Request for stories about Valley climbs


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Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 6, 2003 - 08:25pm PT
In the sprit of climbing related posts, does anyone have stories about the following climbs? All are climbs that were high on my list of good climbs but that I do not hear about, some I was involved in, some remain on my old list of climbs to do. One is an aid route, The Prow, that has always held my gaze, but which spit me off on a winter try--very pretty wall. Let's hear some good stories.

Midterm, Leanie Meanie, and New Dimensions on Arch Rock.

Crack-a-go-go and Nabisco Wall on the Cookie.

Lunatic Fringe at Reeds.

Golden Bough, Silent Line and any new route at Ribbon Falls.

Peter Pan Center and Left and Smee's Come-On on the base on El Cap.

The West Face route and the Good Book on the Folly.

Arrowhead Arête at Yosemite Falls.

Sons of Yesterday at Serenity.

The Prow on Washington's Column.

Goodrich Pinnacle and Coonyard Pinnacle on Glacier Point Apron.

Chouinard-Herbert on Sentinel.

Outside Face on Phantom Pinnacle.

Regular routes on Upper and Lower Spire.

Braille Book and Northeast Buttress on Higher.

Stoner's Highway, Paradise Lost, and North Buttress on Middle.

Quicksilver and Freewheeling on the North Face Apron of Middle.

The Sermon on Pulpit Rock.


Regards, Roger

Chalky Fingers

Sep 6, 2003 - 08:56pm PT

Trad climber
Sep 6, 2003 - 09:13pm PT
Not me.

Sport climber
Fresno, CA
Sep 6, 2003 - 09:44pm PT
Braille Book was the first climb I did on my first real trip to the Valley. We drove in and thought we might nip up before lunch and do this little 5.8 as a warmup for bigger and better things. First, the approach went to the end of time--I had no idea approaches were that long. Then there were a few problems with the route, namely that there were no handholds, just gaping flares. I'll never forget looking down the chimney, because it seemed like the entire rope length was just fluttering in the breeze. Later there was some rain, some lightning. Then I guess we had to stumble down the gully. We weren't benighted, which has to be some sort of victory, but we were cooked. Pretty much your standard newbie epic. We stayed for a few more days, climbed some random stuff, and hightailed it out of the Valley, never to return. At least for a while.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Sep 7, 2003 - 12:52am PT
Braille Book is a climb I've done a couple of times. It was the first climb I did upon returning to California (from Massachusetts) in the Valley, May 1998. My partner on that outing was Will McCarville. We cranked to the base of the climb fast enough to beat the crowds, which we thought was pretty good for a couple of old guys. The climb went along with no notable problems until pitch 4. This was Will's lead, he claims to this day that there are scars on his back from the funky chimney moves he pulled in the corner. A little more then half way up he stated that he had had enough and was coming down. I somehow convinced him that going up was going to be easier than coming down. I didn't want to lead that thing! I did end up leading the next two pitches, one shorty pitch to move the belay up, and the last pitch which I took to the top, what a wonderful 5.4, I was giggling the whole way.

Will and I went to the base to collect our packs and noticed the team behind us was still on the fourth pitch, and it was getting dark. The route is festooned with bail slings, probably because the route is a bit more serious then other 5.8 three star climbs in the Valley.

My second encounter on Braille Book was with Steve Cassels, who wanted a "birthday" climb, a climb he could do on his birthday every year. This was in November of 2001. I thought Braille Book would be worthy. We approached following the climber's trail markers leading to the East Butt. route on Middle, then heading up the stream bed. This isn't the best way, it is better to find the "descent" trail and follow that up. The descent trail is more easterly (left side of gully) and is probably the ascent trail for the more organized climber. I think my altimeter indicated something like 1600' of altitude gain to the base. It takes me more then an hour to do this...

The first pitch is 5.7 up a steep, knobbed face and corner to a platform about 120' up. The climb's steepness is its primary characteristic. You are pulling moderate moves in exposed positions. There is good pro and a good belay station.

The second pitch goes at 5.8 and it is handy to have a 60m rope and run it all the way. You work a corner with stems and jams and face moves up into an alcove with a bolt on the right side, an optional belay station. Continuing stemming up the alcove to an overhanging move around a block, passed on the right side with a series of moves. Thought provoking and exposed, but all there. The belay station is in the corner.

Third pitch is shorter, up a corner, stemming and face moves, and the occassional jam. Even though this is probably 5.7, you are definitely going steep. Stemming the corner, work up into an alcove with a deep crack just under the obvious difficult ground above. The belay was difficult to set up because we didn't take large cams with us. The crack probably splits the whole corner. I was following and muttered something to myself and Steve yelled down "what did you say?", he heard the quiet comment coming up the crack from way below.

The fourth is the "money" pitch. My lead, in memory of my reluctance to let Will down 4 years previously. From the belay, stem up and move onto the left face working up to a ledge on tan rock. There are a few placements you can get in which might make you feel better. The ledge is a good place to plan out your attack of the crux. I thought about it for a long time and what I did was nothing like what I thought I would do... With my back on the left wall and my feet on the right, left armbar in crack. Eventually left arm and foot on left wall, right on right. As the crack on the left narrows, it is possible to start plugging cams in it, much to the leader's relief. Up to a horizontal crack which intersects a vertical crack, that is where you're headed. You can see some fixed pieces there, but they are ancient. The moves are stems using the crack and fixed gear for pro until you can get good jams with the left hand and good cam placements. The roof block kinda psyches you out, but it is easy, move up and into a great bucket for a belay that let's you see your second, and the ground at the base of the climb... did I mention that it is steep. I think this is one of the greatest 5.8 leads around. After your second is up, move the belay around the corner 15' higher.

The fifth pitch works across a face to a prominent corner, great exposure again, and great views! Once across this 5.7 section you find a big corner, head there and go up the 5.4 way to the top. This takes you across a steep face with great features to the top. Though easy, it is very fun.

Sitting on top you get great views to the east and can spy the descent into the notch and down the gully. The path doesn't pass the base, so you have to beware to make the cutoff if you need to collect anything... we didn't and just booked for the car.


Trad climber
Sep 7, 2003 - 02:55am PT
This is one from the archives ... figuring out what route shouldn't be too hard.

did this route again last year w/ dingus and it was much easier the 3rd time!


I'm a finger on a hand.
by jason's finger

Today started too early. I heard another finger complaining for most of the night. Something about being infected and some swelling. I felt fine though, so I just tried to sleep.

I have to say that I've been working out quite a bit lately and I've noticed my big knuckle is starting get a little tender. No sweat because my tendons are pretty strong and I've got some calluses that look like hell. I kinda like the look, and I'm a thin finger so I like the extra protection.

I live for the days like today that I get to climb. This morning I got to sort gear: rack some cams, clip some beaners, and believe it or not I got stuffed in the mouth during breakfast (and I'm filthy)! Ugh, that breath is a nightmare. I felt honored that I was the finger used to carry the 6 pack
to the river and dropped it in the secret hiding place. I can't wait to get to pop the top later today.

As for the business at hand (har har) I spent the first pitch getting worked pretty well in some pin scars. Apparently we forgot the chalk because I had a clear view of what was going on the whole day, and that was quite a treat.

Pitch 2 found me in good shape, especially as the crack widened and I got to simply apply a little counter pressure. I got some really good action when we ran across some water - man, I got over squeezed.

The wickedness of the 3rd pitch was unmatched. It was all me: Mr. Finger. Lock after lock I held up for the whole team. Even when my nail started bleeding - pushing through the pain, I refused to buckle. The blood started coming out from everywhere - I didn't know what the hell to do, but I felt
compelled to keep focused. I could tell that if I eased up or winced too hard, it would have spelled disaster. After what felt like an eternity, the pain eased up and the angle of the crack relaxed.

I heard the mouth screaming and hollering with joy. Then I remembered that I'd been here before - many climbs ago, but it was so different then. I'd failed the team many times and I'd felt bad that day so long ago. I felt like a new finger a different digit. Today the rock had felt different - it
was still hard, but I didn't think I could have let go.

It was good to be a finger today. We kept climbing, pitch after pitch - but not another test like that. It's okay though, I felt I'd done my part.

When we found the 6 pack in the river I was excited. I tasted the sweet liquid in my wounds and felt my blood thin quickly and I forgot all my aches and cuts and I vaguely remember the drive home and drifting off to sleep.

Now if I could just stay out of that damned nose.

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 7, 2003 - 08:50am PT
Great story, good perspective. How often is this done? I blew it, by not climbing it (at least the first three pitches) when I had a chance. Maybe...

looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Latitute 33
Sep 8, 2003 - 12:07am PT
Stoner's Highway: Did this route in '74 or '75, remember being more scared about rapping off than anything else. This route was one of several climbs in The Valley that had a bolts used from a "bad batch" of Rawl 1/4 x 1 inchers, some that later broke under body weight. Did this with Dave Evans and Eric Erickson, somewhere I have a photo of us "posing" at the base looking very serious.

Paradise Lost. A fun route that really requires good Middle Cathedral route finding skills. The 2nd or 3rd time I did it, I found some bail gear on the 6th pitch; turns out it was stamped with the initials CF (a friend Craig Fry) who had to descend because his partner/girl friend wouldn't go any higher.

Quicksilver and Freewheeling on the North Face Apron of Middle. Did these routes once with two friends who foolishly shared my water bottle. I came down with the Valley Grunge (a bad flu) the next day, and they soon were suffering too; they were really pissed at me. At the time we did these routes, there were only 2 other routes in the area: Jigsaw and Black Rose.

Can't remember much more than that, the problem with age. But, then again, repeating climbs is like doing for the first time, which is enjoyable.

All really fun routes, but probably "unsafe" and targets for retrobolting by climbers who climb only with their muscles, not their brains.
Russ Walling

Social climber
Bishop, Ca.
Sep 8, 2003 - 04:08am PT
Did this thing a hundred years ago.... in typical epic style. We finally find the rap tree and get going down the summit slab and find the two bolt anchor for rapping. Being the fools that we are, we did not leave a rope fixed from the top of the route to the first rap tree. This would be a problem later....
We get to the base and the idea was that my partner was going to lead the thing. Even with an extremely fine offwidth "velour" shirt, the acid cooking his brain must have had some effect on his judgement. He did not trust the rope with the tape on it.... basic core shot.... so he decided to use two 11mm ropes twin style for safety. Bad idea. After thrashing away for about an hour, he had nine pieces of pro in, ropes clipped everywhere for safety, and a full 14 feet of climbing done. I reeled him in and took over the lead duties. All the pro was in the way and the extra rope was compounding the mess. I stripped all the gear and jettisoned a rope..... off on lead at last. Cream is pretty technical for about two body lengths.... I remember a patella jam that had my interest. Quickly the crack opens up to 6" or so and is real straightforward for the rest of the rope length. I clip the bolts at the top of the pitch and start belaying Mr. Velour on up.... mostly uneventful until he gets his knee stuck and starts moaning. The moans sound as though he is only a couple of feet away as the crack is acting like a megaphone. I'm jumping out on the anchor with max tension trying to pluck him from the crack. Finally after about 15 minutes of this he somehow gets his leg unstuck and shimmies to the anchor. Now I take off on the moss covered slab that is pure death and has zero pro. Every hold sports leaves, dirt, moss, lichen and 12 years without a humans caress. After a nice runout with dire consequences, you can mantle some dirt and paddle back into the forest to tie off a tree to bring up the second. Nice day! Good route!

Sep 8, 2003 - 11:29am PT
Such as it is...

Chouinard-Herbert was my first route in the Valley. In fact, my first visit to the Valley, my first big wall, and the first time I'd ever met the guy I climbed it with. I hooked up with Bill via the wreck.climbing newsgroup, back when it was more fun and information than griping, flaming and arrogance. We got to emailing back and forth and the next thing I knew we had plans to climb together in the Valley. My buddy and regular partner Tim got in on the action and we booked plane tickets.

We flew into San Jose on Friday afternoon. Bill picked us up, we drove to his house (somewhere south of there) where he packed his stuff, grabbed the brownies and the video camera and he kissed his wife goodbye. We slept at Bill's "secret spot" off the road into the Valley that night. We were up before dawn and drove in to Sentinel. Typical ooohhing and ahhhhing as we saw the Valley for the first time. Hoofed up the 4 Mile trail, split off and found out we were going to have to do some fifth class climbing to get to the base of the route. A couple of pitches and hauls later, we're ready to go. We make it to the top of the Chessman Pinnacle (four pitches, easy free climbing) and then Bill and I head up three more, fixing two ropes back down to the Chessman, landing back at the bivy just as it got dark.

The next day, we jug and haul back to the top of the lines and get moving again. Thrash, grunt, etc. Tim and I are moving too slow and we turn the leading duties over to Bill, who takes us to the top. I'm parked at a belay when I see someone climbing over to our right, moving fast. Turns out it was Steve Schneider guiding (?) someone up the Steck-Salathe. We swap hellos and niceties...he asks how many walls I've done "Uh...this is pretty much it." "Cool!" Nice guy. On the way to the summit, we doof up some stuff...let the haulbag swing out and get stuck, that kind of thing, but we make it to the top with a whole fifteen minutes and about a cup of water to spare.

We sort things out for the descent and get moving down the Sentinel Gully (a vue - which I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy in the daytime, let alone in the dark). We manage to stay alive past the upper nasty loose portion, then we find the creek. Bill and I wade in and drink our fill, the hell with giardia. I was so dry I was seeing little green men, but Tim says he can make it.

We pick our way down via headlamp the rest of the way to the Four Mile Trail. Bill reaches it first while Tim and I are still up int he trees, "hey! I found the trail!" "If you're shi**ing me dude, I'm going to kill you!" After the previous four hours, getting on that highway of a trail nearly brought tears to my eyes. We finally reach the car around 10:45pm. We load stuff back in and drive back to the entrance bathroom, where we do the marine shower thing. Then it's back in the car and drive back to the Bay Area. We get back to Bill's house around 2am. We spend the next hour sorting gear, take a shower and hit the sack for a two hour sleepathon. We're up at 5am, pack, Bill drives us to the airport. We fly back, drop the stuff off at home and by 10:30am Monday morning, I'm back at my desk at work, completely shellshocked. Over the next few weeks, people asked me if I had fun climbing in Yosemite. "Uh...I don't know yet..."

Bill and I have gotten together to climb at least once a year (usually more) every year since. Almost 12 years now.


Trad climber
SF Bay Area
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 8, 2003 - 01:12pm PT
That's a long list of stories, maybe I will come back after wk to throw a few more in. Starting at the top w/ Arch Rock:

I was leading the 2nd pitch (10a chimney) early last spring and it was pretty wet inside there, so I might have slid a little further in than I otherwise would have. As I got up through the wide part and sank a #2 cam in the handcrack at the top, the sling I had attached to the previous piece must have been hung up among all the gear on the gear sling around my shoulder and somehow I pulled rope from below it and Z clipped (oops!).

As I was inside the chimney, My 2 friends below were unable to see the gear and inform me, and I remained unaware of it as I finished the pitch. I recall thinking it felt like I was climbing 5.12 rather than 5.10, but I thought I had just blown my wad in the chimney by being more gripped than I thought and working harder than I ought to, perhaps because everything was so wet in there.

As I tried to clip the anchor I was looking down at these two friends (who were paying very little attention to me at the time, being that I had stopped climbing to build an anchor and that they were on their way to falling in love =), but I was fried and pumped and the wind was blowing hard (so they couldn't really hear me) and I was yelling "HHEEYY! gimme some F---ING rope!".

They looked quite suprised by this (and held out a huge loop of slack for me to see)...

So they climbed up in tandem (reverso) and then told me about the source of the rope drag, we all had a good laugh.

Midterm & Leanie Meanie are rad too.

Sep 8, 2003 - 01:48pm PT
uh, roger?

a few of your stories? pleeze?

maybe a couple more from randy, russ and werner?
good stuff.. obscure epics.....

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 8, 2003 - 03:14pm PT
I am traveling now but should have time to think (remember) something.

The routes I listed don't show up in ST's guides and I never hear about them. I would like to hear everyone's stories. I am interested in just knowing whether or not people even climb them anymore. I have not been to the Valley in a long time, so I am not even sure if Goodrich Pinnacle even exists. Same for the Good Book and the West Face of Rixon's.

Pins scars on The Prow? Its only C2? Wow!! (Scared the crap out of me--and Dave Bircheff and I had such a long cold winter night in our hammocks that we bailed the next day.)

Some of these are moderate climbs with spectacular views but long approaches. The climbs on Middle are some of the best climbs I can remember ever doing, but I am guessing that they are not crowded because of the runouts and route finding issues--maybe even questionable bolts. That is too bad--everyone should want to be out on those wide open faces. Sort of the free climbing equivalent of way people feel on big wall routes.

The mini epics make for good story telling, but I would also like to hear about even event-less ascents on moderate routes on sunny days, with plenty of time to get up and down, shower, and have a good meal/beer by 7:00pm.

Regards, Roger

Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Sep 8, 2003 - 05:38pm PT
>In the sprit of climbing related posts, does anyone have stories about the following climbs? All are climbs that were high on my list of good climbs but that I do not hear about, some I was involved in, some remain on my old list of climbs to do. One is an aid route, The Prow, that has always held my gaze, but which spit me off on a winter try--very pretty wall. Let's hear some good stories.

>Midterm, Leanie Meanie, and New Dimensions on Arch Rock.

Leaning Meanie was one of my first leads of that grade. It scared the crap out of me since I didn't have enough big cams to protect the OW up high very well and I was pumped out of my mind.

Midterm is a classic testpiece to make people suffer on. I like doing laps on it while trying to hardly, if at all, us the crack. You can chimney a lot of it, down low even.

New Dimensions was probably the first 11a crack that I got clean the first time. Then I went back and had to french it like a bad dog.

> Lunatic Fringe at Reeds.

A good one to try blindfolded once the rope is up on it.

> Peter Pan Center

I saw this great picture of Peter Pan so I had to go do it. Making some transitional move in an offwidth section, I actually jammed my head so I could move my arms up. It was so secure I was worried I'd hang myself if my feet cut loose.

>The Good Book on the Folly.

Used to be my favorite but haven't been back since the rockfall. Once I showed up at the base and had forgotton one climbing shoe. The route is kinda near my limit but decided to try it with one climbing shoe and one approach shoe. Actually got it clean! and that doesn't always happen if I'm not strong. Got two flat tires on the way home, it was a funny day.

>Arrowhead Arête at Yosemite Falls.

Onsight hybrid soloed it. (Rope up for the hard parts and free solo the rest) The scariest part was the approach. When the gully pinched off, I went right of the gully instead of left. I was mantling total hummock with deadly exposure. The climb was almost a relief after that.

>Sons of Yesterday at Serenity.

see my blindfolded trip report at

>The Prow on Washington's Column.

I soloed this as my second grade V in 1981. The nailing was pretty much harder back then with tied off and nested pins, and hardly any cams. I used a bat tent and got rained on up high. Went back 20 years later and did it clean with a tech arsenal.

>Goodrich Pinnacle and Coonyard Pinnacle on Glacier Point Apron.

I like to do Goodrch PInnacle since I often have it to myself thanks to the 120 foot pure friction leadout on the 5.9 pitch. I actually fell on this pitch once (down low thankfully) while trying to go fast early in the morning on a Galactic Hitchhiker ascent. I was slightly off route and some grit skidded under my feet.
Trip report at

I did the Coonyard to the Oasis continuation once and there were pitches with little or no pro and one quarter inch bolt for an anchor (with no way to back it up.)

>Chouinard-Herbert on Sentinel.

Took my girlfiend at the time up there. It was an epic since the approach and descent gripped her out and I had to make trips back and forth to ferry the gear and her. I think we met the SAR team checking us out on the hike down.

> Braille Book and Northeast Buttress on Higher.

My proudest solo linkup was doing both in a day. Trip report at

>Stoner's Highway, Paradise Lost, and North Buttress on Middle.

Stoners TR with wild rainbow pictures at

I took my Boss at work who didn't lead at all, up the North Buttress. I took a 35 foot upside down and backwards fall way up high on the route Some dicey 5.10 thin pitch. My pack broke the fall but had to go back and lead it again. Thankfully I pulled it off and all was well.

> Quicksilver and Freewheeling on the North Face Apron of Middle.

Is Freewheeling the 10b. If so I took my other nasty fall with my Boss on that one. Another 35 feet upside down and backwards. Spun around like a nunchuck at the end and knocked out half of a front tooth. Bailed right to the dentist office. Went back years later for revenge but when I got to the bolt that held my fall the first time (on one of the 10b pitches) it was gone! I looked for a long time and found the hole, then turned tail!

The 5.9 route is also terrifying. I tried to repeat that this year but got a little lost and wound up on the anchor of another route a few pitches up, Figured It wasn't the day for it.


I'm a glutton for punishment but not that bad

>Regards, Roger




Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 8, 2003 - 06:29pm PT
Hey Karl:

I edited your rundown of ascents:

“..jammed my head so I could move my arms up… one climbing shoe and one approach shoe…I was mantling total hummock with deadly exposure… the 120 foot pure friction leadout on the 5.9 pitch. I actually fell on this pitch once.. I took a 35 foot upside down and backwards fall way up high on the route…I took my other nasty fall with my Boss on that one. Another 35 feet upside down and backwards…knocked out half of a front tooth. ..when I got to the bolt that held my fall the first time it was gone! I found the hole, then turned tail...The 5.9 route is also terrifying. I tried to repeat that this year but got a little lost..Figured It wasn't the day for it”

And, you are not up for Cream!! What could go wrong. How many lives do you have? Here I am living in my memories of how great these climbs were and how I am plotting to get onto them and now it is shattered. Great post.

Regards, Roger
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Sep 8, 2003 - 08:13pm PT
I should say Roger, that the only reason I have so many horror stories is that in nearly 25 years in the park, an epic every year or two adds up.

In addition, it seems like a coincidence that you mentioned the routes where many of my epics took place, and some of them were you're doing!?

I'm hoping that wisdom has arisen from surviving unwisdom, but maybe that's wishful thinking.

Still, if Russ wants to lead me up Cream, I'm there!


Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Sep 8, 2003 - 08:21pm PT
I moved my Paradise Lost link down here since the link is so long it messed with the formatting of my first post

Paradise Lost Tr at

Big Wall climber
oakland, ca
Sep 8, 2003 - 08:37pm PT
Paradise Lost...

Little did I know when we picked this one as a reasonable climb to do in June with a late start that I'd end up in the middle of a bunch of bolting arguments! If anything good came out of those arguments it was the info that you contributed on the history of the Middle routes that definately affected my perspective on those routes and bolting in general.

Peter Pan

"For the unfortunate, death does not come in a single blow." (My friend said that and then went on to describle how he thought it would feel to climb out of an alligator's mouth.) I was rehabing my knee surgery that day, but their adventures sounded amazing.

The Prow.

I've bailed three times...twice for not being up to the task and once for being up for climbing in the rain and hail. Hopefully someday, I'll be able to share my Prow story. I met my boyfriend on the way up to the first bail though.

Higher Spire...not the reg, but East Corner...lots of potty stories.

We "FAed?" a short but fun 5.8ish crack to get to the base which is about 270 degrees around the formation down loose and exposed slopes...a tidbit to which the little arrow on the topo doesn't really do justice. To our surprise there was a party a couple of pitches up it. Again to our surpise they dropped a nut on me. My bf lead the first pitch and pulled the rope up tight, when I realized I needed to pee. Not having much mobility and aimed directly above the nut, I did perhaps the most passive agressive thing that I've ever done and coated the nut.

"Chuck Pratt 5.9" i.e. the hardest 5.9 I've ever been on! Really excellent climb though. The climbing was stout, but surprisingly clean for a route on the shady side that probably doesn't get much traffic.

There is an interesting sound phenomenan at the spires. You can often hear the people on the opposite spire much better than your partner. At one point after J had turned a roof, I was trying to get him to take in the uneven slack on one of our twin ropes and could not get his attention no matter how hard I bellowed. While this was happening, I could hear every word of the normal-voiced conversation of the folks on South by Southwest.

This point is relevant to another story that I only hear about second hand. When J and Rob were doing an FFA on the other side of the spire they got to listen to ever word of another parties audio epic on S by SW...

Alan, I don't feel so good. Can you lower me?


Can you lower me?


I don't feel so good!


The thing is...I have to take a sh!t!



You have to try climbing Sven.

I really feel sick.


I shouldn't have eaten that pizza!

Give me a little more effort here Sven.


I guess Sven made it to the top OK.

Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 8, 2003 - 11:39pm PT
Hey Melissa:

Pratt 5.9--that can be a story all on its own. I can't remember what climb it was on, but I do remember that Chuck climbed it something like three times before deciding that it was only 5.9.

For a few years I had a client who was afraid of heights--just terrified. He was an investment banker from NY (you would think that nothing would scare him) and came to climb each year in Valley. He liked climbing and wanted to face his irrational fears head on; I had a lot or respect for him. I took him up the regular route of Lower Spire--it took hours for him to follow the pitch off the bench onto the exposed face. I could hear climbers on Upper Spire and even Higher Rock better than I could hear my client. Either he was cured or decided to declare victory because that was the last season he came out.

I think the spires were some of the first real rock climbing in Valley, in the 1930's. Cool place and spectacular summits. Standing on Upper Spire and looking down at climbers on the Lower Spire creates an exposure all its own.

Regards, Roger


Trad climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 9, 2003 - 03:29pm PT
Here is my account of the ascent of the Outside Face of Phantom Pinnacle.

The route was climbed with aid in 1965 by Chris Fredericks and Joe Faint. In 1975, I guided a client up the Left Side which had some nice cracks and a good summit at only 5.9. It was also kind of out of the way-it faces south on the South side of the Valley.

On the rappel off, I swung around to the outside face and checked out the cracks and corners. It looked very clean and doable. 'Very clean' was the big excitement--lots of all free, first ascents required excavation work to get to the cracks. It was possible to spend more time on the cleaning than the climbing. Anyway, the following spring, I recruited Mike Graham to come with me to give it a shot. As we working out the details, whatever they were, Bridwell walked up and we invited him. Hey, I know how to put together a high probability of success team.

For reasons that I cannot remember, Mike and I had been climbing for a while that spring and Jim had just gotten to the Valley. I think that this was his first climb of the season.

The first pitch moves off a large ledge and around a corner. I believe that Chris and Joe had placed a bolt to gain the bottom of the crack system. It was Mike's lead. Without much to-do, he said that there wasn't much to hang on to before you got to the crack. "There is a big hold, but I would have to lunge for it." There was a slight pause, and I am thinking this is the end of my project, then a little jerk on the rope and Mike is calling for slack. He had lunged for the hold, nailing it the first try.

A lunge, in Yosemite, on the sharp end of the rope? I don't think so. This is right up there with the "leader does not fall," and clearly wasn't in my play book. I'm a free climber, not a lunger. "How the hell did you do this, anyway?" As it turned out, the lunge was not going to be in my play book that day. I either grabbed the bolt or the rope and reached up for the hold, which was quite large.

The middle pitch was my lead and is not so hard, although it involves face climbing on hollow sounding flakes. They weren't loose, just thin. The third pitch was Mike's lead again. Good hand cracks in very steep corners. As Mike was leading, I was offering encouragement and telling him that the upper section kicked back. Mike was very smooth and calm. When I followed the pitch, I realized that my perspective was all off. The upper section was very steep and the lower section was even steeper. I remember long reaches past thin sections.

Jim was not in good climbing shape, but I remember that he just cruised up the third pitch.

It was a great day and great fun to be climbing with friends on a good route in the sun on the south side of the Valley.

Regards, Roger

Orange County CA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 9, 2003 - 07:04pm PT
Here's all I can contribute to your request, Roger. Not specifically about the Prow, but maybe worth a glassing.



Sep 13, 2003 - 01:28pm PT
This one's on Cream. Went down there one summer day to free-solo the sucker. Didn't tell anyone I was going. Started up the fist jamming part and got to the off-width moves when my mind decided I didn't want to do it. Well, tried to down scary, tried to get up to make the moves into the off-width to get my knee in the crack to rest and calm down, was having real problems getting there. After thrashing around in this area for awhile I finally realized I better go for it. I make it and then continue on to the top my mind totally thrashed. I get back to C4 later, Middendorf sees me and says I look like sh#t. Tell him why. He understands. One of those valley days in the summer.
john hansen

Jan 28, 2007 - 05:03pm PT
One from way back
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jan 28, 2007 - 05:40pm PT
In the interests of supporting a climbing thread, I'll chip in my two cents, though I don't have any great stories. To paraphrase Wilde, a modest climber, with much to be modest about.

Nabisco Wall

Did this in April 1977, with Rick LeDuc from Washington. One of the nicest people I've ever climbed with. I led Beverley's Tower with some grunting, and belayed at the base of the famous Butterballs. Rick led Wheat Thin - a very exciting pitch. I'm not much for rap bolting, but WT is one exception I'd agree to. Rick also led Butterfingers, more accurately led past the crux, then decided it was getting too late, and back climbed. We then rappelled. (We'd started late, so the climb would be in the shade, and I was really slow.) It was very cool to be on such a famous bit of rock.

The Prow

I tried this with Perry Beckham. Our attempt was foiled by my forgetting to bring any tie-offs. Perry didn't really buy into my idea that we could simply use stoppers as tie offs, cinching them over pins. We ignominously retreated after two pitches.

Coonyard Pinnacle

My book says I've done this, but I don't remember much. The nearby Angel's Approach left stronger memories - I did it with my brother. Being from Squamish, slab climbing was no mystery to us, but it was a fun route, despite the tedious approach.

Braille Book

Did this in 1990, when I finally got interested in longer Valley free climbs. I remember it being steep and strenuous for a 5.8, and a good hike, but otherwise nothing memorable.

Northeast Buttress on Higher

This was quite memorable. Did it in April 2004. I met my friend Cathy in San Francisco, we drove to the Valley, and in four days we did the Central Pillar (five pitches), Serenity & Sons of Yesterday (part), a nice hike (ok, we were resting), and then the NE Buttress. A busperson's holiday.

It was a greyish day, with the sun peeping through, but the weather was supposed to deteriorate. We got up really early, and were hiking by dawn. On the way up, we met some guys who'd done the NE Buttress the day before, and had had to bivouac on top. No lighter, no headlamp, no water. We gave them some water, earned some good karma, fortified ourselves, and continued. (We had a small LED light, and a lighter.)

So we got to the base, ate and drank everything we had - easier to carry inside. The first four pitches are quite nice, though there's this big steep corner looming overhead, and the route has a reputation. People on the Spires across the way, and a weakly sunny day, provided belayer diversion.

Then came the corner, which by then was cool and breezy and shady. Belayers froze. Definitely full value for money - pretty much every kind of crack technique known to humanity - stemming and widish stuff particularly. Very strenuous. Graded 5.9 in the 1960s, probably no single move that's harder, but very sustained. Would surely now be graded mid 5.10. Several times, we got stymied, and had to try interesting tactics. It was an adventure. For the first time ever, I lost cams - one fixed, one dropped. (Of course, I've also acquired about twenty that others left...)

We messed up at the top of the corner. Figured out the first part of the traverse ok, then went up instead of continuing to traverse. But we could sense the top was very near. Eventually found a wide crack that let us get to a ledge with bushes on it, which had to be just below the rim. We knew we had it made - we could always make a fire. But were able in the very last gloaming to find a short pitch to the top.

It was a long slow walk down - both thrashed, I'd worn my glasses instead of contacts, in case we got stuck, and they kept getting fogged. Eventually back to the road at 11:00.

It drizzled overnight and the next morning. We stuffed ourselves at Curry buffet. Gave Cathy a ride back to Sacramento, so she could get a bus to SF - buying her ticket, she was asked "Would you like a phone card with that?" Surreal.
Delhi Dog

Good Question...
Feb 24, 2011 - 11:44am PT
Bump for another story...these ones were fun to read!

Wade Icey

Trad climber
Feb 24, 2011 - 12:00pm PT
whoa...holy sh#t WB bump

Gym climber
Berkeley, CA
Feb 24, 2011 - 02:56pm PT
Holy Moly Werner. Yikes bump.

Stories of my flailing or cruising....


cruise: (oops, I can't find a link to this one)

Silent Line:

Zander & Bob:
(to Oasis):
le_bruce & I: (oops, thought I wrote it, didn't write it yet?)


Delhi Dog

Good Question...
Feb 24, 2011 - 08:59pm PT
Thanks Nuts...I look forward to reading those!

Hey Mike if you're still around that link seems to be broken...


Merced, CA
Feb 24, 2011 - 09:44pm PT
I've climbed about half of those routes, but don't have many interesting tales to show for it.

But I will always remember the first time I climbed Midterm. I had met this strong Brazilian dude in Camp 4. He had redpointed 5.13c in France, and was just in Tuolumne the week before where he was onsighting 5.12 face climbs. Very strong with lots of experience, but he was still pretty new to crack technique. I was a fledgling trad climber, with only a year's experience under my belt, so we made plans to get schooled on some good pure crack climbs. What better place than Arch Rock? Well, it turns out there are much better places than Arch Rock, at least during the month of August.

We set our eyes on Midterm, the most obvious route at the cliff. My partner took the lead and jammed his way up the polished finger crack in the start. It was extra slick and greasy in this summer humidity, but he climbed through it no trouble, reaching the ledge. Next he jammed up the perfect hands, up through the fists, and then started to hesitate as the fists widened. The dreaded offwidth was a totally unknown element to this graceful face climber. After much struggling, he asked me to lower him down to the ground.

Next it was my turn. I yo-yo'ed back up to his high point at the start of the OW. I was making steady progress with my chicken wing and foot jams, but my arm kept getting more and more sweaty and I had to overexert myself to keep from slipping right out of the crack. I eventually reached the part where the offwidth widens suddenly and was pretty gassed. The #4 (my largest piece) wouldn't go any higher without tipping out. I decided it best to collect myself before casting off into the chimney and hung on the rope. I used my chalkball to pat down my entire right arm so that I wouldn't blow it as I climbed past my gear into the chimney. After that rest and with my chickenwinging friction restored, the offwidth felt much easier and I quickly made the final moves into the chimney.

Oh, the chimney! From below it looks so inviting. Like you could rest in it. Once I was in it though, I realized there would be no rest. I was committed now, with no more cams left. Luckily there's a couple chockstones in the back of the chimney with slings on them and these provided my only protection. I thrashed about in the chimney for quite a while, making progress bit by bit, but without ever feeling secure. My technique was abhorrent and it was pure fear that propelled me upwards. I was desperate for a spot to rest but, as soon as I'd relax my muscles I'd start melting down the chimney, losing precious inches of progress that I had fought so hard for. The chimney had become well lubricated with my sweat, and I imagined myself shooting down it like a water slide. And then the difficulties finally eased and I was at the anchors. Exhausted.

That was really the first time that I had understood what offwidth climbing is all about. It's type 2 fun. When I was down in the chimney I would have given anything to be somewhere else. All I wanted was an "out" but I didn't trust the chockstones enough to be lowered or even hang on. But as soon as I reached the anchor, all of the terror and hyperventilating turned out to be a rewarding experience in hindsight. I was safe now and I had led to the top of a climb that a 5.13 climber had backed off of. I was high on adrenaline and feeling great. Of course my physical body had been somewhat destroyed by the experience. I could barely walk after that one. Because of the day's temperatures I had unwisely elected to wear nothing but a t-shirt and shorts, and in my unskilled thrashing I had removed all the skin from both knees, both elbows, both ankles, some of my forearms and a few other places.

I remember that evening, my partner and I parted ways (I think he left to go to Bishop for a week), and I decided I was long overdue for a shower. I went to Curry that night, hoping that they wouldn't be checking room keys. Instead, the shower room was closed for cleaning. Well, I decided to wait in my car until they were finished. I passed out right there in the driver seat and didn't wake up until 3 am. I was surprised a ranger hadn't noticed me. I hobbled out of my car and took a shower all alone in the middle of the night. The hot water stung my wounds.

I've gone back and climbed Midterm since then. The chimney which was so epic for me then, feels really easy now, almost like I could lose the rope on it. But the polished fingers at the start is still as hard as ever, and the offwidth is pretty stout 5.9 as well.

Trad climber
Ridgway, CO
Feb 24, 2011 - 10:04pm PT
Only 29 posts since 2003 . . . WTF?

Lets break out the stories!

Gym climber
its nice here in the spring
Feb 24, 2011 - 10:18pm PT
Humbled to tell a story amongst so many real climbers, so I'll make it short.
Stoner's Highway:
In the early 1980's I decided to climb this route, smoke homegrown at every belay and the "scramble" up the u shaped bowl. Probably achieved 1/2 the first goal and all of the second before getting benighted on the descent.

Social climber
Jul 30, 2011 - 08:05pm PT
The test piece route for my friends from the OC was to lead Quicksilver- as so many have said before "it was a route I wanted to have done but not to be doing"

The route was all about three pitches but they were "only 5.9". The story would be told after we were all stoned and the fire was burning low
"..30 feet out and the pin was pounded up into the flake......nothing in between..........."
Steve has the Jones to do this route and since he is going to for sure need a belayer, I am also up for this route.
Against my nature, but forced into it through circumstance, I volunteer to lead the first 5.8 pitch. I thought it was hard. Go there yourself and get back to me on what you think.
Steve sets off on pitch one. He's a pretty good climber-totally old school.
He gets to the (Dolt?) pin and clips in and continues pushing to the right. At about the point where all of those pictures in Yosemite Climber are he tells me to watch him- Since he has one piece in and is about 80 feet out the request really isn't necessary. He reaches for a hold and then both feet skid off and he hangs there and exclaims "Whoa!! Now that's what I call a handhold! Asshole.
The rest of the route went without incident.
That's the trouble with climbing with your friends.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jul 30, 2011 - 08:14pm PT
Did the first ascent of Leanie Meanie in 73 with Rab Carrington and maybe Chappie. Bridwell and Klemmons had already attempted it and named it Leanie Meanie. I thought, what the hell, the name fits the climb I'll keep it. Rabbie followed the crux with ease but had some issues with the upper, easier OW section.
In 1972 I was at Arch Rock with a very young Chappie. I decided on the spur of the moment to free solo Midterm. I was just getting ready to make the moves into the chimney when I noticed that Chapman was soloing 20 ft. below me. Nothing to do but finish, we're still both here.


Trad climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Aug 1, 2011 - 01:46am PT
Had an interesting experience my first time on Lunatic Fringe. I think I had been climbing a lot of days straight, in the middle of July, and my partner and I were just melting in the sunlight at Reed's. We did Reed's Direct with the OW finish, then went over to Stone Groove, and for some reason I was pushing her to also do Lunatic Fringe. At the base, her face was beet red, and I was swimming in my clothes, but I decided the line looked too good to pass up. I began climbing, and about 3/4 of the way up, the glue on one of my shoes gave out, with my rand completely separating from the uppers on my right shoe. I whipped, since I had three little piggies sticking out and couldn't jam too well, only to find that in the heat I had forgotten to take the helmet off of my gear sling and put it on my head. When I finally rapped off from the top I felt like a cooked egg. That's pretty much the last time I've climbed in that kind of heat.

Aug 1, 2011 - 02:26am PT
A minor story I well remember. Sometime in the late 60's Pete Ramins from Cleveland and I were on Midterm. At the time I was experimenting with camming nuts and had fabricated a set I wanted to try out on the weird cracks so commonly found in Yosemite. Yosemite's cracks go up and down. Most unusual. Pete was about 70 feet up when he rather pensively observed, "It would be really nice to have hexcentrics."

I had designed the nuts with too large an expansion factor. They were not reliable. They all went into the recycle bin.

Trad climber
Aug 2, 2011 - 10:57am PT
Great thread
selfish man

Gym climber
Austin, TX
Aug 5, 2011 - 02:54pm PT
how's this photo for a story?

Lunatic Fringe
Lunatic Fringe
Credit: selfish man
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Aug 5, 2011 - 06:09pm PT
I posted this tale about the first clean ascent of half the Prow on the Fine Art of Screwing the Second thread.

In the mid seventies I climbed the Prow with Barb Eastman. We were carrying most of the recommended iron and I started up the third pitch loaded up with angles, big and small. I reached up off the belay and slid a big one snugly into a well worn groove. It was solid enough without hammering that I clipped directly into the eye and stepped gingerly on up. Second verse same as the first all the way up the pitch. I had the iron and left every hand placed piton behind. Once I got to the station and traded signals, I had a chance to look down and take in the situation. I grinned ear to ear and waited for Barb to leave the lower stance and start cleaning. "I ah, wouldn't lean back if I was you" I said innocently enough. Barb instantly got my drift and stayed smooth and flat to the wall while jugging lest the hardware come raining down in quantity and short order. She really did nothing to deserve the strange anxiety and peril but it persisted for the rest of my leads.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Aug 20, 2011 - 09:15pm PT
Storytime Bump!
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Aug 21, 2011 - 12:15am PT
Who is that mysterious person in selfish man's photo? And who is selfish man?
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Aug 21, 2011 - 08:45am PT
Patio & Goodrich Pinnacle

I used to free-solo a lot of stuff in the 1970s. In Tuolomne I free-soloed the Great White Book about 20 times, often after a bunch of toking and often carrying an open can of Budweiser on the climb. I free-soloed the Water Cracks on Lembert. I also did a lot of free-soloing on glacier Point Apron. I even free-soloed and down-climbed the Grack in hiking boots. I always down-climbed the routes, although I used to carry a 50m rope on occasion. Down climbing really made you a much better climber. Here I am free-soloing Patio Pinnacle (no rope for the descent).

Free-soloing Patio Pinnacle, Yosemite Valley, late 1970s
Free-soloing Patio Pinnacle, Yosemite Valley, late 1970s
Credit: Sierra Ledge Rat

Also did a winter ascent of the Prow over Christmas 1983 with Bill Crouse.

Anchorage Ledge, The Prow, Christmas 1983
Anchorage Ledge, The Prow, Christmas 1983
Credit: Sierra Ledge Rat
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Aug 21, 2011 - 11:20am PT
This is an old thread!

Here is my trip report on the first ascent of Freewheeling with George Meyers and Kevin Worrall. //Freewheeling: La Direttissima per Ora Dove, in b/w, Oct 1973// I found two rolls of B/W film we had taken. Ed scanned them for me and I wrote down everything I could remember.

Selfish Man, did Barry feel up to climbing his classic "Lunatic Fringe?" I think it is so cool that Barry has started climbing again.
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Retired to Appalachia
Aug 21, 2011 - 11:32am PT
Holy crap, is selfish man Barry Bates?

Hey Barry, I remember watching you crank one-finger (one-arm) pullups in the back room at the Cupertino North Face store.

How you been crazy man?


Trad climber
Aug 21, 2011 - 11:48am PT

My story of soloing the Prow.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Aug 21, 2011 - 12:01pm PT
SLR, Barry posts under his own name and he lives outside of San Antonio. He climbs at Enchanted Rocks, close to Austin, where Selfish Man lives. This is a recent picture of Barry, I think.

Speaking of Lunatic Fringe, sometime soon after Barry had first climbed it, I casually rode down to Reeds with Dave Bircheff to climb it, assuming, wrongly, that I was more than prepared for such a classic 5.10. We only climbed with Hexs and Stoppers, so the protection was sketchy. The crack width was outside my sweet spot by a mile and I started melting, a long way from my last good point. Then the 'Watch me' calls could be heard thought out the Valley, with increased frequency and abject terror, followed by whimpering and gasping sobs as I downclimbed pulling my decorator protection and yelling “up rope” to Dave.

Finally at my good point, I regained by manly status and announced that it wasn't a good day for climbing and lowered off, never to return.

Barry and I have remained good friends.

Bridwell said it best: "I don't like to climb with Barry: he is too strong!"
selfish man

Gym climber
Austin, TX
Aug 21, 2011 - 08:50pm PT
Roger's information is precisely correct. We are lucky to have Barry around here in Texas and he is a strong and inspiring climber. But I'll shut up since he may be reading. The Lunatic Fringe photo was taken couple months or so ago.

Credit: selfish man

Credit: selfish man
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Retired to Appalachia
Sep 7, 2011 - 10:26pm PT
Great to see Barry again, still looks good!
Inner City

Trad climber
East Bay
Sep 8, 2011 - 01:10am PT
This thread is absolutely amazing.

Please more stories from you hard folks. These are the best.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Apr 14, 2018 - 09:41am PT
this thread deserves a bump... TTDAB

The Hot Kiss On the End of a Wet Fist
Apr 14, 2018 - 09:48am PT
Werner solos and lives to climb another day. Lunatic Fringe 1986
Credit: Walleye
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