My Apology to Richard and Mark


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Big Wall climber
hiding in plain sight
Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 9, 2006 - 09:08am PT
OK, so maybe this isn't everything you'd want but it's what I can do.

I said a lot of very mean things, and I find that now I don't really mean them. I have never met either of you, and by all accounts you are honest men. My opinions were based largely on what my friends have told me.

WoS is no cake walk, it shut me down. It is not a rivet ladder. In fact it is a route so visionary, that it is still not even understood, much less repeted. It is unlike any other climb I have ever heard about.

I still feel that it is a variation, but so are many other great "routes". South Seas comes immediately to mind.

I think it sucks that some of your gear was stolen, and I hopped on the word "jetisoned" to mean purposely dropped.

It also occurs to me that you stayed on the wall rather than fix because you were under siege by local elitists. And that that is the reason for the bat heads. I still feel you should have cleaned them when the cables were still fresh, but understand you had no reason to think it wouldn't be quickly repeted. Every other route on the Captain was.

The criticisms far surpassed the actual issues. And were led by people that are to this day, decidedly unstable.

You are both individuals, but have been lumped together as an entity for the purpose of criticism. When one guy says something, the reponse is to "the team", and that is not fair. In all the verbal sparring, I feel I owe an extra apolopgy to Mark for this, as his comments tend to be more restrained. And I feel he has stayed more on topic when dealing with the assaults.

I still wouldn't recommend WoS to my friends, but that really doesn't mean anything about the "validity" of the route. I still think using Z-Macs was a bad call, but it's your FA and your decision.

You got to the top, that alone means plenty. People may bitch about style and ethics, but that doesn't erase your acomplishment, only taint it in terms of public opinion. A public that was all too eager to believe it, to satisfy their paradigm.

It would be a betrayal of trust for me to tell you who told me they pooped on your ropes. It simply is not my truth to tell. And the possibility exists that they didn't do it and were only trying to brag. The conversation was very biased and alcoholic in nature.

Boiling it all down, I would say that you (lumping again, sorry) climb differently than anyone else in the game. I could make some comparisons, but they aren't blanket correlations, so I'll skip it as they will most certainly be misunderstood.

You still raise my ire from time to time, for varied reasons, but I am nobodies judge and respect everyone's right to lead their own lives and do their own thing.

I really don't think anybody can ever free the slab, as so many seem to suggest. I don't think it can even be aided without extensive drilling of whatever depth. So the argument of somebody doing it in better style is largely unbased in reality. Better rivets and bolts is the only legitimate critism I can see.

I don't feel I directly wronged you, other than purpetuating the misconseptions, and even then not to anyone that hadn't already heard it. But it still doesn't feel right not to say I am sorry.

Maybe you didn't set the best example for future FA's, and I think that is what a lot of the written criticism was trying to say. That of course, is a matter of opinion, and in no way should be taken to mean what you did was BS, just that the community would rather not see more of it. You have to admit we don't want a bunch of kids going to the valley with chisels and drills doing whatever they want. The sport is way too popular for that now. So I guess I'm saying it would be the bigger thing to do to take it on the chin when WoS is given as an example of what not to do in today's situation of increased pressure on the resource by many many people that don't have your level of integrity. They are out there in droves, trust me.

So there is my olive branch, granted, it isn't laden with a plethora of olives. But I have been quite vocal in the "against" camp, so I hope it is taken as a true and meaningful attempt to bridge a divide between camps who are more alike than different when you look at the big picture.

Christian George
Roger Breedlove

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Aug 9, 2006 - 09:42am PT
Morning Christian.

I have taken an ‘academic’ interest in WoS and have started reading the posts here on ST--even though WoS happened a long time ago, but is part of my ‘future history.’

I have been trying to view all the discussion points in as broad of a historical perspective as I can, asking myself how will climbers with no personal experience in any of the heartfelt issues view this in the future--taking into account the way climbers feel now about the battles for style and ethics on El Cap from the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

I am sure that others will not want to follow your lead and, for sure, in ST land, someone will want to derail the effort. However, your post, in my opinion, is grounded in the finest traditions of what keeps the Yosemite community a community.

Well done.

Yours, Roger

right here, right now
Aug 9, 2006 - 10:47am PT
All Right Already,
I've peeled this statement of mine out of the morass of posts:

"After all of it, I have tried to bring some clarity and equanimity to the items at hand and rather than bolster any argument, I have strived for understanding.

I really can't speak for "my" community at large because they have not collectively granted me that voice, but I feel "we" collectively owed those WOS guys some fair analysis and consideration. I was at the '82 SAR meeting and exposed to their recount of their route and I was impressed with their availability to a dialog, independent of right/wrong/acceptance or otherwise.

Richard and Mark are part of our community, part of the grand narrative: as climbers we can do well do mend our fractious ways. It is good training for survival as a species on a global scale.

Youch: good luck with the notion brought forth in that last sentence everyone."

Roy McClenahan
Wade Icey

Social climber
the EPC
Aug 9, 2006 - 12:45pm PT
Mike. aint Mike C

right here, right now
Aug 9, 2006 - 12:47pm PT
On Topic:
Although not a direct apology, I'll say that I understand Richard and Mark not "getting over it".

Here's why:
Regardless of all the multi-valent objections held by the community of the 80's then and now, seen as a moving target or otherwise, fair, supportable or otherwise, there has been a clear and damaging fact of mis-reportage which has survived for quite some time. This coupled with the fact that Mark and Richard tried to implement something out of the box and they got sh#t on for it. Through quite a lot of effort recently, they have expressed an interest in getting over it and engaged the opportunity to get over it. To get over it you need some genuine dialogue. We are many of us well on our way to getting over it as well as we can; it clearly takes a bit of earnest effort.

Please excuse me if I am interrupting the flow of genuine apology.


Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Aug 9, 2006 - 12:54pm PT

Honest, heartfelt, and elegantly spoken. Hard to imagine it said better. Quite a plate to step up to all in all...

Big Wall climber
Fresno, CA
Aug 9, 2006 - 02:08pm PT
Pretty rad, Christian! Admirable.

I concur with healjye. Honest and heartfelt. What more could anyone ask for?

I'm pretty sure that Mark and Richard can handle differing opinions, from their own, as well as respect them.

I guess I woke up having kinda some of the same feelings and posted my own apologies, where necessary. Regardless of any differences, we *are* a community (like it or not).

Right on.


Big Wall climber
Walla Walla, WA
Aug 9, 2006 - 02:10pm PT

Thank you for both the apology and the tone of it. I personally appreciate it very much. I understand the notion that "mean" things can be said without directing them AT somebody, and I have never felt in your posts that you were "in my face," so to speak.
It has been clear that some remain "in our faces," but you have not struck me at any time as one of them. For that, I thank you.

I have never expected this whole "airing" process to be "fun," and I'm not complaining for the "ouches" I have felt at times during all these discussions. But there has been throughout an obviously genuine attempt at rational dialog, and I don't believe that the "heat" has much detracted from it. I offer a heartfelt thank-you to all who have weighed in with your opinions, even those with whom I will probably never agree. I think that we as a community stand in a better place now than we did, and you all paid the price to help that happen.

It is true that Mark is more "mellow" than I am. However, unfortunately, he has also been so insanely busy these last few weeks that he has literally been unable to contribute some of his (I think "better") more heated posts. I say this to briefly explain and apologize for those times in which I might have been "too" heated. As it has worked out, I have felt that I had to represent both Mark and I (and Mark can attest to the fact that I have expressed a good deal of frustration about this fact to him). Consequently, I have sometimes felt overwhelmed and embattled. I have honestly tried to be as objective and restrained as possible, although I am confident that some have not always found me to be so in some of my posts. For that I am sorry. I have never intended to offend, despite my at times anger. I honestly have appreciated the sincere efforts of people to understand us.

As I said to LEB (whoever "it" is), I sense a great deal of closure now--actually much more than I had thought would be possible from these forums. I would still like to be able to have individual closure with certain particular people, but that is probably not possible, although I will keep trying. But I do want to offer my heartfelt thanks to all of you who have taken the time and invested the thought to take this matter seriously and help Mark and I feel "heard."

Trad climber
Aug 9, 2006 - 02:25pm PT
While I acknowledge that I've been in-your-faces, I don't think anyone owes you guys an apology. Are we supposed to simply forget what you guys did and let it slide because it was 25 years ago and climbers have again confirmed that two of the pitches on your route are difficult?

Are we supposed to just shrug off what your vertical circus represented to climbing then and still does today? Yes, we're a community alright. And we wouldn't get so fired up about these issues if we didn't care so much about the very resource that brings us together.

As I said in XXIV, this is still about honesty on your part, nevermind the details about the sky-camping you engaged in for 39 days.

Entering this thread as late as I did, I never saw where you specifically responded to the text below. As I stated earlier:

Just one question to clarify this whole thing in terms of what the second ascent party should hope to find on the route in its entirety. In your original article, WOS: Living in the Sky (Climbing, 1983) you reported that the route required 145 drilled placements including 75 rivets and 39 anchor bolts.

If you consider every hook placement touched by a drill, does this whole count still hold up or exactly where are things at this point?

Peace and love,

Big Wall climber
Walla Walla, WA
Aug 9, 2006 - 02:37pm PT
I have started a new thread to allow for any responses to Mimi's newest burst of "peace and love" that anyone might care to offer (I'm certainly not suggesting it!).

There, I do answer Mimi's question.

Aug 9, 2006 - 03:01pm PT
Thanks Rich, I was just going to suggest to Mimi her post was not appropriate for this thread.

Fool: Well done.

Big Wall climber
the Southwest
Aug 9, 2006 - 04:09pm PT
Dear WOS guys--

I was getting ready to compile my own apology, then I saw your inquisition on my style and routes on the thread listed above.

What the hell, I'll go for it anyway. I am sorry it has been so hard for you over the years, climbing an El Cap route in what you thought was the established style, then getting slapped in the face by the climbing community at large, which I have been a part of. It really does seem like it has been hard for you. I'm sorry that any human would have to go through such angst, caused by external factors.

On the other hand, if you take note of what I have been writing on this forum, I am not trying to personally attack you or your route. I am only commenting on the historical attitude of the day as I knew it.

The fact remains that the 80's (in my opinion, of course) represented a time of striving for ethical purity in climbing. A highpoint in ethical climbing standards, perhaps; certainly a highpoint in the years I have known climbing. Not only were the boldest free climbing routes were being done in the best style, but aid routes too. Bridwell was of the 70's era in Yosemite. In the 80's, with folks like Walt Shipley and Steve Grossman, there was a bona fide, deep philosophical search for a higher form. Wings of Steel wasn't the only controversy about ethical dilemmas in the 80's. Then, in the 90's, routes with 100 and more bolts became commonplace; the mindset about what was, and was not appropriate, degraded, with fewer questions asked (again, just my opinion).

It's clear that you obviously don't believe what I am saying, but I hope that someone, someday remembers the 80's era for what it was. Despite your best efforts to convince people on this forum that everyone on the big stones were all up there doing the same thing, bashing and chipping and chisselling our way up the big stone where ever convienient, it is simply not true. I can think of several examples where I was faced with dilemmas about ethical issues while on lead, perhaps I will recount them at a later time when it does not feel that it is in defense of what is a deep truth for me.

In any case, the routes I put up on El Cap were not spectacular climbs. If someone wanted to call them pieces of sh#t, I would not argue with them. Personally they were essential steps in a progression of spiritual awareness of my own path. The Atlantic Ocean wall was more about learning to explore new ground, and a partnership with Barbella, than anything else. I rated a pitch A5 (now A3+) because it had a 100+ foot fall potential onto a slabby ledge while climbing on a wildly expanding flake where each piece fell out as the upper one took hold (now its easily and safely climbed with small cams). It's the only pitch I ever rated A5. My spirit went though some changes on that pitch, and I gained confidence in my abilities to "keep it together" in times of duress, an important personal step at the time.

Flight of the Albatross had far too many drilled holes for my liking--75 in total, but I wanted to climb a new route with my friend Will Oxx, who always wanted to climb a FA and then jump. It pieced together a bunch of random unclimbed features I had scoped out over the years, and the position was spectacular. But it probably is just a big piece of sh#t in the overall scheme of things. It was climbed in the 90's when routes with 100+ bolts were going up all over the stone.

Other routes I did on El Cap were just variations, like the direct finish to Sheep Ranch through the Cyclops Eye, the biggest (and baddest-ass :) ) roof in Yosemite. Again, each of these experiences added to my personal growth.

Climbing the Kali Yuga on Half Dome with Walt was the epitome of blissful purity (for me) in Yosemite. The route was all there, and it took all we had, no more and no less, to climb. Probably the only truly "worthy" new big wall route I climbed in Yosemite. There are a lot of resons why that climb was so special. It has since been modifed and over a dozen bolts added since our ascent, but the experience of climbing it with Walt will always remain true.

Now I'm just rambling.

I guess I feel fortunate for what Yosemite gave to me. It didn't matter to me what people thought, though I didn't have the same negative experiences you had, Madbolter and MSmith. But it wasn't like anyone was cheering me on, either. There was always some resistance among the Camp 4 crowd to anybody doing anything new, that's human nature, I suppose.

Ultimately, I'm sorry that you haven't been able to find peace with yourselves regarding your own experiences in Yosemite. It really seems a shame, as it really is a special place with a lot to offer.

John Middendorf


right here, right now
Aug 9, 2006 - 04:10pm PT
Actually that's pretty funny (mimi=richard cilley)
Mimi is Mimi; I know her well and respect her right to express her opinions as she sees fit.

To keep it short and sweet:
Many from my generation may today completely disagree with the stylistic realities of WOS. It may yet be that as part of this group, you may find some small degree of apology productive to closure and rational discourse.

Here's mine:
Richard and Mark,
At the time that the route was touted as a bolt or rivet ladder I was clearly opposed to your efforts to sustain the route in that manner.

It seems clear to me now, after hearing all of this, that this is a false characterization; it is not a bolt ladder.

Even recently on this forum I referred to it as such, a "bolt ladder", which I now see has been affirmed to be otherwise.

I will leave further distinctions to be hashed out between aid affiacianados or anyone who wishes to work on historical, stylistic, or ethical distinctions.

Far my part, in any way that I may have contributed over the years to the fallacious hearsay about the route's construct and to the fallout you, Richard and Mark, have likewise endured, I apologize.

Well, that was pretty dry, but real nonetheless. Here's a tad more contextualy relevant regard in terms of an apology:

When in the '82 SAR meeting, during which time we as a group were generally running you down on this over bolting thing, Mark began to interject with his now verifiable report of pretty serious run outs on hooks. I looked right into him as he spoke it in a low tone, imploring way. For me, there was a still point there, right at that moment in the midst of the whole thing.

At that moment I saw this conflict as potentially way out of turn. I just let it go, more or less because I believed the SAR guys and not you two. I am vague on the general response from the other SAR guys when I confronted a few of them on the reportage discrepancies, but this is where I picked up on the other faceted arguments which you hear recently, ie, blank slab aiding vs linking of crack oriented features and so forth.

So perhaps I glimpsed this reportage going over the falls as it were, right in that point of time. If I were as keen on opening helpfull dialog amongst conflicted disputants as I now am, with some of the tools I now posess, I may have been more instrumental in broadening the understanding of the elements at hand and enlarging an appreciation of positions and interests, under the auspice of Ranger John Dill and the few other guys, way back there in '82.


Big Wall climber
Walla Walla, WA
Aug 9, 2006 - 04:40pm PT
John, for what apology there was in your one sentence, I'll simply say thanks.

Regarding your "apology" for the internal problem you obviously think we still have, "I'm sorry that you haven't been able to find peace with yourselves regarding your own experiences in Yosemite," I'll say, "No apology needed. We have had no problems 'finding peace with ourselves.'" The problem we have had regarding our "experiences in Yosemite" is in seeking peace with and honesty from the ongoingly rabid.

For the rest of what you say in your post, I'll respond in the other thread.

Big Wall climber
Portland, Oregon
Aug 9, 2006 - 04:55pm PT

Not finding the right word, so I’ll just stick with “thanks.” I appreciated all that you said, including the intermingled criticisms which I do not think detract from the apology itself. While I might not agree with all of the criticisms, they are reasonable and measured. I think your olive branch has more than enough fruit to bring reconciliation between us.


Big Wall climber
Portland, Oregon
Aug 9, 2006 - 06:09pm PT

Thanks for being willing to express sympathy for the external forces that Richard and I have experienced. Quite a number of threads back I said that I’d like to finish up as friends, not adversaries, and I still feel that way.

Re: Atlantic Ocean Wall: “My spirit went though some changes on that pitch, and I gained confidence in my abilities to "keep it together" in times of duress, an important personal step at the time.”
That kind of experience is perhaps the highest form of climbing.


From the beginning you have helped move these threads in a positive direction. If you’ve done anything on Supertopo to need apologizing for, it would require a microscope to find. Thanks for the deliberate attempt to find balance and for the efforts to bring resolution and closure. Hopefully we’ll get to meet again under better circumstances.


right here, right now
Aug 9, 2006 - 06:27pm PT
read my upstream edit.
i'm not really putting a stamp on anyone's position.
i'm saying we all could have done better.

when we set out to win an argument, sometimes we throw an opportunity under the bus.
an opportunity to enlarge a view of the conflict.
this does not mean disolving a strong conviction on either side.
it means being willing to weed out unnecessary static, jive, and hurtfull behaviour and pair the thing down to the essential and meaningfull components.

Good Luck Valley Boys,
Good Luck Richard and Mark.


Trad climber
Gunks end of country
Aug 9, 2006 - 09:25pm PT
Richard and Mark - What Do You Care What Other People Think?

In case you do not recognize it - The title of one of Richard Feynman's autobiographies.

Big Wall climber
hiding in plain sight
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 10, 2006 - 05:16am PT
I have reread what I wrote several times trying to figure out how to respond.
As I see it the possible contention points are:
1 WoS is a variation.
2 The batheads should have been cleaned.
3 You or Richard shouldn't be punished for each others actions.
4 The use of Z-Macs, even on replacement.
5 You guys have a different approach than everyone else.
6 WoS as a negative example to teach proper valley ettiquet(sp).

I can't see much of an issue with 1-3.

4 is the can of worms, let's skip it for now, as this is meant as a concillatory gesture, and I'd like to dispense with the other issues first so we can have a meaningful discussion of "The Heart of the Issue."

As for 5, Obviously no one has met every aid climber, so that might come across wrong. I have never heard of any other climber who takes the sabbath off on the wall. The only other guy I have ever heard of that puts in purposely bad permanent protection is Beyer. Any comparison to him would clearly be taken as an insult. And in 25 years no one has been able to stay motivated to climb on your testpiece.

I can see that 6 is an offense to your pride, but I hope you see the need to teach restraint to the next generation. It puts you in a tough spot, but if WoS suddenly becomes openly accepted, the great risk is that the new guys will misunderstand why. By that I mean, they could still hear and/or believe a lot of the old party line (rivet-bolt ladder, drilled/chipped into submission, vertical circus) and couple it with the "is now accepted". The resource pressure is tremendous, and only going to get worse. The NPS would have no choice but to shut down all new routes.

If you read something else into it, I'm not seeing it, so I must not have meant it.

Richard did a great job stating the WoS/SoD order issue, and I concede that point. Not in rebuttal, but rather tacked on as a rider I would say that if you had done the PO you wouldn't have beat yourselves up so bad on WoS. Yeah, it would've take away the "FA as a 1st EC route" (another talking point that needs closure, let's call it 4a).

So that's what's bouncing around in my brain. Can we get agreement on these issues, so we can move on to the Z-Macs?

Please understand that I am trying to bring real closure here, not just offering a hollow apology. If there is anything still outstanding to be added to the discussion, by all means feel free to do so. I only want to talk about #4, and that may or may not lead to 4a. But I suspect you will want to weigh in on #6, please do. 'Cuz this ain't over till everybody rational says it's over.

And I really do hope this is helping.

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Aug 10, 2006 - 05:35am PT
"4a) FA as a 1st EC route"

To be honest, this is absolutely what I love most about them and the whole damn saga...

"5) You guys have a different approach than everyone else."

I'd tend to say the real difference is they had a different route than everyone else. Or are you saying you think they climbed the pitches above the apron or SoD differently than everyone else? Just curious...
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