Royal Robbins (RIP)

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Messages 201 - 220 of total 280 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
WBraun

climber
Mar 16, 2017 - 10:45pm PT
solo of DNB in Tretorn sneakers

Holy cow !!!..... He was King ......
Dick Erb

climber
June Lake, CA
Mar 17, 2017 - 10:47am PT
Oh, man I get back from a desert trip and find this news on supertopo. What an impact. Thoughts stayed with me all evening, went to bed, tossed and turned, finally fell asleep and into a dream. I was wandering around in Royals house it seemed so empty, just a lonely kitten wandering around. I see some of Royal's shoes on the floor (not climbing shoes). They are dusty and larger than I remember, and I just start bawling.


The day that changed the course of my life at age thirteen, was the day I started learning to climb, and it was the day I first encountered the legend of Royal Robbins. He was only about 22 or so, but was regarded as the best rockclimber America had ever known. Each time I went to the crag I would hear more first and second hand reports that boggled people's sense of the possible.

Finally I met him at Tahquitz, and on that day, still finding my way up the learning curve, could have killed both of us. I wrote an account of that event on this thread.

http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/1030477/The-day-I-could-have-killed-Royal-Robbins

We crossed paths, brief encounters, several times the next half dozen or so years. One day in Camp 4 Lois Rice walked up and handed me a slip of paper with a phone number and said, "Royal wants you to call him." On the phone he said that he was starting a climbing school and asked if I would join him along with Steve Roper and Michael Covington. Wow! I was pleased, surprised, grateful, and stoked. Thus began a new and enjoyable phase of my climbing life.

Royal was an excellent teacher and had devised a very effective system for improving climber's abilities. There was the instruction of efficient techniques of course, but more so it was us watching the students on the practice crags and seeing what they could do, then taking them up to a bigger climb that was near their limit, which, in these days before sport climbing, was usually to or three grades higher than they thought it was. The students mostly loved it and left quite satisfied. Royal received letters afterwards from some of them thanking him for the best week of their life.

For me it felt like I was a graduate student. I wanted to learn the mystery of mastery. There were numerous climbers who were good athletes, but did not have Royal's mastery. I watched. listened, asked questions, climbed with him, and soaked it all in. After seven summers I realized that mastery is no number on a scale, but has a lot to do with self awareness. Enough rubbed off on me for climbing to become less frightening and more enjoyable for me. I found simultaneous calmness and exhilaration. Also it was fun getting to know Royal and Liz better, tripping around the Sierra from Sugarloaf to Shuteye, sneaking into Yosemite from time to time.

Liz, Tamara, Damon, my heart goes out to you.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Mar 17, 2017 - 12:11pm PT






 La Siesta Press
Rockies Obscure

Trad climber
rockiesobscure.com....Canada
Mar 17, 2017 - 12:36pm PT
Condolences to his family.
I was hired to take pictures in 1995 at a climbing shop in Calgary for a wine and cheese night then a slideshow later on in the evening.
What a nice man he was!
Credit: Rockies Obscure

Credit: Rockies Obscure

Credit: Rockies Obscure

Credit: Rockies Obscure
Gilroy

Social climber
Bolderado
Mar 17, 2017 - 12:41pm PT
Very fine remembrance, Dick. I especially like the part about the big shoes in your dream.

I was lucky enough to have dinner with Royal a couple of times involving business matters. He was a very solid, erudite presence and a gentleman in discussion over a range of subject matter in the course of an evening. He knew his way around a wine list too and schooled me on dry whites.

RIP RR
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
Mar 17, 2017 - 04:21pm PT
I just heard a beautifully written and very moving tribute to Royal Robbins on NPR's Sacramento Capitol Public Radio. Watered my eyes it did.

DMT
i-b-goB

Social climber
Wise Acres
Mar 17, 2017 - 04:56pm PT
Credit: i-b-goB

Cheers!
Dick Erb

climber
June Lake, CA
Mar 17, 2017 - 06:04pm PT
Photo above is l-r Joe Fitschen, Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt, and Tom Frost, Probably after the second and first continuous ground up ascent of the Nose of El Cap.
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
Mar 17, 2017 - 07:30pm PT
The NPR piece

http://www.npr.org/2017/03/17/520576895/royal-robbins-pioneer-of-american-rock-climbing-dies-at-82

DMT
nah000

climber
no/w/here
Mar 17, 2017 - 07:40pm PT
what a bamf...

while it's not necessarily exhaustive and there is probably someone more capable of compiling this, here are a number of rr's adventures as an alpinist that i am and/or google was aware of:



canadian rockies:

mt. proboscis, robbins route [1963]: kor, mccarthy, mccracken + robbins
mt. geikie, north face [1967]: hudson + robbins
mt. edith cavell, north face [1967 - first solo]: robbins



alps:

aiguille du dru, american route [1963]: hemming + robbins
aiguille du dru, american dirretissima [1965]: harlin + robbins



u.s:

mt. hooker, north face [1964]: mccracken, raymond + robbins
mt. jeffers [1969]: fitschen, raymond + robbins



and if you're interested google tour d'ai, robbins route. a three pitch route in the swiss alps freed at around 11b by robbins in 1965.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Mar 17, 2017 - 08:24pm PT
Alpinist did a nice tribute today.

http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web17w/newswire-royal-robbins-obituary
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
Mar 17, 2017 - 08:57pm PT
Via NYT
Credit: Robbins Family
Mighty Hiker

climber
Outside the Asylum
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 18, 2017 - 05:17pm PT
https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/03/15/us/ap-us-obit-royal-robbins-.html?_r=0

http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-royal-robbins-20170315-story.html
rottingjohnny

Sport climber
Sands Motel , Las Vegas
Mar 18, 2017 - 07:34pm PT
A Black and white photo in a book about Dave McCoy's life lists Royal Robbins as one of the ski racers in a group photo... I can't make out Royal's face but judging by the other names listed Royal must have been an elite racer at some point in his ski career...rj
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Mar 20, 2017 - 04:06pm PT
I met Robbins personally just once, probably 1978 in his Modesto store. Tom Gibson, George Manson and I were going to do an El Cap route, Mescalito, and we were looking for a rope. We told him of our plans and after some pleasant conversation he suggested a factory-second rope. It was a second (he explained) because of a flat spot. We got it for cheap (like us). I took a fall following the molar traverse and thrashed the rope as it turns out. We felt so special to have talked climbing with Royal.
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Mar 20, 2017 - 07:56pm PT
Up thread, Dick Erb posts about getting a message to call Royal to start working as a guide at Rock Craft. Five or six years later, Royal reached me the same way: a message from someone at the Tuolumne mountain shop with Royal's phone number and a request to call. Dick was the head guide when I worked for RockCraft.

While I had run into Royal enough to say hi, I was surprised that he knew me enough to ask me to guide--I never knew why he thought I would be a good guide (I had guided for Wayne Merry at the YMS).

I had an interesting perspective on Royal when I started working for him. It was based on knowing what happened to Yosemite climbing after Royal had passed the baton, so to speak. The 70s was in full swing and the hard climbing of the 60s was just the starting point for young climbers. I was good friends with Bridwell, and he and I spend lots of time talking about what it meant to be climbing in "The Brave New World," as Jim titled it in an article he wrote for the Ascent magazine. Jim knew the history of Yosemite climbing cold and, while he and Royal were very different personalities and wary of one another, Jim had a huge respect for Royal's skills and leadership. Jim recognized that he was filling the leadership position in Valley climbing and took it seriously. Jim worked hard at learning to see what climbing needed to both progress new, hard routes, adapt to new ideas, and keep the disparate community in one peice, more or less. He was a master at inviting new climbers into the fold, and it showed in the productivity of the 1970s climbers.

As Jim assumed the mantle of Valley Don, he took into account everything he could from the way Royal had run the show. I got a close-in view watching Jim express his leadership, seeing the purpose and artfulness of it. I watched Jim become Bridwell. While I was not around when Royal was running the show, and Jim and Royal certainly had different styles, I had a huge respect for Royal's artfulness, care and commitment by seeing how hard it was to pull-off. Building consensus amongst climbers is what cat herders do when they want a real challenge.

So, when I started working for Royal, I was past any period of being awed by climbing greats, but, having committed myself to free and first-free ascents I understood how difficult it is to climb new routes and how good they were. I had also gotten to know many of the 60s climbers, so I also could draw distinctions between great climbers and the underlying personalities. Aside from TM, I only occasionally climbed with the 60s climbers who were still around, I knew them more for their personal traits rather than any specific to their climbing. Also, none of them liked being treated as stars or museum oddities, so I practiced just regular friendship: no need to drag anyone into the 1000th telling of heroics or scratching old wounds on missteps or dust-ups. That approached worked very well in building close relationships, but it has left me in a odd position of knowing a lot of climbers but with few good stories to tell. I was in my mid-twenties and just starting to grasp the issues all full-time climbers face after they have been at it awhile: what comes next; how do you live your life. As I was trying to figure this out, my frames of reference were the 60s climbers, who were 10-15 years older than me. How were they living and making a living? I wanted to know about their futures. My other frame of reference was my private guiding clients, whom I interviewed one summer to find out what had worked for them and why.

Royal was very busy with his business and new family--Tamara was about three; time at RockCraft for him was time to get back to climbing, but it was hard work to keep all of those elements in balance, and the strain of all of those competing demands showed.

Working at RockCraft was an easy gig. The classes were 5-6 days with a group of clients and guides camping and climbing together, with a mix of classes and guided climbs which were often first ascents. Dick Erb was the chief guide when I worked there, while the other guides were climbers Royal knew who were available. I knew everyone from Yosemite. During those early days, as I was learning to adjust my style to RockCraft's style, and Royal was learning to trust me with his clients, I commented that I had only done one El Cap route, the Salathe. Royal's eyes lit up, his face opened and he said, "I didn't know you had done the Salathe. What did you think?" It was the most animated I have ever seen Royal. He loved that route.

At the time, getting up El Cap was still a pretty big deal, at least for 60s climbers--that changed really quickly--and climbing the Salathe was a step-up from the Nose or Triple Direct, I think mostly because of the obligatory, runout 5.9 climbing. When Royal hired me to work for RockCraft, he knew me as a free climber and a guide. I think Vandiver said something about Allan Bard and me climbing the Salathe. It was still a formidable route and Royal was very proud of it. "The best rock climb in the world" was how some had captured it. When Royal heard I had climbed it he really brightened up. He was rarely demonstrative, but he gave me a big grin and asked what I thought of it. I said, "It was okay." I was probably thinking of the wet rock under the Block and the rotten rock below the headwall. You know, all that horrible stuff that makes you want to only climb at the Cookie. Royal looked crestfallen. And I immediately felt like a shithead. The Salathe is a great route, and I should have told him so. He poured his life into those routes. In any case, that shared climbing experience created a bond between us: a stellar route linking his generation and my generation, with our different sensibilities.

Sometime around that same time, I had my debacle soloing the West Face: strong start, closer to the top than the bottom, climbing really well, on pace to finish in three days, and I lost my drive. I spend the better part of two days reversing the traverses and rapping down. I told Royal that I started talking to myself, my way of expressing the disjointedness of it all. He looked at me with a quizzical, friendly smile and said, "Everyone talks to themselves." By which he meant, he talked to himself. And he had done more big wall soloing than anyone else. I wished I had known that before going up there by myself; I probably would have stuck to it.

Free climbing was the only part of climbing that I cared about. I had a climbed a few walls, mostly Royal's routes (I climbed or guided the RNWFHD three or four times, starting at age 19, maybe 20, years old), but my focus was on free climbing and new ascents. The East Face of Washington Column was a likely target for an all-free ascent. I had climbed it with Allan Bard in preparation for the Salathe Wall and stared at the rock from my slings and tried to work out what it would take to climb free. In any case, I thought it would probably go, but had no idea when or by whom. Royal and I were talking about it, and Royal categorically stated that it would never go free. I was a little stunned. Royal seemed pretty open and reasonable, and he had certainly seen a lot of changes in climbing standards. I pushed back and pointed out that Valley climbers were doing routes all free that would have seemed impossible only a few years before. Of course Royal knew all of this, so it was odd that he was choosing to stand on such shaky ground. Sacherer had put everyone through this drill when he wrote out a list of the routes he thought would go free, most of which he then free-climbed in 1964 and 65, during the same time that Royal was in his prime and still very productive, and still focused on big walls. Even Sacherer's good friends, such as Eric Beck, were skeptical; they thought Frank was too optimistic. Evidence of a Single-man History in the making.

What is possible starts with someone seeing it as possible. Salathe and Steck saw it in the early 50s. Royal saw it in the late 50s and the early 60s, along with Warren. Pratt saw it in crack climbing. Sacherer saw it in the early middle 60s. The new wave of 70s climbers had a new take on what to try, and big walls all-free was the becoming the focus with the East Face of Washington Column the mostly likely wall to go free. During this friendly argument, I pushed Royal on the insanity of saying something would never happen forever. "Why not go with the good odds of being right rather than almost certain odds of being wrong?" I asked. Royal chuckled--not a common Royal attribute--and said that if he were right it would be a great prediction lasting long after we were dead. He knew, and good naturally accepted, that his position was crazy. The next year, Ron Kauk, John Bachar, and John Long climbed Astroman.

All pace-setting climbers have to adapt to changes in climbing, with changes in difficulty and style. It can be painful: one's high point marks don't seem so high anymore. And new kids can be a pain in the ass. Pratt was a guide at RockCraft, and he and I were friends through Roper in Berkeley. We were talking about the new fast ascents of routes in the Valley, and Chuck just went into an exasperated rant: "It takes as long as it takes!" Chuck and I were both fans of Mahler's symphonic music, and there is a famous quote from that period of music in which a patron of the Vienna Orchestra, in response to a musical theorist reducing Mahler's symphonies to a few essentials, said, "He left out all the parts we like." Chuck loved being on walls; shortening the time was not the goal: "It takes as long as it takes," and he thought the focus on speed was misguided. However, lots of climbers, including Royal were focused on speed. Royal seemed to be handling the changes well enough, although he probably slipped beyond a sensible line when he free-soloed routes at the base of El Cap in Tretorn tennis shoes in response to Henry Barber free-soloing the Steck Salathe. Hot Henry's ascent seemed outrageous at the time even though many of us thought that the route was barely 5.9. (I have been told that stuff has fallen off and the route is harder now.) Up thread, Clint posted that Royal soloed the DNB in Tretorns but I am guessing Royal was rope soloing which would be easy enough to do on the hard face moves.

As I have read many of the responses honoring Royal, the focus is mostly on his exploits, which are hugely impressive. But, I have been thinking about Royal in the leadership role he took on, and how he led all of us in how to think about climbing, especially on the edges, in establishing first ascents and in subsequent ascent's honoring the first ascent's "statement" in establishing the new route. Royal also showed us how fluid those boundaries are and how hard we have to keep thinking about it, especially on the edges. Climbing has changed tremendously, but Royal's take on how to think about it still clears the path.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Mar 20, 2017 - 08:34pm PT
Thank you Roger, for those insightful perspectives.
i-b-goB

Social climber
Wise Acres
Mar 20, 2017 - 08:37pm PT
Close to the edge!
Close to the edge!
Credit: i-b-goB
BruceHildenbrand

Social climber
Mountain View/Boulder
Mar 20, 2017 - 08:47pm PT
^^^^^
That looks like the top of El Cap Spire. First ascent of the Salathe Wall?
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Mar 21, 2017 - 10:01am PT
Sept 1961. 1st ascent. Robbins, Pratt, and Frost. 9 1/2 days. I think Royal was 26 and Chuck 22 years old. What an adventure.
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