Ever thrown a Bigwall hissy fit?


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Big Wall climber
Torrey, Utah
Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 2, 2007 - 12:52pm PT
Big powder yesterday in Bozeman.
2+ feet of cold smoke fell and we called in sick.
Powder Flu.

Now I'm stuck here... again.... Like many of you may be.
But I cheered myself up thinking bout my bigwall hissy fit on a pitch of Tis-sa-ack - withMidge and Bam Bam. At the base of the tiered Viser roofs I led up to the last steep section...to the left, the upside down tiers looked scary and sharp, with potential swinging to a poky spur. Didn't look like A2 to me...which is usually bomber but awkward in my old book. Anyway, a variation led straight up and out using heads and thin stuff, ending with heads in opposition at the lip.

That opposition thing couldn't be good. Freaking typical...last pitch...so ready to relax...I think A2 out the Visor will be wild but fun...instead I'm about to cry cause I can't find an easy way...like the topo said it would be.

What a gumbi.

I'm a gumbi.

Bam Bam and Midge yell up encouraging things (hoping I don't come down and they have to do it - rat bastards - it was Midges pitch, technically).

I get soooo pissed during the Anger phase that I start name and cussing the great sand baggers...a huge list really, that I yelled out...like, "Robbins, phuque that guy...and the Bird...and EC Joe, and Benowitz, and all those guys putting up Cody Ice" (I heard later that our Friend Mute heard me all the way over on the NW Face).

Finally got somewhat composed, looked at Bam Bam and asked him calmly if I missed anyone, tears down my cheeks, and a smile breaking out on Bam's Bam's face. I sent the thin line with heads and mantled a wild shelf up to the very lip where four old bolts greeted me. I was stoked (beautiful bolts!) and lit a smoke to stop shaking. Gumbi yes, but it was a really cool perch to have a smoke.

Midge was so zapped he wandered around for an hour trying to find the next ankor on the slabs. Me and Bam Bam smoked and hung on the bolts at the lip and giggled watching him.


Gym climber
Otto, NC
Mar 2, 2007 - 01:57pm PT
OK. See you that:

I spend all day, day nine, wandering back and forth on that pitch. The first bit goes smoothly, backcleaning to make the jug easier, straightening out the line, and generally feeling smug about this bit of cleverness.

I get to where I can see a bit of yellow tat near the lip, the right-hand topout. Looks hard. Left a bit are the thin heads, etc. Hell no. I'm not going back to the bag to dig all that sh#t out, and besides, that way looks even harder.

Fine. I'll go way left, along the undercut rail. A-1 camming with my feet dangling in space leads me 40 or 50 feet left along this rail-thing, which I could probably free-climb under different circumstances, and what a wild pitch that would be. Eventually, though, this ends under more steep-and-nasty-looking climbing, which mournful assessment sees me reversing the rail, tail between leg. F*ck. I just want off of this thing.

At least this time I get to have fun. Handrailing back across the thing free, plucking the cams to plop into my lap and occasionally resting on a piece to suck in rope, is the most fun I've had all day. Or for a few days, come to think of it.

The traverse reversed, I now resign myself to heading for the yellow slings. A few steep moves and some shameless stick-clipping secures me a 'fixed' blue alien, and a 'fixed' green camalot besides. The yellow slings tease from the lip, now somewhat off to my right, and up a bit. Some grungy traversing, perhaps ten feet below the lip of the whole damn face I've lashed myself to for a week and a half now, will put me below the promised tat. I could stick-clip it from here. I need to get off this thing. I have moaned, sketched, talked extensively to people who were not there, pulled gear, nearly sheared myself from the wall parking cams behind huge, loose flakes in the dark, pulled an inadvertent all-nighter, drunk my piss, drunk piss that was not mine, slept in my shoes because I was too tired to undress, and taken the name of the Lord in vain more than once. I'm ready to be done with it.

I will not, however, stick-clip the last anchor on the route. This, simply put, would be too degrading. A flaring, dirty, horizontal seam between the massive onionskin flakes of Half Dome's summit visor is all that stands between me and the faded yellow mank of those anchors. I try to get a loweball to stick. It won't. The anchors are one move away. I think of the vain pride that sees me stranded here, one move from the top, and I recall a conversation I had with an old Valley vet two years before.

It took me two weeks to find a partner the first time. There was a time when I could ride the old Captain America truck into the lot and be greeted by any number of familiar faces willing to go up on a wall with me, even one as distant, committing and obscure as this one, but clearly my nostalgia alone for this time would not bring it back, and neither would it summon a partner. Eventually, an aspirant Swiss guide signed on, humped his bag up the slabs, drug himself to the Dormitory, and hopped on his first lead, into the Zebra. Fresh off the Zodiac, he was all aflame with the beauty of riding clean gear, tiny brass and camhooks that seated tidily into El Capitan granodiorite.

But Half Dome's rock is not so neat. Its grainier, salt-and-pepper granite spat out his silly camhook, sending him for a short, ankle-breaking ride onto the slab below.

I related this story to a grizzled, hard-of-hearing SAR team sage of many years, who had this to say:

"Fuhk that cleen sh#t, mahn. I don't wanna get huht. That's the bottom line."

And so, without further ado, I drove my last pin into the seam between me and the summit and snagged the yellow tat at the lip of Half Dome.

So? where, you may well ask, is the hissy fit in this story?

Patience, Grasshopper. The fit will come.

I rapped, I hauled, I jugged. I hung from two bolts at the lip. Nothing but a 5.5 slab, according to the topo, lay between me and a night (which was fast approaching) on the ground. Piece of cake. All I had to do was feed myself out a big loop of slack and fire for the summit. 5.5 friction is not something a boy weaned on North Cackalacky slabbage should have a second thought about.

The slab, however, was not to be so easily dismissed. I crept upwards in my duct-taped wall shoes. Gravelly bits, stuck to the rolled-up tape, crunched and rolled unnervingly beneath my feet. I didn't like it. The way off, clearly, lay across to the left and over a series of the damnable overlaps receding from the 2,000-foot void behind me. In no way did I intend to skate down the forty feet of 'easy' slab and sail over the lip onto those two bolts.

Darkness no longer hinted, but had begun to flood the valley below me. I didn't have a lot of time. My free shoes were buried halfway down in the haulbag, which I was not eager to unpack. Obviously my morning planning lacked foresight. I retreated back to the bag. Overtaxed by days of abysmal self-care on the wall, my battered brain dithered, back and forth, over my dwindling options. To dig through the bag, pissing away precious daylight to find the clean, sticky shoes, or to resolutely sack up and fire the slab despite the inappropriate gear? What would Royal Robbins have done? I feinted up the slab again, reached the overlap, plugged some shaky gear, and considered. Those cams couldn't catch a forty-foot slab skidder, I decided, much less the awful plunge over the edge behind it.

It was dark. I was exhausted, frustrated, and frightened beyond any tolerance remaining in my desperately frazzled synapses. Back at the bags, I cried.

FUUUUCCKK!!!!!!!! They could have heard me at the Mobile. The last straw had snapped. I screamed, cried, screamed some more, finally sobbing softly with my head against the lip, my feet still dangling over the northwest face. One more night on the wall.

Big Wall climber
Reno NV
Mar 2, 2007 - 02:25pm PT
Awesome stories!

Trad climber
c-ville, virginia
Mar 2, 2007 - 02:26pm PT
last spring upon realizing that the king swing was a crappy place to be learning how to pendulum and under the assumption that I needed to get all the way over into the far corner, I pretty much melted down hung my head and cursed myself for letting everybody down.
Then I swung a wee bit bigger and managed to catch a rounded edge and sort of mantle it out felt a lot better. :-)

Big Wall climber
Mar 2, 2007 - 03:23pm PT
Hahahahaha! Rob that was great, if you remember I was 7 or 8 pitch's below you soloing Zenith, I heard, er, felt that block go by me in the night, I felt the air pressure change. I was on lead at the time also.
What's funny is right after that I took a 25- 30 ft. fall.
There were free climbers at the base of the wall, biving not to far from me.
They were like WHAT in the hell is going on over there, with the rockfall and my lead fall, all in a 15 min. span.
So they ask me if I am alright and I yell to them, FREE CLIMBERS ARE PUSSY'S!!
Oh yea, the topic
Can't remember what pitch it was but it was dark and starting to storm, wind blowing hella hard. As usual, I lead into the night, must of been about 11pm or so and I am trying to get the Exp. rainfly over the cliff cabana.
No dice, I was mentally and Physically wasted.!!

I could not get that rainfly on right, I was getting wet, but it was the wind that was really giving me a hard time.
I tried for close to an hour straight, but could not pull it off.
I don't know how many times I broke down during the effort, I just remember screaming as loud as I could on many occasions and cussing like a sailor during most of the event.
I cussed so much I wondered if I would ever be able to kiss me mum on the mouth again with such a dirty mouth.

I finally gave up, shoved all my bivy gear, food, water and essentials into the rainfly and just crawled in.

Good times!!

Soo funny that when I got to the bolt ladders I thought the hard pitchís were over, little did I know!!

But yea, that last pitch, I lead it in the dark, got off route, went way left, really reachy placements.
Had to plug in a .5 blind, tested it, climb up my aiders real gentle like and shined my headlamp on the placement.
I looked at it and just as I was thinking, how can that fully expanded cam be holding me? It popís out, and I go backwards into the black void! I was like, no way is this happening on the last pitch.

I Jug back up, but now that I have seen the flaring crack, I kinda knew where to place it, even though I had to do it blind.
I get up to the lip, and itís blank, I get into the last step on my aiderís and I see a shity rusty euro pin drilled into the rock at a really bad angle.
I clip it and pray, it holds, I top out, rap back down and spend my last night on the wall.

Topped out the next day, which was day 14. Lotís of touristís on top, I mean lotís.
I felt like an alien, everybody looking at me strange like, and they really freaked when the first thing I said to the was, hey, you got a smoke?
When I got down and looked in the mirror it was understandable why they were so freaked! I looked like a prisoner of war.

Gym climber
Otto, NC
Mar 2, 2007 - 04:57pm PT
I was hoping you'd see that post, Rich. Sounds like the topout gives everyone fits-- that old crusty dude in my story told me he topped out in a heinous storm, when all those black streaks suddenly came alive...

"No way is this happening on the last pitch"...that about sums it up.

Trad climber
Mar 2, 2007 - 06:02pm PT
great stories guys! rich's story on the portaledge fly comes up regularly whenever we have some brews in us and the topic of extreme frustration comes up. haha!

'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Mar 2, 2007 - 07:41pm PT
Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!! Great stories.

Fourteen days, eh, Rich? Truly you are on "my" type of schedule, except for the leading into the night [which can be excused if you promise you never started climbing before noon].

I particularly enjoyed your rant of trying to get your rain fly on in the dark and the wind. Dr. Piton says that you should practise setting up your ledge and fly ahead of time, in your garage or hanging from a tree branch, so that when you get on the wall you have the system dialled.

Which reminds me of the time on Tribal Rite when I first attempted to put my new The North Face fly onto my ledge, having never seen the thing before. After more than a half hour of cursing and swearing and starting to get wet, my partner Tom showed me how - it seems that the ledge slides into the zippered doors on either end. Which just goes to show you, "don't do as I do, do as I say!"

Speaking of Tis-sa-ack, one of my favourite rants as I climb a bolt ladder, is to put on a maniacal Royal Robbins voice and scream defensively,

"Why, it's probably the most craftsmanlike ladder of that many bolts in the world!"

As for big wall hissy fits, I shall have to think about it, as there have been many! Certainly my all-time clusterfrig ascent of Zodiac with Neal [lovegasoline] has to be high on the list.

Trad climber
one pass away from the big ditch
Mar 2, 2007 - 11:13pm PT
I can remember a time having it out with a partner or two. One where he was dog tired and I said, 'one more pitch' he came alive with 'one more pitch' himself. Then while making that last pitch jugging in the dark with no headlamp, the words fly from my mouth 'I'm leaving the pin'


my retort "I CAN'T SEE A GOD DAMN THING... I'll probably pendo and dye. I'm wigged man!!!"

I unclip it and leave the biner too and fly to the right.

"SH#TTTTTTTTTTtttttttttttttttttttttttttt" I scream as I'm flying.

It was all of 8 feet but i couldn't see the anchor and didn't know how far I was going. Stoopid. But all wiped out, having it out and then scaring myself silly in the process, seemed to mellow us out as soon as I got the ledge. Fosters can got popped after the porta ledge was up, and everything was irie!

The mental anguish of wall leads to a rule

If your partner is on lead. He gets to bitch you out as much as he or she wants. You as belayer have a solemn oath of support. A word, or howl, or 'shut up and climb' or gear advice, can be the bell-ring of sanity to a man in a ship that has just left the safety of the harbor. But no matter what the leader has the privelege, and it is understood.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Mar 3, 2007 - 12:28am PT
Is it a coincidence that so many of these stories involve Half Dome?

Is she like a woman who looks like the hottest imaginable babe from a distances but the closer you get, the gnarlier she turns out to be.

Probably only by Yosemite standards. I've had a moment or two in the brush, scree and slime carrying a bag up the death slabs that probably was worse than my worst wall moments. (At least sh#t chimney was dry)

Peace and thanks for the great stories


Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Mar 3, 2007 - 12:35am PT
Robbins and Peterson had their moments on Tis-Sa-Ack, also.

Social climber
Mar 3, 2007 - 02:50am PT
On the first day of climbing Wet Denim Daydream I melted down after being heckled relentlessly for most of the day by some unknown person at the base (hidden in the forest below). This voice repeated two phrases over and over again: "hey! You guys are moving like snails!" and "I've got a song for you: 'You're Gunna Die'!"

The constant heckling from below and my total lack of skill cleaning the overhanging pitches drove me into an out of control rage. Late in the day after hearing "I've got a song for you: ĎYouíre Gunna Die!'" for the hundredth time that day. I eloquently replied with: "Shut the F*#k Up!" at the top of my lungs numerous times.

I soon realized that my response was probably heard clearly by all the tourists down at Falls. I felt ashamed losing my composure and kept my rage at bay for the rest of the climb.

Gym climber
Otto, NC
Mar 3, 2007 - 11:25am PT
Wow, anonymous and persistent heckling. You sure you weren't making that up?
seamus mcshane

Mar 3, 2007 - 12:02pm PT
3:30AM: The Prow, WC 6/97 pitch 5
Background... I talked two partners into doing The Prow in a push. One (let's call him BC)had aided 2-3 pitches max and had jugged a rope on a tree in his yard 20-30 times. The other (MO) had never jugged before. I told them both that the exposure wouldn't bother them one bit, since it would be dark. Hehehe. I had limited experience, but I was again foolishly committed to topping out.
As MO approached the 5th belay, some 600+ feet of air pulling blindly into the dark, he twirled helplessly in space below the relative security of my belay, fully equipped with a smoke, a bowl, water and food.

MO bellowed...

Officer Buzzkill had just joined our party.

My only response was to impart the best goodwill possible, and if that didn't cut it, many pipeloads of goodwill would have to do...

Talk about a collective downshift...

The resulting conversation was akin to talking down someone having a bad acid trip. But we topped out...Barely.

Later on I would have my own major malfunction, vomiting a putrid concoction of too-strong Emergen-C through my nose. One of my partners (we may never know who) poured a packet, concentrated enough for a GALLON, into our LAST LITER of water. We spent that night on top and drank water from a can of corn MO found. My head hurt so bad, but the full moon and a handful of Jolly Ranchers allowed us to make it until we could walk out at first light. I ran down the gully in less than 1/2 an hour, scaring people in the hotel parking lot, as usual.
MO always laughs when I bring up our meltdowns.

Gym climber
Otto, NC
Nov 7, 2007 - 04:19pm PT
Bump for good times...

surely y'all have more stories!
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Nov 7, 2007 - 05:05pm PT
Soloing is a valuable lesson in blame assignment.

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Nov 7, 2007 - 05:39pm PT
was going to post my golden rule about leaders, and saw I already posted.

my work here is done.
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Nov 7, 2007 - 06:25pm PT
Wall hissies are a great tradition. Although I've thrown many, I thought this one by my friend was particularly memorable.

It's 1981 or '82 and I talk my 17 yr. old buddy who's never finished a wall into trying the Captain with me (who, at 19, had never done the Captain). Not aiming for easy pickings, we decide on Zodiac, which at the time was still old school A3+, not an easy tick. The Chicken Bolt pitch still required strings of rurps and the Loose Block pitch (may it rest in peace) still had loose blocks on it, not a bolt ladder where the blocks used to be.

We make it up into the Circle with some drama but keep chugging away. We're trailing behind Jason Sands and that chick from Romania named Lydja or something like that (Fish always called her "Hidea" for hideous). Every once in a while Jason would toss down a fig newton, a couple of which I actually caught.

It's getting late and I tip toe out under the arch of the Nipple pitch, placing THIN blades up under the arch, wondering what in the hell did Charlie Porter do before the miniscule pins scars that I'm tapping into were there. It's dicey but I make my way over to the wide section and grunt my way through. Jason is hanging out at the belay waiting eons for Lydja to finish the Mark of Zorro. I've no choice but to hang out on some tied pins for what must've been an hour and a half no joke. Jason kept calling up, asking her what's taking so long. She just keeps screaming back, "I'm still climbink."

Finally, it's pretty dark, the moon's coming out and I get to climb up and fix the rope. It's late. We're tired. Been a long day and my buddy still has a funky pitch, with lots of horizontal to clean.

He's cleaning the last pin before getting to the horizonal knife blade section. The minute he pops out that pin, all the knife blades zipper out and the swings it through the dark, ripping out four or five placements, finally stopping at the bolt at the Nipple. I hear this gut level groan rising out of him from deep within his belly:

"I can't take it anymore! I can't take it anymore!" He sounded like Peter Finch in Network.

This goes on for a little while, and after that he's so fried the only thing he can do is whip out his unit and pee against the wall.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Nov 7, 2007 - 06:48pm PT
"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more."

(which begs the response, "Oh yeah; watcha gonna do about it?")

Big Wall climber
The Immaculate Conception
Nov 7, 2007 - 07:37pm PT
"This goes on for a little while, and after that he's so fried the only thing he can do is whip out his unit and pee against the wall."

CLASSICO!! Good Sheeeet Fat Dad!

Gumbi here is working on the 2nd pitch of Bearclaw Headwall (Kerkoff Dome), attempting to solve the mystery of the frickin' century....an A3 pitch involing KB's, #00's and hooks (one bolt for salvation sake). Anyway, yours truly gets to the hook moves (5 of 'em on dimes and quarters) to reach a rivet ladder. For a whole hour, I try to locate the last two moves......BLANK, I say!! The hook I'm on is creaking and I'm not feelin it one damn bit. All I seez is a wild ride waiting to happen......zipper to the 1/4" Leeper! Out comes Moochiana and the distress starts, "I can't find a G-damn thing up here. Mark....I wanna get down! NOW!! Mark shouts up encouragement and suggest picking out something on the left (a decomposing roof).......NAH! I tell him that leads to no mans land. I'm only two hooks away from salavation, with the anchor looming overhead 25' feet. "Dood!....get ready at the belay....I think I'm going soon!" Mark (aka Cool Hand Cuke) reassures me the belay is manned and to keep searching. I feel tears start to swell in my eyes and I feel total despair coming on. One hand is reaching for duct tape and the other against the wall. WAIT!! What was that??! WTF!! I just felt an edge the size of Dinner Ledge! I clear my eye of sissy fluid and look to see that its a God-send vision.....a beautiful 1/2" ledge that just so happened to be camo'd by lichen. Elation and joy.....then whitewash stoopidity. Break out the steps and hook....steps up the ladder and there she be......a beautiful 1/4" rusted stud....ready and waiting to be cinched with a nut. Up and past the stud....I clip my first rivet! I finish the pitch and look down at Mark. I tell him, "You don't suppose you'll want to do 'Freak Show' on North Dome now, would you?" (dirt tear stained face with the subtle words "pussy" written all over it.

Mark mutters something under his breath.....

The world comes back into view again :)
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