Chris Fredricks -- where he be?


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Boulder climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Sep 9, 2009 - 12:43am PT
In my years at Indian Rock I had encounters with Danny Tavistock two separate times for a couple of weeks or months each. The first was in the early 70s when the "Ape's traverse continuation" was done. He just showed up from the blue, got back into shape and did the problem. Then he dissapeared for several years.

Around 1976 Nat did his traverse at Mortar Rock. A couple of years afterwards, once again Danny just showed up from nowhere. Somehow his radar picked up the presence of some new challenge at his old rock. He worked on the traverse for quite some time and finally did it without the first corner. We could never figure out why he omitted that part.

Bruce and Jim told me tales of the great Danny Tavistock and mentioned his mantle across from Watercourse. We all could do various versions of that mantle so I asked what was so special about it.

He did it facing outward.


Sep 9, 2009 - 04:49am PT
if wisdom anchors the elusive end
of the spectrum of dismissiveness,
pausing to honor and reflect
may be the way we solve the traverse.

our's is a provocative endeavor.
we respond to the planet's most austere expressions,
ante up with our essence, and persist with conviction of purpose
beyond our abilty to account for the toll.

we move on,
but we acknowledge the presence of more
than we can knowingly ascribe
to the nature of our journey

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Sep 9, 2009 - 05:41am PT
Cragman and Hooblie

Thank you for clarifying something I could not put into words. Well stated and refreshing.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Sep 9, 2009 - 09:36am PT
You're right Cragman- we never forget.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Sep 9, 2009 - 09:40am PT
Fred Cook,

The backwards mantle was a very old route that we were already doing by 1963. It actually wasn't that hard. I wouldn't be surprised if people were doing it in the fifties.

Boulder climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Sep 9, 2009 - 03:12pm PT
Hi Peter,

I just remember Bruce and Jim talking about Danny doing it. I agree it was not too hard. I even managed it.

I also heard rumor that Danny may have done "The Bubble" on the overhand around the corner sometime. I never saw anyone do that until much later. Did you guys work on that one?


Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Dec 3, 2009 - 08:18am PT
Chris - Camp 4 - 1965
Chris - Camp 4 - 1965
Credit: Glen Denny

This photo was taken of Chris by Glen Denny and appeared in the first issue of Ascent in 1967. It is used with his permission.

Mountain climber
Jan 4, 2010 - 09:27pm PT
How can I get a hold of Pratt's writings? anything online?
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 4, 2010 - 10:47pm PT
The South Face of Mount Watkins

View from Dead Horse Point

there is a third, I believe... I'll search
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Jan 4, 2010 - 11:07pm PT
Don't forget his piece about climbing in the
Ribbon Falls amphitheater, and the rats... That's
a nice piece.

Trad climber
Douglas, WY
Jan 5, 2010 - 05:50pm PT
It was Chris who talked me into going to the Valley for the first time in 1965.
Yes, he was one of the slowest climbers I ever climbed with. I did my first A4 with him on Castle Rock in Boulder Canyon, January 1965. Very nice guy to hang with.

Hey Patrick Oliver, greetings from your partner on the Diagonal in 1966!

Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Jan 5, 2010 - 06:58pm PT
Note Squishy, there are only a few pieces by Pratt. He wanted to climb, not write, as he put it, but what he did write is surely some of the best climbing writing in english.
Rick Sylvester

Trad climber
Squaw Valley, California
May 8, 2011 - 08:01pm PT
Chris was very meticulous...and just a great nice guy. Tom Kimbrough and he are two of my alltime favorites from early "Resident Climber" days in the Valley, two unique and very special people as all who have been fortunate to have known them can attest. My first year at Tahoe, -'68/9, a bunch of us climbers shared a rented house in Tahoe City. Chris' girlfriend and I worked at Squaw, I on the pro patrol despite not being a very good skier (bodies were needed; it was just before the mountains became an attractive lifestyle or whatever); the majority at Alpine Meadows. The people who lived or went through that house on Grove Street were the couple Bridwell and Lois Rice (who later married and had 2 children with another of the neatest people I ever climbed with and got to know, John Fischer -- so sad what happened last year). Lois, by the way, was the second female climber -- that was fairly exotic back then -- I ever met. The first was Joy Herron (the namesake for "Jump with Joy" that she did with, I believe, Yvon; it was originally entitled "Guy Fawkes Day" and seemed scary run out-ish just with pitons) when she was Dougal Haston's girlfriend, summer of '66, when I was a student at ISMM 3 months after John Harlin's infamous Eiger Direct accident. Tim Kimbrough and his very nice girlfriend were in that house. Kim Schmitz, like Lois, a very strong skier (Lois had been a Far West junior alpine racer, originally from Gilroy); Eric Beck (I can't recall if he had an s.o.); Mark Klemens; Steve Thompson I think; and Dick and Judy Erb, were there all or part of that snow season. Amazingly (in view of the actuarial tables), Dick and Judy are still together, living in June Lake, as I found out during a chance encounter a few years back while Jeff Schloss and my son Terray and I were hiking in to, finally, climb the South face of Clyde Minaret (Terray, pretty young, elected not to climb, to stay in camp all day so that he could be eaten by mosquitoes, it being a bad year for them).
Schmitz, Bridwell and Beck were on pro patrol under Norm Simmons at Alpine. Chris was a lift operator availing himself of free ski lessons offered to employees. I heard tales of his meticulousness in practicing when he'd been taught, reputedly concentrating on every single turn, never letting go for a moment to Yes, "deliberate" indeed. My first trip to Lover's Leap was with and due to him that spring. Also, a failed attempt of Mt. Morrison -- we never left the ground, never found the start of the route. Jed Zenzic, an Alpine patrolman, I believe, was with us. The rock looked scary fragile compared to Valley granite. The last time I saw Chris was at Indian Rock...a couple of decades ago? I'd stopped on my way back to Squaw from the Monterey Jazz Festival. There was someone not climbing, sitting down looking sort of Buddha-like with a carpenter's belt suspended on a bit of a paunch. He hailed me, saying later he'd recognized the distinct sound of my voice --I've never liked it but am stuck with it -- when I was speaking with another boulderer. Chris was still at the Berkeley -- I think -- zen center. Just a unique and great guy, one of Sacherer's main partners on many of the Valley's original 5.10s, real pioneering stuff, not to mention into the unknown realm of the frightening, and of course sans all the great protection options now available.
By the way, when John Bouchard and I returned to Chamonix following an eventful -- and not forecasted storm complete with a meter of new snow and lightning -- Eiger Nordewand ascent (1986), we heard rumor of an accident during the same storm on "The Shroud", which then had the reputation as being the foremost hardest ice climb in the Alps or at least the Mont Blanc Massif. It turned out two Americans had fallen to their deaths, possibly due to lightning (I must research this). They were Frank Sacherer and Joe Weiss. Most climbers including myself had lost track of Frank following his heydey Valley period -- I'm not sure if his tenure and mine even overlapped -- and thought he was out of climbing. An apparently amazing physicist, I believe, he was working at the CERN nuclear reactor in Geneva. But a couple of years before, I think, I'd come across an export form at Snell Sports -- you presented this at the border when you left France so you could get back your 17% or whatever VAT tax if you were a foreigner -- with his name on it showing that he'd purchased ice axe and crampons, so I surmised he was into alpinist, not done with climbing. His partner, Joe Weiss, was not a "name" but I'd had a chance encounter some years earlier with him in Berkeley when I stopped by to visit a former Explorer Scouts member and high school chess teammate, Terry Mast, who -- I learned this only a few years ago -- is famous in astronomical circles as the lead -- ? -- designer of the mirror for the Kech Observatory telescope on Hawaii, the largest land based one, able to peer into the outer edges of the Universe. He seemed a really nice guy but I had no idea he was into climbing or what his skill level was. It was a great shame, a real loss.
ps No, Steck was not atop Half Dome for the South Face rescue of Harding and Rowell. Allen and I were supposed to be on the last chopper ferry but the pilot decided he didn't want to make that final flight in twilight. But our gear -- sleeping bags and related -- went up. I was really bummed, especially when I learned later that a great deal of pyschedelics were present -- the rangers up there reputedly kept silent on the matter, due to being outnumbered and of course incapable of effecting the rescue without the aid of the best climbers in the world. It sounded like a surreal night I'd missed, besides not being able to help out. Lacking my sleeping bag, I ended up having toforce -- it was easy and no damage was done -- my way into one of Curry Company's tent cabins across the street from Camp 4.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
May 8, 2011 - 09:01pm PT

Steck was on top for the Rowell/Harding, Half Dome South Face rescue. I have a number of photos from that epic adventure. Once we got the "boys" up and tucked into dual sleeping bags it was a more relaxed and interesting evening. Thanks for the extra bag!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
May 8, 2011 - 09:26pm PT

There is a great long thread on Frank Sacherer here on this forum, including the Shroud accident with photos from his camera, but also his climbs and work as a physicist. Check it out (it will take awhile to read through - 507 posts over 4.5 years).
Rick Sylvester

Trad climber
Squaw Valley, California
May 8, 2011 - 11:27pm PT
Steck was up there?! I'm absolutely blown away. Our flight was cancelled. How did he get up there? Was there a morning flight I never heard about? I'll have to ask him unless anyone on the Forum knows. Now, I'm doubly bummed out. This just doesn't make sense.

On to another topic, my betrayal by Pratt. '67 was a sort of lost year for me, though with 20/20 hindsight a key transitional year which shaped the course of my entire life. I was in the Los Angeles area trying to hold together a first marriage that would fail. I'd hooked up with a college roommate's sister. He would later become a footnote in American history as Monica Lewinsky's far from media averse attorney. I had a series of dead end jobs: "kidnapper" (door to door child photographer), after school day camp bus driver/counselor and U.S. postal worker. Sometimes I was at UCLA in two respects: working out with the wrestling team (my college eligibility had been used up at Cal but I was competing in AAU weekend tournaments) and hanging out a bit with the UCLA climbing club, the "Bruin Mountaineers". Its leading light, though I have no real memory if I even met or knew him then, was Ken Boche.. Later I learned he was a particularly skilled friction slab specialist with first ascents on Starr King et al. (the Apron too? I'm not sure). He flew in from Hawaii and sang a song at the Saving Camp 4 celebration a few years back. Members of the club would meet for lunch under a tree on the campus. I made some contacts that led to my first forays to Stoney Point and the Valley (second Yosemite trip ever).
Re. the latter, there was no room in the vehicles so I had to hitch, but with a gorgeous redhead (no room for her?! - talk about equalitarianism). Unfortunately, I was tongue tied then with the opposite sex and couldn't avail myself of any possibilities ( it was probably academic because if there were any openings I was too unperceptive then to have even noticed, being just about the exact opposite of Charlie Sheen's character on "Two and a Half Men"). For climbing I hooked up with Brian Berry (later he was lucky to have gotten in on the first ascent of "Snake Dike"). We hooked up with someone named Chuck Pratt. He led us up the unprotectable (at least then) 80' or so right side of "The Remnant" (5.7/5.8ish). Terrifying. At least I was able to successfully follow it (credit the wrestling). The other route we got up that weekend was the Column's Direct route, the first Valley grade 3 for both of us. Brian had a small cartridge Super 8 cine camera. We ended up showing the footage at the luxurious Mulholland Drive home of one of his many siblings, his brother Jan. Jan was rock 'n roll pioneer/royalty with the seminal duo "Jan and Dean" (it morphed from "Jan and Arnie". Various amazingly beauteous starlet-like girls drifted in and out, also Davey Jones of the then current hit group "The Monkees" who asked Jan, "Do you have the music score ready?" This surprised me because Jan seemed in a semi-vegetable state due to a series of car crashes, especially the final worst one on Sunset Blvd. near UCLA ("Deadman's Curve" -- obviously he sang of what he knew).
Rewind to the summer of '66. Dougal Haston and Don Whillans are running the ISMM school following the death of John Harlin on the Eiger Direct Three of four years ago John Harlin Jr., during a conversation at Telluride's MountainFilm Festival, knocks my socks off with his assertion that Dougal "stole" the school from the Harlin family; also, that "he killed my dad". I never interpreted Dougal's proprietorship or the accident in such a way. I guess John, whom I like and respect, covers it in his book. Anyway, Dougal tells me -- or was it when I guided/instructed
for him the summer of '69, "Climbing is balance and boldness". Substitute "technique" for "balance". Strength, muscling your way up a route, was then considered a negative, bad form. Of course at that point of time in the Alps and the British Isles (with exceptions, like gritstone where Brown and Whillans were credited with creating then state of the art jamming techniques) crack climbing that predominates in places like the Valley and much of the American West, and the required athleticism and physicality to succeed at this type of endeavor were the exception, not the rule in the world of climbing/mountaineering. Oh, I should mention the area near Dresden but of course none of us had heard of it back then.
Fast forward back to '69 or so. A bunch of us penniless climbers get work on a Yosemite Park fire crew. The ones I remember are Werner, Barry Bates and Rod McKenzie. I have a great photo somewhere but -- the horror! the horror! the disorganization! the disorganization! To me this was historic, climbers interacting in an official capacity with the park service. Unreal! Resident climbers (dirtbags, the great unwashed, no visible means of support, shoplifters, way overstayers of the two weeks per year limit...and it was unforeseen at the time that money could be made from us and the activity we were passionate and driven about; it was pre "Go Climb a Rock" t- shirts [Dennis Miller stenciled "somewhere else" on the back; I've long thought this was his cleverest contribution] and the Mountaineering School and Shop) on the one side and the park service and concessionaire, Curry Company, on the other; we were fierce adversaries, total enemies.
So one evening following a day of work, clearing underbrush or some such, we were gathered by the fire station, chugging beer, when a discussion ensued. "Bates can do 3 one arms". Wow. "So, Pratt can do eight!" What!!?? I'd never heard that. I never came close to doing one. I had done 24 two arms in grade or high school -- big deal. Sure, I had the stubborn stick-to-it type of strength if you want to term it that -- I always felt that Harding and I had that in common -- but that gets you only so far; there's no way it can get you up a lot of stuff. Sure I'd heard about Pratt climbing with "perfect technique" to minimize exertion. But who didn't strive for that? And with that type of power under the hood who needed "perfect technique"? So Ament and others can write lyrically about things like "meld[ing] with the moves", being "taught by the rock" and "susceptible to technique" (Steve Grossman) but to me it's more than a bit of a crock. Please don't misinterpret me here. I'm well aware strength without technique gets one only so far;. strength alone won't get the job done. But let's be honest about the role of strength. I still feel betrayed.

Rick Sylvester

Trad climber
Squaw Valley, California
May 9, 2011 - 08:39pm PT
By the way, all this stuff about Chris Fredericks resembling Christ --Chris did not resemble a fictitious character.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
May 9, 2011 - 10:47pm PT
Looking now back over this thread, there is so much I could have
added or said, but for some reason I must not have been tuned
into the thread at the time,
not much anyway, or was struggling with some other situation.

Pratt told me in detail all the events of Madsen's death, of which he
(Chuck) was aware. He told me about the sound of something falling past
them, how cold they were in that storm, how they found someone's glasses
on a small grassy ledge, as I recall... and much much more... Of course
he didn't know Jim had died until he got to the top. But he shared what
the others immediately told him, about what Jim said. It was chilling to
me to hear what Jim said, according to Pratt, just as the knot
slipped through the carabiners, a phrase which has gone through
quite a few incarnations... and... well,

about Chris... He and I climbed together a few times, our first
route together the Steck-Salathe on Sentinel. Royal had taken me
to Yosemite but wanted me to prove myself on so that it would not
be said I lived too much under his wing... He introduced me to
Fredericks, and this was indeed a fine gentleman but the
slowest climber I had ever met. That didn't matter, because
he could climb quite hard stuff nevertheless. He said
if I brought the gear he would bring the bivouac food,
and to my horrow when we decided to spend the night after
starting in the afternoon the first day, he had brought
virtually nothing. I'd have to look in my memoirs but it was
something like one orange, one candy bar, and one bottle
of water... and we were nearly dying right then and there
for food and water and consumed that pitifully small
amount immediately. I don't know how we continued on
upward and finished, that mal-nourished, and/or famished.

I've already said a lot about him, I think elsewhere...

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
May 10, 2011 - 02:44am PT
I have also wondered where Chris Fredericks wandered off to. Chris and Pratt had a lot of similarities.

Chris did a number of climbs with me in the early 1960s. As a leader he was very slow, intense and persistent and tended to get himself all scratched up and bloody. However he was safe and analytical and an interesting conversationalist. He didn't mind letting his partner lead; and could be considerably faster as a second.

We climbed together the East Buttresses of El Cap, Middle and Lower Cathedral Rock; some of them more than once. Frank Sacherer at one point was encouraging me to complete a streak of climbs by doing all the East Buttresses in one week. However I never went up to do the East Buttress of Higher Cathedral Rock.

Chris and I also did several routes on Rixon's Pinnacle and along the base of El Cap. I was also climbing these routes with Frank or Royal. We were climbing daily and repeating these routes and pushing for speed.

Chris and I also went up for an epic on the Steck-Salathe on Sentinal (I had already done the Chouinard-Herbert with Royal). However Chris got his legs scrapped up so badly on some of the lower pitches that he was in pain and we bailed. He later went back and finished it when Pat first arrived in the valley.

Chris and I were spending a lot of time along the base of El Cap trying to figure out how to speed up direct aid for the big walls. We nailed a row of pins into the center route of Little John Pinnacle and analyzed all the moves for racking and placing pitons and moving up rapidly in slings. Then we raced up to Sickle Ledge one day with Glenn Denny watching. That evening, Glenn told me he thought I was the fastest aider in the valley. However I think that brief moment of glory has been long forgotten.

Chris and I hung a rope off an overhanging pitch at the base of El Cap and timed various configurations of Prusik knots to get up that rope quickly. I was also playing around with some caming devices from a yachting store as rope climbing devices. Then I saw Jumars advertised in a Sporthaus Shuster catalog that Yvon gave me. I ordered a pair and brought them into Camp 4 and showed them to everyone. I first used these with Frank on the El Cap Tree Direct and then on the West Face of Sentinel fixed ropes.

I am not sure why Guido and I didn't know each other in this period; as we clearly have overlapping experiences. We were a small community back then and all climbing together with various combinations of partners before the druggies moved in and took over.

Edit: My first long stint in Yosemite was Christmas vacation from my junior year at Occidental College; arriving by Greyhound Bus with a sack of pitons and books. This was when I first met Frank Sacherer and climbed with him every day. It is also when I met Chuck Pratt and Chris and other regulars of the time.

Chris and I also went up to climb the NW Face of Half Dome one summer. We made a cold uncomfortable bivouac on the sandy ledges near the Robbins traverse. Early the next morning, chilled and sandblasted and in no mood to continue the climb; we continued straight up to the north ridge and followed it to the summit and rejuvenating sunshine. Royal had recently made Camp 4 news by doing a no-hands descent (YDS Second Class) of the cables route. Taking advantage of the cool rock; I repeated the stunt barefoot, i.e. no special footwear (YDS First Class).


Trad climber
Douglas, WY
May 10, 2011 - 06:34pm PT

Lotsa' people who knew him very well (Pratt, in particular) jokingly called him Christ instead of Chris.
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