Misty Wall - The Push


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Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
May 30, 2017 - 11:10pm PT
the climbing I practice certainly doesn't depend on a crew to help make possible

but that being said, there have been "large collaboration" on other climbs, and the commercialization, in the sense that a sponsor is willing to pay to support that collaboration, doesn't seem to so out of the character of climbing.

in general, I haven't sought out any commercial gain from climbing, but I fully understand those who have the ability and capability to make a living off of climbing.

I'd like to see the FFA credited to all the climbers who participated.

but like a lot of climbers of my generation, I view commercialization in a negative light.

May 31, 2017 - 02:26am PT
EH wrote: "there have been "large collaboration" on other climbs, and the commercialization, in the sense that a sponsor is willing to pay to support that collaboration, doesn't seem to so out of the character of climbing."

for sure to the first phrase... as per the last phrase?

depends on what the "collaboration" is...

if the collaboration is, as ryankelly is claiming: that others, who remain unacknowledged, were paid to "clean, equip and prep" the route... then no, i for one, believe that that crosses a personal line so as to be "out of the character of climbing"... at least as i personally define it.

what's next? an unacknowledged professional masseuse jugging trailing lines to give the "pros" massages while they belay their partners? or maybe an unacknowledged third member of the team who is the designated belayer... a d.b. if you will...

don't worry, i have no delusions that any type of climbing has ever been anything but contrived and manufactured adventure to one degree or another.

and i also accept that no [single] one gets to define what the character of climbing is for any/every-body else.

but just as we are all free to climb as we see fit, we are all also free to comment on this endeavour that has given us so much, as we see fit.

and so, i will also say, as one voice, that if what ryankelly is saying is true, i find it disconcerting that a paid representative of a brand is posting what is an effective press release replete with internal product placements in both photo and word, regarding a "first free ascent", that was, without acknowledgment, cleaned, equipped and prepped for pay, prior to the pros sending.

don't get me wrong: i'm super pumped for digiulian and cardwell.

[relative to their skills,] i've sucked at climbing for long enough to know, that what they have done, regardless of the rest of the story, is no small feat.

still, assuming there is one, because climbing has given me so much, i am very interested in the complete story.

just as i would be interested in how many unacknowledged sherpa were involved in stocking the interim camps on a claimed fa on everest...

and so i do hope we get to find out the "rest of the story".

or if nothing else, find out that in this instance, ryankelly is full of shIt. [and given what i recall of his posting in the past, i'm guessing that is not the case...]

if we are going to publicize/consume "climbing" for personal and corporate gain, i believe we owe the legacy that is "climbing" at least a transparent telling of what the relevant nuts and bolts were...
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
May 31, 2017 - 05:38am PT
Great climbing. Great climb. Sacherer lives.

As for collaboration, in about 1973, I started cleaning prospective routes that I though might be good free climbs (Crack-a-Go-Go was a good pick, but I didn't get the FFA). Bridwell took notice and gently suggested that I clean out one of his projects in exchange for credit on the first ascent.

Names in the guide book, brains in the gravel, as Phil Bircheff would say. I declined. I was offended.

However, had he offered cash, I probably would have accepted the gig, but declined the first ascent inclusion--keep your brains inside your skull.

I think it is great that climbers can get paid to work on climbing projects and get sponsored to climb.

And, seeing a way over the roof is as good as it gets.

Trad climber
The real McCoy from the inside of my van.
May 31, 2017 - 06:10am PT
As long as you remove your orange tape marking the approach all the way up there... but since this has been completed, we decided to clean up after you. <3

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - May 31, 2017 - 08:44am PT
People raise good points here but in this case, the situation is vastly different than what I suspect most people are thinking. The Misty Wall was part of a pilot program that according to the "official" document (that Ron Fundeburke of the AAC/AMG and I pulled out of our ass) reads like this:


(The Legacy Restoration Project)

Legacy involves the on-going restoration of the world's iconic rock climbs: cleaning and sanitizing, removing loose rock and tat (old, fixed gear = trash), judicious replacement of bad bolds and unsafe anchors, and eliminating aid, resulting in the sustainable, ethical modernization of historically classic routes. "Conservation - Restoration - Innovation."

Rock climbs are fixed in stone. We clasp the same holds and jam up the same cracks as the pioneers did, five or one hundred years ago. The greatest climbs are legacy routes, combining famous lines with classic climbing. Once restored and judiciously modernized (sometimes re-engineered, always climbed entirely free), legacy routes are the sport's enduring lodestones, holding the cultural and technical heritage of the great game of ascent.

What is a Legacy Route?

In their day, legacy routes were landmark achievements and generational period testpieces. They often were situated on iconic formations like El Capitan, The Diamond, Devil's Tower, etc. though shorter, historical classics are also found on most every local crag.

The Project

Legacy involves able teams of climbers, documentarians, and technical experts (including riggers and support crew) who select, restore, ascend and publicize neglected climbs and venues, unearthing new classics from obscurity. In Yosemite, for example, climbers flock to a few dozen coveted trade routes, while the rest of America’s granite throne-room remains mostly untouched, unheralded, and forgotten. Legacy focuses the efforts of a worthy free climbing party on climbs that deserve a fresh look, as well as restoring local crags to the modern standard.

Selecting a Legacy Restoration Project: Grant Projects; Grass Roots Projects; Restore-A-Crag Projects

A) Grand Projects

Every winter, the AAC will convene a selection committee to field applications for Legacy restoration grants. Each grant will evaluate the vision, commitment and capacity of the applicant(s) to restore the lost legacy of a given climb. Many legacy climbs were established with ground up aid techniques, and their free climbing value has yet to be realized. Other legacy climbs are remote or obscure, their approaches, descents, rock quality (often overgrown), and fixed hardware in woeful states of decay. Many of the pioneering efforts made in the Yosemite were at risk of being lost to history if they are not singled out, refurbished, and publically recognized.

Successful applicants will research and submit proposals that are most likely to achieve the following criteria:

• The route represents a historical and cultural moment that has been largely overshadowed, overlooked, or forgotten.

• The route requires restoration/maintenance of approach, descent, rock quality appropriate for free climbing, fixed hardware replacement or installation as appropriate.

• The route satisfies the term of “new classic,” attracting visitation and attention for generations of enthusiastic climbing to come.

B) Grass Roots Projects

Legacy routes are in abundance. Money never is. While grant projects will likely to bear the most historical fruit, the banner of the Legacy Restoration Project must always be carried by grass roots volunteers. The AAC (and other affiliated groups and companies) will help target prime restoration projects, provide selected grants and organizational support, and replacement hardware can be gifted per available resources and manufacturer contributions; but Legacy exceeds the capacities of any organization to entirely fund, control and administer.

C) Restore-A-Crag Projects

Are meant to be celebrations and community builders by bringing together climbers during a restoration event at a local or regional crag.
What Restoration Means

Restoration means that the prestige and achievements of the past will find a new audience among present day free climbers. Successful teams must have appropriately skilled and visionary team members consisting of the following characters:

• Experienced Free Climbing First Ascentionists. The team must often establish first free ascents of routes established and often repeated in an aid-climbing style. Demonstrated first ascent resumes of the difficulties presented are to be expected.

• Experienced new route engineers with a particular emphasis on rock cleaning, bolt removal and replacement, reuse of previous holes by means of pulling techniques and/or core-drilling, installation of new hardware, trail work, and cleaning/landscaping.

• Documentarians capable of photography, video, editing and production, narrative, and design. The restoration process and the final product should be of presentation quality at events like the International Climber’s Meet, in print in the American Alpine Journal, and online on Mountain Project, the AAC website, and other print and social media venues.

Why Publicizing These Climbs and Crags Has Value

A restored route enlivens the history of climbing, on all of its majestic features. The establishment of new free climbing classics helps distribute climbing parties across less frequented, and more adventurous areas, easing overcrowding on popular classics. Also, the popularity of the program depends largely on momentum created by successive years of restoration. As generations of climbs are restored and celebrated, the collective imagination of all climbers will turn to first free ascents, restoration, and legacy of classic climbs for the enrichment of present and future climbers, domestically, and worldwide, for all posterity.

The same values and significance hold for regional crags. Most of us learned the ropes at local cliffs, outcrops and quarries, and their value as training grounds and cultural depots are immeasurable. Without maintenance, even the most frequented bluff will fall into disrepair, with rusting anchors, weathered trails, and so forth. Properly organized and promoted, Restore-A-Crag events, and a few dozen qualified volunteers, can restore a local venue to museum quality over a long weekend.

How It All Started

In September, 2016, Terrex Outdoor team members Kevin Jorgeson, Ben Rueck, Jon Cardwell, and Marcus Garcia traveled to Yosemite with an ambitious plan: Attempt the first free ascent of two classic big walls: The West Face of Sentinel (the third big wall climbed in Yosemite, in 1960, by Tom Frost and Yvon Chouinard), and the Misty Wall (FA, 1963, by Royal Robbins and Dick McCracken), just right of Yosemite Falls. Both climbs were seminal big walls, both still had direct aid and both had withstood serious free climbing efforts in the 1980s and 90s.

The challenges were formidable. These once-popular routes had seen few ascents in over two decades, were dirty and overgrown, and fifty year old protection and belay bolts were fatal liabilities. And since free ascents would require sustained climbing at the 5.12 and 5.13 grades, both routes would take multiple sorties to determine the likelihood of doing the routes all free. While free climbing a Yosemite big wall is a seminal achievement, the teams wondered if it was worth the formidable time and work to free climb routes that would see limited future traffic in their unrestored condition.

The short story is that with the technical support of Yosemite local Ryan Sheridan and his "Stawberita Crew," both routes were fully restored (taking a total of 35 working days) and free climbed bottom to top. The results were legacy climbs for the ages, which helped birth the Legacy Restoration Project.


The collaboration that went down on the Misty Wall (and two other routes we did on Middle Cathedral) carried out by volunteers who were "paid" in tshirts and swag because I didn't remotely have a corporate budget to do it any other way. Sasha is one of those rare professionals who's climbing and social media presence covers her nut, but Jon Cardwell works in a climbing gym and could only get 5 days off for the send. The only professional working the projects was photographer John Evans. The rest of us - including overall boss Marcus Garcia, photographers Ted Distel and El Cap Tom Evans, and me - were working on a shoestring budget. There simply was not the dough to pull off this kind of effort without everyone basically volunteering their time.

Best of all, we had a fantastic experience and birthed a few modern classics. And it's not like the volunteers up on the wall didn't get some climbing in. Through the restoration process, most of the people working on the routes and who spent long days on the walls managed to climb most every inch of every route, much as route setters do while setting a course. And the climbers who sent the routes were not all pros, and included Ron and also Rita Young Shin, a talented citizen climber who, like many other active climbers, has various side gigs like yoga instructor and fitness model to keep her hands on the rock.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
May 31, 2017 - 09:03am PT
It is important to note that Tommy Caldwell has had a decade plus effort on freeing Yosemite big wall climbs without the support of a major sponsor. Largely this has flown under the radar. Others have also had a hand in freeing these routes, and with minimal commercial sponsorship.

Climbs like the West Face of Sentinel have been the object of other free climbing projects dating back to the 1970s, and as Roger pointed out, a continuation of the program that started in the early 1960s with Frank Sacherer's idea to eliminate points of aid on established climbs and to push ascents to "in a day" speeds. (Eric Beck recounts scolding Frank for his ambition to free the West Face on their early "in a day" ascent, Eric thought that would take too much time.)

While we celebrate the accomplishment of the First Free Ascent, we can also recognize the sometimes long-time efforts of climbers who participated, and while perhaps not directly in the FFA, certainly their experiences on a route are handed down to the community and serve both as inspiration and guide to future efforts.

How we all get to do what we do brings up an entirely interesting subject all on its own, and our propensity to romanticize aspects of the life style can steer the discussion, e.g. "dirtbag" vs. "sponsored" climbers.

What is ultimately inspirational, to my mind, is that a climber makes a commitment to climbing and figures out some way to support that commitment.

It is that commitment that produces these accomplishments.

(cleaning up after yourselves is certainly an important aspect, and one not to be minimized because in this time of increased scrutiny by "land managers" we all are affected by the consequences of our community's collective acts. Failure to do so greatly diminishes the accomplishment, in my opinion. The accumulation of tat and the failure to "maintain" routes is also an issue, and many of these FFA efforts do service when they engage these issues.)

Social climber
carmel, ca
May 31, 2017 - 09:18am PT
teams of subies working to clean and equip a route so a pro can fly in and send...

climbing is so rad

I give you the first ascent of The Nose

or Pacific Ocean Wall

etc etc

How many guys have humped loads or met people on summits for cash/beer etc etc etc.

Sherpas in all their forms are a part of climbing history.

What others do has nothing to do with your own climbing (as long as rock is not damaged).

Climb on.

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - May 31, 2017 - 09:18am PT
s long as you remove your orange tape marking the approach all the way up there... but since this has been completed, we decided to clean up after you. <3

I have absolutely no idea what this tape issue is about. No one from our group used any tape and every scrap of gear and fixed rope is always removed from the site. The climbing/rigging team didn't need any tape markers - they've been slogging up to the base for the last 8 months. Curious where the tape came from??

Trad climber
The real McCoy from the inside of my van.
May 31, 2017 - 09:21am PT
Well regardless, its not there anymore. The fact that it marked the entire approach to the climb we just assumed it belonged to yall. Forgive my assumption.

Edit : hard to do justice to how powerful that spot is right now, so sublime, awe inspiring and humbling. And what a beautiful line to boot. Very nice work.

May 31, 2017 - 09:23am PT
No one from our group used any tape

Oops .... tape was used but it wasn't orange .... lol

May 31, 2017 - 10:10am PT
Largo: thanks for, what appears to be, a full disclosure.

ryankelly: your characterization, appears to have been overstated at best, and straight up fabrication at worst.

regardless, very cool climb.

and a wothwhile debate, that leads to some interesting thought experiments, as well...

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - May 31, 2017 - 10:30am PT
Ryan has every right to express his opinions and he doesn't need me to say so. Nitpicking ... maybe, but he is holding us to a standard that we can reach for. Granted, you can't please them all but you can strive to do things right. We tired, and continue to try and do everyone proud with these routes. With so many people involved it's a wonder there hasn't been more fallout and flubs along the way. Ultimately there's no way to totally control the goings on up on a big wall, with dozens of folks involved. The best you can do is try and enlist solid folks and trust they will do what's best for all involved. The majority of those involved here are past or present valley locals, so it's personal.

Per the fixed ropes, I got this text from Ryan Sheridan (head rigger) this morning:

Went up yesterday. "Cleaned ropes off top 7 pitches, hauled them over the rim and hiked them down falls trail. It's raining today. When it clears I will pull ropes off the bottom pitches the same day."

Ryan and the other riggers (who worked their asses off) all work day jobs in the park and this is as fast as they could move. Give us a few more days and the wall will be pristine. And you guys can go up there and have a go.

.....in a single wide......
May 31, 2017 - 10:58am PT
Kudos to all. This is super- worthwhile.

May 31, 2017 - 11:49am PT
Oh for f_ks sakes.

Just leave the fixed lines for the mini Traxion crew ...... :-)

Trad climber
Valles Marineris
May 31, 2017 - 11:59am PT
the photo with the lanterns was pretty darn cool.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
May 31, 2017 - 01:56pm PT
I for one think that it's great to have others besides the climbers involved, ESPECIALLY as it's a communal route.

Things like this seem like they'd be more fun when done in a collegial atmosphere of shared goals and honest tribute to pioneers' efforts and the values of FA teams.

So I'd like to thank everyone involved, beginning with Largo.

Trad climber
May 31, 2017 - 02:07pm PT
Good discussion. I'm not hating on anyone (although my recent posts are not overly polite)

My concerns are centered on all climbers (professional and amateur) being able to put up new routes for years to come. Commercial climbing efforts on public lands tend to spotlight visitor use issues and natural resource issues in a very noticeable way. I do not want this generation of climbers to be the last to establish new routes in Yosemite. This might sound far off to many of you who are unfamiliar with current regulation in Sequoia National Park but check it out for yourselves (permit required for all new bolts in that park).

This back and forth between visitors, corporations, and land management agencies is older than Yosemite National Park itself. Check out the history of the original Curry family and their battles with the park staff.

Again to clarify: all spray (professional or amateur) shines a spotlight on how we as a visitor group interact with the park. Our community has long enjoyed the freedom to pursue our vision without intense scrutiny (obviously there are exceptions to this statement). The hyper-commercialization of rock climbing in this country will have an affect on future climbing management in Yosemite. Its up to us to be strategic.

High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
May 31, 2017 - 02:23pm PT
"What is ultimately inspirational, to my mind, is that a climber makes a commitment to climbing and figures out some way to support that commitment.... It is that commitment that produces these accomplishments." -E Hartouni

Hear, hear.

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
May 31, 2017 - 03:08pm PT
Robbin's partner on this climb, Dick McCraken, is he still alive?

Trad climber
May 31, 2017 - 05:15pm PT
Boy.......Roger Brown should put in for back pay! Maybe get him an ad for swimwear? Guy's replaced more "legacy" routes singlehandidly (besides the absolutely unsung vollunteer help) in the Valley then anyone else ever will. Be nice if some one with John Long's great writing skills did a magazine piece on him. To me, he's done more for climbing in absolute selflessness and obscurity then all the articles on the latest hot shot falling up El Cap.
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