What would Harding say?


Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Messages 1 - 20 of total 65 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Park Rat

Social climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 18, 2013 - 05:08am PT
Warren Harding
Warren Harding
Credit: Glen Denny

June 18, 2013, would have been Warren Harding's 89 birthday.

I often find myself thinking, What would Harding say?

For example, if you had asked Harding about dealing with fear when climbing. Whenever possible he would have discounted the dangers of climbing, saying things like "You know all of us climbers are crazy".

Whatever his fears and regrets were, he mostly internalized them. He knew the danger, but he did not fear being killed on the mountain.

Even after he was almost frozen to death on the side of half dome in 1968, the most he would say about the incident was "It was a close thing".

photo not found
Missing photo ID#307371

In 1961 Harding was leading the first ascent of Leaning Tower when he was hit on the head by a falling rock. Al MacDonald and Glen Denny, below him saw blood dripping down, they shouted out Warren are you okay. There was a long pregnant silence before he answered back, "I am ok, I see perfectly, I see two of everything".

The trio was able to bail off successfully, before Warren would go to the hospital and have stitches put in his head, he insisted they stop for a drink. Harding always had his priorities straight.

When climbing tragedies occurred, I am sure Warren would've expressed his condolences, he would not have wanted to over analyze the accidents. He would've seen such discussions as being too intrusive.

Harding was definitely a fatalist, if your number is up, it's up, no use over thinking the subject. He didn't like to be overanalyzed nor did he feel it necessary to comment on other people's business.

However late at night, after imbibing too much, all bets were off, Wayne Merry described him as becoming maudlin. Harding would've said some things are best not remembered the next morning.

On the subject of sobriety, Warren would've said "Stop drinking, why I love to drink". Unfortunately it was a fact, one which he embraced early in life and never sought to change. Despite it all he lived to be 77 years old.

People have said Harding must've hated himself to drink so much. I don't think that was true at all, he was addicted and could not stop drinking.

The Harding of the early years should not be compared to the later version, when alcohol ravaged his body and mind to a great degree. I knew him in the middle years when he still appeared to have some control, more importantly his mind was sharp and clear.

The Harding I remember was soft-spoken, upbeat, full of life. He was generous, often loaning out his equipment, sleeping bags and backpacks etc, he couldn't have been more helpful. Warren didn't seem to require any thanks, only your friendship.

The only time I ever saw him in a bad mood was in the fall of 1971, when he was dealing with the bad press he received over the Wall of Early Morning Light climb.

Only now do I understand the depth of his despair he was feeling at that time. This ultimately led to the writing of his book Downward Bound. I'm convinced that without the controversy the book would never have happened.

The older I get, the more I realize that Warren's legacy is not the mountains that he scaled, but the enthusiasm that he brought to the sport.

Many climbers had better style that's for sure. Few had the combination of his wicked sense of humor and his dogged toughness. He described himself as "thrashing" his way to the top, he wasn't elegant, but he was unstoppable.

How much poorer would we be if the history of the Golden years had not included his off-the-wall, totally unique character.

Mavericks are definitely more fun to hear about, maybe not to live with, but that's another story.

That's my story and I am sticking to it.




Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jun 18, 2013 - 05:52am PT
A great tribute to a great character.
Yosemite would indeed have been much poorer without Warren and his irreverence.
he was a much needed antidote to the times.
Park Rat

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 18, 2013 - 07:22am PT
Thanks Jan,

I often think that after all these years not much is really changed.

The names are different, but the tenor of the discussions haven't changed much, look at how polarized some threads have become recently.

Harding would not be amused, that's for sure.


Trad climber
Jun 18, 2013 - 07:49am PT
Thanks for the post. Time flies.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Jun 18, 2013 - 08:37am PT
Well said PR! Thank you for that!
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Jun 18, 2013 - 08:44am PT
Its a great story and you should stick with it.


If a wall climber dares ask herself, 'what would Harding do' she already knows the answer. Harding would tough it out. She doesn't even have to wonder.

On a climbers' site, get it done climbing ability is one of the true currencies in which we trade. Harding was a rich man, in our world, part of the pantheon now, part of Valhalla, one of our heros, warts and all.

I'm haunted by the ghost of Don Whillans, for example.

mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Jun 18, 2013 - 09:49am PT
"I listened to 'im run 'is mouth, then I 'it 'im."

DMT, you have a pint coming.

"Pint-size" is the right size, mate!


I think Warren might say to you, "Cheers, Sweetheart!"

I'll just thank you for the reminiscing you have posted.

For folks new to Supertoop, much more good stuff is in Park Rat's ten other posts specifically about WH and his times.

Search; you will be rewarded.
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
Jun 18, 2013 - 10:05am PT
Thanks PR, only met the man a couple times while he as still climbing. Never got the opportunity to know him, loved his smile.
ron gomez

Trad climber
Jun 18, 2013 - 10:10am PT
I love to swing into Roger Derryberry's place on the way up the Eastside Sierra and sit in his room with Harding's gear. We usually sit and I listen to endless stories of Warren. Wish Roger would post up here. They had a special relationship it seems and the stories are endless and classic! One of my prized pieces is a "semper farcious" shirt Roger gave to me on a visit.
Park Rat

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 18, 2013 - 10:11am PT

I think you're right about young climbers thinking that Harding was the ultimate hard man.

You have to factor in was the primitive equipment he was using back in the day versus what's available today.

If Harding had the advantage of starting in a climbing gym and using today's equipment I think he might've been even more amazing.
Jebus H Bomz

Peavine Basecamp
Jun 18, 2013 - 10:13am PT
If Harding had the advantage of starting in a climbing gym and using today's equipment I think he might've been even more amazing.

Hehehe... I think you're going to get some crusted panties in a twist with that comment.

Very cool comments on the strength and weakness of an icon, you have clearly thought about this for a while.

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Jun 18, 2013 - 10:16am PT
I appreciate your memories of Warren, Park Rat...thanks for sharing them with us.

I have only one memory of a brief encounter with him....not sure the exact year, but definitely early 70's.

Back then, there was actually a garbage dump back behind Curry, kinda in the direction of Happy Isles. We had wandered over there one evening to catch a glimpse of the bears that ravaged the dump every night. As we walked up, there was a large sedan parked there, two men and a woman sitting on the hood, leaning up against the windshield....drinking, and enjoying the bear show.

Harding was quite recognizable, and we grew rather frustrated with him as he kept shouting out at the bears...scaring them away.

A character indeed!

Social climber
the Wastelands
Jun 18, 2013 - 10:22am PT
what would he say?

Park Rat

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 18, 2013 - 10:28am PT
Hi Dean,

That's so funny, he must've been showing off for some tourists.

The biggest bear I ever saw in the park was in the dumpster behind the Lodge. He was huge and seemed to be there every night as I left the old Mountain Room bar.

I remember tiptoeing past him every night holding my breath hoping he wouldn't notice me.

I am pretty sure Warren would've thought twice about yelling at that huge black bear. Chuckle

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jun 18, 2013 - 10:45am PT
Nice remembrance.....he was a unique and iconic member of the tribe.

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jun 18, 2013 - 11:00am PT
Pure gold! Thanks for the remembrances.


Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Jun 18, 2013 - 11:01am PT
Excellent post.
Thanks, Susie for fleshing out a great historical figure.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jun 18, 2013 - 11:26am PT
I never get tired of Warren stories, especially when recounted by you, Ms Rat. :-)

Do you have any advice to offer me? I need a way to break it to my wife
that my signed Warren poster is going up next to her Baryshnikov. I say
it is an appropriate pairing, don't you? I'm sure Warren would have been amused.
Park Rat

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 18, 2013 - 11:40am PT

I don't know what to tell you, but you might want to rethink this.

I'm not sure whether he would've been amused or horrified. Chuckle
Park Rat

Social climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 18, 2013 - 04:34pm PT

You may be in luck as Wayne Merry is sure to read this thread.

I have been emailing him recently, he's busy doing SAR training

as we speak.

He may not remember after all these years, but we can sure ask him.

If he doesn't pop up on the thread, I will shoot him an email.
Messages 1 - 20 of total 65 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks

Try a free sample topo!

SuperTopo on the Web

Recent Route Beta
Recent Gear Reviews