Photos of The Hourglass Left


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right here, right now
May 26, 2006 - 01:31pm PT
driftin' here:
ya, left side of slab happy is also quite a cool off the beaten path classic.

i recall some exhilarating flared, bombay hands...
(yes curt, heal up, rack up, get out: i'm all for that).

Trad climber
May 26, 2006 - 03:44pm PT
Peter, your posts are as interesting as your list of first ascents.

Good job and thanks for sharing. Anyone have a pic of a person on the route? That would get wood from more than 1 reader I'm sure.

Trad climber
on a rock or mountain out west
May 26, 2006 - 07:14pm PT
Patrick, thanks for posting Peter's article, that was one of the better climbing reads I've had in a long time.

Peter, keep the photos and classics coming. They're much appreciated here.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Reply - May 26, 2006 - 09:06pm PT
Hi Buds,

Thanks all of you for the really kind and generous words. This was not the hardest route I ever did, but it sure as hell was the deepest. To go through that lead….in those days, with certain death at hand, many route issues unknown (no review no pre-scoping), and no valid protection, was rewarded by a set of the biggest feelings I have ever had as you can tell from the article. BTW I have continued to edit the article and it is pretty much done now, so I should post the update (and to the many sites that seem to have it up as well). It was hard to edit it, since the subject is so emotional and hard to structure. I set out to write something that occurred to many of us, and to some of us on this forum obviously, but of which the emotional part was not getting chronicled much. And I think if truth be told, most top level climber climb for very strong emotional reasons, whether they know that or not.

JIMB, there is the possibility that Rick Linkert or Mike Farrell took some photos of my lead…I don’t recall. But someone MUST have in later years. I would LOVE to see them too. Yes wood, yes. And a video of someone putting the whole lead together would be very interesting too.

Largo, that bolt was a joke wasn’t it, especially by current standards. A quarter-inch compression bolt placed in 7/62! Looking up at it in the year 2000, it looked like maybe it had not been changed out…..It would be REALLY appropriate if someone went up there and replaced that bolt with a modern one, but kept it right where it is, behind the climber as he offwidths to the roof and then would turn to undercling. Not to keep it difficult but to keep the appropriate protection point location for the big-deal undercling. When you are leading it, you are glad the point of protection is NOT on the dihedral as the current location really reduces the pendulum effect (angular momentum) by being to the left several feet. And Largo, its true Slab Happy and Hourglass are superb formations in superb locations!

And the business with the slab sliding downwards, it hasn’t, It is in the same place vis a vis the old bolt etc…what is going on is probably ice-wedging---the crack probably gets bigger in winter a little, in areas since it is completely open at the top of the slab and gets packed with snow and ice probably in spots. And of course an earthquake too would mean the thing would probably shake like a dog! Imagine. The whole 350-400 ft slab is detached from the wall and spaced with chockstones here and there, on both sides. BTW, there are some other route possibilities on this thing….

And it is interesting to hear that some of you have done the left side. Wasn’t Bridwell the only subsequent party that lead it in the same manner? Big pro was coming out soon after, right?

technical route info (Landolier et al):

pitch 1: start at the obvious beginning, with a guillotine slab standing at the base, pull up over an “ear” on the edge of the book (easy), climb a 5.9 left facing offwidth (maybe 6”-9”?) about 20 ft to a downslab in the crack, pass this formation (maybe 5.10a?) and reach the striking undercling, with the bolt behind you under the roof as the offwidth gets a little harder as you ascend.

Figure out how to clip in…. with this bolt positioned behind you, and turn around to undercling left (5” to 6”) 5.10d-ish, to a sloping but reasonably good polished edge 15 ft away where you could place protection in the roof (I did not/nothing existed then), try to rest here, but it will be hard. Get back into the undercling and proceed further left another 6 feet (5.10c and harder) then turn the corner, liebacking a delicate, very polished thin flake-ear formed on the edge of the dihedral. The thin flake is delicate enough to worry you, by the way. The main wall is also extremely waterpolished here too. All the crack edges to this point are very good, the rock is perfect; there is some big lichen under the undercling, though. Note also that there are better places than others for your feet while you are underclinging: that is key; don’t just try to gun it but figure how to move with this much pressure developing.

Gain the top of this ear and the offwidth leg-pod above it, and swing into the pod to rest. A bong endwise near my knees here was my approach, but it was a joke and very very hard to place since my body had pretty much filled the available space…god…. Modern stuff would work here and could appropriately be placed above you instead. The rest stance here is not really no-hands as you are working still to be there and your feet are in heel-toes and kind of also using the top of the ear which is not as fabulous as you might have hoped. This section from the bolt to the knee-pod is very powerful climbing and as a whole ends up being 5.11a. My seconds, who were good climbers, could not get anywhere with this section, after repeated attempts on my upper belay and had to jumar.

Above, the crack is quite varied in width, features, and character, and wants to trap you in its undulations. So, word to the wise, if you are tired at this point, you better be very sensitive and careful here. And that might be hard because of what you have been through up to this point. This upper section is kind of 5.10b/c ( by itself) in places I think.

In general, the protection you may have put in may be compromised in a load/fall situation because of the sharp change in directions from wide vertical crack to wide roof to wide vertical crack, too….This pitch ends in a really cool kind of small basin that again is polished to bits, and should still have the one bolt I placed as anchor and as my mark for this FFA. It of course was a 1/4” comp, and probably can’t be trusted 35 years later (grin). One could get anchors in the main crack though.

Pitch 2 and 3 are very fun, 5.8-5.9ish and interesting, reasonable, scenic and kind of stimulating but safe. You end up behind the slab, chimney to its top where there should be some large anchors. You rappel the right side, and here you must be very careful. You go from summit to the tree, and from the tree to the ground. The dihedral below the tree has eaten ropes and will eat yours too if you let your rope get in that s.o.b. It almost got mine a couple of times, and there is an old one way in there btw.

Best to all of you, PH

Davis, CA
May 27, 2006 - 12:30am PT
Recollections of the First Free Ascent of The Left Side of the Hourglass

Nicely done Peter. Haven't experienced anything of that intensity myself (although I've flirted with somthing like it several times) but I think your story goes a long way toward explaining why many of us climb. Thank you for sharing.


right here, right now
May 27, 2006 - 01:26am PT
guys like millis and cochran used to goodheartedly taunt me for being a "deck ape" and this is the climb they wanted me to do...

Trad climber
May 27, 2006 - 01:31am PT
took a hike around that area and felt "skittish".

Trad climber
the south
May 27, 2006 - 02:19am PT
Hey Roy, we can redo the quarter incher, looky here what I got:

HAHA, these are good, right?

Maybe we don't need the gold bros, how wide is the widest part?

GOt two blues and a green, two 6 friends, two 7 tricams, what can happen?

A tent in the redwoods
May 27, 2006 - 02:53am PT
I'm drinking with a gaggle of college co-eds but instead of slobbering over them I'm salivating over the Left Side. Who's got some big bros?
jack herer

chico, ca
May 27, 2006 - 03:01am PT
thank you peter for bumping back ragmeats posts with something that has to do with "climbing"...

Big Wall climber
San Luis Obispo CA
May 27, 2006 - 06:56am PT
We are not worthy. We are not worthy. . .. . .

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
May 27, 2006 - 12:00pm PT
I always kind of wondered how much of the upper part, after the undercling, Kamps free climbed on the first ascent. I think I remember him telling me he nailed the roof and other parts with bongs placed endwise, and that they were very poor -- like bodyweight, A4 placements. There's no way he could have placed that bolt except on aid since it's on the wrong side of the wall, facing away from the direction you face when chugging up the first off size bit. Yet that first bit is (I think, it's been like 30 years) too wide for even endwise bongs, ain't it??

Also, Slab Happy is also good. The Left Side (Chapman and Bridwell first free) is great but a grunt but the right side (Dihardral) is terrific and a real accomplishment for Sachar to have done 40 some years ago. I know Vern did the center route free as well (old Robbins route originally rated A5) but I never got around to doing that one.


Trad climber
the south
May 27, 2006 - 11:44pm PT
james, meet Tarbaby n me when we are all well, I have a pile of big gear, looking to do that thing, seriously.
Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
May 28, 2006 - 02:50am PT
Slabs come and slabs go, but an Off-Width crack is forever.

Trad climber
one pass away from the big ditch
May 28, 2006 - 04:17am PT
Amen Bruce.

jeebus that thing looks intense

Trad climber
the south
May 28, 2006 - 09:07am PT
Munge, it looks like fun!

Unless you don't have gear to fit it, like the guys who did it originally. They must have been pretty daring.

LOL, where there is gear, there is no fear.

Rick L

Trad climber
El Dorado Hills, CA
May 28, 2006 - 01:25pm PT

The photos and story brought back memories from 35 years ago. I am convinced that you enlisted me on the project because I was, quite simply, the heaviest belayer you could lay your hands on. Anyway, thanks for the tutorials on off-widths and all the other great climbs we did together.

Here are some of my memories.

The Hourglass was, at the time, pehaps the only unfininshed Sacherer project in the Valley. Peter was a briliant free climber whose fingers touched the past and the future. In between was the Left Side of the Hourglass. As an exfoliation slab, the Hourglass is a spectacual piece of granite architecture in a wild and remote setting. I remember the marches to the base. The scent of formic acid and bay leaves as we thrashed our way up the oak and talus to the base. We waited until late afternoon to make sure the sun was off. We all knew just how serious the lead would be. I was lashed to some ancient roots as the base of the short dihedral leading up to the roof. The first off-width was pretty straightforward for Peter. Clipping and then swinging into the undercling was strenuous and awakward but relatively trivial in comparison with what lay ahead. From my perspectice, I was absolutely spooked that there would be a fall that I either could not catch, was caused by not being able to quickly feed out the rope or from a spot where Peter would hit the deck no matter what I did. There is a sloping foothold, as I recall, midway across the undercling. The "rest" is not necessarily a good thing- particularly since he could not place any pro. First, it did not appear to be much of a rest. Second, it provides the leader with a spot where indecision can easily set in. Reverse and you are at the safety(?) of the then-old 1/4" bolt. Keep going and you are in it for the ride. When Peter launched into the final segment, Mike and I were transfixed. There was a hideous, delicate "barn-door" move at the end to transition into the left-side-in off-width. The water polish was extreme and a fall at that point would have placed Peter either on the ground if I could not yard in enough rope or into the guillotinne flake immediately above me. I was absolutely focused on hauling in as much slack as I could if he came off- these were pre-belay device days. We uttered a huge sigh of relief when he got into the off-width- we figured it would take a stick of dynamite to get Peter Haan out of any crack he could get his knee and shoulder in. It remained hard, however, and still very spooky in the pre-giant cam days of yore. I have done the "bong-endwise" drill on a number climbs but I have to tell you that I never had any level of confidence that they would actually hold a significant fall. The rule of the day in off-widths was "Don't Fall. Bad Things Will Happen If You Do".

I was last off the ground at near-darkness. I would like to have had a shot at following but doubt I would have had much of a chance at the time. The chimney pitches were a trip in the dark. With all three of us safely on top, the feeling of being present for Peter's success was pretty damned good. Because it was now pitch black, we had the choice of sitting on top in T-shirts for the night or rapping. For reasons I can't recall, we decided to tie the two ropes together and rap to the base. The lights-out transfer past the knot at about 150 feet off the deck was as engaging as you might imagine. The night was damned cold and we huddled together for warmth. In the morning, Peter went back to visit his summit and made the two raps down.

From my perspective, it was a privilege to have been there and witnessed a young man's powerful dream realized.

Take care


p.s. Peter- for God's sake did you think Mike or I even owned a camera let alone were calm enough to take photos? We were too gripped.
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
May 28, 2006 - 02:42pm PT
Nice post, Rick. A cool perspective and great story. I wondered about Peter's assertion that maybe you had taken pictures. As you said, "who had a camera?"

Best, Roger
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Reply - May 28, 2006 - 03:13pm PT
God it’s great to hear from you Rick!! I had no idea where you were these days, or even if you “were” at all . Wonderful! I will email separately with particulars.

This warm openhanded post of yours is really interesting and contributes a lot to the history of this climb and the Ribbon Falls area. It’s all accurate too. And as Rog just mentioned, it is really one of the very sad things about climbing back then that so few of us had cameras or took the time to use them. Fortunately my father’s camera was available and eventually destroyed recording history and then my old used Nikon F in mid 70’s.

Right, the barn-door move above the undercling was really dangerous, and also difficult for an additional, special reason. Not only are the leader’s hands, arms and everything else running out of gas by this point and everything is incredibly smooth, but also to perform such a different, balancey and delicate move contrasted hugely with what he has just done, grunting across the undercling in big, powerful moves. And of course doing this all with no protection made that moment pretty special. To make matters really hideous was the critical question whether the earlike flake you are liebacking on would actually break off and send the leader into a really wild, uncontrolled fall. The thing is pretty thin, and really unusual.

It is also true as you say that the “rest” hold under the roof did provide a psychological crisis and classic dilemma. At this point you could kind of get back to the bolt and safety without getting hurt, but to continue from the hold means having to take an even worse fling at the ascent than the one of starting the undercling to begin with. If this hold were not there, this climb would be in the 5.12+ region….but there would not be the mental crisis of having to “re-commit” as you imply. In other words, I guess, it is very hard to make yourself climb this pitch.

It is true that the rest of the pitch as you say (I guess about 50 more feet, above the knee pod) is serious too, although not quite as technical. In this upper section I was able to get a bong or two in and climb over them as was standard in the day, as they were on the outside of the crack, not deep inside it like camming devices usually are at this size.

The story of this ascent is ever so much more complete with your perspective from the belay now added.

I took you along because we were climbing partners, I loved your personality and that you treated me so well. Everyone liked you too. I should mention that I often did extremely nasty climbs with partners who were not part of the central climbing elite “because the puzzle of my life required I be on this major quest with no real competitors, only friends and hopefully, neutral parties, and enough bodies to handle my likely emergency. And guys that could keep our efforts a secret until the experience was complete” as I said in the article. I even did the fourth onsight ascent of the Twilight Zone with essentially a 20 year old nonclimber, Cliff Coleman, whom I had grown up with in Berkeley…hard to believe….and of course I had taught him how to jumar the day before (g).

I had kind of forgotten that we finished the Left side upper pitches in twilight, Rick. We were flying though. And I had definitely forgotten that we had tied the ropes together end to end for the rappel on the rt side (I just edited my initial post to add a photo of the rt side, btw). This was because the hanging complex gnarly bay tree is a real scene getting into and out of, the crack below it wants to eat your rope like no other I have known, and there were three of us which required that all three of us would have had to have been in the tree at once with our two ropes…. perhaps not the best plan especially in full darkness and no lights.

Best to you all, P
here I am in a light snow storm, March 2002 sitting at the base of the Left Side, at the age of 52:

Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
May 28, 2006 - 05:15pm PT
Hey, you are looking pretty good there Peter, sausage fingers and all. (I like that way you interlaced them to mak'em look fatter. He,he)

As far as I am concerned, none of us look any older than we did then, in a manner of speaking.

Nice thread. Happy Memorial Day.

Best, Roger

PS: Is the angle of main wall as shown in your Right Side photo more or less correct? The pictures of the Left Side make it look steeper.
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