Request for stories about Valley climbs


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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?
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