David Brower Appreciation Thread

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MisterE

Social climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Jan 28, 2013 - 07:30pm PT
Just watched "Monumental":

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0427557/

And it brought back memories from a very young age of what huge fans my parents were of this man.

He is also mentioned in "Cadillac Desert" as a huge force against Floyd Dominy (long-time head of the Bureau of Reclamation and THE major political influence behind dam building at the time).

A devoted climber and mountaineer, as well as being the father of the Conservation Movement.





looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Latitute 33
Jan 28, 2013 - 08:03pm PT
And don't forget he is the father of the protection bolt for free climbing!

On the first ascent of Shiprock in 1939 [David Brower, Raffi Bedayn, Bestor Robinson and John Dyer.] It is widely accepted that this was the first climb in the United States to use expansion bolts for protection.
Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
Jan 28, 2013 - 08:37pm PT
While I appreciate him, he sure as hell didn't appreciate me. Listening to an address I gave at a conference in Italy about twenty years ago he got progressively more and more upset. Steam was just about coming out of his ears, and at the end he was so angry he could hardly talk. I think he wanted to hit me.





donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jan 28, 2013 - 08:51pm PT
I can post here, Brower was a climber.....and much, much more. Most likely the most effective environmentalist in US history. A true patriot because he cared about America and how it would look to his children and their children and.......all future generations.
justthemaid

climber
Jim Henson's Basement
Jan 28, 2013 - 08:57pm PT
I'm a history buff, but somehow David was only a peripheral name mentioned in lists of respected people and threads about Shiprock...at least until recently.

Reading that book Erik mentions above (Cadillac Desert)^^ put Brower in my sights for the last week. I've been poking around in the Taco and on line. Found C-Mack's mention of the documentary "Monumental" which we watched.. I can't really imagine how such a pivotal human being stayed off my radar for so long. He had some remarkable achievements.

I hope some people post up some stories.

@Ghost: Your story doesn't surprise me. It seems like he was a pretty stubborn individual and not the easiest to get along with at times when his mind was set. Not only did the Sierra Club fire him.. his own environmental organization (Friends of the Earth) that HE created fired him eventually LOL.
apogee

climber
Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
Jan 28, 2013 - 09:16pm PT
One of my greatest heroes, and a fantastic example of principle, words & action.

For another great profile of Brower, try McPhee's 'Encounters with the Archdruid'.
Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
Jan 28, 2013 - 09:16pm PT
Hi Skip

Along with Cadillac Desert (which should be required reading for everyone who wants to hold US citizenship), you should read "Encounters With The Archdruid". It's a book about Brower's interactions with others. Kind of a different take than just worshiping him from afar because he was a great environmentalist. It's respectful, but not blindly devotional. Amazon link below.

http://www.amazon.com/Encounters-Archdruid-John-McPhee/dp/0374514313/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1359425427&sr=1-1&keywords=Encounters+with+the+Archdruid
MisterE

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 28, 2013 - 09:18pm PT
Great history note, Sketchy! Thanks.

Donini: Yes, an American "10th Generation" thinker, something very rare for the day.


Edit: Thanks for the link, Ghost - we'll check it out. As Skip mentioned, he seemed bull-headed...but Dominy was also, and his behavior went well beyond whatever acerbic tendencies David had, IMO.
justthemaid

climber
Jim Henson's Basement
Jan 28, 2013 - 09:21pm PT
@ Ghost.

Thanks.. Got Amazon gift cert. I'll read that next.
klk

Trad climber
cali
Jan 28, 2013 - 09:36pm PT
And don't forget he is the father of the protection bolt for free climbing!

indeed. and he later attempted infanticide.

brower is a fascinating figure-- one of the young turks of the 30s and 40s who helped to introduce and then improve on the ultra-technical styles of climbing common in the tyrol but frowned upon by the brits, french and swiss.

while serving in the 10th mountain division during ww2, he wrote the us manual for winter/ski mountaineering.

after the war, he was one of those pressing the sierra club to become a major lobbying force. along the way he more or less recanted his earlier faith in iron mongering.

john mcphee's encounters with the archdruid is the source of a good deal of reisner's brower section in cadillac desert. mcphee's book is one of the highlights of the new journalism and is still (deservedly) in print:

http://www.amazon.com/Encounters-Archdruid-John-McPhee/dp/0374514313




Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
Jan 28, 2013 - 10:08pm PT
As Skip mentioned, he seemed bull-headed...but Dominy was also,

Well, picture the two of them, Floyd Dominy and David Brower, spending a week together rafting the Colorado and you'll have some idea of what you'll get in "Encounters with the Archdruid".
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jan 28, 2013 - 10:09pm PT
And don't forget he is the father of the protection bolt for free climbing [in the US]!

Though bolts were used much earlier in the Elbsandstein.

On the first ascent of Shiprock in 1939 [David Brower, Raffi Bedayn, Bestor Robinson and John Dyer.] It is widely accepted that this was the first climb in the United States to use expansion bolts for protection.

Actually his climb with bolt protection of Tuff Dome in the Pinnacles National Monument in [edit:] 1934 precedes Shiprock by several years.

It's possible he led Tuff Dome with no pro or piton pro, though, and bolts were added later by others. [edit: see my later post below - it looks like they were added later, so Shiprock may still be the first with bolt protection in the US).

He did Condor Crags in 1933, with piton pro at the crux start, and then probably ran it out on the upper part, as it's 4th class there. North Finger in 1934 was done with no pro (and there still is no pro).


This might be Dave climbing the chimney between the North and South Fingers in the Pinnacles, but I'm not sure - the rock looks more like granite, and we know he climbed in the Valley. Any other guesses on where this is?
klk

Trad climber
cali
Jan 28, 2013 - 10:51pm PT
Actually his climb with bolt protection of Tuff Dome in the Pinnacles National Monument in 1933 precedes Shiprock by several years. It's possible he led Tuff Dome with no pro or piton pro, though, and bolts were added later by others.

clint, i didn't know the tuff dome story. can you fill this out?

i don't know when the first expansion bolt was placed for climbing in the elbe.

in granite, bolts are a pretty bright line that allows folks to ignore natural crack systems and just whale into anywhere. in choss, it's not as clear. i can drive decent nails into that mud at smith rocks.

first bolts in "good granite or similar" may end up being our best marker for chronology. fpr the mythology, though, sketchy is on the money.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jan 28, 2013 - 11:02pm PT
Kerwin,

The first ascent of Tuff Dome was done in November, 1934 by Dave Brower, Ralph Brower, and Dick Leonard.

The current topo shows a 5.0 flake and then a 5.6 face with 2 bolts.
In the 1995 guidebook, it states the protection bolts are 1/4" and the top is a large eye bolt.
The use of 1/4" bolts suggests they were added after the first ascent, since 3/8" Star Dryvin type bolts would be more likely in the early days (at least later, in the 1950s).

So Randy may be right about Shiprock being the first in the US to use protection bolts.

It seems clear that Brower and his partners placed anchor bolts at the Pinnacles, though. And of course George Anderson drilled bolts for aid on Half Dome in October 1875.

As for the Elbe, the definition of protection bolt could be tricky, since the original style was to belay at each ring bolt.
klk

Trad climber
cali
Jan 28, 2013 - 11:24pm PT
thanks clint, that's helpful. i really don't know jack about the dark and occult happenings down at pinnacles.

i think the "first bolt on shiprock" comes from chris jones MNA. haven't asked him about it.

i always thought about expansion bolts as an epiphenomenon of tilt slab concrete construction, which doesn't become common in the us until early-mid-century, which would explain the appearance of all those 1/4 bolts after ww2.

but that's got to be too shallow. folks were drilling holes in mortar and soft rock in europe (maybe asia) way the hell back. at some point, sleeving had to become not just conceivable but feasible. don't know when. i don't know enough about the history of tension anchors i guess. you know any of that history? or have leads on sources?

none of the older bridges i've looked at in europe used bolts. but i haven't been around all that much, either.

i know the w. european languages didn't have a separate word for "climbing bolt" in the early 20th century. the areas at the center of the piton revolution had dolomitic limestone, or really soft sedimentary rock with lots of weaknesses to whale soft iron pins into. and the granitic western alps thought of pins as a teutonic perversion, so bolting would've been the last thing on their minds. most of the post-war euro sources treat expansion bolts as an american innovation.
Fossil climber

Trad climber
Atlin, B. C.
Jan 28, 2013 - 11:26pm PT
I remember coming across Dave Brower article on the use of expansion bolts in an early Sierra Club Bulletin in the college library back in '50 or '51. I'm sure it is in the archives, might tell us more.
klk

Trad climber
cali
Jan 28, 2013 - 11:33pm PT
btw, i was under the impression that the ring bolts in the elbe were post ww2. all of the ones i saw were. and i can't recall any sleeve bolts. some were just big hunks of metal pounded into small holes in soft sandstone. really soft. i saw a few that were glued. i know that now there's a heavily policed protocol for bolting, but don't know its history and don't have connections there.

none of those early (i.e. perry-smith and fehrmann) routes in the elbe had ring bolts. most of them were long, sandy crack lines (typically wide), with occasional unprotected face climbing transitions between crack systems. that's why wiessner was an ow star.

fehrmann was ardently anti-piton, much less bolt, and he became a nazi factotum as well as the dominant local star. hard to imagine ring bolts taking hold there until he got sent off to the russian prison camp.



Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jan 28, 2013 - 11:41pm PT
Kerwin,

The great biography article on Oliver Perry-Smith in the 1964 AAJ describes him placing a ring bolt in September 1905 (bottom of p.105):

"But first they had the blacksmith make safety and rope-off rings and, with Hanns Schueller as third man, started on September 10.
Arriving at the overhang, Perry-Smith drove in the safety ring and roped to his companions. ..." (with Albert Kunze and Schueller)

So it was a belay anchor, but still constitutes a protection bolt in my view, as it was protecting the climbing above.
MisterE

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 28, 2013 - 11:50pm PT
The "Archdruid" element actually makes sense, given the time and the surge to remake the "western desolate" a more comfortable place for humanity.

It is a difficult place to choose sides, that is why I chose not to address the issue.

There was good and bad done on both sides, but it seems that the fight for the preservation was, as I mentioned, a farther-looking perspective than blocking every available river constriction for some juvenile perspective on what is "needed", as the new-comers to an old world that we were...

Funny and sad that this has turned into a depreciation and bolt issue so soon.

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jan 28, 2013 - 11:54pm PT
Hmmm, he was an early talented climber and you posted that climbing photo yourself....

Are you saying you wanted this to be a non-climbing thread? :-)
klk

Trad climber
cali
Jan 28, 2013 - 11:59pm PT
yeah, i've read that-- but i think that was what we would call a piton.

most of the earliest examples of pitons-- and that he might've been familiar with -- came out of the tirol and were used first for rapping and then for belays. protection pitons came last. the first piton we know of was the one placed by purtscheller on the first traverse of the meiije. there's a picture of it in his 1887 (date?) article that ops would've had access to.

all of the earliest ones were ring-pins because they didn't have carabiners until later. each placement meant untying and then threading the rope and re-tying. the "blacksmith" is a clue that that's what was involved in that reference. the fact that he doesn't mention a drill doesn't mean he didn't have one-- negative evidence isn't evidence-- but i'm dubious that he was drilling, since even a simple piton at the time was such an innovation that he had to mention going to the local smith and telling him what to do.

that said, it's possible that a rich kid from a manufacturing family, like ops, might've known about and even owned a snap-link. (no local blacksmith was going to make a carabiner.) but i really doubt that he placed what we now would call a bolt.



Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jan 29, 2013 - 12:03am PT
Kerwin,

Cool - thanks for the explanation about how "rings" probably meant ring pitons (no drill).
Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
Jan 29, 2013 - 12:04am PT
Funny and sad that this has turned into a depreciation and bolt issue so soon.

The bolting thing was, is, and always will be a side issue. And my posts above were in no way meant as depreciation (in the sense I think you're using that word). But he wasn't god, and to understand what he accomplished one needs to understand the man. Which can't be done from a position of worship.
MisterE

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 29, 2013 - 12:07am PT
Clint: Just saying there is a lot here outside of Skip and I posting that is not "appreciative" for what the man accomplished.

Carry on...wait a minute - did I just get trolled by Mr. Cummins? LOL!

Edit: Ghost - no worship here, just an appreciation of the difficulty of standing up to the status quo of the time.
10b4me

Boulder climber
Somewhere on 395
Jan 29, 2013 - 12:12am PT
I had a lot of respect for Mr. Brower as both a climber, and an environmentalist.
klk

Trad climber
cali
Jan 29, 2013 - 12:16am PT
There was good and bad done on both sides, but it seems that the fight for the preservation was, as I mentioned, a farther-looking perspective than blocking every available river constriction for some juvenile perspective on what is "needed", as the new-comers to an old world that we were...

Funny and sad that this has turned into a depreciation and bolt issue so soon.

actually, i think it resonates pretty nicely with the issues that mcphee brings out in archdruids with such subtlety. bolting is a genuinely philosophical problem -- what counts as a bolt, what counts as technology -- although (and possibly because) it's insolvable.

brower usually gets plastered for the deal he helped to strike to build the coal-burning plant on indian land at 4 corners. and he deserves it. but that doesn't mean he isn't also one of the heroes of the 20th century.

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jan 29, 2013 - 02:40am PT
Erik,

I wasn't trolling, and I didn't intend to sound unappreciative.
I appreciate David Brower's leading climbing achievements at the Pinnacles, Shiprock and the Valley.
I don't see his use of bolts as a bad thing, or as a contradiction to his later environmentalism.
Gary

Social climber
Right outside of Delacroix
Jan 29, 2013 - 08:37am PT
after the war, he was one of those pressing the sierra club to become a major lobbying force.

Which happened, and which, ironically, killed mountaineering in the club.

As a lobbying force they accumulated so much money that it was necessary to protect it from lawsuits. After a couple of unfortunate accidents the insurance companies pulled the plug on their liability insurance. The club then pulled the plug on any mountaineering outings. Thus, the death of the Rock Climbing Sections.

To their credit, the national club has made some changes and is supportive of mountaineering, but it is still an after thought.

Which is too bad, as it is the heart of the club. The early club presidents read like a Who's Who of California mountaineering. Most of them had their name in the old Black Kaweah register:

Muir, LeConte, Colby, McDuffie, Farquhar, Dawson, Starr, Lewis Clark, Bestor Robinson, Dick Leonard.
justthemaid

climber
Jim Henson's Basement
Jan 29, 2013 - 08:59am PT
Well, I knew zitch about him up until a week ago, so any history is interesting to me. His climbing accomplishments do seem to take a sideline to the environmental work in most biographies so the bolt-talk is relevant. I think E was just worried the whole thread would morph into people arguing about it.

I agree that to "understand what he accomplished one needs to understand the man". Effective people are rarely Gandhi-types so we weren't really coming at this from a "worship" standpoint BTW. One can't deny his accomplishments in spite of the flaws.

It just seemed a little bizarre that an "appreciation" thread was immediately bombed with negativity and a random statement about "attempted infanticide" just in the first few posts.
klk

Trad climber
cali
Jan 29, 2013 - 12:41pm PT
It just seemed a little bizarre that an "appreciation" thread was immediately bombed with negativity and a random statement about "attempted infanticide" just in the first few posts.

um, i didn't think clint and i were dispensing much negativity. the "infanticide" remark just extends the fatherhood metaphor. brower was indeed one of the folks pioneering the use of expansion bolts for rock climbing. and later, he was one of the folks pioneering bans on expansion bolts and other fixed anchors in rock climbing.

biological metphors tend not to work well for history.

chris jones's mountaineering in north america has a great pic of a young brower climbing at indian rock back in the thirties. always think about brower when i'm doing that move.

Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
Jan 29, 2013 - 12:59pm PT
No negativity from me.

Brower is a very interesting man.
crunch

Social climber
CO
Jan 29, 2013 - 01:56pm PT
Brower would never have become the environmentalist that he became had it not been for the climbing he did.

The ascent of Shiprock, which was very remote, hazardous and in the middle of the Navajo Reservation was instrumental in broadening his horizons. He wrote about bivying near the summit and looking out and seeing lights, campfires, stretching to the horizon, and wondering about the people who were huddled around those fires. How did they live? What was their relationship with the land they lived on? This was, perhaps, a turning point for him.

His mother went blind when he was a kid. This I reckon, had a big influence; he was forced to be her eyes and so he became more observant, more deeply aware of the value of simply seeing fine scenery and grand mountains. He had to guide her around, and so, later in life, a leading, guiding role in protecting the views and senery came more easily to him.

Monumental is fascinating.
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