Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 10, 2018 - 06:36pm PT
I moved to Sanger, outside of Fresno, about a year ago. Just met and talked to one of my neighbors for about an hour. Most of our talk was about caves and family and general climbing but he casually told stories of climbing with Harding on the Nose and trying a 50th anniversary climb of Coonyard Pinnacle after his FA.
Anyone have memories or pics or stories? I'd love to hear more and I'll go chat with him again but I'm just googling and curious at the moment so I thought I'd check. Super nice guy.
Rich was a bad ass, solid 5.9 climber, when 5.9 was as hard as it got!
His feet Would not fit in P.As or E.B.s because they were too wide, so he had to climb in mountain boots. Can you imagine climbing anything or everything in old Vibram soled mountain boots? That's what I'm sayin!
I had a nice chat with Rich Calderwood at the Nose50 anniversary. We had never met, but we both felt as if we had, so strong is the tribal pull. It turns out that we both had freed routes on Phantom Pinnacle. He and Mike Borghoff freed the left side, Regular route, in 1957 at 5.9, and Mike Graham, Jim Bridwell, and I freed the Center Route in 1976, at 5.10d. 5.9 in '57 was much harder than 5.10 in '76.
We also talked about the psychology of committing to long climbing projects in the midst of real life.
Rich told me that he was very unsure if he wanted to commit to climbing the Nose while his wife,Cookie, was caring for their new born. He agonized over it. Finally, she convinced him to go. But he was not comfortable with it, and it continued to worry him as they, the Nose team, climbed in September and October of 1958.
In the November push, he ferried a load up to the upper camps and spent the night but couldn't reconcile himself to his decision to stay. The next morning, without discussing it with his climbing partners, he bolted, leaving all of his remaining gear on the ledge. As he said, "...burning my bridges. I couldn't prussik back up."
As I was listening, I realized that I had had two similar experiences, which I shared with Rich. When I finished graduate school, I was hot to return to climbing and had planned to go the Moose's Tooth to climb with John Lee, my good friend in SF. We had purchased all the gear and supplies we needed, bought the plane tickets and arranged for a drop off. M and I had also had our first daughter six weeks before. We flew back to my parent's house in the Bay Area to visit and I prepared to go climbing.
Finally it hit me. Life had changed. I couldn't just leave my wife and new baby and go off risking my life for some fun. I backed out and paid off the cancellation charges.
I also recounted my (irrational) experience of backing off my solo of the West Face of the Captain. Things were going fine. I was moving fast and climbing really well. And then I skipped taking a swig of water and a handful of gorp between pitches and got a little lost in the cracks after the big traverse. As I was hauling, the bongs I had tied to the underside of the bag got snagged and busted loose, clanging to the bottom of the face. I didn't need them to finish, but within a few seconds, I decided to go down and just started reversing everything. It took most of two days to get off.
Rich had been listening intently. Then he leaned in and told me that when he had ferried up that last load, he had passed all the goodies to the other climbers and was left with a tall can of juice. He pantomined poking holes in either side (this is real history) with a can opener and then taking a big, satisfying drink. He covered the top with a napkin, stuffed it into the crack, and bedded down for the night.
The next morning, he grabbed the can of juice and took a big swig.
He gagged on a mouthful of ants.
That was the instant he decided to go down.
Seventeen years separation in our experiences, plus another 33 years in the remembering, and nothing much had changed.