Runout classics - ever take the ride?


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Trad climber
Cali Hodad, surfing the galactic plane
Nov 25, 2012 - 06:42pm PT
cliffhanger - There was nothing to stop them from taking the final big ride to the Ahwahnee, if she slipped.
Wow, that must have been very unnerving to watch. I hope she found herself a new boyfriend/climbing partner after that!

Of course there was the young man (18) who did take that ride. If I remember correctly, him and his partner unroped at the belay where the traverse starts. Besides being "slippery", those little dished out pockets are often filled with dry pine needles and dust which have filtered down from the rim.

The guy I witnessed take the slider was sitting on his butt with his hands/palms pressed flat against the stone. Like a kid on a slide. It would be very natural to simply roll over onto your butt and use your feet and hands in an attempt to brake, like you would in dirt or sand. I suspect it is pure impulse to try and slow down or control your slide. He could see the lip approaching, and rocketed out over it into space and out of site. The rope jerked tight and then see-sawed back and forth on that rather jagged edge. I was breathless for a few moments, hoping that the worst thing imaginable didn't suddenly happen. But after a few moments he pulled himself up and over the lip.

I don't recall his name, but his partners name was Joe Royer, and was head of ski patrol at Snowbird. He invited me to come visit & work for him there, so I took him up on it for part of the following winter '71/'72.

I know that RA has become a popular solo, and I have gone cordless on more difficult rated climbs, but after viewing that fall and having personally encountered the "greasy" / "slippery" rock, dust, and pine needles on that traverse, there is no way I would have ever soloed it. The image I had of him sliding down on his butt, along with the knowledge that a very young man/climber had most likely took a very similar position there in his final moments in this world. And simply thinking about the fear and anticipation he must have felt as he approached that lip knowing that he was about to be catapulted into eternity, still gives me the willies.

edit: Sorry to here about your dear friend, Dean. Thanks for keeping his memory alive.

btw, Joe Royer started the 1st heli-ski/guide service to the Ruby Mts, back in the '70/80's! kool dude!
little Z

Trad climber
un cafetal en Naranjo
Nov 25, 2012 - 07:15pm PT
seems I'm not the only one to have tested the bolt on the runout 2nd pitch of Ten Karat Gold at Suicide ... a scream of terror, frantic yarding in of rope, realizing we have not died, going back up and getting it right the 2nd time, etc.

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Nov 25, 2012 - 07:37pm PT

I took a fall on the last pitch of Royal Arches and didn't find it too bad aside from losing some skin on my hands, knees, and fore-arms. We were caught in the rain and needless to say I found slimy 5.4 slab a lot harder with water pouring down it. There was a huge pile of pine needles at the bottom that slowed me from chucking off the lip.

Trad climber
Cali Hodad, surfing the galactic plane
Nov 25, 2012 - 10:36pm PT
ThomasKeefer - I caught a pretty epic whip...
Dude, same here!

It was 1972 and I had been climbing about one year at that point. My partner (Steve Williams) and I spent the weekend at Tahquitz & Suicide. It was late in the day after a long day at Tahquitz & as we made our way down the slabs on the SoEast descent route we decided to fit one last climb in before we headed back to San Diego. The sun was quickly approaching the western horizon, so we decided on a climb that we had both done before since we didn't have much time. That was the Traitor Horn (5.7) a classic two pitch route.

Steve led off the 1st pitch and the plan was for me to switch leads with him at the belay/me lead on through. But when I got to the belay, which was a small block which had two fixed pins as anchors, he requested that I let him give the Pearly Gates a shot. The PG is a 5.10+ double overhanging layback just to the left of the TH! Although the light had already began to turn that amber color as it burns through the haze on the horizon. I said "Sure, go for it."

From the belay, to get to the TH, you layback/jam this right facing corner for about 20 ft or so to the base of a slightly overhanging 15-20 ft. tall headwall. At which point you then traverse right to the TH.

For the Pearly Gate route, you also follow the corner/crack, but rather than trverse right to the TH, you continue to follow it. It doglegs at the 20ft headwall and angles up into a double overhanging layback. Kind of intimidating and challenging, yet very appealing to a couple of young wanna be hardmen. We had talked about the day we would give it a go, and it was now here.

So off goes Steve. The corner is fairly easy, so i didn't say anything when Steve didn't stop to put in pro. He placed a medium sized Chouinard Hex above his head and just above where the crack doglegs up the headwall and starts to double overhang. Off he goes onto the double overhanging layback.

Steve was a pretty hefty/stocky dude! Probably around 180# or more. He was looking pretty strong and rapidly made it to about a foot or two before the top of the headwall/end of layback then suddenly came to a dead stop. And, DEAD SILENCE followed. He just hung there in a classic layback stance. I was thinking, "OH SH#T!"!

Of course we were using a Hip Belay, so I braced my left shoulder into the wall and pulled my right braking hand around to my left as firmly as I could and tightened every muscle in my body, anticipating the jarring impact which was about to come. And it came like getting slammed by a linebacker at full on attack mode! The full force of a 180
# person taking a 40 ft freefall.

It sounded like an explosion, don't recall exactly what caused the sound, but I suspect it was a combination of Steve hitting the lower face, me slamming against the wall, and the hex, that Steve had placed, ripping down the crack for about 10-15 feet before it miraculously reset itself. That's right, the hex was pulled down pass the dogleg and continued to follow the lower part of the crack for about 10-15 feet before it hit a narrow spot and reset itself.


And, not only that, the force had tweaked my position so much, and had pulled me away from my snug belay anchor by a foot or two that I new something wasn't right. I reached around as best I could and felt one of the two pins we had clipped into at the belay. It was loose and I could wiggle it back and fourth. I was braking with my right hand so I couldn't locate the other pin.

Talk about an "Oh Shit!" moment. Steve's blue RR boots were staring me in the face. And Steve was hanging free in space from his waist, wrapped in a 1" tubular webbing Swami Belt with his head hanging to one side. It was a 35-40 ft freefall.

I was doing all I could to just hold onto the rope with my brake hand. My mind started working quadruple time (or whatever) trying to assess what would be the best plan for getting our asses out of this jam before the friggin' hex pulled (at that point I couldn't even see it, since i was sitting to the immediate left of the right facing corner/dihedral it was in).

While I was determining what to do I recall momentarily glancing down the nearly vertical/very steep face to the ground below. Odd things go through your mind at times like that. I pictured our lifeless, crumpled bodies laying in a heap 140 feet below. And wondered how long it would be before they were discovered.

My left shoulder was throbbing. I always carried two 4mm purple prussicks in my pants pockets, one in either pocket. I started to dig for one, so I could rig a brake, but Steve suddenly started moaning and moving. He suddenly came to and within a few moments had pulled himself back into the easy layback crack and was ready to finish the pitch. But this time he wanted nothing to do with this set of Pearly Gates, since it had just about brought him to the doors of another set of Pearly Gates (lol)! So, after he put another peace of pro or two in, he finished off by leading TH.

Both of our belay pins had basically pulled. The one that I had wiggled with my fingers, pulled out with a slight tug. The other pin was cocked over to one side at an angle and also wiggled back and forth and easily pulled out. Had the Chouinard Hex not reset itself, we would have been toast!!

edit: lesson learned. don't trust fixed pins without esting them (we we wer'nt carrying hammers, btw). always back up fixed pins. dont trust yout partner to do this, always check the anchors. and he should have put multiple pieces of pro to protect a dificult lead, not just one.
Blodgett Goat

Trad climber
Missoula, Montana
Nov 25, 2012 - 11:01pm PT
I've always wondered about people taking the ride on some runout classics. Snake dike is super chill but if someone lost their sh#t and panicked that would be a nasty fall. Knuckleheads at Pat and Jacks is another.

Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Nov 26, 2012 - 01:16am PT
Ray Jardine is reputed to almost have launched off the pine needles on that last pitch of Royal arches while soloing. I think it put a damper on his soloing after that

Always felt if you started to fall on that traverse you could basically run for it and get to the forest at the end but who knows. I remember soloing it with needles and dampness and was gripped but going back with a rope and walking across it with basically no hands in approach shoes



Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Nov 26, 2012 - 01:37am PT
Does falling off of mountains without a rope count?

Trad climber
Cali Hodad, surfing the galactic plane
Nov 26, 2012 - 02:53am PT
The guy I talk about in my story above about Pearly Gates, Steve Williams, took a fall on th Nutcracker in Yosemite during the Spring of 1974, broke his leg and had to be rescued. He then moved to Seattle Washington area that summer with the people he met and was climbing with in the Valley. I never saw or heard of him again, but I am pretty sure he continued to climb. Anyone know or remember him?

EDIT: Oh yeah, I meant to mention that, I bet that Chouinard Hexcentric is STILL wedged into that crack going up to PG & the Traitor Horn. It became so hot from the friction it poduced while it slid down the crack, that it had melted and the aluminum had rolled up anf then re-hardened on the sides. I bet that it is still there, wedged firmly in that right facing corner/crack. It would probably be around in the middle of the crack/half way up it before the headwall. Maybe the next time someone is up there, they could look and see. I don't recall what mm perlon it was strung with, but I think it was a green 7mm! Of course that would probably be long gone. If it is still there, it would be really cool if someone could tke a pick of it! For memories sake!! THANKS!!
Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
Nov 26, 2012 - 02:23pm PT
Caught a big one on Jules Verne in Eldorado Canyon Colorado. I could not see my partner because there was a roof over my head, but at one point he stopped going up. Then a few minutes later, I see a biner with brass wires on it land on the ledge I'm on, bounce, then fall another 100' into the trees. It was getting dark. Then the rope starts gently moving, an inch at a time. A few inches later, I hear a Tarzan-like scream and get yanked off my feet, luckly the anchor had an upward directional. It was a very long fall, the classic one, I have no idea how long. 75'? It was a totally clean fall with no injuries. Luckily it was too dark for me to try to finish it for him! Although all I actually signed up for was to follow it. I never really wanted to do it afterwards, and at this point probably never will.

Longest fall I took myself was probably on the Good Book, about 30'. It's a layback and my hand came out, and I did a back dive. This was back in the days before anyone wore helmets. I can still remember seeing two tcu's pull out, with my feet in the foreground. For some reason my brain saved that memory for all time. I wasn't hurt at all but could have smashed my head easily.

Trad climber
Bay Area
Nov 26, 2012 - 03:18pm PT
Awww heck I feel like such a weenie after some of these tales.

I got off route on Pywiack Dike Route BITD. Went straight up where I should have banked left. Got a very odd feeling when I realized the little nubbins were getting even smaller. Then my PAs let loose. Whoopee.......sliding down about 25 feet past my last bolt......then on down. down. down. My two partners at the belay going wide eyed as I plummeted towards the bulge above their vestigial ledge. Don't know who was most frightened of the three of us. Just before they got my PAs in the face the rope stopped stretching. Thanks to wearing painters pants and a rugby shirt I was only slightly scuffed but my brain was screaming to me "NO I ain't going back up there again today". Then I couldn't get either of my buddies to take over the lead! Even though one had led it before!!
Went back a couple of years later and cruised it. It's MUCH easier when you follow the route!
Oh yeah, if you haven't climbed on those ancient PAs: they give you no warning when they're about to let go. Thank God for EBs.

Grack Marginal: I had a go at it this autumn. Could NOT get myself to go more than 10 feet beyond the bolt above the roof. Even downclimbed the roof move and went back up again, still the barrier. Even though I've led it a couple of times BITD and my shoes are way better than anything I had back then. I KNOW it's just a walk but my mind was NOT going there.
It's clear I need to keep in practice for slab/friction climbing.
A lot of it is in your head.
Rick Linkert

Trad climber
El Dorado Hills CA
Nov 26, 2012 - 03:50pm PT
High Traverse -

I should have taken a long ride on Patio Pinnacle as punishment for stupidity of Darwinian proportions - lathering up with sunscreen on a hot day and lacing on a brand new pair of Royal Robbins blue suede shoes. My right foot skated on the first move of the climb and I never felt like I was really on anything I could trust the rest of the climb. It made for an engaging afternoon.


I vaguely remember the climb with Kevin and Art - must still have some PTSD. I think it was a Clevenger route on Poly - high and to the right. Have you remembered the name? Very glad you pulled the last moves successfully.



Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Nov 26, 2012 - 06:37pm PT
Splitter..... so you have used up a life or two.

I took the fall 2 times on Rebolting. P1 getting to bolt 3 (if I recall)
Good belayer... run like hell downhill.

The longest was about 80, it was at the Weeler Ridge, I was climbing a Kamps climb on the west side of notch #2. 5.8ish.

I got to the stance they used for bolting, a diorite knob, I was chalking up and just relaxing my mind so I could do what looked like a 5.6 mantle onto the knob..... without any warning the knob popped!

The fall was almost over before I knew what was going on.

I reckon its the best way to go.... completly relaxed.

This is a really nice thread.


Trad climber
Fresno CA
Nov 26, 2012 - 06:43pm PT
Since the OP specifically mentioned Marginal on the Apron, I held a 40-footer, as well as several others, when we first climbed it in March of 1972. We (Dan Smith, Art Brook and I) were climbing in RR's then, so we did much more edging than smearing.

I didn't fall on the traverse above the roof on the first pitch, but both of my partners did, in fact one more than once. Nothing particularly long, and the landings were safe for us. On the last pitch, Dan was about 20 feet out with nothing between him and me, and started sliding. After about ten feet of a s-l-o-w -- m-o-t-i-o-n fall, Art, who was about 40 feet below us, started heckling to the effect of "You call that a fall? You should be ashamed to call that a fall!" etc. Dan eventually took a couple of summersaults, climbed back to my stance, and did the lead without any further incident.

As an epilogue of sorts, most of us were a bit intimidated by Marginal back then, particularly the traverse on the first pitch. I described the fall over the roof as essentially harmless, because Dan and Art had fallen at least three times between them to no effect.

In any case, after no-names like us did it, several others decided it was doable. A few weeks later, I saw a friend of mine on crutches. When I asked what happened, he explained that the "harmless" fall over the roof wasn't. He ended up with a broken ankle.


Trad climber
Bay Area
Nov 26, 2012 - 07:00pm PT
So now you really make me feel like a weenie
I described the fall over the roof as essentially harmless, because Dan and Art had fallen at least three times between them to no effect.

Well......maybe not so much of a weenie!!!
When I asked what happened, he explained that the "harmless" fall over the roof wasn't. He ended up with a broken ankle.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Nov 26, 2012 - 07:01pm PT
Speaking of slow falls, I used to go do the first 5-7 pitches of Hall of Mirrors once in awhile. 5.10+ to 5.11 slab with some super runout 10 a and b in there.

The moves would be SO continuous and you'd be fully engaged right up until you got the next bolt so it was common to fall just before you were able to clip. It was so smooth and lowish angle (your shoes would squeak climbing it) that you'd fall pretty slow.

I'd have time to swing my leg over the rope (cause somehow I just didn't know to lead with the rope over my leg when off to the side of the last gear) and even catch the runner of the bolt on my way down (even after 10-15 feet) Saved a bit of rubber that way but you can tweak your fingers if you're not lucky

The sucking thing would be to have to climb all those continuous moves all over again.



Trad climber
Cali Hodad, surfing the galactic plane
Nov 26, 2012 - 07:23pm PT
Rick L,

I'm pretty sure it was 'Curve Like Her' (always what i thought, anyway)! So, I just looked it up again on and the one pic of the right facing dihedral looks very familiar (more on that in a second) and what little it has for a route description is right on target:

Curve Like Her - 10c - trad & one bad bolt.

Description: runnout sandbag!


You are right, its on Polly Dome (i cudn't recall the name of the dome next to Stately Pleasure Dome) here is a pic of it from!
it looks like it may have been taken from our perch on that narrow ledge with the "one bad bolt"!
Credit: splitter
I left part of the story out for the sake of brevity. But, actually, after I joined the three of you on that tiny ledge, rather than continue on up to the single bolt protecting the steep face moves, I thought it would be better to traverse right about 40' to a corner/different route that, as I recall, was rated 5.9 or so. From where we were it looked like it would take pro! So I followed the narrow ledge right and just before the corner (the ledge had, by then, stopped) I had to make this 5.9 face stem move over to the corner. I climbed up the corner for 10-15 ft and it became apparent that it was just a bottomed out groove that didn't take any pro and was wet to boot. So I back tracked.

When I went to reverse the 5.9 move, it was wet. I had somehow redirected the seepage from the corner, as it trickled down, over onto it. I can very clearly recall, while the three of you watched my every move, make a quick assessment of the situation should i had slipped/fell in the process of reversing that move; 1) i looked down the 'flight path' we would take to the ground below @250+ ft! 2) i looked over at that corner/dihedral, which, should the "bad bolt" not fail and actually hold our combined weight of 650# (my guess) and then followed the trajectory of my swing (i was directly to your left 40+ ft) and where i would slam into the corner/didn't look inviting. 3) i then looked at the three of you, and cracked up (well, i do remember a big smile and soft chuckle). I guess it was just the sight of three hardcore doods gripping/hugging each other and looking scared as sh#t. I wish I had a camera back then, lol! Now that I think about it, I probably could have weaseled something out of you guys, a complimentary dinner at least perhaps, ya gotta prepare for those situations (when opportunity strikes) oh well! lol I went ahead and reversed the move and, as I have already described, climbed "up, up and away"!

The other portion that I left out (for the sake of brevity) was, that after making it past the difficult face moves above the hangerless bolt, I ran out of rope. I came to a dead stop in the middle of nowhere. I new that I had nearly ran it out, but had hoped I still had enough line to make it to the left facing corner/crack which was still 25-30 ft away. No way!

There was ABSOLUTELY nothing I could do. Like I said, you guys were out of eyesight and hearing. I gave the rope a long and hard pull from my sketchy stance, and then let go. The universal climbing signal for slack/I need more f'n rope. I waited about a maybe 30 sec and did it again. No deal. I new there was only ONE thing I could do, and that was belay you from right there. ACTUALLY, there was one other thing I could have done, and believe me I did, and that was F'N PRAY! lol Believe me, I did.

That is, pray that you would pull off those steep 5.10 face moves that the bolt protected on the steep headwall right above the belay ledge. If you had slipped, even a slight slip which would have required tension, it would have pulled me (standing on the steep slab/no bolt or pro), you, and most likely, Kevin & Art into oblivion! BTW, thank you Rick for "pulling off those moves"!

So I gave two quick tugs, waited a few seconds, and gave two more quick tugs, the signal to come on up! YIKES!!! You can probably can imagine the "pucker factor" involved, that I was experiencing, for those extremely intense moments between pulling in the slack after you unclipped from the belay ledge and when you slowly made your way up to that bolt/5.10 face moves. I , personally, was looking at about a 250 ft fall, most likely to the deck, from that point. The first 100 ft or so would be sliding down the step slab and then I would have shot over the lip. That would have been one hell of a "ride"!! And, most likely for you, you may have been right behind me ... rather chilling possibility to imagine/picture, eh?

So, my prayers were answered, you made your way up over and past the 5.10 without incident, and I was able to proceed to the safety of the corner once you arrived at the stud missing the hanger!

So, perhaps I had a few more things to recall (speaking of PTSD, sheeesh). I do remember waking up at least one time late in the middle of the night in a cold night shouting, "DON'T F'N SLIP RICK, DON' F'N FALL...! LOL!!

Best also to you & yours,


EDIT: You were between semesters at law school then. You had bailed on the eastside dirtbag existence after many years of honing it, gotten married and entered law school. And perhaps, you were lamenting a bit, in regards to "the way we were" when you were one of us! lol But, I was sure that after escaping that route in one piece, it was a sort of confirmation that you had made the right move in regards to getting married and going to law school! ;)

edit/edit: Also, I do recall that you did a write up on it for one of the climbing rags back then (maybe 'Climbing') in regards to people scarfing bolts off of climbs & perhaps the manky belay bolt, or whatever. I never actually saw it/read it, but several people approached me over the next couple of years, mentioning it!

SO, my synopsis or conclusion: that was the day that I found out why they call it "the sharp end"!!

from SoCal
Nov 26, 2012 - 07:27pm PT
No big rides.

Took a 20 off Flower of High Rank and nearly decked head first. Saved by a great belayer who cranked in a couple of arm lengths before the end.

Gym climber
Berkeley, CA
Nov 26, 2012 - 07:29pm PT
The most classic one I've ridden is Coonyard Pinnacle. Fun times with davidji, we both took some long sliders:

Crest Jewel isn't known for its runouts, but end of linked P1+P2 I took 3 sliders in a row, ~20-25 feet. Partner wanted to bail, so I had to do it again if I wanted to climb more that day. 4th time's a charm! That was my first slab climb.

Ugliest and nearly life-ending one was an obscurity:

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Nov 26, 2012 - 07:34pm PT
Yeah, this was for real. I forget it it was in Rivendell or Mordor.

Credit: Reilly

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
Nov 26, 2012 - 11:22pm PT
I'm sure I told this story before...

I was lowering from about 40' off a boulder on TR, b.i.t.d. (80's, Full Moon Boogey, off-finger 11b, Campo, CA) when a long time friend of mine nearly dropped me seconds after I took tension at the anchor bolts. We had met eyeballs and confirmed with a head nod and verbal confirmation to each other that he was ready to lower me when I suddenly became weightless after leaning back, my focus becoming tunnel vision, and soon black, when I finally felt the rope become tight on my harness, my eyes opening and finding myself dangling about six feet from the ground. My belayer had taken a comfortable "sit" about thirty feet away from the base of the boulder, laying on his back, while he basked in the sun, thinking this was a safe place to belay. After the dust settled from the fall, I found him laying in the dirt, not far away from me, still holding on with his brake hand on the rope!

I asked him, after the fact, what had happened, and he told me that he figured he'd pay me back for a stunt I had pulled on him when we were kids growing up, so he gave me "some slack" to scare me. "I didn't realize I'd get lifted off the ground and you'd fall that far," he applogized. Thanks Joe!
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