In 1976, I met Jim Donini while climbing the Nutcracker in Yosemite. As I led up the second pitch "gully" I laid eyes upon a stunningly beautiful blond topless woman, Juanita Hunter. With little provocation she became quite talkative and let me know she was climbing with Jim Donini, just returned from Patagonia and the first ascent of Torre Egger. Fortunately, I understood the import of this achievement and was duly impressed. Juanita was not feeling well. In fact, she found a way to go off alone one the ledges and throw up.
From this beginning, I ended up spending most of the next two weeks sharing a non-Camp 4 campsite with Jim and Juanita and an incredible string of other luminaries, including Warren Harding and T.M. Herbert.
Warren was amidst his protracted adventure to place a climb upon another panel of Yosemite rock: the Porcelain Wall adjacent and below Half Dome. He invited me to join up and I did for a while, but that's another story.
I climbed again with Jim at Granite Mountain and the Mace in Sedona. At Granite Mountain, Juanita explained her illness on Nutcracker. "It was morning sickness, but I didn't know it at the time," she related as she tended to her daughter at the base of a climb.
Thirty four years passed before I next crossed paths with Mr. Donini one fine day in Indian Creek below Supercrack.
Jim almost immediately remarked, "Haven't I meet you before?"
"Yes, we have," I answered, "but if you really remember me you've got as good a memory as the best politician on Earth. It's been 34 years!"
We've gone on two llama pack trips to the Wind Rivers since. My admiration for the man knows no bounds.
I'm going to add another comment here, since we've both have known Jim for a long time. I've climbed with hundreds of partners, over the years, but after recently spending a week in Yosemite, with the senior citizen, I took in quite a display, of fine leading skills, since Jim did all the leading.
As you know, Jim likes to lead, and I was totally out of shape, and happy to just climb.
What really struck me as different, compared to almost anyone, I've ever climbed with is his ability to place pro. without hardly a pause. It seems like he is constantly moving up, and placing pro; almost as an afterthought.
I spend quite a bit, with climbers, who spend as much time pacing pro. and fiddling with their gear; as they do moving up the rock.
Jim's leading style really stands out among the crowd!