Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 18, 2006 - 06:29pm PT
At least that's what we used to say back in the late 60's/early 70's, when we were making the transition from using pitons to protect free climbs, to stoppers and hexes. Here's Rob Keisel on the first ascent of the North Rib of Mt Slesse in the North Cascades, in 1972. We did the climb without hammers or pitons, 27 pitches of moderate climbing up to 5.9. As you can see, Rob has quite a big set of hexes between his legs.
Back in the day we didn't know it took balls to use nuts. We climbed "trad" because that's all we had. We used nuts because we were poor (as in "cheap") n00bs who couldn't afford Friends, which was the only slcd available.
For my first two summers in Yosemite, we had ONE Friend between my partner and myself (a #2 1/2 that I usually "saved" for the anchor).
I'm glad we didn't start out with double racks of cams. We learned to eyeball good placements on the fly, something I'm not sure would have happened if we had unlimited cams to plug in.
Lowe Balls! Good on you Jeff for coming up with those little things. The crux 3-hour placement on the first hammerless ascent (25th anniversary ascent) of the Muir took a medium. After watching the sun go down, working by headlamp, for no particular reason, on the umpteenth try, it bit enough in this horrible little flare to allow me to keep climbing and get to the belay. Some guys heads these days would probably explode after 20 minutes! Working away in the dark and looking down into 2500 feet of gloom was memorable to say the least.
The old adage, you get out of it what you put into it really applies to climbing. The old days of simple but primitive climbing gear required so much more attention and awareness to locate and arrange pro. It took some real nerve to trust in providence and your ability to get up and really push your limits. I used to remember the individual placements long after the routes were done.
Lambone - my gawd, Man, you're not supposed to actually trust your bodyweight to those little suckers! They're for free-climbing only. The kind where you don't fall...
Steve although I agree the Lowe Balls are good, we didn't invent them. We simply helped with the final production design and marketed them. Thanks for the compliment though. It should go to the actual inventor. Unfortunately, old-timer's disease has stolen his name from my memory. Does anyone here know him?
The days of leading on just a set of nuts and a few hexes are far from gone. Many of us had to build our rack gradually, even in the 21st century. I remember my accountant (i.e. my wife) saying, "yes, you can have a rack - you just have to pace yourself." Teacher's salary,kid to feed, you know. But once you score some pro, you gotta go lead SOMETHING, right? I was just thinking this week, how that may be the most dangerous time in a climber's career. Tempers the blade, I guess.
Cheapness rules, always has. The first nuts were just machine nuts snagged from the railway lines by some old dads in Britain to supplement the natural stones they carried in their pockets to use as slung chockstones. Can you imagine the traffic jam that a nice selection of stones would become in the old trousers? Anyway, I still carry small hexes and there are lots of situations where the larger ones are desirable due to soft rock or weight considerations. I love that old gear.
Ed - for some stupid reason, Baby was the second climb I ever led on gear... and at the time my rack consisted of nuts, tricams and two metolius TCUs (00 and 03). I placed mayve 4 piece... and I think one of them stayed in.
I got to the GT ledge and swore never to do something so dumb ever again! Freaked myself out... probably a good thing. I'm never climbing that thing again.
Balls (Lowe Balls and BallNutz) were invented by Steve Byrne. When I was working at Lowe with Jeff and Greg, we licensed the patent from Steve and did the engineering and development on them. Steve also gets credit for the Slider and the TCU/FCU idea with the flexi cable.
Mid / Early 70’s. I hadn’t carried a hammer all winter at Joshua Tree, we’d done a fair number of .8’s with a set of hexes, and perlon slung stoppers. We figured we were ready to step it up to nines that spring at Tahquitz. The Open Book was the first nine established so it should be the easiest, right? John had been following for almost a year now and was competent and fast, but had never shown much interest in getting on the sharp end. I’d managed to convince him this was a good idea and he was enthusiastic about it and offered to drive.
I was able to get a large hex cammed into a pocket to protect the first move, a bouldery move that still gives experienced leaders pause. After a couple of false starts I had the horn above slung and was contemplating the traverse into the main crack. Up to the ear was uneventful with a couple of fixed pins for security. The move around the ear went much easier than expected. I was able to establish a belay with primarily with slung blocks sheepherding the meager supply (one of each) larger hexes for the wide crack above.
It was obvious I would have to be bold or risk running out of gear for the belay. The jams were secure and fit my hands and feet well and soon I was at a flake that the Willits guide book had cautioned the pitons should not be placed there to avoid weakening it. I wedged a sling over it and couldn’t keep from contemplating how many had ignored his advice. It looked marginal even if it hadn’t been weakened. Fifteen or twenty feet up the crack got steeper and the sides more parallel. It was time for another piece.
A number nine hex fit the crack but it was parallel and smooth. I couldn’t find any constrictions to catch it, but a downward tug on the sling seemed to cam it in. It looked and felt ok and I figured a stout yank on the sling would wedge it securely. I leaned back on my jammed right hand and gave it a stout snap.
The next instant there was a deafening boom that originated inside my head as the hex blew my tooth through the top of my tongue. So there I was hanging from a jammed right hand, way to far above a sling draped over a flake of suspect strength with a tooth missing and a newly pierced tongue. A gasp for breath choked me. My mouth was full of sand. That’s what the tooth had been reduced to. I still had the hex in my left hand.
Ok, what next? Down climbing looked dubious. Taking a long fall on that slung flake was out of the question. The adrenaline had kicked in. Another ten feet or so and there was what looked like a good rest and placement. It didn’t take long to get there. Soon I was at the “cave with no bottom.” The normal belay is shortly after that, just around the corner. There was an ancient fixed pin in the cave as well as a block that could be slung. The adrenaline rush was wearing off. I set up a belay and brought John up.
John started laughing when he got close at my gap-toothed grimace that he mistook for a smile. I just drooled some blood and managed to hit him in the forehead. That stopped the laughing. I told John he was going to have to take over the lead. I had always been the rope gun, he’d never led in the year, or so we had been climbing together. We finished with no further excitement. John would never lead after that either.
Hard to believe, but I can't quite remember where Baby is. My favourite story from the graduate student days took place near there. I was taking two other grad students from the lab up one of the doable climbs for their first time on the rock. When I was twenty feet up a climber to the right had slung a small tree, chimneyed up against the tree and had pushed it off the cliff. So we heard this blood curdling scream and much jangling. A minute later a climber on the left lunged for a hold and missed, falling to the ground with more extended jangling. As two stokes litters went down the carriage road in single file my friend looked up at me and said, "Stannard. You killing me!" I think I told him, "Relax Paul. They are not that badly hurt." Both litters were moving so I figured it wasn't serious.
Unbelievable, the lengths we went to for excitement.
i climbed in the post piton,, pre cam era, about 78 to 86 in northern Cal ( we couldn't afford cams). We had nuts from the hardware store with kevlar webbing and a set of hexes and stoppers. I was a carpenter and could feel the security of the few pitons I drove, I never set a camming unit.. Climbing was the most fun I ever had.
I've always free climbed with Lowe-Byrne balls on my rack and the long unbarred loop versions before. I've taken plenty of wingers on the #2 and #3 without ever having one pop on me or getting stuck. Can't imagine not having them available. I think they are still the business and by contrast can't even imagine taking a good fall on one of those "micro" cams currently on the market.
Ed- the foot belongs to Crackers' wife (the owner of CiloGear). I've seen way too many people get their feet stuck while climbing Baby. I've never seen anyone peel off while their foot was stuck (which is what happened to the foot's owner), but the foot-sticking seems to happen very very frequently. I cringe every time I am sitting there watching someone do the climb...
Thanks for the info on the Balls. It figures that Steve would be behind those gizmos too. Thanks for the superb gear design and craftsmanship, Maestro Byrne. I am still using several of the old original TCU's that I bought from you in Flag decades ago and have no trouble relying on them.
Great post! Yup folks just kiss the deck all the time around here, no worries.
When I was about thirteen we experimented with some of those new fangled nuts. My friend's dad drove us up to Devil's lake and watched us climb.
Jerry was on lead (whiteline -similar to goldline- on a bight) and started fiddling with a placement.
"Don't use those toys, wail in something good! use some iron" suggested Jerry's dad.
When it was my turn to lead I placed some nuts when Jerry's dad (his name is Jerry, too) wasn't looking. Then I pounded in an angle.
And got a metal slinter in my eye.
I finished the lead but we had to drive to Baraboo and look up a Doctor (on a Sunday) who was able to remove said mote. $10! Possibly more than the gas for the corvair for the trip cost (400miles) As it was getting on, we headed back to Chicago.
You know, after years of climbing I have finally come to the conclusion that advances in climbing protection are really OK.
If in doubt, I have always adhered to the principle that less is better, using passive protection if possible because I can trust it and it is so much simpler. I remember being in Germany in the 80's where a knot stuffed in a constriction in a crack was the norm, and I didn't hesitate to stuff in a Friend which had the locals buying me beers that evening in hopes of getting one!!
I think the use of nuts, or passive gear, is over-hyped by traditionalists. I will do it when I can but I really don't see a significant difference......you still have to make the same moves regardless of protection.
I actually like to climb Baby. Both pitches are nice in their own way. Not to mention it is a nice way to justify the cost of a #4 Camalot.
Actually it is kind of fun to take somebody new up Baby when they have been climbing pretty strong in the gym. Always seems to be a lot of rope weighting going on. They always arrive at the belay with a huge smile.
And most seem to lay back the fun little crack. (little as in short) I have gotten my foot caught once or twice. It is a weird feeling to have to kind of lower back down to get it out.
It is funny too because apparently some time between Ed's picture and my climbing days somebody hauled up a rock to use as a chockstone. But that is long since trundled.
BPorter: "I think the use of nuts, or passive gear, is over-hyped by traditionalists. I will do it when I can but I really don't see a significant difference"
I'd have to disagree. Nuts, and particularly, HB Aluminum Offsets, positively rule where I climb and they are typically so bomb that I look at even solid cam placements with a tiny bit of skepticism. The lack of moving parts and the knowledge one absolutely isn't going anywhere make a considerable justification for such claims and isn't "overhyping" at all. I imagine, though, rock type can influence any such opinions but, all things being equal, I'll take a good nut over a good cam any day...
I think Bporter was referring to the difficulty of routes based on the type of protection that was available.
I too will take a bottleneck nut over a cam any day of the week but I have to say cams make a lot of routes easier and less scary for me. I was climbing an overhanging underclinging type flake today where the climb demanded that your upper body was above the flake. Stuffing #2s was way easier than blindly searching for a bottleneck hex placement.
E: When I first started building my rack 5 years ago, I had nuts and tricams only for a couple of years. When the cracks got wide, i got scared. Tricams rule though!
I think there's no question that climbing in general was simply more challenging on passive gear. It is often harder to get solid placements and you sometimes had to suck it up and just climb on to better protection or stances. That's why a while back I proposed the "National Cam-free Day" where everyone climbs on hexs and nuts for a day. It would be an eye-opener. The NCFD would highlight all the hard routes put up back in the day on passive gear alone. Most of them are all still considered great routes, but the use of cams makes many of them appear less challenging and committing than they were back when they were put up.
But I agree with BPorter that advances in protection are OK - even better than OK. I just think that's in addition to nuts, not a substitute or replacement for them. Sometimes I end up behind young climbers on routes more easily and safely led on nuts yet they do all sorts of dubious things with cams instead. You can see they have a real bias for cams, view them as "real pro", and border on not trusting nuts at all. Almost like they grew up on too many "Transformer" cartoons or that the recent technology infusion left them with an affinity for complexity. Go figure...
it was precisely BECAUSE cams made what were formerly runout test pieces far more reasonable that Jim Bridwell and Scott Fischer were initially against the use of cams at all.
But they soon realized the futility of their position and learned to embrace the new technology and use it to their advantage.
We are simply doomed to be unable to appreciate the skill and boldness of climbers on who's shoulders we stand, and more's the pity.
I totally agree. We have reached consensus !! But I must disagree with Ron's "We are simply doomed to be unable to appreciate the skill and boldness of climbers on who's shoulders we stand, and more's the pity." I fully appreciate the skill and boldness of climbers who put up all the routes I climb with less gear than what I use. In fact, I appreciate it so much that I strive to do these routes as close to the original style as I possibly can. An "all clean" ascent of a trade wall route is something I am very proud of, as is an "all nut" ascent of a free route. And, I can maintain this full appreciation even more when I slam a cam into a crack, where others before me protected with a stopper, knowing full well that I will never rise to their level of skill or boldness! But, at least I got to experience where they have been and that is why I climb.
The OP wasn't meant to contrast using nuts with using cams. It was meant to document a time when there was a major change from using tried and true, but destructive, pitons, to clean and non-destructive artificial chockstones. It was a bigger psychological difference than cams vs nuts, and represented a committment to preserving the rock, even if it meant accepting greater personal risk. It was a leap of the spirit, rather than a technological advance. Ironically, it turned out that many climbs were better protected, and could be climbed easier and faster, using nuts. As a result, it was a win-win development.
Jeff, your last post reflects my experience. I think by 1972, we were pretty much using hexs and stoppers, although I fixed pins if I though they were required (mostly thin LAs and knifeblades, as I recall).
Climbing with nuts was lots better than pins: faster, easier on the second, quiet, and, in the age before quick draws, easier on the rope drag. (Remember when double biners attached to a pin would sometimes twist and release the rope—yikes)
I never climbed with cams, so I cannot speak to their use. However when I have watched folks place them, I am surprised by either how easy they are to place, or the mindless stupidity of the leader trusting them. I guess that I was that way about nuts in the beginning--checking, tugging, inspecting, …procrastinating. However, after a while you could spot the best placement and the right size in one glance, slip it in, clip and go. At which point procrastination had to stand on its own.
Ron- Roger emphasises my point, but I agree there were times it was more difficult to protect with nuts, so you're right, as well.
Do you remember the days in Eldo when the ethic on even FA's was to start on the ground with a rack of nuts and do the climb in one go, on-sight. Any hanging, frigging or fall was considered a "taint", as in , if you do any of those things, it "taint" a real free climb - ala Erickson? I was absolutely committed to that style. When there was no natural pro available, we either retreated, or sucked it up and climbed on. My best memories of those Eldo days include huge runouts on Inner Space, Three Old Farts (since retro-bolted), Fool's Journ (with Warbler), Sunday Comix, etc.
As you know I'm well familiar with the Erickson ethic (see FA the Unsaid), but not all of us employed it. It was merely the goal to strive for.
I never was very good on Eldo sandstone. Weird stuff, slippery and at times deceptive.
It was kind of funny years later in '76 when Jim was in the valley with Art working on Half Dome, and he finally showed a crack in his ethical wall and decided to preplace a pro bolt.
He went casting about C4 to secure the needed hardware, saw me, and said, "Ron, I know YOU'LL have a bolt!"
Sure enough, if that 1/4" Rawl buttonhead with a leeper hanger is still up there, it came from my kit.
As far as I am concerned, having to put a pin in a crack (and hoping it would stay there) while hanging on a hold, and then start nailing was much trickier than placing a nut. It was a pain. Thank the heavens for nuts/chocks.
Hey Jeff, I never climbed in Eldo, but the ethic of ground-up, all free, all clean, pretty much single try ascents was also the goal in Yosemite at about the same time. I don't know how often it was achieved in practice--most of the time, I would guess. We included bolting in our definition of all clean on face routes. Did you guys?
The all free, all clean (with bolts) ethic stuck. But yo-yoing became more common--with lowering to the last good rest and pulling the ropes. I think 'Separate Reality' a mind blowing route at the time, was done that way. (Mike, comments?)
Then Ray started 'working' his routes, wiring them, and then returning to do a 'ground up' ascent. I was reporting for Mountain at the time (Mid-1970s) and asked Kauk and Bachar about Ray's routes. When they reported that they were 'desperate,' Ken and I decided to report them as straight up ascents. The modern world had arrived.
I was actually responsible for the removal of the chockstone in the Baby offwidth - accidentally.
Had a hand on it, leaning back to scope out how far it was to the ledge, and whatever way I stretched, it dislodged the chockstone, which popped out, crushed my pinky, and went to the ground, landing next to my rather surprised belayer.
Contrary to what many believe, I came up with the ball and grooved wedge design originally. I have written about this before, but it looks like a good time to throw it out there again.
I was living in Flagstaff, starting A5 and helping in the Wired Bliss shop from time to time, and worked on prototypes of my design in Steve's shop. I shared the idea with him, he took the split-ball idea and ran with it, and he even later patented the concepts of the three-part design which I favored. At the time, it was quite a burn. I got signed letters from witnesses who worked there who knew it was my idea, in case I ever wanted to take it to court, but I never did that.
Here's some of my original drawings:
The first two sketches predate Steve working on the design. He started making prototypes of the two-part design in late 1987 and early 1988.
The three-part Monkey Paw is a stellar design, I only made about 20 prototypes and a dozen or so finished models (in three sizes), most of which were strength tested to failure (they were full cable strength). I never went into production after the Wired Bliss burn, but now there are no patents protecting the idea, and it would be a great open-source project for a good machinist. I have detailed plans if anyone is interested. Working out the best angle of the groove was the key, discovered only after the many rounds of prototypes.
edit; not to be confusing, it was a prototype soloist.
The instructions for threading were written in marker on the unfinished aluminum. I used it on the FA of Iron Messiah and as the climb progressed my sweaty hands rubbed out these critical instructions.
I now believe that I free soloed several pitches with rope drag, thinking I was belaying myself...
Curiously, when I returned the device with a report of the climb he then published a significantly erroneous and disparaging version in R&I and then became quite reticent on the subject.
It is significant enough to bring up in THIS thread because my climb used only 5 nut placements for aid.
Hey deuce, it's really cool to see you interested in the whole open source idea now after those earlier days of patents and friends stealing your designs. Maybe you should write a book called "Steal This Book...and the Machine Designs in it.
"We are simply doomed to be unable to appreciate the skill and boldness of climbers on who's shoulders we stand, and more's the pity. "
Ron, I have to agree with Cracko on this one. Any climber today can still rack up a set of nuts, a set of hexs, and go hit any of the hard classics that were put up passive at any of the big climbing areas. They'll still have the advantage of lighter pro and ropes. But you never hear of any such reenactments though. But then again, I personally don't particularly fancy the idea of stacking stoppers and hexs in pegmatite gashes again for old times sake either.
People are often quick to comment on how the standards have moved on, but there is definitely an impedance mismatch when they ignore what was accomplished on passive pro alone.
Ron, yep, you can't recreate the X pucker, but a kid getting on it sans cams would probably come close to making up the difference given they are so used to having them at their disposal.
Not sure what you're talking about with Malcolm. I've been after him for some time to redesign the current generation of ball nuts to restore some of the many nuanced features of the Lowe-Byrne and previous generations, but it sounds like it's just too damn much hassle for such a minimal return. Might be different if more folks bought them. Hard to imagine anyone would rather use one of those 'microcams' when they could be using a ball nut.
Taking inspiration from others and marketing it as your own is a technique that some (well, at least one) of the well-known big wall equipment manufacturers amongst us have employed. The aggrieved wears a gray hat.
I didn't now that history between you and Steve. Sorry to hear it and sorry for any pain that my part in it caused. I remember talking to you and the Bird over some scotch one night in SLC and you mentioned the Monkey-Paw idea. We had already proto'ed a double-sided BallNut (think inside-out monkey-paw) that will stick in a 35 degree flare. I still carry that thing on my rack on occasion. I'll toss up a photo if I can find the damn thing. Like a lot of super-tricky aid stuff, it's tricky, unpredictable and x-rated only. But the damn thing works in some amazing places. Jello, I think I might have placed it on the first pitch of New Music. Is your memory any better than mine?
healyje, the thing that's weird about the "secondary equilibrium" is that I've never had it happen in the field. I can make it happen easily in my fingers but once the unit is set, it seems to stay pretty well. Go figure.
It's a Rais Bando. http://www.rais.com It's covered with slabs of soapstone to hold the heat. I fired it up three hours ago with some kindling and 3 stick of wood. It's still throwing off lots of heat. I love it. No surprise but it wasn't cheap...
Some ball nuts that Jeff was rolling around somewhere and then Middendorf got into the fray along with Piton, and then some guy Mal got cold and fired up his stove and then Werner as usual did his thread drift off somewhere and only god knows why ....... etc etc.
Man you'all have ranged nicely on this here thread so far.
...And no arguments even; I guess cuz no body said the word Bolt very loud. I certainly ain't gonnah sour the milk.
So, we grew up on the cusp of the clean climbing revolution:
I recall having arguments with my buddy, AKDog, not about the implementation of nuts on free climbs at that point, but as to their application towards an accepted challenge to supplant all hard nailing. I said no way that was happening at that time.
I also drove a couple pins on free routes, (really, just a couple) where I thought nuts were dum 'n dangerous. Then AKDog would go around later and take 'em out.
Our first 5.9's were on nuts and it seemed fine at the time, cams as they came out didn't warrant immediate grasp, or so it seemed, until 5.10/11 became a goal.
Yabo said that 5.11 on nuts was often a life or death proposition and not at all routine. Nevertheless we saw a bit of it done, like Augie Kline walking up Insomnia at Suicide; the crack is tight hands and overhung, but he could cruise it. Yabo bemoaned Kauk's strategy of sending him up on Tales of Power, with a single #5 hex, just to get it up high enough before Yab would wig out and lower off, having pushed the pro a bit higher for Ron.
Chapman said, and I still do it with cams, that on 5.11 he'd place two good nuts, then just gas it through the hard stuff. Never, ever, he said, allowing himself to get pumped, well, in plan anyhow.
One day at Taquitz while heading for Open Book, a fine 5.9, still on nuts, I got off route onto Zig Zag, a 5.10. Things didn't feel right so I down climbed to where I could get lowered off, which worked great until I weighted the improperly tied rope and after the knot released I bounced about 30 feet down along a ramp into a bush, just before another hefty drop.
Now that wasn't the fault of any nut. Well you know what I mean. Later that day Larry and I sat by the car, somewhat dejected and he sullenly grabbed his piton hammer and pounded one of his aluminum bongs deep into the dirt, until it vanished from sight.
Historical note: Up-thread Steve Grossman mentioned the original machine nuts that were adopted for climbing protection. The story goes that it was British climbers walking up to Clogywyn D’ur Arddu (Cloggy) in North Wales who first picked up machine nuts taken from the railroad tracks that go to the summit and began using them for climbing.
Here is one of the nuts that I picked up from the tracks when we climbed at Cloggy in 1977.
Hey Ricky, big fan of your routes and still plan on telling the tales.
To follow up on that cool archival nut, sometime later those bold fellows started Clogwyn and got to work. The photo below shows several variations on the theme of runner nuts that were carried over the shoulder. The I-beams are Troll Parba nuts and the wedge nuts are Clog, and the three oddballs are Dolt TRUnuts which were the first anodized pieces of gear if I recall. Not long after this stuff came out, steel cable began to figure prominently in nut design.
Neat to see that history, Rick. In about 1966 or so, Robbins wrote an article in Summit about a trip he took to England. He talked about what you described. I was immediately taken with the idea, so made a complete rack of slung machine nuts, from tiny ones with holes just big enough for parachute cord, to 3" clunkers. Of course, you had to drill the threads out so they wouldn't cut the slings. I also tapered the sides with a grinder on some of them, to make them work better. Below is a route on Mt Ogden that Bruce Roghaar and I did (it was a first ascent, as well) in 1967 or '68, with these machine nuts only, about 8 pitches (and some scrambling) from 5.6 to 5.8. I think it was the earliest route in the US of any length to be climbed in this style.
Steve, thanks for posting those pics. The transition from pitons to nuts only took 5 or 6 years, but there were a number of designs that were introduced during that period that did not survive the test of time, such as those in your photo. Pretty quickly it settled down to stoppers and hexes, and variations on those themes.
Can't wait to see your other historical stuff. I never hung on to any of mine.
For several years now I have been in communication with Stephane Pennequin in Corsica. Stephane has been working with just about everyone in the world involved with nuts to build a very substantial museum. His web site where you can also read some of his writings:
What fun this is! It's a (very) snowy afternoon in Vancouver, so what better than a stroll down memory lane?
I started climbing in the early 70s, when a typical Squamish route was mixed - part aid, part free, some nuts, some pins. Given our techniques and equipment, we learned well albeit slowly about placing gear, all the while feeling a bit guilty because we weren't really "clean" climbing. The first nuts we had were the Clog wedges and the Peck crackers - the former design has stood the test of time, the latter hasn't. The first Chouinard stoppers and hexcentrics (symmetrical hexes) appeared here in 1973, which was quite a relief. Finally something that worked.
If I remember rightly, the hexcentric was the first version, followed by the drilled lighter hexcentric (1976?), then the eccentric (1979?). The latter had thinner solid walls, but was asymmetrical and so more versatile, and is pretty much the same as what is available today. (There may have been a thin-walled version of the original hexcentric in there somewhere.) The original stoppers came in seven sizes, but an eighth was soon added, then half sizes.
Looking back, I think one of the reasons that nuts caught on so quickly, apart from leadership within our community about reducing environmental impacts (the famous AAJ article, Doug Robinson and the Chouinard catalog), was that they generally are easier to use than pitons, and fairly intuitive. Perhaps not quite as reliable as pins, and rarely omni-directional, but when you're hanging on by one arm, they're definitely easier to use. Plus you didn't have to carry a hammer, once most things had been done clean.
In my sometime role as a climbing teacher (certified climbing instructor, in Norway), I've often found it made sense to limit novices to use of passive protection to start. It helps learn them to really pay attention to what the rock offers - sometimes I even get them to go aid climbing just using nuts, perhaps with a slack top rope. Placing lots of gear, and having to immediately depend on it, is a good teaching aid.
Jello-Wow, you were a very early adopter of clean climbing technology. I always thought of nuts coming into first use in the US in the early 70’s with the Robinson article and the Chouinard catalog, but now I realize it was much earlier. I can still recall a line from one of those articles where the author hoped for the day when he would no longer hear the sound of hammers and pitons ringing at the crags, “only the joyous yodeling of cragsman climbing clean.” Or something like that.
Steve- thanks. You have a great collection there, I only recognize a couple of them.
Anders- Fun stuff indeed.
Jstan-Thanks for pointing out the nut museum site. Ranks right up there with the Key Museum at the Bald Pate Inn in Estes Park, Colorado and the Bottle Cap museum in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico (I made up only one of these). Seriously, though, if it were a little closer, I would get an annual membership!I find this stuff fascinating.
Largo-You should tell the little-known story of how you and Richard H. invented the curved stopper (the “Banana Nut”) in Richard’s basement. When Chouinard came out with curved stoppers in the early 80s, Wild Country sued Chouinard for patent infringement. Chouinard’s lawyers came out to Denver to record my deposition .The purpose was this: if Chouinard could show that the curved nut was already in use before Wild Country patented it, the patent would be defeated, what patent lawyers refer to as “prior art.” It was a bizarre experience to have three or four lawyers and a court reporter surrounding me in a conference room, with the lead counsel for Chouinard asking me with deadly earnestness if I could remember particular placements of the “Banana Nut” on particular climbs. I did have a vivid memory of being very skeptical about the usefulness of the nut, until I first slotted it on a route down at the Gran Trono Blanco in Mexico, so I withstood the cross-examination well!
Along with John and others, I've also been working with Stephane and his Nut Museum in Corsica for the past several years. My work has mainly consisted of funneling pieces of interest from ebay and helping him track down folks of interest in the U.S. Stephane really tries to research every piece, get the patents, contact the inventor, and try to get the story on each. He's also been working on a permanent home for the collection.
While I have no interest in personally collecting this stuff, I'm am very concerned that as much of it as possible survives along with the history behind it. What Stephane has accomplished to-date is really remarkable; doubly so given he and his family have very modest resources in general.
Any contributions of older pieces and / or prototypes would be welcome additions to the Nut Museum. I believe he'd also like to get ahold of Ron Kirk, David Oldridge, Don Best, and Bill Antel if anyone knows where they are or how to get ahold of them. Anyone that would like to contribute can contact John or myself for Stephane's email. Thanks all...
Here are some more goodies from the Way Back Machine. I'll post a few more later.
As soon as wired swaging entered the game, Clog produced several designs. The three stopper shapes worked well. The Truncated Cone Nut with its garbage can shape could be the worst ever. The nut on the right is the largest Peck Cracker. Unfortunately, I sold my horribly useless set of Clog wired hexes including the treasured tiny brass hex which was one of the best tools in the early arsenal. Surely, someone out there has some of these old Clog nuts for show and tell.
Pictured here are the two smallest wired Peck Crackers, an unslung medium and a blue anodized CMI No. 610 tiny wired hex. The biners which were mostly available include the original SMC oval, the infamous Eiger oval (available in several anodized colors), and the massive Clog.
Forrest Mountaineering contributed several successful shapes using single strand swage and loop design encased in a cast aluminum or plastic shell. The three available sizes of Foxhead nuts are shown including the large size in plastic. Forrest was the first to market the now familiar Copperheads in regular and aid lengths. It was a great idea that surely earned him a lot of money until the local yacht supply figured into the equation. One useful offshoot is the Forrest Arrowhead (on right) which was a Copperhead formed into a stopper shape in one aspect.
Ricky, Chouinard hexes came out in 1971, stoppers in 1972, and Forrest put his nuts out later still. Prior to that it was lean times and I think all the avaiable gear has been mentioned to date with the exception of Moac products.
The call to clean climbing arms that you are trying to place is probably Royal's "Save South Crack." During the same time period, if I'm not mistaken, with the aforementioned equipment, Royal and Liz did the first ascent, hammerless, of the Nutcracker, on Manure Pile Buttress in the Valley. They did this ascent in order to personally make a point about what was possible with this gear in its infancy and a little enterprising pluck. Tragically, all of the piton scarring visible on that route happened needlessly after their brave and notable ascent. Everybody out there, when you do this route, try to put yourselves back in that era. Pretty exciting stuff!
Once Chouinard and Frost entered the picture, the entire protection situation improved dramatically. The 1972 Chouinard Equipment catalog was the catalyst to a much needed low impact ethic.
If you Google Chouinard Equipment Company, you'll find Ken Sauls' posting of the entire contents. A much needed and valuable resource. Thanks much, Ken.
Reading threads like this and seeing old phots with historical anectdotes is what makes Supertopo such an amazing place. Though I wasn't climbing back in those days, I am so glad I am around now, to enjoy this incredible wealth of stuff.
I still have three of the smallest Clog Crackers (A3, A5, and A7)—on their way to Ken. They are in new condition, since they were essentially worthless. I have never seen the tapered barrel shaped nuts. The few stopper shaped wired nuts I had worked well--I may still have two.
In the earlier photo you showed the tapered blocks with the single hole. Aside from the difficulty in placing it--with the sling going into the crack, it worked pretty well. The only one I remember having, I drove as a mashie to protect the face climbing above the roof on 'Hoodwink,' in July of 1972. It wasn't good enough for me, and we returned with a drill.
I had heard that there were pin scars on 'Nutcracker.' That seems incredible to me, since it was very protectable with nuts--even the crappy ones Royal used. Maybe it just tells the story of what happens when only a small proportion out of a very large number of climbers use pins. John's (jstan) efforts in the Gunks were very presentient.
I still have the two smallest Peck Crackers as pictured on my rack. There are several classic climbs where they are still the "secret piece" that reduce a frightening lead with marginal pro to the mundane.
Ron, I guided 'Nutcracker' frequently in the early 70s, and I don't remember pin scars. Everone knew it was for nuts only. But even if only a small proportion of climbers pounded pins, the scaring would occur on such a popular route. Maybe someone else has better information, my memory is not always reliable.
Concerning the Nutcracker, done in May 1967, to quote Roper and the Book of Green (1971), "This route is considered to be one of the finest short climbs in Yosemite. The first ascent party used only nuts for protection; subsequent use of pitons has destroyed many of the cracks and flakes making both nut and piton placement much harder."
As were many other people at the time, Roper was a bit equivocal about the whole nut thing. Elsewhere in the Green Book, he writes:
"Granite cracks can hardly be thought of as fragile, and yet on some popular routes it looks like a jackhammer has been employed. Chrome-moly pitons are responsible, as is the American habit of removing all pitons. This habit came about by the belief that each party should find a route in its natural state. This is hardly applicable now. Using nuts solves some of the problems, but perhaps pitons made of soft iron (so that climbers will not be tempted to remove them) should be left in place, as in the Alps. In places where fixed pitons aren't practical due to already ruined cracks, bolts will have to be used. The solution, whatever it may be, is sure not to please everyone. At present, the ruined crack problem exists on only a few score routes."
Back then, a few score was a significant percentage of the established climbs.
Perhaps someone who has gone up Nutcracker more than I, or is more atuned to pin-scarring might chime in here, but, I don't remember seeing too much scarring on the route.
These days people use mostly cams on it... I doubt that many nuts get placed.
I did see TM Herbert complaining about a partner he had picked up at the base of Manure Pile. TM was hefting a rack of hexes and stoppers "look at this thing, it's older than I am, why couldn't this guy get some modern gear, this stuff is junk..."
Speaking of which, anyone seen TM around lately or have news of him? Usually I run into him in Tuolumne Meadows in the summer, or in the Valley on occassion, but I haven't seen him in about a year and a half...
Here's a photomontage of TM soloing p3 (and above) of After Six
TM's wearing the hat... his chalk bag looks much worse than mine!
A footnote to Jello's account of a late-sixties all nut ascent on Mt. Ogden.
I too remember Robbin's summit article, which I think was entitled "Nuts to You." Either through that article or through personal communication, I don't remember which, a number of us obtained the address of Joe Brown's equipment shop. You sent him $15, and back came what was at the time a "complete set" of nuts, complete with precut webbing.
I remember mostly aluminum wedges like the ones in the upper left-hand corner of Steve Grossman's photos. The size range would nowadays be that of medium stoppers. The webbing was sized so that the nuts were worn necklace-style. Although this made for a nice sling length, I found that carrying a wad of nuts around your neck, as apparently most of the British climbers of the day did, to be a scary proposition. If any of them caught on anything during a fall, you'd be garroted. Moreover, every time you leaned forward, the necklace wad swung forward to obstruct your view of your feet. Trying to do any slab climbing with this rig was a real challenge.
The immediate reaction of most Gunks climbers to the nuts were that they were nice but would never work in the horizontal cracks that characterized the rock here. So it was with lots of trepidation that Dave Craft and I, armed with my Joe Brown protection necklace foot-obscurer, set out to try Double Crack, which was, in the late sixties, still thought to be reasonably stiff at 5.9 (although now downgraded to 5.8 and the victim of a much more stringent concept of stiffness). It was, we reasoned, fractured enough to provide the kind of vertical features we thought necessary for nut use, and this turned out to be the case---our ascent, also in the late sixties, may have been the first all-nut ascent of a "difficult" route in the East.
The Joe Brown set was not, in fact, reasonable for the majority of Gunks routes, and it wasn't until Chouinard's wired stoppers, and Stannard's careful, scientific field investigation of their fall-holding potential, that the possibility of heading up hard new routes without pins emerged. It turned out that the rock had many features that would take good stoppers, features we had never noticed because they weren't good piton placements. This was a major change of perspective, truly an opening of blind eyes, and probably more of a revelation than Western climbers experienced, because in granite it was more a question of using nuts in the same features pins had been placed in.
Roger, when I first climbed Nutcracker in 1973 I was surprised
by the piton scars on the 3rd pitch, the one that ends under the roof. On more recent views, and having seen things like Serenity
Crack, I'd have to say the scars on Nutcracker are just about
negligible. They don't create jams, they dont destroy them.
Thanks for the info, Steve. I only remember not remembering any pin scars--not the same thing as remembering that there weren't any. It is too bad that there are any, given the climb and Royal's intent. Folks who objected to all natural protection should have done what Pratt did: climb a new route close by and mock the name Royal gave to his new route.
Hey Jello, here's another gem from the road to better gear. An original Lowe cam. With a heavy cast lobe, promising looking, but potentially a real headache in the making due to its tendency to pop out sideways off the back of the stem.
A very early Lowe Alpine Systems ad and the much improved double cam on the right. Vintage 1974.
That was the year I landed in Southern Illinois on my return from Vietnam. There was a second generation of cavers-turned-climbers there who had started in Gill's wake and got our third generation started. From their ethics in caving they were rabid followers of LNT and lept on the clean manifesto and climbing with nuts. We knew nothing else under their brief and spartan tutelage. For us, the whole idea of pounding a pin or drilling a bolt seemed both completely foreign and deeply sacrilegious at the same time.
And given the routes were beautiful sandstone puzzles we didn't use chalk so as not to give away the fun or ruin the appearance of the sandstone colors. In the end we went to some pretty extreme lengths to avoid altering the rock in anyway. I remember we did lots of nut and hex stacking but it all seemed completely matter-of-fact and business-as-usual at the time. We also had no exposure to the outside world until we started to hitchhike to Eldo about 18 months later - that was a real eye-opener. But the clean ethics seemed the same there at the time and we felt completely instep in that respect if not with the breathtaking scale of the place which took us some getting used to. Not sure we could have even dealt with the Valley then as we were pretty blown away by the scale of Eldo as it was...
You do any caving in southern Indiana? I was there for a little bit in 59. Can't remember any of the names but they were something else. Remember walking forever along one gravel based streambed in a graceful passage whose dimensions seemed not to change at all. Like a boulevard. Colored reflections of light coming off the formations on the walls. The sumps were exciting but only because at the time I thought I was immortal. Smarter now.
No way - those guys are completely nuts. There are some massive caves in the whole So.Ill./So. Ind./S.E. Mo. area and those guys repeatedly tried to enlist me to bolt up a water fall or go down some rabbit hole somewhere. One time I got to the scene in time to find them getting ready to lower down a tiny, moss-covered hole that a busy, foot-and-half-wide stream simply disappeared into at about a sixty degree angle. It was so tight the guy had a 10 minute pony bottle between his legs and a chest harness rigged like a parachute with the ropes coming off the top of the shoulders so they could pull him out with a truck. I mean this was an frigging FD (first descent) or whatever they call it in that world; shimmy down some hole you might get stuck in and have it fill up with water because you're the plug - not on your f#cking life!!!!
My primary take on caving? There is no way that, in absolute desperation, you can attempt to fall out of a cave. Not for me kimosabe. Probably explains a lot about Pete not free climbing that he likes and is good at caving. Hey, Pete! Is that how you do walls - you just pretend you're getting back out as opposed to up once you get started?
It is all in the technology. Not a problem. In one of those plugged hole situations you just breathe through a length of garden hose running down between your legs. Got all the air you need. As long as you don't drop into a lake. Need the truck though. A 100' foot long column of water is pretty heavy.
Lois has agreed to go caving this weekend. What's with you?
Nice Pikes Peak posting Jello. Is that a Moac nut next to the #8 Stopper down low on the classic rack?
Hey Rich, great Gunks posting. Any chance of an image of the Joe Brown nuts?
I've climbed at the Gunks enough to realize that of all the early protection, hexes with their camming action in the horizontal placements, were probably the biggest help until RPs came along. One aspect of the Gunks that really makes it special is the no new fixed anchor policy put in place by the governing bodies long ago which has left the entire area relatively pristine. Lines of bolts and chalk marks on every edge is just not something that you're going to run into. Since you were involved with a lot of route development, perhaps this is a source of sour grapes. Hugh Herr was right when he told me that I would "Love the Gunks."
He has been building a nut museum for many years. The continental makers of original nut designs have been filling in the blank spots in his collection.
Even prior to the availability of camming units we got excellent protection in the Gunks. The hydraulic unit I built to carry up on the cliff to test actual placements plus test data from throwing off Army duffle bags filled with shale said straight away nuts were for real.
There were relatively few places where using artificial protection would have helped me. And it was obviously only a matter of time before a climber who could do those problems as they really were would come along. They deserved to find their routes waiting for them. We all felt that way. Leave some room for the kids.
They might be in my attic somewhere...but for now they are as good as gone.
"I've climbed at the Gunks enough to realize that of all the early protection, hexes with their camming action in the horizontal placements, were probably the biggest help until RPs came along."
From my perspective, wired stoppers were the major advance, especially in medium and small sizes. Once our eyes adjusted, it turned out that a large number of "keyhole" placements were (and are) possible in Gunks horizontal cracks, and of course there were the forearm-killing opposed horizontal rigs. (Those "keyhole" placements, by the way, are among the strongest and most stable nut placements there are. I would, and still do, take a keyholed stopper in a horizontal over a cam any day.)
Stannard came up with the idea of threading two consecutive sized stoppers on cord and then bending the top one over the bottom one to create a placement that expanded under tension, and made camming nuts that were a precursor of tricams. But camming hexes? I don't think they had a significant impact---the camming range is so small that an absolutely perfect fit (and a uniform crack) is required.
"One aspect of the Gunks that really makes it special is the no new fixed anchor policy put in place by the governing bodies long ago which has left the entire area relatively pristine."
The "governing bodies" were the Preserve leaders, Dan Smiley in particular, and they had the both the insight and faith in human decency to seek, in open climbers meetings, the opinion of the climbing community about fixed anchors and bolts. The fact that climbers had a major role in determining the future of their area is, I think, unprecedented, and may turn out to be one of the unique examples of cooperation, at the policy-making level, in the climbing world. (The activities of the Eldorado Climbers Coalition are the only other comparable example I know of.)
I might add that, for better or worse, (and I think worse) the willingness to open up climbing policy decisions to the climbing community at large, at least in the inclusive way of Dan Smiley, is no longer a feature of Preserve management Even so, the Preserve-climber relationship remains a world-wide model for cooperation.
"Lines of bolts and chalk marks on every edge is just not something that you're going to run into."
Well, the Preserve has installed some bolts in order to cut down on ratty nests of rappel slings, and by and large I think it was a mistake. As for chalk, there is quite a bit on popular routes. It doesn't show as badly as it does, say, in Eldorado, but there is enough to constitute an eyesore, especially on the boulders that border the carriage road.
"Since you were involved with a lot of route development, perhaps this is a source of sour grapes."
History will record that my role in Gunks climbing was very minor. My few efforts were almost immediately and resoundingly eclipsed by the achievements of Stannard, Barber, Bragg, and Wunsch, whose impeccable style left no room for any emotion other than admiration.
Since that golden age of trad, sport climbing has infused the climbing game with entirely new paradigms. Such developments are inevitable, and I think traditionalists who are unable to appreciate the fantastic achievements in these new arenas probably need some more Geritol and Viagra. On the other hand, as more and more sport crags proliferate, the determination to keep the Gunks, located as they are in the midst of an enormous population concentration, as a traditional area looks more and more like a stroke of genius. You do not necessarily have to go to remote back-country regions to get at least a little taste of adventure climbing.
The one thing about modern trends that saddens me is the apparent absence of the formerly widespread sentiment, expressed recently in this thread by John Stannard, that there are things that ought to be left for the next generation, rather than being technologically reduced to abilities (no matter how high) of the current generation.
I too hate to see people getting greedy and ahead of themselves in the new route arena. The spirit of fair play and sportsmanship that seemed to dominate Gunks history is something to be proud of. The lines sat patiently until the right puzzler came along and bagged them. Keyhole nuts are the best in my book too. Frost Sentinel nuts at the moment.
I built the Go Vertical climbing gym in Stamford, CT years ago. I had a really fun time climbing in the Gunks placing small hexes in the abundant horizontal cracks. Then there are the RP's that kept Hugh Herr on Broadway for years. Once the ground is out of play all of the roofs and air is amazing. Can't wait to climb back east again.
You don't often get a chance to correct Richard in an error. Here I have a chance to correct two. I did not originate the stacked stopper idea. A climber in Washington DC, I am embarassed to admit I forget who, showed that to me. It has amazing power to adapt to two plane surfaces at arbitrary angle to each other simply by rotating one of the stoppers in its plane. To make it all work the runner has to be smaller than the largest runner you can put through the smaller of the two stoppers. The runner makes its turn at the top of the smaller stopper. Once set by jerking the sling at all angles in the plane of the placement the unit resists forces from all directions. It is quite unique in this regard and mimics the property of a piton. Use of these units as single stoppers is almost never impeded by the presence of the other stopper.
The three combinations I settled on:
#5 and #6 on 6?mm perlon
#6 and #7 on 7?mm perlon
#6 and #9?( 17/16" max width) on 1/2" tubular
Richard believes he had minor impact on route development. Not true. He was primarily interested in bouldering in an area where there were few others of a like mind at the time. I went on his boulder tours with him not because I thought I would be able to thrash up them somehow. I went for two reasons. By watching him I learned where lay the limit on what the human can do. When I later saw a possible line his was the metric I used to decide whether the possibility was real. My second reason was his running commentary. Humorous, interesting and always informative. I believe the other guys learned from him similarly. If I would try to come up with an image to summarize this I would go to The Wizard of Oz. Richard was the guy behind the curtain who actually made it all happen.
"But camming hexes? I don't think they had a significant impact---the camming range is so small that an absolutely perfect fit (and a uniform crack) is required."
Hmmm, yeah, counting just on Hex camming was often sketch - mainly because they'd rattle out if you even tweaked the sling as you went by. But we stacked Hexs like mad in every conceivable configuration, though. With other Hexs and in combination with stoppers and Titons. We'd do end-to-end Hex/Titon stacks and I've even stacked hexs end-to-end, with a smaller one just fitting inside a larger one up against the sling/perlon and then just clipping the larger one so the sling/perlon the little one is up against is tensioned (and this occassionally worked despite what your thinking...). We had pockets in SoIll that you could put as big a hex as would fit through the entrance and then an appropriate key stopper in along side it to keep the hex from coming back out (clipping just the hex). I went back and forth on the multiple stoppers on a single strand thing because it really limited your other combo options even if it was way more secure as a single unit.
"One aspect of the Gunks that really makes it special is the no new fixed anchor policy put in place by the governing bodies long ago which has left the entire area relatively pristine."
"On the other hand, as more and more sport crags proliferate, the determination to keep the Gunks, located as they are in the midst of an enormous population concentration, as a traditional area looks more and more like a stroke of genius. You do not necessarily have to go to remote back-country regions to get at least a little taste of adventure climbing. "
I wholeheartedly agree and if I were a lawyer I'd go further and be working to try to have selected crags designated as "trad preserve" set-asides that are protected in perpetuity even if that meant sacrificing potential mixed and bolted trad lines.
I'd like to interupt this thread to report that it does indeed take balls to use nuts.
Photos will be available later, but today Jello went up on Touchstone for the thirtieth anniversary. Despite debilitation resulting from his MS Jeff took the sharp end on the second pitch, had some trouble at the start, took a fall when his third nut blew, but swarmed back up the pitch and completed it.
Here's another piece with some history. Mike Layton retrieved this original Ablakov cam on the second ascent of the Soviet route on the North Face of Inspiration, in the Cascades. Ablakov et. al. did it with Alex Bertulis back in 1977. As Mike pointed out he was 4 months old when this piece was placed.
edit: Looking at the picture, I remembered there was some dispute involving tri-cams, but this is not intended as any sort of poke at Jeff, just another photo of old gear.
"Such developments are inevitable, and I think traditionalists who are unable to appreciate the fantastic achievements in these new arenas probably need some more Geritol and Viagra."
I started climbing doing steep TR's because we wouldn't bolt. We put up some .12's at the time and some would say at least one .13a back in '76 ( as many other folks elsewhere ) so you might say I started out a sport climber way before it was fashionable. In fact, on steep overhangs and roofs I have far more admiration for deep water soloists and folks on TR's than I do sport climbers. There's no dogging on really steep terrain when bouldering, deep water soloing, or on a long TR - you have to think or fly.
That 'no dogging' mantra more than anything defines what climbing is all about for me whether on lead, TR, roped or free solo. I personally don't think bolts were the big defining sea change in climbing - the wide-spread adoption of dogging was. It's not the bolts that define sport climbing - it's the dogging. I started climbing in a place with no cracks and no face climbing - every route was a puzzle of pockets and ribs by definition - just seeing lines was a challenge. 'Thinking about and figuring lines out on the fly' was what has always interested me about climbing. The whole idea of knowing anything upfront or dogging to [statically] 'de-puzzle' a route blows the whole concept and point of the game I like to play.
And I've always considered dogging up routes just 'aerial bouldering' - you're bringing the ground up with you to every bolt you dog on and you're just doing a vertical series of boulder problems - a big yawn at best. I like flying through the air having had my fingers ripped off the rock just as I thought I had a move figured out. I personally have always considered dogging as a tactic a complete affront to the soul of what steep stone really has to offer when operating with no possibility of just hanging in space and figuring it out as you go.
Oh, I understand what has been gained from dogging just fine - I simply have no interest in that approach and lament the amount of pristine stone that gets churned each year to keep sport climbers entertained. It really is a sustainability issue as far as I'm concerned. And to be honest, we're fast hitting the wall of our design limits of difficulty where a route has to be projected in some form or another regardless of whether it is bolted, pre-protected, cleaned, and spradded after being headpointed or otherwise rehearsed to death. My bottom line is difficulty for difficulty's sake alone is beyond boring. I've done and do difficult things, but that difficulty is a completely random consideration way, way behind a line just grabbing me because there is something so damn 'peculiar' or otherwise intriguing about it.
And yeah, yeah, I've heard all the '5.10 is as hard as it will get' quips. But if you check with a bunch of us old dads I don't think any of the smart ones ever thought we were doing more than scratching the surface in terms of pure difficulty - I know I didn't. And just like no one is going to be running a two minute mile or swimming 10 knots we are approaching the limits of difficulty in somewhat the same way we see in those other sports - victories by 10ths and 100ths of a second. Exploring such finite realms for their own sake holds no real interest for me at all. So, did I think it was great Tommy and Beth freed the Nose a couple of times after projecting it for a month? You bet, but it also gave me all the more appreciation and respect for Lynn and Brooke's accomplishments in retrospect.
In a nutshell, my gripe with sport climbing is the crowds, the cost in rock, that it's usually more about the 'developer' and his 'service' than folks being utterly inspired, obssesed, and maximizing the FA experience every line offers. That, and the fact that the whole point of it is essentially the complete opposite of everything I find interesting about climbing. I'll sport climb and go to the gym to try and stay in shape when there is no other option, but that's really where my interest ends.
And the demographics suck too. Back in the day a Henry Barber emerged from from a relatively small pool of basically competent climbers allowing for a sort of a 'ratio of competence'. Say Henry emerged from a background ratio of 1:2000 basically competent climbers - well, today a Tommy probably emerges from more like a 1:200,000 ratio of folks most of whom have never placed a piece of gear and who, as a collecive whole has a relatively low competence ratio. So, again, great things emerge from today's scene, but at a high price paid when you factor in the cost in stone and access to entertain such a large 'pool' of risk-averse climbers.
But hey, I was considered to have a pretty odd and extreme take on it all back in the day (I fought against chalk, too) and it's only gotten more misanthropic since, but it still all works for me and I'm too damn old to change now...
My quote notwithstanding, I think Healyje makes very telling points. While not backing off my statement of admiration of the positive advances in sport climbing, there is no question that it has brought with it unfortunate trends.
It is trad climbing that has suffered. I've seen a lot of changes in my near fifty years of climbing, from soft iron to chrome-molly to nuts to cams and sticky rubber, but nothing I've seen compares to the the effects of dogging on the nature of traditional climbs. The near-universal acceptance of dogging techniques, however appropriate they are to sport climbing, has infected trad climbing, eliminating in many cases the "problem-solving on the fly" aspect and degrading the "mini-wilderness" content---the advancing into unknown territory---that used to be central but is now increasingly peripheral.
I'm reminded of Stannard's paradigm-shifting (ground up, of course) attempts on Foops in the late sixties, in which he fell from the lip time and again because he was missing a hold not quite in the line of a very pressured sight. Years went by until Henry Barber made the second ascent, after a winter of training in his basement on a "Foops machine," an extremely primitive precursor of the climbing wall.
The modern trad-dogger would sort all this out on the first try. Climbs like this used to have an aura about them, a seriousness, that has been completely destroyed. The sense of dread, the need for preparation, the feeling of a big undertaking, all are gone. (And so perhaps the people who value such things are a vanishing breed.) You hang on the pro, get totally rested, figure out what to do next, and then string everything together on the redpoint. The route is thereby reduced to little more than the difficulty of its moves (which is the point in sport climbing, which has pushed that difficulty to fantastic new levels). The psychic baggage of the route is gone. I think everyone loses from this; many trad climbs on crags have become so much "smaller" than they used to be.
I am well aware that an older generation has voiced laments like this almost from the beginnings of crag climbing in Victorian England. It isn't out of a sense of sour grapes (I coulda done this or that if I had allowed myself such practices) that I find myself echoing the same themes. Just as I value the preservation of our crags in as natural a state as possible, I value the kinds of experiences I feel priviledged to have enjoyed, and I'm saddened that these are increasingly unavailable to subsequent generations. In many cases, such experiences are nearly unattainable now in the places I used to frequent, because even if a climber decides, on a personal level, to deny themselves the benefits that dogging confers, they must do so in an environment that neither supports nor understands their efforts. The psychic baggage I referred to has a significant communal component that cannot be recovered by an individual on what now seems more and more like an idiosyncratic a personal journey.
On the other hand, it is important to recognize that the increases in sheer ability brought on by sport climbing means that there is there will be climbers who are far better at the trad climbing game, performed in its traditional way, then the older generation ever was. This too has always been true; the climbers who profit from the "transgressions" the previous generation perceives go on to surpass their elders at their own game too.
Absolutely agree with you RGold. I can remember climbing entire seasons in Yosemite without ever hanging on protection or falling. That's just the way things were done back in the day. I suspect that the reason us old guys could and would run out things is that we almost never hung on to gear for rest and developed the good lead head that goes with this type of attitude.
not to worry. Jeff just left here 20 minutes ago. He's not the least concerned of him (or more importantly Greg) not getting credit for innovation.
Abalokov was a very creative guy. That's a cool looking early tricam. The ones that Greg let me try in '75 were also a bit different than todays units but all three types operate in the same manner.
"help, the sky is falling! The fun, camraderi (sic) and adventure are all gone. "
I don't believe I said that. If anything it looks like there's certainly a lot of comraderi going on as when I do venture into a sport crag it's clear [sport] climbing and bouldering are far more social activities than in years past. In fact it looks to be far more of a group than indiviual activity for most folks. One could almost get the impression folks don't just venture out on their own in ones and twos all that often any more.
But I'm certainly having a good time and climb at a fairly adventurous [trad] crag that has fewer climbers because it is trad. But the sky doesn't fall, more like its constantly rushing away all the time. But that's not to say there isn't constant access issues due to the very large numbers involved with climbing today. Laurel Knob is opening under stringent management, a private crag in TN just shut down, skytop and foops are closed, etc., etc. It's all in the sheer numbers and those raw numbers are wholly driven by gyms, sport climbing, and bolts.
Adventure isn't lost in climbing. I called bullshit on this and seeing some of these older climbers blaming "sport climbing" for the lost of it as a weak and a lazy red flag.
There are thousands of cliffs and millions of routes waiting to be done in ANY style.
Go do them.
Joe...you constant hammering of sport climbers and their lack of sack is getting fecking old. How many x-rated routes have you established?? I don't know of too many x-rated routes established by way of top-rope.
And just what makes you think just because you climb a certain way...that other others should do the same? Why is hanging on a piece of protection so bad?? If someone else hangs on it why do you think your better because you don't?
The sport has changed (and that's all it is) I enjoy all aspects of sport and will continue to do so. As to climber traffic...I am glad that people are outdoors and using these resoucres on OUR public lands. The impact of climbers is quite small compare to logging, mining, housing, population, pollution...etc
Go to place like Shelf Rd and see some positive impact that climbers have made. It a pretty well thought out area with beautiful camping, nice bathrooms and trails. The BLM has been quite active and has used input from climbers to make most of their decisions. On any given weekend you might see a hundred climbers enjoying this resource...what is so horrible about that??
If you don't think sport climbers have any sack...follow Chris Sharma, Tommy Caldwell, Ron Kauk or Hubers brothers around for a day.
Ron, do you really think the managers would stop at just preservation? Climbing and regulation should be avoided, like church and state. If you allowed someone (or some entity) to tell you what you can and cant do, where would it end? Shouldnt decisions be made by the local climbing community and ourselves each time we tie in?
"Adventure isn't lost in climbing. I called bullshit on this and seeing some of these older climbers blaming "sport climbing" for the lost of it as a weak and lazy red flag.
There are thousands of cliffs and millions of routes waiting to be done in ANY style."
True enough, Bob, but my geezerly point was not about an absolute loss of adventure so much as a significant dilution of it in popular cragging areas. You are saying there's plenty of adventure to be had by going to unclimbed crags, I am saying that the level of adventure that used to be available on already established routes has diminished, in some cases significantly.
"...just what makes you think just because you climb a certain way...that other others should do the same?"
I don't think you were addressing me here, but my response is that I don't think that at all. I think sport climbing is cool, I am absolutely positive that I would have devoted much of my energy to it if it existed when I was young and strong, and I have no particular illusions about the old folks being bolder back in the day than the young 'uns.
But, as I said before, I am sorry that techniques that make perfect sense in the sport arena have been transplanted to trad climbing. Moreover, that regret is not about sport climbing or sport climbers being "bad" in any sense, it is about the loss to generations to come of an experience I enjoyed.
"I enjoy all aspects of sport and will continue to do so. As to climber traffic...I am glad that people are outdoors and using these resoucres on OUR public lands."
I applaud your public-spiritedness, and I aspire, so far without much success, to be as sanquine as you seem to be. But the honest truth is that I hate the crowds and wish they would go away. I wish I didn't have to queue up for popular routes. I wish I didn't have to feel like I need to race other parties to the start of climbs. I wish people would stop dropping rocks, gear, and rappel ropes on my head. I wish top-ropers wouldn't leave their ropes on the first pitch and invite everyone who happens along to take a burn. I wish I didn't have to run the gauntlet of scores of snarling dogs abandoned at the base. I wish I could vaporize slow incompetent parties ahead of me. I wish I could screw up in peace without worrying about holding up parties behind me. I wish I didn't have to listen to idiotic conversations shouted at top volume. And that's just the beginning of the wish list. I understand that "climbing has changed," and, the wish list notwithstanding, I continue to enjoy what it has become. But still---none of this bothers you even a little?
Richard...adventure in the Gunks die many years ago.
Falling on fixed peice of gear (piton, bolt or nut) just didn't start 10 years ago. We just weren't smart enough to hang and figure the move out from that fixed piece. Just because you, joe or I have put our balls on the chopping block...doesn't mean others have too.
You climb in one of the populated areas in the country. Come visit me out hear in NM...climbers are few and the rocks are many. I'll take you to a desert tower or a weekday in the Black or we can go to Questa Dome or the Sandias and maybe...just maybe we will see a handful of other climbers.
I'm just over this sport climbing bashing. It's fun, it safe and you get to do a sh#t load of routes...how horrible! A lot of the routes have beautiful movement and it's quite exicting to excute the moves in a flowing manner!
Richard...the US population has increase by 100 million people since the late 60's...it only makes sense that the climbing population would grow too.
Hope all is well with you and the family and see you in NM this summer.
Each area and for that matter each group of people is different so it is hard to generalize. But it can be useful to look at basic trends, In the early 70’s I published a look at governmental recreation statistics along with census data. At the time it appeared US population would stabilize somewhere just above 200 million, so it seemed the growth in usage we were seeing would not continue indefinitely. As we all know we are now at 300 million and counting. Increasing population density in climbing areas would logically be expected to cause a Darwinian selection for those who also seek a group social environment in their climbing, almost by necessity. Indeed we were even then seeing substantial increases in the number of top roping events wherein ten or twelve people would spend half a day or more on the first pitch of a few selected climbs. This came before the rise of climbing gyms and one may ask if this desire to have climbing also be a group social experience may ultimately have been what made the gyms financially viable. However the chicken/egg question is answered, the fact remains the gyms are now acting to feed significant numbers of people into the outdoors who have a narrowly conditioned prior experience. Until the census data begins to stabilize we may expect everyone’s preferred form of climbing will in turn be swamped by the realities. In time, present day sport climbers will, in their own turn, complain that new people don’t seek what they sought and are impinging upon it. Economic trends of course will also play a role in determining what fraction of the increasing population can afford to spend a day climbing. How this will play out can only be guessed at, but right now it at least appears the economy is going to become a larger factor than it is at present. In summary, during times of rapid change those who like what they presently have, will not be entirely happy. However the flip side of that coin is, if we do not now find a way to civilize this process, all shall fall under that same heel.
With population increasing everywhere the heavily traveled areas may be seen as only further advanced along the curve to be followed by all areas. The climbing environment changes directly as climbers cause it to change. It seems to this observer that only two features of the "old" climbing are escaping change.
1. the concept of a route
As I remember it, Whymper had to find a way to get up the Matterhorn before commercial guides in the area "did" it. There was great argument as to the best way and this then developed into the idea of a "route". Older and/or wiser heads should feel free to correct this observer. This idea, now 141 years old, is still applied to getting to the top of anything even when neighboring "routes" are sometimes only six inches away. If you arbitrarily try to make the route idea still make sense by insisting no two routes be closer than six feet apart, you see the concept makes very inefficient use of the square footage of rock we have available in many areas. Only based upon efficiency, we need to find an alternative to this quite outdated concept.
2. the quantification of difficulty
As has been well pointed out many times over the past 30 years, true difficulty varies greatly depending upon the practices and tools a person uses in their climbing. Sufficiently widely that a thinking person would merely have ceased to believe difficulty merits being quantified at all. Now if we continue to accord such status to difficulty while at the same time we exalt the social element in climbing, what may we infer? If it is a competitive social milieu then we should have races up two equivalent routes in all areas, not just at public competitions, and the winner’s chalk bag should be upended on their heads so they will be marked as winner for the day at least. Such would have the salutary effect of making victory the mixed experience beating your best friends must be. On the other hand suppose it is not a competitive but is a supportive experience. After ten successive people thrutch successfully or unsuccessfully on a climb, all receiving mad applause, what is one to do with that? Is it self -esteem we are seeking? If so, is this the most effective way to gain it?
Bob, I have to take issue with your comments above about hangdogging. It wasn't stupidity that made people climb boldly and in excellent style. It was pride born of tradition, pure and simple. Somewhere along the way, that got eclipsed by something else for you.
You know you're the climber you are because of your stupid past on all those stupid routes with your stupid pals hanging your stupid asses out in order to get up some stupid route only to go down and do something a little less stupid for awhile.
"If you toprope, fall, lower to the ground, and try again, you are still hangdogging.
If you lead, fall, lower to the ground, and try again, you are still hangdogging"
That's a reality distortion of fairly 'Rovian' proportions you've got going there. Neither of those comments is true and yes, Virgina, there are R and X rated top rope routes depending on how you view ground, trees, and cars approaching at high velocities from peculiar vectors both out and back again. One was so bad we simply dispensed with it and free soloed over a 15' high by 20'long row of leaves to put up a route called "Leaves of the Failing Faith". It finally went after twenty five flights protected solely by purple microdot back in the days before maxipads.
[ Note: will be out of commission until friday but do want to respond to a couple of these great and thoughtful posts. ]
Dang, Mimi! How do you REALLY feel about hang-doggers? In my earlier post, I didn't mean so much to denigrate sport climbing. Like Bob and most of the trad climbers on this forum, I sport climb fairly regularly because of the convenience... and it is pretty fun. But I always look at this stuff as practice for the real deal. I would have to say, however, that personally, the sport climbing mindset has detrimentally affected my trad leading. I seem to hang quite a bit more than I use to.
Mimi wrote: Bob, I have to take issue with your comments above about hangdogging. It wasn't stupidity that made people climb boldly and in excellent style. It was pride born of tradition, pure and simple. Somewhere along the way, that got eclipsed by something else for you.
Mimi...there nothing bold when you fall on a fixed piece 20 times and lower to the ground or a ledge 20 times. It called being ...stupid. LOL
What got "eclipsed" for me was fun. Plain and simple. Sport climbing is fun. Do you understand that?
Again...you just don't get it. Climb any fecking way you want...just don't think your way is better. Who is worse...a religious zealot, political zealot or a climbing zealot??
Mimi...and just who are you? I know most of the people on this thread. What is your full name??
Bob, I'm at least as old as the number of bolts you've drilled over the years. My name is on my email address. I've been on here long enough, figure it out.
Were you in Indian Creek at the Cottonwoods in 2003 around a fire with Jay Smith, Martin Boysen, Rab Carrington and others? You invited us to visit in Taos. Perhaps that was the tequila talking. I guess my invite is shot now. Damn.
I do get it regarding sport climbing. Of course sport climbing is fun. It's a de-stressed environment. It's only when you call old guard folk and old ways dumb, and pretend to be more highly evolved, that gets you into trouble. You're willing to croak that adventure climbing is dead in the Gunks and elsewhere so you seem to desire the role of harbinger/agitator. The main problem I have is the attitude exhibited, especially here on a thread devoted to clean climbing and boldness. Tsk tsk.
Eiger biners were known for gate failure because they were very flexible. You could stretch them with both hands until the pin contacted the gate. I thought that being named Eiger and all, that it was a good idea to not even lower off of these suckers. They did come in several pretty anodized colors and were a bit cheaper as I recall.
Well, since this thread was once following the history and development of nuts, maybe we can digress again. In 1971, Chouinard Equipment began selling the extruded Hexcentric nut. Initially, the extrusion was symetrical but it didn't take long to see that two sizes of placements were possible in an asymetrical shape. Tom Frost told me that the people doing the extruding were not happy with the sudden lopsided inspiration! Anyway, about two years later the modern Hexcentric shape replaced the original one. I used to carry a set of old and new Hexes because they overlapped slightly in size options.
The center one shown is the original symetrical shape. The newer Hexcentric also came in a larger size, the #11. Now the big Hex, slung on an over the shoulder length perlon sling had the heft of a medieval weapon and it wasn't long before the overkill in the extrusions became the focus of refinements in design.
Back then, the dealer was your friend and soon Chouinard made templates available to drill out your hexes and save weight. I thought that I had saved mine but no.
Rumors of extra wide (and heavy!) large hexes were abundant and soon the Tubechock was born. These spanned the 4 1/2" to 6" range and quickly replaced endwise Bongs on the wide mans rack. A small bite was removed from the top of the end taper to reduce tip rocking and one of the underside holes was enlarged to allow them to be racked upright. Whenever I climb wide cracks, I can still hear the tubular bells clanking! The bells, the bells, the bells of nostalgia!
Thanks Roger, the rug was bought in Turkey and is from Afghanistan before all the disruption there.
The tubechock fillet definitely happened on the second generation. Do you remember hearing a tale of a party on the right side of The Hourglass having several Tubechocks crimped and then spit out when the entire formation shifted slightly while they were on it?
Gogfather, those would be CMI I-beams by the blue color for sure. They never caught on for some reason. Must have been the lack of a pleasing tone......
I started leading just after Friends came out, and I didn't use them, because I was cheap, of course, and also because my simple monkey-mind trusts simple things more than complicated ones. I used hexes for a long time; I did the classic young, dumb lead up the overhanging parallel crack (Supercrack at Moore's Wall, NC) with mostly hexes, and when I started to belay my second and the rope went taut, most of the hexes fell right out. When Tricams came out I put the hexes in the closet and never touched them again, and Tricams are still the foundation of my rack.
Here's an excerpt from an old TR - May '94, Seneca Rocks, WV, that seems to fit this thread. It was and still is annoyingly crowded, but I still feel my own little adventure when I go there. Adventure is in our heads, after all - a personal thing. And in any case if I want solitude in climbing around here, in the swarming East, I just walk a few minutes farther into the bushes, off the trail.
...so I woke Gary from his nap and up the slope we trudged, to stare at the legions of the damned swarming around Westpole and environs. Finally I decided on Tomato, 5.8*, a two-pitch circus that became the comic masterpiece of the weekend. Esconced in the shade of a tiny tree, Gary rested, drank water and watched the shenanigans of a couple over on Pleasant Overhangs; the female, following the last pitch, was cursing a blue streak in French, hanging on the rope, sounding quite adorable.
The first pitch is a short, dramatic, overhanging flake, easy and well protected, looking a lot harder than it is. The last half, after the overhang, is easy but protected only by a sling loosely laid over a mild horn, after which one must chimney up a last move to the top of the flake, which looks at this point as if one could sit on the main cliff's edge and topple the whole thing with a good push with both legs. Gary followed with little difficulty, and I started up the second pitch, about 70 feet, with confidence, as it looked easy, with good jam cracks and plenty of features to work with. I noticed a helmeted girl above us at the Gunsight, waiting to follow the spectacular 5.3; there was some kind of procedural jam on the summit, and she had been waiting a good while, tied in. Tomato ends at a point about twenty feet up from the Gunsight, on the trade route; I figured she'd have climbed through by the time I got there, since I'm not the world's fastest leader by a fair margin.
About forty feet up it started getting steeper, sparser, more interesting, etc. I was depleting the fuel reserves hanging on the arms while putting in the pro, and I knew I was running a bit low when I got to the last crux. I came to a large flake on the main wall, forming a huge bucket with the crack down behind it, but the stance was overhanging, and footholds very scarce. My only decent option for pro was to stuff tricams blind down the crack, reaching high over my head and tugging to set them. I got a good #2, but I couldn't be sure just how good it was, not being able to see it, not having time and strength left to pull up and peer down in at it; so, foolishly, I tried and succeeded in setting a #5 farther out left, near the end of the flake, where, it occurred to me, greater leverage would have greater chance of snapping off the whole flake and dropping me ten more feet onto a medium-sized wire. Actual risk of such a break is quite low here, though; the rock is so very strong. Anyway, many modern rock climbers think nothing of these risks, nor mind such a fall one bit; in their clear-headed assessment, they might even deliberately fall, so as to avoid any dangerous awkwardness such as catching one's foot in a sling. I am still mired in a past century, saddled with the subconscious dictum: the leader must not fall! Or, to simplify still further: climbing: good! Falling: bad! I still allow my primitive fear free rein as a spur to a higher level of frenzy, but not to the extent of paralyzing my will, of course.
So all the while, as I put in the tricams, the girl at the belay, bored and nervous and stuck there, was talking to me, trying to get me to stop or retreat so as not to clog up her path to the summit. My mouth was now so dry I could barely speak at all, and nothing I said would convince her that it was not a problem. Distracted, I tugged on the #5 at an angle, thinking it might pull that way if I fell, and it popped out like a champagne cork and slugged me like brass knuckles just over the left eye. I put it back in and fiddled with it until it seemed well set, wiping the seeping blood away at intervals so that it wouldn't run into my eye. I started laughing, thinking that if it was a boxing match, the referee would have to stop it; but I knew I'd finish it out, then, especially since I saw that I could avoid the last few feet of thin crack by escaping left, with my feet on the famous flake.
At the belay, with an old piton and several good pieces, I couldn't convince the girl, now that her leader had called down to her to begin, that she could easily climb past me on the inside, the outside or any way she pleased. My tongue felt like an old sponge that's been forgotten under the kitchen sink for three years, and I felt like telling her she could climb up my ass and down my dick, but instead I was patient and kind, in between trying to get Gary to follow and trying to figure how to clean the pitch if he didn't without rapping on the one ancient piton. Finally I took apart my belay, went inside her rope and scrambled up the route 25 feet to a huge ledge, and she began climbing, and got past me at last. I downclimbed to the belay, wasted lots of time going over the to Gunsight and back with some cockeyed scheme in my head, and finally rapped on my anchors and the piton, cleaned the pitch, pulled the rope, walked back to the Gunsight on ledges to the north, soloed to the anchor to recover the pro, downclimbed to the Gunsight, walked back down to Gary, rapped to the packs, and fell into a dream, as the song goes; gradually getting more tired and dreamy as we packed up and drifted downhill in the golden afternoon light. A long sentence, but it was a long day; at the bridge we turned, as per irresistible tradition, to look at the salmon-colored cliffs. At the parking lot we were surprised that the time was past eight o'clock; I told the story of my bloody forehead to a fellow climber, who understood. This was pleasure, as I knew I'd have to tell some sort of story to a lot of people who really wouldn't understand just how it was, driving down Distraction Boulevard at a hundred miles an hour, at that overhung stance, in the powerful gold wash of the afternoon. How, in the end, the blood is nothing; the pain, the fear, the fatigue - they're nothing, inconsequential, weighed against the beauty, the burning beauty of the idea in the rock, as you wrestle it out and make it your own, a heavy vein of gold in the precious geology of existence. Overblown? Pompous twaddle, you say? Possibly so, seen from outside; but I was inside, experiencing my life immediately and directly. I have a small scar over my left eye, and memories more indelible than that.
Shipped my I-Beams and a set of drilled hexs off ebay to Stephane's Nut Museum this past year. The I-Beams never did much for me. In fact, I can't say I liked a single piece of pro that came out of CMI to be honest, but for a bit there the I-Beams were better than nothing - sort of.
Aw now, don't be too hard on CMI. They are dear to my heart for their pitons oddly enough! They used a stiffer steel than Chouinard and bent the opposite side of their blades so that you can keep the eye down on expanding features that face either direction. The several sizes of Cracktacks are indispensable for RURP sized placements too! I never saw a CMI catalog with all of their meticulously labeled pitons. Anybody got one? Their nut designs didn't thrill me either, so I never carried any of them.
If anybody ever runs into a rack of CMI pitons with "CC" stamped on them, please contact Charles Cole at Five-ten or me. His whole rack was stolen from the base of the NW Face of Half Dome while he was preparing to do The Queen Of Spades and a little payback is long overdue!
Hawkeye, I love a well designed piton right well and even enjoy placing them when it proves necessary. What I don't care for is scarring and crack degradation caused by excessive hammering where more challenging and sustainable options have been shown to exist. I once owned more than 200 pins and justified the accumulation by desiring to solo a first ascent on El Cap someday. I have the fistful of RURPS, the fan of knifeblades and all the other ironmongery to conquer whatever fantasy horrorshow crack that my fears can conjure up! The great irony is that I carried the pile of comforting little steel wedgies all the way up the Turning Point and ended up needing a rack of less than two dozen. The take home message for me; pin racks are a study in obsessive psychological cushioning and reassurance.
Most of my ascents on El Cap have been new routes. When you encounter cracks in their natural state, there are lots of possibilities that rapidly disappear once hammered force enters the picture. The difference between a beautiful RP placement that will challenge and delight every passerby for decades and another fixed trash c-head can so easily be one single lazy decision. I pound pins and place bolts but only as a last resort having exhausted the other options first. Still think that there's something fishy???????
Paul Sibley and Bill Roos produced a whole series of I-beam nuts in Eldo in the early 70's. They had a very good taper and worked better than hexes in many placements. I used 'em a lot in offwidths back then. Below is a picture of a never-reported climb that John Ruger and I did in 1974, the same year as Earl and Ed did Supercrack. This climb is called Sunglow Crack. It's 150', first half up to the little roof is entirely offwidth. Above that it's hands and fists and a little more offwidth. The offwidth was protected (sparsely) with those old I-beam nuts. The climb is 10+ or so. The area is near Bicknell, Utah. We did half-a-dozen cracks there, in the 10/11 range, often using the I-beams for protection.
Jeff, that was burly then and it would be interesting to see how many folks would head up it today with the same pro. I used my IBeams, but they were definitely not the sort of pro you wanted to accidentally bump in any way.
Jello: Paul Sibley and Bill Roos produced a whole series of I-beam nuts in Eldo in the early 70's. They had a very good taper and worked better than hexes in many placements. I used 'em a lot in offwidths back then.
Great to see these remembered. I had a set too, and climbed with them frequently until hexentrics came out. The smallest I-beam, about 1.75", looked unlikely but seemed to get the most use.
Shortly after their invention, Bill and I were belaying as Paul led the Turf Spreader. He placed a 3" I-beam and yelled down that it looked good. "Damn, they do work!" Bill called back.
I don't believe Steve's admiration of CMI pins in any way contradicts the points he has made previously. Without getting back into past debates, I only want to say that his words have been backed by action for many, many years. And not only on
wall routes. Go check out any Grossman route in southern Arizona, and you will conclude, without question, that his approach to climbing is extremely pure, and minimalist in the use of gear.
I know Steve doesn't need me to defend his viewpoints. Maybe I wanted to express my admiration for his approach to climbing back in the Ammon thread, and never got around to it.
Yeh, Healjye, you did have to step carefully past those suckers in wide cracks. Good practice for big Tri-cams a decade later, though! Actually, it was often possible to sort of cam those I-beams and set them with a jerk on the sling, so they were a bit more stable.
Well, Granny did open that little afterhours place, The Mirrored Balls Lounge, right next to The House Of Smoke. Come to think of it, that must have been the snake charm that worked so very well in chasing the sidewinders out of town a while back!
WBW, thanks for the support! A little clarity goes a long way in my book. Sounds like you've sampled some of my AZ efforts! Any favorites or tales? As my partners will attest, I carried the full rack up most of my routes and there usually is adequate protection if you are skilled and determined enough to hang in there and arrange it before moving on by. Tucson can be a very challenging area to visit and climb if you aren't solid in your protection abilities. But then there's always the bolt routes..........
Hey, check it out!! I’m finally learning how to “sack up”. LOL
I was actually thinking about SG when I took this pic up on the Zodiac a few months ago. It was SOO tempting to just clip the fixed piton (what’s it doing there, anyway?)…. But, I could hear this looming voice “Sack UP…. Sack UP…".
I was laughing wildly about it for hours, afterward. Sean and Timmy must have thought I lost the plot and had gone insane.
I would have clipped the pin when I heard it call my name, as I was flying up the line to try and cheat the latest time. But that little nut on my rack was screaming for equal time, while I told it has no balls and it will lose all our time.
That little nut just wouldn't shut up, so I placed him and left him behind.
It'll never be the same again. We've gone on to new balls.
R.I.P. rurps, pitons and bongs. You were a wonderful song ...........
Hey Steve Grossman! I know you will not remember me but I vaguely know you from the Syndicata Granitica days. I started climbing with Tim Coates, Larry's younger brother. I got dragged up some great climbs by Tim, when you're lame its pretty great to have a buddy thats a big stud! And for anyone who would question the ethics, well...I remember no toproping or chalk allowed at Paradise Forks and the Cwm. So I dont think there was too much hammering allowed. You needed a damn good reason back then! Micheal Smith
This is what I love about this sport, and this site!! I can pop off about my own experience concerning this thread, with far less credibility than most posters, return months later after reading recent posts and feeling my head swell in reaction to all this technical talk, pop off again, and then look forward to my next adventure in the vertical world knowing the only thing that really matters is answering to myself. Damit!!! It's All Good!! I Love you guys !!!!
Base 104, you're right, the old wooden wedges were non-harmfull to the rock. I used them on a route in City of Rocks in the 1960's, and they worked perfectly well. In this case I'd say if your balls are itching, it's better to scratch them with wood than steel. Less likely to cause permanent damage. Maybe this is the origin of the term "woody"?
Before Chouinard stocked 'em, right after Robbins' Summit article appeared, you sent $15 off to Joe Brown in Snowdonia, and back came a little box with approximately the collection pictured (nothing on wire though) with various bits of precut webbing for threading.
Soon after getting my supply, I think in the Spring of '68, I headed up, heart all a-twitter, with my little Joe Brown nut collection but without pitons or hammer, to do battle with the mighty Double Crack in the Gunks. (In 1968, it was quite a bit mightier than it is now.) I guess I was supposed to be feeling all those good vibes that come from clean climbing and natural protection, even though the terms had yet to be coined. But mostly, I was quaking to to find myself high on the cliff without any of the tools I knew and trusted to protect me from the consequences of a fall, fiddling with little wedgie thingies threaded with what looked more and more like gift-wrap ribbon as I got higher and higher.
I didn't fall, so none of those ribbons had a chance to snap. But the idea that you could do American climbs with just nuts became plausible, an idea that grew and prospered for a while, until cams changed the game yet again.
Thanks Rgold- the mystery of the Joe Brown selection is solved. No tiny brass hex, bummer. It really took balls to use those nuts!
Ray- nice post from Neptune's wall. Pay particular notice to the two examples of Grooveynuts (Gruvynuts?) just right of the pair of hooks. An integral axle design, the Grooveynut stopped just short of three-way brilliance by leaving one pair of planes untapered. Beautiful bit of design and milling work early on. The right hand one is the most refined, the left a prototype I think.
Larry DeAngelo is still climbing on that threaded Dolt stuff on the bottom of the board. He had about three/four pieces threaded on each of several 1" shoulder slings when I was out with him a just before the Sushifest...
While we are talking Dolt gear, this piton has been my trusty nut tool and crack scratcher as long as I can remember. Note the distinctive elongated eye shape. The blade tip is worn from excavating hundreds of tiny nut placements as small as they come!
After 1972, the well hung clean climber looked like this. Slung hexes, open wire stoppers and sit harness.
1975 was a banner year for clean climbing. Chouinard introduced the wired hex #1-#3 that greatly expanded their use. Previously, one had to sling the tiny nuggets with the daintiest of perlon inevitably battling the eraserhead at the bend. Once slung, the smallest hex could only be placed sideways effectively. The tiny shoe lace perlon was also less than inspiring. The cable and shrink tubing changed everything.
For those of you who are still cursing your wired hexes as useless, a few tricks to change your mind. Wired hexes have to be slightly modified before use.
The hex on the right is a #1 off the shelf. The hex on the left is a properly modified #2. The cable must be bent to allow the wide attitude (largest exposed faces) to dominate. The modified wired hex can then be slotted easily. The shrink tubing also allows the hex to be placed and removed in line with the rail.
While this cable slipping trick also works for stoppers, it turns a wired hex into a keyhole placement wonder. The compact size allows easier rotation once the hex has been maneuvered into the wider interior of the keyhole slot. Keyhole placements are perfect directionals and I always look to turn any wires when possible to enhance security.
The modern wired hexes (far right) have a more supple wire cable and unnecessary taper in the sideways orientation that makes the older ones more useful IMO. Try them, you will like them!
1975 also ushered in the Arsenal, the finest and most comprehensive selection of Stoppers ever made available #1 - #81/2, sixteen in all.
The half sizes were coveted items especially once they went out of production. I even remember JB going table to table in C4 trying to scrape up a 5 1/2 at one point, usually not his style even in need. The Arsenal greatly expanded the availability of reliable clean protection by allowing precision crack fitting.
From the great ebay vault, an intact and spotless Arsenal three decades later!
I can't wait to place these puppies! My ragged old set has been out of use since I switched to Frostworks Sentinel nuts for cable peace of mind!
A few other items showed up or saw further refinement in 75.
The clean climbing revolution was now in full gear!
I read an account of a Wind Rivers trip involving YC not long ago. As the author was preparing the backcountry rack, YC kept nixing the cams and other modernities ("we don't need those heavy things") until he distilled it down to the classic old school rack. The old gear adage that "some climbers need a little to do a lot while others need a lot to do little" rung true again with the old schoolmaster himself. Keep it simple!
I loved those old Chouinard stoppers. When you used them for aid climbing, they wouldn't get stuck, like the newer curved ones do. Still got my Willians...great freedom of movement, easy to take on and off with crampons on.
I must not have a life, to read this whole thread at 4 in the morning. I find much of this thread good but disagree with about 40 things said. Lots of inaccurate comments. I wish I had energy enough to go into detail. No matter. It's fun to read everyone's take on nuts, their history, and so forth.
The coming of nuts is often mistakenly attributed to Doug Robinson's great catalogue, you know, but long before that nice publication arrived, in fact nuts were brought to America in fall 1966 by Royal. He was the real champion, had been to England and was on his way to the Valley, with his scowling companion Don Whillans. Heading west from the Gunks, they looked me up in Colorado and wanted me to take them up a climb in Eldorado. I was already good friends with Robbins and of course had heard about Whillans. I assumed Whillans would probably mince-meat me or say something to reduce me to ashes, but to my surprise he and I hit it off amazingly well and remained good friends throughout his life. I think he may have recognized a kindred spirit, an equally individualistic outlaw more or less unfit for the mainstream world. We had some deep spiitual connection, no doubt. When he returned to England he made a special stop in Colorado to see me again and gave me a whole lot of old British coins. We reunited in England not too long before his passing. I loved that rascal genius. When I went to England and Wales with Charlie Fowler I tried to do all Whillans' classic routes (climbing everyday for two weeks I managed a handful of them).
Anyway, that day in Eldorado, after we climbed one of the most beautiful routes on this celestial planet, the vertical yellow-red six pitches of Ruper, mostly soloing (tied to our ropes)-- since neither Royal or Don needed protection at that level of difficulty. They had a few nuts, though, and Royal at belays would show them to me. He insisted we could start using them for everything. I took the two legends to Supremacy, thinking one or other of the masters would lead that overhanging hand crack. Neither really was in the mood and instead put me to the task, clipping some nuts onto me, as though I knew how to use them. I hammered in a trusty one-inch angle at a couple of appropriate places. That was really strenuous, hanging there by one arm, trying to find the piton dangling behind me on a sling, feeling for my hammer, trying to find a good fit for the piton, etc. Much harder than the climbing. Not long after, upon learning how well nuts work, I led that climb and many others much more easily than I could have with pitons. As a small aside, a few years later I watched Ed Webster lead Supremacy on sight (I was his belayer). It was amazing how he masterfully placed the old variety nuts two-to-four feet apart.
Royal's efforts were the real beginning, 1966, in my estimation, in terms of American nut use, although probably a few individuals from England living in America prior to that, or Americans who had visited England, were aware of nuts, I'm sure. It would be good to track down anyone who might have used nuts in the U.S., in any small way, prior of 1966.
Incidentally I really admire people interested in history. However we might disagree about certain details, we can honor as best we can those who went before. Thank you Jeff, Higgins, John Stannard, Roger Breedlove, Rick, Largo, Bachar, Werner, and all of you for your contributions in having excellent insights and in jangling my memories.
John, Pennequin is an interesting fellow. He has been trying for a long time to get me to contribute my "clapper" and other ancient artifacts. I think I said I was going to at least get photos to him, and now you remind me that I have completely let all that slip my mind amid the health meltdowns.
Regarding my haunt Eldorado. I was there and saw it all, from 1960 through the 1990s. A wild evolution. I would like to write a true history of it sometime, were I to muster the energy. Someone may have to dictate it, from my chair in a rest home.
I was in a bad place in my mind when hanging out with Erickson in the early 70s. Most people don't know I was well into plans to do the Naked Edge free, a few years before anyone else had thought about it, and I had the ability, but in that bad state of mind decided to give it to my friend Jim. I gave him the challenge, his eyes lit up, and he began then to embrace the idea. He started training and practicing. He used to go the Flagstaff Mountain and watch me boulder. In his best shape he couldn't step off the ground on any kind of hard boulder route, but put him up on a long forearm pumper and his brilliance came out. It was that Devil's Lake forearm pump experience. I liked his ethic for the most part, as he was trying to develop some kind of personal vision, and he lived by it for the most part. He was comically hypocrital at times, which took nothing away from my appreciation of him. Each of us is human, and I cited my friend at times for being more forgiving of his own behaviors than those of others. For example, he described my Vertigo route as done in "dubious style," when I rested with my hand on a carabiner a few moments on a 5.6 move near the top. No matter that it was among the first 5.11s in the country. But when Jim took a near ground fall, dropping some 60 feet off Black Walk, in somewhat uncontrolled eagerness to succeed, call it reckless if you want, though it happened only occasionally, he described that ascent as having been done "after one attempt." I told him I always had thought losing control and falling was the worst kind of style and not what one would call good style, if he were so interested in rating style. There were dozens of things such as that. In Yosemite he and I did a 5.11 hand crack down by the right side of the Cookie (can't seem to recall the name of the thing). He fell seconding and said, mildly irritated, "I could have done it with chalk." He had shunned chalk use but always brought it up when he ran into trouble. Finally he started using chalk a bit, as I recall. I don't know why I mention all this, other than because it's 4 in the morning, and I'm in a mood to ramble. Let me say Jim was great at spearheading nut use through the 1970s.
For humor's sake I'll end with an unrelated story about Erickson and me. We had gone to the Sink, in Boulder, a couple blocks from his tiny one-room apartment. This was before I became a tea totaler, but we were drinking a lot of beer. It was a rainy night, and at closing time as we wandered a crooked path out the door of the Sink a hippie in a blanket approached me and asked if we had a place he could stay the night out of the rain. Drunk, I freely offered Jim's room. "Sure, come on with us," I said. Jim looked at me with a curious stare. I don't think he was admiring my compassion. As we ambled toward Jim's upstairs apartment, the hippie said, "My friends could easily fit in with us and sleep on the floor." I retorted, "Sure bring em all." Jim looked at me with an even more curious stare. I don't think he was admiring my charity. We told them to enter and come upstairs one by one so that the apartment manager didn't see. Five minutes apart, some fifty people entered, creating a mass of stinking, farting, snoring, rain soaked humanity. I was already sort of cheating on Jim, more or less accidentally behind his back, with the love of his life, a beautiful music student, and so I was feeling guilty as we lay side by side, shoulder to shoulder, on his tiny bed. We didn't sleep much that night, with all the snoring and smells, and it fully dawned on us the next morning what we'd (I had) done.
Perhaps we must put the elegant, clean activity of placing nuts in rock in context with the madness of those times.
I don't think anyone disputes Royal's position as the original standard bearer for the clean climbing movement. His early Summit articles "Nuts to You" and "Save South Crack" in the late sixties and his clean first ascent of The Nutcracker with Liz in 1967 firmly established his leadership by word and example for all to consider.
Beyond that bit of attribution, clarify away Oli. History is perspective above all and more akin to fencing than a joust. I would love it if this thread ends up as a reasonably accurate portrayal of the evoloution of clean climbing from many angles. Pardon the pun.
Good thing for all of us that the nut ball got rolling back when when climbers were few in number and the piton scarring not very widespread. It helped enormously that well designed nuts were far easier to place on the lead than pins once you mastered their use. The gear was absolutely crucial to making sure that the style wave kept moving forward as difficulty standards advanced. Most of the barriers were psychological at this crucial period. Hard to face the unknown with unproven tools but they soon established their worth.
A couple of classic shots of RR and Liz from Pat's collection. Royal on Ruper and RR twirling the future on his finger and looking stud for his gal, a personal favorite!
Edit: From Climb Godfrey and Chelton 1977
"John, Pennequin is an interesting fellow. He has been trying for a long time to get me to contribute my "clapper" and other ancient artifacts. I think I said I was going to at least get photos to him, and now you remind me that I have completely let all that slip my mind amid the health meltdowns."
Pat, by all means please do follow through with Stephane if you can. Along with John and lots of other folks I funnel what I can to the Nut Museum as well (usually off ebay). In fact I just shipped one of these old rascals off to him - he's apparently been after one for decades...
products like the one above were produced during what some call the "dark ages" for the Diamond C, a creative and technical low point perhaps - some may disagree, of course. The Yosemite hammer had disappeared, ovals were old and the Bod had yet to appear.
Met Don Whillans at the Buxton (England) conference in 1981. Drank a few pints with him and the rest of the British alpine aristocracy (like a kingdom of maniaical penurious self-annointed blueblood colonialists), after which Don gave the keynote slide show. With ONE slide! It was a bad one at that, but with that totally forgettable picture up on the screen, the master understated stoyteller proceeded to keep the audience of tough bastards in hysterical bent-over paroxisms of laughter and mirth for an hour.
What an incredible treat for a quivering mass of Jello!
I haven't logged on here in quite a while...I see Mimi asked me where I saw the wooden wedges. On the Brown-Whillans route on the Blatiere in Chamonix. It was this offwidth that had varying ages of wooded wedges in it. They looked perfectly adequate for pro.
It was surprisingly hard for something done in the fifties. Most of it was booking and jiving along good rock, but that Fissure Brown offwidth pitch was pretty hard. Especially freeing around the wooden wedges, which made it hideous. On the no-pro parts of it, I think it was 5.10 or so.Hard to tell, Russ could have walked up it. I dunno how to rate offwidths. Too wide for handstacks...barely, anyway. For sure those dudes Brown and Whillans weren't wankers.
It was a great route, and I almost had my head removed by a falling rock for added spice, but pretty ho-hum fare for climbing in the mountains (the near-but-not-quite-fatal-falling-rock).
It seems like the French were bolting up the non-French classics there for a while in an unfortunate spate of Franco-centrism. Even the Dru....
From Between Heaven and Earth Gaston Rebuffat 1965 Pierre Tairraz photos
Even this lovely corner....now lost to massive rockfall.
From On Top of The World Showell Styles 1967
He crossed the sea to Chamonix
And to show what he could do,
He knocked three days off the record time
For the West Face of the Dru-
On the unclimbed face of the Blaitiere,
The crux had tumbled down-
But he cracked the crux by the crucial crack
Now known as the Fissure Brown.
From The Joe Brown Song by Tom Patey
Man, I just found a bunch of my Dads old gear I hadn't yet gotten into. Some incredibly perfect condition Hexcentrics and Stoppers, first or second generation Chouinard beners, Double set of wired Stoppers (all the way to size-Giant, a #7 or 8), wierd Shunt type things by Salewa, strange SMC nuts, a huge tube chock, and a bunch of different pins and bongs, really old ones. The stuff is classic, I was so excited when opened the box and discovered this stuff. And his old wall hammer too! It doesn't have a label but its a pretty nice little thing.
Pretty neat to see all of the adds in this thread, I love the reminders that alot of these pieces are far older than I, and it was top of the line. I realize how easy I have it climbing this day and age (not with hexes, non wired stoppers and Goldline). You older guys that have been doing it for years are animals. I have a lot of respect.
The next stop in the garage, Climbing Magazine collection! I know its stashed in the garage somewhere, sometimes being a pack rat can be so damn good! Thanks Dad!
In the meantime, how about a little old school air. The very bold Steve Wuncsh on 5.10 while trying to break through on the airy fourth pitch of Jules Verne.
Runout not too bad you say? Two #1 Stoppers.....bomber!
The larger challenge of free climbing a former aid route as you found it was embraced back in those days. See what's out there, try hard and then compromise as necessary. Long clean falls allow relaxation and focus on the moves. The essence of Eldo air!
Looking at the photos of Brown, Whillans and Patey I am moved to wonder. I go to Facelift and meet all the truly exceptional people who are willing to be dirty, sometimes pick up disgusting stuff, and be inconvenienced so that we may support each other and the things we all value. Doubtless Brown, Whillans, and Patey also did such things. And I ask, would not it have been better had Whillans taken better care of himself and Patey been a tad more conservative so that we might still have them?
I think we all moderate as time goes by but once vices become habits it gets tougher. I share your sentiments, John, having spent some time around our elder statesmen, of late. Lots to learn from these people beyond the stories.
Back to the hardware development.....I bought several pre-production RP's from Dr Josh Toefield in Tucson long ago. They are more radically tapered and include some aluminum versions.
RP's were the next big hardware leap when it came to nuts. The ability to protect shallow, incipient cracks and micro features revolutionized face climbing in Tucson and elsewhere. The same applied to clean aid. Not much of a constriction required to hold a #0 RP!
Some production RP's.
Roland Pauligk's brilliant innovation has repeatedly saved my biscuits! Many thanks to you Roland in the new year!!
I bought a set of RPs from Roland Pauligk in the Valley but I can't remember when. Early eighties.
He was living in the campsite across from us; his wife and toddler with him. The kid was hilarious - a total dirt baby. I think the kid lived on milk & dirt.
I sailed for fifty onto a #3 and #4 in a little crease high on the Central Scrutinizer. Fall Arrestor on one, Screamer on the other, I thought I was flying for one hundred and twenty right onto the station. If the mighty nuggets hadn't stayed put, I would have easily joined the Three Figures Club. LOL
I likely gave you the last one! You are one of the few still carrying the big nuggets in my crew.....
Just scored these factory drilled puppies on ebay for the upcoming YCA show. Missing the #8 but otherwise not a scratch!
The stamp location also moved to the top of the hex. After the extrusion shape was changed to the asymetrical configuration, that stock was used for many years until the walls were thinned considerably to get rid of the need for lightening holes.
Nut design caught everyone off guard. YC and TF barely had the first Hexes out on the market when the asymetrical design was suggested. The extrusion dies had to be re-made from scratch and nobody was any too happy about the wasted effort and expense.
From Summit December 1966, the Robbins article that essentially started off the clean climbing discussion in North America. Inspired to follow in the footsteps of Brown to see where things stood at the time.
"Largo-You should tell the little-known story of how you and Richard H. invented the curved stopper (the “Banana Nut”) in Richard’s basement. When Chouinard came out with curved stoppers in the early 80s, Wild Country sued Chouinard for patent infringement. Chouinard’s lawyers came out to Denver to record my deposition .The purpose was this: if Chouinard could show that the curved nut was already in use before Wild Country patented it, the patent would be defeated, what patent lawyers refer to as “prior art.”
My claim to technological fame is that Richard and I did actually invent the curved stopper, in Richard's proto-Hendrix Upland crib, retooling by hand four or five regular, straight Chouinard Stoppers with files of the flat and bastard variety. Richard and I had complained for a solid year that the straight Stoppers weren't working as advertised, usually just catching at two points, so with a lot of filing on several mid-range Stoppers - ruining two or three with worthless remodels - we came up with the design that exists today. Somebody saw what we had - the so-called "banana nut" (so-called for it's curve and the fact that we painted it bright yellow) was passed around Camp 4 for a whole season, and the rest is history.
Nothing at all extraordinary about that Foxhead, Stephane. They are all like that in design. The core head fits neatly into the casting and, in this case, has loosened up enough that it isn't staying put. Bill is probably going to be a bit baffled at your question.
My Dad and I made nuts in his shop back in the mid 70s. We copied the Gendarme Nuts but made them half-sizes of the Seneca originals. And also made some mini-Peckers by knurling stainless steel rod stock. We wired them and I climbed with them for a couple of years. Still have a couple in the collection.
Bruce, by 1972 we had pretty much switched to nuts as the best way to climb, with maybe a thin fixed piton where necessary. I remember Rob and I expected to find greater difficulty on the climb, but we both enjoyed the classic alpine cruise. I used to study Fred Becky's trip reports in the AAJ. Often there was an equal or sometimes even brighter gem exposed in the wake of his passing. The north rib, or Rob's Rib as I called it, was one of those gems.
As mentioned in Fred's description, the description in the 1973 AAJ said they used 5 pitons on the FA of the North Rib of Slesse. It's been 27 years and many miles of FAs in between, so a few details like this may fade.
The photo above only shows the last few pitches of the climb. Much better is the other photo in Fred's guide which shows the main part of the route, which parallels the NE Buttress.
Here's a nice aerial shot in winter by John Scurlock:
NE Buttress is the main sun/shadow line; NE Rib just to the right with lower part in sun.
More nuggets...Once the Hexentric came on the market, the next innovation for larger placements was the Clog Cog series. Thanks to a generous trade with Marty Karabin, I have a full set to show. Thanks for the three wires and the #8, Marty! The #8 still had the Made in England sticker! Mint!
These wired Cogs would have been a real pain to place efficiently!
The Slimline series was really a great design due to the shallow attitude of placement in the two camming modes. Gunks anchorite, Rich Romano, still carries his set of Wog-wogs!
The interesting difference between the Hexentric and the Cog designs is that the Cog was designed to fit into a parallel placement so the rails don't taper like the planes of a Hex.
Nice pics of the Clogs Steve. I still have a few on my rack. I especially like the Slimline series. I only have one and I have placed it many times. I still have most of a set of the regular Cogs. The big ones get a bit heavy.
The Clog Cogs hit the market in 1976 and had to be a serious British competitor for the Chouinard Hexentrics. In fact, unfortunately for Clog, they never became popular. The original sets consisted of the sizes 1 to 10. The sizes 1 to 5 were available either on wire or on rope; the sizes 6 to 10 were only available on rope. These five bigger sizes were too much heavy so, in a second generation (the ones on Steve's photos), these sizes were made shorter, with two holes on the top, and just one hole on the bottom. The early longer sizes are rare…
These ones were on eBay a few days ago. I have no idea who won them.
No Steve, unfortunately, nobody has ever showed me any prototypes of the Clog Cogs, either at the old Clog factory when I visited Denny Moorhouse in 1998 or at the DMM factory in 1996.
And it seems that it will not be an easy affair to complete the early longer set.
What was the purpose of Clog and Troll using Brass for their smaller hexes? Did they fear the aluminum being too soft that it would rip off of the wires in a big fall?
Joseph, no extra #4s sorry. I do have a Lowe/Byrne double ball nut like Malcolm shows earlier on this thread. It creates the same offset range of placement that the Middendorf Monkey Paw provided. I am surprised that the double ball was not distributed.
Very nice Bob Godfrey film about the evolution of nuts showing an ascent of Dinas Cromlech's Left Wall. part 1 part 2
The YouTube caption suggests the climbing was filmed in 1964 (The registration number in the second film dates the Mini to 1964 but what climber runs a new car?) although the film was made in 1976 and the narration and gear at the start and finish are clearly from the '70s.
Back in the early sixties Denny Moorhouse came to my old welsh farm in Clwt-y-Bont ( close to Llanberis) to ask if he could use one of the barns to use for a store and work shop.
He had just bought a mechanical hack saw, on Exhange and Mart, to start making climbing gear. He needed a place to start up in and store machinery
It was also at this time that he met Shirley Smith who was also to play a major role in the development of Glog climbing gear.
I had at the time a small A35 Austin Van which we used to bring this first piece of gear up to the farm( really only a small holding). He had also order some more equipement which again I used the van to bring it to Clwt-y-Bont. The wieught of this gear was so great the back of the van was nearly touching the floor.
Denny made his first Hex nut in the barn soon after , threaded at that time with rope.
He stay with us for some time and later aquired the old cinema in Deniolen where he started Glog climbing gear in ernest. I still have that original nut which served me well for many years finally being religated to the history box.
Dmm as it is now started from such small beginnings. Dennys contribution to clean climbing was enormous. As Dmm is to-day.
The decision to leave the hammers behind in the early seventies left clean climbers with a quandry...testing the abundant fixed pitons. One clever solution came from the Lowe-Camp crew. The weighted nut tool!
The two videos you give are priceless, taking me back to my own early 60s trip to the exact area filmed with partner Ivan Couch. I remember an old fellow with long beard and wool top to bottom (name buried in musty diary somewhere) saw us looking over the cliffs and said right off - NO PITONS. Well, we didn't have any. In fact we had no ropes or hardware, only climbing shoes of the day thinking we might boulder here and there on our trip through U.K and Europe, but we fell in love with the pass area pictured and wanted to climb something, somehow, in spite of the drizzle and gray. He had heard of Americans hanging on walls with pins and slings and said the limited cliffs would go to hell with piton scars, so, well, here if you must, and handed us a rack of the very machine nuts pictured and pointed us to several climbs (Brant's to start) then the big C Corner to the right of the face pictured and off we went. I was amazed how well the nuts worked and wrote about them in an early Summit article. Royal took note (as then editor of Summit) and it was not long before he made a U.K. tour and saw for himself the potential of nuts.
I don’t know exactly how all these experiences and other hardware and climbing info tid bits went back and forth between Brits and Americans in the mid and late 60’s (Brits made visits to Yosemite in that time). But it was not long before nut technology went from machine nuts to the real thing, and on from there.
I still don’t get the magic of misty black and gray walls half clouded, and damp shoe soles and warm brew at the end of a scary day, but all did grab me and I made several more climbing trips to land and sea cliffs there and treasure the memories. Thanks for the time warp links.
I didn't relay info on all the climbs we did in the Llanberis Pass and Snowdon area, but did reflect on the machine nut protection, grading system and climbing spirit. There's also a bit on meeting British climbers in Chamonix.
We called 'em Peckers.
Seemed appropriate since they never seemed to stay in long enough. Always slipped out when you leaned back to look up the route.
I've got 2 or 3 I picked up used in about '75. Don't know if I've used 'em since about '78.
And no, I'm not posting a pic of my peckers.
I still take two or three larger hexes on alpine routes. Very handy on broken ground, behind flakes, between boulders. Places cams don't work so well or take longer to set. Lighter than a cam of similar size, takes up less space in the pack.
LongAgoTom...I missed your post first time around, fascinating, thanks for this. As you suggest, there can't have been many active American climbers visiting the UK in the 60s. We forget how different climbing cultures evolved, like Galapagos finches, in the relative isolation of those times.
If you've not seen it already, I think you'll enjoy the film I've linked to here.
Please Steve, may I correct a little mistake.
The Bi-Caps were not marketed by Salewa but by Bergsport International. They were created by Stefan Engers. (Patent DE 35 26 402, 5 February 1987).
This company also marketed the other Stefan Engers’ creation, the Joker (Patent DE 35 17 741, 5 March 1987).
Double copies of the '72 catalog, plus singles of the '75, '78, '85, and '86 catalogs just fell into my lap and I'm just curious about a few things:
* What typeface was used for the item names?
* What spurred the change toward the steel nuts that show up in '85?
* Has anything been written about the craftsmen/women that are profiled in the '85 catalog (Ezquivel Machado, Sue Mulford, Julio Varela)
* Does anyone have a Chouinard Changabang poster that they'd be willing to part with?
The centre piece of the Llanberis Pass is Cenotaph Corner on Dinas Cromlech, climbed by Joe Brown.
Yes, but search as I might, no photos of the companion to Cemetery Gates is to be found on ST. There are some soso shots on the web, but there are photos in at least one of the ancient Mountain magazine numbers.
I'm jamming thru these posts and there are the Peck crackers...
The Mtn. Shop in YV in the critical years 1970-71 carried these. They sold like warm turds, they had cooties, I guess. I had a set, never ever had one pull out. But they were far less useful in Y-type climbs just because they were not designed primarily for smooth surfaces. Plus they were not as versatile as the gifts of the Magi, the Stoppers and Hescentrics, which replaced them on my rack.
I never had much use for the larger tubes, I-bars, and other wide stock that started showing up before the Friendly Revolution. Apparently
Jardine was like the second coming of Yvon, but his ethics ruined his gig for me
and so I never ever bought a Friend, and made sure my friends stayed stoned if it bothered them.
Seriously, this question should be asked, I feel, by honest leaders everywhere: "Does this supplier/mfr. deserve my support, or what?" I think it needs to be addressed. Ethics are not enforceable unless a man takes a stand and puts his money in the hands of those who are willing to forgo profit for the greater good.
In my case, I elected to ignore Friends like I ignored OW. I did enough of that wide shiteyshite so my knees aren't exactly ruined but well-thrashed. So I didn't really need the Friends. It seems like an empty gesture, I suppose, but I really hate the auto and ride a bike and support public transport and give the finger to every Hummer I see. So I am not hypocritical.
I wonder what the journal of that Pudding Stone would read like...
Healyje--I would like to see a Cams-free challenge, too. But it hasn't happened yet in the six years since you brought it up.
Two reasons, I think:
1) No balls, obviously.
2) It's probably just as useless as establishing a climbing route, in the long run.
To me, relying on cds, without having ever placed pro using non-cams, it's like using skins on skis w/o learning something about wax, which you can do, but there's something lost in the total experience. It is more satisfying to set that nut and know it's bomber after hours at it. On the other hand, sometimes we end up with a hole in our tongue and our teeth in chunks. It's the game we play. Never forget its a game.
Or that climbing IS and ALWAYS WILL BE DANGEROUS. Climb without me if you're bringing your little Friends, though. I accept cds as part of the modern rack, but nuts are light compared to iron. I am so goddam glad I was able to begin climbing in a time when pins were being eschewed in favor of cleaner things. It taught me a whole lot. When you just do it so it feels right, that makes climbing fun. People who chip holds should be sanctioned. Don't buy sh#t from them. Tell your pals.
Let me clarify that. 'rocksport'--a magazine circulating in the late 60s and early 70s, came regularly to the YV Mtn shop, but we were the only ones who read it. Camp 4 generally ignored things that cost money. Except Werner, but that's just a rumor.
Turn over any rock in the Valley there's probably a Wernerumor under it...
But the Brits' Mountaineering Council apparently had this under their charge, and there was another title, Mtn Life, which we may have seen, but don't have much recall. The thing about Rocksport, that mainly appealed? Photos and route lines.
There are few of these Mtn Life + Rocksports left available an the market, I think. At Abebooks, for example the one copy they have is "temporarily unavailable." WTF is up with that, I wonder? Someone take it home to read in the john? I certainly would. And did.
Thanks for the rock porn, Rick--I really mean it, buddy.
My favorite tale of several I've read of this meanie is the one of the attempt JB made where he had to down-climb it to help his second.
He bloody down-climbed it!
I gotta go change my drawers.....
Here's some stuff about some stuffed shirts from the Valley.
Two Nuts in Wales
Missing photo ID#213836
Randy Hamm and Gypsy in North Wales, shopping at Joe Brown's shop.
Of all the Flames, and all my other close climbing friends, Randy was the only one to live the fantasy of climbing in Wales/England, and I received lots of mail from traveling customers at TNF's Outlet, putting the cards on the wall by the register. Randy had either just done the Cenotaph Corner or was looking to do it. That and Dream of White Horses were my and Randy's lodestars back at TNF. I was sorry to see him leave the shop, but he and Gypsy were going abroad to climb--they were going to Blighty!
They sent Dolores and I a card, telling us little. I had one letter, a brief one--thanks, Gypsy--telling of the field in Chamonix, the climb they did together on the M. She sounded so 'at home' with the goings-on in Chamonix, like it was all just ordinary--it's tough when you gotta listen to the travelers' stories, especially when there is a great deal of envy involved.
A short bit of background is interesting, so--
Randy was a Southern Californian who ended up in the Marine Corps. He never talked surf, so I suppose he wasn't all that cool, eh? Like a good number of us vets, he came to YV after serving. Gypsy Flores came from Fresno, a bagel-baking beauty with whom Randy instantly took up. He was a talent-filled and imaginative artist, who could emulate like nobody's business. I had a , never mind, I gave it to a friend--describing good art is too big and difficult a thing here. Let's just say Skywalker Ranch was lucky to get him on staff.
Gypsy raised their son Ariel Sierra in Santa Cruz and he is thirty-five. There's a memorial tree in SC for Randy. I've no interest in going there. My memories are his memorial in my view. When you have literally caught a fellow in your lap after a fall, there is a closeness to be shared by nobody else. He fell fifteen or so feet on the second pitch of Tweedle Dee, landing where I sat on the pillar, perfectly willing to belay him. There was no pro so he landed square in my lap, my feet braced perfectly on the wall he'd fallen off. No heads bumped, no breath was lost. It was all "scripted," as it were. Harold Lloyd might have done it better, but it wasn't Harold, it was Randy.
Randy had every good reason to look so smug: good woman, in the Blighty, France next, and looking forward to going back to Camp 4. He and I decided that if one of us was to get to Wales, the Corner was the main objective. Besides, who needs Cemetery Gates? Right, Rick? Thanks again for that photo, it means lots to me, and I'm pretty sure he would want to be remembered this way.
Edit: There is another artistic talent lurking on this page, the irrepressible Throwpie of Berkeley. Sounds like a bakery for the Stooges.
Anyway, Randy might have taken your roach portrait and rendered it in pointillist style, rock and all. Emulation and animation were easy for him. That's talent. His ducks in wingtips (shoes)--that's imagination.
But I must credit Throwpie for creation of the AMAZING Ripstop Geese. Awesome dudes, both Flames, no Stonemasters need apply.
I am sorry Steve, two times sorry… There is not any Gendarme hex in the Nuts Museum and… I have never heard about these beautiful chocks… I thought that I knew all about the Gendarme Nuts. For sure the Nuts Story is a never ending quest…
Gendarme nuts likely came from the climbing store "The Gendarme" at Seneca Rocks, W.VA. I believe John Markwell had a series of hexes and stoppers made in the mid to late 70's. I think they were made from aircraft aliminum, but I don't think many were sold. Chouinard made stoppers that had a more approriate angle (not as steep) and when the Hexentrics came out with a design that allowed for better camming, John may have just let his line go. Though John retired a few years ago, I'm sure you can reach him through the Seneca Rocks Climbing School; he loves to talk.
Topper- thanks for weighing in about the Gendarme Nuts. Try to get the man himself to post on this thread as I would love to hear his story. Hard to compete with the Chouinard extrusions and more granite friendly Stopper taper but the drive to actually make and sell nuts was very rare and special.
I would really like to connect with John so that I can put together a complete set of Gendarme nuts for the Oakdale Climbers Festival 2014 where I would like to lay the evolution of nuts on display for all to appreciate as I did for the various piton makers this year. The history of when and why completes the nutstory as my Corsican friend like to say.
I'm not sure if I have seen this style of nut on these threads. It's a Metolius version of a Hexentric. It's still new and has the tag on it. On the ends, one end is concave and one is convex, like a stopper although it does not show in the photo well.
Big Mike- I am entirely kidding, of course. I savor the thrill in climbing and still enjoy the space in between. While one is young and unfettered, grabbing the tiger by the tail on sight is as good as it gets!
Looking back, I wouldn't trade the feeling of being a hungry and unstoppable force for anything. Pure Spirit...
Just for the heck of it today I cut a 5/8" Chouinard baby angle into a chock. It was easy to drill a hole on the spine of it but then I realized if I drill a side or both sides, it can be flipped and used to easily nest with small stopper type nuts or anything else - thinking primarily for aid, although I think everything would be stable enough for free pro, while clipping to whatever is nested with the baby angle. The hole was drilled in the spine at first because I envisioned not inserting the entire chock within a crack. 3rd pick shows the quick jig I rigged on a drill press to drill the pin. The other clamps are not connected with this task. Another baby angle volunteered!
I never got around to trying it but notching the rails on angle pitons to accommodate the single cable of a properly shaped copperhead wedged inside seems like a viable clean solution to piton holes. Even if you were nailing, being able to keep the load point tight to the rock surface would be easier than using any sort of tie-off loop especially on very overhanging rock.
I think I edited my post while you were writing about the tie-off point. I was thinking in terms of clean climbing in general - not so much piton holes. The green sling in that case would be used just to keep from dropping the pin, and of course the pin would be cabled and not just slung like in the photo. The green cord simply represents a cable. Can you explain what you mean by notching the rail and etc?
If you took a copperhead and bent the cable so that it would slot into the crook of the angle with the tip of the head pointed toward the tip of the piton.
If you drove this arrangement with a hammer into an existing piton hole, the rail of the angle would cut the cable unless it had a notch to prevent such damage while allowing the combination to be loaded as close to the rock surface as possible.
Visualize several 1/8" X 1/8" notches along both rails on an angle. With a good selection of pre-shaped heads I thought that a solid bump with the gloved wrist would be enough to snug the whole show in place.
Well, I understand and know various ways of eliminating leverage and can easily see the advantage of notched rails for this, but am not sure what you mean exactly. Got a photo without notches in the rails? Is the copperhead creating a wedging effect or is it just stopping at a notch in a rail? Even a notch in the tip of a piton could be very handy, without detracking from normal uses.
Big Mike- I am entirely kidding, of course. I savor the thrill in climbing and still enjoy the space in between. While one is young and unfettered, grabbing the tiger by the tail on sight is as good as it gets!
It was just funny you said that Steve, as I watched him try the crux move on that slab, multiple times before he finally committed. My palms were sweating as he scrambled up it and i breathed a heavy sigh of relief as he reached the anchor... That was just me watching!!! I can only imagine the elation/relief he felt when he reached the anchor!!
Since tri-cams supposedly work so well ( I have hardly used them but own a couple ) why has there not been more development in spring loaded cams with cams on only one side of the stem like the original Lowe cams. Is part of it the lack of range they would provide? I can think of ways to fix that possibly. The first Lowe cams were unstable but that can be fixed. Just wondering. Do we know any more about the period of time between the Lowe Cam and Jardine's Friends - the inbetween development? I recall some discussion somewhere but maybe you can rehash it for us Steve.
Maybe it takes balls to invent new nuts? They're out there.....I can feel it!
I have more ball nuts than tri cams. Ball nutz are cool. I don't seem to have the balls to use most of my nuts anymore though. At my age I'd be nuts to use all of my balls anyway. If this keeps up, somebody will be accused of plagiarism......but nuts to that!
One more very rare nut reached the Nuts Museum last year! This "nest of nuts" was made by Grivel in the seventies. I would like to express here again my gratitude to Denis Pivot and Gioachino Gobbi for adding this treasure to the collection.
They do have the look of a one off set except for the top, bottom and large faces are extruded surfaces. If somebody went to the trouble of having isosceles trapezoid extrusions made they surely made a number of them.
I am very sorry Banquo, but these nuts do not say anything to me. This time, I am sure that Maestro Grossman will be the man for a genuine expertise. They are not made by SMC.
Steve, I am not sure that the Grivel stacking nut was ever marketed, one more reason to make it so hard to find. The same week I received it from Denis Pivot, there was one sample on eBay.com. It was just incredible, as I had never seen such a nut on eBay before.
I too saw the Laprade Coinceurs Gigogne on eBay recently.