The best offwidth climber ever


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Trad climber
'cross the great divide
Aug 1, 2013 - 01:09pm PT
Yo Greg. I just had my first trip to Squamish, spent a day climbing at Shalanay, and saw Pipeline for the first time. I don't know you too well, but you and I have hung out a little, so my impression is that you can be a little . . zany. But I have to ask you in regards to your onsight FFA of Pipeline. WHAT IN THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING? I cannot imagine looking at that burly beast and coming to the conclusion that going up there sans rope to check it out would be something that anyone would want to do. Especially given that it had not been freed yet.

Seriously though. Tell us a little about what the motivation was for such a standard-blowing ascent. It certainly blows my mind, although I suck at OW, but even Mr. Croft confirms upthread how amazing your climb was.

Brad White


Trad climber
Mancos, CO
Aug 1, 2013 - 01:19pm PT

Where's that climb? Are you the climber? Burly for surely.

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
Aug 1, 2013 - 01:53pm PT
TWP That climb is Welcome to China 5.12, Taylor Canyon, Gunnison co. I'm pretty sure that pic of Phil's is of Chuck Grossman on the FA, taken by Allen Hill.

The route is to the right of the falling climber in this picture, the obvious big OW slot(sorry for the pic, a funky slide) This pic is of John Pearson on an early toprope attempt of the roof for Oh Mamma Mamma 5.10c (EB's, white painter pants, Whillans harness..... 1976)

Credit: ydpl8s

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Aug 1, 2013 - 03:31pm PT
After Steve Petro did "Fidler on the Roof" it was not repeated for twenty years. Sometimes these guys from outside areas are under represented in these "greatest" lists. Don't know if he was a particular expert at off width, however.

omaha, ne
Aug 1, 2013 - 03:50pm PT
"Has he done anything in Colorado?"

"I always heard Vedauwoo was Colorado's best summer crag."

Vedauwoo isn't Colorado's best crag!!!! It's in Wyoming! LOL
goatboy smellz

Aug 1, 2013 - 07:19pm PT
^^^ That is a bit of an inside joke.
Kinda like Indian Creek is CO's best sandstone.

Close enough for a weekend trip?
Greenies call it their own, we're selfish that way.

Modesto Mutant

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Aug 1, 2013 - 07:45pm PT
I don't know about the best but watching Marty Garrison do laps up the Generator Crack was pretty impressive back in the mid/late '70's.

beneath the valley of ultravegans
Aug 1, 2013 - 08:16pm PT
The Schlock and Vice guy seems to be onto something...

Fact or friction?
Fact or friction?
Credit: marty(r)

The Ice Man cometh...

Technique is my protection...
Technique is my protection...
Credit: marty(r)
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Aug 1, 2013 - 08:26pm PT
Grug's onsight solo of Pipeline was a very impressive feat.

Interestingly, Dick Culbert's "Alpine Guide to Southwest B.C." (1974) says the route: "..winds up in a rather serious crack which was aided originally with 6 1/2 - 8 inch sections of aluminum pipe. The route has not been repeated ATP, but the Pipeline crack has been climbed free to its final overhanging nose, and is very demanding."

The photo shows the crack as being graded 5.6, 5.9 and then near the top at 5.10, followed by an A4 bit.

So, who could have been freeing much of Pipeline pre-1974? Al Givler? Gordie Smaill? Hugh Burton or Steve Sutton? As with a myriad of other questions, more research needed.

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 1, 2013 - 09:50pm PT
Hey Brad, nice hearing from you! So, since you and a few other esteemed persons have asked about it (and I've had 3 beers), I'm gonna spill my guts about this.

I've got a terrible memory for personal history. As I recall, it was Perry Beckham, a Squamish local (and soon-to-be legend) and friend who first turned me on to Pipeline. I remember looking at it from a distance with him. I'm assuming that Tom Gibson, George Manson, and Rob Rohn (and maybe Mike Tschipper) were also there. Seems like three years in a row this group made it to Squamish in the late Summer or Fall after a Spring and early Summer at the Valley and Tuolumne. I actually can't remember if I told them of my plan ahead of time. Perry might chip in here. Anyhow, I'm pretty sure that I executed the plan the very next morning.

As to why I did it? First of all, back then, I only owned one tube chock to cover the range of > #11 hex. When Tom and George and I pooled our gear together, we might come up with 4 tube chocks. That meant that pretty much every offwidth I ever did involved climbing for sections in which you just couldn't fall. Every offwidth that practically ANYBODY did in the 60s and 70s was like that it seems to me. That's the reason, by the way, for the "Any climber from the 1960s" quip.

So, the other thing that I had going for me is I grew up in Poway, and I could actually boulder 5.10 and 5.11 offwidths at Mt Woodson. Several 5.10 and 5.11 offwidths became part of my bouldering circuit at Woodson.

In the end, I was mostly a two-trick pony...armbars and chicken wings. Stacks never occurred me. Inverts? I still haven't done one. (I just learned calf-locks 3 months ago).

Turns out, armbars and chicken wings, along with overall good hand/fist and chimney technique will get you up 95% of Valley offwidth pitches, at least back then. I'm sure I must be forgetting a climb or two, but except for the Owl Roof, I can't think of a Valley wide crack that I didn't on-site. No 5.12s, only 5.11s and 5.10s.

So, my mindset going into Pipeline was that; I could easily do 5.10 wide crack, less easily do 5.11, but I never fall. And again, before big cams, you couldn't fall on lots of climbs. So, just having done lots of offwidths meant that you had done mini- free solos all the time.

I suppose the last piece of the puzzle is knowing that it was going to be 5.10 rather than 5.11. As impressive as Pipeline is, there are a couple of signs that told me it was going to be 5.10 (I rated it 5.10c). First, it's near-vertical with a short slightly overhanging section -- No overhangs (roofs). Second, I could see that it was wide enough to get my knee in. To this day, if I can get my knee in and it isn't an overhang, I'm pretty sure I will be able to easily do it. Anybody should be able to. It's a technique thing.

So there you go. I'm not zany.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Aug 1, 2013 - 10:09pm PT
Re: Grug

he's zany, just not with regard to climbing...

and perhaps it isn't said enough, but Grug was/is probably the best offwidth climber when it comes to executing fists, chicken wings and armbars... he has gotten the most out of that technique than anyone I know...

his confidence in his ability BITD led him up some rather startling free solos... and what he calls "boulder problems" in Woodson are difficult climbs you wouldn't fare well falling from, they're short, but serious highball problems.

and he still climbs bloody hard!

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Aug 1, 2013 - 10:23pm PT
Whoever they were/are....big feet, small ass and a high pain threshold are part of the package.

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Aug 1, 2013 - 10:55pm PT


Thanks so much for that write up! Makes total sense to me.

Trad climber
'cross the great divide
Aug 1, 2013 - 11:31pm PT
Thanks for sharing that story Greg. That thing not only looks wild, but it's way off the deck. Amazing to have the technique and experience to look at it the way you describe. I'd honestly have to say that ranks as one of the greatest and most underrated climbing first ascents of all time.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Aug 2, 2013 - 01:04am PT
That Grug got the moves even though he is, zany ! Lately he's been adding calf locks and stacks to his repertoire as well.

Aug 2, 2013 - 02:10am PT
This has been posted on ST before but it will put into perspective what Greg did onsight & ropeless. A little story about one mans pipeline quest.


Trad climber
Washington DC
Aug 2, 2013 - 08:42am PT
Best, probably those Brits. But for me and my era Klemens led the way.

Trad climber
Aug 2, 2013 - 08:49am PT
Just read this thread. The best Bla bla bla.

But this is impressive.

Credit: Prod

Damn Greg, thats bold.

EDIT Can you get your knee in Generator Crack?


Mountain climber
The Deep Woods
Aug 2, 2013 - 03:42pm PT
has anybody repeated Shipoopi's Excalibur o.w. pitches free?

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Aug 2, 2013 - 04:12pm PT
Sprayshaw, I know Jaybro freed at least one of them, onsight IIRC (the roofy 12b one I think).They ran out of time and had to bail before reaching the 12d one, again IIRC.

And dang Prod, that's cold.
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