Frank Sacherer -- 1940 - 1978


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Social climber
West Linn OR
Mar 18, 2009 - 03:49pm PT
Do we know how Frank came to begin climbing? I never asked him, and wonder if Jan or anyone else was told what drew him to the "sport" and what his first endeavors were.

I was also looking at old letters written to Guido in the early 1960's when I was in the army, and I referred to Frank as "Fearless Frank", a not too oblique reference to Fearless Fosdick, one of my favorite Dick Tracy characters. Fearless Fosdick went always all out, guns ablazing. He kept going even when shot full of holes.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Mar 18, 2009 - 04:24pm PT

That timeline looks good. I noticed one thing:


should be

Le Linceul

I think.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Mar 19, 2009 - 01:11am PT

You have a really good eye for detail! If I ever need a copy editor, I think it should be you. I just consulted my Petit Larousse dictionary and discovered that linceul is the word for shroud, but the verb to enshroud someone is ensevelier. Somehow I mixed the two which is not uncommon for me, since I learned most of my French by ear rather than in school. I left all our alpine guidebooks in Geneva with Frank, so no way to look things up before the internet. Meanwhile, do feel free to provide future corrections as well!

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Mar 19, 2009 - 01:50am PT

I can't remember exactly how Frank started climbing but I think it was through a slide show he saw and then joined a Sierra Club hiking group. He had a hiking partner for awhile named Chela Kunasz and they did quite a lot of peak scrambling in the Sierras together. It might even be that Chela introduced him to the Sierra Club. I know she got him interested in Eastern religion and philosophy. I did meet her eventually in the office of the UC hiking club. By that time she was going out with Paul ? and later married him and they moved to Boulder where Frank and I visited them one summer.

As for rock climbing, John Morton has written in this thread that Frank learned the Sierra Club techniques of rock climbing and participated in teaching other beginners. I remember that he took me up to Indian Rock in Berkeley and pointed out some of his first climbs there. He also mentioned that after his first trip to the Valley he never looked back. He always hated the Bay Area fog and loved sunshine. From the number of photos of him shirtless in Colorado and Yosemite, you could even say he was a sun worshipper.

We both suffered a lot during the long gray winters in Europe. We had skied together a few times at Badger Pass in Yosemite but really got into it in Geneva since the cloud cover in Europe hovers about 50' off the ground up to 2,500' for months on end. However, once you go above that elevation on a ski lift you are back in the sunshine above a beautiful sea of puffy white clouds. I did laugh at someone's recollection of Frank loving to scare people by skidding over a patch of ice on the way to Yosemite. This practice stood him in good stead on the way to Badger Pass one night when we hit black ice and the car skidded badly out of control. I woke up just in time to see us flying backward and to hear Frank very calmly saying, "we've had it now". Fortunately he got the car under control just as we came within inches of crashing into a huge tree.

He would have loved your image of Fearless Fosdick by the way, charging ahead though riddled with bullet holes!
Wade Icey

Trad climber
Mar 19, 2009 - 06:43pm PT
"Bottom line is if people demand more climbing sh#t, they'll bump it."
John Morton

Mar 19, 2009 - 09:20pm PT
Funny how long-buried tidbits pop into consciousness ... Jan mentions Chela Kunasz and Paul ? Actually I think it was Chela Varentsoff and Paul Kunasz, who later married. I hadn't thought of them for many years, but their names appeared a couple of years ago in the memorial comments for Tony Qamar, another of Frank's pals in the UC campus circle of climbers.

That was a marvelous practice that started at the Sierra Club RCS sessions. It provided an apprenticeship that I'm sure gave Frank confidence in the skills of his casual climbing partners. It was always noncompetitive and supportive. Roper's father Ed started taking Steve on outings when he was around 14 I think, in an effort to keep him from becoming a hoodlum!

Speaking of competitive, I remember Frank telling me about competition amongst PhD candidates. There was some guy in the USSR whom he greatly feared - if the Russian published first, Frank's dissertation topic would no longer be original and he would have to start again on something else.


Social climber
Mar 19, 2009 - 11:03pm PT
Jan's latest post has finally motivated me to relate this little anecdote about Frank. During the winter of 1965-66 a couple of us were living fulltime in Camp4.It rained a lot, and then it snowed for days on end. Not surprisingly we spent most of our time in the coffee shop and the lounge, as Camp 4 was pretty much a pit. Frank and a few others would come up from Berkeley, Davis etc every couple of week-ends, just to hang-out. On New Year's Eve someone rented a cabin for the night. It was probably Glenn Denny, as he was the friend that we all had in common, and he was working for the YP'nCC at the time. It was a pretty mellow evening. There was about 8 or so, including Frank, all sleeping on the floor, and asleep by 12.30. It was nice to get out of Camp 4 for the night!!
The next morning 5 of us hiked close to the base of the lower falls. One of the photos shows several people wearing the old Terray down jackets [major status symbols], trying to avoid the spray. Second from the right is Penny Carr, another person destined to meet an early death. If her name sounds familiar, she was part of the first ascent of Moby Dick, a Valley test-piece in the mid 60s.
Later that day Frank and I drove to one of the empty parking lots in his VW, to do doughnuts. He would step on the gas, and when he thought we were going fast enough, or were approaching one of the snowbanks, he would shout "Now". I would crank on the e-brake while he spun the steering wheel as fast as he could. We went round and round, and laughed and laughed. Then we did it again and again.........
That is the Frank that I remember.
[Having trouble posting the photos so have asked Mighty Hiker to help me out. Thanks MH.]
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Mar 20, 2009 - 07:15pm PT
Your wish is my command! Here are the two photos which were referred to, taken on New Year's Day, 1965.

Frank Sacherer (L) and Gary Colliver (R)

Frank Sacherer, Gary Colliver, Penny Carr and a waitress from the coffee shop (but not Maria Muldaur).

Welcome Hamie! Nice to have another Canuck around the place.

(Bumped with corrected date of photos.)

Social climber
wuz real!
Mar 21, 2009 - 08:52pm PT
I dunno, I'd swear that that Is Maria Muldaur!

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Mar 25, 2009 - 01:44am PT

Thanks for the New Year's Day photos and stories. They made me realize along with the comments by John Morton about Frank's Russian competitor, that I never saw him in his carefree playful days. Life got really serious for him in the spring of 1965 when he was told that he could no longer spend summers in the Valley and had to concentrate on physics.

Both Gary and Reva Colliver were hard core about camping out in the winter in Yosemite. There were several weekends when they and Frank and I were the only ones camping out in a snowy Camp 4. I believe they had a tent whereas Frank and I slept under a big overhanging rock.

Speaking of beautiful winter photos, there are some great ones of the Mt. Blanc - Mer de Glace area showing many of the climbs mentioned on this thread on another Supertopo site by Thomas Keefer.

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Mar 29, 2009 - 07:26pm PT
Climbing related

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Apr 25, 2009 - 10:03pm PT
Thanks to a tip from Anders Ourom, I’ve been in contact with Chela Varentsoff Kunasz, one of Frank’s very early climbing partners. Unfortunately for us she is super busy right now with her charitable organization for Tibetan refugees in India,
so she has given me permission to post what she has written in an email. Meanwhile, we can hope that she will have more to say in the future.

From Chela:

I did not do peak climbing with Frank. He did that with the Sierra Club. There he met two high school girls... one was Sharon Bachman and the other's name is escaping me right now. They both got interested in rock climbing too. So he started rock climbing at Cragmont Rock in Berkeley with them. I don't know how old he was, but he was attending San Francisco State College at the time and they were still in high school, either juniors, or, more likely, seniors in high school, at George Washington High School. That was my high school.

I had gotten interested in mountain climbing through books (stories of the early attempts by the British on Mt. Everest, etc.) I had also started rock climbing myself through the son of a friend of my mother's from New Mexico. My mom had him over for dinner at our house in San Francisco and several times after that, and he invited me to Berkeley for some picnics and to some Berkeley Hiking Club outings, including a trip all the way to Tahquitz for Thanksgiving 4 days, which is when I started climbing... I was 16 and there were not many female climbers then (it was 1959). Anyway, I somehow met Sharon Bachman and her friend and they invited me to come with them to meet their male climbing companion (Frank) at Cragmont Rock in Berkeley. So we did that and after that we got together several times to practice our rock climbing skills (with those old terrible climbing shoes)... klettershue, etc. I bought my own Austrian pitons and painted them with "my" color, aquamarine, for identification and bought a goldline rope. We tied directly into the rope back then. Lots of fun stories about old Sierra Club climbing mentors, like Steve Roper's father and a man named Carl Weissner, etc.

I asked Frank once, back then at Cragmont Rock, why he was climbing with us younger females and not guys who were better climbers than we were. He said he didn't think he was a particularly talented climber and he kind of only wanted to present himself to the wider (male) climbing community after he felt some degree of confidence in what he thought of as "presentable" or maybe even "superior" climbing ability... So he wanted to practice with us, kind of "in secret"... I think it likely that he did do some peaks and other Sierra Club hiking with Sharon and the other girl and other friends in the Sierra Club.

Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Apr 25, 2009 - 10:48pm PT

Thanks for this latest update. I think it continues to flesh out Frank's character.

best, ph

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Apr 26, 2009 - 01:42am PT

Chelas posting brought back some fond memories of that era. There was a lot of crossover between the Sierra Club RCS, where most of us young lads (Foott, Roper,Harper and myself) learned to climb and the UC Berkeley Hiking Club. Many "older" people belonged to both and every trip had a combination of leaders and followers.

I was on that trip to Tahquitz in 1959, at the young age of 13, and rode down with a funny guy named TM Herbert and a crazy driver Ray D'Arcy. Herbert had to take over driving from D'Arcy who lacked the skill to drive in snow.

Carl Weisnner was one of the leaders of the old RCS and a wonderful man. Many of us learned to climb under his tutelege. Many a wonderful Sunday evening RCS dinners with plenty of red wine. Yep, learned how to drink with that group!

I remember climbing on several outings with Sacherer back then, St Helena, Cragmont, and often at Indian. We later did numerous routes in Yosemite together.

This is a photo of one of the weekend sessions of the RCS at Indain Rock. Carl on the left and I think John Shonle,(FA Schutz's Ridge) in the back.
Albany Hill in the background.


Mountain climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Apr 27, 2009 - 03:13pm PT
The posts from the people who knew Frank (esp Jan, also Morton, Erb & Haan) at the peak of his intense climbing counter the perception that he was "humorless & charmless." Sacherer, Beck, Thompson, Erb & I lived together at the Great Pad, and Morton was a local Berkeley boy. We all liked Frank, and he was good-natured about the teasing he endured because of some of his habits. He disliked lima beans, for example, and often when our turn came up in the cooking rotation, we would serve mixed vegetables so we could watch him pick the lima beans out (and Beck would not eat tomatoes, because in the year 1804 a lot of people at tomatoes and they are all dead now).

Beck had very regular habits; he got up at exactly the same time each day. Sacherer could see Beck's bed from his, and he would get up when he saw Beck was gone. One day Eric arranged the blankets and pillows when he left so it would appear he was still sleeping. Frank stayed in bed till noon and missed two classes.

Trad climber
Apr 27, 2009 - 03:18pm PT
guido-- great shot. i especially like the tyrolian hat.


Trad climber
Apr 27, 2009 - 07:07pm PT
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Apr 28, 2009 - 01:38am PT
Glad to see that this thread has reappeared. A classic.

Somewhere way up thread, Jan mentioned "Cheryl Kunasz" in connection with Frank's early climbing career - at first with a somewhat different spelling of the family name. It seemed worth a google or two, and I tried some variant spellings, bearing in mind the phonetics and what little I know of Slavic languages. I quickly found a Cheryl Kunasz who was active helping with Tibetan refugees, and forwarded the information - even if it wasn't the same person, it still seemed interesting. Glad it turned out to be the 'right' person at that. Serendipity at work.

Edit: One of the people at the dinner in Seattle about a month ago knew Joe Weiss, and originally planned to meet Joe in the Alps in the summer of 1978 to go climbing. Small world.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 28, 2009 - 01:48am PT
I can't resist doing a color adjustment on guido's photo of Carl Weisnner above (it looked a bit too faded out):


Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Apr 28, 2009 - 11:46pm PT

Did you do that with Photoshop? I have a lot of old photos in worse condition than that (some posted in this forum) and am just now getting them digitized. Would love some advice.
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