes up the ropes.

"Eick vein oolen." Fox calls from above.

"Haulenshtien!" I keep up euro airs and we quickly pass, stealing 'quietly' through the night as I "escort" the scuffling bag up the slab.

Perhaps it was us blowing their psyche, or the other party just wasn't efficient, but around 8 in the morning, we are on Sickle and they are just starting. They retreat later that afternoon after doing 1/17th of El Capitan. We are goading them, yelling, "Yah, vat do uu homos tink uu are doink?!!!" Again, I think of karma and my micro debts.

The bottom half of the wall goes relatively smoothly. One night, I tell Fox several times to bring his headlamp because it’s getting dark, but he doesn’t. I bitch at him 40' up to "hang out for a sec" and haul it up, but he says "no can do, brah". After more than 1/2 the haul rope is out (and it's pitch black, virutally) he calls down for the lamp--no go, can't get the haul back, the pitch trends sideways. I get super pissed at his "in the dark" anchor system when I see two bolts a few feet away that he could have used. His belay constructed from gear is a huge, spaghettied tangle of ropes and slings. It’s okay, though, we are right on time (kinda) to the sleeping ledges..we get there around 11:30 at night.

The second day passes with King Swings, gripitude and finding a Halloween stash below 4. A tiny plastic pumpkin is clipped to the gear sling; this false idol must come with some curse in theme with Hallow's Eve. We snatched the few "Bit O Honeys" that came with the tiny jack'o. Thanks, random stashers.

The highlight of the day comes when we change out cylinders on the Gaz and fire it up. Didn't let the gas sit so it goes off like a flamethrower, threatening the whole matrix of anchors and ropes. Fox admonishes me as I "keep trying". Must look like kind of eerie from EC meadow...will o' wisps on the wall.

A fitful night is passed at 4, Fox used the "rule of bivy" to establish himself on the smallest but flattest part. I believe he referenced Greg Child's rule accurately, so I was not "shotgun". I rigged up a haulbag as a hammock, hovering all night, ready to smash Fox into oblivion.

On the third day, I wake up to see some storm activity far away, above the Pacific Ocean. It looks like a front, screaming in from the coast. I rub the sleep out of my eyes and start climbing at first light, after we brew up some java. I am clicking on all cylinders, climbing quickly and efficiently, with one eye on the rock and the other on the sky. Very worried about the storm. Everything has a hurried feel and makes the upper pitches less than enjoyable.

Chalk on the Great Roof (LH had been working on it) also made our "standing on good gear" efforts seem a bit light. I couldn't fathom a dude ever doing it free. I boldly made that prediction, but the more apt a man is to make declarative statements, the more likely he's to be proven a fool later. Tip O' the Hat to Mr. Caldwell.

200’ from the top, the clouds are flying overhead. The wind starts whipping loose nylon and clothing around. I am yelling at Jon to come up the ropes, preparing for the final section of El Cap. It’s dark now, so I strap on my headlamp. The round beam illuminates a 5’ swath of the golden granite. I check the anchors and get myself ready to climb. As soon as Jon arrives, I blast off, neglecting a tidy belay-rolling the summit fever.

The last pitch is an overhanging headwall. In 1958, Warren Harding drilled bolts throughout the night on this section, topping out at dawn, as his team had been out of food and water on the epic and the needed to finish. I clip my way up the headwall, poking my head out from the shelter. A few snowflakes fly when I do so. I am really worried, as two parties have ended their lives at this very spot.

A Japanese party was entombed in ice when the leader fell off the last moves and then hung in space without being able to ascend the rope back to the top. The belayer and leader froze to death and it was days before the search and rescue team could peel their lifeless corpses off the top and thaw them out. They were entombed in several feet of ice from what I've read. Another party of Euros passed in a similar manner.

I think of this grisly scene as I scream frantically for slack from Jon. I can’t move and snow is starting to stick on the slab, making the last pitch way scary. Later, he tells me that the ropes were tangled. He's paying inches at a time while the ghosts watch me writhe over the final slab. I am thundering "SLACK!" in between whimpers 'slack' as I desperately tug-o-war, considering the fall. Debts being paid? I can only hope.

The snow is now flying around me in every direction as the wind refuses to blow just one. It's disorienting and I keep feeling like I am slipping because I can't find a horizon line. I crawl to a pine tree and tie off the ropes. It’s full-on now, and my shell is in the haulbag, 160’ below.

I am shattered to pieces at the top. I can’t haul the bags because they won’t move. Wet ropes, the haul is running through blocks and at a harsh "lip angle". All I want is my jacket so I keep thrashing the tree in vain. Fox arrives after (seemingly) an eternity of blowing snow has pelted my face. I'd screwed the pooch by backcleaning a ton of bolts on the final pitch.

I am plastered and soaking wet with white stuff. We are screaming at each other about the haulbags, the bolts, the condition still stuck below the lip. He’s pissed because they aren’t already at the top. I am pissed because I can’t haul them. As in most big walls, it’s the team effort that gets them over the final bulge.

Fox keeps yelling as I am immediately sedate (mostly from getting my shell on). "It’s over, it’s over," I keep repeating a mantra of stupidity. He eventually stands down and is calm while we pack up.

It's far from over. I should know, I've blown out an ankle 4' away from the car---it's not even over on the "ride home"....Never having been to this section of the top of El Cap, I worry as we make preparations to descend. The storm thickens and my headlamp barely cuts the fury of blowing snow. If we go astray, we take a 3,000 plunge. I lead straight back from the wall and into deep manzanita bushes, a bane of all California climbers.

The only thing on our side is the fact that we both have several layers of clothes. Try thrashing through thick manz in the summer with shorts on and you will be cut to the bone. After tunneling for several hundred yards, it’s futile to do anything until dawn, we decide. We are plunging back first down a hill, trying to find a flat spot to bed down. There are a few inches of snow covering everything. Finding a micro flat area, we unpack our sleeping bags and bivy gear. Snow piles up. We haven’t even eaten dinner and have one PowerBar left out of our rations.

I huddle inside my swampy sleeping bag and worry about what the night will bring. If there is a foot of snow by morning, it will likely make the normal descent route impossible, and we will have to trudge several miles along the rim of the Valley to find a walk-off. I sleep uneasily until 5 am. The sound of rain pattering is the biggest relief I’d ever experienced. I know that the rain will make the regular descent possible and we won’t be walking miles breaking trail in snow with pigbags on our backs.

The sun comes up and it is a partly cloudy fall day, such a difference from 12 hours before. We melt some snow with our stove and split the PowerBar. 125 calories later, we don’t dally, as pizza and beer are calling us.

After getting to the floor of the ditch, we try hitching a ride from the descent point to where the Mark IV cruiser is parked, a mile up the road. A Ford F-350 without a shell stops.

"You guys climbing?"

"Yeah! Can you give us a ride?"

"Sure, you guys look pretty wet." The nice couple looks at us and decides we’re decent, but sopped, guys. (Yeah, right..)

I hop up on the full sized truck and Fox, who is built a bit less lanky than I, tries the same move, but gets pinned under his burdenous haulbag. I drag him in like a beached whale, grabbing the straps of his bag and yarding body and bag into the bed. Everyone chuckles and the Ford churns down the road--soon we are changed into dry clothes. Our totem is hung from the rear view as we drive for pie.

Down in the Valley, I call work in the bay area. "No, I won’t be coming in today. Sorry, I was stuck on El Cap in a blizzard last night." I get written up later that week. There is a saying, "the worst day fishing beats the best day working." If you substitute climbing in there, you have to further amend the statement. "The worst day climbing beats the best day working, so long as you walk away from the climb (not too badly hurt-a few gobis to be expected)...."

Sport climber
Buzzard Point, TN
Jul 21, 2007 - 11:47am PT
Thx Tar, here's one more "for the road"

I always liked this photo from "another time" the "same" kinda place.

3-D with Speedy and Alex "Yuripov"

Long story short, those bastards loaded Speedy up with 2 ropes and a 20lb rack of gear...1 am, he was free juggin the last pitch honorarily part of the FBMC. He kept saying "I can't make it...can't"...

Loads of encouragement saw no noticable altitude gain. I threw him down a hank and "shorthauled" while he jugged. After he beached over the lip, I ran up the ropes (and dragged up all that junk from Speedster) to the guys that set him up all heavy...."u deeks!" was the only thing I could say...


right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 21, 2007 - 11:54am PT
Vy don't vee yust climb...

new york
Jul 21, 2007 - 01:00pm PT
(long story)

Another Day in the Woods

Pogue maneuvered the car into the far corner of the parking lot where the guide book said the trail started. He turned off the engine and in a matter of moments began his ritual transformation from jacket and tie to jeans and leather boots. As he did so, he glanced at his watch; it was after mid-day, but there was plenty of time left to find and scout out the cliff. Pogue finished tightening the laces of his heavy leather boots.

The area was an obscure park and quiet on a March weekday afternoon in the Northeast. It was Tuesday and not another car could be seen in the lot. This adventure was a little reward Pogue allowed himself as a break from the nine to five work grind: a salesman’s perk on the road. He was out to take a look as he had done at so many other “off the beaten track” areas. It was just another reconnaissance mission to a forgotten and neglected crag. He left his shoes and chalkbag in the trunk of the car, figuring he probably wouldn’t climb anything. The moth always underestimates the lure of the flame. The cliff holds a minor place in local climbing history, and a few pioneering regional legends had deemed the area worthy of their attention once upon a time. The desire to explore it burned strongly, and he set out.

The first obstacle in his search presented itself right away. A swift, broad creek without a bridge required crossing. As a kid, Pogue Mahone had spent many hours pitting the skills of balance and nerve against the hazards of rushing water and slippery stone. Streams and creeks always provided welcome challenges that could usually be overcome with a little confidence and a bit of ingenuity and luck. The penalty for failure rarely amounted to more than a wet sock or two. After a bit of easy leaping, Pogue scrambled up the opposite embankment in a dry pair of boots.

A wave of excitement washed over him as he rounded a bend and his eyes first set on the small crag. It was always the same, that first rush of excitement. He felt that gnawing hunger for what might appear around the next corner. With this fresh coursing of discovery running hot in his veins, Pogue stalked along the base imagining the thoughts of those earliest climbers as they eyed the first lines that would go. He then touched the rock. No sooner had the moth put flesh to stone, than the urge to climb sang through him.

He pulled into the first moves almost unconsciously, automatically, though he soon awoke to insecure slanted holds, his heavy leather boots reluctantly adhering on rounded polish. He ignored the warnings to retreat. Once the boots had left the ground, they kept moving up. The handholds were there; they were just tenuous and slopey, offering little in the way of any truly solid purchase. He knew he was broaching a point of no return.

The boots moved on up, though, soon leaving the realm of cautious bouldering behind. The line topped out at around thirty feet with the difficulty well within Pogue’s ability. Still, those old leather boots began to remind him how accustomed he had become to sticky Spanish rubber. Spoiled, even, you might say. The next sequence of moves, though, had brought him a prize: a solid incut hold. “Yes, breathe, just breathe and know where you are,” he thought. At twenty feet he was more than halfway there. He paused a moment. To reverse the earlier nebulous moves by downclimbing now with those cumbersome boots was far less appealing than pushing on and finishing. Ironically, it is the co-mingling of fear and confidence that often drives the decision-making process. Within the context of self-assessed skills, you must decide what it is you fear the most and then act. Pogue, through long experience, knew fairly well his capabilities both physically and mentally. Today, he didn’t try to ward off any lurking demons of fear. Rather, he acknowledged them with familiarity, and yielded to them the respect due formidable adversaries. From previous battles he had learned that you don’t always prevail against these demons, but he also knew that he was more than capable of being their master.

The holds returned to dirty slopers and Pogue began to wonder when the last time anyone had done this route. The polish on the route evidenced much previous traffic, but the buildup of dirt suggested it had been long ago. A serious air began to creep into what should have been a casual affair. Pogue resolved to beat the demons. “No adrenaline”, he commanded. “You must not allow it. Keep moving and keep focused.”

Pogue climbed to within three feet of the top only to arrive at an impasse just short of salvation. He knew he was off-route, too. The easier finish lay three to four feet left from where he now found himself uncomfortably perched. He had deviated from the true line, fooled by some “red herring” holds to the right that put him onto this dead-end course which led to much harder climbing. The top was at once mocking him and beckoning to him earnestly. The ground was now an awful, long way down. As his leather boots scuffed around on sloping holds, Pogue began to feel his strength ebb. Once his momentum stalled, he knew he had only precious little time to act.

The moves confronting him to a direct finish were steep, thin, face moves that did not invite an immediate attempt. Some mere few moves to the left promised a “Thank God” handhold that offered an entrée back onto the path of least resistance. “Breathe. Just breathe,” he counseled himself in an effort to chase desperation back into dark recesses. No, the direct finish would not do. To regain the proper line looked tough, but he resolved to work left. Delicate footwork with indelicate boots would have to get him there. It had taken the eternity of almost half a minute to decide. A first tentative move left pinned his fate to reaching the “Thank God” hold.

He moved. First, one hand left, then a committing step left. One more move up diagonally, then a foot shuffle and…R-E-A-C-H. A long reach stretched sideways as his left arm shot out to the “Thank God” hold. It was simultaneously to be an instant of salvation and damnation.

Pogue heard it as much as he felt it. The pain and the sound intertwined; the stringy fibers of his left shoulder tore like a slowly twisted celery stalk crunching into uselessness. Yet, Pogue fought to finish the moves, somehow managing to hang on as his good hand quickly assumed the burden of keeping himself pasted onto the face. He was at the very finish of the climb with his head and shoulders breaching the top of the cliff. In the immediate aftermath of the shoulder trauma, some muscle function lingered for a brief few seconds allowing Pogue to splay his arm up and out across the top itself. Unfortunately, the arm was useless, except for the minimal friction of its’ own weight against the rock. Although this was something, the arm would be of no help in any attempt to perform the manteling exit moves required to finish the climb.

On some cruel level, Pogue laughed appreciating the comedy inherent in his predicament. “Out of the pan and into the fire,” he thought, just as he was so close. The fingers of his good right hand searched for any hold with which to pull those last few moves. Finding none, they searched for even an indent or weakness that might encourage a gamble. Nothing presented itself. All within reach was a water caressed rock tableau that was silky and smooth like the metal playground slides he remembered as a kid. Time was now a fleeting commodity, and he knew that swift decisions needed careful weighing. It was very simple, really. He would go up or he would go down.

Among the many wonders that climbing can bring us is the instant ability to distill the essence of life to the focus of a mere grain. Not many routine activities require such a concentrated immediate analysis of an individual’s wants and needs. All peripheral demands of life are suddenly stripped away. The human animal is simply left to struggle with the gravity of life and death either through reason or primeval instinct.

Unroped, alone, and injured. Clinging and tiring, Pogue began to bend to gravity’s demand for a timely decision and conclusion. The ground loomed far below and the earth’s pull was becoming more insistent with each passing second. Rest was not an option. Pogue had delayed as best he could, but a reckoning was now past due. His left arm was gone, and soon gravity would wrest all control from him.

The longer he hesitated, the less energy there remained for a climbing effort. From that height, the penalty for falling in mid-sequence would be severe. To fall and land with his body at an angle would mean critical or ultimate consequences from such a height. An off-kilter landing was not a desirable outcome amongst the dirt and rocks that littered the base. Finishing upward seemed to be an “all or nothing” gambit in trying to top out. The top was smooth and featureless. Just one single handhold might have allowed him to grovel up onto his stomach, and, perhaps, worm and thrash his way off. It was not there for him. To attempt the necessary finishing footwork while trusting those leather boots to get the job done was more than Pogue could ask of them.

Did Geronimo break his legs in his fabled leap? Pogue thought not, but reckoned that a broken leg might be more than a fair trade-off as a means of deliverance from this plight. That seemed fair enough. There would be no more climbing today. The odds of a slip seemed too great. If he was going to land, he was determined to do so in a manner of his own choosing, feet first rather than headlong. The decision was made. The legs were to be sacrificed for the good of the cause. In one fluid, relaxed, motion, Pogue released himself from the cliff, gently turning to orient himself to the landing. His fall time elapsed was longer than he thought it would be. Then, with a violent abruptness, the ground rushed to meet him, impacting squarely those large leather boots. Instantly, the rest of his body merged with the dirt and stone at the base of the climb.

Later, dried blood that dripped sideways on his face suggested he had lost consciousness for a bit. He couldn’t reconcile this, though, with his sense that no lapse of time had occurred between his impact and a curious realization as he lay sprawled among the dirt and rocks before the cliff: No wrenching pain of broken bone was evident. Oh, he’d felt better for sure, but he rolled over gingerly, and realized he could bring himself to his feet. Blood on the pebbles beneath him let him know he was not unscathed, but he was surprised that his legs had come through enough to allow him to walk away. A large gash above his eye and some overly taxed legs seemed a pretty good bargain. He’d been willing to pay a little more, but the salesman in him said just walk away from the table and take the deals when you can.

Slowly, he made his way back to the broad creek. With no deference to his earlier game, he plunged into the coursing stream, and walked steadily across splashing along in those big leather boots. He wondered how many stitches he’d need this time, as he ambled along, just another day in the woods.


Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Jul 21, 2007 - 01:12pm PT
not mine, but i've always dug this poem:

The Face

Everything kisses and burns.
There is light on the face
In blistering night, so cold
You could snap
But such wind and sweat you hang on
To the face, to ice and sharp stone.
In the night you face blisters
With cold. And everything burns,
Everything kisses. You bend to the face
Made of stone and you're cold,
Beyond reach, and you're glad:
It's you who lights the face.
There is no other place
You'd rather be.

    ET, 1982

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Jul 21, 2007 - 01:16pm PT
and this absolute classic by donald justice:

Here in Katmandu

We have climbed the mountain.
There's nothing more to do.
It is terrible to come down
To the valley
Where, amidst many flowers,
One thinks of snow,

As formerly, amidst snow,
Climbing the mountain,
One thought of flowers,
Tremulous, ruddy with dew,
In the valley.
One caught their scent coming down.

It is difficult to adjust, once down,
To the absence of snow.
Clear days, from the valley,
One looks up at the mountain.
What else is there to do?
Prayer wheels, flowers!

Let the flowers
Fade, the prayer wheels run down.
What have they to do
With us who have stood atop the snow
Atop the mountain,
Flags seen from the valley?

It might be possible to live in the valley,
To bury oneself among flowers,
If one could forget the mountain,
How, never once looking down,
Stiff, blinded with snow,
One knew what to do.

Meanwhile it is not easy here in Katmandu,
Especially when to the valley
That wind which means snow
Elsewhere, but here means flowers,
Comes down,
As soon it must, from the mountain.

new york
Jul 23, 2007 - 03:32pm PT

At the tender age of twelve I was faced with the question of whether I was ready to go it on my own. No, I wasn’t kicked out of the house. It was worse than that. I had lost my rope gun. (Term "RG" probably not current then) Growing up in New York State, I had climbed in the Adirondacks, Vermont, New Hampshire, and of course, the Gunks. Always I had been second to an older leader, but now he was packed up and gone, having moved on to new horizons. I was stuck.

My apprenticeship had begun two years earlier in 1972 at the age of ten. I had been lucky enough to attend a summer camp on New York’s Lake George where “mountaineering” was one of the activities you could sign up for if Art and Crafts happened to be overbooked. I’ll never forget my first taste of climbing’s excitement when a group of us kids stumbled across a backcountry scene of ropes and helmets and cliffs. We all looked it over, and after the first glance, most of the other kids moved on. I was in a trance, though, like a deer caught in the headlights on some dark road. I was abandoned by the others who didn’t or couldn’t see what I had. This certainly wasn’t anything like braiding lanyards into keychains. This was something raw, wild and serious. It pulled me in immediately and irrevocably.

“Mountaineering” in that camp setting came under the able guidance of Mark Birmingham. It was Mark who would first outline the basics of the game for me, showing me mostly what I needed to know. In his twenties at the time, he was more than twice my age and probably three times better than my scrawny weight. Yet, it became routine to second him on multi-pitch climbs with a hammer hanging and banging around my knees on a sling.

As luck would have it, Mark also lived in my hometown. Although the camp season ended in August, my climbing didn’t. Mark was game enough to take me out to local spots like Laddin’s Rock and up to the Gunks where the season really just begins to hit its’ stride in the Fall. I guess he took me out those times because he knew he would not fall leading me up the easy classics like Horseman (5.4, F5 originally, now 5.5). I also like to think, though, that he indulged me because he believed that I stood ready to die before shirking my responsibilities on belay.

Someone photographed me belaying Mark when I was ten years old. I was tethered to a tree about twenty five feet behind me with my waist cinched tight in a loop of rope on a bight. Mark was pictured jumping in a simulated leader fall while I was being drawn and quartered in the midst of a hip belay, my body lurching, with my feet dangling three feet off the ground. Mark was smiling down on me laughing.

All the time, I was unaware that things like belay devices and harnesses were even available. All I knew was that a bowline and a hip belay would get the job done if it didn’t cut me in half in the process. Mark didn’t own a harness or belay device that I can recall, and he never bothered mentioning of their existence to me. When Mark finally moved away, the high point of my sophistication was to fashion a diaper seat sling for a brake-bar rappel. Suddenly confronted with managing my climbing endeavors on my own, I had just one burning desire. All important to my mind was the rope.

Oh the rope! The rope was the dream. That was all you really needed. It was my primary goal, but that meant cold hard cash which prompted an earnest campaign of things like cutting lawns and carrying golf bags at five dollars per round. I can still picture the first one hundred dollars that I ever scraped together in my life. I can see it all piled up on the rug in my room waiting to be counted. It was literally one hundred single dollar bills crumpled and creased, spread out like a pile of tinder for an expensive fire. It was truly a wonderful cache of money at the time. Of course, for me, it didn’t mean a new bike or a skateboard. Neither did it mean a go-cart with a rebuilt lawnmower engine. It could have meant all those things or perhaps a dozen other dreams to enchant a twelve year old kid, but that would not do for me. No, those one hundred dollars were my entrance fee to adventure. It meant forty-five meters of rope with a kernmantle core.

Yes, having the cash was a giant step toward the goal, but no stores sold dynamic ropes for climbing yet in the suburbs of Westchester County, NewYork. Too young to drive to New Paltz, New York, I was forced to consider the only other option I thought available. I needed to get somewhere, someplace, where all your dreams could be negotiated. I was going to New York City.

Up until this point, my parents still had a hazy conception of what was involved with this climbing thing. Not too many years later, they would see George Willig on the evening news after he made his infamous climb of the World Trade Center, but I quickly assured them it had little to do with what I was up to. At this stage, I could not afford intense parental scrutiny which might postpone my climbing career until I was legal to vote.

People say that climbing is all about risk management. Well, I couldn’t take the risk of asking my parents about getting a rope, only to be denied and forbidden, subject closed. As for taking the train into NYC alone, well, you could say it was a bit of a grey area, and I admit I knew what the right and wrong thing to do was. However, with my eyes on the prize, I wasn’t going to let a little something like common sense defeat me.

So it was with a happy heart and the extra thrill of a clandestine adventure that I bought a ticket to NYC. Soon, I found myself navigating my way on foot from Grand Central Station’s hectic frenzy way downtown past the Flatiron Building to a venerable sporting goods store on 18th Street. Once in the door and directed to the second floor, I presented myself to the counter at the top of the stairs. Finally, with the moment at hand, I plunked a wad of money down on the counter and withstood the grins of the older and seemingly superior clerks. They tallied up all the cash and bemusedly handed this skinny little kid a brand new factory coiled rope from Europe.

It served me well in those early heady days from top-roping to safeguarding my initial forays out onto the so-called sharp end. A long line of ropes would follow over the years, but sentimental fellow that I am, I still have that rope stashed away to remind me of the excitement of those early beginnings. Maybe because of all the changes that have been wrought in this game of ours it is that basic essence of adventure that I hoped to preserve, and that rope is my reminder and symbol. So guard your treasures well as we each must do in our own way. For me the battle continues today as I keep that rope hidden from my wife lest it suffer the same fate as some of the other “worthless junk” that she’s uncovered.


right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 23, 2007 - 03:57pm PT
2 very nice stories from you!
A real pleasure.

Truckee, CA
Jul 23, 2007 - 04:06pm PT
a piece I wrote for Climbing 7 years ago. Hope it is not too long. Maybe more appropriate for the "living legends" thread.

Life beneath the big walls...

I walk into Camp 4 with my 17-year-old son, Braden; he wants to show me his latest moves on the slack line. It's his high-school graduation day, the ceremony held in a nearby meadow beneath the thundering Yosemite Falls.

We pass among the tents and my head spins. I lived in this camp when I was his age, met his mother when just a bit older, and, when he was born, became one of several Yosemite climbing dads at 20.

It's just a simple campground, but in a wondrous place, mixed oak and pine woodlands, the granite walls and boulders attracting the residents who left legends behind. I am one of the lucky climbers who have been able to settle here. Though I've sometimes lived elsewhere, I've stayed connected through Braden, who has grown up in the Valley.

Braden leads me confidently through the oaks to the slack line that Dean Potter and Cedar Wright, the slack-line masters, have created in the woods out past the rescue site. Braden has eagerly picked up advice while watching his new mentors jump, twist, turn, and do laps on a piece of 70-foot-long, one-inch webbing 10 feet off the ground. Braden walks the line, executes a 180, then another, and cruises to the far tree. He has entered a world of balance and focus that I can only marvel at; I never could get the hang of the slack line myself. Braden's audience is a group of his peers: kids born and raised in Yosemite, whose parents are mostly old friends from the 1970’s climbing scene.

Twenty-three years ago, I camped here with my mentors, Mark Hudon and Max Jones. They were tearing up the Valley, doing early ascents of many 5.12 cracks, the top standard of the time. They were generous with tips and inspiration for me, an eager 15- year-old with big free-climbing dreams. One day they left for a road trip, leaving me behind with six mattresses they had "borrowed" from the women's dormitory across the street, this being long before the invention of the therma-rest. I returned that day from climbing to be detained by the Law Enforcement Rangers for possession of stolen property. After some heavy lecturing and a quick call to my dad to make sure I really was a "serious climbing protégé" and not merely a runaway, the rangers let me recruit some friends, carry the mattresses back across the street, and go free. Over time we grew to prefer sharing the mattresses with their rightful owners, which is how our families began and why we are here today celebrating graduation.

From Camp 4 we go to dinner at the Ahwahnee Hotel. Back in the 70’s, this was a favorite haunt of ours where we would spend the stormy days in the sweet shop and the great lounge. One such day in 1979 we organized a slide show in the Winter Club Room for an audience of 20 or so young climbers. The topic was the 3rd ascent of the Pacific Ocean Wall by Bill Price, Auggie Klein, Dave Dieglemann. and Guy Thompsen. Some hotel guests joined us and were thrilled by the slides. We all thought someone had secured permission so when the security guard challenged us we said “oh yeah, the manager gave us the room”.

Halfway through the show, the guard was back with a stern looking woman in a suit. “Bill, you got permission right?” “Oh, I thought you did Dave.” “Well, of course, the manager said we were welcome!” Finally June yelled “I am the manager and you have two minutes to clear out before I have you arrested!” Sheepishly, and with apologies to the guests, we left.

This community has not always been a harmonious one. At one of the lowest points in our history, debates about rap-bolting intensified enough to cause blows between friends. I remember sitting in the bar with Jim Bridwell, one of the most important mentors to many of us. He said, "On your dying day, when you face your maker or the universal void, do you think it will matter one whit how hard you climbed or what style you used? No way, man. Only one thing will matter, how many people you helped along the way."

Yosemite can be limiting as a community. Many people settle here to escape the outside world, seeing a life near nature as a refuge. They can be unwilling to engage the energy, progress, and ideas outside these large walls. I found I had to leave to grow, to meet people from different backgrounds and viewpoints. I tried to live the best of both worlds and provide that for the kids. Time in the city checking out art, urban culture and skateboarding; time in the mountains spent at village soccer games, climbing and skiing.

At times I bumped hard into the conservative aspects of a small remote village community. Stonewall, the gay climbing club, was welcome at CityRock but would have had a harder time being accepted in Camp 4. The women leaders of Project Bandaloop used to get into frustrating arguments with the rescue site dudes over gender equity, though over time such interactions have created understanding and friendships.

It was a fire that summoned me back: the house where my son, his mom and his two sisters lived burned to the ground. Everyone was OK, but when Braden called me, he was standing in his boxer shorts and that was all he had left.

All of our neighbors, and even young climbers, gave us clothes, food, money, and help sorting through the blackened wreckage. I realized how valuable it is to be a member of such a community in this day and age, and moved back here full time.

The best aspect of being in a long-term member of a community is to be part of renewed cycles of mentoring. The recent passing of David Brower has caused many of us to reflect on the legacy of our Yosemite climbing forebears, the Sierra Club climbers of the 20s and 30s. They invented the belay system we still use, and pioneered the first "modern style" technical rock climbs. They started a successful Rock-Climbing Section of the Sierra Club that fostered a climbing community through technical instruction and an environmental ethos. It was unforgettable to hear David Brower speak last year at the Camp 4 reunion, with so many generations of Valley residents in attendance. Sitting with my extended family, I felt Brower's commitment to exploring and preserving mountain environments reach through the generations into the future.

One recent evening, my son and I completed our first climb of El Cap together. We did the Zodiac, 20 years after I first climbed it when I was just shy of 18, exactly the same age as he.

Descending, we had nearly reached the road when Jim Bridwell caught up to us, coming down from a film-rigging job on the summit. He had loaned us the rack to do the climb, and he questioned Braden about how it was to climb it hammerless. “It was cool, my dad took the only fall!” We hitched a ride with Tommy Caldwell back to the lodge and shared a drink with TM Herbert, who told stories about his last ascent of El Cap with his son Tom. Out in front of the lodge, we watched Leo Holding re-enact his extreme campfire gymnastic moves.

The new generation of kids and young adults born and raised in Yosemite is the interesting group to watch. As our kids take off to college or to travel, they will broaden their perspectives and bring back new ideas. As the offspring of Valley climbers they already enjoy connections with people all over the globe, because the whole climbing world seems to visit here.

What will Chelsea Cashner, Yuoddi and Lonnie Kauk, Libby Brossman, Lynnea Anderson, Braden Mayfield, Layton Bridwell, Ellie Corbett, Anji Ballerini-Chapman, and many others do to express themselves in life? How will a childhood spent walking under towering granite walls and swimming near waterfalls inform them and the lives they choose to lead?

How do we preserve our community and the environment? We teach, guide, spend time with our kids in the mountains, and help people make connections between nature and their daily lives, wherever they live.

To this community of Yosemite and the greater community of mountain adventurers around the world, life in the mountains has been the greatest gift. We need to pass it on.


Here ya go 426

Sport climber
Buzzard Point, TN
Jul 23, 2007 - 04:27pm PT
hey Maysho, where's the pic of yer kid slacklinin'...

nice stuff gents, keep up the work (my first red edelrid is loooong gone:(. I want to hear some more PMB a toddy in hand.


new york
Jul 23, 2007 - 05:11pm PT
Thanks for the thread. Have been enjoying all your good stuff and with you, Oli, JL etc. it's a high bar set for sure and tough mixing in with legends

new york
Apr 23, 2008 - 03:55pm PT
(Originally posted last Fall as reply to "Close Calls" thread on recounting a day in WY over 20 years ago.)

Cook’s Day Off

When I lived in Boulder my mom used to invite me out to meet her at a "dude ranch" in Saddlestrings,WY (HF Bar Ranch). Having been there before, and knowing a ton of virgin sandstone abounded, I brought a rope and some gear with me to visit. Typically, these ranches are staffed with kids from college to round out the permanent hard core wranglers and I figured this would be where I'd recruit a partner somehow.

I knew already where I wanted to climb. From previous years on trail rides I'd seen this cave about 100 feet up this sandstone wall and I just imagined what we might find if we could only get up to it. Mesa Verde it was not, but it was enough of a draw for me to convince some non-climber it was worth the effort to accompany me. It was the cook's day off, and he was an amiable companion for the adventure.

We saddled up the horses and rode off across the terrain where all those Marlboro advertisements were shot and the cook told me how they got to be extras milling around a chuckwagon or something in the background. It was a beautiful bluebird day and we left the plains behind for the wooded slopes bringing us up into the foothills. Along the way, just short of the sandstone wall harboring the cave, we pulled off the trail and I sized up a likely cliff face to indoctrinate my new friend to the art of the belay. The only ropework he knew was of the lariat variety, but he was tall and young and strong as hell.

The cliff was over a hundred feet easily and since he was going to be using a hip belay I figured it would be best if he belayed me first from above on a true toprope. The climbing looked pretty easy, but it was straightforward walking around to the top and I anchored him there to a tree for his first lesson. "When I yell 'falling!' you slam your brakehand straight to your heart, and all that friction across your back and chest will allow you to hold my fall." He grasped the mechanics of reeling in the slack so that the brakehand never strayed from its’ ever ready position. I looked his technique over again and told him to drop the rope to me when I scrambled back down to the base of the climb.

OK, climbing, climb on. I began moving up and the cook yarded in the rope pretty tightly, maybe thinking he had to pull me up. Well, I figured I'd let him in on the finer points when I got to the top and left it at that. When I was about three quarters of the way up, a sizeable sort of easy buttress / overhang had to be surmounted. and I pulled over the lip and established my whole body onto this gigantic feature. It was then that I felt or somehow knew that this huge block section was going to detach and I cast off of it as the whole rock above my hands and below my feet loosed itself from the main cliff. The cook never got a warning as it happened so fast and as I pushed off a section the size of a car dropped as I swung out with me swinging back into its’ wake of vestigial rubble and dust. Below me an explosion of rock roared like thunder and then it was suddenly quiet again. I clawed my way through the scar pretty quickly and clambered up over the top to lock eyes with the cook.

Holy smokes. We peered over the edge and the horses were well off to one side and still tied. No, they were still alive I was really thinking, and I was still alive. I quickly assured the cook that he passed the belay test and he visibly restrained himself from hugging me when I told him that was all the climbing we would do today and he thanked me. No, thank you, cowboy. We walked down and surveyed the carnage of rubble at the base that evidenced the event. Ice climbers know that feeling late in the season when they spy huge columns of ice laying heavy and broken at the base and can't help but imagine being caught under such a barrage. The day was young and we wandered and explored feeling lucky on more than a few scores and I packed that rope up for the remainder of the trip, but when I bought the cook a beer later that evening I told him we'd go back and get that cave in the cliff next year.
Lynne Leichtfuss

Social climber
valley center, ca
Apr 23, 2008 - 11:18pm PT
Thought of climbers I've known while driving home from work tonight. This came to mind.

Climbing fires up your soul
and it's combustible
it burns up some relationships and ignites others.

Climbing purifies your soul
with the adrenaline
that courses through your body.

Climbing seduces your soul
a mistress that is never satisfied
always demanding.

Climbing is a mystery to some
a life to others.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 24, 2008 - 10:49am PT
A life to rockanice...
A mystery to the cook!

new york
Apr 24, 2008 - 12:01pm PT
Nice Lynne, that sure distills some of the essence.

As an aside, I've been meaning to get back to that cave up in the cliff wall. It's on a long list
Lynne Leichtfuss

Social climber
valley center, ca
Apr 24, 2008 - 08:40pm PT
Thanks Rockanice. And who said New Yorkers weren't polite!
Lynne Leichtfuss

Social climber
valley center, ca
Apr 25, 2008 - 01:02am PT
To much fun to let die. All you guys and gals that live and eat rock have many hilarious, sad, crazy or historical short stories. Just tell it. We will all benefit by it. You don't have to be a writer to do this. Just a short paragraph will do. There are no writers critics on ST that I have run into so far.

I stuck my neck out yesterday with a poem and a guy FROM NEW YORK actually posted a positive note on it.

Here goes:

Years ago there was a great party at Ash Gordon's house in J. Tree. He really was ashes and reposed on the mantel in the home.
Well Jerry Moffat was there and he had an earring that I coveted. It was kind of like a fishing lure with a feather and all. So I proposed a challenge. I was going to try and put it into genteel terms for this post but basically it was a beer guzzling contest. Who ever finished first got the earring. Well they did not call me Guzzalita in college for naught. I still have the earring, but I'd rather have had his climbing skills.

How did I have the "as my brothers put it" nads?!to challenge J.M.? Well, when he and his friend Chris came over from England they lived at our place til they could get their dole and live on their own.

Rockin' Gal

Trad climber
Apr 25, 2008 - 09:58am PT

Glimpses of Truth

Some say that climbers have a death wish. No, it's a wish to live I always tell them. But after reflecting on the subject, it seems to me that part of the attraction of the sport may be that death is but a single mistake away. Given the fact that climbing and other high-risk activities entail making life-and-death decisions, perhaps climbers do have a death wish, or at least a desire to come a little closer to the void, to peer into that which is normally obscured.
While having a close encounter with death is not normally what we seek out, it is often necessary to put the gift of life in perspective. Over the years, several incidents have made me realize that at any time we are seconds away from death no matter where we are. It's never too soon to be thinking about what's important in life.


Moonlight glinted off Yosemite's water-polished walls, illuminating the valley floor. I punched the Ahwahnee Dining Room time clock at 11:33 PM and hurried to my packed-up truck. The shiny, fire-engine red pick-up's odometer read almost 1,000 miles. The maiden voyage for my first new vehicle, the journey led me to my brother's wedding in the Midwest some 20 hours down the highway.
The road to Wawona to pick up my passenger, Robyn, passed in a rush of shadows and curves. Upon my arrival, she threw her duffel bag in the open back.
"I'm fine to drive," I said. "Let's get outta here."
As she dozed, I drove, over Tioga Pass and down the East Side, following Highway 120. I stopped for gas around 5 am in Tonopah, Nevada. She stirred.
"How ya doing, Sally?'
"Great, a little tired but I can keep on going."
An hour later the ghostly shadows lurking on the horizon settled into finite shapes. As the sun rose, the smokey hills of Nevada shadow-danced in the distance. Miles of desert highway rolled by, shimmering, mesmerizing,glimmering, hypnotizing until...
Hot sand kissed my face, feeling like the three-day-old stubble on a big-wall climber's cheek. Purple mountains framed the yucca bush at eye level. As I struggled to get up, Robyn's face appeared in my line of sight. "Are you OK? Some people stopped and they're calling for help." Nothing could be done. The sand welcomed me. I drifted off. "Owwww--I have to move. This hurts!" My tailbone protested at the hard, unyielding surface. Tied down to a backboard in an ambulance bound for Tonopah, I struggled to release my bonds.
"Let me move!"
" Now you can't do that," said a placating voice from above, "this is for your protection." A five-minute plea to loosen the tethers finally paid off. The pain eased after I rolled on my side. Thankfully, the hour-long ride passed in a blur.
An exam in the hospital which included a blood sample assessed my injuries as a small scrape on my wrist and a bruised tailbone; Robyn sported a neck collar. The local magistrate spared us a ticket, mainly because alcohol had nothing to do with the incident. For if it had, his secretary told us, we'd be in jail as he had had a relative killed by a drunk driver.
A trip to the towing company which had retrieved my truck proved illuminating.Robyn and I stared at the once-new truck, its cab now peaked due to the rollover, the windshield smashed and doors askew. Joe the mechanic had it all figured out.
"Yeah, you drifted to the right when you fell asleep and the tires caught in the sand. It rolled four times; you came out on the second roll, and she came out on the third. You ladies are lucky; 95% of the time, if a person is thrown out of the car, it'll roll on him! If I were you, I'd go play theslot machines."
I eyed my prized possession for the last time. "What will you do with it?"
"Well, we'll sell the engine for sure and whatever parts we can. The frame is bent, so that's no good."
I shook my head and walked away.
Luck stayed with us until we found a cheap hotel room. After hunkering down for a day, we chartered a four-seater airplane to Las Vegas where a commercial flight to Milwaukee awaited.
We had come close, too close but had been spared, barely hurt. I felt blessed, cursed and puzzled. Why am I not dead? I wondered. It's not my time. What mission am I to do? What is important in life? The only question of these I could honestly answer was the last. People. That's what's important. Not my new truck, not the amount of money I had in the bank, not my job, the climbs I planned to do or new clothes.
Robyn and I got off the plane in Milwaukee and were greeted by our parents. Her family grabbed her and shuttled her away.
"Well, they certainly weren't very friendly," my mother observed.
"Geez, Mom, I almost killed their daughter. Do you blame them?"
They knew what was important: People.


After earning my degree in Economics from the University of Colorado in 1981, my goal was to lead 5.10. To accomplish that, I pilgrimaged toYosemite, the place where I had learned to climb. It seemed like a logical career move at the time.
My ability to do 10 pull-ups combined with my desire to push my leading skills would hopefully translate into a successful climbing summer. On the first day I followed a couple of hard 5.10s without falling. I hoped that following 5.10 would translate into leading 5.8 without too many problems.
My testpiece was Surprise, a recommended 5.8, one of the Five Open Books near the base of Yosemite Falls. To up the commitment, I recruited Dianne, also an aspiring leader.The day began auspiciously enough, with Dianne backing off the 5.6 lead. I motored through, then embarked on the crux. A challenge yes, but not beyond my honed abilities.
After bringing her up, only the last pitch remained to be deciphered. Confident by this time, I moved upward, no protection between me and the belay. But where was the exit? The topo said 5.7. I went up, then traversed right; no, that wasn't the way. I returned left....
A mini-boulder I had used as a handhold liberated itself from the munge and became airborne. It flew, and I flew. Time extended as I bounced down the rock for 30 feet before landing in a large manzanita on a ledge. Stunned, I wrestled with the bush, cursing and not appreciating the fact that it had saved me from several broken bones. I threw in a piece, belayed Diane up and tossed the rack at her.
"Get us out of here. Go left, I went right and that's not the way."
Eyeing my bleeding knees and elbows, she had no choice but to suck it up and tough it out. Placing gear every few feet, she hesitantly led the final section and set a belay. I followed, a ripping pain in my side everytime I tried to pull myself up. After limping down the descent, I headedimmediately to a shower.
Blood and dirt mingled with soap and water as Diane, a registered nurse, inspected and sponged off my cuts and scrapes. "I think you'll be okay," she said, "Do you want to go to the clinic?"
My lack of health insurance as well as my plan to live in Camp 4 and Tuolumne for the summer precluded me from paying any expensive medical bills. I slunk into the Mountain Room Bar and proceeded to order all the white wine I could drink. One of the guides entered.
"Surprised on Surprised, Sal? Well, you aren't the first."
I barely looked up from my glass of liquid anesthetic to acknowledge that comment. Friends who had heard of my humbling stopped by, and at midnight I left the bar and stumbled to my tent.
The next day dawned harsh and clear. A pitbull hangover conspired with my injuries to make leaving the tent the hardest move I'd ever contemplated. Eventually, the necessity of relieving bodily functions compelled me to commit. I contorted my stiffened body through the tent door, then lurched the 50 yards to the Camp 4 bathroom.
For the next few days, I rued my existence. My right leg ballooned to elephantine proportions; wearing shoes or socks was impossible. It hurt to breathe, laugh or sneeze. Each morning I had to peel the sleeping bag off my oozing wounds. I finally received some medical attention when a third-year med student in camp practiced his diagnostic skills on me.
"Your leg? A subdermal hematoma, that will recover in time. Watch those lacerations for signs of infection--the one on your elbow is deep and could have used a couple of stitches. Your ribs are bruised and not cracked, otherwise you'd have black-and-blue marks where the blood seeped out."
"Hey, Jeremy," he called to his friend, "come over here and see what rock climbing will do for you!"
I contemplated what climbing had done for me as I watched my friends from my lawn chair in Camp 4. What's important in life? My climbing goals that I had trained for and now couldn't accomplish? Would I climb again? Of course, everyone said, yes, you have to climb. Inwardly, I recoiled at the thought.
One of my climbing partners came by my tent and off-handedly said, "This is good for you. What doesn't kill you, keeps you alive."
My dander rose immediately. "Bullsh#t. There's nothing good about this, my climbing summer is ruined, I'll never lead 5.10."
But after he left, the second part of what he said stuck in my head.
Lessons, lessons are what's important in life, especially in climbing, because what doesn't kill you, keeps you alive. I, should I climb again, would be more cautious, put in more pro, test the holds for looseness. Fear of falling was now impressed upon my brain cells, my ribs, my leg, my elbows. To make this experience worthwhile, I had to learn its lesson and apply it. It was a gift to me which presented, on some level, what I needed to know.


Fourteen years later, my red four-wheel-drive gamboled up the dirt road to my Saturday rigging job. Women's Crying Climbing I called it, and half of the female climbers in Boulder had set up topropes at a scruffy little cliff that June Blanding used for her feminist healing and trust-building weekends. I had made a cool hundred dollars cash working for her a few weeks before: set up the ropes, get a tan and watch the tears flow. Piece of cake.
Today the group numbered seven, rather large, and as they got acquainted, I hauled five ropes and assorted pieces of gear over to the 70-foot mini-crag. Not being a climber, Jane believed in overkill as far as safety was concerned, and this was the most redundant system I had ever seen: one person belayed by four people, with two on a rope, one with a sticht plate and one with a hip belay, each rope hanging from a separate three-bolt anchor. (Later in my tenure, I discovered that this overkill was warranted--one woman fainted from the mental strain of belaying and other belayers rushed to her side, leaving the person climbing protected by one slightly shakey hip belay.)
As a bonus activity for the class, another line was rigged so that participants could try rappelling. After tying the rope into a tree at the top, I tossed it off only to have it hang up on a bush. I clipped into the old goldline and began to head down to clear it for the students. Easing my weight onto the rope, I mentally noted that this was a bad rappel for beginners because of the overhang at the start.
I was flying and instinctively my right hand clamped onto the rope. I came to a stop on a small ledge a good 15 feet down from the overhang. What the...? My belay plate and locking carabiner dangled above me, still attached to the rope. Disbelief, shock and bewilderment flooded my being.
My hand throbbed, having stopped my rapid descent to the talus 50 feet below. I knew not what had happened, and simply had to get down. Taking a single carabiner and rigging it into the rope, somehow I arrived on the ground.
Dumbfounded, I hiked to the top of the cliff. I knew I had clipped into the rope, the plate and the biner still there were proof of that. Searching for the answer, I discovered the broken gear loop on my harness. Not meant to hold anything more than a few quick draws or nuts, the gear loop had given away under the pressure of body weight. In my haste to straighten out the rope, I had not taken enough time to check what I had clipped into nor had I given this seemingly innocuous cliff the respect it deserved.
My hand had turned into a near useless claw, the burn fully blistered across my fingers and palm. What to do? I needed the work so I had to continue on as if nothing had happened. Before returning to class, I stopped to bathe my hand in the cold creek water. As I taught them to belay, one woman noticed the prominent blisters.
"Look," she said, "she has calluses from belaying!" I smiled, nodded, and continued to keep my right hand palm down as much as possible.
June appeared from the main cabin as I wrapped up the belay lesson and said, "OK, everyone must sign the waiver before continuing."
I barely contained my laughter.
"Now, is there anything that anyone wants to share before we get started?" I almost died, I wanted to say. I'm here and I don't know why. Yes, this is totally safe, but I almost didn't make it. Operator error. Mental meltdown.
The day passed. I kept my hand low profile and concentrated on the job. My adrenalin-flushed state gradually ebbed.
Finally I took my little secret home. I had planned to go to a party, but it paled in comparison to the day. I couldn't go and make social chatter to a room full of strangers. I made a totally avoidable, boneheaded mistake! Why was I still here?
Marveling at my good fortune, I sat on the back porch, drinking in the sky, the trees, the grass, the earth. It was alive, I was alive. What's important? The fact that I'm here and not mush on the talus at the bottom of the cliff. The fact that I can climb again, see my loved ones, learn this lesson and continue playing the game. Life, that's the most important thing.


Yes, I've been lucky. I've survived to climb and to live and to love and to laugh again. These days my goal is to come closer to the truth without getting too near the void. But by getting closer to death, I've gotten closer to life and am thankful for these glimpses of truth.


right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 25, 2008 - 10:54am PT
You know Lynne,
Jerry Moffatt is, well, "He's Light".
Wait a minute; that's probably an asset.

Rockanice, Lynne, Sally!
Way to put it out there...

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 25, 2008 - 10:55am PT
An Exposition on the Unique Rewards of Traditional, on Sight, Ground-Up Climbing
(excerpt from a long conversation...)

For starters, I tend to favor traditional climbing. For me there is a certain tension to the energy afforded by on-site ground-up climbing. Largo's "experiential voltage" if you will. Given my background and experience, the majority of sport climbs under the 5.12 grade tend to have too many bolts, the outcome is predictable and the exercise feels repetitive, such that the experience of leading the route lacks a certain zest.

Done from the ground up and on sight, a successfully achieved ascent has a very palatable internal energetic feel. The construct of a sport climb; which encompasses things like rappelling and succinct prior knowledge, a fairly sanitized and very safe protection scheme, and in a subtle way, yes even the communal lore of its construction -for me, these things sever the energetic tension of the route. We typically know how a route was originally done and I say that does matter. In ground-up style climbing, there is an aspect of emulation at play which is quite valuable.

When Werner says the route has a soul he's describing that energetic tension that exists for the route as a possibility. I get it more as a collusion of my internal striving with the canvas which the route represents. So for me it's a relationship and I like for that energy to be as fresh and whole as possible and ground-up climbing, whether I'm doing the first ascent or following in the footsteps of a pre-established ascent, the ground up traditional style effort does the best job of retaining that essence, best characterized as a completeness and a continuity, like an independent living thing.

So that's my sense of the peculiarly distinct internal reward conferred through trad climbing. It is something that should not be overrun. It's an artistic imperative that has fewer and fewer voices and outlets in our urbanized, formalized society. Spontaneous, fluid improvisation: we need to keep that heart alive and beating.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 25, 2008 - 11:40am PT
I'm taking the liberty of posting Roger Breedlove's tender and hilarious revelation here...
--Take note you pretty boy hardmen, for if you survive your vain glorious adventures, you too will likely be one day singing this tune!!!

Roger wrote:

Speaking of reinventing oneself, I finally figured out how to drop the unwanted, unusable, unsightly, unmuscle, and most importantly unhealthy fat this year. After dieting daily for 20 years, I had only accumulated an additional 40 pounds. (Average daily calorie intake above my required amount over that time--19.3 calories per day. Who would notice?) Of course it doesn't show on my 14-3 frame. Nevertheless...

Anyway, I have had some success, so to celebrate, I let my salt and pepper (mostly salt) curly hair grow a bit and started using expensive goop to give me a 'style' while trying to avoid being stopped by security as I made my way into the building in clothes that fit like they belong to someone else. (I even allowed extra time for airport security.)

I have not yet figured out how to show off my nascent abs in public short of spilling copious amounts of water on the thinnest of the dress shirts I own in the building cafeteria, and then making a small scene, holding the flex as long as possible, uttering oaths, and patting myself dry while inadvertently pushing my wet shirt tightly against my skin. Of course, I am already in way over my head with the 'style' and baggy clothes, and could never muster the courage.

My bride and youngest daughter are taking a month long trip to Africa in May and all of my wife's friends want to invite me over for dinner. I assure them that I am all set with the grill and a recent subscription to a subsidiary of NetFlix called DDG (Daily Dancing Girls). Now when a middle aged guy with white hair and a paunch makes a statement like that, everyone smiles weakly and looks away, unable to stand being in the presence of such foolishness and clear evidence of the disturbing inability to middle aged men to accept that life moves on. But when a longish curly headed, expensive goop styled, nascent abs middle aged punk makes a statement about DDG when his wife is planning to go away long enough to clean up the damage after the fact, everyone gets nervous.

So I struck a bargain: My bride suggested that I get a bit trimmed off. (Some of you will read ‘suggested’ and correctly guess what was actually said since, at least in this regard, we are all more or less married to the same women.)

I got the hair cut, stopped the DDG subscription, (and threw away the very thin shirt material catalogues) but I kept the goop and the nascent abs.

Getting old can be fun.

All the best, Buzz

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Apr 25, 2008 - 11:59am PT


A magical trip with one of my oldest friends: I woke him up in his van and he said "where you been?" He didn't want to go climbing, so I pestered and goaded and chided and teased until he agreed.
We climbed Freeblast and all was well. I was happy because the machine was working smoothly, just like days of old. I got to watch him lead the hollow flake smooth and strong. I looked down into his smiling face from the ear and dropped my jug while I was fiddling with aiders. "looks like you'll get to figure out how tough the old school guys were with their prussicks" he said.
We saw the spacious beauty of El Cap spire and then continued on to the cramped quarters of Sui Le Tois or however the funny frenchmen spell it. We actually had enough water to leave some for a thirsty young girl who was fighting with her partner a lot. She gave us big hugs back in the valley for saving her. That nice young girl was killed on El Cap for a rookie mistake not long after.
We saw the beauty of the upper Salathe cracks and the headwall, and the space filled my head with the purest joy. The great bonus was my friend who walked to the top with steaks and booze. We partied like kings and laughed the night away.

But I was still hungry and hadn't burned all my leave so we went to the high country. We woke in the wee hours and drank straight shots of espresso. We hiked through perfect high alpine meadows sweating little esspresso bullets.
My friend was an animal, his legs churning like twin pistons. I must have been an animal too, because there I was watching him. We got off route on the approach and climbed some difficult icy cracks with packs. It didn't matter though, the outcome had already been determined lifetimes ago. We would not be stopped by an inconvenience.

Soon the bottom of the great face was in front of us, and we shared leads as always. I lead the hard traverse and he lead the hard offwidth, just as it should be. The work together was so smooth that the pitches fell like leaves and the sky was ours. We lingered for a time on the summit, our last together and watched the sun fall into the western mountains and the far away sea.

La Luna was our giant cosmic flashlight as we descended to the moonscape plateau to hunt for our packs, and hunt, and hunt. After successfully finding the needle in the haystack we climbed down the great mountain, choosing a different door out than we had come in. The day finally wore us down and we filled our plastic bags with needles like the great mountain hobos we were. We rested and watched the stars dance in the great cosmic blanket that god had bended above us. My heart was filled with love for this place, and this man, who I could trust like no other, and I slept.
At the lake where we basked in our success, it all seemed so normal, so a rope that never ended. How could we know? And yet when he said he had to go and find the wind, I begged him to stay.
Something inside of me was speaking, but I couldn't quite make out the words...How could we know that the days of kings were over? Two of us, mighty kings, sharing our overlapping kingdoms. They say dragons never die, unless people stop believing in them. I have always loved legends, and I want to believe them. I will just keep dreaming,......and believing in dragons.

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Apr 25, 2008 - 12:12pm PT

Maybe people can't experience it this way that it's a sport crag....
A bit over the top maybe, and I swiped a couple lines from Robert Hunter, but I was trying to make a point with a friend that it really was magic.


In my youth we were together.
Rob and I, we split the sky.
I was young but I believed. He was brave and strong.
We had seen many hard stones together, but not this stone.

It was big enough to make my mind squirm with fear,
but Rob wasn't afraid. I was young, but I believed.
No fixed ropes, no pitons, no hammers, only heart and sun.

The rope quivered between us, and grew thinner as we climbed.
The stone shimmered in the sun and we thirsted.
The space beneath my feet yawned at me,
but I was young and I believed.

Time had no meaning other than the shadows which brought relief.
We climbed for minutes and hours and they were the same.
We struggled against the mighty pull of the Earth's spinning,
and moved like water flowing uphill.

The resting on Dolt Tower was one of the happiest moments
of my life. Mortal beings cannot imagine the true taste
of canned peaches.

The cool shade behind Texas, the narrow top.
The beauty of the boot and finally,
the mighty swing of Kings. Massive forms
and tiny crystals, all were ours.

The black fear crept into me
but Rob could sing Poncho and Lefty
without water. He was brave
and I believed.

The Great Roof, no sacred cathedral can match.
The perfect Pancake
our evening breakfast.

Camp Five, not like the ones below
where the ant people walked.
They could not be gods like us.
We gazed down at their insignificant world
while the welcome shadow climbed in our footsteps.

Drier than a skeleton's dust, my throat and his,
but we were strong enough to save some precious
liquid in the fragile vessels. A golden chalice
could not have done better.We weren't angry,
the planets were aligned.

My friend and I, sky and star
We sat together in the warm glow
of brotherhood. The resting was long and needed
the cold hollow fear was gone.
He was brave, and I was young,
and I believed.

My hands ached but my heart was laughing.
Our ship sailed along through the straits
of the awesome dihedrals,
that the great spirit himself had cleaved
from this sacred space.

The other world, the world below held no meaning,
except a vague longing,
for comforts left behind.
My muscle and sinew stretched and strained
and my spirit was thin and mixed with space.
I felt I could turn into the stone and never leave it
if I only wished, but my brother brought me back.
He was brave and I was young,
and I believed.

I grew like a billowing cloud while I tied our narrow thread
to the ancient mountain top. I could hardly contain my joy,
from carrying me forever into the spiritworld.
A thousand voices wrapped around me
bright and singing like the twisted manzanita
shining in the sun. My heart ached
because there were no words a tongue could hold.
I bent my ear to hear the tune
and closed my eyes to see.

I wanted so much to describe it to my brother
but there was no need.
When he joined me there in that place,
where others had been, but no one had ever been.
I could see that he knew things that others did not know.

I looked into his smiling face,
and his shining eyes and I knew that I had joined the place,
where shaman could speak with the great stone itself.
Suddenly I realized,
I wasn't the youth I had been........


new york
Apr 25, 2008 - 12:44pm PT
Lynne, we aim to please in NY!
Rockin Gal, some of us think we're still alive only because of our wits and skills, but I'll take a dose of luck anyway.

I'm gonna post a l-o-n-g TR later which includes a close call and apologize in advance for the length. I blame inspiration on Tar and Survival who get at the notion of something raw about climbing that doesn't diminish from rookie to grizzled vet.

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Apr 25, 2008 - 12:51pm PT

wow, thank you. That was very unexpected and kind.
I rarely have a good idea about whether I'm actually getting to what I'm after.

The salty ocean blue and deep
Apr 25, 2008 - 12:55pm PT
Really wonderful writing Survival. Talk about touching the heart...thank you.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 25, 2008 - 01:08pm PT
The longer the better, don't hold back and let'er rip...

Michael Kennedy, in the Mugs Stump thread, posted a really nice story, and he apologized for word count... yeah right. We loved it. I may even dig it up and take the liberty of posting that one here too...
Lynne Leichtfuss

Social climber
valley center, ca
Apr 25, 2008 - 01:40pm PT
Tarbuster, Moffat may be light, but I'll have you know I have NEVER lost a chugging contest in my life except once and that was to a New York young arrogant stockbroker. We did it twice because I could't believe he beat me. He beat me twice by one swallow. I think he cheated. But I couldn't figure out how.

I may not be able to climb yet, but I can chug! and I think I may even work on the climbing, after I chug.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 25, 2008 - 01:43pm PT
That's the spirit Lynne!

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 25, 2008 - 01:52pm PT
I don't want us to get into the habit of posting other people's work here,
But I found this piece about Mugs by Michael Kennedy to exemplify a very personal style:

Michael wrote:

The Dream
High on the Cassin Ridge three climbers considered their options. It was bitter cold and snowing hard, and as far as they could tell they were off route. Searching for a decent bivouac among the windswept granite cliffs, they were astounded to see a lone figure off to the side, climbing quickly and confidently up into the raging storm.
Carrying nothing but the ice tools in his hands, a liter of water, a few energy bars, a stove, and a parka stuffed in a day pack, Mugs Stump paused briefly to shout directions to the trio. Concerned that he'd disappear into the clouds above and never be seen again, they told him he'd be welcome to share their shelter.
It was early in the morning on June 5, 1991. Mugs briefly considered staying with the three climbers. "I knew how bad it could get up high," he said several months later. "I had to make a conscious decision to keep going." But feeling that the storm wouldn't get any worse, he pressed on toward the summit of North America's highest peak.
Mugs had developed a keen sense of the vagaries of the region's weather from his years of experience in the Alaska Range, so the intensity of the storm came as no surprise. He had also made several previous ascents of Denali, including two of the Cassin, and realized that he now might be climbing into a trap. Though he had already dispensed with the major technical difficulties of the route, the wind and cold could stop him dead in his tracks at almost any point. Nearly 4000 feet lay between him and the cloud-encased summit at 20,320 feet. And from there he'd still have to make a tiring, 6000-foot descent before reaching the safety of his camp.
Mugs had started at 14,200 feet on the West Buttress at 9 p.m. the previous night, traversing over and descending the steep West Rib to the start of the Cassin Ridge at 11,500 feet. Near the bottom of the West Rib he encountered a party laboring up the steep snow, belaying each other and carrying heavy loads. "You're bumming our epic, man," one of them commented as Mugs sped past.
Continuing on in the twilight of the Alaskan summer night, he motored up the Japanese Couloir and the ice ridge above, then tackled the difficult traverse necessary to circumvent the bergschrund below the Cassin's hanging glacier at 13,900 feet. At 5 a.m. he came across a Czech climber bivouacked in the first rock band. The weather had started to go bad, and Miroslav Smid made tea while the two got acquainted. "We are solo brothers," Smid told Mugs, offering him a spot in his tattered tent until the weather improved. After a short stop, though, Mugs continued up the route.
By the time he'd reached the off-route party in the second rock band, Mugs was climbing in a full-scale Alaskan blizzard. Yet there was something oddly serene about the snow drifting silently down the steep granite and the surrealistic gray clouds swirling all around. "I felt very comfortable being up there alone, at home," he said later. Even the distant howl of the wind on the summit ridge seemed less threatening than usual.
His intuition about the storm and faith in his capabilities paid off. A few hours later, Mugs climbed through the clouds into the morning sun, and soon he was standing happily atop the Cassin Ridge at 20,000 feet. He had spent 15 hours on a route that even fast roped parties climb in four or five days. Eschewing the summit, a half-hour of easy walking away, he headed down, taking a short nap in the middle of the "Football Field," the19,000-foot summit plateau, along the way. Mugs stumbled back into his camp on the West Buttress at 12:30 a.m. on June 6, just 27 1/2 hours after leaving it.

As long as it was at least a little bit out there, Mugs Stump was always psyched for anything -- big walls, long free routes, frozen waterfalls, or high alpine faces. A true “climber’s climber,” he wanted to be on the edge, pushing the envelope of possibility, getting to that rare place where you climb intuitively, fluidly, unburdened by doubt and fear. Although Mugs readily shared his experiences with friends in conversation and letters, he seldom wrote articles or lectured about his climbs. The act of climbing, the doing, was the important thing. The Emperor Face on Mount Robson in the Canadian Rockies, the East Face of the Moose's Tooth and the Moonflower Buttress on Mount Hunter in Alaska, his two big solo routes on Mount Gardiner and Mount Tyree in Antarctica, and his one-day solo of the Cassin were all precedent-setting climbs, but he wasn't primarily concerned with either his physical performance or making history. For Mugs was more than just a superb athlete -- he pursued his climbing, and his life, as a quest for spiritual enlightenment, a search for the godhead.
Other climbers were stunned by his rapid solo of the Cassin -- the closest anyone has come to his time was Charlie Porter, who took 36 hours from the top of the Japanese Couloir during the first solo of the route in 1976 -- but Mugs considered this audacious ascent as just another step along the path he'd been following for well over a decade. Inspired by the enchainments done in the Alps, he'd even thought about doing a super link-up of hard routes on Denali, Mount Foraker, and Mount Hunter, the three highest summits in the Alaska Range. It would be a project of almost unimaginable proportions, involving miles of glacier travel and close to 30,000 feet of elevation gain as well as difficult climbing in harsh Arctic conditions.
Before the Cassin solo, he had planned to solo a new route leading up from the head of the remote Peters Glacier to Denali's north summit, and after a rest, go on to the Cassin. "The Fathers and Sons Face [as he had named his proposed route] has become a deep part of me," he wrote in his journal at the time. "It can be done on-sight and solo, and it is extreme and big and at altitude in Alaska! It is the epitome of this type of big mountain climbing." But during a lengthy reconnaissance and acclimatization period on the nearby West Buttress, he became increasingly concerned with the amount of new snow building up on the route. He decided to leave it for another year, opting for the Cassin alone.
"The Cassin wasn't the ultimate," Mugs told me later, as we sat around his ramshackle house in Sandy, Utah, last February. "What it really did was to open my mind to lots of other possibilities." We talked about some of those possibilities, about climbs past and what he or I or our contemporaries might be capable of, about what the next generation of alpinists would do and the potential adventures that would be left for our children.
As always, Mugs was full of plans: for 1992 alone, he had lined up forays to the Black Canyon, Yosemite, Alaska, Baffin Island, and Antarctica. He was in the middle of negotiating the purchase of the house he'd lived in for several years, and he had hopes of getting a concessionaire's permit to guide on Denali. He was as happy and as at peace with himself as I'd ever known him to be.
It was an enlightening discussion, pleasantly interrupted by friends passing through on their way to a ski tour, random questions from other house guests, and numerous trips to Mugs' library to dig out references to certain peaks or faces. Crumpled sleeping bags littered much of the open floor space, and ropes, racks, and ice gear haphazardly decorated the walls. We parted with tentative plans for a climb together in 1993, our first in several years.
"Much form and concentration," he wrote to his parents in March after making the first winter ascent of the Hallucinogen Wall in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado, with John Middendorf. "Home on the stone. Close to those I love and the 'big force.'" The day before Mugs left for Alaska later that spring, he told me about the Hallucinogen and we talked about our proposed trip, going over the mundane details of peak fees and the logistics of Third-World travel. "Do you think you'll really be able to spend that much time away from home?" he asked me, more concerned about how I'd feel leaving my young son for such an extended period of time.
Three weeks later, on a perfect Saturday morning as I packed lunch before leaving for a mountain-bike ride, the phone rang. It was Billy Westbay, an old Colorado climber I hadn't seen in years, who had been to India with Mugs in 1988. He had terrible news. On May 21, Mugs was killed while guiding two clients down Denali's South Buttress in a storm, the victim of a simple misjudgment and a substantial dose of bad luck. Investigating the route ahead, he'd strayed too close to the unstable edge of a huge crevasse. When it collapsed, Mugs fell in and was buried beneath the jumbled mass of ice.

Mugs started climbing at a relatively late age -- he was 26 when he did his first roped climbs in Utah -- but his sense of the spiritual potential of athletics started early on. "I can look back and I remember ... when I first realized that my life was not going to be as [his father's], an incredible feeling of freedom, realizing a choice that was a part of me," Mugs wrote in his journal on the Kahiltna Glacier in Alaska in the mid-1980s. "I was lying on the grass end of Dietrich Field watching the clouds pass over the mountains and Mifflintown [his hometown in Pennsylvania]. I had just run about 15 miles. Something in me so natural created by the push of my physical body. An opening of my mind brought to be part of the beauty of the earth around me. I thought of the abilities I had and how high they could take me, and how close to God, the spirit that is in everything, I felt when using them. I thought then I would probably be a professional athlete. I was 15."
Born and raised in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, where his parents still live, Terry Manbeck Stump started fishing, hunting, and camping at an early age with his father, Warren, and his brothers, Ed, Quig, and Thad. His mother, Sis, remembers him as a happy and energetic child who nevertheless seemed to live by the adage "question authority." Although sometimes unruly, Mugs was well liked by his teachers and often displayed a surprising sensitivity for one so outwardly tough.
During his first couple of months at grade school, his mother recalls, Terry, as he was then known, would cry and cling to her leg when she dropped him off. He later told her that he remembered being afraid of his first-grade teacher. His father, who worked hard at the family's grain-and-feed business, was usually gone early in the morning, but eventually he became the one to take Terry to school, and the crying stopped. Later, in high school, when his classmates made life hell for their ninth-grade homeroom teacher, Terry told his mother he felt for sorry him. "The way some of those kids treat Duffy [as the teacher was nicknamed]," he told her, "I'd like to hit them."
Mugs played baseball, basketball, and football throughout his school years. He made the honor roll in his senior year of high school, and also was an all–state quarterback and captain of the "Big 33," a team of the best high school players in Pennsylvania -- a state in which people eat, breathe, and sleep football. "I remember when you (Dad) came up to the field in the evening and would stand by the stands and watch me do my drills," Mugs wrote in his Kahiltna journal. "I would push hard for you, a communication we made to each other without saying a word. It made me so proud and happy. Wanting you to know that I loved what you gave me."
He attended Pennsylvania State University on a football scholarship, and his teammates came up with "Mugs," the moniker he’s been known by ever since. By the time he'd graduated in 1971 with a degree in Recreation and Health, Mugs had started in two Orange Bowls. "He wasn't the best athlete on the team," says Joe Paterno, the well-known Penn State coach, "but Terry was very enthusiastic and courageous, a strong leader, and a hard worker." He was also an independent thinker. Paterno recalls that Mugs was the only player he ever had to tell to get a haircut. When he informed Mugs that he had a choice of playing second-string quarterback or third-string defensive back for senior year, an undaunted Mugs told him he'd play defensive back and start in every game, which he ended up doing.
After college he skied in Aspen, Colorado, for a winter, and then played a year of semi–professional football. Mugs realized that he was probably too small to make it into the big leagues, and he moved to Snowbird, Utah, in the winter of 1972–1973 to ski full time.
Mugs soon became well known for his go-for-it-attitude both on the hill and off -- wild apres-ski parties being the major form of entertainment in the isolated Snowbird community -- and after two years of skiing virtually anything that held snow, found himself increasingly drawn to the backcountry. He spent his summers roaming the Wasatch wilderness surrounding Snowbird and by the winter of 1974–1975 had given up lift skiing in favor of touring. Bill MacIlmoyl, Mugs' roomate at the time and a constant companion both on and off the slopes, recalls, "Mugs' favorite thing was to go up early and lay down a bunch of tracks before the helicopter skiers came out."
As Mugs ventured into steeper and wilder terrain, he sought out local climbers and avalanche experts for advice, and in the summer of 1975 made his first roped climbs. "Rock climbing is the ultimate spiritual communication with our center – God!" he wrote to his parents that fall. Climbing soon supplanted skiing as his raison d'être. As he and MacIlmoyl watched the sun come up after a night on the summit of Mount Timpanagos early in the summer of 1976, Mugs said, "This is what I want to do -- climb all over, do big routes, really big routes."

A quick study, Mugs soon started to do routes that were hard by anyone's standards. In the summer of 1977 he spent two months in Chamonix, France, climbing classic snow and ice routes. The trip culminated in an epic attempt on the Dru Couloir (then regarded as one of the most difficult ice climbs in the Alps) with Randy Trover, Steve Shea, and Jack Roberts. Starting out with no bivy gear, and food and water for a single day, they got off route and were trapped on the face by a storm for two days. They barely made it off the mountain alive when, in the worsening storm, the ropes repeatedly froze to the anchors; unable to pull them through any more, the four finally abandoned them on the last rappel. "If we'd started down 10 minutes later," said Trover at a memorial service held for Mugs in Utah last summer, "they would have been doing this for both of us 15 years ago."
The climbs only got harder. In spring, 1978, Mugs attempted the second ascent of the Hummingbird Ridge on Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak, with Trover, Jim Logan, and Barry Sparks. After 10 days of hard climbing and marginal bivouacs on a new direct start, the four reached the point where the original ascent party had gained the upper ridge, but retreated with several thousand feet and many corniced miles still to go. For Mugs, it was nevertheless a pivotal climb. "He came away from the Hummingbird knowing he could do anything he wanted," says Trover.
Later that summer, Mugs and Logan returned to Canada intent on the Emperor Face on Mount Robson. Logan, a very experienced climber from Colorado, had tried the unclimbed face three times previously, and now the pair was determined, as Logan later wrote in the 1979 American Alpine Journal, "to spend all summer if need be in the attempt." They spent two weeks observing their route and waiting out storms from a camp near Berg Lake, then clearing weather prompted them to move up to a bivouac at the base of the 4000-foot upper wall.
On the second day, 60-degree ice slopes interspersed with thinly iced rock steps -- the most difficult ice climbing Logan had ever done -- took the pair to a good bivouac on a snow rib in the center of the face. The difficult mixed climbing continued to an uncomfortable third bivouac on tiny seats chipped out of a 70-degree ice slope. A storm moved in that night, and spindrift avalanches threatened to push the two off their airy perch.
The final headwall loomed above. Mugs led up steepening ice to its base, then Logan took over the crux lead, a full ropelength of intricate aid and mixed climbing on loose rock. It took him eight hours. A few more easy ice pitches and they reached the summit ridge, where they spent the night.
Mugs and Logan had made the first ascent of one of North America's greatest alpine prizes, a route that had repulsed numerous attempts by some of the strongest climbers of the day. The achievement gave Mugs a heightened sense of inner strength and a feeling of the "rightness" of the path he'd chosen. "I have felt myself going through some amazing changes on the walls in the last year, becoming totally relaxed and comfortable, feeling like this is the place I belong," he wrote to his parents several months later. "It can be so peaceful ... even in the most extreme situations. Feelings of endless space and time made so real, a closeness to nature. A sense of accomplishment and a sense of worthlessness – a combination that feels so fine."

Mugs had a recurring dream that he related often to his friends. In it he had just climbed a very challenging new route, sometimes alone, at other times with a partner, but the style was always impeccable: using neither pitons nor aid, he had done it quickly, leaving no trace of his passage. Next in the dream, he went to a pub and was sitting in the corner with his girlfriend when a group of climbers who had just done the same route came in. The climbers were toasting themselves about their seeming first ascent, and after joining their celebration Mugs would sit back and smile. All that was important, he would say, was his own knowledge that he had done the climb the way he'd wanted to.
The dream represented an ideal that Mugs would pursue consciously and persistently throughout his life. "Doing the extreme is not the point," he wrote to his parents after climbing Fitzroy in 1980. "I care less and less about that, but the desire to climb and be with nature's and the mountain's forces is still there, strong as ever. I don't care about accomplishments. I care about fulfilling dreams of being happy." To Mugs, being happy would mean achieving an ego-less state of perfection, "Living outside and exercising, moving every day, climbing -- just looking." Even at his house in Sandy, he'd sometimes sleep in his van with the doors open.
Although Mugs traveled widely and loved rock climbing perhaps best of all, the snowy expanses of the polar regions are where he came closest to reaching his ideals. He made four trips to Antarctica under contract with the National Science Foundation. He took his work as a safety consultant as seriously as his guiding. "Mugs was not just a one-man climbing machine, he was into doing the best job possible to ensure the science was done," says Paul Fitzgerald, a geologist who worked with Mugs both in Antarctica and Alaska. "Of all the field assistants I've had, Mugs was easily the best, not just because he was the best climber, but because he really got to understand why we wanted to do things the way we did."
Mugs developed a special affinity for the pristine and barren continent of Antarctica, and did much off-the-record exploratory mountaineering there, including two of his purest climbs ever, the 7000–foot Southwest Face of Mount Gardner and the 8000–foot West Face of Mount Tyree — each solo, without bivy gear, and in a single day. He never said much about any of his climbs in Antarctica (outside of sharing information for a brief report I wrote for Climbing in 1990 highlighting the Gardner and Tyree ascents), preferring, I think, to share the memories and feelings engendered by these remote gems with only a few close friends.
Well before his first trip to Antarctica in 1980, Mugs had ventured north, and over time, Alaska would become his spiritual home. "It's so, so beautiful, unique," he wrote his parents in 1984. "Subarctic lands have such a vast, quiet beauty, a stillness I really hope I get the chance to share with you."
The pioneer atmosphere and booming economy of the 49th state also appealed to his free-spirited nature. In the late 1970s and early 1980s Mugs earned his living between climbs by salmon fishing off the Alaskan coast. Later, he guided extensively on Denali and elsewhere in the Alaska Range. He returned again and again to peaks surrounding the Ruth Gorge, attempting Mount Johnson several times and climbing a host of routes on lesser-known peaks in the area.
His greatest climbs in the Alaska Range, however, were on three of the region’s most celebrated mountains, the Moose's Tooth, Mount Hunter, and Denali, the first two just a few months apart in 1981. In March of that year, Mugs and the legendary Yosemite hardman Jim Bridwell made the first ascent of the East Face of the Moose’s Tooth, a 4500-foot wall that had repulsed some 10 strong attempts in the previous decade, including one by Mugs and Jim Logan in 1979. Mugs and Bridwell's was an exceptionally bold effort over five days in frigid conditions and with minimal food and equipment.
After several days of storm, the two started out a bit hungover after "deliberating on whether to wait another day while consuming large quantities of whiskey," as Bridwell wrote in his 1981 article about the route. In contrast to the earlier attempts, which had all concentrated on the central aid line, Stump and Bridwell climbed icy gullies to the right, then traversed back left on sparsely protected ramps to the center of the wall. They tackled the crux section of the climb, seven pitches of steep, ice-choked chimneys, on the second day, then continued up an A4 headwall and more tenuous mixed climbing on the third. Gorp, coffee with sugar, and two packets of soup were their entire rations for the climb, so when the pair reached the top on their fourth day they were hungry and severely dehydrated.
After a bivouac near the summit, the pair dropped onto a 1500-foot rock face, aiming for a wide snow couloir that would eventually deposit them at their basecamp at the bottom of the wall. As they descended, the rock got worse and worse. They hadn't brought any bolts, and wished they had. Ten pitches down, they had no choice but to rappel from a single #3 Stopper. As Bridwell started off, Mugs looked at the anchor and reached towards it, ready to unclip, then dropped his hand. He'd prefer a quick end to a futile wait of a day or two. One more rappel got them to the snow, and two hours later they were celebrating in their tent on the Buckskin Glacier.
Although Mugs would later say that his and Bridwell's climb was, in retrospect, unjustifiably risky and probably not worth repeating, he had no such doubts about his other great Alaskan climb that year. The Moonflower Buttress on Mount Hunter, which he climbed with Paul Aubrey, represented a quantum leap in technical difficulty for climbs in the Alaska Range. Asked 10 years later what had been his best route, Mugs said, "Probably the Moonflower Buttress -- doing it just like I'd hoped. It was a very aesthetic line, safe and difficult. It had all the elements."
It was also the only climb on which Mugs ever published an article. The story, which appeared in Mountain 85 and the 1982 American Alpine Journal, describes a four-day odyssey, punctuated by precarious bivouacs and the odd pitch of aid, up icy ramps and grooves. "I thought of what I'd done to get here, not just in the last four days but in the years past," Mugs wrote of the final night. "I felt part of some great movement, one of an infinite scale, too grand to see but only to feel in the night's wind ... In the vastness in front of me, I felt even more isolated. I was a shell, the same as the figure beside me and the mountains around. I felt an aloneness, my thoughts totally my own, creating a peacefulness of beauty and friendships."
"No place to stop, there was no need to stop," he would write about the last pitch of the route, an ice-filled vertical crack he managed to free climb. "Freedom was my catalyst as I deliberately and methodically made each placement. As I pulled over the top and onto the summit slope I was envisioning a crack such as this running for days ... I didn't want the feeling to stop." A mile and a half of steep snow climbing would have gotten them to the summit of Mount Hunter, but satisfied with the effort, they rappelled the route, reaching the bottom that afternoon. "I climbed to the top of the photo" was Mugs' usual response to questions about why they didn't go to the summit. (Mount Hunter's North Buttress, as Stump and Aubrey's route is also known, was climbed to the summit in 1983 by Todd Bibler and Doug Klewin. The route has been repeated several times since, becoming something of a modern Alaskan classic.)
Summing up an incredible year, Mugs wrote later in 1981, "My imagination is a gift for my life. The climbs to do are creations – to understand what is there, not to be surprised. The more I have done and been with other climbing partners, the more I have learned about myself. I am so lucky to have such a life, to have such freedom – not the political or social, but the freedom that is my spirit."

Climbers are prone to a certain hubris, and Mugs was no exception. At his best he was generous, supportive, and enthusiastic, but he could also be selfish, insensitive, and moody. More than anything, he wanted to be a good person -- humble, open, caring, and, above all, centered -- and he struggled mightily with his own ego and insecurities in finding that perfection.
His relationships with his many girlfriends, in particular, were intense and joyful, but often strained. "We struggled in the relationship because he could not be owned," says Lynne Romano of her time with Mugs in the past two years. "I finally asked him for more than he could give me, and we were no more." It seemed as though he could relate more openly to women he wasn't intimately involved with. Indeed, he counted many women, several of them ex-girlfriends, as his closest friends.
"He was the most important person in my life," says Mona Wilcox, who lived with Mugs on and off in the 1970s. "He taught me everything -- about the mountains, climbing, skiing, living." She is happily married to one of Mugs' old climbing partners from Telluride, but she and Mugs regularly kept in touch with each other over the years. "Words just don't fulfill the experience of things like I am trying to say and do," Mugs wrote to Mona in 1985. "I'm glad that you know me and know what I hope to be and feel in my life."
"Mugs had a huge ego -- he was the most selfish person I've ever known," says Jenny Edwards, an occupational therapist whose Anchorage house and Talkeetna cabin had been his base of operations in Alaska since the mid-1980s. The two were incredibly close nevertheless. "I knew Mugs neither as a guide or a climbing partner," says Jenny, "but as a spirit sister and soul mate, and loved him with his imperfections as he did me."
Diane Okonek, a long-time friend from Talkeetna, also remembers his sensitive side. "Mugs would always come by and we would spend a few hours catching up on each others' lives," she says of his return to Alaska each spring. "Sometimes we would laugh and sometimes we would cry, and it was always a special time for us both. I have always thought of Mugs as one of those rare men who was self confident enough to allow his gentle side to show."
Mugs could be intimidating to those who didn't know him well, but it usually didn't take long to break through that shell. "I have climbed on and off for 30 years and have never met a guide as considerate, capable, and likable as Mugs," says Bob Hoffman, one of the clients with Mugs at the time of his death. "He had a gift for bringing out the best in people, for showing them how to overcome fear and do things they felt unable to do."
Mugs was a good mentor and coach, although he could be demanding. "Some days he would be excited that I was climbing better than he. He was proud that my skills were shaped by his actions," says Conrad Anker, Mugs' protégé over the past several years. "Other days he would hold the high ground and rub it in that I was still the grasshopper." The two climbed extensively in Utah, Yosemite, and Alaska, forming a lasting friendship. In an exercise to help develop mental toughness, Mugs and Anker once drove all the way from Salt Lake City to Yosemite without talking. "By being stronger in the mind," says Anker, "Mugs felt one would be better prepared to tackle the big climbs."

In 1983, Mugs and I spent eight long, difficult days on the West Face of Gasherbrum IV. On our second night out, we bivouacked sitting up in the open as a light snow fell. I stayed up late melting snow and passing hot drinks to Mugs, huddled deep in his sleeping bag next to me. But the frigid night air aggravated my already chronic cough, and in the morning I knew that I wasn't going to be climbing well. Mugs took over the lead without hesitation and got us to the base of the Black Towers at 22,500 feet, the high point of several previous attempts on the face. After we'd chopped out an airy bivouac site from the crest of an ice ridge, he led a short, difficult chimney, and fixed a rope.
Good bivouacs were rare on the face and we knew that the climbing above would be time-consuming, so we anticipated staying where we were for two nights. A thin scud of gray clouds veiled the sky the following morning. As always, Mugs gave me the thumbs up as I started up the next pitch, a rotten, poorly protected overhang that left me gasping. The climbing felt like 5.12, but it would probably have been 5.8 in rock shoes at sea level. Mugs continued on, free climbing and then aiding up the steep, friable rock. He finished the pitch with a spectacular double pendulum, reaching the top of the Black Towers. We'd done what we thought would be the crux of the route, and even though we still had over 3000 feet to go, the way ahead was clear. Our two ropes barely reached the tent as we rappelled down in the worsening spindrift.
We settled into "the hang," rationing our remaining supply of oatmeal, tea, soup, and dehydrated potatoes in hopes that the storm would move through quickly enough to allow us to continue. For the first few days we maintained our psyche, but as the avalanches boomed all around it soon became obvious that we weren't going anywhere but down. We spent five storm-bound nights in the cramped Bibler tent before retreating. "I thought I'd never go back to the mountains again," Mugs later told a slide show audience in New Hampshire.
When we reached the relative safety of the West Gasherbrum Glacier, Mugs strode out ahead, anxious to rid himself of the intensity of the face, to go the last few miles at his own pace. I trudged on well behind him, lost in my own disappointment about the route. A couple of hours later I crested a little bump in the glacier, and there was Mugs, waiting so we could walk back into basecamp together.
A year later, Mugs, Laura O'Brien, Randy Trover, and I traveled to northern India to try the virgin Northwest Face of Thalay Sagar, a peak that had seen just two ascents at the time. We planned on climbing independently as two ropes of two, but from the start a subtle tension was in the air. We'd had some minor hassles with the Indian bureaucracy over Laura's late addition to the team. Mugs was sullen and uncommunicative with all of us. In particular, he didn't seem to be getting along too well with Laura, who was his girlfriend and climbing partner. A few days after reaching basecamp, Trover had to retreat to Gangotri, the nearest village, for several days to recover from a bronchial infection. To top off our problems, persistent storms battered the peak, plastering our proposed route with snow and rendering it too dangerous to climb.
We turned our attention to the elegant Northeast Pillar, which after several attempts had been climbed by a Polish/Norwegian team in 1983. It had also been our original objective when I'd applied for the permit for Thalay Sagar in 1982, so as a consolation prize it wasn't bad. Laura and Mugs tried it first, but high winds low on the route beat them back. When Trover and I passed them on our way up, all Mugs would say was that we didn't have a chance. "It has been a rough day, and a rough last week," he wrote to his parents at the time. "I've been very frustrated lately and going through the usual questions of the value of what I pursue at times like this."
Trover and I made the climb despite the continued bad weather. It was a hard-won summit, my first after four trips to Asia. Trover had put in a stellar effort for his first climb in the Himalaya, especially considering his earlier illness and relative lack of acclimatization. We'd pushed hard all the way, especially on the descent, knowing that the porters were scheduled to arrive the morning we would return to basecamp.
But when we got there early on September 15, camp was empty. No one had waited for us or left us any food or even a note. We were disappointed and angry, but not too surprised given Mugs' moodiness over the past weeks. We stashed our climbing gear in a couple of duffel bags under a boulder and trudged down the valley. Late that afternoon in Gangotri, Laura ran up to us full of smiles and hugs and questions about the climb. Mugs, who was cooking some eggs on the porch of a teahouse, barely glanced up.
We moved to another basecamp nearby to try Shivling, but Trover and I were burned out, so we headed home. Mugs and Laura stayed on for a few weeks and didn't manage to accomplish anything. Our trip to India ended on a sour note, and we other three drifted apart from Mugs for a while. "I thought we'd never speak to each other again, let alone climb together," says Trover, who had learned to climb with Mugs and had been one of his best friends.
Each of us eventually made our peace with him. "Mugs and I knew each other well enough that we didn't need to say anything," says Trover. "Just going climbing together was an acknowledgment that we were friends and that things would work out." The rift wasn't easily healed, but the two eventually became closer than ever. "The last three years were the best time for our relationship, despite the fact that we did almost no climbing together," says Trover, who with his wife, Adrienne, now has a three-year-old son, Eric. "We became his surrogate family. The way Mugs latched onto Eric was incredible – I think he realized it was as close as he'd ever get to having children."
When I had left India, I'd thought that Mugs had simply gotten too full of himself. He seemed to feel that his obvious talent and drive somehow made him a better person than the rest of us, and that the world owed him something. He had even expressed some bitterness over the fact that we'd paid for the entire trip out of our own pockets, forgetting that it had been largely a matter of our own choice not to seek sponsorship.
In retrospect, it seems to me that Mugs underwent something of a spiritual crisis at that time, that he lost sight of his chosen path. Success in the mountains didn't come as easily as it had for several years. He made two more frustrating trips to India to try Meru, for example, as well as three attempts on the East Buttress of Mount Johnson in Alaska. They were the only two routes he returned to that many times. Others I've spoken with have commented that Mugs seemed out of sorts for a lengthy period of time in the mid- to late-1980s. A letter he wrote to Mona Wilcox in 1985 while he was recovering from knee surgery confirms this impression: "It's been good to have this quiet, still, sedative time here to catch up on some thinking ways, reading and going into my spirit some, to try and reach some understanding about myself [that has] slipped away the last couple of years. I haven't felt as centered as I used to."
In the end, Randy, Laura, and I gained a deeper understanding of both ourselves and of Mugs, and developed a stronger and more complete friendship with him, as have many who were close to him as he grappled with the vicissitudes of his life.

We all struggle to balance our inner yearnings with the demands of the world; our lives are littered to one degree or another with unkept promises to ourselves and others, but we hope that our existence has a purpose beyond the self. It was this search for a deeper meaning that always preoccupied Mugs.
In December, 1991, Mugs went back East for the first time in several years to visit his family and friends, and at Christmas his father told him he was facing some serious potential health problems. "What a month this has been with the closeness to death," Mugs later wrote. "Many thoughts about the fullness and happiness that is held with our friends. I do in my personal (and selfish?) self find a lot of peace and happiness in this drifting way with climbing and the mountains. But it is so good to see those close to us and give our time to those we love."
Earlier in December, Mugs stayed by the bedside of Gavin Borden as he succumbed to the final stages of cancer in a New York hospital. A wealthy heir and publisher of college textbooks, Borden had been Mugs' best client, but more than that he became a true friend. His death affected Mugs deeply. "The feeling of love and caring for others seems to be a natural part of us, yet so many times we don't let it out," Mugs wrote. "I guess one way I keep a positive outlook is by trying to keep aware that we are all of the same place. When I look into Gavin's eyes or my dad's eyes and I see the fear and worry, I just wish I could somehow help them have peace.
"Our lives are so wonderful and it's all we really know," Mugs concluded. "We want to keep its joys, but there must be such an amazing awakening in death. I can't imagine that the supreme God is not realized, or at least in a way there is a true awakening that we are all a part of it."

-Originally published in Climbing, February/March 1993.
From the super topo thread, "mugs" by Conrad Anker:

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 25, 2008 - 01:53pm PT
My intent for this thread was for us "average, regular, everyday supertopians” to share our experiences and writings in an uninhibited way.

Of course, average, regular, everyday supertopians is a misnomer, because what we have here is very special: it's the confluence and aggregation of our tribe at large. A lot of us, at one time or another, put quite a bit of ourselves into climbing, then went "back into the world" and are now rejoining in this reflective space. We've also got some neat writing being shared by young people, people such as James. And we have so many "greats" here on the forum, with the likes of Doug Robinson, Pat Ament, Tom Higgins, Peter Haan, and oh gosh, John Gill -so many have passed this way with their thoughts…

So, this thread has worked out well.
I encourage all who read and post in these pages to share some words and leave a little piece of yourselves here.

new york
Apr 25, 2008 - 02:12pm PT
Bonne Chance (Part I)

August 25th 7:00 AM I’m scrambling right down to the wire, as usual. The Alps await and we leave for the airport shortly. My partner Gerry is due to show up any minute. He’s been awake since 5:00 AM going through his own last minute checklist. For both of us, today is the culmination to months of thought focused on streamlining what will fit into two checked bags and a carry-on. Give me a month to prepare, and it’ll take a month. Give me an hour, and an hour’ll do. It really doesn’t matter, though – something always gets left behind. As I make the final zip on my bags, I wonder what will be forgotten this time as Gerry suddenly arrives ready to go. Time’s up.

This current adventure, however, is no ordinary trip for us. We take extra pains to predict what we need. This trip is to be our grand transition to the major leagues. It’s our time to step up to the plate to find out if we’re worthy of our daydreams. A desire to measure ourselves against a bigger yardstick has compelled us to place our hands on the very stone that our heroes have built their legends on. We leave the local crags behind to pursue bigger and better things.

“Hey, Brian, you’re drooling,” Gerry laughs. The glaze vanishes from my eyes, and I snap out of it immediately. The time is at hand, and we’re off. Sixteen hours later, after hurried goodbyes to my wife Kym and son Conor, we arrive exhausted in Zurich. Although we are sleep deprived and delirious, we are spurred on by that euphoric anticipation that only the brink of adventure provides. We point the car immediately toward Grindelwald and head to the mountains. The scenery along the way is magnificent if only for a glimpse of the sheer scale that lies ahead of us.

“Where the hell is Interlaken?”

“Oh, OK, turn here.”

First coming into view of the Monch, we chorused, “Hey, is that the Eiger?”

GRINDLEWALD. It was simply incredible that we were finally there, and we tried to take it all in. The day was beautiful and the Eiger followed us everywhere, dominating the town and our consciousness. We explored around the village sensing the rich history among the blend of the old and the new. While surveying the hordes of tourists, we marveled at the random assortment of people who flock to the legend of the Eigerwand, ourselves included. We spent our first full day stumbling around Grindelwald trying to somehow shake off the New York time zone.

It was during one of our fervent attempts to acclimate by consuming alcohol that we met some other climbers who could speak English. Shep and Robin from Canada joined us at an outdoor café with Eiger view. They had spent the summer roaming throughout Europe climbing, and we hoped to gain some insight into what may be in store for us locally. We wondered what secrets they knew of the Eiger, and almost immediately we bared our souls to them, revealing our intentions to warm up on the mountain. Well, the West Flank anyway.

Once we laid our plans on the table, we searched their eyes trying to gauge from their reaction the feasibility of the endeavor. The Eiger aura had us fully in its’ snare, and we wanted assurance that even the modest West Flank would be reasonable for us. Well, rather than counseling us to some other course, they beamed smiles and suggested they’d come too. Then, incredibly to me, they asked us if they might need boots and crampons!
Well, not to sound too uninformed, I advised I had some vague suspicions that the top-out might require some crampons, and maybe even an axe. Inwardly, I knew that there was no remote chance of me going up there without them. I silently marveled that they would consider taking it on with just rock shoes. What were we getting into? I’m not one to mention climbing projects idly. The Eiger, especially, holds some historically sacred value to me that would not allow its’ name to be casually bandied about. I needed the firmest of convictions just to broach mention of getting on it. Yet, casually the words, “Eiger, Monday” had floated from my lips and breezed across the table to Shep, Robin, and Gerry. The words then drifted off to the very heights of the mountain which lay within our gaze, as beer and wine fueled the night.

Monday came quickly. We caught the first train up to Klein Scheidegg with no sign of the Canadians anywhere. On the train ride up, we craned our necks to seek out the legendary features of the North Face familiar to any dreamer. We mixed in with the other climbers, catching those measuring glances that transcend mere language barriers, and we too wondered what lay in store for each climber that day. At Klein Scheidegg, everyone got off and reboarded another train for the next leg. It seemed rather decadent taking the train but somehow it fueled our eager anticipation. The train hauled us up, stopping at Eigergletsch Station, and we stepped off into the gloomy shroud of a Sherlock Holmesian fog. We were the only ones to get off and the train soon disappeared into the thick fog. It seemed that all the other climbers were heading off to some more intelligent destination. Gerry looked over to me and shrugged. I returned a vapid smile saying, “Hey, it’s early yet. This will all burn off in awhile.” When the fog did lift, it revealed the West Flank newly pasted with a fresh layering of snow on what had been sunny dry rock the day before. Echoing down from the loftiest reaches of the mountain the wind carried the faintest whisper reminding, “Eiger, Monday.” We each stood a moment to pause with our own thoughts, and with surprising ease, the idea of “Eiger, Tuesday” came to my mind.

“Hey, Brian, you’re drifting”, Gerry said. I snapped out of it immediately, and we began the approach to the base of a legend. OK, well, really we were gonna sneak up on it from the side.

“Looks great,” we said. “We’ll rope up anytime it gets, you know, too out there.”

The skies eventually cleared. Along the way, the day unfolded to glory and grandeur with the Monch and the Jungfrau to our right as majestic companions to cheer us on. A hanging glacier on the Monch unleashed a powerful noise, and our heads jerked up to watch what seemed the smallest bits of ice rubble dislodge and give in to gravity’s sway. It defined the power and beauty of this mountain playground, a power that dwarfed the scrambling efforts of those who wander through hoping to emerge from its’ shadow unscathed.

Indeed, we, too, moved along with a renewed sense of respect for this power. We picked our way through terrain that has been described as layers of broken dinner plates piled atop each other, but loved every minute of the adventure. As the lower third of the mountain yielded easily to us, we chased doubt back into dark recesses, and began to envision a successful outing. A moderate snow slope led us up to the beginnings of the real rock trickery. Delicate climbing and traversing with the packs was required, but not quite enough to warrant a rope as of yet. We passed a meager belay, continuing to puzzle our way along, happy to see some confirmation that we might be in the right neighborhood. Above some minor difficulties, the angle relaxed, and, still unroped, I took off my pack to recon the leftward traverse to the ridge that would deliver the summit. Rather than wait for Gerry a minute, I figured I’d scope out the best way to gain the ridge.

Moving along throughout the day, I had gone from measured caution to a full blown state of hubris, defying the elements. I knew it was icy, and all it takes is a patch of ice the size of a matchbook cover to kill you. Within a lightning streaks instant, my world unhinged, as my left foot shot up like a circus clown on a banana peel. A seering pain charged through my foot from the ankle to midway up the outside of my calf, and I took three quick dance steps on sloping ground toward oblivion. The quickness and severity of the strike surprised me. In a moment it was over and I had danced around almost fully 360 degrees with those three recovery steps. Amazingly, though stricken and wounded, I was still on my feet, facing out into the void. Had I gone down, I don’t think I would have had much chance of avoiding the bigger plunge.

Gerry hadn’t caught up yet and I was still absorbing what had just transpired when he came into view.

“Gerry, I’m so sorry, man. I have to go down.”

Gerry laughed and smiled at me. I took a deep breath and Gerry still stood there with this huge smile that demanded that I let him in on the joke.

“I’m not kidding, Gerry. My ankle is done.”

We stood across from each other on the sloping ground, and he began to grasp that I was serious.

“And I’ve gotta go now.”

The ridge leading to the summit was tantalizingly close. I wondered if I could scrabble up, but it was coming down that really bothered me. I knew that regaining that meager belay to rap from would be the key to getting me off this thing. There was no way I could downclimb the first hard key sections with this ankle.

On the train down, Gerry said I looked so crestfallen and robbed that he could hardly feel bad that his own trip was likely ruined, too. Getting down off the mountain was slow but workable. On making our way to the hospital, I found I could walk. I was happy I could walk, but I could only walk straight on. The slightest twists on the way down had me clenching my teeth and growling anguished sounds to join the whisper of “Eiger, Monday”. As we waited in a small side room for a doctor, I dreaded the prospect of taking off the boot. I convinced myself it would be better to wait for the doctor. We waited ten minutes. No doctor. Another twenty minutes went by and impatience took over. To hell with waiting, it was time to ease off the boot. I braced for what I imagined might be a mass of swollen purplish flesh, while the boot removed easily. When I pulled off the sock my foot looked fine. In fact, it felt fine. I was amazed and astounded. How could this be the same source of misery that had just tortured me all the way back down the West Flank of the Eiger? It seemed nothing short of a second miracle for me today. We asked the nurse if she minded if we just left and she blinked at us as we turned to leave. The lounging ambulance drivers with cigarettes dangling from their lips just stared at us as we walked out and let the door swing closed behind us. They had my name and address, but that was about it.

So I could walk, sort of. Naturally, it was an easy leap to suppose that if I could walk, then I could probably climb something. It was Gerry who suggested that we leave Grindelwald, and head for Grimselpass. I couldn’t have been more pleased. Grimselpass was said to offer some fine granite climbing and it sounded delightful to me. At that moment, it was difficult to say which might have made me happier: the simple fact that I was still alive, or, perhaps, just the mere prospect of salvaging the climbing trip.

GRIMSELPASS provided the ideal testing ground for a troubled ankle. The granite was beautiful and the climbing varied. We opted for first trying me out on that most treacherous of crucibles: the slab. This particular medium of granite offered the ideal proving ground to gauge my ankle’s tolerance for footwork. The slab does not generally allow brute strength to cheat your way through. It demanded enough finesse and foot control to truly judge what I could get away with. Gerry’s experience as a quarterback in high school and later coaching football, assured that I had a pro tape job to keep my ankle on the straight and narrow. Gerry was happy to lead on and allowed me experiment on second. I guess miracles come in threes for me because I was ecstatic to be grimacing through V+ the following day of the injury. We spent two days sampling the granite of Grimselpass. I was encouraged enough to be able to hike and climb that we decided it was time to head for the main event of the trip. We said goodbye to Grimselpass and aimed the car towards France.


new york
Apr 25, 2008 - 02:17pm PT
(part II)

CHAMONIX for me was always a magical name that evoked greatness. I could hardly contain myself when we slipped over the border into France and rode into this fabled and incredible valley for the first time. The distractions of the town’s bars and restaurants alone have ruined many a trip for climbing. We soon found ourselves struggling to maintain focus. I had to stick to a plan that involved more recuperative climbing while sampling a bit of the good life that Chamonix offered the eyes and the palate. I was hesitant to foray out into any mountain setting until I had a good handle on what my ankle would allow me to do. It turned out to be a blessing that we were treated to all the marvelous valley climbing opportunities that abound. Taping my ankle allowed climbing the easy access local crags. We spent several days climbing at Servoz and Balme, both within easy striking distance of Chamonix. A little farther beyond we hit the Giffre Valley and other areas like Chapelle Saint Gras that provided just the ticket to get me back on track for the big mountains. Climbing in the valley boosted my strength and confidence. By degrees, it seemed plausible to bring the ankle out into the mountains for a test. Well, maybe something on the tame side. Rebuffat’s “100 Finest” describes the Aiguille de L’M as “a pleasant little outing without the stresses of the high mountains.” We looked forward to it as our first venture in the mountains proper. OK, the lower reaches of the foothills, anyway.

At last we were on the Telepherique de L’ Aiguille du Midi, stepping off at the midway cablecar stop, the Plan de Aiguille Station. As we were getting our bearings, a woman asked where we were to climb that day. We told her and she lit up saying she had met some other guys who were going to climb it, too. They were on the next car behind. Both our heads jerked up and we stared at the incoming cablecar preparing to stop and unload. Thank you m’am and we were off ! We quickly shouldered our packs and launched out into the boulder strewn terrain. This wasn’t exactly what I had planned for the ankle, but the race was on. We had a two minute head start thanks to our lady friend. Scrabbling over loose boulder fields, crossing over five ridges and two little ice fields, we couldn’t shake the team behind us. They couldn’t catch us, either, though, and never closed the margin between us. We secured the route and linked the first two pitches. Classic moderate Chamonix crack/chimney jamming followed for a fun route. The way off was a deep gully fraught with loose boulders including a section of iron ladders down the back side. Before long, it became apparent that we owed that team behind us a huge debt. We were now racing the clock to catch the last telepherique down. We never would have hustled without them dogging us earlier in the day. The penalty for missing the last car down amounts to about a few hours steep trail descent, supposedly, and we were glad to avoid it.

All in all, we were pleased with our performance, though. My ankle had held up due to what had evolved into a daily masochistic taping ritual. We had decided to bring our game to the top of the Aiguille du Midi to climb the Arete de Cosmiques the next day. During dinner, however, we learned that all of France was suddenly gripped by a strike protesting the summer’s surge in gasoline prices. No trucks were to refuel the service stations and we had less than a quarter tank left. We only had a few more days left in the trip and we decided we had to drive into Switzerland in the morning to fuel up. The morning was effectively shot. When we finally arrived atop the Midi in the afternoon we were laden down with heavy packs. The dismal weather outlook had prompted us to load up. We soon found out when the sun emerged that the Vallee Blanche was an efficient reflector oven and we were saddled with superfluous heavy gear and extra clothes. Most who exit the Midi Station to approach the Vallee Blanche, pass through an ice tunnel leading to a gate that guards the catwalk of a precipitous ridge. This ridge slopes down about a hundred yards leading to safer ground. On this ridge, to the right looks like a survivable fall down into the Vallee Blanche. To the left was the abyss. You don’t want to fall down the left side of that ridge. Right from the start it spoke to us saying, “You’d better be on your best game here, boys.” It was all so wild as we marched down that ridge ignoring the exposure on either side. I felt that first rush of excitement, the one that tends to fade with familiarity, and I reveled in it. As we rounded down back toward the right into the Vallee Blanche, we eyed up the gorgeous South Face of the Aiguille du Midi. We stopped to pick out the classic line of least resistance, the Voie Rebuffat, pioneered as the first line in 1956 by Gaston Rebuffat with Bacquet. What a grand undertaking it must have been to put up the first route on that amazing expanse of beautiful rock. There are the S-curved cracks on the slab, and the clean, sweeping lines-

“Hey, Brian,” says Gerry. Hold on, wait. I was not drooling that time, though the South Face provokes Pavlonian responses for many.

“Let’s get acquainted with the Cosmiques Ridge today, and if tomorrow’s weather looks good we’ll come back up for the South Face.”

As it turned out, we were making our ridge acquaintance pretty late in the day. It was probably about halfway through that we realized we weren’t going to make the last telepherique down as we’d hoped. We would be spending the night somewhere up here. The Arete du Cosmiques Ridge rises up to the Midi Station, presenting a few gendarmes along the way to make it interesting. There was nothing for us to do, but try and enjoy the rest of the climb. Tomorrow was our last climbing day. I guess we were gonna be in good proximity for the South Face no matter what the weather held.

We arrived at one of the station’s observation decks where the climb finishes up a ladder. We took a quick inventory of the supplies we had to get us through the night. Two Clif Bars, no cigars, no beer, no food, no guide book, way too much climbing gear, and luckily some long underwear for the long night ahead. Down in the valley, our bivy gear was resting comfortably in our paid hotel room, while we looked forward to a long night on cold cement. We were lucky to have cement, though, and access to the cold corridors inside an unheated back part of the station.

We were not alone by any means. We had a varied crew for companions that also slept in the concrete stairwells of the station. We met some Czechs who worked in Germany for Boeing, a couple of Spanish climbers and a big contingent of paragliders who were there to compete in the Coupe du Monde. One older French climber stood out in particular. I had swung the platform telescope around to narrow in on the Walker Spur on the Grandes Jorasses, and he confided to me that he had ascended that majestic route many years ago in his prime and his youth. He may have been in his seventies or older. He was there to climb Mont Blanc alone. He said long ago he had established a custom of climbing the mountain every two years in his own style. He said that it was his personal tradition that he must climb the mountain every two years without fail. He had vowed that the year he failed to do so would be his last year in the mountains, and he would never again return to this pursuit that had given him so much joy and rich experiences over the years. If he failed tomorrow, there would be no other chance. We knew from the internet that tomorrow promised to be a glorious day, but, somehow, the Czechs and I agreed that it was this old man we should thank for the weather. It surely had to be for him, and we left him to sleep with a heartfelt, “Bonne chance.”

Most of the people were there by design, and were well-equipped with sleeping pads, cookers, bags, etc. Gerry and I each took a coil of rope to try and escape the cold of the cement that worked its’ insistent way through anything contacted. A long night followed. At 5:00 AM Gerry confessed he hadn’t slept a wink. I retrieved my two contact lenses I had stored in separate bottle caps I had hastily scrounged and jammed them back into my aching eyes. We recharged ourselves watching a procession of lights wending their way in the darkness up the distant flanks of Mont Blanc. All in all, though, our chief complaint was the lack of cigars, so we stocked up on water and readied ourselves for the South Face. Well, let’s not leave before the restaurant opens, though. They might sell cigars you know. Yesterday, when we thought we were going back down to comfortable beds, we’d vowed how much weight we were going to cut from the packs. Of course, our impromptu overnight didn’t allow us the chance to offload. We’d have gladly staged a tag sale to rid ourselves of the overburden, but instead resigned ourselves to taking it all with us again on today’s harder climb. Live and learn. Comically we moved out saddled with huge packs filled with all sorts of cold weather gear and useless weight on a glorious day of sun and blazing rays. Man, it was a beach day in the mountains. The first pitch went nicely, and apparently, like so many others before us, we baked in the sun at the belay under the first roof. After cooking there for a bit, it soon became evident that this was where people decide to break out the sunblock. The first pitch is lotion free, but the second pitch is a slimefest of lotion, a testament to people’s newfound respect for the alpine sun. It seems regularly people dive into the sunblock before launching out onto the second pitch S-cracks. It could be said the crux of the climb is navigating the lotion soaked holds, but the climbing is beautiful, with the balance of the climb lotion free. Pitch after pitch brought us up through awesomely gorgeous granite and we soon felt we must be approaching the top. Some Germans were rapping down, and casually, we asked how far to the top. Certainly, we had just one long pitch to go, and we’d catch the last telepherique down. They replied at least four or more to go. Whoa!

“Four pitches! We have to catch that last ride down or… Quick gimmee the rack and let’s rock and roll!”

You bet we did, spurred on by the threat of another forced night at the station. We still don’t know what routes we may have variated to mongrel our way into the finish of the Voie Rebuffat, but the climbing was absolutely tremendous. Nothing was sweeter than running in, carrying our gear and ropes tangled in our arms over the finish line to manage the last telepherique down. As we plunked down in the car to catch our breaths with our own victory complete, our thoughts drifted once more to the Frenchman in his seventies with his own outcome uncertain. Then, in the noisy telepherique, along with my weariness and relief, there escaped from my soul yet another secret hearty echoing of “Bonne Chance” for his hopeful success as we headed down to Chamonix to collect our own rewards.

Brutus of Wyde

Old Climbers' Home, Oakland CA
Apr 25, 2008 - 02:26pm PT

Quiet dark canyon of Oak is spanned by a soaring
steel-and-concrete highway bridge. Illumined by a
moon nearly full, I trot beneath in the hush, while
overhead the lamps and rush of occasional cars grow
and fade against the soft background of breeze in
leaves, the starlit sky, and the distant voice of the

In this evening where the blazing stars are
washed away by the awakened moon, I seek the silence,
the stillness, a place of quiet beauty and deep
magic, where liquid crystal streams leap laughing
among the jumbled canyon boulders, while above, the
brown parched hillsides frown thoughtfully in the

I reach a place where a trail winds, corkscrew-
like, down to waters' edge.

Startled, like a jolt of energy through me, I
sudddenly recognize in the dark another moving shape,
small, skunk-like. Oh God. Please don't spray...

The half-grown kitten walks up, sniffs my air,
out of arm's reach, and joins up with me.

My naked legs part the waters of a deep, icy
pool just above a waterfall: A place of silence and
power; the seemingly placid water soon to explode
into the roar, the spray and the mist, the chaotic
turbulence of the falls, then to find another
reservoir of repose; the moonlight dancing on the
rippling waters below.

The kitty sits on the bank and watches me,
purring, her eyes dancing in the moonlight as I dip
and dive.


Three AM. I stumble through the dark forest
after two hours' sleep, feeling wretched. I blunder
around another bandit camper, apologize. He sits up.


"Let's go climbing!"

At seven I start up the first lead, shivering
slightly in the frigid air.


Feast or Famine. After blasting up the first
five pitches,, I am confronted with a thin seam in a
steep corner, so steep the runners hang away from the
rock. After several cranking explorations into the
5.11 section, I stem and lieback over the top onto a
sloping belay slab and ancient bolts: Palming,
underclinging and swinging off thin flakes, ballet in
the sky.

More 5.10... Solid face gives way to flake-loose
crack, kenn hunkering below on a tiny stance. We fly
up several pitches more. Feast or Famine.


Far above me now, Kenn stems wildly across a
vertigo-inducing dihedral, bridged between smooth
holdless wall and an invisible bump at the lip of a
roof, blue sky above as I in the shade fidget and
fear my coming lead.

Kenn's lead, 5.11, leaves me pumped and scared.
I shake despwerately while following the 5.10d finish
to his pitch. Definitely all Feast here.

The Big Roof cuts across the sky above us, a
grim traverse 5.8 through looseness, fist jams and
fingernail flakes, the climbing equivalent of
clearing yout throat before a song.

I have moved in here. What a place to live. Two
loose, lichened foot holds and a slot behind a flake.
I shoulder against rthe flake, and eye the 137 pieces
of protection I have placed just below the 5.11c
crux. Webbing festoons the lip of the roof. The
equipment courage is not working. Finally I commit to
sidepulling opposition between two worthless seams,
crank the crux, move the foot, slip, scream, reset,
and grab the pin at the end of the crux. Wasted, I
clip, clip, and contemplate the 5.10 above.


Pitch black night. We peer into the darkness and
listen to the sweet music of the stream as the
Sentinel Canyon Orchestra tunes up: Crickets,
whirr of moths' wings, the quiet river of air moving
down the tilted descent chute behind us, stirring
pines and ferns. We add our percussion as the crackle
of rockfall from our bivy preparations echoes off the
canyon walls.

Gently the Yosemite sky lightens as the unseen
moon rises over an unseen horizon. The sparkling
lights of Yosemite Lodge twinkle in the thin slice of
valley floor visible from between the steep walls of
our canyon. Slowly the slice is bathed in milky
moonlight, while we, our canyon, our steep and
tentative descent slabs below, remain cloaked in

Lest we forget what these romantic, adventurous
bivies are really like: My back alternately lumps and
curls, as do my sides, on the tangle of ropes and
gear that is my mattress. Three feet away, Kenn
raises his voice with the Sentinel Orchestra,
wimpering as his legs convulse in body-wrenching
cramps. Next time, we'll maintain our electrolyte
balance with ERG or Gatorade or something.

Although we have no sleeping bags, we still have
"food" and water, and could actually build a fire if
we really, really needed to. Midnight snack time: We
divide four almond M&Ms amongst us, a feast. Mid-
morning (3 AM) we halve the peanut butter Kudo.
Shivering, we watch the morning twilite turn into a
new day.

Breakfast: we munch on the last remaining food,
1 1/2 lifesavers each, as we stuff gear into our
single day pack. Kenn takes one last look around at
our remarkable (remarkably sparse) jagged granite
bivy site. He reaches down, picks up an M&M wrapper,
pockets it.

"Thanks for doing the dishes," I say.

Brutus of Wyde

Old Climbers' Home, Oakland CA
Apr 25, 2008 - 02:43pm PT
Here's another, a short poem more more about a winter peakbagging trip than a climb. Dingus Milktoast, of course, is the main character.

Red Lake Peak, 27 March 2004

Dingus swings on angel wings
linking turns like serpent strings
while Brutus and the Ratchet Nurse
crater, biff, and yard-sale curse.

He swishes down with master's skill
his upper body quiet, still,
and shouts to us "Just hop and hope!"
Ratchet shakes and recoils "Nope!"

We think this tour will never end:
Researching ways that legs don't bend
with fractured skull and twisted spine,
we hear the call "Just SKI that Line!"

Slowly, with a swishing sound
the sky and mountain turn around
I rocket headfirst down the slope
a soft runout my only hope...

Finally we're at "Crater" Lake --
I pray the Lord my soul to take;
Another turn, another dive...
we'll never make it out alive.

Eventually our free heel woes
stagger to a painful close.
No sign of Dingus, he's long gone,
as night brings thoughts of distant dawn

with Brutus sprawling on the snow
and Ratchet singing songs of woe.
But wait! we see his car draw near!
Craig hands us each a frosty beer.

Thanks for an awesome day!


Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Apr 25, 2008 - 02:45pm PT
rockanice & Brutus,

Awesome you guys. I'll be reading those again!!
Lynne Leichtfuss

Social climber
valley center, ca
Apr 25, 2008 - 03:01pm PT
Good Reads Guys! If this is the end of this thread I'll have to start working. Anyone else have something to post?

Social climber
Apr 25, 2008 - 07:54pm PT
I wrote this piece earlier but I think its one of the better things I've written and so I would like to share it again.

1986 spring break comes and I have just bought my brand new off the lot Toyota truck $5500 bucks. So for the first time ever we have a vehicle that WILL make it across the Dakotas with out a break down.

Devils Tower

We scrape off the winter rust by going to do the Durrance route. There are about 15 people hanging out at the base and its a good scene until some guy from Bozeman cries out Rock! and then silence and SCRAPE- real low-the rock goes SCRAPE and then it goes BOOOOOOM! and THOOOOM! and its getting louder and closer. I crawl into a hole about the size of coffee cup and this pig keeps coming down bouncing wall to wall down the bowling alley. This guy had just run for cover. All of the safe places to hide were taken and he was forced to crawl into his own ass to hide, when this big assed rock lands exactly where he was sitting. like an X on some comic cartoon pirate map It smashes into a million fist size pieces. After the obligatory cry of fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!, like munchkins we all come out of the flowers to get back to Oz. The climb was finished with no other theatrics
We then go over to Walt Bailey and enjoy the small to big fingers to hands
After rapping Walt I am stoked to go back to camp and drink beer when Shawn sez- We are going to do Hollywood and Vine and YOU are going to lead it.
Good move on his part because I never would have come near this part of the world if I knew we were going to do something so stupid.
This is a 10c route and what makes it a little different is that its crux is a thin face instead of the usual tower crack.
Its pretty low angle and I am thinking that I'm the best for the first 50 feet and then things run out. I am about 10 feet above a wired stopper. There is a three finger hold/jam and smearing feet and reaching and reaching and then BANG I get a pretty good finger lock and I twist until I hear bones cracking and then pull up and get in a good jam and man I felt like a star about to Nova.
I thought that move was one of the hardest I ever did.
You go from complete terror to being totally satisfied because of a rock climb.
What a stupid sport-but for a long time I kept going because I was not just a nobody, half assed, college student, on academic probation
NO! I was a nobody, half assed, college student, on academic probation who had led Hollywood and Vine with no falls!
In the '70s Henry Barber had a bad scene soloing this route. i can only imagine
Brutus of Wyde

Old Climbers' Home, Oakland CA
Apr 26, 2008 - 03:04pm PT
Another winter peakbagging trip.
Next one will be about climbing.
I promise.

Rubicon Peak
Desolation in Winter.

“Things often look their darkest just before it gets pitch black”

After 1 p.m., Frank Tarzannin and I strap on skis after a half-day drive to Tahoe. The sun blasts down as we skin up the hollow slopes: 4 feet of fresh, bottomless powder is the winter’s first crop of snow, concealing a minefield of manzanita and buckbrush; my rental Randonees pop off at each sweltering kick turn until I set the tension release up into the realm of fully-cured concrete. “The manufacturer disclaims all responsibility for any injury that may result from incorrect binding settings” as I reach down and twist my leg to extricate yet another buried ski tip from an unseen, hooked shrubbery.

Summit. The thin afternoon sunlight provides no warmth. We huddle in the lee of the icy rocks, cold wind slicing through sweat-chilled pile, and scope out the lack of ice on the north face of Crag Peak. The shadowed face remains dry in spite of the mid-winter snow. A westering sun highlights the upper snow shoulder of the peak as if to remind us of the waning daylight. Time is slipping by.

A short icy downclimb lands us back at the skis, fools who have overextended their stay. Frank swoops off down the slopes, linking graceful turns, as I tremble, face-plant, sideslip, cartwheel and awkward my way down the slopes, a pinball crazy-bouncing off tree bumpers toward numerous and inevitible craters. TILT!

Late night. Frank is somewhere behind me, following my tracks, patiently kicking through the dark powder. Hopelessly lost, I sob desperately in the blackness and hug another tree to stay upright. Not the way we came. I used to at least think we were descending toward Lake Tahoe. The faded twilight of the burned-out sun lingered long in the sky behind us. Or still is. Unless that is the moonrise soon to come. Or maybe the lights of Tahoe city?

Fading headlamp shows dark, trackless snow, dim and grey, impaled by trees, with only the starry sky overhead to hear my bleak helplessness.

Disoriented, the twilight now to my right up the gully I have followed, (I don’t remember the gully changing direction. We are SO LOST!) the bottom drops out of my stomach as I realize I must have chosen the wrong way, long ago, up there somewhere on the summit ridge. We’re headed into the backcountry of the Desolation Wilderness, miles between us and civilization, with a cold, wet unplanned bivouac ahead. I don’t want to be here. I blink back chest-clenching tears as I top the ridge and stare, uncomprehending, at a street light.

Back at the car, we sip Pete’s Wicked Ale. Frank shakes his head again in amazement. “That” he says, “was incredible route-finding.”

“Nah... Piece of cake.” I smile, fingers crossed in the darkness, and we resume loading gear into the car.

Apr 26, 2008 - 08:39pm PT
A wise person once said, "Speak, only if you wish the people who believe you a fool - finally to have proof."

Managing Improvement on a Production Line - Part I
John Stannard
At least since the early eighties when I first came, the Company's holy grail has been to "transition engineering into production". As a sound byte the phrase worked extremely well with the customers. The reality has been more conflicted. Even as late as the year 2000, Production believes the Work Instructions are frozen and can not be changed. Indeed believes all problems can be traced to changes that were made. The engineering camp asserts we have yet to make two units the same way. That all the hardware is in reality, a series of experiments and nothing has actually been built "To Print". Will the twain ever meet? More importantly, will the twain meet while we are yet on this earth? Our function here is identical to that performed by the father of the bride-to-be in The Graduate, who in a conspiratorial manner said one word to Dustin Hoffman; playing a character almost as confused as are we. "Plastics."
Production and Improvement can meet, if but one word is said. No reply is needed. "Statistics." The two can be brought together, but at a price. We can bring them together,

but we cannot do so while also giving everyone all they would like.

A natural limit is, after all, posed simply by the number of parts we process. This limit is just as real as the physical principles we have studied all our lives.

The number of process changes must be limited.

Engineers love a physical principle; to death generally. (In general it is the principle whose exam the engineer aced in college, that will control all the processes they later study - whether they actually do or not.) Nobels are awarded whenever someone constructs a physical realization so perfect that we know only one physical principle is operative. Doing so directly proves the physical principle. By some leap we feel infrared detectors are perfect realizations and that we know what principle is limiting them. We can make them in quantity and when the performance or yield is too low we can change the process in agreement with the controlling principle and gain fame, if not riches. This is the first thing we have to give up.

We can’t.

It really would be nice to get a Nobel for each detector we make. All we need do is push our yields to 100%. While Alfred Nobel may be able to afford this, I doubt the US government can.

Statistics is a branch of study dedicated to the proposition doing an ignorant thing a thousand times instead of just once, makes us thirty times smarter. Given a choice, we unfortunately prefer to talk about what we know, as that makes us look good. That weakness disadvantages future planning in the management of a production line. Good management requires us on a production line to admit publicly that we are using statistics to compensate for our ignorance. For a manager to take that leap he has to have confidence higher management knows it is possible to be good while not exactly looking good. They have to know

there are times when looking good - is bad.

In the above we have set apart what we take for the conundrii by which we are enslaved. We will get to Statistical Management of Improvement in due course, but first a couple of realities:

Production lines obey the Uncertainty Principle. If engineers go into a production line and study at great length the process by which indium is deposited, they learn the process's present location to a high precision. But by so doing and making changes they lose all information as to where the process is going. They themselves generate a series of desired changes, all with unintended consequences. More subtly, the people on the line assume they were doing something wrong, and so start doing it "better". There is more. If we once cease assuming our work instructions and engineering knowledge are perfect, we have to admit there are factors on the line about which we do not know and which blink on and off in the line. Recognizing this leads us to the next reality.

A set of Work Instructions is not sufficient to define a baseline. Work Instructions represent inputs and so are a measure only of what we perceive is important.

What is actually important may be quite different.

Some element of reality, such as an output, needs to be included in defining a baseline. When defining a baseline process we need to include all the statistical stuff such as yields and distributions at different assembly levels. Using those we have a chance to discover whether or not we have left our baseline, and maybe even where.

We are painfully edging closer to a real discussion of Statistical Management of Improvement, but first an illustrative look at the guises assumed by process changes clamoring for the manager’s attention.

Grandstand Play: An engineer interested in improvement asks to have two wafers redlined to a new technology assured of giving a factor of two improvement. You should:
A. Give him one wafer
B. Give him two wafers
C Ignore him and start complaining to your management about this person. This will make it easier on you when he leaves.

Normal Production Program: The manager for the program composing fully half of your volume in the line wishes to process their parts in two wafer lots, each lot to a different redline. You should:
A. Say," you are the customer. The choice is yours"
B. Send the program to a competing lab because "our equipment is old"
C. Submit capital requests for all new equipment
D. Send out your resume
E. All of the above

The Mob: The manager has assigned either improvement or god-help-us tasks to five people. Each one comes back saying a change is needed. You should:
A. Make all of the changes
B. Make some of the changes
C. Make none of the changes
D. Maneuver your manager into making the decision

Part II finally gets to the central point of how to vary processes on a production line while still building parts "To Print". There everything rests upon the integrity and adequacy of your production data.
Ed Bannister

Mountain climber
Riverside, CA
Apr 26, 2008 - 11:44pm PT
Great thread Tarbuster, thanks!

I dance on the still waters at sunset
or race as wind on a cloud.

I seep down grass valleys as fog.

In evenings still, I pause, as air,
to glide back down canyons from whence I came.

I am the chill of winter’s first snow.
I glisten at dawn.

I am the romp of an otter,
the hilarity of a woodpecker drunk on fermented sap.

I am the solitude of oceans of steep clean granite,
and the wonder of glaciers.

I play in desert sand,
bask in the quiet.

I am the singularity of winter's lowest spring tide.
I am thunder’s explosion,
lightning’s cleaving power.

I am the majesty of the ocean’s waves,
and the lulling peace of waves lapping on alpine lakeshore.

I am soft wet moss,
shaded by eons of trees and rock.

I am the rhythm of the seasons,
recorded in tree rings, in bedding planes,
by the erratic miles from a canyon.

I am a quiet moment,
as a kingfisher pauses,
or the thrill, of a golden eagle gliding close by.

I am humbling, as swallows show how it is done,
inches from the cliffs, inches from death, fearless.

I am ephemeral blooms in hard and remote places.
I am timeless.

Brutus of Wyde

Old Climbers' Home, Oakland CA
Apr 27, 2008 - 07:06pm PT
South Central Route, Washington Column

24 April, 1998. 12:00 noon. Old Climbers' Home, Oakland, California. Michael "Betamikester" "Bro" Brodesky has not arrived. I check out a chrome-plated walker from the front desk, then move my piled packs to the porch of the Old Climbers' Home so we can load Brodesky's car without him seeing the disaster area in the catacombs where I currently reside, a hybrid of garbage dump and exploded haul bag.

1:30 pm. Bro finally shows up, and mentions that his brakes are smoking. Sudden change of plans, we shovel all our stuff into the back of the Cave. Shove off along Highway 580 at 70 miles per, eastbound from Oakland, California toward the Valley of Dreams. Brief stop at the Oakdale Taco Bell to choke down roadkill. Bro takes the wheel. I snore with senile satisfaction in the shotgun seat, spittle staining my shirt, confident we are safe from attack for the moment.

Somewhere on Highway 120. As Mike brakes hard and swerves, I jerk awake. The pavement is covered with a thin layer of slushy snow. Truck is fishtailing around an overturned SUV, narrowly missing oncoming traffic. Several cars are stopped. A group of lean, honed sportclimbers loiter beside the road as the snow drifts down, one miming the beta of the accident to the others. The immediate problem seems under control. We pull into Crane Flat, Mike reports the accident. I return to the snooze.

Yosemite Valley. The incessant rain is a dreary homecoming after my two-month absence. Brodesky feels ripped off. Just another beautiful day in Patagonia. "Hey," I say. "Tomorrow is another day." As the evening gloom deepens, we retreat to the Curry Village Pizzeria and down our sorrows with cholesterepperoni.

Awahnee Hotel. Dusk. Headlamps out, I totter my walker ahead of me behind Michael as the sky sprinklers shut down. I've slogged this stench of forest so many times this year that I remember the places where I made handprints in the snow, the locations of coyote dung, the blue gear-marking tape where Nurse Ratchet and I joked about trail markers, remember where to turn, where to rest, where I left the food stash two months ago when attempting a winter ascent of the Prow; where I peed, pooped, and puked. An attempt that was pre-doomed to failure due to storms and the flu, under the sleet sheets and snowy blankets of the Upper Pines Hospital Ward, our week-long physical therapy trudging-haulbag-heavy up and posthole-portaging down the slop to the Column, weak and wasted. Ya pays for yer ticket and ya takes yer chances.

Presently Bro and I bivy at the Astroman base at 9 pm. We slip into the sacks, sinking snoozeward, alarm set for some ungodly hour.

4:00 am, 25 April 1998. Deep sleep interrupted by the dreaded beep. Sluggish, yet aware of need to move. Breakfast. harness. Carefully stretch the old body. Stash the walker and the packs. Slug last glug of water, force-march the gully to the base of Washington Column South Face Route, where our adventure is to begin. I retch. Betamikester looks concerned. Guess he'd forgotten about that part..

Dinner Ledge. 7:30 am. Mikester sped us here in virtually no time at all. My turn. We're leading in blocks, selected for our relative strengths. I get a last blast of beta from Brodesky and totter out 120 feet left to the base of the first steep section, a 5.9 offwidth/squeeze chimney. Bro follows, another brief conference and gear transfer, then its up the offwidth, belaying at bolts [OH, the IMPACT!!!] 130' higher. Mikester follows as if on wings, dumps the pack and rack, and I'm off again. This time it's a tension traverse to a 5.10c crack which feels a lot like A1 to me ol' geezer bones after the first few moves, feet skating on flakes and flying bits-o'-rock. Slow swim upward in aiders, over the bulge, to cut into 5.9 free climbing up to the belay.

Yet again. Step right, 5.9 (loose and grainy A1 to the geezer) up a bit, pendulum again, gulp gulp in fear, place place pro pro, long traversing runout below, then creep, mewling, up the vertical C2 crux through flakes exfoliating and clenching my crawling incontinent bowels to a bolt, another pendulum, and finally stance at the base of a 40-foot high, 3-inch thick granite wafer held in place by inertia; morning sunlight finally sweeping the face.

Mikester appears, wrapped in pack and tangled rope like a confused beetle bound in spidersilk, awaiting a last meal on the web. He stumbles to the stance, muttering it might be quicker if the Duffer heads up first, giving him time to unstrangle. Done. What follows is a terrifying 5.8 jam/cryback up the flakexpanding, a 5.10 romp up the offwidth, power pulls through loose and wobbly, to a leftward traverse over unprotected face. Pins would get me a pendulum, but that is unthinkable as I thoughtlessly find myself pinned to the wall in a half-mantle-half-flail, feet-slipping 20-foot pendulum fall ahead taketakeTAKETENSIONTAKE!!!! and the rope tightens, I winch myself back into the corner, and reassess. This time the rope is my handhold, tensioning across the 5.11 face, liebacking off nylon and nubbins Oh Dulfer.

Crimp and slap and i reach a fixed pi and easyaid up to the Top of the Mark and the end of my leads.

Mikester arrives and heads across unprotected 5.7 face we call 5.7+ [translation "feels like 5.10c"] to yet another tension traverse, then a ledge where he stops to bring me across, the 80-foot pitch having netted us a vertical elevation gain of two feet.

Now Bro's on a thin crack the topo calls A1/5.9 meaning after you aid up tiny brass where the crack disappears into the featureless face you launch into 30 feet of 5.9 mandatory face climbing thinking only of how-far-below-are-those-last-two-brass-bits-nestled-in- the-crack and I'm so very glad you led it and not me, thank you Bro. Mike ends the pitch where the rope does, and I romp upwards, giving the lead line a shake to dislodge the few anorexic pieces. This pitch is scantily decorated, and janitor Brutus has little to do but jug.

Next are roofs which resemble chockstones resembling roofs in our gutter/gully/corner, and Bro, a bubble working around seaweed to the surface of the fishtank, swings upward in aiders, backcleaning until out of sight. "Fixed!" echoes down and I confirm he's off belay, then abandon the stance to the moss, the oak, and the teetering death block; jugging roofs, chimney and rubble onto a wide slickery pineneedle ledge. Mikester craftily heads out before I can dump gear onto him, then brings me up to the end of the climb. Quick sort and we scratch up over the top of the Column, stumbling across the brush ledges, thrashing for the gully.

We find a fixed rope at the top of North Dome Gully and, grinning and not proud, rappel the steep dirt clear down to the stream. I dig out the headlamps and we head down the slabs, racing the end of the day.

Arrive at the base of the Column at last light 14 hours after we started, unearth the packs and the walker, chomp bootybeans, swill beer, and from our sleepingbags greet Doctor Coomer who is carrying loads for a solo attempt on Southern Man; sleep, totter out, sort gear, and return to the Old Climbers' Home 48 hours after we left. I check my walker at the front desk, until next time. Nurse Ratchet peers over her spectacles: "So how was your walk?"

All in all, a nice little stroll.


Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Apr 28, 2008 - 01:32am PT
adapted from another unwordly place. Inspired by a frozen Sardine Falls...

Ice: The final frontier
These are the voyages of the Starship Tacoma
Its lifelong mission
To explore strange new areas
To seek out new climbs and new first ascents
To boldly go where Royal, Tom and the gang has not gone before

que trek music... aaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaa

Social climber
My Inner Nut
Apr 28, 2008 - 09:45am PT
The Doctors Office

Climbers’ office, our cool playground
in the desert.
I miss the claustrophobic feel
of narrow slot canyon
in the heat of summer,
laughing, respite from the sun

Hot, hiking up
in the blistering heat
of Oak Creek Canyon

Crossing the creek passing
tourists, families
some watch our heavy packs
as we disappear
into the dust above them

Sounds fade, dust remains
hiking steep drainage,
labored breath and buzz of heat
sweat stinging eyes, then the Tree:
the place where coolness
from the slot canyon above
sweeps upon us
cooling brow

The walls steepen to hundreds of feet above,
and narrow sharply
casting permanent shade
and further freshening:
Swamp Cooler Canyon.

The effect is such
that eighty-five degrees
in Sedona is the minimum temperature
or it is too cold
in The Doctor’s Office

At the foot of the canyon
lies a micro-environment
all mosses and sword ferns
in this desert world,
air almost cold now

Also at this oasis
inscriptions from the past
chiseled into sandstone:


Much can be gleaned
from this simple statement:
The man was a doctor
played rugby
probably at Notre Dame
The stylized lettering
from hammer and chisel
indicates a skilled hand
we scrub the moss
out of the letters
trying to know
B Frankson

Our own Doctor
the canyon’s namesake
looks upward
pointing out
new routes to climb:
the now, the future

We scramble into the fissure
walls looming
merely five to thirty feet
vertical waves of sandstone
comforting, or cloying

In places we touch
both walls, straining
pretending to keep
them apart

All day we climb, play
enjoy the acoustics
of the canyon
from mini stereo to
catching odd sounds from
people, creek below
birds, planes above

At two-thirty
comes the half-hour of sun
we bask, watching the beam move
across our path
and gone

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Apr 28, 2008 - 09:59am PT
Mister E,
Wonderful writing, I could feel it...
I have had very similar experiences in hot places. Great.

Dr. Frankson....
He could've played rugby at Notre Dame.....
or he could've been from Rugby, North Dakota...

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Mar 16, 2009 - 03:20am PT


Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Mar 16, 2009 - 11:51am PT
Thomas had immediately regretted not staying longer at the meager rest spot now far below him. He had fiddled for a couple minutes trying to work in a small nut, which only made the spot less restful, and then continued, sure that he could see better nut placements higher up.

But the wall had steepened almost imperceptively, and the hoped for placements had dissolved along with the subtle shadows that had made placements look bigger and less flared than they were.

"Why didn't I get a decent rest or at least let go and fall onto that good cam when I was so much closer to it?" The thoughts had raced through his mind in his last moments still clawing at the cliff.

He knew that Mathew didn't have the experience necessary to catch this fall, or to deal with the aftermath. But his ego and his confidence in his own ability to pick this plum of a crack that he had spotted high on the wall days before, had forced such thoughts out of his mind.

The sweat had stung his eyes and trickled down the middle of his back as he had struggled to keep his fingers in the shallow bottoming jams so far above his last acceptable piece of pro.
He knew the little RP sort of halfway grabbing the back of a flare twenty feet below him had no chance to chance at all.

The good cam that he had gotten in before the rest was at least twenty feet below that nut. It wasn't nearly close enough to keep him from hitting the flake. He knew it...

"Damn!" He had thought, "Why was I fooled by those shadows, why did I continue when the going got so bad, why didn't I rest when I could've, why didn't I let go when I had a chance, why didn't I wait for Steve to show up, at least he would've known what to do, why was Matt whimpering as badly as I was right before I came off, why was that good jam with the incut next to it just out of reach as my fingers had finally and screamingly come out for good?"

Thomas was amazed that he could feel the wind cooling his back and his forehead as he picked up speed. There was a small "tick" as the RP had popped without even slowing him down.

The world was strangely silent for a micro second as the flake roared toward him. He "heard" the flake crash into his side and back rather than feeling it. The sun grew smaller and more faded, almost eclipse like, as he heard Matt scream.
The world went black.


Trad climber
Mar 16, 2009 - 12:24pm PT
I just discovered this thread. Awesome! In some of these epic stories, my heart starts pounding and my hands get sweaty, and for a minute I was there pulling over the top of the Nose in a snowstorm, major cluster going on, cold and wet, freaking but handling.....great writing gentlemen.

Trad climber
Mar 16, 2009 - 01:01pm PT
My contribution
I was in England on business for about the 20th time, and had been making it a habit to drive out to Wales and Snowdonia National Park on the weekends for some climbing and hiking, usually by myself. I had it my goal of hiking up Snowdon Peak(highest peak in England, but thats not saying much) by the old miners trail which is this incredibly beautiful hike thru the old mine trailings and fallen down buildings past beautiful little lakelets and unknown cliffs. It lies on the opposite side of the crag from The Black Cliff, "Clogwyn du'r Arddur" or Cloggy as it is known. It can be a lonesome wierd and spooky place when it is rough weather which it usually is up there. I had on a pair of hiking boots, vibram soles of course, which is what I normally wear in Liverpool and surrounding countryside. You know why if you have ever spent much time mucking around in the cesspools of Liverpool or the farmyards of the countryside. The boots don't fit in with the suit and tie crowd of England but I am American and they love Americans in England so I damn well wore what I pleased. Anyway, hiking up the trail that I had done so many times I decided to do some exploring to find a different route to the summit. It was cloudy and damp but not raining. The summit was hidden behind swirling clouds. I decided to start up a rock ridge that looked fairly low angle and see how far I could get. At first the going was fairly easy. Lots of loose rock, and a few moves here and there but nothing to out of control. Then I came upon a section where I had to commit and go for it. I powered thru it knowing I did not want to try to downclimb it and pulled over the short face onto a ledge and found myself completely whited out in the fog. Knowing that up was the way, I blindly continued upwards, the angle much steeper then it looked from the ground, and my focus razors edge, as nothing else mattered but me and the rock. I could see nothing else, hear nothing, just black damp rock and fog, and the way was up. I must have climbed another couple hundred feet of moderate damp class 5 when I came to another difficult bit. It was wet and steep and fierce looking. I had to calm the racing of my heart. Here I was alone, no one knew where I was, alone in the fog, hell I didn't even really know exactly where I was. Down climbing seemed out of the question at this point due to the previous sections I had bypassed. I gave the moves a go and then reversed the moves back to the ledge. I must have tried the moves 5 times and always when I came to the little bulge I backed off. The quiet was errie and there was no exposure as I was in a cloud. I decided to hydrate and eat a energy bar, and then for a couple minutes I focused on meditating to slow my heart and breathing down. Rejuvenated, I stepped up and fired. Pulling over I grabbed first one loose rock, and then another, dropping them into the void as I desperately tried to find a solid handhold, the noises coming from down below as the rocks bounced down the cliffs and crashed into the scree were unnerving. At last with strength draining, I had no choice and commited to a loose block and pulled, as I brought myself over the top it came free and I released it into the void like the others. Looking up I could see nothing, just more rock but less high angle, and a few more minutes brought me to a false summit, and a few more minutes brought me to the tram station and people. yes, a tram station. Very strange, they run a tram up to the top of the peak from one side. Walking among the tourons, I gave thanks for my safe passage and reflected how very different my experience of coming up the mountain was from these peoples. Unable to handle the scene much longer, I turned and disappered into the fog, and down the descent trail back from whence I came. For a minute there, I had felt like Joe Brown or Don Whillans breaking new ground, but the pump faded, and I was left with the knowledge that some choss is better left unclimbed and it was luck and not skill that had carried me thru. A lesson learned. Cheers mate!

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Sep 10, 2009 - 11:40am PT
Back to the top with thee oh thread of many great writings!!

So many great tales here, including some really good ones from our dear departed Brutus of The Wide.

Read and enjoy..............and put your story down.

Social climber
east L.A. vato...
Sep 10, 2009 - 12:23pm PT
Two thumbs up!

Trad climber
Mental Physics........
Sep 10, 2009 - 01:11pm PT

The Hidden Valley parking lot was still empty as we pulled into Site 9 at sunset on Friday. My brother Al, Steve Emerson and I had once again escaped the smoggy suburban wasteland of Orange County to the crisp air and climbing camaraderie of Joshua Tree, a pilgrimage that started during our first year in high school. By nightfall, VW vans, sedans borrowed from Mom and all other kind of rigs had begun to pack the camp. Climbers and boulderers busied themselves with setting up tents, making food, or hanging out and socializing.

Emrick Emrickson was doling out hits of Mr. Natural acid that he had scored 100 and by 8 p.m. half the camp had procured tabs of the psychedelic delicacy. By Sunday, we predicted, nearly three quarters of the climbers in camp would have sampled his goods. Older and more experienced than the three of us, Emrick knew about girls, standing on tiny holds and ingesting strong acid. We listened to everything that Emrick, our irreplaceable mentor, told us.

Over in Campsite 6, Crell and Dee were whipping up Dee's famous no-cook burritos Bailing out of Orange County just before rush-hour in Crell's mom's Torino, they had arrived starving and wasted no time in assembling Dee's Do-It-Up Burritos, cold refried beans smeared on cold tortillas, topped with a slice of aged Cheddar cheese and whatever salsa was on sale: Voila, Dinner served! Then after hammering their dinners and sitting back to relax with bellies full and half hits of acid yet to come on, Crell and Dee spoke about a route that Crell had spied the previous week at the Astrodomes.

Crell Fro was a sixteen-year-old string bean and child prodigy climber. His footwork had started out a bit lurchy, but his motivation, focus, and Popeye-like arm strength (which earned him the nickname "Guns") superceded that deficit and he later became one of the era's strongest cragsmen. Several weeks before, Crell and I had completed the face route Such-A-Savage at the North Astrodome. From the base of that route, Crell had spied the new nearly holdless face, with the obvious flake halfway up.

"That one face won't go free," Dee had warned.

Crell's response of "Man, I saw a line of holds up there" was partially drowned out by the whine of a hopped-up Fiat whipping into the campground. Ruby flew through the loop and skidded into Site 6.

"Have you seen Emrick?" he asked, as he threw open the Fiat's door and jumped out.

"He's in Site 12" Dee answered. "Wanna burrito?"

"Well, first I need to talk to Emrick. Jim and I need some acid 'cause tomorrow we're going out to the Wonderland to do this cool traverse," Ruby replied.

Ruby was a swimming champ from Tustin. With a keen scientific intellect and the ability to debate almost anyone on any topic, he could destroy a person's reasoning and leave them dead or begging for mercy. He was intolerant of rules and regulations, except when he believed in them himself. He and his climbing partner Jim Dutzi formed an improbable pair. Jim was a middle-aged social dropout from Fullerton who had worked his whole life in Orange County's defense industry. He'd raised a family, been elected as a Democratic state assemblyman in the late 60's, become disillusioned, gotten divorced, started smoking pot and entered the world of lowbag southern California climbers, finally becoming Ruby Votel's sidekick, joint roller, driver and belayer. But in the world of climbing, nobody cared who you were or what you did as long as you climbed, or at least hung out and pretended to boulder, with one exception. You had to have ethics, which in the early Joshua Tree days, meant not using hooks.

Before rambling over to Site 12 in search of Emrick, Ruby warned his buddies, still digesting their dinners with trips slowly coming on.

"Are you guys heading out to The Astrodomes? Don't use hooks or I'm gonna hike out and pull yer bolts, I promise," he said. Then he blustered off in search of Emrick.

Dee, Crell and I looked at each other .

"Do you think he'd really pull our bolts?" Crell asked.

"I think he's serious" I responded. "I know Ruby, and he thinks he's the ethics police."

Saturday dawned crisp and clear, the resiny desert air a fresh respite from the miasmic grime of the metropolis. Throughout camp, plans for the day were being formulated. My brother Al, a teenage absent-minded professor/hippie climber/comic genius, was advocating half a hit of acid for the hike out to the Comic Book, and half a hit on the climb.

"I don't know about taking acid man," Steve worried. "Last time I did it I panicked and I was half way up a hand crack in sneakers and it was a first ascent. But I guess I could just do a quarter hit," he considered over an open-faced peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I walked over to Crell and Dee's camp and found them looking slightly worse for the wear.

"How ya doin' Crell," I asked, noticing his bloodshot eyes.

"I'm kinda tired, and sorta still trippin'. Didn't get to bed 'til 3 or so."

"Are you sure you wanna go out there Crell?"

"Yeah let's go, I'm feelin' great."

The Torino had bad traction on the powdery road, but the V-8 powered through. As we bumped across the potholes, washboarding our way to the Barker Dam lot, we stopped to chat with a group of boulderers beginning their mid-morning warm-up circuit. Smoke wafted up from the bong in Dick Shockley's hand. The sh#t talking had already reached a fever pitch as Largo, Bachar, Ricky, Graham, the Lechlinskis, Bullwinkle and Shaun Curtis described last night's escapades soloing The Eye while tripping on two hundred "mikes" of acid.

We left the boulderers to their bullshitting and by the time Crell's first bowl of weed was dust, we were at the empty Barker Dam lot. We loaded up our packs and slogged out across a long wash, a long monzonite spine and finally the Astrodomes rose above everything else in the Wonderland. Our adrenal glands surged as we stood atop a small crag and silently gazed at the North Astrodome.

"Fuuuuuck", Crell and I both said in unison.

Though Crell and I had completed Such A Savage several weeks before, the specter of this seemingly blank wall was overpowering. I didn't think it could be climbed, but we still felt we had to get up on it for a try. Crell opened his pack and flaked out the rope at the cliff's slabby base.

"You wanna go first?" he asked me as he handed me a freshly sharpened drill bit and a few quarter inch bolts.

"I guess so," I answered, staring straight up at the very committing wall. "So, do ya think we head to the flake? I hope it's solid 'cause I'd hate to pull it off in yer lap," I said while tying my swami belt and feeling a little bit trembly.

Always encouraging, Crell blurted, "C'mon Spicer, this is just your kind of route. Once you get to the flake it'll all be over."

"I don't know about some of those stances, I said. "Not many footholds and I'd hate to take a groundfall from below the flake; that Cholla would kinda hurt."

I started up the pitch. The first holds were grainy and loose. I used my hand to clear off some broken flakes and gravel, and stepped up on what was left, a few white, dirty edges. I made a few more moves onto a larger sideways shelf and graded the hammer. "I'm gonna throw in a bolt here Crell."

As I drilled, I remembered bouldering with Crell and Ruby a few weeks back. Unable to nail a nearly horizontal roof problem, Ruby had suggested that we use a small loop of shoelace as a "cheat" to hook onto a microscopic nubbin. It had worked, and later on, celebrating as the sun went down, Ruby brought up the new route at the Astrodomes.

"So, no cheating allowed at Josh, right?" he had taunted.

The sun was beginning to illuminate the canyon and soon I would be in the sun. I set my feet and began drilling. Bang, bang, bang, bang.

"Whoooo" I moaned, my shoulders were already getting pumped.

I let the hammer and drill hang on their slings and shook out my arms. Bang, bang, bang, bang. Finally, the hole was deep enough for the tiny buttonhead and I carefully tapped it in and clipped in.

I stepped up onto a cleaner looking series of edges leftwards. One move, then another and now a third. Finally a rather committing move separated me from what looked like a good drilling stance. I looked up, then down, then up again. If I blew it here I would probably hit the Cholla, or worse, hit Crell. At the least, I'd probably hit the broken blocks and break my ankle. I looked up, then down, and then up again. My calves were starting to get pumped.

Okay" I said softly, and stepped on a sparse edge, with not much for my fingers. I was starting to feel a bit concerned. The heat shimmered off the rock face and beads of sweat trickled into my eyes.

As I shifted my weight to make my move, I caught sight of something out of the corner of my eye. I looked over to see a spider-like creature with crab legs skittering around on the rock face about fifteen feet away, and it had Yabo's head on it. Yabo was a maniac free climber of great renown, who at this very moment was in Yosemite with his bloody fists likely jammed into some gnarly granite crack 200 feet off the ground.

"F*#k," I shrieked as I shook my head to try to clear the salty sting from my eyes.

Yabo was smiling and doing a Groucho Marx thing with his eyebrows. He had a big gash on his forehead. No blood but I could see his skull.

"Make the move, bro," he said and scampered closer. "Ain't nothin' but a little thang. If you peel, no biggie, it ain't so bad. The pain, the fear, it's all in your head.

"What the f*#k, Yabo. What the f*#k you doin' up here, l…l…like that?" I stuttered. "You a f*#king flashback or something? I didn't even drop last night."

He just grinned and skittered closer to the spot where my next move would land me if it was successful. "Make the move, get the groove, bro. This is where you separate yourself from those little bong hit pussies bouldering down there, bro."

"OK, Yabo, I'm gonna do it, but please don't f*#king' haunt me like a specter. I can take the fall, but I don't think I can handle anymore of your f*#ked up head clamped onto that spidery looking sh#t anymore. So let me make my move and get the hell out of here, won't you?"

I shook the sweat from my eyes again and he was gone. I wasted no time and reached up with my right hand, feeling a little edge I could clamp onto. It was sparse but accommodating. Moving up again, my feet found a gravelly sloper and then the stance. I took a deep breath. Crell said something below that sounded like "put in a bolt."

"Whew," I said, though only 30 feet off the ground. I was worked.

Crell yelled up, "Wanna see if you can get to the flake"? I looked down and saw him loading a pipeload with his one free hand.

"Should I tell him about Yabo," I wondered. What would I say? 'Hey Crell, guess what? I just saw Yabo up here but he had a spider and crab body and a big gash on his head. Pretty f*#king cool first ascent, eh? You should come up here and see if he appears for you. You're the one on acid.' Naw, better to keep quiet and hope like hell that it was a one time deal, like old Marley appearing to Scrooge.

Crell yelled up again, "You deaf or somethin'? Are you gonna try for the flake?"

"Okay Crell, I'll see if I can get to the flake. Have you got me?" I asked, a little concerned.

"Yeah Spicer, I gotcha, I gotcha."

Hammering and drilling while simultaneously clinging to the rock on miniscule hand and footholds left me exhausted. The scent of Crell's smoldering pipe wafted up to me as I lifted my right foot for the next tenuous move. Stepping up again with the right and then the left foot enabled my right hand to barely reach the bottom of the flake. I tapped it with my knuckle to see if it would sheer off. It remained intact.

"Seems okay," I said to myself. I stepped up again so I was standing on the bottom part of the flake, my toe in a little gap, like we used our feet on Yosemite finger cracks. My left foot found purchase on a loose looking flake out to the side and it seemed prudent to slam it a bolt there.

"I sure hope this doesn't f*#k up," I said, looking out into the Wonderland.

Bang, bang, bang. Arms and calves pumping out. Shakin' out each arm, then each calf, Bang, bang, bang. Then tap, tap and finally I clipped the quarter incher.

"Okay Crell, wanna lower me?"

"What?" chortled Crell from below.

"Lower me dude, lower me," I implored.

I could see Crell setting down his pipe, then grasping the rope with both hands and lowering me to the ground with a practiced hip belay.

As I untied my painfully tight EBs, Crell unwrapped one of the sandwiches his mom had made for him, always turkey and mayo. He devoured half of the thing, set it down and grabbed his huge EB's and stuffed his feet into them.

"How did it look after your last bolt Spicer?" he asked while still chewing his sandwich.

"Sketchy," I responded, "very sketchy!"

With the rope hanging down from my last bolt, Crell tied the rope into his swami and I prepared to belay him. He flew through the lower moves, hesitated at the second bolt and then suddenly weighted the rope. "Shit", he exclaimed, as he slipped off the edges.

"Crell, focus dude, focus, " I yelled upwards, slightly hassling him.

"I'm not warmed up yet," he reminded me as he got back on the rock.

Still on a toprope, Crell began to get serious. Now he carefully scanned the face for holds and accurately moved across them to my high point. With the flake in his hands and the top bolt at his waste he stared straight up silently for what seemed to be minutes. I wondered if he was having a flashback up there.

"Crell, how does it look?" I asked from my now warming belay stance at the base.

"Mmmm, grmm, mmm" was all I heard.

He worked his way to the top of the flake and stemmed over to some hold on the left.

"Mrrggg, brrrggg" he said.

I watched him grab the hammer with his right hand and the drill with his left and start pounding. Bang, bang, bang. Bang, bang, bang. I scanned the horizon, looked over at Such A Savage and a few new route possibilities. Bang, bang bang, bang, bang, bang. When he was finished, he carefully arranged the buttonhead and tapped it in.

"Nice job Crell" I exclaimed with a deep breath.

Crell stood atop the flake and looked around for his next move. The wind began to blow and make verbal communication even harder than it already was. I pulled out a bag of nuts and munched on a few. Then I heard some voices from the blocks downslope. It was Dee Estabans and Jim Angione coming to join us.

"Hey Dee, hi Jim, how you guys doin?" I asked.

"Pretty good" Dee said. "Stayed up pretty late last night." Dee and Jim's eyes were completely bloodshot and they sounded very spaced out.

"Wanna give this a go, Dee?" I asked.

"Maybe," Dee responded. "It looks cool."

Jim looked confused and very sleepy. "Are you guys using hooks?" he asked, almost too quietly to hear.

"Well, we might have to," I responded, trying to keep a good eye on Crell. "Ruby said he'd chop our bolts, or worse, pull us off." Do you really think we would?"

"Never know with Ruby," Dee said. "You know the way he drives. The f*#ker is sorta crazy."

"I'd be concerned about him chopping bolts, though," Dee said. "He's trippin' today and no telling what he might do!"

The three of us watched as Crell left the security of the flake, stepping off to the right. Now in a spread eagle posture, like a human X, his fingers explored virgin flakes, edges and slopes. He moved right, seeming teetery for a moment. He took two more steps right. Then both legs started jerking up and down uncontrollably, the dreaded Sewing Machine Legs.

Craning our necks upwards at Crell, our pulse rates tripled as we watched a terrified Crell Fro sixty feet above our heads in a feverishly unstable position with a big loop of rope sagging between him and his last bolt. Then Crell calmed down. His feet found purchase and the three of us sighed in unison "ahhhhhhhhhhh."

"Hey Crell, how ya doin? I shouted.

Crell said nothing. Bad sign. He didn't move and nobody said a thing. Then he sidled even farther towards some larger hold, and grabbed on.

"How is it Crell? I shouted.

"I'm worked," mumbled Crell from far above.

Then he shifted his hips to the right, stood on a small flake and reached down for the hammer. Bang, bang, bang. Bang, bang, bang. Crell dropped the hammer and drill on their cords and began to shake out one arm and then the other.

"I'm pumped man, I'm pumped," he yelled, "Watch me, man, watch me. I'm pumped, I'm so pumped."

We watched quietly from the base. Bang, bang, bang, bang bang, bang. Then tap, tap, tap. Crell fiddled with the button-head, squirreled it in and clipped it.

"Hold me" yelled Crell from above. "I'm done, lower me."

I quickly lowered Crell to the ground.

"How was it dude?" I asked.

He looked at me, pale and sweaty, like he'd just been spooked. I wondered, but didn't say anything in front of the others.

"Nice f*#kin' job dude, nice job," exclaimed a very hung over Dee Estabans.

"Wanna give it a go," I asked Dee as I pulled the rope through my device.

"Maybe next weekend," said Dee.

"Jim, wanna try it?" Dee asked, looking over at the skinny blonde, post teen.

"Naw," Jim responded.

Then Crell, still panting, looked over at me again. "Spicer, wanna keep going?

I looked over at Dee and he looked at me with that "c'mon, you can do it" expression.

"Okay, I guess I'll put in another bolt," I said in a squeamish kind of way.

Just as Crell untied his swami belt, I grabbed my EBs and started to cram my feet in. "Dee, wanna belay?"

"Ah, sure, sure," Dee seemed very spaced out, and reached for his swami and started to tie in.

I stepped back onto the rock and moved through the now familiar lower moves on top rope to Crell's high point. Just as I was reaching Crell's final bolt, new rapid voices emanated from the boulders. It was my brother Al and Steve Emerson. Al did all of the talking and Steve seemed to add a few mumbles. I could hear Dee and Al go back and forth about campground gossip and heard that Steve had taken too much acid and freaked out after soloing several 5.10 cracks, again in his sneakers.

Click. I snapped the oval beener into Crell's top bolt. The next moves looked very, very dicey. Crell and Dee were shouting to me but the wind obscured their voices. As I tried to get comfortable on the crumbly edges of Crell's last stance, I took a glance out over the Wonderland. The mineral scent of the rock reverberated in the heat and filled my nostrils. Then suddenly, I noticed that his last bolt was actually only two-thirds of the way in. He had rushed the placement and failed to drill the hole the full one-inch needed to secure the shiny buttonhead.

"Shabby work, wouldn't you say?"

I looked to my right and there was Yabo again, just like before, but he had a smoldering joint in his mouth. He noticed me looking at it and asked if I wanted a hit.

"The bitch is, it's hard to climb and smoke at the same time, even when you've got six legs," he mused. "Sure you don't want some? Acapulco Gold, man."

"Look Yabo, I'd love toke up with you later, but I need to get out of this alive, so maybe you can scramble up ahead and give me a few pointers."

"Sure, no problemo amigo," he said and skittered effortlessly up the vertical face. "First, go left there. There's a nice line of edges your left."

"You call these nice?" I asked. The moves were getting harder. One sparse edge and another and I really felt like my feet could pop right off with a rather unpleasant (and embarrassing) fall.

From below, I could hear Al telling a story's of John Long's new scary boulder problem in Hidden Valley, Sean Curtis's un-repeated mantle at the Asteroid Boulders and the gossip about the one beautiful college girl form LA who had showed up in camp that morning, already successfully hit on by Largo. The voices comforted me as I struggled with not one, but two, daunting faces.

"Hey, waddaya want, bro, this is the big time," replied Yabo. "Go left some more, then reach up. There's a small ledge."

I sidled myself upwards, squirming and reaching with my right hand. Feeling for an edge with my fingertips, sensing the texture from right to left across the face above. The sound of the wind swirled across my head. A pair of swifts sliced the air past my left ear and then I heard the sound of my own heart beating loudly.

"Spicer, how's it feel"? Dee yelled from below.

"Thin Dee, it's thin," I moaned while reaching as high as possible and finally clamping onto a quarter inch flake with the tips of my right fingers. Cool. I yarded myself upwards and positioned my right foot at the top of the vertical flake.

"Now, about ten inches up, there's a little ledge. You gotta grab it," commanded Yabo.

I noticed a series of small edges down to my left, right where I wanted to place my food. They were sparse and if I greased off, I'd take a twenty plus foot fall. But I was getting tired and my right calf was pumped.

"Use those ledges you're staring at, bro," he commanded as he sidled down closer for a better view.

So I did. I lifted my left foot and perched it on the flakes and stood very quickly while reaching for the stance. Just as I grabbed the thing my right foot teetered into space, my body barn-doored and my hand clamped with a vice-like death grip I was not gonna release.

"Fuuuuuck, I got it."

I levered myself up and over and got on top of the somewhat sloping, yet big enough little ledge. Below I heard five voices all shouting up encouragement and breathing sighs of relief. As I fumbled for a buttonhead in my shorts pocket, a couple of new and irreverent voices rumbled up from the base. Glancing downwards, I saw the red ponytail of Ruby Vogel and the graying mop of Jim Dutzi clustering with the others.

"Use any hooks dude"? Ruby called upwards.

"Not me," I swore.

The boys chattered as I tapped in a bolt, clipped it and asked Dee to lower me down.

"Lower me Dee," I shouted down.

I looked up one more time and Yabo was sucking on the now roached out joint, grinning at me.

"Nice work, bro. See ya next time when you finish this little f*#ker up. Maybe you'll name it after me, eh?"

"Yeah, sure, We'll call it something like Yabo the Crab-Spider No Acid Hallucination," I joked nervously.

As I reached the ground Ruby started in on me.

"I heard you guys used some hooks," spouted Ruby, with Jim Dutzi nodding yes in agreement. "You know I'm gonna have to chop those bolts," he asserted in classic Ruby style.

"C'mon Ruby, don't start a war. A couple of those stances were too steep to drill," Crell begged.

"Spicer, I really liked this but it's just way too long. Cut it in half, get rid of most of the bolt placing scenes and we've got something really fun and cool," suggested Ruby.

"I gotta take a piss," I said, looking forward to getting away from this conversation.

"Me too," said Crell.

We walked over to some bushes about twenty yards away.

"Weird sh#t up on the rock today," Crell said. "I think I was still trippin'."

My head whipped around. "Yabo?"

He nodded to the sound of urine striking the parched desert floor. We stared at each other for a while, and then simultaneously a shiver went up both our spines.

Then one word escaped both our mouths in unison.


Sep 10, 2009 - 03:45pm PT
Quite the interesting archive.

I hear the advice to "give a piece of yourself." Good advice, but so is Shepp's, "F*ck the rules!"

Here writing I have nothing whatsoever to do with.


July 29/86

It's hard to say whether it was the garlic pancakes or our
philosophical differences with the snafflehounds, but for some reason we were horribly disorganized. We did, however, notice a helicopter land just below the summit towers.

Scott has a 100 metre rope of which he is very proud as there is
no knot when rappelling. So, after nine knotless rappels we were back on good old snow firma.

Also on the snow were two men, both Vancouver stock brokers. Evidently they were the stock brokers dropped by the helicopter we had seen earlier.

We introduced ourselves, got closing quotes from that day's market, and prepared to leave.

They detained our departure by asking the small favour that we
save their lives. "Without you," they added, "the chances of our
survival are zero to none."

We thought of asking what kind of odds we might get on that
estimate, but instead eyed them quizzically for what seemed like days, though it was only for 12 or 14 seconds.

Remembering, too, what our mothers had said about strangers,
especially strange stock brokers (and both our mothers had quite a few experiences with those), we said: "Yes we will help you, only first you must tell us what the f*** you are doing here and what is the unladen air speed of the African swallow."

The answer to the second question they knew immediately (even
though we didn't) and the answer to the first question was quite
involved. It turns out they were up on the mountain on a dare. Actually, if you really want to know the whole story, the two of them had been at a party and after copious fluid intake and much drinking, they had ended up making a substantial bet (this is all true) that they, two absolute non-mountaineers, could climb the Big Wadatorium within a month from the day of the bet.

They took a few rock climbing lessons and then planned
to be dropped high enough by helicopter that only the summit tower would have to be climbed.

Great plan, except to keep the weight down in the machine, two trips were required, one for supplies and one for them. Unfortunately the time lapse between these two trips was two
weeks and involved two different companies. Miscommunication was
no doubt responsible for their supplies arriving at the hut, while they ended up stark naked, comparatively speaking, at over 12,000 feet on the side of a sheer mountain.

We laughed non-stop at their foolishness 'til, in the excitement
of the hilarity, someone 'let one go' and then, giggling at our childish obsession with this basic human function, we took off fast. Besides, it was snowing cats and dogs and the occasional snafflehound, and we were very afraid.

But luckily I had some Skoal and so could leave a trail of brown
spitulants should we have gotten lost and had to find our way back up the mountain. Scott pointed out that this was very stupid.

Anyway, if you still care, it was a major epic getting the two city slickers all the way down to Rainy Knob. And also, because of their lack of equipment, we became fearful lest they lose their feet to frostbite. But bizarre things do sometimes occur; in this case it being their careful study of a survival book which strongly recommended carrying another pair of dry socks by wearing them condom-fashion on one's dink! We mutually raised our eyebrows as they changed and then mutually wondered if this was perhaps an older survival book they read, written before many women were in the mountains... or perhaps it was
written when chicks also had dinks! Thinking about this left us
confused and somewhat worried; as it is this kinky sort of baloney that we so often hope to escape by coming to the mountains.

Finally we got the pair down to Rainy Knob. We piled into
Scott's bivy tent only minutes after I tested the sharpness of my ice axe by poking a hole in that very same tent. Scott, by the way, offered to remove my liver with his pocket knife.

Next morning we herded the brokers up the hill to the hut, just
like two cowboys riding the exchange. Once up there we immediately dove into their food barrels and decided to have a party. Except inside a barrel is no place for a party, so we came back out, went inside the hut and threw a shindig that the snafflehounds will never forget. Imagine feeding caviar to snafflehounds!

Anyway, we patched up our differences with the beasts,
promising never to call them Falaffelhounds again. The wolverine
dropped by late, after finishing off another food cache on the Radiant.

The stockbrokers got sleepy and rather boring. The moon came out and the Coast Range was as beautiful an idea as anyone has ever had.


I believe the author is Dave "Fish" Fulton

Ice climber
Sep 12, 2009 - 02:08am PT

Just reread this piece about Mugs. Thanks for posting it as it brought back some memories that had laid dorment for a long time. Not the least of which is that Michael Kennedy is a brilliant writer.


Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Sep 12, 2009 - 09:25am PT
So that's the story of the Acid traverse? Cool! I expected Yabo to look like a Unicorn....

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Sep 13, 2009 - 10:42am PT
Nice job you guys!

I love this thread.

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Sep 13, 2009 - 10:28pm PT
Bump for Chiloe!!!!!

Social climber
Across Town From Easy Street
Apr 10, 2010 - 06:17pm PT
One more story:

Adventure Gaping At Washington Pass: A TR

Mike Layton was back in town, so of course we simply had do some disturbing, vile and painful activities. We met up at one of the worst dives in Bellingham, Mike all beaming:
“Isn’t this place great! And look! Free popcorn!”

It all started with disturbing.

Mike suggested we do a climb, so I updated my living will and agreed. I explained to him that I had been immersed in work and hadn’t climbed in 8 months, as well as working tirelessly on my beer gut.
He immediately suggested we try the Northwest face of South Early Winter Spires, at Washington Pass.
I was excited, having never climbed at any of the Early Winter spires, and only a couple of routes in the whole area.
Then he whipped out the topo, and I saw the crux pitch just said “5.11".
“I was thinking you could lead that pitch.” he said casually.
“Sweet Baby Jesus, Mike!” I responded, “did you hear me? I am THIS close to being a Curling Fan!”
Without a pause, Mike went on with his topographical litany,
“We really need to make sure we stay away from The Dolphin here on this pitch after the crux (he points to a horrible looking offwidth/chimney), and just look at the double roofs above, blah, blah.....”
There was no deterring this monster, I thought grimly to myself, turning over in my mind the lunacy I outwardly had just agreed to. I didn’t think I could climb “The Dophin” if my life depended on it.

He said he had a guide friend in Mazama that we could stay with, and “he knows how to party!” I reluctantly agreed to leave on Saturday night. Plus, conditions looked stellar: mid-to-upper 60's, clear skies, and Lord knows, probably not another party on the route.

Next came vile, an important element to all good adventures.

Mike called ahead, we grabbed a couple of tallboy sixers and headed East. When we got there, his friend was not around, and I was thankful to note that our 1/2 case was the only booze in the fridge. We knocked back a few around 8-ish, and I was thinking it was going to be a mellow night (thank God), when Mike whipped out a flask of good scotch.
“I brought this to help us sleep!” He said, unaware of my weakness for a good highland. Uh-oh.
He then informed me that his friend was at a Blues Festival just a few miles away - did I feel like going?
Thinking about the one-hour approach at high elevation with a full compliment of climbing gear, I politely made the hard decision.

We kicked back and enjoyed the quiet Mazama Evening. Very soon we were on our fourth tallboy and several strong pulls from the flask. His friend showed up a bit later, saying he skipped the Bluesfest and hotties for an evening with us. He also had quite a bit more beer. Of course, we felt obliged to provide drunken entertainment, and all soon turned to full-out debauchery. Sometime around 11:00, I realized that 6AM comes damn early, but I am not even tired, but Mike is nothing if not the consummate provider. He whips out three tablets of valerian root, hands them to me, and says: “This will help.” 45 minutes later I drift off to a blissful sleep, Mike and his friend still raging in the cabin.

Painful: Waking up at 6:05, I felt like my head had been put in the log-splitter that hovered above our pillows in the yard. I had no alarm, but Mike (who had the alarm) is still fast asleep. “Wake up, ya bastard!” I groaned woefully in his direction and we were up. A quick bite to eat, some coffee, a fair bit of water, and we got ready to go. Mike walked over to a red pile of something.
“Cherries from last night,” he explained, “I forced myself to puke,” he said, “and I set the alarm for 6:30, thinking the extra half hour would do us good”.
Another 5 hours would have done me, especially considering what we were about to undertake. Hey! If I go back to sleep, we can skip this altogether!
I quickly dismissed this idea, and we took off towards the pass, sipping our coffees and waiting for the ibuprophen to kick in.
I actually felt ok as we started hiking, but Mike’s world is still swimming. Behind him, I get some satisfaction from this. We passed several parties of people on the well-maintained trail, one hiker party who had a Malamute Husky pup (this becomes important later). A climbing party of a man and what looked like his daughter asked us how we were doing.
“Hungover”, Mike responded.
The man shook his head as we passed.
There is some twisted enjoyment to forcing the previous evening’s poison out of your system I realized as we hiked, and I could smell the scotch coming from my pores.

At the base, we false started, then found the route. There was little to no chalk on this route, and I thought: not good. As we were getting ready, a goat wandered by and Mike shot a picture as it traversed across the steep slope below.
The altitude was sapping, but we took a short break, then Mike started out on the initial “10.b” pitch. Within minutes he was cursing and whining, and eventually had a take on the gear. .10b? Mike? Hmmmmm...
I start to worry immediately about my .11 pitch, which is next.
As he was climbing the pitch I looked down and saw the Malamute pup from the hiking party running up and past me. The pup had spotted the goat, chased and caught it.
I must admit I was a negligent belayer as I watched the following scene unfold before my eyes:

The pup chased the goat onto a rock where he started to sniff it curiously. The goat stomped it’s feet repeatedly on the rock to warn off the dog, but puppy remained undeterred. The dog then charged the goat, who lowers it’s head, and somehow catches the dog sideways on its head between horns and the crown of it’s head. The quite large dog looked like a head drapery as the goat lifted its head, turned sideways, and dumped the dog 15 feet over rock onto the scree below. There were some serious puppy cries as the dog tumbled, got onto wobbly legs and ran by me again. Totally aghast, I scanned the retreating dog for blood, but saw none. Soon, I heard the call of the owner, and I yelled down to her: “ I would check your dog out, he just got attacked by a goat!” She stares at me for a minute in disbelief, then says in a broken voice, “Thanks!”. I could hear the desperation in her voice as she resumed calling for her dog, who now wanted mommy and was well on it’s way.
I don’t know why I said the goat attacked the dog, maybe out of kindness for the situation. It was just the opposite.

I relayed all of this to Mike, who was amazed, even though he was probably cursing me inwardly for not paying attention to the belay. I was too shocked to even think about a camera, and really didn’t have time. Damn! Plus, I WAS belaying...
Mike got to the anchors and brought me up through difficult placements, and tenuous laybacking and jams. I felt bad about the belay. I got it clean, but was thinking .10c. Then I thought I am an out of shape fat bastard, and I am way above my normal elevation. The last thought held little comfort for my approaching pitch.
The topo states the next pitch as “jam a steep arching crack”, and it is pretty obvious we were in the right place, so I grab the rack and set off. Mike had pre-placed a couple of pieces claiming “it doesn’t look that hard”. I begged to differ, and about halfway got into some solid .10 climbing. Struggling through that, I was feeling pleased with myself, when I got shut down. The upper part of the short pitch had almost no purchase in the crack, my left foot was asleep from painful 3/4" toejams, and my right foot skittered uselessly on a black waterstreak. I tried repeatedly without success, so three points of aid later I reached the belay and brought Mike up. He fared much better than me, but also got shut down at the top, declaring it hard 5.11. I agreed, glad that I wasn’t the weak-ass that I had feared as I aided through that part.

Pitch three saw Mike leading out of a small alcove, where the mosquitos and I had some lunch together. Mike got up a ways, declared he was off route, and downclimbed for 40 feet or so. I hear a “this is great!” from above, as I payed out another 50 feet. Then: “Damn it! I am downclimbing.” The rope pooled yet again at my feet, but I didn’t care. I was still pretty wiped from the .11 pitch.
Then: “This is so messed up!” and finally: “Off belay!” Following, I understood the confusion. There is a sweet crack to the left as I climbed out of the alcove, yet the rope snaked up a dirty crack directly in front of me. Climbing through moss and dirt with occasional recently-cleaned places for gear, I wondered.
Arriving at the belay, Mike said the nice crack to the left had dwindled to nothing at the top. He had only placed two pieces of gear in 50 feet, and declared the ensuing 5.8 downclimb “spicy”.

It looked like I was getting the draw of the 5.10 double roofs, so I set off. Undercling roof cracks scare me, I have never gotten used to large pieces of rock hanging over my head as I pull on their weakness. That was my excuse when after sizing up the initial crux, I offered Mike the lead. He lead in style, declaring the initial moves the crux. I followed, pulling on yet another piece to get through the section I couldn’t do earlier. The rest of the roof was fun, until I went to turn the last corner. Moving around, the flake rounded off miserably and I looked up for a hand jam. The rope was trailing in the crack where my hand needed to go. I barely got the rope out of the way, and set a couple shallow jams when I popped off. It was one of the most painful jam rips I have ever experienced. Immediately, blood blossomed from two points on my left palm, and two points on the back of my right hand. Dangling in space dripping blood, it took me 10 minutes to hook my toe in a crack and find purchase to get back to the roof corner. Shoving my pained, bloody hands back into the same moves was agonizing, but the only way out. I made sure the rope draped correctly, and got through it, whining like the puppy I had witnessed earlier. I continued cursing through the short offwidth and the 5.9 handjam section to a grinning Mike.
He looked at my hands, and said
“The topo says the rest is fourth class.”
I said I would take the lead, and Mike asked if I wanted to simulclimb?
Sure, I said, let me get a couple of pieces in, then you can start climbing.
“Just go, and when there is only 20 feet of rope left, I’ll give you a shout. It’s not that far to the summit.” I took off, and as I moved a few feet away, the smell of Mike’s cigarette wafted towards me, making me nauseous. I fairly sprinted over the rock.
50 meters later, the summit was still unattained, and the rope drag was so horrendous I could hardly move.
“This is why I always tie in short!” I cursed to myself.
Another 10 feet, and I was locked down. I yelled to Mike that I couldn’t move and he needed to catch up. I tied off a horn and brought him up. A short simulclimb later we reached the summit.

On the rappels down, we ran into the father with his daughter doing the moderate South Face, and he asked Mike:
“How is that hangover doing?”
“Worse.” Mike responded, and pointed to the two older guys that had just free-soloed past them, “But they’re hungover too!”
The man was obviously unhappy with our feckless behavior, and Mike was obviously pleased.

Postscript: we found out later that the move neither of us saw at the end of the arch? was a dyno to a tree branch. We just couldn’t figure that out at the time.

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Apr 24, 2010 - 10:55pm PT
Pate.. .. .. .. .. . .. .. .

style.. .. .. . . . . .

histor. . .y.... ..

Bum. ....... . ... . . p


Social climber
Apr 25, 2010 - 11:20am PT
HashBro I thought your story was great

Social climber
Nov 15, 2012 - 09:22pm PT
Bump for some great stories.

Cross-post from another thread

I found this guy on the "partners forum" of and we decided to try Davis-Holland at Index for our first climb. I camped out overnight on the beautiful Skykomish river and the next morning I waited...and waited...
Finally he shows up a good 2 hours after our arranged time, and as he is getting his stuff together, casually asks me if I mind if he "inspects" my gear.
"I'm an engineer, you see." As if that explained it all.
He declared my rack "incomplete", and I say "I don't usually place a lot of gear."
This agitated him greatly, and he was eyeing me nervously. Just then he said, in a total non-sequiter,
"I think I have to shitt now"
"Umm, OK. Do your thing that you gotta do!"
"Well, I might be able to wait - how far is it?"
I told him, and he decided he could wait, after much verbalization of information about said bowel movement I didn't really need to hear.

Oh, this guys name soon becomes (to me) Bowel Movement Fixation Guy (BMFG, for short).

As we are walking up the trail, he asks me if I have toilet paper - he forgot his. I say yes, he says how much. I say plenty, he says let me see.
So we stop, and as I am taking my pack off, he launches into this story about an alpine trip that ANOTHER guy forgot his TP, and how angry he got, because he always has a certain amount with him, blah, blah blah.

I am starting to get irritated by BMFG.

He inspects the TP, declares it adequate, and promptly takes off up the trail ahead of me at a blistering pace, yelling back:

"I feel it coming, gotta hurry!"


At the base of the climb is further talk (on his part - I quickly learned this doesn't need my involvement, discussion-wise) about whether to go before climbing, or wait, and all of the hazards and pitfalls of not going before climbing.

Jesus, Dude! STFU, and get ready!

He finally gets all geared up for the first pitch, tied in,me on belay (my lead) and guess what? Now is the time! Drop harness, borrow my TP, and he's off again. I fully expect never to see any TP upon his return, given his bent.

He gets back,returns not-much TP and tells me all about it. I finally snap:

"Listen, man. I don't want to hear any more about your shitt!"

He seems crestfallen as we start climbing, but soon finds new diversion by criticizing my gear placements, and their infrequency. The next pitch is his, but he backs down - obviously nervous about climbing with such an "unsafe" climbing partner. So I lead again.
BMFG follows, and is shaken as he gets to the belay, then his eyes widen as he looks at my anchor points.
I am clipped in with two draws to 2 1/2 inch bolts with shiny hangers.
"What? No lockers? Your anchor isn't equalized!" he seems outraged that I would put his life at risk like that!

I'm done, and I tell him so. He balks, so I say:
"OK, your lead." That does it.
He offers to rappel first, after retying his own knot in the ropes because my overhand was "unsafe".

I'm getting pissed.

He yells up as the rope goes slack,
"Ummm, off belay, but the anchor isn't very good."

My God, what has this guy done? This route gets climbed and rapped more than any other route at Index in the 5.10 range!

I rap down and am flabbergasted by what I see: He has found a ratty old aid anchor with 1/4" rusty bolts (one is quite loose) and light grey webbing that is total tat. I look 10 feet to the right and 15 feet up from where he is, and there are shiny bolts with Metolius Rap rings. No way for him to get to them, so I am stuck going to HIS anchors. I am fvcking pissed.

I lose it, realizing that We have to rap to the ground off this crap anchor.
"This your choice of anchors" I say, pointing to the half-inchers'ers 20 feet away, "so you go first."
He gets upset by this, but I stand firm, as close to wishing tat would part as I have ever been.
We get down safe, and he sees a friend, so he decides to go visit.
"I'll be back in a minute and we can talk about what else we want to do!" he opines cheerfully.

As soon as he is out of sight, I quickly pack my gear and leave, being sure I don't have any of his gear. I get in my car and leave the climbing area.

An hour later, my phone rings. The ID reveals it's BMFG.
"Where did you go, Man? I waited at the car for you!"

I inform him in no uncertain terms that I will never climb with him again, citing: fixation, criticism, no head for trad climbing, inability to see what's around him, ad nauseum.

He lashes out, saying it was me, and like a pitbull, would not let it go. Finally, just to get off the phone, I say:
"Look, Dude. It was all my fault, OK? You are a great climber, whereas I am unworthy to climb with someone of your caliber"
(or some such shitt)
Finally, he accepts my apology, and I hang up.

It felt like I just broke up with a girlfriend

El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
May 28, 2015 - 10:50pm PT

May 28, 2015 - 11:05pm PT
I drove up to the mountains, hiked for a while and climbed some rocks. Then I went home. It was fun.
dee ee

Mountain climber
Of THIS World (Planet Earth)
May 30, 2015 - 05:43pm PT
Here is one.

Epic on The North Face of San Jacinto

On this moonless night the darkness was complete. We hurried up the road by feel but the barking dogs were closing in on us. Rumored to be fierce Dobermans owned by the water district caretaker, they had us worried. We kicked it into high gear and hit the chain link fence at a dead run. Up and over in a second we switched on the headlamps and started up the streambed of Snow Creek.
In the predawn we approached the base of the north face of San Jacinto. Its 10,000 foot escarpment is said to be one of the tallest in the United States, Alaska included. It is an escarpment of Himalayan scale not two hours drive from the largest metropolitan area in the U.S. My friend Jim, my cousin Ken and I had driven by it many times on our trips to Joshua Tree and our curiosity had finally drawn us to it. It looks big from the highway but the deceiving effects of foreshortening are misleading. It is HUGE, a massive behemoth of rock and, in winter, snow and ice the size of the Wickersham Wall on Denali. It rises from the desert of Cabazon, at less than 1,000 feet, to its alpine summit at over 10,000 feet.
I had heard that climbers from San Diego climbed it annually as an early season warm-up for trips elsewhere. Other than that we had no information. The secrets to its ascent appeared in no guide books in those days (1980). In our ignorance we were drawn to its dominant feature, the huge north ridge which bisects the face. I found out later that the key was to follow one of the huge couloirs that drop to either side of the ridge. The couloirs were the logical and straightforward lines that we should have been looking at.
Our plan included a partial car shuttle. Leaving a car in Idyllwild and then driving to Snow Creek seemed like the best way to go. We would then climb the face and descend the other side to Idyllwild. We wanted to go light and therefore left anything that would make a night out tolerable. We carried daypacks with food, sweaters and cagoules. With youthful optimism, and foolishness, we also left out any safety equipment such as rope, ice axe and crampons. We reasoned that with the early start we would be down by dark and with the route choice we would be able to avoid any dicey stretches of snow or ice.
By first light the scale of the face was dawning on us. We were a couple thousand feet up and barely started. The summit still looked miles away. The going was steep Class 2 with sections of easy Class 3 and 4, mixed with boulder hopping and bush whacking. In the distance above we could see the snowy summit. High thick clouds filled the sky making it impossible to see the sun and muting the colors to dull shades. Shadows didn’t exist. We were stoked to be in the teeth of another big adventure.
By early afternoon we were way the hell up there. The terrain had turned more alpine with the scrub giving way to pine. Snow covered the ground. We figured we were at about the 7500 ft. level. A few hundred feet ahead a large cliff bared the way. It was several hundred feet high and several thousand wide. At first it looked impassable, but as we approached, we could see a weakness right up the middle. The closer we got the more doable it looked, maybe even as easy as class 4.
A series of interconnecting ledges and ramps led to the final steep section. Ken volunteered to go first. The least experienced climber of the group but with excellent judgement he would be a good gauge of its difficulty. Jim was in the middle, I was last. If Ken decided it was too hard we would descend and go the long way around.
The climbing was easy class 5 and with boots (not climbing shoes) we moved with care. Suddenly I heard an “oh no” from above. I looked up and realized Jim had high stepped into his “foam back” Chouinard cagoule and in a second he skated and was in the air. He flew over my head and, in a desperate attempt to catch himself, raked me with his hands as he went by. Involuntarily my whole body shuddered to prevent my getting pulled off as well. In horror I looked over my shoulder to see him bounce once and then disappear over the ledges 50’ below. Past that point it was 200’ vertical to bloody death on the rocks below.
Panic- stricken, Ken and I down climbed to the ledges and cautiously peered over. We were certain he was gone but to our surprise there he was caught in the branches of a small tree on the brink of the precipice. It was a damn miracle!
We pulled him out and after he had regained his senses scrambled up to the ledges. He was having intense chest pains associated with his breathing so we thought he probably had some broken ribs or worse, internal injuries. Other than that, assorted cuts and bruises were the only visible damage. We were filled with relief that he was alive at all. It was a fall that should have killed him. He had been stopped by the scrawniest of trees, one that resembled the Christmas tree in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
It didn’t seem likely that he could make it out under his own power so we made plans to go for a rescue. Ken would stay with him and I would hike out. We gathered firewood and got him comfortable in a nearby cave. Our position was so high on the mountain that I figured it might be better to go up, descend to Idyllwild, call the Riverside Search and Rescue and return with help. With an hour or so of light left I headed for the top.
The upper part of the mountain had been transformed the day before by a freezing rain or fog. Every rock and log, every pine needle on every tree had a thin sheath of ice. The ground crunched with my footfalls, and as I pushed through the brush, the breaking ice made faint tinkling sounds like glass chimes in the wind. It was a surreal and beautiful landscape. I was worried about Jim’s condition and pushed it as hard as I could go. The ridge merged with the top of the face not far ahead and with luck I could be over the top before dark.
It was just a few hundred feet to the top and the way was bared by one of the couloirs that stretched from the ridge near the peak to the bottom of the Snow Creek canyon 8000 feet below. I started kicking steps across the snow filled gully. As I progressed the snow got harder and harder. At first my boots kicked nice deep steps but soon I was kicking smaller and smaller edges for purchase. My entire being was focused on staying balanced. I was almost to the middle where the snow would start to get softer again and I would be home free.
Then I slipped. In a second I was gone. The acceleration was instantaneous and I realized there was nothing to stop me. In a moment of calm and clarity I knew I was dead. There was no reason for self pity or panic. 40 mph, 50 mph, 60 mph, it was the year of the winter Olympics and I was the one man luge! Scenes from my life came and went in a timeless mosaic. I slid feet first for a bit and then spun around and was rocketing along headfirst on my back. The scene was upside down but I could clearly see a huge boulder approaching rapidly. I was heading directly for it. “That is where I die”, I thought. A moment later I hit at full speed. A thin tongue of snow ran up the boulder in a perfect BMX jump arc. I launched into a vertical trajectory and stalled 30 or 40 feet in the air. In an upright position I dropped to the snow and post-holed through the snow to my knees. I came to a stop instantly. One knee and both shoulders were dislocated but the knee and one shoulder popped right back in! Intuitively I grabbed my left arm with my right and started twisting. The pain was blinding. I twisted farther and with a snap the left shoulder popped in. WHEW!
I could not believe my luck. But it wasn’t luck. Luck is when you win in Vegas. The very hand of God had reached down and plucked me from the jaws of death.
I was pretty rattled and had no choice but to continue. I had lost 1000-1500 feet in the fall which I now had to regain. However it was just about dark and I needed a place to spend the long cold winter’s night. I groveled out of the gully and worked my way through the sparse rocks and trees. They were spaced closely enough so that I could take each section like a boulder problem. I used a couple of sharp rocks to chop steps when needed and headed up. Soon I found a small cave and crawled in. It provided shelter from the wind and I was able to sleep for a good part of the night.
In the gray of pre-dawn I resumed the climb. Awhile later I reached the main ridge and crossed over to the less steep terrain beyond. The clouds were still thick and without shadows it was impossible to tell where the sun was and hence the direction of town. All I could do was go downhill and bear to the right and eventually I would have to hit a road many thousand feet below. So down I went for hours and hours. The snow was deep and at times I would struggle, knee to waist deep. Sometime in the late afternoon the snow was thinning and I hit a trail. A couple miles later it came out on a dirt road, which I followed. Then about an hour or so after dark I came across some cabins. I found one with a phone line leading to it. I broke a window and crawled inside. The phone was dead. Back to the road and off again. I wondered how my friends were doing since leaving them 28 hours earlier.
I passed a sign telling me that I was on the Black Mountain Road and a few miles later reached the highway. I lay down on the shoulder and waited. I fell asleep but was awakened by an approaching car. I jumped up and ran out on the highway waving my arms frantically and the car slowed. Instead of stopping the driver gunned it and was gone, you rat bastard! The next car, driven by a good Samaritan, picked me up and took me to the sheriff’s office in Idyllwild. By this time it was around midnight. The sheriff listened to my story and called the Riverside Search and Rescue Team.
At dawn the sheriff and I met the Riverside Search and Rescue guys down at Snow Creek. The wind was howling, gusting to 50+ mph, but soon the rescue helicopter approached and landed. The rescue guys were dead set against flying but the pilot was gung-ho and wanted to go for it. I found out later that he was a mega-experienced veteran of both the Korean and Viet Nam wars and was afraid of nothing! So the pilot, Bernie (the head Riverside S. & R. guy) and I hopped in and headed up. The flying was super technical and the wind buffeted us. He gunned the dual jet engines to full power to keep the little chopper under control.
From our vantage point in the air the North Face seemed even bigger. Up and up we went toward the spot where I had last seen my friends about 36 hours earlier. I prayed that they were still ok. We were almost high enough when I glanced off to the left and there they were! I could see Ken standing on a large boulder on the very knife edge of the ridge waving his jacket over his head. Jim was sitting nearby.
There was no place to land for miles but this didn’t faze the pilot. He brought the chopper down and put one skid on the boulder, flying at ground level. In seconds Bernie jumped out and Ken and Jim jumped in. I fastened their seat belts and we were airborne again, leaving Bernie alone to wait for a return flight.
So, yeah, we all survived. Jim did have a couple broken ribs and I had a chronic dislocating shoulder for years after. The helicopter pilot died later that same year though. He was involved in a project building Bighorn Sheep watering holes up in the Red Rock area in Nevada. He was flying building materials into the Sierra Club volunteers and packed it in. It was a tragic and ironic end for him after so many combat flights.
The experience taught me a whole lot about surviving in the mountains, lessons that have served me well on many far more technical ascents since. I will rarely set foot in the snow without an ice axe. If we had taken a rope, ice axe, crampons, map and compass it would have been a cruise.
The next year Ken and I returned and had a fun climb up the face. We took all of the afore mentioned items, had a safe trip, and spent a beautiful but bitterly cold night near the summit. While we were low in the couloir we noticed evidence that a huge avalanche had poured through the gulley not long before. Mountains of snow mixed with broken trees led to the narrow section where there was debris 200-300 feet up on the side. Clearly the flow that had gone through here was voluminous. We hurried to the relative safety of the more open slopes beyond. I heard a story later that confirmed that our experience wasn’t the only miracle that had taken place on the face. An elderly Austrian fellow, that we knew as the “Alpeenist”, and friends had made an ascent from the Palm Springs tram a couple weeks before. They planned to camp on the summit and return via the tram. He had left his friends cooking dinner near the San Jacinto summit hut to admire the sunset from the their high perch. While he stood there gazing out at the last rays of light the summit cornice broke free under him setting off an avalanche which carried him away! He rode the crest of the slide for over 7000 feet and when it stopped he was on top and alive! With no injuries other than ripped lederhosen (a greasy old pair that he always wore) he made his way to safety.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
May 30, 2015 - 07:02pm PT
Holy cow, Dee! Well told and, as always, it is much better being lucky than well prepared. ;-)

May 30, 2015 - 08:20pm PT
It felt like I just broke up with a girlfriend

dee ee

Mountain climber
Of THIS World (Planet Earth)
May 30, 2015 - 08:28pm PT
Thanks Reilly, I've got more, all nonfiction.

The Screaming Woman

It was December 1986 and Tom Michael and I had been up to the Hidden Dome to climb the classic “Too Secret To Find,” on the Hidden Dome. We ended up there late in the day but saw several other good crack routes to do on the formation. The formation had many cool splitters on beautiful varnish. I vowed to return soon.

Jim Angione, Boogs , Herb Laeger and I returned two weeks later. It was warm, breezy and clear, a perfect day to be climbing in the shade. I lead the one that looked best to me first and it was super fun, a sweet splitter on good varnish. Everyone else followed in turn and we were loving it. We were basking in the solitude and were sure no one else was around for miles, at least it felt that way.

Suddenly we heard screaming in the distance. It wasn’t just screaming, it was blood curdling screams of horror. At first we didn’t know what to think. Was it real, was it the wind, it sounded bad, really bad. We were horrified! “That sounds like a woman,” someone said. “No, that sounds like a woman being murdered!” some one else replied. The one thing for sure was that this person was not faking it. Some poor woman was being attacked or raped or something worse. “What should we do?” The thought of confronting a murder in progress had us all frozen in terror for a few moments. “For Gods sake we have to do something,” someone uttered.

As one we rose up, adrenaline pumping, throwing down climbing gear, food and water. “Let’s Go!” We rushed off down the talus towards the desert floor to the west. Running, jumping from boulder to boulder in our haste, in a few minutes we were on the flats. The screaming had subsided for a moment while we regrouped. And then it started up again, and we were able to get a fix on where it was coming from. It was coming from the other side of a small formation nearby. It was just as horror filled as before only closer, much closer. As a group we sprinted towards the north end of the rock pile and around the corner to the west facing side. We were ready for combat with the most horrible criminals imaginable.

We came around the corner and saw a large group of people. My first thought was that we were greatly outnumbered. It took a few moments to sink in that they were climbers and that the screaming was coming from a woman on a toprope half way up the small cliff. It was an Outward Bound group and the woman was pleading to be let down. The “Leaders” were deaf to her. She had to complete the ascent. It was something worse than murder or rape, she was being forced to confront her fears which apparently were very real!

Oh my God were we relieved! We didn’t even talk to them, we just slipped sheepishly back around the corner with our tails between our legs numb from the adrenaline before any of them even saw us.

We returned to the Hidden Dome and did the FA of “Balance Due” (it’s working name on that day was “Too Stupid To Find!”). The other route could only be called “The Screaming Woman!”


May 30, 2015 - 08:59pm PT
Mih Ne Ah a small bigwall for some, a large free climb for others:

What James was referring to was that Jake and I did Min-Ne-Ah. Just to the right of Yosemite Point Buttress. I had come out to Yos two years ago, out of shape and in need of a gun like Jake. He took the bait. As we were up on YPB we spied MNA, which from our vantage point looked beautiful and full of good cracks.

We pushed up YPB (my Dutch Lager busted in my camelback only after all the wide sh#t.!!) thinking about MNA. I talked Jake into doing it.

We took off super early and headed up the trail behind the stables, eventually reaching the Yosemite Point Couliar. We rapped into it, noticing that we could have scrambled out into it earlier. The mood instantly changed in the couliar.(sp?) It was cold and dark. It smelled different. It smelled like a cave. I stayed positive because, after all, Jake was going to get us up the thing.......right? He required a calming period. During which time I checked out the route as best I could. The first pitch was stellar looking!!!!! Fingers and hands. Cookie cliff good. Couldn't quite see the rest of the route, but I was positive.

Jake pepped up and won the flip for first lead.
Off he went shaking out his fear until realizing the climbing was awesome. He was happy again and ready for action. This climb is going to be splitter!!!!! Alright, my plan of getting a guide if necessary on Min-Ne-Ah was panning out. Jeez, at that point, with the approach I felt as though I had already done something substantial and the idea of a rope gun was more and more appealing.

I set off and did some jangy traverse right into grainy wideness that would end up characterizing the majority of the climb. Ropes end reached I set up a belay. Jake followed nicely and showed up realizing I may be off route. A small down traverse and he was back into the same grainy wideness, for a long way. I set off on even more wideness on the next pitch as well, but it soon turned into a memorable roofish move to 5.10 pumpfest. All hands to the anchor. I arrived torched. My lack of climbing for 6 months was catching up to me. Jake was only getting more into the groove and floating his way up.

Jake led us up another wideness pitch and I then led us up a moderate, wide pitch to the tops of the Rabbit Ears. Great hang, especially on a beautiful spring day as we had. The couliar curving down below. Lots of grainy and physical climbing to that point. Mostly wide and grainy. Going at Cosgrove/Shipley 5.8 or 9.

Looking up we saw simply ominous looking climbing. That giant roof at the top?! What on earth were we going to have to do to get through?

I set off on the first 11a pitch. I stemmed my way up grain past sh#t bolt to a good bolt to more SUPER SH#T BOLTS that appeared to be out of the rock by 1/4 or more of and inch out of the rock. They appeared to be origional aid bolts. Quite possibly placed well with erosion taking its toll around them. Well, they held my weight nontheless. I had had enough mentally at that point. A bulbousy lyback that was grainy as hell with those bolts defeated me. Reacehed the anchor above and humbly set my partial hanging belay below and extremely overhanging crack.
Jake fired up to me. Racked up and set forth on what has to be one of the best onsights I've witnessed and I've seen a few good ones.

To this point Jake was flawless. He made everything smooth. Even climbing that wasn't supposed to be so!!! This was different. White super grainy rock overhanging desperatly like a wave. he set forth and to our luck found good gear in the back of this absolute GRAINWAVE. He was showering me with so much rock I could have used that amount to gravel the average driveway. I could barely keep my eyes open enough to see him, but I had to. This performance was not to be missed. I had grain in my eyes for days.

Jakes dilemma was that he was at a spot that was quite hard. Very hard and stenuous. Cos/SHip 5.11D, grainy and full of mud and salad fixings. All the reason to call it and aid. Problem was the gear was as good as it gets, no matter what pitch you compare it to. It was solid in the back of that rattly offset think fingers thin hands crack.

He had no excuse. He had to go for it. Oh of which he did baby! The top of the crack is like a gaping v-slot. From my vantage point it looked as though it was over by then. Jake made noises i've never heard getting to that slot and once he started pullling into it I was full of joy and ease thinking he just sent the improbable. I threw words of encouragement and praise only to be interrupted with a shakey, yet very stearn, "Watch me BOB!!!!!!!!" I almost pissed myself.
He grunted through to the sloping ledge. I praised him. Laughing he said,"that's a pitch that 5.13 climbers barely onsighted when putting it up so they had to call it 5.11D".

I followed hanging multiple times and being totally blown away at how hard it remained up at the v-slot. IT was absolutely desperate, wet, full of veg in the back and had no gear at that point.

Next pitch was the bolt ladder. I relenquished my post and let The Gun take over. He walked up this 11c pitch littered with those bolts I spoke of before. It looked like 5.6. No kidding. He only paused long enough, half way to re-tie his shoe! But then he reached the slightly overhangingish wet, slimy ass crack ramp/squeeze thingy. He let out words of horror as he stood 40 feet above the last bolt, digging out moss, and rotten rock so he could get situated and not take a roaring ride of a tumbler. I remember feeling so fortunate not to be on lead at that point.
He got in the #6 and shimmed his way forth. I was probably sweating more than he.

Bobby J. was big walling at this point, supporting a mega free send by a buddie. Hand over hand and I was at the maw of a squeeze thingy. It was hard, wet and scary on TR.

Next I was off on some more wide, grainey sh#t that put me lying back a pinnacle of rock (or fin might be better) that "was breathing" as I yarded up it. Increased grain on the route at this point. Folks, this is saying a lot since the route was already bonified GRAINEY. We were in that really white rock. that would just fall apart.

Next Jake took off and a face traverse that was hard up to some more hard crack shtuff.
I was off after that up some wide sh#t, then cut it short because I just couldn't see what to do. I was done. My mind was just hanging on.

Has anyone here looked up right of YPB and seen the HUGE roof up high and right? There is a giant fin like feature that sticks out on the right end of it. Maybe this doesn't make sense. I had to try because the feature is SO COOL.
At the top of it all. Only two pitches left. Jake stepped left bridging this gap that is visible from the valley. Its very easy to see. What an ending. We could see the light and this move was exhilarating to say the least. We are tall and had very lttle trouble bridging the gap once our minds allowed us the privilage. Then.......yup, more wide ass grainy sh#t that was supposed to be 5.6, but was three letter grades harder. Last pitch was still wide grainy sh#t.

I forget how many pitches the climb was for us, but a lot I know for sure. We happily used a #6 Friend on all, but 1 pitch. I mean we were STOKED to have it. Very very much so.

An unbelieveable adventure this was. For both of us. Jake made it up without ever falling. We never had a lick of beta except looking over from YPB. We never talked to Coz and Ship is on another adventure. We couldn't find anyone who'd done it. It was truly impressive. I would never have been up there without that Mr. Whittaker.

Great job Cozgove/Shipley. Did you have any wide gear up there? Whoa! I would love to hear the story of that day sometime if you're ever up for it Scott.

Cheers to great adventures. Regardless of grain.

Bob j.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
May 31, 2015 - 08:53am PT
Dam Bobby J. that was an awesome write up, I kept looking for the "like" button but realized this was ST and not Facebook.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
May 31, 2015 - 09:09am PT
Yeah, Bobbo, you had Guido at "All hands to the anchor." You had me the whole way.
But after doing the YPB what the hell possessed you to go for more grain?

Next time I see Jake's Uncle Lou I'll tell him what a stud his nephew is.

Social climber
Jun 1, 2015 - 07:33pm PT
A faint but distinct buzzer goes off, I look at my watch it’s 4:00am
I do not want to get up, but I force myself.
It is so dark and very cold (on the north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison) at this hour.
I light the stove.
The water is already in the pot and ready to boil.
I shake Buc “he’s my longtime friend and partner on this adventure”, gesturing that he be very quiet.
The water begins to boil. In a few seconds strong coffee is ready.

The cob webs clear after two sips of the strong stimulating beverage.

I pour Buc a cup and hand it to him while he is still in his sleeping bag. He is grateful not to have to move, just yet.

There are no human sounds in the small camp ground at this hour.

We power down as many calories as possible, with extra on the liquids.
We have been hyper/hydrating for the last 48 hours and I feel bloated.
I hope that I am hydrated enough for the grueling task ahead.

I sneak over to the outhouse and. my time table is off.
“Oh well, I tried”.
(It’s still very dark)
When I get back to camp Buc is up,
He’s dressed, ready to go.
I’m already dressed also. I even have my climbing shoes on!
Having packed everything necessary for today’s task last night, all there is to do is grab my half of the rack and a rope, and hit the trail.
We are the first out of camp. We have no one in front of us and have our pick of any route on North Chasm View Wall.

A brief flat stroll through the forest brings us to the Cruise Gully.
We start the long decent from the rim of the canyon to the Gunnison River almost 2000 feet below.
At first the going is easy scrambling, but it got steeper by the minute.
When we got to the start of the granite cliff, the rappel anchors were already in place. All we have to do is thread our ropes through them and go.
With doubled 165’ ropes we made really fast time.
We are being very careful not to do anything that would dislodge any loose rocks or cause the ropes to jam while we are pulling them behind us. One repel and then another and yet another go without any problem. At this point we have only a bit more roped descending to do and it is back to steep down climbing and scrambling with no need for the protection of a rope.

In the far distance we here the muffled sounds of voices and the clanking of gear.
We have a good head start and with that we should have no trouble staying way ahead of whoever they are. We have no idea if they even intend to do the same route that we have chosen but we aren’t taking any chances.

By now it is full day light although Route we have chosen is still in the shade and will be pleasantly cool for some time.
A few more minutes of steep hiking and we are at the base of our climb “The Cruz”.
“The Cruise” is a 1500’ 5.10+ free climb. It’s very steep and strenuous with exceptionally solid rock. (For “The Black” that is!)

Buc and I are in good climbing shape and the route is technically well within our abilities. We flip for who leads the first pitch. This will set the sequence for the rest of the climb since we will be leap forging pitches all the way up unless one of us gets freaked out (after all, “It’s always desperate in the Black!”)

I win the toss and charge up the first pitch. It’s moderate and goes smooth and swift.

The second and third pitches are off width and squeeze chimney, they’re strenuous but reasonable and really fun if you like off width climbing.

Pitch four is Buc’s and I can tell that he would rather I had drown it since it’s a thin finger crack in a dihedral and also one of the two crux pitches of the climb.

I take a moment to restack the rope and make my stance as comfortable as possible. Buc arranges the rack so that the smaller wired pieces are close at hand and can be accessed with a minimal amount of effort. I give him the nod that tells him that I am ready to belay. He reciprocates with the same gesture and makes the first moves off the belay stance. It’s hard right away and he is placing gear at every opportunity. I think that if he keeps this up he will be running out of the smaller sizes before he gets to the belay stance more than 130’ further. At one point he gets an especially good stopper in and asks me to tighten up the rope. It’s his lead and I do what he asks. He takes tension, not for a rest, but lowers down and cleans out the gear from below. Think that he has made a good decision and am comforted to know that he will have more of a selection when it gets harder further up the pitch. Placing small wired wedges for protection and using mostly thin finger jambs while stemming on the tiniest of edges on both side of the corner he makes slow but steady progress. All I can hear from him is heavy breathing and the occasional requests for slack and tension. I try to be encouraging knowing that at times he is at his wits end in desperation. At one point he commits to a sequence that he can’t reverse and slips. It really wasn’t a very long fall but still it was a fall. At the end of every fall there is a rest. He takes a moment to regroup and then with rejuvenated stoke he cruses the rest of the pitch without hesitation. Moments later I hear, “Off Belay”.

I had exhausted every possible position at the stance that I have been anchored to for an hour. My feet hurt and my legs were cramped. I was looking forward to moving again.
Seconding this pitch is way easier with a snug rope from above. The moves although thin were actually easy when the fear of falling was taken out of the equation.

The belay stance at the end of the 4th pitch was relatively comfortable and spacious although a bit sloping. This point also happens to be where “The Cruz” and its sister route “The Scenic Cruz” joins and follows the same line for the rest of the wall.

I thought that the last pitch had taken longer than it should have. I was rested and anxious to get underway.

The 5th pitch was nothing like the 4th and required totally different climbing styles and gear selection.

This pitch starts off through over hanging lodged boulders that are so precariously placed it seems as though the pressure of the various jamb locks could dislodge them.
I moved as quickly as possible through this section placing a minimum of gear although I did get a few pieces.
The exposure was wearing on me, as this pitch got steeper and more strenuous with every move.
It involved steep hand and fist jamming with sections of two or three sequential moves between gear placements.
I must admit that when I did get a piece of gear in, it was bomber.
I was starting to get really griped and pumped out of my mind when I powered through the crux roof and made a last desperate reach for what looked like a good hand jamb and it was just what I hoped.
I can’t say enough about this jamb. It gave me a boost of confidence that allowed me to rally.
In many of cases where there are good jambs there are good gear placements this was no exception. At this point, although everything was still extremely steep, I had some good gear in place and had a reasonably comfortable stance. I could put allot of weight on my feet and I was able to turn loose with one hand and shake it out and then the other. It felt good and secure to shake out but I really wasn’t resting.
I knew that I was really only a little over half way up this pitch. If I hadn’t been so pumped I think that this section would have been quite enjoyable.
The way that I had franticly placed the gear on that last desperate crux section was causing rope drag. The extra tension was wearing me down drastically. It was turning a technically moderate hand and fist crack, into a night mare.
It was like I was hauling a bag of cement up the climb with me.
I knew that I had to do something about it and that was going to eat into all the time that I had made up.
I placed a really good piece and took tension I started to lower myself back down the pitch.
This really confused Buc. He hadn’t been able to see or hear me since I turned the roof.
It really wasn’t that far, but it was so steep that it took my breath away.

I lowered myself over the roof and pulled the gear that was causing the drag and it was like night and day.

Buc could see me as soon as I lowered over the roof and fully understood what I was doing.
Now I had the task of reclimbing that strenuous roof again but this time I had a top rope.

I got back to my high point in no time and with newly found energy motored the rest of the pitch.

Buc had very little difficulty seconding the pitch. He did have some trouble getting one of the pieces that I over placed in a desperate moment. Otherwise he fluidly powered through the whole thing and was at the belay stance in no time.

We both felt some relief that the two crux pitches were behind us but we had a long way to go and the last two pitches had eaten up allot of time.

The cool shade of the morning was a thing of the past and the sun was out in full force. It was driving its intense rays deep into the white pegmatite quartz and radiating through the granite, while burning and swelling our feet in shoes that were too tight in the first place.

The next two pitches were without a doubt “world class” text book hand and fist jamming. The sort of cracks climbers dream of and seek out their whole climbing careers.
We savored these two pitches of moderate though sustained movement. After the difficult terrain we had been through previously these pitches were a vertical walk in the park.

Once again we made fast time and our enthusiasm returned. We were at a point where the exposure wasn’t affecting us as it was several pitches back although, believe me, it was still there.

At the ledge at the end of the two luxurious crack pitches we took a short break to take our shoes off and eat a little and try to hydrate some. We were over 1000’ from where we stepped on to this rock. We were tired and ready for it to be over and if we kept up the pace it soon would be.

At this point Buc was getting tired. I could see it in his eyes and his slow movements. I asked him respectfully, if he would let me lead the pitches for the rest of the climb. That would allow each of us to rest as much as possible between physical exertions. He looked up at the sun and then at me and said “be my guest” knowing that the rest of the climb was going to be a cruise for him.

I put the rack together as fast as I could and started out what is known as the “Becker Traverse”.

I move out the traverse edging on thin holds to the first bolt and place a wired stopper over it and clip in to it. The bolt looks as if it would hold body weight but I sure did not want to test it. Climbing on more thin holds at a fairly stiff technical difficulty I came to the second bolt and it looked better but I still had to thread a wire over it. Luckily, I found a few small stopper placements that helped offset the utterly pathetic excuses for protection. I moved a few more feet to the left and found the third it was almost completely out of the rock but I threaded it anyway. At this point I started to climb straight up and I fortunately found some small but good nut placements that protected the rest of the way to the belay ledge.

The belay ledge was a fairly comfortable place and I had some excellent cams in.
Buc moved through the traverse cautiously. It was equally as scary for him as it was for me.

Once again, we switch the Belay. I rearrange the rack and then place a piece as high in the crack as I could reach. I clip in and off I go. What appeared to be a few easy and straight forward hand jambs turned out to be much harder than I anticipated and I nearly fell off!

With my adrenalin way up after those few desperate moves, I climb moderate rock to a small, and very exposed belay ledge at the base of a gnarly, loose, and basically grim looking face. Vertically, we were 150’ below the rim of the canyon. I clip into the fixed anchors and put in as many extra pieces as I could find.

I realize as I belay Buc up to the tiny ledge, that we are very close to the top, but the climb isn’t over.

At this point we are both fatigued and dehydrated and our judgment is somewhat slowed or impaired.

For the last time, I organize the rack the rack while Buc restacks the rope and puts me on belay. I climb straight up off the belay ledge to the bottom of a giant insurmountable roof.
I’m forced to traverse right on small but surprisingly solid holds. I was pleased to find the rock on this pitch also accepts a variety of different gear.

I was placing protection sparingly for fear of rope drag. In fact I was running it out way past the point of safety. I was getting enough decent placement opportunities that I was confident that there will be more. I actually enjoyed the free form sequences of the moderate moves on this pitch.
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the angle of the rock had lessened by a few degrees

I become so engrossed with the moves that I was making on this section that I wasn’t aware of the fact that I was more than 50’ out from my last protection placement. If I were to fall from this point it would mean a fall excess of 100’. Buc could have never caught a fall that long, nor would the anchors in the belay have held.
I immediately, I put in two really good cam devices.
I was safe again!
I jammed up the short but very steep final crack section.

This had been an exceptionally long pitch. I was out of rope, and despite the long run outs with no gear placements, I was just about out of equipment to build a solid belay.
It took some time and ingenuity but I finally put something together that was sound enough to hold a fall.
I yelled that I was on belay and Buc was at my side in hardly any time at all.

I told him to just keep climbing past me and belay me from the guard rail at the scenic overlook on the rim of the canyon.
The climbing wasn’t much more difficult than walking but in our exhausted state I felt that we should use the rope until we had actually reached the top of the canyon wall.
I heard the words “off belay” and I pulled the gear that I had placed and scrambled up to the top.

It was almost comical to be actually climbing over the tubular guard rails at one of the scenic over looks. There was a group of tourists at this airy spot. One of them asked Buc where he came from. Buc pointed and said, “Down there”.

After sixteen pitches of sustained climbing few things feel better than sitting down and taking my climbing shoes off.

We limped (barefoot) through the high desert forest back to our camp.
With our arms loaded with uncoiled ropes and the gear hanging on us in a total mess.

The smart thing to do at this point was to consume as much water as we could but that wasn’t what we had on our minds.
We wanted a beer and then we wanted more beer!
The cooler was well stocked with crushed ice and our favorite beverage.

We downed the first one while we cut the tape off of our bruised and swelling hands. My feet were still hurting!

We actually made fast time on the route and there was a fair amount of day light left.
We took a slow stroll back to the scenic overlook where we topped out.

We lounged at the very edge of The Black Canyon with a beer in our hands and our bare feet dangling over the abyss
I reveled in the act of not climbing!
I was at peace, without any since of urgency!

Evening is wondrous on the north rim of The Black Canyon!
As the angle of light crosses the narrow gorge it accents features that are totally invisible throughout the day.
Every species of the local wildlife come out of their deep shaded shelters and roam about the rim of the canyon.
It’s a unique and diverse social hour devoted to worshiping the coolness before dark.
The birds sing in (seemingly) rehearsed harmonious chorale, as cricket and locust provide rhythmic background.
The scent of sage and juniper is an almost visible fragrance.
Cactus radiate with vibrant red and yellow blossoms and briefly, their menacing thorns, disappear.
Strange people appear out of nowhere to share the experience of this breath taking extravaganza of sensory abundance!

We stare in awe of the magnificence of” The Painted Wall” with its white pegmatite dragon dancing across its expanse.
We could see the tourists on the south rim watching us as we in turn watch them.
The distance across the canyon at this point seems less than the depth.
We silently reflect on the events of the day. Most of the thoughts were in a jumbled mess only to be sorted out at a later time.
We are humbled by the power in this canyon and honored that we were allowed safe passage.

As the evening turns to night, the warmth that we were enjoying fades.
I revel in the cold and welcome its chilling bite. I know that after I have absorbed as much cold as I can stand, that there is hot food and a warm goose down sleeping bag waiting.
We become acutely aware that had any one thing gone wrong, we could still be on the wall facing a bitter cold night without food, water, or warm clothing.
We tremble at the thought of one us getting even slightly injured! Those thoughts are too harrowing and are dismissed immediately.

We left our camp in the warmth of the afternoon with only a cooler full of beer wearing only tee-shirts, shorts and barefoot.
No flash light and the absence of even a hint of moon light made the short journey back to our camp seem more perilous than any of the pitches we had climbed earlier that day. Those beautiful flowers of the Choia Cactus were now villains waiting to attack!
We moved at a snail’s pace and all we could think of was our overpowering exhaustion.
The seemingly interminable journey down the pitch black trail finally ended.
I hadn’t eaten so much as a morsel in longer than I could remember but in this emaciated state, sleep was my only desire.

I slept soundly until I was awakened by the aroma of fresh brewed coffee.
I had an unquenchable thirst, and a ravenous appetite!
Buc was preparing a full blown breakfast and it would be ready shortly.
The acids in the ice cold orange juice felt magical as it flowed down my raw throat.
While waiting for the call to breakfast I enjoyed the stimulating effects of the high powered French Roast while basking in the soft and warm streams of sun light filtering through the canopy of Juniper.

A very satisfying breakfast worked wonders!

dee ee

Mountain climber
Of THIS World (Planet Earth)
Jun 3, 2015 - 09:16am PT

By David Evans

Randy, Craig and I gazed up at the dark foreboding east face of the North Astro Dome as Randy pointed out the line. I could see his line but there was one important thing missing, stances to drill the protection bolts from. If only it wasn’t dead vertical we might have a chance but, it was vert from bottom to top and not a ledge in sight. I expressed my doubts but Randy reiterated his lecture of the hike out, the point of which was that ” it would go” and that there would be no aid used.

It was April 1978 and the climbing world was engaged in a passionate ethical debate. The insidious Euro practices of “hang-dogging” and “rap bolting” were creeping into the American climbing scene and we weren’t having any of it. Climbing was about style not numbers and we Cali climbers were diehard purists. Our magnum opus would not be tainted by aid.

Randy was adamant and insisted that if either one of us used aid he would literally pull us off the climb, leader fall or not. He was a year older, more worldly and we believed he meant every word.

Craig was first to lead and after some struggle had the third bolt in. Spencer, Craig and Randy had started the route a week or two before and placed the first two bolts on that day.

I was up next and started climbing with a trickle charge of adrenaline boosting my pulse rate. The rock was perfect brown and red varnish with small positive edges. The moves were 5.10- with the hardest passing the second bolt (that Spencer had drilled) at mid 5.10. I got a couple moves above Craig’s bolt and prepared to drill. The only problem was I couldn’t let go to hold the drill! Craig hollered up that the trick was to hold the drill next to the edge that my left hand was on so that I could hold both the edge and the drill at the same time. I felt like I was going to fall over backwards. Starting the hole was a struggle but once the hole was ¼” deep or so I could hold myself in with the drill alone. After some effort I got it in and repeated the whole scene again 10 feet higher. I was gassed and lowered off.

Then it was Randy’s turn. Climbing smoothly he made his way up past my high point occasionally making comments about the beauty of the rock or the quality of the moves. We were all in agreement; this route was of the highest quality, 5 stars on a 5 star scale. Randy got another bolt in and started traversing right as he could see a good flake 20 feet or so away that might offer a stopper or hex placement. The traverse was easy but the flake was crap for pro, he couldn’t get anything good in and it was too steep to drill. We could all see a good stance another 12 or 15 feet to the right and Randy decided to head out that way. We begged him to try again for pro at the flake because the runout to the stance was horrendous. His reply was, “there is no pro, I’m going for it.”

The traverse immediately got more difficult and looked harder still further on. Randy carefully worked his way out from the flake and soon was 8 or 10 feet away where he stalled out. He was only a few feet from the stance but the last move was the crux. The phrase “watch me” was repeated many times. A couple more inches and then his foot slipped. The fall would be huge. With the slack and stretch in the rope he was looking at a 60 to 80 footer. Craig was hip belaying and was ready to both yard in the rope and run backwards to catch the fall. I was pacing and my hands were sweating uncontrollably.

Somehow he held on and desperately scrabbled back a few feet. Randy muttered to himself and us, “I was so close, if I could just…..” He launched again. He must have wanted it bad. Once again the scene was repeated including the slip, we were starting to freak out. I yelled up “Randy you HAVE to get some pro!” He looked at it again and returned to the flake to rest. We relaxed for a few minutes while Randy rested but suddenly the sound of the tap, tap, tap of drilling drifted down. Craig and I looked at each other in surprise and then up at Randy. Sure enough he was drilling with BOTH hands free. “What’s going on up there,” we yelled? The reply,” I’m on a hook!”

A hook, what the hell, that’s aid! Where did that come from,” we asked? Randy’s answer regarding the hooks origin was vague at best but suddenly the humor of the situation dawned on us. Randy was using aid and we had to pull him off!

We agreed to warn him first, “We are going to pull you off,” we yelled. The reply was an emphatic “noooooo, don’t do it!” Craig readied himself, “OK Randy, here goes.” “Noooo!!!!,” again. Well, in the end we didn’t pull him off. How could you pull one of your best friends off even if he had been so pompous? We couldn’t do it.

Randy banged in two bolts at the flake and called it a belay. He explained that since it was a belay and that a hanging belay is aid anyway it was OK. It was an interesting rationale and not entirely without merit.

That was as far as we got that day. Randy lowered off, we packed it up and headed home. The hike out was animated by an even more spirited ethical debate and much heckling of the guilty party.

It was the end of that Josh season and the route sat undone until November when Randy and I returned without Craig or Spencer. I’m not sure what priorities they had that prevented them from being there. After all, what could be more important than finishing this stellar line?

I led the first pitch to the hanging belay. The quality of the climbing was only surpassed by the spectacular position of the line. Each section was 5.10-, the varnish was beautiful, the pitch was perfect. Watching Randy climb to the stance I was kicking myself for not bringing the camera.

Randy took the sharp end and made the traverse to the good stance without any trouble. Soon he had a bolt in and continued to the big ledge one pitch from the top placing two more bolts along the way. After awhile an “off belay” drifted down. I followed the traverse and found the last move hard. It felt about 10c to me on a toprope. It would have been insanity to run out the whole traverse. The rest of the pitch had more 10- moves. He brought me up and I cruised the final steep but easy 5.8 crack to the summit.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jun 3, 2015 - 09:44am PT
I posted this as its own thread back in '11 but it only got 4 responses, LOL.
I'm posting the link cause the accompanying pic is half the story.

The Good Places
Feb 13, 2017 - 06:52pm PT
bump for the deleted jefe post.

bump for telling time by the natural evolution of a favored and private and repeated camp place.

bump for the reason we go to work.

bump for the realness, that fear-stink and the endorphins to make it all seem like a good idea once more

El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
Feb 13, 2017 - 07:13pm PT
You got me cowboy

The Good Places
Feb 13, 2017 - 07:16pm PT
don't clam up there, podnah, 'sokay to mix the sublime in with the web-swill. it's all a big burrita and damned if we don't need some metaphysical cilantro in this hawg.

Ice climber
Feb 13, 2017 - 09:01pm PT
Never saw this before.

Thx tB

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Feb 13, 2017 - 09:18pm PT
Still one of the best threads EVAH!
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Feb 14, 2017 - 01:37pm PT
I first got to know Steve Roper on the back side of Half Dome in 1966. He and Chuck Pratt were camped beside us (me and Michael and Valerie Cohen) in preparation for a NW face climb. Both ours and their intentions were foiled and, as it worked out, Steve and I hiked back to Happy Isles together.

That evening in Camp 4 Roper asked if I had ever done Phantom Pinnacle. Nope! I hadn't, but I was anxious to do it, especially with someone who knew exactly where it was. It was agreed - we would get an early start in the morning.

With Steve rousing me at 6 AM the following day, we were off and running. With no hesitation at any point along the approach (we walked from Camp4), we arrived at the pinnacle. Roper kept asking me if I thought I could lead the final pitch which he considered the crux. Hell, I didn't know. If he thought I could I would certainly give it a try.

I remember little of the interim pitches - they went by so quickly, but I do remember the final pitch which was my assigned lead. When Steve arrived on top he immediately set up the first rappel while quizzing me on my reaction to the last lead. Three rappels later we were on the ground.

As we walked back and approached Camp 4 around 8:30 AM, Steve stopped in his tracks and said, "Come on we're going back to the Lodge for coffee!" I asked why and he replied, "S##t, if we go back this early no one will believe we did it."

new york
Mar 15, 2017 - 11:51am PT
Below is an emailed story I sent to my family who don't really know anything about climbing, or the out of doors, so a little extra detail. Yesterday I had asked my friend Vicky to send me the photo of a bear I took in 2009 so I could show it to my son Conor.


Here is the first bear that I met in Yosemite - it was July 2009.
He was like a little teen-ager bear, really, though he looked about the size of a St. Bernard on steroids.

In all my prior experiences staying in Yosemite's Camp IV, I had never actually encountered a bear. On more than one occasion, I have woken up and and been asked by my site-mates if I'd heard or seen the bear the previous night. Someone would leave a "bear box" (a big brown metal locking food storage bin) open and the bears would get in and ravage what they could. This event would then be attended by all manner of yelling and shooing to chase the bears away. Finally, the rangers would roam through Camp IV with these clackers, the sounds of which were intended to drive these hungry beasts even further away.
Of course all that racket was nothing compared to my own formidable thundering that I would personally broadcast throughout the night within the confines of my own little tent. In short, I would snore through it all, invariably oblivious. Had I heard the bear ? Nope. To my dismay, I'd admit I hadn't heard a thing. I had missed another chance to sight a bear. Shoot!

I had seen a bear once, though, when I was 10 years old in the Adirondacks. On that hiking/camping trip we were way out in the back country of the High Peaks region camped atop a huge waterfall. I think it was on this waterfall trip or perhaps another trip that I discovered I was a sleepwalker. On one trip I was sleeping in a cabin in the mountains that had bunkbeds and I was nestled up in a top bunk sound asleep. Next thing I know, I'm slamming into the wooden floor, and I must confess, not my favorite way to wake up in the middle of the night. What the hell !!? At the time I really didn't have much in the way of an explanation for this mishap, I just got back in bed and went to sleep again. This waterfall trip was different, though. We were in tents and I had zipped myself nicely into a sleeping bag, safely ensconced in and amongst a few other kids. This time, however, it was no wooden floor that woke me up. There was no jarring event that jolted me awake. Rather, I seemed to dissolve a sort of veil to regain a normal consciousness that revealed I was walking along a muddy trail in nothing but a pair of underwear and some heavy woolen socks. It was full on middle of the night, but the moonlight apparently had been bright enough for me to negotiate some muddy trail that traced along the right side of a brook. Holy smokes, some kind of a trance ! Sleepwalking or sleephiking ? Maybe crashing awake, merging into a wooden floor didn't seem so bad by comparison as I tried to make sense of my current situation. Well there I was alone for whatever reason in the middle of the woods, and I figured the brook beside me must lead back to the waterfall. When I had finally awakened from my altered state, I had been walking downstream, so I decided that I would reverse course and hopefully make my way back to the waterfall and campsite. I walked and walked some more and still no waterfall. Could I somehow be above the waterfall and was I now walking away from camp? I don't remember being afraid, but I think it was that uncertain pivotal moment that I decided to call out to my counselors: "Sir" Bill !!` "Sir" Dave !!
Our counselors were addressed by their first names, lending a kind of intimacy to their relationship with the kids, but the "Sir" part balanced the respect and proper stations that existed between the two.
"Sir" Bill !!!- I yelled again into the night some few more times without results. At ten years old, I had by then acquired a sampling of some rougher vocabulary and when my yells went unanswered I began to yield to less reputable diction. The proper balance between stations went right out the window. I recall very well it was just after I had taxed my lungs with, "Goldammit, where the hell are you !! " that I first saw the flashlights up trail in the woods bouncing towards me. It turned out I had been walking upstream in the correct direction after all, it's just that I had sleptwalked a long, long way from camp, let me tell you.

Owing to my little impromptu hike in the middle of the night, when we moved camp the next day a strategy was devised to keep me from wandering again at the new campsite. There we slept in a big lean-to which is a wooden log shelter with one side fully open facing out into the campfire area. You could fit about six kids in a lean-to sleeping side by side like matchsticks in a box. The idea was to insert me right in the middle of the pack so I would have to step on someone to get loose. With this sleeping arrangement in place we all hunkered down for the night.

It was I among all those matchsticks that first woke up in the middle of that night. It wasn't a crash landing on a wooden floor or walking along a muddy trail that woke me, it was a noise. We had all of our food in a stuffsack that we had suspended on a cord from a tree branch. This way the chipmunks would have to work harder to access it. The noise I heard was no chipmunk, though and the big hulking shape that was just outside our open lean-to was a bear. He was making short work of our food sack. I woke the others and we all shined our flashlights on the bear as he swiped at this edible punching bag until it was beaten down onto the ground. We watched with our eyes and mouths gaping wide as the bear galloped away with the prize in his jaws. There wasn't much we were going to do but watch and it was over and done with in a matter of moments.

Everyone was up and around after that. We set out pots and pans on logs as an alarm bell of sorts in case the bear decided to come back, but he didn't. In the morning we followed a trail of food packaging remnants which led us to the ripped and torn food sack which was empty. We did recover some small food items including a carton of eggs that were unscathed. Nothing noteworthy occurred afterward in terms of any further nocturnal shenanigans on that trip.

40 plus years later, I am still sleeping in the dirt with some regularity but another bear sighting had always somehow eluded me. In the grand scheme of things, maybe that's a good thing. During my July 2009 trip to Yosemite I remedied this deficiency in good order, easily making up for my hitherto lack of bear sightings. In years past I have traveled to Yosemite by myself and have had good success at finding and vetting climbing partners amid the Camp IV scene which is the climber's campground. Entry to Camp IV is currently $6.00 per night. Before the internet, you would recruit a partner from hand written notes posted on a physical bulletin board hung on the back side of the Rangers's Kiosk. There are apps now for that, but I still resort to the hand-written method. I'm not sure how I met Vicky that trip, but she was on a cross-country climbing odyssey by herself. Her boyfriend had begun the trip with her, but he somehow couldn't stay the course and he had left for home awhile back. So she was happy to partner up and we were climbing compatible which helps a lot, as it covers a broad range of criteria.

One day after climbing, we were in her Volkswagen Westphalia bus when she called out in her French Canadian patois that a baby bear was just off in the woods to my side. Oh, shoot, I had just taken out my contact lenses to clean off the dust of the day and I couldn't see a thing. We rolled on by and I missed yet another one.

The next day we decided we would go climbing at the base of El Capitan a 3000 foot monolith of granite that towers into the sky dominating the Yosemite Valley. We could climb just short routes at the very bottom of El Cap that would go up only a rope's length and then we could come down and do another short venture on a different line. It had rained just a bit that morning, so we had hiked up and were settling in at the base of El Cap to let the stone dry out before we started the first climb. The base or bottom of the cliff is littered with a jumble of rock debris and talus that has sloughed off the huge soaring cliff above. The long term bombardment of these rocks over the years creates an open gap of rocks very close to the cliff where the trees don't generally grow. It is a median of open talus and rock debris that stretches back from the cliff a ways until the tree line begins to take hold just outside the bombardment zone away from the cliff. As it happened I was in this open talus zone facing the cliff with my back to the woods only a few yards behind me. I was up on a pedestal of rock looking up at the cliff when I had the urge to turn around. As I did so I was looking straight at a bear just a few feet below me who had designs on my pack where my sandwich lay tucked away for later. With a wave of my hands and a shout I leaned forward and the bear scrambled off back into the woods. This was the teen age bear and he was run off pretty easily. Not to be denied documentary evidence I had Vicky give me her camera as the bear moved around and started to head up the open talus slope at the base of the cliff to our left. Common sense should have prevented me from this endeavor, but when I have I ever been accused of having that? As he moved along tight in with the cliff at his right shoulder, I stalked a ways behind on his left at the inside edge of the tree line. The open space of the talus slope spread out for about 40 yards between us. I'm sure he knew I was there but suddenly the trees I had for cover were gone and there was nothing between me and the bear but open talus. I guess he didn't like having his back up against the wall because he launched into a full on charge straight at me. He was covering ground effortlessly and immediately I knew there was no sense in running because he would be on me before I could take three strides. All I had was the camera that Vicky had given me and I watched him barrel towards me at full speed. I stood there facing him yet somehow didn't register any deep fear of the charging bear. Maybe I didn't have time, too. I somehow knew he was bluffing. He ran up to within 8 yards of me and screeched to a halt stamping both feet down at once chuffing a great "harumph! noise as if to say, "and let that be a lesson to you !" At that moment I snapped the picture on the camera and that was his cue to turn around and amble away.

In case you didn't know, I've never seen a mountain lion, and I hope I never do...




Mar 15, 2017 - 12:08pm PT
i adore the dull-end of culturally prescribed ambition.

thus i find meself authoring new me's at nearly every boot-pivot.

though i look around and see compatriots
that vehemently pursue success and end up dumb and fat
and lazy though still yearning for acclaim like our
very own "pud"
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