I remember the time 1983? He was outside about 1:00AM near the bar in Yosemite. I could hear him softly singing the words to "People are Strange," by the Doors. Every time I hear that song now I think about him and when I hear the Doors. Someone I really looked up to as a climber, because I saw one time what he was capable of on a boulder. Out of my league as a free climber. Much respect for this man. A real loss to the climbing community.
Nov 13, 2008 - 12:16pm PT
Sometime in the mid '70s there was two very overwieght sisters (twins?) working at the Lodge . John sidled up to one of them in the lounge and told her that he wanted to f*** her . That's how I heard it .
Thanks for those who brought this thread to life. Gotta find the Fish story where Yabo brings raw potatoes as food for a long wall climb (after getting a bunch of money for the task) Anyway, below is a story I wrote after learning Yabo left the planet
In the early 1980ıs my best compromise between living and climbing in
Yosemite while avoiding poverty and parental heartbreak was to work for
Curry Company. For three years, I was the Night Housing Supervisor, in
charge of all the Curry employee housing areas between the hours of 5pm
In some ways, it was a dream job for a climber. I had a private tiny
cabin in Yosemite and was free to climb until 5pm every day. There was
a downside though. I was in charge of enforcing a plethora of rules and
keeping the company facilities free of exploitation by unauthorized
persons, particularly climbers.
I was a climber. Curry Company hated climbers. Resolving the dissonance
between these realities nurtured diplomacy in Karl and, eventually,
fostered tolerance within Curry Company.
Curry Companyıs strict grooming code made it easy to divine the
difference between the dorm residents and the Camp 4 residents. I
remember a funny cartoon on the wall of an employee bathroom. It showed
a guy with long hair and a crazy and confused look on his face. The
caption read "Before" Next to it was a drawing of the same crazy and
confused face but this time with short, clean cut hair. The caption
read "After" (employment) Years of the clean-cut company culture
inbreeding made it easy for long-term employees to adopt the attitude
that long hair or a beard were marks of dereliction.
The ex-marine president of the Company was chief among the those who
were pissed at climbers. After some random act of vandalism attributed
to climbers, he took a tour through Camp 4 to the boos and jeers of the
The behavior of the climbers sometimes didnıt help matters. Besides
snaking showers and drunken deli rudeness, some climbers would camp out
in the cafeteria and scarf leftover food, or shoplift from Curry
Worst of all, climbers seeking comfort and love as part of the same
deal would seek out girlfriends among the Curry Employees. Many a young
damsel would be seduced into supporting the lifestyle of a "Park Bum"
or PB as it was abreviated. Now it wasnıt as if there were enough of
these beauties to go around. These were OUR women! Just like in
Alaska, in Yosemite, if youıre a women, the odds are good, but the
goods are odd!
As for me, I definitely had friends on both sides of the fence. I lived
across from Camp 4 and climber friends would come hang out with me. I
tried to encourage a bit of harmony by taking different managers
climbing. I started taking the Manager of Employee Housing climbing and
he got pretty good. We even climbed the grade 5 North Buttress of
Middle Cathedral in a day. One time I had numerous managers and
supervisors camped out on Yosemite Point and dragged them across the
Tyrolean Traverse to Lost Arrow. I hope I played some role in teaching
the Company that climbing wasnıt intimately linked with acts of
vandalism and dereliction.
At night, I tried to strike a reasonable balance between protecting the
companyıs facilities and allowing people to live their lives with
minimum harassment. I wouldnıt bug John Bachar about his Saxophone
playing or hanging out with his girlfriend in the dorms, but when a
world famous cranker emptied a fire extinguisher in the hallways, we
ran him off.
One night I got a call on the radio that there was a violent
disturbance at the Womenıs dorm. I headed my company truck straight
over there with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Responding to
unknown chaos revs the adrenaline, but also the humbling anticipation
that some drunk idiot might be inspired to break beer bottles over my
head. As a standard precaution in potentially violent situation, I
radioed the NPS to send a ranger to the scene as well.
When I arrived, I met a muscular guy of medium height at the foot of
the steps of the dorm. He looked battered. Next to him was a high-end
road bike that looked battered as well. He was reasonably calm. I
asked him what happened. He said his name was John Yablonski and that
he BEAT HIMSELF UP! Naturally, I wanted a further explanation. Yabo
said that his girlfriend lived in the dorm, she dumped him and was with
another guy at the moment. He was so upset that he kicked his own ass!
I thought he was pretty lucid for a guy who just whuuped himself, but
Yabo said he was a non-violent kind of guy who wouldnıt hurt anybody
but himself. He really did an impressive job of hitting himself. You
could tell he was headed for black and blue.
I quickly confirmed the story with Yaboıs girlfriend (and her male
companion) and, since no more conflict seemed eminent, called off the
rangers before they arrived. It seemed like the last thing the
heartbroken Yabo needed was an encounter with the law.
I went back and met with Yabo again. He also managed to totally destroy
his $1000+ (1981 dollars!) road bike that he won in the "Survival of
the Fittest" TV contest. I told him to throw his bike in my truck and I
would give him a ride back to Camp 4. We talked about life, climbing,
and women. Before he got out of the truck he asked for $1 for a pack of
cigarettes. I gave it to him even though I am a cheap bastard and hate
smoking to boot. Somehow, my heart just told me it was the right thing
The next time I patrolled the womenıs dorm, I was surprised to find a
$1 bill lying on the ground at the very spot that I first met Yabo. It
stuck me at the time that I was being repaid by the Spirit of All
Things for my gift to Yabo.
In the course of years since then, I heard a number of amazing stories
of Yaboıs larger than life existence. Apparently, he would go
free-soloing in fits of despair over relationships. He wouldnıt always
make it. He would always miraculously survive. One time he was caught
in the branches of a tree after falling off an 11c crack! Werner Braun
said "The Angels were watching over Yabo."
Sadly, tragically, Yabo eventually took his own life. He said if
natural forces wouldnıt take him, he would have do it himself. The
incident involved a woman and a relationship, but ultimately, it was
just Yaboıs inner demons. I thought he was a great guy in many ways.
Unfortunately, we are all a bit nuts and those of us with an extra dose
of energy and passion can sometimes be even more nuts. May his Spirit
reach the Summit after a dramatic climb."