Runout classics - ever take the ride?


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Trad climber
'cross the great divide
Dec 6, 2012 - 11:46am PT
I think ice falls have a place in this thread because those of us that spend a lot of time doing it, know in the back of our mind that in this climbing scenario, the leader must not fall.

Bridalveil Falls, Telluride. My second time doing the route. My partner, who is one of those extremely good and extremely bold ice leaders, leading the second pitch over and around a roof of sorts. (I couldn't see him.). I had wondered the what'ifs about this partner, only because he tends to run it out big time on hard ice to get to stances. Good strategy as long as things don't go south. When things go south ice climbing, they can go really far south.

So my friend is moving along smoothly and quickly, as he always does on grade 5+ ice, me paying rope out and all of a sudden, with absolutely not the slightest sound, the little bit of slack in the rope whips up and across my left eyebrow. My only thought was "holy $hit, he's fallen. He never falls on ice." Once my brain processed that he had fallen, I look down and see one tip of a frontpoint, just barely visible below the ice ledge I was anchored to. To make an long story short, he had fallen perhaps 50 feet, although I don't know; I couldn't see him climbing from my belay. Neither does he because he was flipped upside down, broke his shoulder, a hand and suffered a concussion with subdural hemotoma, and was totally unconscious and hanging upside down. (Which is why I saw only a tip of a front point *from above*.)

This story has a happy ending, but my friend doesn't remember any part of it. Not my desperate and successful attempt to get him rightside up (there was nobody in the vicinity to yell for help to), not the slow walk out once I was able to get us both down to the ground, not his refusing to be taken to the clinic in T'ride, and not my begging him to go to the hospital in Montrose. My eye where the rope got me was black and blue, and badly burned by the rope. This all happened on the pitch where Jack fell last year.

Trad climber
Dec 6, 2012 - 12:03pm PT
Enjoying my share of whippers, I've pushed my limits on stuff I didn't belong. Back in the day of 3 wrap swami belts, Gilje and I went to climb Giant Steps on the back side of The Warlock. Sustained 5.10 face with a few bolts requiring a lot of hunting and route finding. Half way up the first pitch the route traversed diagonally up and right and I spotted the next bolt 15' straight above. Gilje had done the route before and pointed up.

Of course I went straight for it and found myself on increasingly thin moves. Unable to move up, I attempted to down climb and pitched about 50' before coming to a abrupt stop, rearranging my organs and knocking the wind out of me.

Tom took the lead and attempted the same path, declaring it 5.12 before backing off and finding the correct route to the right. Tom later apologized, but I learned the value of leg loops and finding my own way on questionable ground.

Dec 6, 2012 - 12:57pm PT
Not a classic but I did take a monster whip on Repo Man, the climb to the left of Figures on a Landscape. Early in my climbing days a buddy and I went to climb Figures after doing Solid Gold the week before. Repo and Figures share a start and I knew the latter traversed right but for some reason that right turn just never happened for me. I climbed past three manky, manky bolts and soon found myself in territory I knew was not 5.10. I was way above the third (I think) bolt and decided to continue rather than bail. The moves were difficult and thin but I was progressing and it was fun and challenging. It continued to get even harder and I yelled out "this is hard, watch me! to my belayer. I made a couple more moves until right before the next bolt I blew. I weighed all of 140 lbs, my belayer maybe 135. I stopped inches from the ground thankfully due to my belayer who jumped as I was coming down, he ended up smashed into the rock close to the first bolt. Not sure how all that happened, but glad it did. It was a big fall, never forgot that one. I was okay, my belayer got hurt from smacking into the rock.

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 6, 2012 - 01:10pm PT
This thread is good bed time reading.

Trad climber
Dec 6, 2012 - 03:22pm PT
why is my stomack,rolling with convulsions???this post needs to be an ongoing thread,,do you believe in desteny??sooo freaking funny,,

Trad climber
Cali Hodad, surfing the galactic plane ~:~
Jan 6, 2013 - 07:00pm PT
melski - this post needs to be an ongoing thread.

I agree, this thread has some spectacular climbing related stories, and we need to keep it rolling. So I will bump it, and in the process, add a few details to my last post that I feel are worth adding (& recounting) on the "runout sandbag" on Polly Dome - Curves Like Her (Vern Clevenger/FA).

I particularly want to give a little more detail) to the final & extremely precarious "belay" stance. Sorry if this seems a bit off topic (in regards to taking the "ride"), but it was about as close to taking the BIG ride as I have ever come, and it does qualify as a "Runout classics". And as I have previously noted, it has been labled as a "runout sandbag" relatively recently by several other "topo/climbing" sites & evidently hasn't yet (35+ years later) recieved an adequate belay station/bolt, etc, SO, I wanted to bring it up again/bring it to peoples attention (hopefully someone at least replaced the absent hanger on the 2nd crux bolt) and avoid a similar situation...

Rick Linkert - I vaguely remember climbing with Art Hannon & Kevin Leary...
I find that rather odd (the vaguely part) since you seemed rather upset about the whole situation back then (the bolt missing, etc) so much so that you wrote an article for one of the clmbing magazines at the time (Climbing or Summit, etc) & since I have such a vivid memory of that day. And also odd (humorous, perhps) that you don't seem to remember me being there. Well, that's not so unusual I suppose, since we hardly new eachother, eh? (lol) But that's okay, I can understand your being hesitant to acknowledge that (or so it seems)...wudevah!!

Anyway, I just wanted to give you a brief recap of what I recall from that afternoon, since being on the sharp end does seem to sharpen ones perceptions, etc!

Art & Kevin on one team/rope, ended up on the narrow ledge protected by the manky bolt. I then belayed you up the corner and you joined them there. I followed and found the three (3) of you in a precarious and rather perilous situation attached to one very questionable bolt on a narrow ledge. Art & Kevin were bracing / supporting your shoulders in the likelihood that I should come off or require tension since it obviously wouldn't have taken much to pull the three of you off the narrow ledge and onto the anchor and I sincerely doubt that it (poorly placed 1/4") would have held the weight (600+ lbs) of all four of us. An extremely sketchy situation.

So, I lead on through. I decided to traverse left on the ledge to a corner with what looked like a good crack, from where we were, that would take pro which was 35-40 ft to the left. The ledge petered out towards the end, and it required some delicate face moves (5.9) to reach it with out any pro available. I then climb up the corner for about 15-20 ft and it turns out to be more of a groove (water groove) without any possible nut/pro placements (it is also wet). I downclimb, and notice that I had redirected the water seeping down the groove onto the face & the .9 face crimps/moves are now wet. I inform you guys of the situation, which illicites broad smiles & chuckles (lol) and a casual "go for it, bro" which greatly increased my confidence and machismo (just kidding, lol).

The situation was indeed dire. I was, like I said, 35-40 feet out/directly to your left, with no pro between us. I didn't have much confidence it the bolt holding our combined weight should I have fallen. And even if it did hold, I would have pendlumed/swung 50-60 ft into the dihedral that was 15-20 ft to your right (dihedral pic is in my last post). Either way, I was probably toast...GRIM SITUATION # 1 for myself/us that afternoon.

Like I have already recounted, I managed to make the moves and continued on. The 1/4" bolt protecting the 1st crux just above your belay was well placed and I was quickly by that section and onto easier ground/face. BUT, I was hoping to get at least one more bolt or piece of pro in because I still doubted the ability of one single 1/4" bolt being able to withhold all of our weight (the manky anchor bolt would have surely pulled/failed with your/our combined static weight, let alone dynamic force, imo).

Then like I said, after about 120+ ft of runnout & no pro, I come to the second crux (10+) of the route where the bolt without a hanger was. GRIM SITUATION #2...! After getting by that, I thought it was over since the summit was about 30-40 ft away on easy face/ground.

But, the reason I am reviewing this is that I don't think you (nor anyone else) realizes the nature of and EXTREMELY GRIM situation that I/we got ourselves into next/after I got pass this second crux. And what I will refer to as GRIM SITUATION #3. After leading the afore mentioned steep 10+ face moves a VERY long ways out and feeling like I had cheated certain death (had I fallen) & most likely yours Art & Kevin's certain death, I was home free...that was short lived.

Just 10-15 ft above the unprotected face moves, the rope ran out. And, like I said, I had no luck in getting you guys to somehow feed me any additional slack. It was a good 15-20 or so feet to a corner with a good crack for pro. I was essentialy stranded on the steep face with nothing for support. I managed to turn around (back to the wall) and put you on belay. I leaned back against the rock and hoped & prayed that you wouldn't put ANY tension on the rope, let alone fall. Most likely your body weight would have pulled me off (your simply asking for tension), let alone a tug that would have come from slipping/falling at the 1st crux that you were about to encounter just above the precarious belay.

And, you guys were out of sight & out of hearing range. You began to climb, and I recall pulling up about 20-25 ft of slack and mentally picturing you climbing up to and stopping at those very steep face moves. Seconds ticked by and after a moment or two you started again (crux #1) and I started pulling in slack. Believe me, I was very relieved to see you come into view over the lip that afternoon and then proceed up the relatively easy ground (moderate 5th class) to the second crux just below me. You waited there while I traversed up and over to the belay corner where I finally got some pro in to belay you.

That last EXTREMELY GRIM SITUATION/belay is what I wanted to hilight in this post. Because, although it NEVER seriously crossed my mind, I could have easily untied at that point and continued on to safe ground. It was perhaps only 5.1/5.2 at the most, and merely 35 ft or so to the summit.


I was standing/balancing (frictionioning), with ZERO protection/belay anchors, on a relatively steep face with my back to the wall.

I want to emphasize that there was no other alternative but to either belay you guys up from where I stood (on a typical 5th class friction slab) or untie and drop the rope, which would have left you guys to decide who wanted to take their shot of leading up to where I was (and you had NO clue what that would entail) which would have put you through & in the identicle situation I was in.

At that point I was essentialy home free should I have been only thinking of myself. Because, I could have simply untied and dropped the rope. I could have then, I suppose, circled back around and informed you of the/my/our desperate situation of being unanchored on a steep friction slab 135-140 ft out and having to belay you (Rick Linkert) up some very steep 5.10+ face while all the while knowing that you had done very little, (if any) climbing in the prior year or so (you had left the eastside and enrolled in law school) or so you had informed us.

But that would have taken some time (circling back down). I would have had to traverse along the top of Polly Dome over to Lambert Dome (I recall passing Death Crack on our descent that afternoon) down to the road and back over to Polly Dome. You guys would have most likely already started leading the pitch I had just lead and gotten into the same situation.

Like I said, I was essentialy home free, all I had to do was untie and scurry up the remaining easy ground. But like I just said, I NEVER even considered it. Well, I was certainly aware of it and it probably crossed my mind once, but I didn't give it a second thought. I didn't hesitate, I new what I had to do, and I believe I did the right thing.

Perhaps I should have just dropped the rope and circled around. But, it was very late in the afternoon, and I am pretty darn sure that I would have seen one of you (probably you Rick) either standing in the same exact pitiful stance and frightful situation that I was in, or just below it contemplating essentially free-soloing the 5.10+ face moves 120+ feet out like I had to do. Not cool. And if that was the situation (by then) there was no way we could have communicated with you from where I/we were (just like I couldn't communicate with you guys).

And even if I could have located another rope from someone and gotten back to the top, a lot of time would of transpired in the meantime (would have been dark most likely). And it was/would have been an extremely pathetic and life threatening situation to put someone else in (where I was at). All this ran through my mind that day. One hell of a situation, eh?

ANYWAY, like you said to me, "thanks for not falling", because it would have been a long and terrifying "ride" (275-300 ft) to certain death for me, and most likely something just slightly less terrifying and final for the three of you.

BTW, I am pretty sure that afternoon in TM ('77 i think) was the very last day/time that we crossed paths, good to hear from you and thanks for responding to my initial post.

Edit: the main reason for this post is, like I said, it has been over 35 years and this route hasn'st gotten upgraded 2 3/8 ths inch belay bolts at the single manky belay bolt ledge. Now days, a 60 meter rope would be sufficient to make it to the third belay ledge (or the top) and therefore would avoid running out of rope in the middle of nowhere. We were obviouslyu the second ascent. Butb it evidently has had at least one additional ascent in the mid 2000's. It needs to be upgraded before someone gets hurt or worse. It does NOT need any additional bolts. The "runnout" is primarily easy 5th class (5.25.3 with 5.4/5.5 max at 1-2 spots) and very typical of TM, bitd!!!
Rick Linkert

Trad climber
El Dorado Hills CA
May 22, 2013 - 01:08pm PT

Just ran across this thread and saw your above response. Thanks for the additional detail. You misinterpreted my post- of course I remember you were there. I was just acknowledging that Kevin and Art were there as well. While we were plenty entertained by all the horsing around close to the belay, I am thankful we could not fully appreciate what you were going through. I am especially grateful that I had no idea you were "belaying" me while simply smeared on a face with no anchors as I had done very little climbing the past year. I do remember being on a rant about people stripping hangars from bolts out in the middle of nowhere. I remember an even more vitriolic rant by Art about a claimed species of butterfly that he believed lived on Glacier Point Apron. According to Art, there was a diabolical black butterfly that looked exactly like a Leeper bolt hangar when it landed. He claimed to have had a very mentally traumatic off-route experience clawing his way to a bolt hangar that was light years above the last pro only to have it flap its wings and fly away as he almost got into clipping range. Pretty funny story as only Art can construct.

I suppose we should have been on notice since it was a Clevenger route - almost always a "heads up" in the Meadows. The usual drill was a three-step process for each bolt. 1) Where the hell is the next bolt? 2) How the hell do I get there? Then an interlude- "How the hell did he place the bolt? and, finally, 3) How the hell do I let go long enough to clip the bolt? Talked to Vern last week. He is still cancer free and viewed as a medical miracle by UC San Francisco. He is phenomenally fit and the Docs think he is lying about his age.

Take care-


Trad climber
AKA Dwain, from Apple Valley, Ca. and Vegas!
May 22, 2013 - 01:37pm PT
Not much of a Whipper, but I took about a 16 ft fall a couple of weeks ago
on a brand new climb when a flake pulled off making a move.
I tucked my legs because I knew I was going to be close to the deck at the end of the fall. My Belayer says he saw my toes touched the deck at the
bottom of the rope stretch before I bounced back up a couple of feet.

If I hadn't of had my legs tucked, I'd probably be hurting right now
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
May 22, 2013 - 02:01pm PT
Sidewinder ... surely - SOMEBODY has to have biffed it.

In 1988 or so, a guy from the SF Bay Area took a leader fall from up there.
I didn't witness it, but he was at a campfire in Hidden Valley that night, in a fair amount of pain.
I don't remember his name.
He fractured his heel, I guess when he swung into the rock at the end of his fall.

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - May 22, 2013 - 02:01pm PT
If I hadn't of had my legs tucked, I'd probably be hurting right now

And if I had wheels I'd be a wagon :)

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
May 22, 2013 - 02:08pm PT
In 1988 or so, a guy from the SF Bay Area took a leader fall from up there.

I might have seen that one, that's about the right time-frame. The guy I saw was all the way across at the end of the traverse. All he had to do was the easy exit move with good holds, but there is a little flake/crack there and he was hopelessly gripped and was trying to fiddle in some gear when he biffed. He took a huge swinging fall and cratered into the wall near the base.

A few daze later we watched some euro solo the thing. I'll bet that is pretty rare.

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - May 22, 2013 - 02:17pm PT

Lucas Dunn on Diamondback, cool and confident (I broke a hold off following and took a lil plunge :3)

Trad climber
AKA Dwain, from Apple Valley, Ca. and Vegas!
May 22, 2013 - 02:22pm PT

"And if I had wheels I'd be a wagon :) "

If I hadn't had my Legs tucked,
I'd most likely be on wheels right now! :)



Social climber
Desolation Basin, Calif.
May 22, 2013 - 03:26pm PT
I took a 6"er off of that first bolt on Black Tide. That's about it. I don't like falling.

After swinging leads on Prime Interest at Christmas Tree Pass with my buddy Don P. somebody asked if we had taken a look down while on the 30' runouts between bolts. Don's reply was classic: "No, there's nothing down there for us but death and dismemberment."

Boulder climber
Nov 29, 2013 - 07:57pm PT


Oakland, CA
Nov 29, 2013 - 10:47pm PT
Great bump.

Pappy, holy shit!

Social climber
Nov 29, 2013 - 11:34pm PT
Kodye Taking Flight
Kodye Taking Flight
Credit: Duke


Sport climber
Nov 30, 2013 - 02:21am PT
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Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Nov 30, 2013 - 01:45pm PT
I took a big whipper on Shakey Flakes. The road rash was so bad that I had to take off my pants 'cause I couldn't tolerate anything touching my leg. I even got onto one of the shuttle buses sans pantaloons.

Trad climber
Dec 1, 2013 - 05:52am PT
A few places in Eastern Europe are notorious for having "just enough" bolts. In Slovakia there is a place called Kalamarka that has been rebolted and rerebolted, but some routes are still quite bold. For full value, you can forgo the new bolts and do it in the original style. Here I fell off a sloping mantle top out trying to clean it from all the autumn leaves. Kicked my belayer in the head. Not long, maybe 30-35 feet. Went back for the send after changing my pants.

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