TM Herbert appreciation


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Wild Bill

Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 4, 2006 - 05:17pm PT
Ed Hartouni said, in the "Balls to Nuts" thread: "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"


So I am reminded of my formative encounter with TM and want to share it. I believe that, just like Todd Skinner, TM has touched the lives of many climbers.

It was fall of '87, I was a newbie climber with my own small rack - probably some nuts and a few cams. We went to Lover's Leap for some real multi-pitch climbing (I'd done very little) and maybe my first lead. Sitting around the fire early Saturday morning, and this "older" guy (read: over 40) comes over to warm his hands. My buddy whispers "That's TM Herbert, nice guy, Yosemite legend."

The converstion turns to the day's plans, and eventually I mention wanting to climb The Line. I was unaware the TM was a first ascensionist. So TM asks me if I want to climb The Line with him, right now. Well, that's like Pamela Anderson asking if you want to make out. I said yes, trying to stay cool, and off we went. But we were thwarted by some 'tards having an epic on the first pitch, so we bailed over to Haystack Crack, which TM also put up.

So he takes my rack, looks at it and chuckles, and I ask if that's going to be enough gear. "Oh yeah" he says and starts climbing. "Uh, TM, you on belay?" TM: "Yeah, just watch me." And he proceeds to solo the first pitch. So of course I'm in awe, but also have that newbie feeling that, man, that was just plain suicidal and wrong. I climb up and join him at first belay.

Now, around the fire that morning, I'd also mentioned I was there to hopefully do my first lead, I even had some 5.3 picked out already. So we're at the first belay and TM hands me the rack and tells me to go for it. My sphincter tightens, and I ask if that's a good idea. "Sure, you just climbed that last pitch, you can do this next one no problem." Encouraged by his confidence in me, I go for it, and of course had no problems (I think pitch 2 is 5.5 or something). So TM ended up prodding me to my fist lead.

Thanks TM for being generous with your time and spirit. Although now I see you just wanted me for my fresh little rack.


Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Dec 4, 2006 - 05:21pm PT
Cool story, but pitch 2 of Haystack the 5.8 crux roof. Maybe you meant the last (third) pitch. Whatever, cool story though.
Wild Bill

Topic Author's Reply - Dec 4, 2006 - 05:29pm PT
Yes, must have been the 3rd pitch. Thanks.

The Eye of the Snail
Dec 4, 2006 - 05:46pm PT
So my friend Rhino takes his girl up Great White Book. Tough Mother solos up behind in his kletter boots, and around.

"Holy!" Tough Mother exclaims. "How long is that rope?!"

Rhino says it's a 60 meter line.

"Sixty bleeping meters! What the--!"


Trad climber
Sierra foothills, CA
Dec 4, 2006 - 11:46pm PT
Around 98 I was in Tuolumne with a couple others. Time of year when T-storms were common, so we decide to do something that keeps us close to the ground. We end up on Quiet Desperation so we can TR the face climbs below us as it traverses the east end of SP dome.
So in the afternoon the boomers start going off right over our heads. I'm thinking there is no way I'm staying up here, it's a almost a full rope to the ground. So my partners decide to keep climbing and I rap one line.
I didn't know it at the time but TM and a couple other guys were watching us. Seeing me bail on one line, TM thinks we have only one rope and comes runnin up the talus with another. I met him at the bottom and he wants toknow if we need another rope. I explain I'm bailing the other two are climbing, but they have a second rope. "They're nuts", I said.
He didn't say a word, just looked at me, shook his head, and walked back to the road.
My partners lasted another three or four flashes and were down 15 minutes later.
That's my almost rescued by TM story.
Thanx TM ...

right here, right now
Dec 5, 2006 - 10:45am PT

Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Dec 5, 2006 - 11:18am PT
I have the ultimate, personal allreciation for TM.

I posted this story a while ago on a close call thread:

I talked TM Herbert into following me over to DAFF dome to try a new line between Crescent Crack and West Crack. It must have been 1976. We both guided and would sneak in climbing when we could. I had lots of free time when I was in the Meadows since I mostly guided private clients or worked for Robbins, but TM was there with Jan and boys, so he had less time for non-work climbing.

I traversed up and left out onto the steep face between West Crack and Crescent Crack, skated around on loose micro-chips, dinked in a bolt for protection, and got to the straight in cracks. Except for the chip skating, the pitch was pretty good.

The next pitch had to pass an overhanging bulge. There looked to be cracks that would go, up and around to the left.

But, it was the Meadows, the summers were endless, so we bailed.

The next year, we decided to go back with Kauk. TM took the first pitch and then belayed me up. We ended on the giant horizontal groove, about 160 up--not a ledge, but low enough angle so that you can sit or stand on the giant knobs. TM kept the belay, and Ron started up.

I un-roped and climbed round the corner to scope the next pitch. I returned and stood next to TM on one leg on a giant knob, chatting. I could banter with TM all day long. Trying to make each other laugh, telling tale tales, mixed with a deep friendship. The weather was beautiful in that special Tuolumne way.

Also we knew that we were up for holding the the rope for Ron and he could get us up the steep next pitch. We were in the zone, so to speak. Hey, come on, what are friends for? Life was good.

Mid sentence, the knob I was standing on broke off at its base, and I was in the air.

I lunged for the loop of TM's tie in.

Just as my fingers grabbed the rope at close to full extension, TM's hand slammed around my wrist like some kind of a sprung trap. And I stopped abruptly, arm elongated, legs flapping in the breeze, and white all over.

He had caught me with one hand.

I knew that TM had a black belt in karate, but I had never seen it. With his speed, strength, and accuracy, I was a not-dead-yet, humbled, and very thankful guy.
Ron was mid-pitch. When he got the belay, we rapped off. I never went back. Ron and TM did the climb later. I think they named it Black Bart.


East Coast US
Dec 5, 2006 - 04:11pm PT
I met him in 1989 while climbing with a YMS guide. Apparently he loves wrist locks, judging by the conversation that I was privy to.

I then met him again in May 1992 at the base of the Nose when he and his son were going to free climb up to Dolt Tower and rap off for a day climb. At the time, his son was a well publicized 5.13 climber. His son came up first, then TM. When he crested the top of that class 4 section I exclaimed rather loudly, "You're TM Herbert!" With that, it looked like he was going to tip backwards and go head over heels for 200 feet to the deck. Well he steadied himself and we talked about the Muir Wall, among other things. I recall him telling us that the Muir Wall was "weird up there" and "Yvon was was having a really difficult time." I didn't tell him that I read Chouinard's account of the ascent and he said TM was having a hard time up there :) All those guys are gods to me and I have a story that I almost iced TM at the base of the Nose with my over exuberance.

Cool cat.

Trad climber
San Luis Obispo, CA
Dec 5, 2006 - 06:20pm PT
Well, that's a bummer. It wasn't TM Herbert in my little story, based on the photos. I wonder who it was.

It's after work in Tuolumne and I'm on my customary jog out to one of the High Sierra trails, this time Cathedral Peak, when I come across a guy with a jaunty hat, grey hair, and glasses. He's got a mountaineer's coil going on and is coming back from the peak with a burly long-haired guide I didn't know. The man takes off his hat and basically does a "howdy ma'am," and I was like, "Whoever that was, that was awesome." I am pretty sure I giggled girlishly.

I kept hearing about TM Herbert doing weird stuff all over the meadows so I assumed it was him, but not.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Dec 5, 2006 - 06:53pm PT
Hey Mac, TM is a state of mind, with an infinite number of physical manifestations. Either that or its a hat style.

Tony Puppo

Dec 5, 2006 - 08:44pm PT
My wife and I pull into the parking below South Crack and start getting the gear ready. TM strolls over having just come down from yet another solo of South Crack. "Hi Tony and Nan how you guys doing today, what are you up to?" South Crack we say and with that he tells us to get our gear together quick 'cause he knows the folks in the next car down have the same route in mind. "You guys get your stuff and head out I'll distract those other folks." With TM slowing them down we had the route to ourselves.

TM loved to keep his strapping young lad Tom in his place. In the Owens he was quite fond of walking beneath whatever route Tom was on and with his comical look and manner yell so all could hear, "My baby, that's my baby up there, come down right now before you hurt yourself."

I saw Tom just last week, he said his Pop is doing well in Reno, pounding nails and taking care of the grandkids.

Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Dec 5, 2006 - 10:27pm PT
What a frightening story! Illustrates the advantage of venturing into the mountains with reliable and experienced partners. They can save your bacon when you least expect it.
To think that we have TM to thank for having Roger around here!
Thanks, TM.

Trad climber
Mountain View, CA
Dec 6, 2006 - 01:11am PT
May 1976 and my partner, Jeff, and I are at the Cookie heading up Outer Limits. It must be 95 degrees and were in the sun. We have never seen the climb and all we have is a single set of hexes and stoppers. To top it off, Jeff has decreed that we will use no chalk on the climb!

Jeff is about halfway up the first pitch when TM emerges from some bushes. He sees us up on the climb and remarks that we must be nuts to be trying to climb Outer Limits in such weather. When I inform him that we are not going to use chalk, he saunters off down to the road muttering. "no chalk", "no chalk."


Big Wall climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 6, 2006 - 01:35am PT
I think it was around summer of '76. I was only seventeen and had been bouldering and doing top ropes at Castle Rock for over a year. It was my first trip to Yosemite and I was alone, with my Pivetta Spiders and some chalk, moping around some Camp 4 boulders. These two old guys come up and are really friendly and start showing me some of the classics. They pretty much blew me away except on the mantles. I got an intro tour from who I later found out was TM Herbert and Bob Kamps. I still feel honored.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 6, 2006 - 07:59pm PT
it's good to hear TM's out and about in the world...

One of the first times I ran into him was at the base of Moby Dick where he was holding court with a number of climbers who had read the "Climbing Magazine" article on Yosemite Cracks... can't remember the edition...

"...Robbins used to solo Ahab and down climb Center..." which totally awed those in attendence, he was in high form that day.

Another time was on CPoF before the rap bolts went in to the east, with our rope stuck in the crack... Tommy was blasting up with TM, and they helped untangle our rope to the deeply stuck cam (of that day)... looking back into that crack is like seeing a climbing museum through a just cracked door... ropes, cams, nuts, everything is back there.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jan 3, 2007 - 02:00am PT
Decades ago, I was hanging out on the road below the Cookie waiting for Barb Eastman to eventually drive down from Foresta to pick me up and go climbing upriver. I had free soloed Anathema not long before and was about to go up and savor a peek at it when a group of three climbers came up the road and stopped next to me. I already knew Bev Johnson, immediately recognized the mystical Steve Wunsch and came at last to a distinguished fella in heavy corduroy knickers and a wide-brimmed hat. "T M Herbert," he said as he held out a strong hand, "where you headed?" "Anathema" I replied and T M launched into a mini-rave about what a great route it was as we all slowly gravitated that way. "Watch the poison oak,"I said and touched off a series of stories about rappel ropes gone bad and skin lesions out of T M.

I was in stitches by the time we roped up and I was leading the first pitch by lazy default. T M wanted the second pitch. A piece or two for show and I was at the ledge and belaying T M up. As I watched him power up the thin jamming, I noticed a small round object sticking out of his back pocket. By the time he drew near, it was clear that that gear was a beer! I had a good laugh and passed him the rack as he suggested that he lead the next pitch to keep the ledge uncrowded.

The hand jamming was more to T M's liking and he chugged right on up, bottle of beer and all, and disappeared over the lip. "Off belay," he yelled over the roar of the Merced and I heard a faint "psschist." "The pause that refreshes," I chuckled to myself,"belay off!"

I then had the pleasure of watching Steve Wunsch climb. Smooth and methodical on the thin stuff and a little more tentative on the wider bits. Bev climbed with her usual grace and power getting more comfortable the wider it got. I came up last after watching everybody else climb through. We all rappelled off sending the jolly T M first. "Watch the oak," I said as a joke and set him off again chattering on downward.

Once back on the road again, I stretched out in the sun and was treated to a spontaneous half stretch, half belly dance by a scantily clad Bev to top off a perfect afternoon. "Ain't this place grand," I thought to myself as Barb's VW Beetle pulled up.

Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jan 3, 2007 - 08:53am PT
Nice story, Steve. Picture perfect of the times, the folks, and Valley cragging.

Anyone hear from Wunsch these days?

Happy New Year, Roger

East Coast US
Jan 3, 2007 - 09:49am PT
Anyone hear from Wunsch these days?,%20STEVE&field=per&match=exact

Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jan 3, 2007 - 10:54am PT
Hey Gunkie, the most recent of any of those links was September of 2002. I haven't heard any thing more recent and Steve has no responded to any e-mails that I have sent.

East Coast US
Jan 3, 2007 - 11:07am PT
Hey Gunkie, the most recent of any of those links was September of 2002. I haven't heard any thing more recent and Steve has no responded to any e-mails that I have sent.

I didn't do anything deeper than a Google search. I did hear that he began climbing again, a few years ago. If you find anything let us know.
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