Classic Ice Primer- Chouinard Catalog 1968

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Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Original Post - May 19, 2007 - 04:53pm PT
Here is the Ice master himself, dagger in hand. The Chouinard Crampon was just out and the Piolet still in the oven....

THE Crampon.

Pardon the coffee stain (not mine) but groove on the technique!

Gotta love those screws, for opening a wine bottle perhaps!

Makes my knees want to go akimbo just lookin' at YC!
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
May 19, 2007 - 05:09pm PT
kewl!

what font is that?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 19, 2007 - 05:16pm PT
The wild west cover font?
Raydog

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
May 19, 2007 - 05:34pm PT
Great Steve.
bachar

Trad climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
May 19, 2007 - 09:39pm PT
Steve - classic! - I had that catalog in high school - I think I wore it out from looking at it too much and drooling on it....
Raydog

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
May 19, 2007 - 11:10pm PT
Beck crampon straps
Carmen Supergaiters
Glaibier Super Guides
Imported Rugby Shirts
Original Standup Shorts
Foamback anorack and cagoule (spell?)
Crag Dubh pack
Ultima Thule pack


these probably came a bit later...

was Doug Robinson's Talus Running article in '76?



Watusi

Social climber
Joshua Tree, CA
May 20, 2007 - 12:04am PT
That is awesome Steve!!
rlf

Trad climber
Josh, CA
May 20, 2007 - 12:32am PT
Very cool. I had a Ultima Thule pack when I was a young teen ager. Did an outward bound style trip with it starting in the pinto basin and exiting down rattlesnake canyon in Indian Cove. Very cool pack.
rockermike

Mountain climber
Berkeley
May 20, 2007 - 02:06am PT
I still have that ice screw, and a knock off of those crampons in may "active" gear. Screw I've been carrying for years waiting for a chance to bail and leave the thing behind on a bail.
YC was definitely my hero growing up.

I sold my bamboo shaft piolet years ago. Kind of miss it.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 20, 2007 - 12:00pm PT
I have the 1975 catalog right here, Ray so hang tight! Talus running wildmen will appear shortly.

Comin' at ya from stage left. Gotta love Mr. Robinson's neighborhood!












marty(r)

climber
beneath the valley of ultravegans
May 20, 2007 - 01:54pm PT
"One does not face falling into a cauldron of Winnebagos..."

How rad is that?! Thanks Steve!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 20, 2007 - 02:18pm PT
Death by Winnebago, I had forgotten that the realms of demise had that category! I always wondered what DR was running away from. Must have been a JT episode early on.
Raydog

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
May 20, 2007 - 04:02pm PT
Thanks Steve.
F10 Climber F11 Drinker

Trad climber
e350
May 20, 2007 - 05:08pm PT
Steve,

I lost my copy of the catalog, but perhaps you could do me a favor.

Post up the photo with the quote "loose your dreams and you'll loose your mind"

Thanks, James
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 20, 2007 - 05:14pm PT
James, that would be in the 1972 clean climbing catalogue (mine is buried right now) and captions a pic of the Moose's Tooth. Go to Frostworksclimbing.com and you should find it.

Edit: Regrettably, as a highschool student, I cut that very quote out for a coat of arms art project.
Walleye

climber
The Land of the Big Stone
May 20, 2007 - 05:20pm PT
Hey Steve G

How about posing that photo from the Patagonia catalog circa 83 or 84 of certain long haired scruffy looking dude checking out the camp 4 bulletin board. I haven't seen that one for about 20 years.

You start a new thread and title it "Classic How to Look like a Valley Wall Veteran Primer"...........
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 20, 2007 - 05:32pm PT
I'd have to go digging for that classic old Patagonia buttshot. The photographer was lurking around the C4 lot, identified herself, and said she was looking for oldschool clothing because pics of the stuff made YC happy. I went back to my tent and proudly put on the coffee colored garb of yesteryear.

She blanched a little when I happily showed her the plate-sized sardine oil stain on one leg while telling her I'd never washed those pants because I was convinced that any laundering would hasten their demise. I should say the only thing bad about the whole deal was the slightly smarmy caption, "Tailor wanted, no experience necessary." Just ain't what you'd really find on the C4 bulletin board. Got two pairs of new wall pants for my effort.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
May 20, 2007 - 08:05pm PT
Ruby Tuesday (Rolling Stone)

"She would never say where she came from
Yesterday don't matter if its gone
While the sun is bright
Or in the darkest night
No one knows
She comes and goes

Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday
Who could hang a name on you?
When you change with every new day
Still I'm gonna miss you...

Don't question why she needs to be so free
Shell tell you it's the only way to be
She just can't be chained
To a life where nothing's gained
And nothing's lost
At such a cost

Theres no time to lose, I heard her say
Catch your dreams before they slip away
Dying all the time
Lose your dreams
And you will lose your mind.
Ain't life unkind?

Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday
Who could hang a name on you?
When you change with every new day
Still I'm gonna miss you..."
F10 Climber F11 Drinker

Trad climber
e350
May 20, 2007 - 08:30pm PT
Steve, thanks for pointing out the right catalog. Seeing those crampons made me go and dig mind out.



I bought them in the early seventies and were matched up with a pair of Super Guides. Later I used them on Scarpa Invernos, but in the mid nineties I figured the crampons should be retired before I was left stranded with a broken rig. I included a Charlet ice screw and a Salewa ice hog. I can't say the Charlet screw saw any action, especially when there was a Salewa tubular screw on the gear sling.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 20, 2007 - 11:11pm PT
That old Warthog does make a dandy dagger. I wonder if YC is using one on the catalog cover shot?
F10 Climber F11 Drinker

Trad climber
e350
May 20, 2007 - 11:18pm PT


Steve, your memory is better than mine. The Warthog was great cause it could be hammered in but screwed out. I was half right calling it an ice hog.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 20, 2007 - 11:32pm PT
You can call it anything but RELIABLE that's for sure!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 18, 2008 - 12:15pm PT
Keep your heels down going over that bump!
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Dec 18, 2008 - 01:10pm PT
Steve
You're amazing. Though I wasn't climbing until a few
years later ('72), I have a pair of those crampons, in addition
to the salewa type, and used to have a few of the screws, including warthogs. I donated them to a play, K2 at the CMC a few years ago and never saw them again. . .
Keep up the history!!!
TwistedCrank

climber
Ideeho-dee-do-dah-day
Dec 18, 2008 - 01:14pm PT
Those Annapurna glasses were the shiznit!

I had a pair of those. It was so bitchen bopping around on glaciers looking like a bug.

About that french technique - did anybody ever really use it? Pff...
philo

Trad climber
boulder, co.
Dec 18, 2008 - 01:18pm PT
The Chouinard cramp was a thing of beauty, a work of art. As were the droop picked bamboo shafted ice axes he produced.

Yeah TwistedCrank I have seen Jim Nigro French +70% ice without getting his tongue stuck. Won't work in double boots.
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Dec 18, 2008 - 02:15pm PT
Philo
Jim and I started climbing together back in the east,
waaaaaaayyyyyy back!!!!
TrundleBum

Trad climber
Las Vegas
Dec 18, 2008 - 04:19pm PT
Cool thread ;)
That Chouinard article was huge !

Speaking of French Technique:
Ok so I have not even seen a climable ice flow in over 20 years. So I see all this new fangled gear that looks like it rox on steep/vert ice. Tools with no leashes, crampons with heel hooks etc.
So getting back into climbing now I have had a conversations with active ice climbers. When I ask "do you know all the terms for the various foot work techniques in French style?" they look at me funny and say something like "Who uses any French technique these days?".
I figure either:
1. they do not ever climb things less than vert, never do/ encounter any long 70 degree ice.
2. They look like these contemporary pictures I have seen of people climbing 60 degree hard snow ice, front pointing with double, short tools...
To which I look and say I don't get that ?

Then I ask "but on a long less than verticle section, don't you get tired for no reason, like your calves and shoulders from swinging that extra tool? I usually get responces with rationale that I don't think makes sense, but 'what'ahey' I don't go ice climbing since all these new tools, so I'll take their word for it.

It just seems to me the influence of the new tools and the hype to climb more spectacular climbs has left a lot of todays newer ice climbers ignorant of the whole revo/evolution that was the combining of what was known as German or front point and the French or flat foot techniques. Then of course our hero YC tops off the revolution with his advancements in tools and then protection.

in the near future, with all this mixed climbing using bolted pro, will we start to refer to 'sport ice' and 'Trad ice' ?

I am drying out gear from being out in the Mojave the past couple days.
It was awesome, perhaps a 50 year snow storm. (I hope I got a few good pics)
Trooping around in the big boulders covered in snow got me thinking a lot about ice BITD.
I am gunna dig out my old set of crampons and post a pic.
TwistedCrank

climber
Ideeho-dee-do-dah-day
Dec 18, 2008 - 05:00pm PT
That's real funny. Yeah the heel hookers and -- what's the wierd thing they do when they hang their leg on their arm while upside down and 3 feet away from a bolt -- well those guys, they couldn't climb 70 degree ice fer nothing.

As for the so-called french technique well, I've always hated the french so I generally refused to call those techniques frog names like Pinot Noir Neve and Chateau Blanc Boofoo. They were just efficient ways to cover lots of vert in the hills.

I guess Yvon had some french blood - well, french canuck at least - so I guess he musta felt obliged to call it something. I don't think Fred Beckey ever gave much thought to what it was called.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 18, 2008 - 06:36pm PT
Classic ice axe ad from March 1973 Mountain 26.



Another from Mountain 24.

Larry

Trad climber
Bisbee
Dec 18, 2008 - 08:53pm PT
Also speaking of "French" technique...

I was retreating from the Run Don't Walk Couloir in the early '80s with Scarpelli. I faced out, flat-footed, using YC's techniques. I got outta there 1/2 hour before Bob did.

He was facing in, front pointing. How can you swing an axe that way, when you're down climbing? Five minutes after he exited the gully, the sun hit it, and major sh#t started falling. Nearly cost him big time.

Larry
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Dec 21, 2008 - 04:12pm PT
Got bored last week and dug a pile of my 70's climbing gear out of my garage. In going through it and matching up stuff to my old Chouinard catalogs I've established a pretty good timeline.

One item I can't find in my 72, 78, 83 Chouinard catalogs is his U.S. made WartHog ice piton. It is marked Chouinard-USA on one side and Wart Hog on the other and replaced the Salewa Warthog in his line-up.

I bought 4 of them between 1978 and 1983---but I'm uncertain when. I retired from ice-climbing in 1983 when it dawned on me that I had used up an incredible amount of luck in the previous 12 years. Still climbing---just not that slippery cold stuff.

Can anyone provide more history or a time-line on this item? thanks, Fritz





Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Dec 21, 2008 - 05:03pm PT
Somehow I've always thought the ice pin in YC's hand on that catalog cover was not a warthog but a way old-school one that looks basically like a very long vertical blade pin. Somebody gave me one recently; when I'm posting again, I'll show it off.

My fuzzy recollection is that Warthogs didn't come along until later, like early 70s. YC liked em enough to make his own; I always wanted a bomber Salewa screw.

I'm still climbing with my 70 cm bamboo Piolet. What a beautiful tool! Ultimately esthetic hand forging, fine balance, and over the years grain rises in the bamboo to improve grip. All the wood-handled axes (and ice hammers) dampened vibration nicely, helping the pick to stick in brittle ice. But when Yvon started comparing the bamboo handle to a fine fly rod, I thought he had gone round the bend.

That Salewa "coathanger" ice screw was way sketchy. On the water ice FA of the V-Notch with Yvon, he placed one for his only pro halfway up a pitch. Coming up behind, I pulled the shank end right out. It had snapped off at the top of the corkscrew. That was the end of that for me. Except for pulling wine corks.
F10

Trad climber
e350
Dec 21, 2008 - 08:20pm PT
DR,

You're not the only one still using a 70 cm bambooo Piolet,

I just love the feel of it
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 21, 2008 - 10:07pm PT
Wasn't long before he too was selling a "dayglow metal monster!" LOL
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Dec 22, 2008 - 02:36am PT
Steve, let's not be hasty here. He never sold a dripping-in-orange, clang-a-bang monster like the MSR "negative hooking-angle" implement that was all designed wrong-way-around to arrest a fall rather than positively holding to prevent falling in the first place. Nope, not the Chouinard style.
apogee

climber
Dec 22, 2008 - 02:56am PT
"About that french technique - did anybody ever really use it?"

Yep, as an aspiring alpinist oh-so-long-ago, I studied 'On Ice' word by word, and practiced all those frenchy names assiduously. I came to realize that there was much truth in YC's rock vs. snow/ice descriptions of body positions, and still think about them when I scramble through the mountains.

Learning those techniques never resulted in me becoming another Twight or Gadd, but it sure was a formative experience...
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 22, 2008 - 10:19pm PT
Time for the Ice Screw Parade.


Starting with the scrawny Marwa!



The thinest will take a cork out and are too delicate to believe. Falling on one.......even aiding on one, yow!


Classic late sixties screws and drive-ins. Charlet-Mosers on the bottom. Salewa tube up top and frst generation Chouinard-Salewa Warthog drive-in.


Darker second generation Salewa Warthog on botttom with two Camp screws below early Salewa tube.


Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Dec 22, 2008 - 10:40pm PT
Nice collection Steve.

After my experience with the snapped-off Charlet-Moser ice screw, I went into the Ski Hut in Berkeley and bought out their stock of a dozen of those Marwas -- just to be sure no one accidentally used them for pro.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Dec 23, 2008 - 12:19pm PT
Marwa screw: I broke mine off absent-mindedly screwing it into a picknick table.
Didn't even get to try it in the wine bottle...

That last Warthog is art.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 27, 2008 - 03:06pm PT
I have been waiting patiently for a Warthog to end up as a dagger in some low budget sci-fi horror flick.

Doug- those delicate imported screws never had a chance considering the way we often used to put them in, using the ice axe or alpine hammer like a brace and bit. Rock out and snap!
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Dec 27, 2008 - 07:09pm PT
Steve: Thank you for the awesome line-up of old ice-screws you posted. I have not figured out the trick of posting photos here, but the Warthog I asked about is all but identical to the Salewa Warthog in your last photo.

However it is clearly embossed Chouinard USA on one side and Wart Hog on the other. One is currently in a group of Chouinard screws on E-BAy. Auction # is 160306090912.

Yes they are mine. Fritz

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 29, 2008 - 11:35am PT
If your Warthog has a bronze finish on it rather than black then you likely have a third generation which is even more prop worthy!
Clu

Social climber
Dec 29, 2008 - 06:30pm PT
I along with several from Mt. Traders in Berkeley signed up for Yvon's 3 day clinic on ice near Mt. Dana. Rick Sylvester was assisting, $85 (?!) for a 3 day clinic. Yvon had just come out with the N. Wall hammer and cute "Climaxe", the first short tools. Still have my 70cm bamboo and recently picked up a N Wall hammer. Would love to complete the set with a Climaxe.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 29, 2008 - 06:42pm PT
Who wouldn't want to tidy things up that way! LOL
I have an original Piolet and a Zero Northwall Hammer. The Climaxe is pretty spiffy but always seemed like a great way to puncture fabric or flesh at the time. First came out in 1972.
jimknight

Trad climber
Orem, Utah
Dec 30, 2008 - 04:00pm PT
Anyone remember the Nestor Ice Screw? It made a fair dagger. I'll dig one out and make a scan to post, just for grins of course.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Dec 30, 2008 - 04:26pm PT
A Climaxe would make a good collector's item, for sure, but they weren't so, uh, "hot" for climbing. Not enough heft, so they kinda wobbled and dinked around.

The hammer, though -- now that was a tool. My first one was hand forged from a Yo hammer, with a pick about half as big in all dimensions. Shorter, thinner, more delicate, but with the same force behind it. Talk about penetration. Eventually it broke, so I could see why he beefed up the production models.

YC had a Climaxe at his beach shack that came out at low tide and was all scruffy from digging in the sand. He called it the Clam-axe.
jimknight

Trad climber
Orem, Utah
Dec 30, 2008 - 05:17pm PT
Classic story Doug! The Climaxe was too light. I wrapped solder around the head of mine and taped it in place to get the weight up. Okay as a 3rd tool. I climbed with a guy from Lander (Wes Kraus?) who had refit his Climaxe with a longer, framing hammer handle. It worked even better.
east side underground

Trad climber
Hilton crk,ca
Dec 30, 2008 - 05:25pm PT
was that at YC's nice little multi-million dollar "shack" overlooking rights and lefts ? Wish I had a "shack"!!!!!!
F10

Trad climber
e350
Dec 30, 2008 - 07:40pm PT
Actually my Climaxe comes in pretty handy on some alpine routes where you don't need an axe but need to travel a small bit of snow. When you don't need it, tuck it away and it is out of sight but not out of mind.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 30, 2008 - 07:44pm PT
Aesthetics aside, the need for close quarters step cutting capability or palm support on a hammer length tool never convinced me that I had to have one. I lusted after a fiberglass LAS Hummingbird hammer instead.


Classic old school Lee Vining canyon ice shot

Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Dec 30, 2008 - 08:23pm PT
Fiberglas Hummingbird hammer?
The white handled jobber...
Nah, the tubular pick flexed too much and all those short tools were knuckle bangers.

After all of that with tube picks and the hammers,
I liked the Big Bird with an Alpine pick (or the reverse curve banana pick) best.
Jaybro

Social climber
wuz real!
Dec 30, 2008 - 08:29pm PT
I still have one of those original fiberglass, tinker toy -like, hummingbirds, "The EB of Ice Climbing!"

-I have too much scar tissue to see my knuckles....
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Dec 30, 2008 - 08:37pm PT
fuk fuk fuk and:
What am I really saying here.
I am a rock climber fer chrissakes!

It is time I talk to somebody, a professional maybe, about this... I have nerdish inclinations, issues even.

Oh well, it would be cool to have an original Pterodactyl (Terrordactyl?)
Or an old-school Mountain Technology 60 cm axe.
Yes that would be nice.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Dec 30, 2008 - 08:39pm PT
Or anything made by Hamish McInnes
'Cuz: if it's not Scottish it's crap!!!
F10

Trad climber
e350
Dec 30, 2008 - 09:50pm PT
'Cuz: if it's not Scottish it's crap!!!

Do Millar mitts count
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 30, 2008 - 11:07pm PT
A little schnice on the ruckle......


Tom Patey leading on the Alladin Buttress, Cairngorms. John Cleare photo.

More ruckle less schnice!


Jimmy Marshall on Parallel B Gully, Graham Tiso photo. Both photos from Climbing Ice, YC, 1978.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Dec 31, 2008 - 02:49pm PT
Well, you guys are dredging a lot of memories here, from a guy who barely climbs ice anymore. I mean, it's scary! (not the recollections...)


That's me and YC on the cover of Mountain. Don't remember ever seeing that issue. I belayed short, after he pestered me with "save some for me." Funhogs, jeez. That's the FA of the Lee Vining icefalls. Any of em. Wish I could recall what prompted us to go there. I might have glimpsed it, for all I know now. We went to take pictures for Climbing Ice, brought our photographer. I always liked the way this series of shots was laid out tall and skinny on the back cover. And I really like the mixed climbing close-up taken the same day across the canyon.



No, we're not talking about Yvon's "big house" right on the point-break side of Pitas Point, itself the next major break south of Rincon -- that was later. The shack was half a mile further down the coast, sandwiched between the old Coast Highway and another good break. Boards in the rafters, and you could see right through cracks in the wall. The waves broke 50 feet away, except at high tide when they were closer. I spent a lot of time sitting up against the seawall writing. Yvon let me stay in the back room months at a time. When Malinda moved in, I retired to the basement of the "Martian Movers" building, under the GPIW store with Tex Bossier.



Tar, you is a sick puppy. But we'll be gentle with your obsessions here even as we deconstruct...

Reality therapy: The old McInnes tool -- the "Terror" -- was a blunderbuss. Bashed the ice into submission -- it wasn't pretty. Way too fat and blunt and shapeless to ever stick a swing, you were reduced to excavating a hole in the ice and then hooking the thing into it to hang on. Brutish.

Still, Don Jensen had one in the Palisades as his only tool, and I've always been amazed at what he did with it. Not water ice -- given the equipage he wisely stayed away from that -- but with nothing more for purchase than that 50 cm shaft plunged in, he down-soloed the FA of the V-Notch in snow conditions. No one for miles around if he got in trouble. It had a hammer face for rock, and he wore it in a holster on his belt.



I always liked the Hummingbirds. Amazing sticking them in brittle ice, with what the pick displaced neatly stovepiping up the inside. Seemed to shatter a lot less. Even the springiness felt good. And knuckle-bashing? That was just normal. The fat wool mittens were armor for that, right? I mean, once they got snow in the palms they damn sure weren't for grip... When my knuckles got too sore, I would sometimes swing a hammer held with just thumb and forefinger on either side of the handle. 'Bout then it was time for the bar.

McInnes: "Ice is for pouring whiskey on."
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Dec 31, 2008 - 03:11pm PT
Yes quite,

Accurate deconstruction too.. (not that you would do otherwise)
I don't actually hope to USE such a thing as the Terror.

Then there was the "Roosterhead":
Built like a Terror, may have been the first tool to have a little point facing forward to protect the knuckles?

I couldn't make that sharply drooped shortish stuff work well either; some said they were just hooking tools and never suited to fat ice which makes a little sense.

The tube picks for the Big Bird were a little beefier and therefore inspired more confidence, but I still felt too specialized and limiting in other ways (don't ask me exactly what ways...).

But I still think any of the tools Hamish made would be nice to have under glass!
(I would at the least, enjoy seeing some pictures of various things he crafted, besides the Terror)

Somewhere back there in the pile of magazines, there is an article on the craftsmanship end of the McInnis obsession.
TrundleBum

Trad climber
Las Vegas
Dec 31, 2008 - 05:51pm PT
Remember the Forrest hammers ?

http://s236.photobucket.com/albums/ff98/trundlebum/old_gear/?action=view¤t=OldIceTools.jpg
I just tried successfully to get that alpine pick unscrewed and dislodged. A good dose of 'Liquid Wrench' did the trick. I was amazed as that pick had been in there about 30 years if not more.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I was just back east for X-mass, while there I took a trudge through my dad's basement. I had a pair of crampons that worked great but couldn't remember the brand. I found the front, right portion of one of them... Simond. They were hinged but with stiff boots descent at pretty steep stuff. What made them work well was that the first set of down points were actually at about a 60 degree rake. That made it so on less than vert stuff you could kick back on the four points instead of just the two front. A lot less strenuous.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2009 - 11:40am PT
Here is a shot of Hamish MacInnes, the Fox of Glencoe in his shop from Mountains by John Cleare, 1975.



I'm not sure whether the Terror was in his head or in his hands! LOL
east side underground

Trad climber
Hilton crk,ca
Jan 1, 2009 - 11:52am PT
I'm going to hit "the ice" right now!Ice skating that is. Got my puck,stick, pads ready for some pick up hockey, and some smoooth gliding! Gull lake is on.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2009 - 12:06pm PT
And a jolly hockey puck, ye are, Murry! Watch out for the frosty loin check!?!
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 1, 2009 - 12:07pm PT
Sweet archival snag Steve!
"A boy and his tools"....

Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 1, 2009 - 01:37pm PT
DR!
You’re such a jewel here on the forum.
I love these passages:

“That's me and YC on the cover of Mountain. Don't remember ever seeing that issue. I belayed short, after he pestered me with ‘save some for me.’

Still, Don Jensen had one [a terrordactyl] in the Palisades as his only tool, and I've always been amazed at what he did with it. Not water ice -- given the equipage he wisely stayed away from that -- but with nothing more for purchase than that 50 cm shaft plunged in, he down-soloed the FA of the V-Notch in snow conditions. No one for miles around if he got in trouble. It had a hammer face for rock, and he wore it in a holster on his belt.”



Jeepers, that’s pretty slim toolage for such a descent.
And I’m thinking the shaft on those things is more like 40 cm, so he’s going down a 50/60° slope with effectively nothing more than a claw hammer in hand!
Forget about self arrest….

More stories please.
What about Don Jensen?
Enigmatic personage right???

You must have some John Fisher vignettes too….
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2009 - 04:11pm PT
The weapons under discussion from Climbing Ice, 1978.



And a Terrordactyl action shot or two.


The Fox uses Terrordacyls on steep mixed ground on the Buachaille Etive Mor in Glencoe. Typically he is wearing a "flat at" and gaberdine trousers. From Mountains again.


Rob Taylorin the Hemsedal Valley, Norway. Henry Barber photo. From Climbing Ice.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 1, 2009 - 04:37pm PT
Nice.

As I mumbled upthread, the Terrors were said to be more about hooking Scottish mixed than swinging thick ice.
I mean, very little clearance with that pick/handle configuration.

I'm pretty sure that first shot was cropped & used in a Salewa crampon ad.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 1, 2009 - 04:53pm PT
Wow,
Same photo shoot slightly different picture:



From Mountain number 53
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 1, 2009 - 04:57pm PT
I started out with those crampons.
The front point teeth were angled down but straight,
So it helped to have a little bit different kicking motion than with curved points; sort of a downward kick as opposed to a swing of the lower leg.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2009 - 05:02pm PT
To stand and rely on.....unlike that left foot!
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 1, 2009 - 05:07pm PT
I always wondered about that too.
(I think he is just baring his teeth)

Then the real terror strikes after that left foot gives way and the tool in his right hand comes shearing out...
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 1, 2009 - 05:18pm PT


From Mountain number 58
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 1, 2009 - 05:34pm PT
Who made the first bent-shaft tools?
Lowe???

Never saw these out in the field; one piece stamped? Cut??
Steve you could probably duplicate these for us in a couple hours?



From Mountain number 68 July/August 1979

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2009 - 05:59pm PT
I could use em to install rigid foam too! LOL

The bent shaft thing had to be european with so many tweakers afoot there.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jan 1, 2009 - 06:51pm PT
Wow! We've seen so many shots of Yvon at his tin-shed forge that it's nice to get a look at Hamish in his shop. So similar, really, the slightly disheveled, slightly cluttered place where serious metalworking obviously happens.

All these shots show much later and more evolved McInnes tools than the ones I was thinking of from the late 60s. The blades on these look to be about one-third the thickness and of a high alloy. I'd like to swing those tools, and I bet they would work just fine.

The earlier things were indeed just hooking tools. You blasted a hole in ice then hooked it.

The one Hamish has in his hand is the same length as Don Jensen's tool. You're probably right, Tar, 40 cm. In the comparison shot from Climbing Ice I think the Piolet and North Wall Hammer are 50 or 55 cm.

The one I got was in total admiring imitation of Don Jensen. I was a puppy, an apprentice guide. He was not only Chief Guide in the Palisades, and later owner of PSOM, but he was the real deal cutting-edge alpine climber. His West Face of Mt. Huntington from '65 or so was the Alaskan climb of the decade. (Can't recall if the Cassin was done in the Sixties too.) He trained for all his Alaskan climbs in the spring in the Palisades, and down-soloing the V-Notch was just one snapshot out of weeks of soloing around up there, all alone. Not only is that a pretty small shaft to anchor a self-belay kicking steps downward, but in spring conditions I always worry about how bonded the snowpack is, really, to the burnished green ice below.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 1, 2009 - 07:24pm PT
Is that the same groundbreaking climb that David Roberts participated in and wrote about?
Maybe I'm thinking Mount Deborah.

Here is the current state of my Jensen pack:

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2009 - 09:01pm PT
I think Hamish went to work for the people that produced the Curver and several other not quite designs. Lots of design experimentation going on

Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 1, 2009 - 09:21pm PT
Yes the Snowdon Mouldings Curver,

Well executed design, but we called it “the platemaker”
The teeth at the tip of the pick were too deep.
(Probably the radical droop wasn't really so good for removal either)

Nowadays we would have known better and at least custom-filed them teeth a little bit…

It had a nice fiberglass shaft; real rough (good for gripping) and prefigured leashless in a way because it had a lump down by the ferrule.

In Chamonix I saw a very old wood shafted ice ax, but 60 cm, with that same sort of bulbous catch down by the ferrule:
I really really really wanted a picture of that; it was in a museum under glass.







Here’s a picture taken at Lee Vining in the late 70s,
I’m actually using a Curver here, (I wish I had it now, in an archival sense):





I got rid of it and happily “graduated” to a 60 cm Chouinard Piolet and a 55 cm Big Bird.
This is in the Mendel right couloir, 1980:



 Ultimate helmet
 Chouinard Fantasia rope
 Galibier Superguides
 Chouinard/Carmen Supergaitors
 SMC rigid 'poons
 Dachstein mitts
 Home sewn rucksack
 Home sewn overpants
 Black rock.fukkin.hard ice
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jan 1, 2009 - 10:58pm PT
Yep, the same climb with Roberts, chronicled in his first book Mountain of my Fear. He went on to write Deborah: A Wilderness Narrative about his expedition there with Don in 1964. His description of first meeting Don is the opening passage of Deborah:

"I first met Don Jensen at the beginning of our sophomore year at Harvard. I had heard of Don -- other members of the club had told me what a strong, enthusiastic climber he was. But it was something of a surprise to meet him. That Friday afternoon, I had lugged my gear over to the entry of Lowell House, where the cars would pick us up. With the other beginners, I stood for a few moments in an awkward silence. Then one of them stepped aggressively toward me, stretching out an eager hand: "Hi! I'm Don Jensen."

"I was surprised because he seemed so boyishly friendly. I had imagined some cool, hard athlete. I could see that Don was powerful... His black hair and solid face were strong and masculine. But his face was also young, and terribly sincere. I was used to the Harvard 'style,' in which one affects a biting wit and a cold heart. ...he was nostalgic for the Sierra Nevada. He told me about a twenty-day trip he had taken alone, following the divide southward. I had never been out for that long, let alone by myself; I suggested that he must have got lonely. On the contrary, he had found the several people he had run into a disappointment. Once he had seen a large group of Sierra Club hikers, and had deliberately skirted them so that he would not have to talk to them."


I'll get to telling my own Jensen stories, but when I found this I had to copy it out. A different take, but so obviously the same guy and the same boyish enthusiasm I loved in him.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jan 1, 2009 - 11:16pm PT
Interesting to think of Hamish going on to work at Snowdon Mouldings. And especially interesting to hear about actual experience swinging a Curver.

My Chouinard-trained eye saw the droop as too curved, going beyond mirroring the arc of swinging the tool. So I suspected it wouldn't work and never tried one. On the other hand, even the backwards curve that came out later seemed to stick just fine, and with the same swing. I've never quite understood that.

To further confound things, I was accosted in a pub in Sheffield in the mid-Nineties by the story that the first drooped-pick axes were made by Scots, re-forging their axes heated over a Primus stove.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 2, 2009 - 12:56am PT
DR said:
"To further confound things, I was accosted in a pub in Sheffield in the mid-Nineties by the story that the first drooped-pick axes were made by Scots, re-forging their axes heated over a Primus stove."

Out here in Colorado Bill Roos and Paul Sibley were tinkering with ice axes, maybe as early as late 60s and certainly into the 70s.

Below is a picture of my sewing shop where I created many sewn items including Fish Products portaledges throughout the 90s.
On the wall to the left you can see an old stamp remnant from the Forrest ice ax manufacturing process.




In the enlarged photo below,
On the far left side is a Clog tool, (a short north wall hammer), unaltered.
To the right of that,
Also on the left side of the double doors hang twin custom short 45 cm tools.
These appear to have Simond Chacal blades welded onto some other sort of head and shaft.

To the right are two other similar examples, more toward ax length (particularly the yellow one) along with a 60 cm Chouinard Piolet.
Up in the high right corner is some sort of north wall hammer, with a mid-length wooden tool handle, no ferrule, wrapped in tennis racket grip leather!



These guys were experimenting with radically drooped pics fairly early on: I’m not sure when they started. Paul has mentioned something about doing it in a similar timeframe to that of McInnis. So Doug Robinson, your story about having been accosted by the gearhead Scotsmen: they could apparently get a little of that rivalry from these Colorado boys!

(Maybe best just to drink the scotch, or beer, marvel the tool-relics and wander outside under the sky, breathe some fresh air ... haha!)

Somewhere else in the mix was something more representative of their earlier work, with a simple droop which they augmented from a generic wood shafted short ax. Most of what you see on the wall here is reverse curve modification, so it represents their late 70s noodlings.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jan 2, 2009 - 11:29am PT
Boy oh boy Roy,

Another fine shop. Gotta love that multi-functional feel when the acetylene rig is within reach from the sewing machine. OT, but I can't help noticing some boards off to the right with pins on em. And a couple of those tools appear to be still dripping from that Mendel Right black ice outing.

I'd pour a Scotch here but not yet. Enjoying too much the Peets hour.

We seem to have another case of simultaneous invention here, or at least ultra-rapid spread of drooped-pick experimentation worldwide. If there was a Nobel Prize hanging in the balance, or even if Oli was into ice, we could escalate to a full-scale Taco Brand(TM) conflagration. The only corner of the alpine world still apparently silent here is the Alps. Or maybe they represent the Old School -- been climbing ice for well over a hundred years, thank you very much, and forging tools for it so long too, that they had gotten stubborn or complacent about how it's done.

Pause again to look at that Chouinard Equipment catalog that started this thread. (Thanks once again, Steve) Happen to have an original, on paper, right handy. Really can't tell from the tiny prints of those classic shots of French Technique if YC's axe has a curved pick. And I can't find right now my copies of Climbing Ice, with better reproductions of the same photos. Certainly by the next catalog the date of introduction of the Piolet is listed as 1969. And by October of that year Yvon delivered to me on the edge of the Palisade Glacier the hickory-handled 70 cm one (and that hand-forged Alpine Hammer) that we put to good use on the V-Notch the next day.

None of this really answers the question of where first the droop. Yvon's Piolet was such a high point esthetically -- still is the most beautiful ice tool I own and use. And it was so well marketed, including adroit use of the media -- a Chouinard trademark -- like my article about the V-Notch "Truckin' my Blues Away" (which had to be in Mountain? 1970?), that the question never arose, for me, until forcefully presented that night in Sheffield.

Wish I recalled better. Certainly remember pushing through a loud, crowded Pub. Certainly he was a Climber of Standing (TM) -- I was being escorted around and introduced, after giving a slide show in a big, tiered auditorium. He was definitely poking a finger toward my chest, which sloshed his beer. He was very intent on letting me know in no uncertain terms about Scottish primogeniture of the droop. Others listening agreed. May have even said that YC had come through Scotland to take in their development.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 2, 2009 - 01:07pm PT
"If there was a Nobel Prize hanging in the balance, or even if Oli was into ice, we could escalate to a full-scale Taco Brand(TM) conflagration. "

hahahahahahahahaha!
We could only hope for such a sh#t storm of entertainment!
Sadly I think it's just you and me on the sidelines, toasting our scotches and coffees with this one...

No doubt, and no argument, the aesthetics, execution and branding of the Piolet stands as a masterpiece of our generation.
It ought to be curated in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City.


Not for sleuthing purposes but for flavor:
(Clearly, Chouinard set a new standard in ad copy aesthetics with his clean lines and innovative fonts)



(Ad Mountain Magazine number 40 November 1974)


Sometime this year there was a pretty darn good article in the New Yorker about simultaneous mass propagation, but independently, of parallel innovations.

Oh well,
Eagerly awaiting some Don Jensen tidbits.
He had a bit of the innovator in him yes?
I love the clean lines on that Rivendell Jensen pack.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 2, 2009 - 01:48pm PT
Never used one of these tents designed by Jensen,
And by some accounts it was pretty tiny but very stable in high winds.
Certainly it has elegant lines from a design perspective.

Those Rivendell Mountain Works ads also displayed a bit of class:



(also from Nov 74 Mountain)
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 2, 2009 - 02:29pm PT
Here's some reference to the adoption of the curved picks.
As a sideliner, I'm more interested in appreciating the craftsmanship and aesthetic of the tooling.
But the instigation and timeline of innovation is cool too:




Some general commentary on applicable designs:



Reprinted from Mountain number 40
full article to follow....
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 2, 2009 - 02:51pm PT
From Mountain Magazine number 40 November 1974,

The Changing Styles of Scottish Winter Climbing

Summary:
An appraisal of the last four years of Scottish winter climbing since the introduction of new techniques and equipment.






Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 2, 2009 - 02:52pm PT




Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 2, 2009 - 09:01pm PT
Man did those blokes get some mileage out of those Salewa adjustables! I remember that article well as it came out at what seemed to be the height of classic Scottish winter climbing activity. Great post!

All day today I have been pondering the crafty and Promethean Scots re-forging their axe tips over a Primus stove. LOL

There must be quite a few exciting pick failure stories to go along with all the tweaking and innovation. It seems like people were zeroed in on stick and not on ease of extraction for another decade.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 2, 2009 - 09:25pm PT
There can be now doubt about that stick priority.
That Curver beast really stuck and routinely manufactured some serious dinner plates on the way out.

Sibley and Roos told me that one of their early re-drooping exercises produced a pick which frequently came out of alignment!
Must have been some metallurgical considerations at play...
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 2, 2009 - 10:19pm PT
Lots of these early mixed routes were done with Salewa adjustable crampons strapped onto leather boots. Very light and simple design (complete with period duct tape anti-bot wrap).





Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 2, 2009 - 10:49pm PT
My, aren't you the tidy archivist!
Just look at those cute little red twisty ties keeping order over your Beck neoprene straps.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 2, 2009 - 10:50pm PT
Just how many axes of marginally differentiated design did a girl need back in 1979???



(From Mountain number 67)
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 3, 2009 - 03:58am PT
What an awesome thread and so much fun to read. Man, what great memories of adventures for a gear freak like me.

I been lucky enough to use most of the tools mentioned at one time or another. Gotta say ice climbing is so much easier now with the new gear available. But the new tools just don't touch me like the the older ones still do. Hard to beat a bamboo axe or a Terro adze for simple, effective and beautiful designs.

Used a 55cm Piolet and alpine hammer on Snivleing Gully and Weeping Wall in '74. Couple of weeks later I borrowed a pair of Terro's from some guys thrashing about on Cirus Gully. Climbed Louise Falls with those tools. Hard to get me back on difficult ice after that without a Terro in at least one hand.

Even if you couldn't keep the picks straight on cold days. That problem never seemed to improved over the years. At least you could hammer them flat again easily enough.

But using a Terro didn't stop us from taking a torch to everything possible with a curve but a Chouinard axe.

We later did Cirus gully ourselves. One trip with a Curver and a custom "torched" NW hammer up to the last tier, then Terros on that last bit of slush. Then I decided a set of Clog Vultures were the "sheet" for some unknown reason having never used them and did the second ascent of Slipstream with them with no spare. A bit later popped the head off the hammer soloing Louise in front of students while hanging a top rope. (almost filled my trousers while begging for a second tool to be sent up). Always carried at last one full size spare and sometimes two after that. Polar Circus again that spring and cut our time in half with a set of Forest Lifetime tools with my first reverse curve picks.

Takkakaw with a Zero axe and a Chacal and the second solo of Cavel with a Terro hammer and a Curver axe. Chacal and Barracuda on Borgeau Left, Weeping Pilar and Pilsner.

What a grand ride over the years. Salewa hinged, Chouinard rigids, SMC rigids, Chouinard hinged, clip on Chouinard rigids, then BD Sabertooths and finally Darts and Rambos. Have yet to break any crampon. Who ever thought leashless would be easier? But a set of Quarks or Nomics quickly point that out.

Galibers, Trappeurs, Haderers, Koflachs, Scarpa, Sportiva. I'd rather have the Haderers back to tell the truth. Kept the metal around but the leather went by the way side when plastic came along. Too bad and to think only a plastic boot has ever broken in half on me.

Screws and ice pins? Have you guys tried the newest stuff....simply amazing. Bigger change than the invention of Friends.

But back on topic. This from Mike Chessler's web site..
"And if the climbers ice climbed, they used Chouinard Ice Axes and Crampons. Chouinard copied the steep drooping pick of European hand made axes, that planted firmly in hard ice or Neve, and made balance and esthetics primary."

I had thought I'd seen pictures of what was supposed to be Heckmair's Eiger axe with a distinctly curved pic years back. Maybe some one else has as well. Not all that hard to bend a axe pic with a gas torch, hammer and anvil. Taking nothing away from Chouinard and company but can't see why the local Chamonix smiths hadn't played with the idea earlier. Not like I'd be telling everyone about my "custom axe" if I was running up the local ice. Tight community in Chamonix but anyone ever seen one of the custom axes from before '69?

As we all now know a guy can get a lot done with stiff pair of boots, a tightly laced set of 12 point 'pons and a curved axe or two :)




Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 3, 2009 - 12:15pm PT
Above all, be neat.......er drink neat......er whatever!

Just in case you can't get enough! From Mountain 20, March 1972.









Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jan 3, 2009 - 12:49pm PT
Wild to see Scottish ice climbing and be reminded of the evolving style that followed, and then pushed, the gear. I love the bit about temporarily setting an ice screw, mantling on it, pull and repeat. Brings to mind Harding's then-new aid ploy of drilling a shallow hole and hanging a hook in it. Then it became a specially modified hook, ground to fit...

Staring at that Scottish ice, plastered improbably on rock as rime blown in off the North Sea. A wringing wet, freezing wind. Brrr, reach for the Dachstein sweater and wooly mitts.

It reminds me suddenly of the Chugach Range, Alaska panhandle, and a recent (last 20 years) flowering of steep skiing. (I mean, we were just enjoying a fine thread about backcountry skiing. There too the campfire burned down to nearly just Tar and me.) Similar relationship of peaks just inland, beaten upon by arctic winds off a cold sea. Same result: rime sticking to improbably steep mountainsides. In the Chugach the stuff can look like powder in ski footage, but the fact that it's sticking, somehow, beyond the normal constraints of avalanche steepness gives it away.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 3, 2009 - 01:10pm PT
Yes nice to see this thread still has legs.

And a first post from Dane Burns,
That's a very tasty recapitulation you served up for us.
Welcome to the Forum Dane!!!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 3, 2009 - 01:55pm PT
Tis madness, but it's a fine kind of madness.....


Doug Thompkins on Hell's Lum Crag, Cairngorms, Scotland. From Climbing Ice, 1978.

It's fun and he's having it!
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 3, 2009 - 02:00pm PT
In Fall 1981 I sold my Galibier Super Guides to a nice guy from Washington named Steve Massioli. (I had climbed Rainier that summer in a pair of used Koflachs which I picked up at the Seattle REI, and just “knew” I was never going back to leather). I remember Steve eagerly scampering around on slabs around Camp 4 testing the Galibier out on rock. That boot rock climbs fairly well with such a narrow last. You can still buy them new! Sadly Steve died a few years down the line on something like Moonflower Buttress in Alaska.

I never owned them, but once borrowed a pair of Trappeur Rebufatt for an ascent of a rock route on Clyde Palisade: “Thunderbird Wall”, Robinson I think that’s your line?
We stayed left of that nasty V slot at mid height and got into a 5.8 hand crack. Those were very well-made boots: they seemed to have a high craftsmanship quotient.

Mollitor was another very nicely crafted boot I had a chance to borrow and climb both ice and rock in: they did very well on both counts. Both Mollitor & Trappeur were higher volume than the Superguide, so noticeably warmer.

That was one of the nice things about leather; more versatile. My mistake was not popping for a double boot, or getting into Supergators early enough…

I think a pair of Habeler Superlights with the Aveolite liner and non-steel shank (wood/fiberglass?) would’ve been nice to try.

Now both my hands and feet get really cold (wait: so does my nose, crotch, face and everything else) so what little dabbling I still do with ice climbing, I use a Lowa plastic boot from the late 80s, the second-generation Civetta (remember the earlier Civetta were leather?) and on top of that it is augmented with a thermoform liner, I also use an overboot and heat packs as well!!!

Of all the earlier full bore plastic boots I think that one climbed rock the best; not nearly as clunky as Koflach. It had a narrow toe box; I’m told that is called a “French Toe”

RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 3, 2009 - 02:30pm PT
Thanks Tar, glad to be here!

Tar sez..
"Who made the first bent-shaft tools?"

This thread brings up all sorts of stuff I have been thinking about lately. One source, Grivel's web site, gives credit to the bent shaft to the EBOC.

Boots? Where in hell can you still buy new Super Guides?!
Your teasing us aren't you.

My first look at Koflachs was at the bottoms of Gary Silver's soles while he was breaking trail between the ice falls on Slipstream. Gary was always really fit but man he was trucking that day. He'd soloed the Swiss route on Le Courtes that fall and bought his Koflachs in Cham before they were available in the US or Canada. I was still climbing in my Haderers with a insulated Supergaiter. The system was warm but must have weighted in at 7# a boot. Gary's less than 6 for the pair. I had a serious case of lust.

Bought mine at REI. Made the 600 mile rt drive to Seattle just to get them. Broke the first pair of shells 5 years later but have my second pair (white) I have on on right now :) Just checking, you know.

I have just about every current ice boot Sportiva makes and still none of them fit as well as the Haderer. And few of them are as warm or climb as well for me as the Haderer or the original Koflachs, boats they were.

Heat pacs are the "hot" ticket. Seems loosing circulation isn't something that we just read about anymore. Some of the the newest fast and light boots really do climb well (sticky rubber and all) but my feet need a little more insulation. Big boots these days really are BIG. The Spantik has just about dbl the exterior volume as my original Koflachs do. The Koflachs with a foam liner is lighter. The Spantik is a good bit warmer but they are pretty clunky as well.

Crampons? Read above that by 1972 they had crampon bindings out and "working". MTN Magazine was one of the few connections for us to modern euro gear. (still have my collection as well) I remember seeing the cable system and buying a a pair at some point. But in the fall of '78 Gwain and I found a single Stubia with a binding on it between the Wet Cave and the base of the Difficult Crack. That discovery ended my need for crampon bindings for years.

I finally did buy a set of the last "Chouinard" rigids with a clip on system by Salewa in '85. They worked extremely well. Took a while before the plastic boots caught up with what was needed for welts though. The first white Koflachs I cut the toe groove in myself with a dremel. Bit thin but seemed to work OK.

Played with a bunch of new and old crampons last winter on a modern boot. ( Batura in this case) Pretty hard to beat the original Chouinard design on steep hard ice. It still out performs just about anything out there on pure ice. Plus it is lighter.

I'm sure Doug and others would really appreciate the super soft tops in most of the newest rigid alpine boots for French technique. Myself, I still like all the support I can get and a some what rigid ankle. Newest boots sure do a nice job of stretching your calves out though.

Funny rereading all the old stuff on the beginning of "modern ice climbing". Much the same is being said again now about "modern mixed." One more time, man the tool maker, has made climbing a whole lot easier and safer for the next bunch of us.

jfs

Trad climber
Upper Leftish
Jan 3, 2009 - 02:30pm PT
Gotta say this thread is one of the coolest reads on ST. I don't have time to read all the article reprints and recollections right now...bookmarking for posterity.

Thanks to all. Makes me wish I had more than 30 years of memories to call up. From when climbing was more adventure and less sport.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jan 3, 2009 - 03:04pm PT
Don Jensen. Friend, mentor, creative gear designer, and the driving force of Palisades climbing in the Sixties. Which, now that I think of it, made him the dominant High Sierra climber of that era, the era that ushered in a flowering of new technical routes that peaked in the Seventies.

When I met him, '66 or '67, he already had an odd puffy spot on one lip where it was torn in an Alaskan crevasse fall far beyond the help of stitching, and sometimes a little mustache. It didn't detract, though, from that boyish enthusiasm. Unlike Dave Roberts, I recall Don as more small and wiry. Powerful with big shoulders, sure, and he always seemed to be bursting out of his knickers with sheer physical energy. Something innocent about that energy too. Coming from Yosemite, it seemed distinctly different from the Camp 4 mainstream -- barely emerged sufficiently from provincialism at that point to even be seen as a mainstream. It wasn't until '69, after all, that Mountain 4 published a Yosemite issue.

It's odd, maybe, that I don't recall Don ever going to the Valley. Grew up in Walnut Creek, and I know he got as close as Fresno, because it was after he gave a slide show there about Alaska that Joan came up to talk to him. They were married in the Palisades and had a wedding feast on the Banquet Boulder, a fine block of erratic granite just off the trail in the idyllic meadow of Cienega Mirth just below Lon Chaney's old stone cabin.

But then again avoiding the Valley had been something of a pattern among Eastside alpinists. Clyde did it, kind of gruffly disdaining the place, and so had Smoke Blanchard.

On the other hand, climbers who started out in the Valley had always come up to the high country, beginning with John Muir and the boys from the Whitney Survey, and notably the crew in 1931 who first wielded the rope in California: Eichorn and Dawson and Brower and Richard Leonard. When they stormed into the Palisades that August it was obvious what peaks had been bugging them, like Thunderbolt, just beyond what they might solo. Later Harding broke out of the Gulch to climb Conness and the epic 8000 vertical of NE ridge on Williamson.

Further out on this tangent, I notice strong skiers in that progression too, from David Brower to Allen Steck. Don Jensen had skis in the Palisades too, though his rig was far out of the mainstream. Three feet long, a crampon-style binding I think, and permanent skins. Pretty utilitarian, but they gave him full freedom of the place when he roamed the range during the late spring, quite alone.

Yes, on one level he was just training for Alaska. But it was quickly obvious that he loved the Palisades for themselves. Built paper-mache relief models of both the Palisades and the Alaska Range. And he made up a second pair of those unique skis to take clients in for big climbs like the Twilight Pillar on Clyde Peak -- probably the most outstanding climb in the entire South Fork -- and even bigger traverses. He had spotted several bivouac caches just down off the backside of the crest in Kings Canyon NP. It's more than a day's stout travel just to get to those spots, and here he was setting them up with a pair of sleeping bags to be able to drop off the ridge with a client. No one since has done that level of guiding, let alone climbing, in the remote South Fork, and the location of his caches vanished with a lot of his lore of the climbs themselves when Don lost it on black ice on his bicycle and slid headfirst into a stone wall while a Postdoc in Mathematics in Scotland in the early 70s.

If Don had survived, I venture to say that the tone of that Golden Age of High Sierra development that flowered from his Palisades era into the Seventies would have ended up with more of an alpine flavor than the mood of more pure rock climbing in an alpine setting that actually developed. More winter ascents of the hard climbs, just for starters.

Don set a vigorous tone at the Palisades School of Mountaineering. He put up many of the FAs of the Celestial Aretes on Temple Crag, for instance, with a hand-picked client out of the weekly classes. And the Celestial Aretes -- his name, his vision -- have to stand out as the most prominent centerpiece of the Sierra part of his legacy.

Now that Bob Swift -- Swifty -- has joined our campfire, I hope he will fill in some of the transition at the Palisades climbing school, then known by its original name Mountaineering Guide Service. Larry Williams started it in I think the late 50s, and it was the first, and for over a decade the only, commercial climbing school in California. The Sierra Club's Rock Climbing Section, where I learned to tie-in in 1958, was the other big venue. I missed by two weeks the chance to meet Larry before he augered in off the Bishop runway, trying to bump start the second engine of his twin-engine plane. Bob Swift was the bridge from Larry Williams to Don Jensen. He was Chief Guide when I showed up, and I vividly recall leading a second rope behind Bob in my apprenticeship, including the East Face of Whitney.

It would be interesting to hear more about the early tone set by Larry Williams. Swift himself, who had been on the FA with Harding of the East Buttress of Middle in 1954 and of YPB with Steck in '52 -- not to mention the first American FA of an 8000-meter peak, Hidden Peak in 1958 -- was a classically calm and steadying influence to balance Don Jensen's energy and enthusiasm, as he burned onto new ground.

Winding down for now...

Doug
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 3, 2009 - 03:28pm PT
Dane Burns said:

"Boots? Where in hell can you still buy new Super Guides?!"

This link appeared in a thread a while ago:
http://www.trailspace.com/gear/galibier/super-guide/review/4766/

I had a better one; an actual ordering page in English.
Sadly I didn't keep the better link as I thought I had (not that I would actually order a pair, but for anecdote’s sake...).

So just now I found the current French catalog, in some sort of Euro/PDF format:

http://www.auvieuxcampeur.com/

Terre > Produits > Chassures > Alpinisme > Alpinisme et Technique > 4 page turns right…

VOILA!!!





Yup!
And they give the weight in my size: 42
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 3, 2009 - 03:30pm PT
Thanks for the reflections on Don. Definitely a brilliant but tragically short life. His bizarre demise was another twist in the Huntington-Harvard Route saga. Who knows what he would have bitten off?

I went looking in Mountain of My Fear for a shot of Don only to find that he was the cameraman, hence nothing. I believe there is a photo of him in slings wearing one of his frameless packs in the 1972 Chouinard catalog. Can't find mine.

Don't leave out Keeler's on Batso's backcountry hitlist.

Pretty hard to imagine Norman Clyde having a great time in the Valley! LOL
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jan 3, 2009 - 03:38pm PT
Quick note, as I see lots of new activity.

Welcome Dane! I love the way the sweep of your experience fills us in all the way to the present. I'd been wondering how the latest generations of ice tools perform compared to our mouldering recollections, so thanks for that. It would be fun to get back on ice at least enough to feel that new gear. Monopoint crampons? They seem intriguing in a similar way to the action of a Hummingbird, which would swivel effortlessly if you sidestepped. I have had my hands on the new BD screws, which bite like razors compared to even their earlier ones. Amazing to set them without having to use your axe like a brace and bit for leverage.

YC took that ballsy shot of Tompkins soloing through spindrift (I think he said that was the tail-end of a small avalanche, which accounts for the hunkered-down posture) on their 1970 trip to Scotland noted by Alan Fyffe. He had a tiny point-and-shoot camera, and I've always thought that was his finest photo with it. There was a 3' x 4' blowup of it right in your face as you walked into the first GPIW store in Ventura.

looking again at all those classic shots of Scots at play, Yvon's image of Tompkins stands out in several ways. Starting with obvious water ice instead of rime. In spite of that, Tompkins looks rock-steady on those fine Chouinard crampons. I can't quite believe the locals persisted in making do with Salewas. Maybe they couldn't get Chouinard iron? They certainly don't seem to be using YC's axes or alpine hammers either.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 3, 2009 - 03:39pm PT
DR wrote of Don Jensen:

"Built paper-mache relief models of both the Palisades and the Alaska Range."

Most excellent histories you're penning for us here Doug!!!
I trust you save this stuff in a notebook, or file somewhere, being the consummate writer that you are...
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jan 3, 2009 - 03:53pm PT
Save it? (gulp...)

I love that this stuff is all archived here. Feels so right for us to be jointly working the history. I know I'm learning a lot from the way our different points-of-view are coming together. But just in case, I guess I should back it up. Everything else on my computer is, including The Alchemy of Action book as it rolls out, which is my hot project these days. After years of dormancy and even fear of it, I'm actually writing on it almost aggressively. I look forward to sharing that too.

I wonder if C-Mac has this Forum backed up somehow? Don't know anything about servers, but collectively this place has become the best history and commentary on a lot of people, times, events.

When I was editing my articles for A Night on the Ground... my publisher Gilberto d'Urso of Mountain N' Air books came up with the wonderful idea of amplifying the sketches of people I had encountered. From Chuck Pratt to Tim Harrison to Don Jensen and Galen Rowell I did a lot of that, stalling the appearance of the book for a year or two in the process. Anyway, Gilberto's point has become a theme with me now that all these times are slipping into history. So I have written pieces about Pratt when he died (think I posted it up here, or I will again), and a long piece about Galen that got hacked short to fit into the Sierra Club's retrospective. I could put up the full version of that. And I think of the portrait of Steve McKinney. I have a down-the-road intention of putting all those into another selected works, along with such recent low points of my perspective on this life as becoming an unrepentant rap-bolter. But for the immediate future I'm excited about getting The Alchemy of Action to see daylight.

So thanks for the thought. I'll scoop the Don Jensen fragments off this thread right now, file em on my new, oversized hard drive, then back it all up.

And I'll return with more Don Jensen, I hope (you've got me thinking about where to find photos of him), although right now I'm packing to head to Kirkwood to get in some sliding. Some of us have to commute to our snow these days (sigh...) and my kids have new skis. Not sure if I'll have connectivity up there.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 3, 2009 - 04:02pm PT
No doubt.
I just burn through memories and pictures here at a rapacious pace.

I scan old slides and photos and only resize them for use here on the forum. They are in my photo bucket. But if I want anything truly archival I'll just have to scan it all over again!

And although I've saved a few things I've written here (in Word document) most of it just sits in the giant newspaper pile that is SuperTalko™

One word of warning (*warning Will Robinson warning*)
If you're creating your contributions solely in this reply window, every now and then when you press "post this reply" you will lose everything.

It has happened enough to me that I always either work in Word document fresh, or copy what I've written in this window to a Word document before I post it.

Another problem we face, is that things are not so easy to search here. So it is in here somewhere, but where?

Cheers,
Roy
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jan 3, 2009 - 04:47pm PT
Warning well taken. Just because I haven't lost a post yet, I sometimes feel like "the innocent, the ignorant, and the insecure..."

When I get back I get a tutorial on Photoshop and maybe a copy of the program. Not only resizing shots for here, but also squiggling red lines onto walls. Got a TR on a FA for you guys hanging since September...
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jan 3, 2009 - 07:03pm PT
This is all great stuff - thanks! I started climbing in 1971, with a ash-shafted 1950s style ice axe which I bought at REI in Seattle. In 1972 I went on a trip to the Adamant Range with Leif Patterson and others, and was exposed there to the first version of Chouinard rigid crampons - Leif had had to get them rewelded once or twice. Plus the first Chouinard ice hammer, and the hammer-axe. The thing with a head that looked like an axe, but with a hammer handle.

Leif did a great deal of ice climbing and technical mountaineering, and so tended to be well equipped. His Chouinard ice axe is a classic.

The less said about 1970s era ice screws and such, the better. The Salewas were fine, but hell to place and remove. I can't remember how many times I carefully chipped out a tiny hole, gingerly placed the screw in it, tapped it a few times, and started cranking it in - only to have it fail to bite, or worse still blow out after a few turns. Wart hogs were at least a bit easier to get in.

And then all that fun with double leather boots, over boots, super gaiters, and so on.
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 3, 2009 - 09:29pm PT
Thanks again for such a warm welcome here Doug!

I suspect there are a lot of us in the same situation on this thread. I was very influenced by the first three Chouinard catalogs and their articles. Having a discussion and getting to read Doug's and other's posts here on ST is a real treat. I've never gone through a talus slope since without thinking about that article...and how Doug's feet survived running through them in EBs.

David Robert's early writings (and Don Jensen's actions) lead me to my first Alaska trips, to the North side of Deborah in '76 and Huntington in '78.

Hearing about Don Jensen's back ground is really fun and enlightening. I had always figured that he was from the East Coast for some reason. But coming from such a long back ground on the east side of the Sierra kinda blew me away. Huntington makes a lot more sense now even though it was years ahead for its time. As does the problems on Deborah and the choss.

That Jensen owned and used a Terro, brings a smile to my face.
Only place I knew to find them (or Helly Hensen pile) was Swallow's nest in the U District in that tiny little hole in the wall shop. What a great time to be climbing! There was a time if you climbed hard ice or alpine in the NW, good chance you either knew them or knew someone they climbed with.

Fun to again reread the different perspectives on curved and drop gear. With reverse curved tools taking over the technical ground I read somewhere that the "curved" pick was the answer to technical ice. In reality it was hooking that won that race not the angle of the picks.

For an old guy like me using the new leashless tools was a eye opener. Biggest adversion I had was using them on rock. I'd have hissy fits every time I smacked one of my piolets into rock on thin ice. Now you go looking for it and the tools actually can take it all in stride.

Only took me 20 years to get over that adversion and finally actually want to put a tool on rock! Never thought I'd ever get excited about winter climbing again. Last winter one of my old partners hauled me out for a week of water ice. Sketchy first couple of days just following. But by the end of the week I was leading comfortably again..all with less effort, more safety while being much more comfortable physically. I was dumb founded.

That a good leashless tool made climbing easier, warmer and truely just more fun was really hard to believe.

This thread just gets me even more excited about getting out again next week!

Now I just need to hunt down those Super Guides :)

Thanks GUYS!

english link

http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=fr&u=http://193.252.114.148/AUVIEUXCAMPEUR/gp/asp/sous_categories.asp%3Fcodctg%3D2287&sa=X&oi=translate&resnum=2&ct=result&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dsup%2Bguide%2Btrad%2Bgalibier%2Bboot%26hl%3Den%26rls%3Dcom.microsoft:en-us%26sa%3DG

(edit)

Thanks for starting a great thread Steve and noting Michael Kennedy's post. Geezus, then I took a look around the forum and saw some of the guys posting here. What an amazing historical archive.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 3, 2009 - 09:45pm PT
On another thread, Michael Kennedy posted fond memories of thawing Salewa tubes inside of his clothing in order to clear them!
Captain...or Skully

Trad climber
North of the Owyhees
Jan 3, 2009 - 10:49pm PT
gumball.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 3, 2009 - 10:53pm PT
Or crotchcicle....
Captain...or Skully

Trad climber
North of the Owyhees
Jan 3, 2009 - 10:59pm PT
Brrrrrrrrr...........
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Jan 4, 2009 - 12:54pm PT
Fine reading here. Thanks to DR, Tarbuster and all

DR-

I also disagree with your early comments in this thread on Hamish McInnes’ terrordactyls. Yes, you bashed your knuckles when you used them ( I still have the scars to prove it), but when it came to vertical ice, they were superior to Chouinard tools. The key advantage was that they were easier to remove than the curved picks, and this was welcome in balancy situations. And with a practiced flick of the wrist, you learned to spare the knuckles a bit.

This is me using them on the FA of the Dru Couloir Direct in 1977, photo by Tobin.





Also, there was another reason we moved away from Chouinard picks when I was ice climbing in the seventies and it was mentioned above by Steve. We knew of several instances where Chouinard ice axes (and crampons also) had snapped while in use and this was an unnerving prospect As a result, we sometimes threw an extra ice tool in the pack, just in case.

That being said, Chouinard’s curved picks were excellent, especially on delicate ice. This is the Swiss route on Les Courtes in 1976, which was a very dry, thin year. Chouinard bamboo axe and lightweight ice hammer Photo: Mike Graham.



Also note the Rivendell pack in the last photo.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 4, 2009 - 01:10pm PT
Great post Ricky. Would you mind fleshing out that Dru Couloir Direct experience? You may have done so already in the Stonemaster Stories. Big time route to bag!
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Jan 4, 2009 - 01:39pm PT
Steve,
I'll do that in another thread some time, so as to keep the drift reasonable.
Rick
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Jan 4, 2009 - 02:47pm PT
I am nearly overwhelmed by all the recent information posted here. What motivates me to reply: is the incredible number of memory links I have to many of the last 25 or so postings. I have to contribute.

I bought into and eventually owned a climbing, ski, and backpacking shop in Moscow Idaho and was the local gear source and a popular climbing knowledge resource for U of Idaho and Washington State University climbers 1973-83.
I was able to meet and or climb with, through sponsoring “climbing slide shows” or attending trade shows, a fair number of the “big name climbers” of the 1970’s.

Don Jensen: In 1976 in company with recent poster Dane Burns: Gwain Oka, Chris Puchner, & I flew off to Alaska to attempt Mt. Deborah. David Roberts wrote a book about an epic failed adventure on Deborah with Don Jensen; that had helped inspire us. We were going to climb the then unclimbed North Ridge of Deborah. In our cockiness, we were able to look at reports of the 20 or so expeditions that had failed to climb a new route on Deborah since Becky and Harrer did the South Ridge in 1954, and ignore the facts.

We flew in from Talkeetna with our pilot: the legendary Cliff Hudson. He flew us over the steep avalanche-covered canyon that descends under Deborah’s North Face and looked back to say “I wouldn’t go in there if I was you boys”. After climbing 3,700 vertical scary feet up a northern spur peak to get to the start of the North Ridge of Deborah, we retreated. We did push a new very ballsy route up the north side of its neighbor Mt. Hess. From Hess, we got a close look at the dreaded East ridge of Deborah that Don Jensen did not climb. We then had a epic retreat after a storm hit us near the summit of Hess (used up a lot of luck that night). Cliff was a few days late picking us up, food was running low, and we started looking at maps and thinking about walking out. It did not look like a sane alternative. Of course, Don Jensen and David Roberts did walk into and out from the East Ridge.

At the end of the trip, at age 28: I decided I had used up most of my expeditionary luck and tried to stay on safer routes after that. (Dane did not feel unlucky, and went on many more expeditions after Deborah).

Timeline note: the North Ridge of Deborah was climbed in July 1976 and its North Face got climbed the next year-1977. I profoundly respect those very brave (and slightly insane) men!


Chris Puchner, Dane Burns, Ray (Fritz)Brooks, Gwain Oka: in front of Cliff Hudson's plane. N. side Mt. Deborah May 1978



The middle section of the North ridge of Deborah from our high point at 9,700 Ft, on the northern spur peak of Deborah, after an “interesting” day & night of snow, ice and rotten rock climbing.



The upper part of the North Ridge of Deborah.

Jensen Packs. I still have mine from Rivendell Mountain Works, Driggs, Idaho. I climbed with it from 1973 to about 1977----when I replaced it with a Lowe pack. If you packed it carefully----it carried great (even up to 55-60 lbs). Unfortunately, it took a long time to pack carefully and those with Lowe packs were escaping the negative event when I was still packing. I don’t believe the Chouinard rip-off, the Ultimate Thule was nearly as well made.

Haderer leather boots and Chouinard Supergators. The Chouinard Supergators idea was borrowed from Peter Carmen & Rivendell Mountain Works. Based on very positive cold weather experience with Supergators----I wore mine to Alaska in May 1978. I think the other 3 guys took double boots. I remember worrying, but had adequately warm feet. I broke down and bought plastic tele-boots a few year back: otherwise: leather rules.

Chouinard Crampons: I bought a pair in 1971 or 72 and climbed happily on them for years. On the 1978 Deborah trip we climbed a lot of thin crusted snow over ice. I took a lot of minor slips while front-pointing and got a little nervous about my abilities. On our return from the trip: I finally looked at how far the front points stuck out from my boot soles. It was about ½”. I had filed them so many times that they just didn’t protrude far enough to do the job in those conditions. Bought SMC’s. They never fit great, but did the job.

John Cleare: Royal Robbins talked him into a U.S. slide show circuit in 1975? He showed up in Moscow, ID on a Friday with a terrible hangover and spent the weekend. Gave a great show, told classic British climbing stories at the mandatory drinking session afterwards, and did light rock-climbing. He came back for another session in a year or two. He was absolutely the best person I ever sponsored slide shows for. To my astonishment: he tracked me down last year, asked permission to use one of my Deborah photos in Stephen Venable’s book “Meetings with Mountains” and then sent me money for it. John!------you are a gentleman.

Hummingbirds: I was not doing a lot of waterfall climbing in the 70’s, since Moscow, Idaho did not have much nearby, but every winter we would take off to Baniff to do a drinking, skiing, waterfall-climbing week. I met Dane Burns there in 1974 while climbing the standard: Cascade Couloir. As I started climbing steeper and longer waterfall pitches, I could not figure out how to stop on near vertical ice and place protection while using Chouinard Piolet and Alpine hammer. The Hummingbird, or rather two of them solved it. I had a wrist loop from a hole I drilled through the fiberglass shaft (which was later profoundly discouraged by Lowe) and then the webbing coming out the bottom of the shaft could be clipped to my Whillans Harness. I could place both Hummingbirds solidly in waterfall ice, rest on them and my front points and place screws with my Chouinard Alpine Hammer. It felt totally safe until my sub-conscious finally screamed: “You’ve used up all your luck.” That was about 1983 and I haven’t ice climbed since.

Salewa tubes clogging: I had read an article in Mountain in 73 or 74, that the Brits would put the tubes down their shirts to thaw the ice out, but I could not really believe myself doing such a masochistic thing. In 1974 on 2nd pitch of Cascade Couloir, I could not get a clogged Salewa tube to screw in. They melted out quickly inside my shirt and I hardly minded the trickle of ice-water.

Warm, dry rock. I can keep climbing that stuff forever. Thanks, Fritz
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 4, 2009 - 03:48pm PT
Unkie Ray! Damn, it is good to hear from you!

Fun times, hu? Your pics just floored me! Deborah was our centenial year, 1976. I remember how pissed my Dad was about the collect call home on the radio phone through Fairbanks. You and Gwain the "old guys" 28? Me, 22. Chris? You made that trip possible for me and many more later..thank you.

Easy to get the dates mixed up. Took me several months in bed last spring from a ground fall just to figure out and write down what tools I'd used, when and where.

Gwain and I were both still using single boots on Deborah, custom done, zippered and insulated with pile, super gators. Gwain was in the Trappeur "Deavasoux"? I'm sure that isn't the spelling of the French alpinist that they were named for but it was the boot with covered laces. Me in "my" Haderers that came 2nd hand through Roskelly.

You were the only other guy I ever met that had a pair. Chris was in Galibier dbls.

I had scored a pair of Galibier Makalus from you but they never fit well so didn't get used much.

I think between Gwain and I, we bought 3 Jensens from you. Two Gaints and one regular. I ended up buying two more over the years. 5 out of a thousand total packs produced I read some where. Just sold my last recently on Ebay for the silly price of $340. Amazing design and very well made in comparison to what else was available.

Too many time lines on this thread...too many questions unanswered :)

Rick and Tobin's amazing season in the Alps? Love to see and hear more about that one myself.
TrundleBum

Trad climber
Las Vegas
Jan 4, 2009 - 04:11pm PT
Lurking and love'n it ;)

That's right I had forgotten...
The original Super Gaitor was the 'Carmen Super Gaitor'

Salewa tubes inside the clothing to ease core removal, Yep !
Even the first Chouinard screws with their supposed core cut smaller than tube ID would need the treatment once in a while when it was really cold.
I remember the trick was, if there was any core left from placement then the second, if they removed the screw quickly and immediately smacked out the tube, it would clear easy from the friction created at removal. But leave it for a minute or two and it would just ice up again immediately.

Birds...
Way cool for hard ice traverses.
I always thought it was so neat the way you could place them and rotate the placement as you moved across the traverse.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 4, 2009 - 04:23pm PT
Ricky-Yours is the sort of drift that STers are more than happy to faceplant in! This thread is a keeper. Spindrift on!
More Air

Big Wall climber
S.L.C.
Jan 4, 2009 - 04:48pm PT


Here are the tools we used for an early (1978) ascent of Provo Canyon's Stairway to Heaven.

From L to R...Lowe Hummingbird, Roosterhead, Hummingbird, Forrest Molner III, Stubi Hidden Peak, Porterdactyl & MSR ice ax.




Jim Dockery leading the last (5th) pitch
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 4, 2009 - 06:41pm PT
Nice shot!
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Jan 4, 2009 - 07:07pm PT
RE. my Mt. Deborah Timeline. Dane Burns is right! We were there in May 1976, The North(Northwest)Ridge was climbed in July of 1976 (Article in 1977 AAJ) and the awsome North Face in early May 1977. Its ascent is described in the first article in the 1978 AAJ. I have also corrected my original post timeline.

I forgot to mention that the Jensen pack fit very closely and well for climbing, even with a heavy load. Photo is me on Cascade Couloir, by Baniff, in 1974. Ultimate Helmet?, Chouinard Piolet and Alpine hammer, Chouinard Foamback Anorak, Dbl-boots, and Chouinard crampons.
TwistedCrank

climber
Ideeho-dee-do-dah-day
Jan 4, 2009 - 07:15pm PT
And, it appears, Dachstein mitts. Don't forget the Dachsteins.
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Jan 4, 2009 - 07:22pm PT
Still have a pair of Dashteins. Any ideas on where to find replacements? And, the Jensen pack has been along on every 14er in CA.

Metal hardware replaced with lighter plastic though. The unwailed cordoroy back was a bad idea, but otherwise the perfect climbing pack.
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 4, 2009 - 07:40pm PT
A bit more on Deborah. Came back from a quick trip to Nepal in '77. To make some cash I took a job for the summer with US Borax in SE Alaska.

Typical mining camp in the middle of no where we were flown into.

Couple of weeks after being there you get to know each other pretty well. One of the locals tells me a new guy in camp had just done Deborah...."sure he did I say". "No, really, guy's name is Carl and I think he did the NW ridge you guys tried."

Fook me running...who the hell had even heard of Deborah in '77?

It turns out Carl Tobin had just started working in camp and had indeed just done Deborah. His stories of watching the guys finish the N. Face route as caped aliens was hilarious. No typo, "caped aliens." I'll let Dr. Carl retell that story.

I'm not at home to look it up but didn't Carl go back and be the first to finally get up Jensen's climb on the East ridge on Deborah in '83 with Cheesemond? Tells you some about were Jensen and Roberts were at in 1964......1964!

But back to Chouinard gear and catalogs?

How about some comments by Jack Roberts, Dale Bard, John Bouchard or some more from Rick? Just to name a few. That b/w catalog shot of Tobin on the Eiger direct with a short axe and alpine hammer was awe inspiring. Gordon Smith has written up his GJ climb with Tobin in a couple of places. Done with Smith's Terros and a borrowed set of Chouinard tools and hinged 'pons.

more here:
http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=990

http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=267108&v=1#x4023891
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 4, 2009 - 09:27pm PT
Jack Roberts & Jim Donini post up some here on the forum as does ..... um,
Some ice climber dude named Jeff Lowe; they should blow it wide open!

I have to say the Dane Burns/Accomazzo/Fritz triumvirate + MoreAir contributions have really skyrocketed this thread well past gold to platinum status.

It will only be available on vinyl however, because that was the favored tool for savoring music in the bad old days.
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Jan 4, 2009 - 09:42pm PT
Dachstein Mitts! Also in the Chouinard 2002 catalog! Sorry for the oversight. Kept my hands warm summer and winter in the mountains. My understanding was: they were knitted oversize of 100% wool and then boiled down, in Austria. 1972 Chouinard catalog more-or-less says this as well. However the mitts were not "near waterproof", as the catalog asserts.

Retreated off Chouinard Route on Mt. Fay in the Canadian Rockies in a snowstorm in about August 1978. The ex-wife and I then down-climbed 3/4 Couloir in a driving rainstorm (was that the beginning of the end of our relationship??) and amazingly made it to the moraine without being hit by rockfall.

I strongly remember walking down the moraine shaking lots of water out of my Dachsteins for about 10 minutes. Hands were still warm! Fritz:)
TwistedCrank

climber
Ideeho-dee-do-dah-day
Jan 4, 2009 - 09:59pm PT
I pull the Dachsteins out of that pack on the occasional BC adventure much to the chagrin of my youthful partners. They laugh until I let em know how happy my fingers are.

And about those wet Dachsteins - there are few odors so distinctive.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 4, 2009 - 10:05pm PT
Still got 'em ........

RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 4, 2009 - 10:12pm PT
Nice shot of Rick again taken by some guy named Jack in '77 on the N face of the Droites. Whillians harness, Jensen pack, Chouinard and super gaiters?

Rick said:
"Yep. We had state of the art stuff then: Jenson Rivendell pack, Chouinard rigid crampons, (the kind that had an alarming tendency during that era to break), Chouinard ice hammers, and a Whillans harness. I had worn out my bamboo Chouinard ice ax pounding rock the previous summer, so I was using a new, Royal Robbins, all metal, orange model, as seen in this shot of me as Jack and I reached the Argentiere Hut. The Chouinard ice axes we used then also broke frequently. Later that summer, Tobin and I took to carrying an exra ice tool in the pack in the likely event of failure of a Chouinard ice tool."



Amazing the jewels hidden away here!

And something similar (gear wise not difficulty) from '75/'76 with two terro on Canadian ice.

Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jan 4, 2009 - 10:18pm PT
We used to stitch our initials on our Dachsteins, so we knew whose were whose. More for backcountry skiing - put a bunch of mitts in the drying rack and they're peas in a pod. And quite early on (1975?) we were sewing overmitts out of nylon, which helped keep them drier. As seen below - orange somethings (probably pack cloth) over Dachsteins.


There's something of a wool revival happening, in Norway anyway, for outdoor activities. Especially if it still has lanolin, it's quite water-repellent.

I have no good memories of thawing out ice screws inside my clothing. As though we weren't usually wet and cold enough already.
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Jan 4, 2009 - 11:16pm PT
The photos and accounts from Alaska,Canada and Utah are great. Love to hear more.

Back to the equipment of the day and the inspirational catalogue:

Here is a another shot of Tobin on the Dru. This shows his Chouinard supergaitors and Salewa crampons. He climbed pretty well in those flexible things!



As to the 1977 season, I did only one route with Tobin that summer. He then went on to do an amazing series of ascents, including four of the Alps’ great North Walls. I just finished writing a rather long and detailed account of Tobin’s time in the Alps and submitted it to Alpinist just prior to its demise. I hope to get it in print somewhere soon.

Rick
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 5, 2009 - 07:41pm PT
I'd gladly pay to read that article!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 5, 2009 - 07:45pm PT
Stonemaster Stories II- the sequel! JL- you pondering the next installment because Ricky already wrote at a couple chapters from the sound of it.
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 6, 2009 - 04:03am PT
Hey guys just to continue the conversation...bunch of questions and a few observations. Sorry about the quality of the pics best I can do at the moment. May be Steve can rescan the Graham Tiso article from MT #31 his 2 earlier pieces (#17/#20) on ice gear/tools? Pretty please :)

Doug sez:
"A Climaxe would make a good collector's item, for sure, but they weren't so, uh, "hot" for climbing. Not enough heft, so they kinda wobbled and dinked around.......YC had a Climaxe at his beach shack that came out at low tide and was all scruffy from digging in the sand. He called it the Clam-axe."

Pretty obvious the Climax we all know and love was hand forged, fitted by Camp and a bit light in the head. Although there is a great pic of John Bouchard some where in my stack of CLIMBING mags with him on difficult mixed terrain..with the head or a Climax wrapped and an alpinehammer . I had assumed the wrap was to add weight but never bothered to ask John when I met him years later. I'll dig that pic up if Steve doesn't have time too.

BUT....this one is obviously hand forged and attached the same way as the alpine hammers were (BD wall hammers still are) and has some serious weight behind it. That I might have used if I'd ever seen one. Never did.

Doug were these the first and never marketed to the public?



pic is from MT #32 1974 in a Joe Brown ad.


Next up? Chouinard axe, the Terro and the Curver? History is writen by the guys who write. They aren't always accurate for various reasons.

This is from an ad in MT #18 Nov 1971.



Clearly a ash handled Chouinard Piolet, "finished" Terros and what is obviously a a "Curver" in everything but name, but actually a Nanga Parbat by Stubia. My parner used one for a couple of seasons so I knew it well.

Remember by several accounts 1970 was the "magic" year Terros and the Piolet were introduced to the public.

Chouinard tells of having the Charlet factory make him a 55cm curved pick axe at some point during or after the fall of 1966. His (YC) alpine hammer was introduced commercially in '67 according to the catalog and the Piolet in '69. So my guess is it took awhile for the Charlet factory to come around. Might be a reason Interalp made the Piolet. Bet there is a story there.

Doug sez:
"All these shots show much later and more evolved McInnes tools than the ones I was thinking of from the late 60s. The blades on these look to be about one-third the thickness and of a high alloy. I'd like to swing those tools, and I bet they would work just fine........Certainly by the next catalog the date of introduction of the Piolet is listed as 1969. And by October of that year Yvon delivered to me on the edge of the Palisade Glacier the hickory-handled 70 cm one (and that hand-forged Alpine Hammer) that we put to good use on the V-Notch the next day.......He was very intent on letting me know in no uncertain terms about Scottish primogeniture of the droop. Others listening agreed. May have even said that YC had come through Scotland to take in their development. "

Point to a much later Terro from what I read. Does sound like they were a 70/71 winter introduction. And actual production started in '69 on the piolet.

Someone correct me if I am wrong on this one.



I believe this is either Cecchinel or Jager on the Dru Couloir, DEC '73. If not it is at least suppose to be the tools they used by the MT #33 account. I have both a Simond 720 and the much later Jaguar (see Steve's Simond pic above) and trust me the 720 wasn't much. The Jaguar was good competiton to the already out of poduction Chouinard Piolet. A Chouinard piolet was hard to fine even in Chamonix (none locally in the NW at that time) by the fall of '78. (More on the Simond tools later) The Simond long alpine hammer is light in the head but is long enough to give a good swing and stick in every thing by hard ice. Their Simond Crampons btw were close to the current Grivel G12s design and hinged.

So we know Simond and suspect Charlet weren't making deeply curved axes unless......you believe this:

This from Mike Chessler's web site..
"And if the climbers ice climbed, they used Chouinard Ice Axes and Crampons. Chouinard copied the steep drooping pick of European hand made axes, that planted firmly in hard ice or Neve, and made balance and esthetics primary."

And last one of Tiso's articles.



Ice dagger? The front cover shot of Chouinard in the early catalog shows him using a dagger and an axe. Page 80 and 173 in CLIMBING ICE shows YC in the same or really similar togs. Hickory handled hammer of some type clearly visable on page 173. A ice screw barely showing as are two faily pins on his left side. Looks like the dagger is a long pin to me :)

Doug again:
"Somehow I've always thought the ice pin in YC's hand on that catalog cover was not a warthog but a way old-school one that looks basically like a very long vertical blade pin. Somebody gave me one recently; when I'm posting again, I'll show it off."

I work in metal every day and the history and design of our toys has always interested me. Always figured there was a little more synergistic development of ice tools easrly on but never really bothered ot look into it in any detail.

My guess is that anyone who got a "the steep drooping pick of European hand made axes" was getting it from the Charlet factory based on Chouinard's 1966 design request. But having the tools doesn't mean you have the insight on how to use them.

I think the discussion on the Demasion route '73 via the Walker (done in winter as a rock climb) and Cecchinel's routes on the Dru '73 and Grand Pilier d'Angle '71 show that Europeans were for the most part still trying to "rock" climb. Chouinard on the other hand was well past that by 1966 and thinking "ICE".

And did I mention this kid was the "shit"? 4th ascent of the Harlin route on the Eiger, Oct '77 in 5 days. That is some proud old school stuff in my book.





Michael Kennedy

Social climber
Carbondale, Colorado
Jan 6, 2009 - 08:24am PT
How about a couple from the first ascent of the Ames Ice Hose (Feb. 1976).


Steve Shea and Lou Dawson (above) and me (below) after spending the night in the woods atop the route. Note Supergaitors, Dachstein mitts and sweater, Foamback.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 6, 2009 - 11:58am PT
Hey Michael! Those were the days of leather and wool and hard work hauling it all around with you! Nice shots. Makes me want to toss a few ice cubes in my drawers while drinking my coffee this morning!
Todd Eastman

climber
Bellingham, WA
Jan 6, 2009 - 01:21pm PT
In the mid-70s the Simond and Charlet-Moser tools seemed to work better in the fall and winter ice found around Chamonix than other gear that we frequently used. The Chouinard tools including the recently introduced Zeros were harder to place than the French tools. The French tools had a thinner cross section and were made of harder steel. The Simond tools had slightly less curve than the Chouinards, and the Charlets, a bit more.
TrundleBum

Trad climber
Las Vegas
Jan 6, 2009 - 01:52pm PT
Climbing Magazine issue no. 34
John Bouchard a short distance from the ice head wall, Grand Charmoz North Face.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 6, 2009 - 02:00pm PT
I want that rucksack!
It is a Karrimor for sure, maybe Whillans model.

I had use of one for a time, 'pulled the pattern and made a number of copies. Only an approximation though, as I could never source all those cool materials: snaps for the flap similar to car topping industry stuff, wool felt shoulder straps, very burly canvass...
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Jan 6, 2009 - 07:18pm PT
Hi Todd,
For those who might not recognize the name, Todd Eastman did the first ascent with Tobin of the Sorenson/Eastman Couloir on the Dent du Requin in September of 1977. He also did an early repeat of the Super Couloir on Mont Blanc du Tacul, that same season.
Rick
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 9, 2009 - 11:16pm PT
Proud ticklist Todd! What are your recollections of those classic ice routes?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 10, 2009 - 03:15pm PT
I have been looking for a shot of Don Jensen's face and found one reliably in Chris Jones' Climbing in North America, 1975.



Harvard Mountaineering Club group to Wickersham Wall, 1963. From left: Don Jensen, John Graham, Dave Roberts, Pete Carman, Rick Millikan, Hank Abrons and Chris Goetze. John Graham photo.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 11, 2009 - 01:45pm PT
While we have Kennedy in the house! Here is the story behind the bleary bivi shot that he posted earlier. From Glenn Randall's superb Vertigo Games, 1983.









Bring back any memories Michael?
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 11, 2009 - 02:39pm PT
From later catalogs, red Chouinard rope, Whillians, jumars, Chouinard wall pack, green Shoenards, the required rugby shirt, and a schizo hat. Etriers made according to directions on page 54. This is the 2nd sunrise, 2 full days out on 6 snickers, 2 quarts of water and a 150 ft leader fall on a body belay, late afternoon the previous day.



Canada. The sun had been out all day, soft, plastic ice...now we are in shade, sun is gone, with temps dropping to -30 rather quickly. Something we had not experienced before. Down vest, (wet by now) wool shirt, Scotish Knickers from Chouinard, a really big boiled wool hat, Dachstein mitts, Super gaiters, 1st gen chouinard rigids, alpine hammer and 55cm hickory axe, Trappeur boots, Salewa tubes without slots, worth less Charlet Moser screws and a wart hog. I am getting seriously cold and figure we should at least document our impending doom. My partner is even more pissed because he doesn't want to stop and take a picture of my sorry ass. He had thoughtfully brought along his down jacket. His puffy little piece was a hand sewn Frostline kit he was very proud of, come to think of it but his feet had long ago lost feeling in Superguides and a Millet knee high canvas gaiters.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 11, 2009 - 03:44pm PT
Nice bivi-sized wool hat!
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 13, 2009 - 07:05pm PT
Just ran a few items through an inflation calculator for fun.

On the 1972 catalog price list:

Piolet 35. (by 1974 they were $50 or $227 today)
alpine hammer 18.
Haderer boots 115.
Trappeur boots 64.
wall hammer 16.

With inflation today:

Piolet 35. = $180
alpine hammer 18. = $92.
Haderer boots 115. = $590
Trappeur boots 64. $329
wall hammer 16. = $82

Vintage bamboo Piolet on Ebay $150 and up
Vintage alpine hammer on Ebay $50 and up
New BD wall hammer @ retail $100
New Galibier Super Guide boot @ retail $400 plus shipping
Sportiva Evo Nepal @ retail $475.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 14, 2009 - 07:32pm PT
Necessity is the mother of a better ice tool...YC from Climbing Ice, 1978.



richross

Trad climber
gunks,ny
Jan 14, 2009 - 09:39pm PT
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 18, 2009 - 07:57pm PT
Le technique francaise por le homme francaise. On Ice and Snow and Rock---none better.



RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 18, 2009 - 11:04pm PT




Photos by Ray Brooks
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 19, 2009 - 05:02pm PT
Please excuse the size but I thought some might want to actually be able to read this. There is more if anyone wants to see it.



Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 20, 2009 - 09:55am PT
I had a pair of Walker wool gloves and they were sweet! Reasonable for free climbing performance and warm as toast.

I wonder how many people ever used the cheater wire hole on the Crack' N'Ups?!?
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 20, 2009 - 12:28pm PT




Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 20, 2009 - 01:41pm PT
Dane- those scans are TOO BIG! It is better to expand the text onscreen if you need magnification. My scanner has a 50% setting that I use. 100% and downloads are slow as molasses at every turn!
The people with dial up........yikes.
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 20, 2009 - 03:51pm PT
Yep, dial up would really suck on this thread. I don't have anything inbetween, so smaller it is.
TwistedCrank

climber
Ideeho-dee-do-dah-day
Jan 20, 2009 - 03:59pm PT
Do I see a wool balaclava up thread?

Ka-ching!

I remember seeing Yvon in that envelope hat he was wearing and thinking that was the schiznit. I finally found one at an XC ski shop where they were selling them to people who wanted to look like Bill Koch in the 76 Olympics.
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 20, 2009 - 04:30pm PT
Oh ya, that is a wool balaclava, along with the Egge jacket and hood from the catalog update, with a bamboo piolet in the back ground as the sun comes up on an Alaska bivi.

Here is another with a foam back from the same trip.



photo by Ray Brooks
scuffy b

climber
On the dock in the dark
Jan 20, 2009 - 04:34pm PT
Seeing that nobody seems to use those wool balaclavas
any more...

and that they're my favorite...

and that I lost my last one...

can anybody set me up?
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 20, 2009 - 05:50pm PT
Try here:

http://www.joe-brown.com/outdoor-equipment/clothing/hats-and-gloves/trailwise-wool-balaclava.html

The real thing in all the colors!
scuffy b

climber
On the dock in the dark
Jan 20, 2009 - 06:41pm PT
Thanks, Dane.
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Jan 20, 2009 - 11:23pm PT
Dane: You blog Diva!!-----thanks for crediting me for the last three Alaska photos you posted.

I swear: I will send you the CD of Deborah pics soon.

Fritz
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 20, 2009 - 11:49pm PT
Fitz...sorry man! Certainly not an intended slight. Happy to go back and credit you with the photos, past, present and/or any thing in the future :)
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 20, 2009 - 11:53pm PT
I've made that mistake as well ... what with the frenzied fun and all.
It's important to recognize that that darned edit button goes away after a bit of time, so changes are near impossible after that point...
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 22, 2009 - 01:55pm PT
I was looking at my hickory handled piolet this morning. Noticed it has a dbl set of teeth in the pick and 3 rivets in the handle and the single CHOUINARD script, which makes it a later production axe. Axe was purchased in late '76 or '77. Anyone know when they stopped building ash and hickory shafts?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 23, 2009 - 12:20am PT
I recall that those shaft options were replaced by the laminated bamboo but the date must be earlier than '76. Have to ask Tom about the switch.

Here is the house quiver of bamboo axes.

Left-Original Piolet from the early 70's with four teeth that I added by the shaft. Two crosspins.
Mimi's upside-down Zero and my Zero Northwall hammer.Three crosspins. The darker tools have been pine tarred.




Reverse stamp on the older Piolet.
Todd Eastman

climber
Bellingham, WA
Jan 23, 2009 - 01:10am PT
What was sold in Europe may be different than what was made specifically for the american market and sold by Chouinard. I think that 1978-79 was the shift from bamboo to the blue fiberglass shafts. Ash was rarely seen in North America and hickory seem to have disappeared by 1974 and replaced with bamboo about then. Rexilon was available while the bugs were worked out of the bamboo. Oh those nasty cracks next to the tangs. It took skill not to break gear.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 23, 2009 - 11:21am PT
Grossman!
Front and center: clean your weapons soldier.
Maybe start with some cotton wadding with the polishing compound. (Never Dull)
Maybe amend the polish in the wadding with a plastic Scotch Brite to knock off the rust; or some extremely fine steel wool.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 23, 2009 - 12:04pm PT
Well change my name to Rusty! LOL

Definitely Scotchbrite time, when I can carve it out.

I don't recall a RR ice axe either. Just ropes, carabiners and shoes from him.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 23, 2009 - 12:34pm PT
I vaguely remember Robbins importing those orange axes...
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 23, 2009 - 01:12pm PT
Todd may remember better than I. But iirc, the axe Robbin's Mtn Shop (Mountain Paraphernalia) sold was made by "La Parade" and was the Rene Desmaison model. Hell for stout with a metal shaft/ plastic grip and a funky bump on the top of the head. All in day glow orange with a blue handle. I took a couple of them with me to SE Alaska on a surveying job in '77.


This is the hickory piolet I was thinking about. 3 rivet shaft, dbl teeth and 55cm. It was bought in England. Thanks for the observations.







Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jan 23, 2009 - 03:53pm PT
This one's for Rusty!

I mean, barely presuming to post here w/o so fine a grade of steel wool, let alone blueing...Sir!

Before any of out times, thank you, but here's an ice piton (50s?)





with a rock pin of the same era for comparison



Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 24, 2009 - 10:36pm PT
Ahh, the era of drive-ins! The movies were gone by the time anyone really worked that one out. Nice one ,Doug.

Patrick Sawyer

climber
Originally California now Ireland
Jan 25, 2009 - 07:13am PT
I had that Forrest ice hammer, and a piolet along with the Chouinard Alpine Hammer. Dana Couloir was the first place I used them back in 1972 if I recall correctly. With Chouinard-Salewa cramps and Galibier Super Guides (great boots).

I had a Jensen pack also EDIT a green one.

Don't know what happened to all that stuff over the years, I know I sold some when hard up for money.

Still have my North Face Ibex sleeping bag from 1969.

EDIT
Still reading through this thread. I had a Simond Chacal. I thought it was cool and used it in Lee Vining.


EDIT
I had a pair of Trappeurs, heavy as a friggin' car, had a little 'gaiter-like' 'sleeve' or whatever you want to call it (cuff?) at the top. Only used them a couple of times.


Doug wrote: It's odd, maybe, that I don't recall Don ever going to the Valley. Grew up in Walnut Creek,.

Hey, I was born and raised in Walnut Creek and Lafayette. Was Jensen from there?

Don lost it on black ice on his bicycle and slid headfirst into a stone wall while a Postdoc in Mathematics in Scotland in the early 70s.

For some reason I always thought he was hit by a car while bicyling in Scotland. Regardless it was a loss. I met him once but I can't recall where, perhaps one day at the PSOM, but he wasn't instructing there when I went, at least I don't think so.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 25, 2009 - 10:56pm PT
From the 72 catalog.



Two pounds!!!!
marty(r)

climber
beneath the valley of ultravegans
Jan 25, 2009 - 11:08pm PT
Damn, those are some beautiful tools! I love the new pick/adze of the silver BD Raven, but the cursive engraved name and bamboo/hickory/ash to metal contrast can't be beat. Those ice daggers, however...YIKES!
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 26, 2009 - 01:21am PT
Always thought that Jensen shot was pretty artful.

2 pounds: hardly anything to it in terms of structure; in a way like monocoque automotive design, nothing in the way of framework, all exoskeleton.

That one looks like it has an arched zipper on the back side of the pack (up top), rather than along the back panel as all I had seen were fitted.
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 26, 2009 - 02:09am PT
The first Jensen's I saw were all green and had a zipper on the front of the pack as pictured above from the catalog. The second version was rust colored and had a zipper next to your back. The Giant Jensens I saw were also rust colored and zip next to your back.

Ray's pack in the picture below has the same zipper placement.


Ray Brooks photo
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jan 26, 2009 - 10:46am PT
Let the zippers fall where they may... The Ultima Thule I recall carrying for years had a flap top.

Here's my take on the "most copied pack ever" or whatever. Designs evolve.

The Jensen Pack that made me sit up and take notice was a day pack he made for guiding on Temple Crag. Light nylon, same basic shape, late 60s. Well under one pound. Don also had an overnite alpine version, size of the Rivendell and Thule.

It was his patterns for that size that I gave to Larry Horton one day in Berkeley to launch Rivendell. He paid Don a royalty and eventually produced Don's Bombshelter tent too. Then became miffed at me for redesigning the pack until it became the Ultima Thule. But designs evolve, the Thule carried better and by then Don had died.

Back up a little. In the spring of 1970 I skied 36 days along the John Muir Trail and the Sierra Crest. Still the best expedition of my life. Carl "P-Nut" McCoy built our wonderful Hexcel ski prototypes for the trip. His girlfriend Claudia and I built two Jensen Packs and a Bombshelter that totaled five pounds. Each pack weighed 17 ounces and carried up to 70 pounds. They were the first really big Jensen Packs; I ballooned-out Don's pattern.

The packs skied superbly. The basic genius of Don's design was to get a soft pack to cling better to your back the tighter you packed it, instead of turning into a sausage that rolled its weight against your turn to slam-dance you onto the snow. Again.

And skiing even more than alpine climbing is the ultimate test of how a pack design will follow the motion of your back.

The hidden problem with the design, that only became obvious once I expanded it, was that its softness wouldn't support lift straps for the shoulder straps. Many cycles of evolving it into the Ultima Thule with Tom Frost's help and encouragement, made the bottom compartment wrap far more tightly around your hips and took more weight off your shoulders. But with big loads, not enough.

A fundamental limit of the design had been reached. And exceeded, I could tell every time I lowered a 60# load off of shoulders beginning to cramp. Don Jensen had tacitly pointed that out, I realized, by carrying all his really big loads in an external frame pack. Later, internal frames would bridge the difference, getting the load closer to your back than his Kelty, but also supporting those shoulder-stabilizer straps that would give relief to the tops of shoulder muscles.

See? The zippers and the rest of the stuff that holds the load mean nothing compared to how it is made to ride on your back. How you support it is the trick.

I later designed, on paper, a small frame element that would allow the Thule to grow shoulder-stabilizer straps. But by then packs with two internal stays were the state of the art, and I never built it. The internal frames would carry a big load all right, but they went careening off in their own wrong direction until you could heft a seven- or even eight-pound wonder. Even with a monster load, there's something just wrong about 10% or more of the load you're humping up the trail going into merely the sack to put it in.

Back to the Jensen, I read on the Internet that Rivendell produced a thousand of them over a decade. And hundreds of Bombshelters. (Sweet tent, btw, but tiny. On our ski trip I modified ski poles to hold it up and we only carried the ridgepole. Patterns on request, tho the state of that art has moved on from A-frames.) Someone in Washington is now reviving the original Jensen Pack design yet again. Sticking to tradition is honorable in its way -- it's the conservative path -- but don't get stuck; if Jensen were alive I'm sure he would have carried an Ultima Thule instead, because it made his own idea work better. And then like the rest of us he would have moved on to an internal frame. It's like the Einstein t-shirt I saw last night: "Life is like a bicycle. You have to keep moving forward or you'll fall over."

I hounded Wayne Gregory for years about weight, and even cooked the first carbon-fiber stays in my oven for his packs. He built me a custom lightweight for climbing Ama Dablam with Frost in 1979, but didn't sell anything light until after I had designed MontBell's Wishbone suspension packs 15 years later.

Now there are some more diverse ideas cropping up. Some really innovative, and some de-volutions that lock up your back. I'm sitting on an idea that I think could be the Next Big Thing, if any companies out there are interested.

Long live the genius of Don Jensen. I've written a bit more about him, but I'm waiting to find the photo to go with it and then I'll start another thread.

RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 26, 2009 - 01:01pm PT
Anyone remember the Millet 370s?





For the guys I started climbing with it was "the" climbing/skiing pack in the late 60s, early 70s.

You could get gear for a 3 or 4 days and a sleeping bag into one. Not that it carried all that well with a 1/2" tape waist band.

Same load of kit in a Jensen did actually carry pretty well. We all thought that was the brilliance of Jensen's design. Being difficult to pack was just something you learned to live with.

Guys I climbed with used the Giant Jensen, the GPIW Thule and the Yak pak to lesser and lessor degrees of satisfaction for even bigger loads. The first pack that would actually carry a bigger load to our satisfaction was the Lowe Expedition.

Easy mixed on Deltaform



Two Jensen's on a early winter ascent of Ptarmigan Ridge, Rainier.



And yet another Jensen on the NW Face of Half Dome.


Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 26, 2009 - 01:45pm PT
Sweet!!!
SAX MILLET: Alto or tenor?

Hey DR,
That was a cool break out of design history.

Wouldn't you say all that came to it's final apogee in the Dana Terraplane?

I'm gonna put some top shoulder pulls on my Jensen when I rebuild it; gotta have 'em.
That is an issue: hell on the levator scapula.
They do work on frameless rucksacks, as long as the load/size overall ratio isn't too aggressive. (well under the 60+ lb mark, like 30-35lb maybe)
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jan 26, 2009 - 02:39pm PT
Dana Packs seemed to be on the top of many folks lists. I never carried one, partly because they were so heavy and partly because I was designing and selling my own MontBell Wishbone packs against them. Mine weighed half and carried as well (less cush, more lively -- kinda like Tar's analogy of a monocoque race car) up to about 50 pounds. Then the big freighters like Terraplane worked better.

But if weight is one of your criteria I could never call it an apogee. Talking to the pack sales guys in shops, however, it was pretty obvious that Dana did the best marketing job in the industry. He went face to face with them, right at their own pack walls, clear across the country. They became true believers.

As a designer who was an active user and building a pack to move, part of my rap against Danas was to offer to compare waistlines with any designer in the industry.
marty(r)

climber
beneath the valley of ultravegans
Jan 26, 2009 - 03:17pm PT
Tar,
Where's Ray(dog) Olsen? We need some free radicals in this thread.

DR--is the WishBone going to get a 21st century resurrection? What's new with MOS? Inquiring minds (with luggage fetishes) want to know.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jan 26, 2009 - 04:03pm PT
Luggage fetish? Maybe I don't want to know...

Boy I'd like it if someone revived the Wishbone. My packs are wearing out after only a few thousand miles. The patent should expire any day now. MontBell took its pack suspension off in a different direction soon after MontBell America, which I worked for, went out of business (mid-90s). It's still called Wishbone, but not the same.

MontBell Japan is bringing their products into Boulder, and distributing them to shops around the country. Which is great, because some of that gear is unbeatable.

My pack ideas are headed in a different direction. New frame, some of the same materials, super light, flexible. But I'm not actually building any protos, as I have a full-blown "portable hut" tent project in final development. I'm excited to finish that and see what happens.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 26, 2009 - 05:24pm PT
Ray is MIA at the moment...
But his ears might start burnin' in a couple few ...
F10

Trad climber
e350
Jan 26, 2009 - 05:40pm PT
Where's Ray(dog) Olsen?


Or do you mean,

Ray(FROG) Olsen ?
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 26, 2009 - 06:18pm PT
One and the same.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 26, 2009 - 06:32pm PT
This thread needs a little humor…
Largo on Ice, (sorta):



Photo by Accomazzo
Bloody Mtn couloir maybe…
Sewellymon

climber
.....in a single wide......
Jan 26, 2009 - 07:47pm PT
i scan eBay every so often for a classic Sac Millet rucksack

no dice

dunno how many of you had 'em. DEE's was a classic rig, if'n I recall....
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 26, 2009 - 07:52pm PT
I saw a woman crossing the street just a few months ago, with a MINT blue one on her back. Just a couple models under the one Dane posted.
If I had more than two nickels to rub together I might've tried to run her down and make an offer...

Shoulda' just flat out purse snatched it.
Sewellymon

climber
.....in a single wide......
Jan 26, 2009 - 08:04pm PT
"...Shoulda' just flat out purse snatched it. ..."

Just like when Seinfeld ripped the loaf of bread from the old lady's arms...
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Jan 26, 2009 - 08:12pm PT
Largo on Ice.
Classic!
And unlikely.

Reminds me of...

OK, so there we are slapping a mockup of issue #3 or so of the fledgling Outside Magazine onto the conference table, right in front of the Big Cheese himself, Jann Wenner, the guy who started Rolling Stone and then started Outside in '77. Kinda funny, since he was completely clueless about the outdoors. Sure had a good sense of timing, tho...

It's the ice climbing issue. My piece on the FA of Ice Nine with Dale Bard is in it. And a Chouinard excerpt from Climbing Ice which is just about to hit the streets. The main cover headline reads "Chouinard on Ice."

So the mockup lands in front of Wenner. We all lean forward expectantly. He rocks back, looks up and says,

"What? Is he dead?"


Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 26, 2009 - 08:15pm PT
Ha!
He might be if he stays on it too long...
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 27, 2009 - 10:57am PT
Great story Doug! The cosmic joke of power and where it lands. Sometimes Excaliber, others a gull crap on the boardwalk!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 29, 2009 - 12:09am PT
A little more 72 for you!

RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 29, 2009 - 02:13am PT
The original Chouinard piolet and the original Jensen pack are two that have obviously stood the test of time. And why, out of thousands of similar designs produced those same two pieces are so sought after today.

"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

Antoine de Saint-Exupery
French writer (1900 - 1944)
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 29, 2009 - 11:28am PT
Thank god for aesthetics and Occam's Razor for a clean shave!
Wee Jock

climber
Jan 30, 2009 - 07:50am PT
Hi chaps, Mr Accamazzo in particular. I started ice-climbing with a Chouinard Frost - 60cm with a very pale wood handle(hickory or ash??) and a dinky little Salewa ice hammer (T shaped cross section for the pick!) Climbed things like the Chancer and Devil's Delight and Point Five and Zero and they worked fine. For me, though, Terrors were the bees knees ... great except for the bashed knuckles. If you got the rather odd swing correct - a downward pull with the knuckles hammering the ice - they worked great. Did the 2nd ascent of Bridalveil with your Mr Shea using terrors - that was fat, steep ice, was it not? Pick was way too soft, mind, and wore out very quickly. They had a tendency to stick, so we sharpened the top edges of the picks to 'cut' up and out. The axe was brilliant for going over the top of a bulge into powder snow but too light for hard ice. Often we carried two hammers and an axe, or at least THEY did - the folk with any money (not me). In 1978 I got hold of THE prototype Chacal from Luger Simond - He was going to make a straight drooped pick but I held the shaft of the axe while he cut holes in an ordinary curved pick blank reversed. Then he cut teeth and changed the angle of the end of the pick to make a point to penetrate the ice and lo, the first reversed banana pick. Worked brilliantly!! I still have my Dachstein mitts from the mid seventies, though I had to fight off the wife when she wanted to wear them to paint the house walls! Best mitts ever!!
Gordon Smith
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 30, 2009 - 11:03am PT
Welcome Gordon! Thanks for the gear tales. Any photos from your exploits back then? What did you start out with for crampons?

Ahh, the Dachstein mitts are sweet indeed! An extra pair on the outside was the little trick that got Whillans up Annapurna South Face in the bitter cold. I don't know if he shared his secret with Haston! Probably made the lad tough it out. LOL
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 30, 2009 - 12:28pm PT
Goggs! Sit down and share a pint!

And welcome home:) Hard to get some of my Amerikin brothers to tell a good story about alpine climbing BITD.

"I was so hungry I immediately ate it up even though it was years old!! And I didn't share it..."

You seem up to it, care to fill in the rest of the story?
Wee Jock

climber
Jan 30, 2009 - 10:25pm PT
Sorry Mr Grossman ... too poor to own a camera in those days. Terry King took a few shots, though - one was posted here on a thread about climbing with a sack on - Gabarrou-PicardDeyme route on the Plan. I started off with a pair of stubai bent wire crampons (ha! bet you've never heard of them, but I managed to get up Vanishing Gully, Zero and Point Five in them!!) I had a pair of Chouinard rigids for a while but my boots were too bendy (Scarpa Fizroys) and they broke in the middle of the Droites NF. Did almost all my winter climbing and Alpine climbing with good old Salewa adjustables and a pair of Dolomite Major boots that weighed a TON (figuratively speaking of course)!

By the by climbing with Terrors required a very particular technique - you see videos of people thrashing with them and wondering why it took 7 smashes to get them to stick. Technique!
Wee Jock

climber
Jan 30, 2009 - 10:51pm PT
As for you, Mr Burns, clearly you don't know how to spell ... Ameeerican is how it is spelt!! I now understand why you were calling me Gordie at UKC! I hated being called Goggs! As a climber I was always called 'Wee Jock' or Smithy. BTW I've submitted an article on my transition from climbing in Scotland to climbing in the Alps to the SMCJ called 'A Scotsman's Duty' and a complete rewrite of my article on the climbs I did with Tobin called 'The Paths to Glory' to the Harvard Review (trying to be Artsy Fartsy - so that one is not sooo much of a climbing story just for climbers)....that attorney chap Accomazzo has seen very early versions of both...You really must harp on HIM to get HIS Tobin article out - has Alpinist been reborn yet??
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 30, 2009 - 11:00pm PT
WELCOME to the Forum Wee Jock!
Great stuff ... carry on.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 31, 2009 - 01:11am PT
Alpinist is back!!!

And so is the odd couple-- YC & Layton Kor! One of my favorites from Climbing Ice.



Todd Eastman

climber
Bellingham, WA
Jan 31, 2009 - 01:57am PT
Wee Jock - good to see you getting in your two bits. I hope all is well on the soggy isle. It has only been 30+ years since I've seen you though I did hear about a record descent off Ben Nevis that has yet to be broken...

Todd
Wee Jock

climber
Jan 31, 2009 - 02:04am PT
Todd, you sod. Was that you that I did some rock climbing with in the Alps in 1976? Blooming heck, you must be old!! Don't you start calling me Gordie!!!
cheers
Gordon
Wee Jock

climber
Jan 31, 2009 - 02:17am PT
Oh, and Todd I haven't been on that soggy isle for many, many years ... I lived near Santa Cruz, Calif for nearly 10 years and now swelter in the Philippines jungle. Not much opportunity for practicing my Technique Glaciere Francaise oot here, ye ken. As for that record breaking descent, what record breaking descent? I don't remember any record breaking descent ... just waking up in hospital being attended to by a very cute young nurse. They had to employ that cutest of young nurses to shave my leg all the way up to the wee jock before hacking it (the leg!) all open and sticking in some big bit of steel to keep it straight as an arrow (the left leg, ye dirty brute)!! Oh the strain of it!
Gordon
Todd Eastman

climber
Bellingham, WA
Jan 31, 2009 - 02:30am PT
Gordon, great to hear from you. Stay cool in the dank mists of the Philippines. I'm sure you are up to something good.

Todd
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Jan 31, 2009 - 02:50am PT
Here is a question for guys like Rick, Todd, Gordon or anyone that has an opinion on it.

What tool or tools had the most influence (how ever you define that) on your own alpine/ice climbing BITD? Chouinard (curved), Terros, Chacal or something else?

Wee Jock

climber
Jan 31, 2009 - 04:19am PT
Terrors. Used a Chacal for one route in the alps and one winter in Scotland and loved it - would have stuck with it if I hadn't quit climbing. I was quite happy with Terrors, mind you. Never had any problems with them except a little bit for the knuckle effect and they wore out so quick.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 31, 2009 - 11:47am PT
So, how was that Super Couloir?
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Jan 31, 2009 - 03:25pm PT
You want an Alpine story? Let Gordon Smith, aka Smithy, Goggs, Gordie, Wee Jock -- must be a reason for all these aliases--tell you one about his climbs with Tobin in the Alps, the first ascent of a fine line on the west face of the Aiguille du Plan or the visionary second ascent of the Gousseault on the Grand Jorasses. Wee Jock, great to have you on ST. Slainte!

Here is an excerpt from my as yet unpublished article about Tobin’s 1977 season in the Alps. The best parts are the short quotes from Wee Jock, as you will see. This is about Smithy’s introduction to Tobin and their first ascent on the west face of the Aiguille du Plan in Chamonix.



I had to catch Freddie Laker flight back home just days after we finished the Dru, so I said a hasty goodbye to Tobin at the Montenvers train (he hiked down to save the fare).

Sorenson, however, was just warming up. He met Gordon Smith, “Smithy,” a Scottish ice climber who sported the standard Scottish attitude that Chamonix climbs were nothing compared to winter climbing on Ben Nevis—“the Ben”—in “full on” conditions. The two hit it off immediately.

"But the very fact that Tobin had arrived in the Alps without any equipment at all and was looking to go straight onto big Alpine North Walls never having climbed an Alpine North Wall before warned me straight away that here was a climber just like me."

Smith had spent two prior seasons in Chamonix with a tight-knit group of the leading British alpinists of that era, including Terry King, Nick Colton and Alex McIntyre. They had achieved repeats of the hardest French mixed routes and established a number of hard first ascents themselves, including a major new route to the right of the Walker Spur of the Grand Jorasses, the Colton/McIntyre. According to Colton, he and MacIntyre had developed a grand strategy. They had identified what they considered to be the three hardest Alpine routes in the world at that time: the Harlin on the Eiger, the Gousseault on the Jorasses, and the Voie de L’amite on Pointe Whymper of the Jorasses. All of these were unrepeated and, more importantly, had been established using siege tactics: fixed ropes and the like. The Brits wanted to repeat this trinity of routes, and in better style than the first ascents: faster, lighter, and without aid.

The year before, Smith, with Terry King, had done the second ascent of a hard route on the Aiguille du Plan, the Grand West Couloir. The Grand West is a prominent mixed rock and ice couloir clearly seen from the Aiguille de Midi telepherique, first climbed by Patrick Gabbarou in 1975.

In September of 1977, Sorenson and Smith climbed a new line in the narrow gully to the right of the Grand West Couloir. The very last pitch was the crux and Sorenson’s lead of it impressed his partner. Smith remembers,

"Horrific. A vertical rock corner, sporting an evil off width crack, encased in ice and verglass and topped by a large roof dripping icicles. Tobin led it, for it was his turn and he never was one to shy away from a challenge, with all the histrionic and noisy brilliance that I later came to expect from him."

Lindsay Griffin, former Mountain Magazine editor, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of alpine climbing, believes the route may still await a second ascent .


Wee Jock

climber
Jan 31, 2009 - 10:12pm PT
What supercouloir? Lots of them ...
Wee Jock

climber
Jan 31, 2009 - 10:30pm PT
Interesting reading the excerpt from Climbing Ice about doing the 'North Face Direct' on the Courtes. A couple of things seem to me very important in reviewing ascents and standards of 'long' ago - they seem so quaint, do they not ... 5 days on the 1st ascent of the 'Davaille, the Swiss route on the Courtes being a 'major' achievement, etc etc when today no doubt some juvenile would be quite happy snow-boarding down the swiss route and modern bods run up the 'Davaille and the other Droites routes as if they are easy days for a granny or a granddad to solo: the obvious one - evolution in techniques and gear in the intervening years; but just as important the breaking down of old myths. That happened (just as examples - many other 'revolutions' have occurred) in Scottish winter climbing with Big Ian Nicholson's solos of Point Five and Zero in a morning ushering in frontpointing and the 'big' routes for all and sundry, and in the alps in the seventies the young unknown riff-raff, primarily Brits at first then the continental youth catching on pretty quick (Sorry, but I class you few American imports to Alpine Climbing AT THAT TIME as honorary Brits - BTW according to Montagne Mag I seem to be an honorary American), exploding all over the old preserves of the mountaineering hoi poloi. Then the revolution in Himalayan climbing that followed ...
Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Jan 31, 2009 - 10:56pm PT
Hey, Gordon, good to see you on the Topo-sphere! Remember that fun route you and I did on Shelter Stone Crag in 1975. Out of about 50 routes climbed that winter on my one Scottish winter trip, that was the best one. I have some photos somewhere that I'll try to post up when I can find the time.

As for the OP: I was just getting into ice and big mountains when that catalog came out, and I studied it carefully and formed the basis of a technique that served well for a lifetime's adventure on ice.

-SomeJelloInYourTeaLaddie?
Wee Jock

climber
Jan 31, 2009 - 11:07pm PT
Young Mr Lowe, you old beast! I've been trying to contact you!! Of course I remember the Citadel! I was just a bairn in those days!!! I'd love to see photos, any photos ... you did a climb with Tut Braithwaite (having forgotten to tie on your ropes) on Indicator Wall that went unreported and then was repeated as a new route years later ... Albatross or Arctic Tern Tut thinks it was!! Now a classic hard route..
Wee Jock

climber
Jan 31, 2009 - 11:16pm PT
Someone wanted a story about alpine climbing .... and Atty Accomazzo has furnished an as yet unpublished excerpt - so here is another as yet unpublished excerpt ...about an American climbing in the alps in the seventies ....

Tobin fell twice off the first pitch of the day, very hard rock climbing in crampons
up a beetling granite prow that bulged out in the middle and then was capped by an enormous
overhang. It was climbing made harder still by being frosted over in new snow and streaked
with thin, fresh smears of ice. It was also unclimbed; for the Desmaison, which we had thought
we were following, veers back again to ramps on the left. But instead of veering off, like
sensible folk, we had pointed our idiot noses directly up our prow, and directly for the top.
Twice Tobin flew off that overhanging bulge in the middle of the prow like a great, black winged
banshee; a shrieking shadow swooping a very long way down out of the wind riven stour and jangling
to a halt with a bang. And never once did it penetrate upon us that we were going the wrong way.
Instead my long, thin ropes stretched longer still and thinner...

'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow’

Never mind. They stopped him, those thin, long ropes of mine. Twice. And twice he went back up,
bloody, bold and resolute, until eventually, on his third try, he reached a lonely little foothold
high up on the prow, underneath the capping overhangs and past the bulge from which he’d fallen.
There the ropes ran out; and there he stopped and hammered home his piton.

It was the boldest of climbing by a true master. And there he passed the baton on to me. Not so
bold but devious as the devil, I didn't take the bull by the horns and risk attacking the great overhangs
above us direct as Tobin, with a snort and a bellow, clearly would have. At least he would have
tried to charge right over them and beggar the thought of falling off. But wee, sleekit, coo’erin,
tim’rous beastie that I am, I sneaked a couple of metres around from under the overhangs above and out
onto the left face of the prow in order to avoid the obvious, the difficulties straight ahead on the
right face. But my little detour around the overhangs took me onto a horribly dangerous wall, a kind of
arctic mush of rotten granite flakes half frozen into a paste of porridge, and collapsing as I climbed.
Above, I threw myself into the security of a deep patch of new snow covering a little blocky arete and sat
shaking in my icy hole while Tobin followed, trembling, in his turn.

Now at least we were above the overhangs, and hoping that the way to the top was clear. We
fought our way up against the screaming wind and slurries of spindrift, tiptoeing on eggshell ice
and throwing down showers of loose rocks and sweeping away the blankets of fresh snow, until Tobin fell
off the summit cornice. He came flying off that cornice, the very last moves of the climb, and those
long, thin ropes of mine stretched yet longer still and thinner. But never mind. Those long, thin ropes,
they stopped him. Again. And when he whined

‘The cornice is very soft snow. I can’t get my ice axe or my hammer
to stick’,

in my very, very impatient way I bullied him with

‘just cut the crap and flog the bloody thing down with your axe for God's sake
and let’s be done with this climb’.

I was impatient, you see, because the final pitch was even longer than the length of my very long ropes
and already I'd been forced to untie from my belay and follow him up the last runnels of snow and ice
and rock towards the cornice and the summit. Therefore was I very frightened when he himself came
swooping back down towards me out of the storm clouds, that shrieking black winged banshee again in
flight, having tried to climb the soft, overhanging snow of that cornice; and me without a belay but
still tied to him and looking at following him all the way to the glacier at the bottom of the
mountain. More than four thousand airy feet down through the swirling clouds. Fortunately he'd looped
a rope sling over a rock spike somewhere along the way and clipped the climbing ropes through it. Thus
by the grace of God, and with a little foresight on the part of Tobin, we didn't go tumbling down in a
final stotting clinch after all. And by the grace of God he did as he was told, and didn't try again
to climb the cornice but flogged it down with his axe and belly-rolled onto the summit of our dreams,
our second summit, our last summit. I followed him over what was left of the cornice, like a dog on
a leash.

Without ceremony, without words even and, for me at least, with a great feeling of emptiness
for my obsession was no more and we had nowhere left to go but down, we gathered up one of my ropes
into a giant knitting and stuffed it together with great quantities of the streaming spindrift into
my rucksack. We descended through the gale to the Italian Hut tied together with the other rope.
And thus the two climbs that fate had allotted us together were done.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 31, 2009 - 11:33pm PT
Welcome Jeff!

Can I offer you some frozen Squid memories?!?




From Vertigo Games by Glenn Randall, 1983.

To you crampon historians, what were people wearing prior to Salewa adjustables and Chouinard rigids in the sixties? Grivel hand forged ultralights? Was Salewa the first stamped and formed crampon design available in Europe?

Thanks for the fabulous excerpts Gordon and Ricky. Love to read the full pieces down the road!
Wee Jock

climber
Feb 1, 2009 - 12:53am PT
I suppose my stubais were hand forged - looked like they were galvanised???
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 1, 2009 - 11:40am PT
I definitely had hand-forged Stubais from the late 50s. Quite beautiful. Hinged. Not galvanized, but dark unfinished iron. Hardened, but if they were steel it was a pretty low alloy.

I liked the way that at the front they forged in four different directions: the front point, front vert point, frame piece headed rearward, and the vert piece to the separate lacing ring that flopped merrily back and forth. All squarish in cross section. I can't remember if there was also a horizontal frame piece crossing between the front points?

The front points were distinctly modern, curving downward and flared to a sharp chisel end.

Cotton straps that froze up.

Those Grivel Ultralights were so obviously the state of the art, but I never had any. Delicately forged and so light.

The Salewas were the first stamped crampons.

PSOM had a bunch of loaner 10-points that were the complete opposite. Just blundering crude heavy monsters. Reminiscent of the worst Euro forged pins occasionally around then. The McDonalds of crampons.

There's a slim chance I have an old snapshot...
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 1, 2009 - 12:13pm PT
You're making me think of my first ice axe too.

Stubai Aschenbrenner. Straight-out pick, pretty good for bashing steps. Self-arrested well, for the day. Didn't really consider clawing with it. Well, on snow sure, but definitely not on ice.

It was probably 80 cm long. I happily carried it all over the Sierra. But by the mid-60s I cut down the shaft to about 65 cm in imitation of the shorter axes that were coming out of Europe. Re-fitted the ferrule with a ring of red epoxy around the top.

After I got my first Chouinard Piolet in the fall of '69 I gave that axe to a young autistic client.

Occasionally I wish I still had that axe, as well as the 207 cm Hexcel prototype skis I took on the John Muir Trail the next spring.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 1, 2009 - 12:25pm PT
If you have a shot of those Stubai's, I would love to check them out.

Salewa put their adjustable out in 1962, pretty early on.
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Feb 1, 2009 - 12:26pm PT
Gordon aka "Wee Jock" Christ man - please get that book published and flog the name on this site. The story with Tobin Sorenson was the most gripping alpine climbing epic I've read in ages.

photo from Pete Benson
I think this is the site of the epic--North Face Grande Jorasses??

thank you! Fritz
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 1, 2009 - 01:06pm PT
Perfect spot for one!

The Stubai Aschenbrenner was a step cutting only design and never looked better than in this gentleman's weathered hands.

Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Feb 1, 2009 - 01:45pm PT
Well, Gordon, you were the best of your generation of Scottish clamberers, carrying on in a long, distinguished line of under-equipped, dishevelled and self-reliant mountain men. And now, by your excerpt, I see that you're also ready to step into the literary shoes of the likes of Murray and Marshall and Robin Smith, etc. I've got two days left on a deadline that will not allow me to participate much, here, but then I'll post up some stuff from my pilgrimage back in '75 to the birthplace of winter mountaineering and mixed climbing. I even have a pic of Tut on that route you spoke of. Tut and I did a few climbs in that rope-free style, and the most delicate aspect was trying to not fall off as we were each trying to top the other with our jokes as we climbed. I remember one point at the crux of Hadrian's Wall where Tut had outdone me, and I spent five minutes fighting paroxysms of laughter while clinging precariously to axes and crampons barely adhered to thin ice. Wonderful times!

Cheers to you, Wee Jock-

-StyrofoamJello

EDIT: And thanks, Steve, for the memories via the Squid pics. We didn't have much in the way of Scots styrofoam on this side of the puddle, so we had to make do with what we found on our own winter hillsides.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 1, 2009 - 01:57pm PT
Great shot of Norman. The stare...

Sporting a skinny rope. Nylon, for sure, but definitely a guiding-only line. No leading on that, nope.

But they cut off his boots. The wonderful nailed mothas with about 26 eyelets lacing to mid-thigh.
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Feb 1, 2009 - 10:08pm PT
Great stuff, thank you gentlemen.

Wee Jock

climber
Feb 2, 2009 - 02:05am PT
Great Dane, the topo you just posted has an error ... Route A and Route B join about an inch (on the photo!) higher - at the top of the next steepening. The Desmaison original takes a corner (just discernable as a line on the photo) up the left flank of this steep section to reach the 'first ramp' while route B goes up a very obvious (and rather Scottish) ice gully hard up against the right hand bounding wall (ie the line as shown in the topo).

Jello - high praise from such as you, were it only true ... well actually 3 of the words are true - clamberer, dishevelled and under-equipped.

As to crampons I climbed for a while with a pair of Salewa Adjustables with tungsten tips ... to keep them sharp I suppose. Trouble was the tips fell off.

Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Feb 2, 2009 - 02:16am PT
The "Scottish" part may also be true. :-) Anyway, fascinating stories - thanks!
Wee Jock

climber
Feb 2, 2009 - 04:58am PT
Actually, I was born in Calcutta, India
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 2, 2009 - 11:27am PT
To continue the show and tell.....

In 1908 Oscar Eckenstein became the father of the modern reliable crampon with this hinged ten point design.







The front points were destined to show up around 1929 and revolutionize icecraft.
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Feb 2, 2009 - 12:34pm PT
Gordon, thanks for correcting the topo. Looks like a fairly complicated face. Don't know if you have seen this from Jon Griffith's web site. It would make a good photo to add a topo to. Dbl click on the photo for high resolution.

http://jonathangriffith.co.uk/chamonix/DPP07D90108141E42.jpg

http://www.alpineexposures.com/blogs/chamonix-conditions/648962-general-update-and-steck-record-10-jan

And Pete Benson's photo from their climb.

Sewellymon

climber
.....in a single wide......
Feb 2, 2009 - 05:42pm PT
climbing thread bump.
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Feb 3, 2009 - 12:30pm PT
There have been so many good climbers posting and some amazing climbs on this thread. It is a fun read.

Question for Gordon, didn't you and Tobin do that route with two nights out in 1977?
Wee Jock

climber
Feb 3, 2009 - 10:26pm PT
Great Dane
Two nights out, but we also lost nearly a morning wandering up a red herring and rapping back down again...The route we did wasn't the Desmaison as it turned out but somewhat more direct. A high def photo shown me by Luca Signorelli showed me what I always suspected (remember Tobin and I had no route description, only Desmaison's name for the route as the 'NE Face Direct' of the Point Walker - so we kept our noses pointed to the summit at all times...actually, I broke my nose years ago so it is a bit bent therefore we followed Tobin's nose). I saw our route really clearly in Jon Griffiths photo that you provided the link for!!

Just to keep the post in keeping with the OP Tobin used a 60cm Chouinard Frost and Chouinard ice hammer and I had Terrors. I reckon that my Terror axe, with its big adze, would have coped better with the soft snow of the cornice!! I really loved that Terror axe because of the adze even though it was a bit light for climbing hard water ice. Terrors were really great for the very thin ice in the mixed climbing ... much better than the Chouinard stuff that Tobin had IMO. We climbed in the old fashioned way ... if there was no ice to stick the pick into we rock climbed with our hands - ie no torqueing and hooking.

I think we both had Salewa Adjustables and we did a lot of mixed verglassed rock and thin ice climbing in them. We found them great for the mixed climbing - essentially rock climbing up to about 5.10.

We had no ice screws, though there was a fair bit of very hard 'winter' ice in the gullies on the route that would have 'taken' them well.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 3, 2009 - 11:15pm PT
John Cleare wrote a chapter about Scottish winter climbing in Mountains, 1975. The modern portion.











Enter you lads!

Wee Jock

climber
Feb 4, 2009 - 12:49am PT
Mr Grossman ... re Cleare's article - clipping in and resting on a Terror would be aid, would it not? Also, hooking (as per Hamish's spiel about the terror hooking small rock flakes) - is that not aid as much as using a sky-hook? Seems to me that the 'new' tools of the seventies brought in some ethical questions, particularly the angled pick of the Terror. Being a particularly impecunious example of Homo Scotus Winterclimbicus I was always careful to try not to use the terror on rock as it wore it out very quickly...the pick metal was kind of soft and once it had worn down to the first tooth it was fairly useless. As far as I knew most folk did a lot of clearing of snow from rock holds and climbing bare handed (hence the wee strings on the Dachsteins - which brought a problem as the mitt would hang upside down and fill with spindrift!).
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Feb 4, 2009 - 02:20am PT
The whole modern mixed thing went over my head for years.

My first exposure to a Terro was a set the hostel host borrowed from the Burgess twins while they were climbing around Cirrus gully in the winter of '74. (A year later it bacame Polar Circus) We had just climbed Louise and rapped off to find these guys playing with a bunch of different tools. They were nice enough to let us play too :)

We Inland NW Yanks were generally using curved gear. Although Roskelly caught on to Terros quicker than the rest of us and took advantage of the numerious "free" options available. Terros opened my eyes that day on Louise as to what might yet be possible.

As Gordon mentioned Terros and Chouinard gear for that matter didn't last long if you hit rocks. If if wasn't "FAT" ice we generally avoided it. With winter climbs like Slipstream or Takakkaw so handy why bother wit "winter mixed"? On alpine mixed like Deltaform, Temple or Edith Cavel you might end up climbing in crampons a lot depending on conditions with a tool in your holster or hanging on your wrist. No matter what you did, if you had a good alpine season (3 or 4 faces) in Canada, you'd generally wear out a set of tools. Dachsteins would climb pretty well on moderate stuff. Bare handed {in summer}seemed the norm when it got hard. Hooking a rock intentionally with an ice tool just never occured to us/me. The tools were expensive and Terros (in the NW anyway) hard to obtain let alone replace. Winter? A bit too cold to climb without a pair (or two) of mitts in those days.

Modern mixed? At least for some of us climbing in Canada early on, if it wasn't fat winter ice why bother? Heaven forbid you ever actually went looking for that kind of "shit". We'd typically got a stomach full in the summer or on the occasional winter alpine climb. I used a set of Terros and most importantly the adze to climb the last pitch of sun baked mush of Polar Cirus and Teardrop on an early ascents. I am not sure what other tools would have made them possible at the time. The long Chouinard tubes you could pull out with your hands in those conditions. The Simond Chacal and Barracuda that came later where the first tools I thought bettered than Terros. Since the sun baked vertical slop never seemed to get any easier over the years I still favored the big, dropped adzes. Something none of the newer tools seemed to think worth copying.

Salewa and Chouinard rigids came first. But the SMC rigids were the crampon of choice for most of us between '75 and the early '80s on water ice and alpine climbing. Footfangs swayed many from the SMC for hard ice. The Chouinard hinged stared to make in roads for alpine mixed.

Years later I finally bought a set of tools just for "modern"
mixed. Camming a crack or hooking a rock edge made perfect sense after rereading Jello's book for the 87th time:) And then first doing it on a top rope. Shafts come in many forms these days but funny to me that the best of them actually copy the same hooking angles of the original Terros. Just no need now to bang a knuckle.

From the posts in this thread an observation one might make is that it was Hamish McInnes and his Terro that made the biggest impression on modern ice and mixed climbing.

Louise in '74


Remember how the sharp edges on the hammer head would tear up your mitts?






Look familiar?



Bldrjac

Ice climber
Boulder
Feb 4, 2009 - 10:05am PT
I can't believe this thread has gone on for so long and I've just sort of ignored it.........Guess I've been too busy guiding without a laptop close by.........

For me the big eye-opener with what was possible on BIG ice climbs was when Bugs did Nemesis. The long pitches of difficult ice and exposure was greater than I had seen. The fact that he used his Terrors for aid occasionally didn't detract (for me) the fact that he went up and and did the thing. Jeff Lowe's insistence on a "free-climbing" ethic in ice climbing also pushed climbers to do their best and challenge themselves in the ice area.

When I got my first pair of Charlet Moser Gabbaru Grade Six axes the challenge of climbing mangled waterfall ice became more manageable and safer. The only problem was that the picks were hand-forged and the metal quality was inconsistent so you never knew exactly what you were going to get. Tobin and I started the Grand Central Coulouir on Kitchener with five axes and finished with only two. The picks on the other three broken and useless.

Then the Chacal came out and that made all the difference.....

Steve, do you have any pictures of the Chouinard "Ice Screw rachet" that Yvon sold in his catalog?
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Feb 4, 2009 - 01:08pm PT
Some of the Canadian terrain from the discussion.

Nemisis, 160m, Stanley headwall


N Face of Kitchener, late winter. Jack's and Tobin's direct finish still scare the tourists away.


N face of Alberta, late summer




Slipstream on Snowdome in early Jan.


Deltaform early summer


Lower and Upper Weeping Wall in fat conditions


Upper Pillars of Polar Circus in fat conditons

Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Feb 4, 2009 - 01:10pm PT
Most excellent portraits!
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Feb 5, 2009 - 05:44pm PT
Nice to have some bona fide alpinists chime in on this thread.

Seems like a question for Wee Jock here…about tools.
I am currently reading Bonnington’s Annapurna South Face…
And am reminded of this picture of Nicki & Ian Clough & on the North Face of the Matterhorn:


(From Paulcke & Dumler’s hazards in mountaineering.)


I’m guessing this is mid-60s, sometime before Clough’s exit on Annapurna:



These tools look very short: maybe 45 cm & I can only guess predating curved picks as well,
Or maybe right on the cusp of that innovation.
Could these be handmade MacInnes axes?
They look like quality items.

Dane, Steve, DR, Jello, Jack et al?
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 5, 2009 - 08:18pm PT
That's the first thing I've seen on this thread that looks like Don Jensen's MacInnes ice hammer. Pick is the right angle, and notice how thick it appears.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Feb 5, 2009 - 09:01pm PT
And this little excerpt from Annapurna South Face (climb summited May 27, 1970),
Referring to an "all metal" MacInnes axe w/ steep pick and particular notes on Chouinard tools.
(Curved adze reference in the text is I think intended to mean pick?)



Then, "The Whillans Whammer"?!?
Described earlier in the appendix:

"an all-purpose modern tool combining a descendeur, ice-pick and hammerhead."

WTF?
An ice tool with integral descending/rappel device?
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 5, 2009 - 09:15pm PT
Can't be too careful. You just never know when you'll suddenly need to bail...


WHAM! -- and down I go
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Feb 5, 2009 - 09:36pm PT
... Introducing the Whammer!
Another Whillans FIRST:

 The hammer smartly fitted with multi-functioning head!!!
 Suited both to drive pitons and serve as a descendeur (though not simultaneously, lads...)
 Gripped in standard fashion, it's a hammer.
 Turned 'round 180°, it's an ice dagger.
 Whilst flipped neatly on its head, the handle functions as a motor car gear change selector.
 Low gear gets you to base camp in tidy time for the blood pudding.
 Just pull back a tad for high gear; and you're at the pub spot on schedule!!!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 5, 2009 - 10:24pm PT
Now there's a tough photo to find! No sign in your book, Roy! I recall a spaceage little goodie!
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Feb 5, 2009 - 10:53pm PT
heh... no sign of it in the book's pictures.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 6, 2009 - 11:03am PT
And only thirty or forty Bonnington books to peruse! LOL
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 6, 2009 - 11:14am PT
Yeah, and most of em not worth the trouble...Sir.

I'll look for my literature over on the William S. Burroughs thread, thanks.
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Feb 6, 2009 - 04:26pm PT
How about more of this?



Eric and Luci photo.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 7, 2009 - 12:37am PT
You always did like your Lunch Naked!!!
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Feb 7, 2009 - 12:44am PT
On the Dru Coulior '73.





Ian Clough or Hamish McInnes? Same lineage? McInnes axe from the late '60s. One of the very first full metal axes with a red rubber/plastic coating. Gordon, know anything more?
DR is this similar to the axe you remember Don Jensen was using?







Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Feb 7, 2009 - 01:27am PT
That is a really cool find Dane!
'Pushes our vintage axe conversation right on down the road...
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Feb 7, 2009 - 01:34am PT


RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Feb 7, 2009 - 01:37am PT
It is the hole in the axe's head and the funky "nail" end spike that makes me think they are the same or at least a similar production McInnes axe. I don't think Nicky Clough is climbing with a matched pair of tools in the picture.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Feb 7, 2009 - 01:49am PT
Yes, also the oval stamp on the pick of the ax in each picture.
I'm perhaps spotting some differences with her north wall hammer as well.
Neat stuff.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 7, 2009 - 02:04am PT
That's Don's tool!

Thick pick. Might have been a bit straighter than that.
Two worthless little half-round divots on the underside. Check.
Shaft is right. The rust-red stuff is rubbery.
His was the hammer, remember, like the one in Nikki's other hand.

Where on earth did you turn that up, Dane?

I had to have one too. Found an axe version, and my metal-worker friend Thomas cut off the adze and welded me on a hammer face. After I had Chouinard gear, John Fischer took that hammer to South America and left it with a local. No photos remain.
Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Feb 7, 2009 - 03:51am PT
Tut Braithwaite on that simul-solo Dane mentioned way up thread:


Yvon Chouinard and John Cunningham near the top of Ben Nevis:


Shelter Stone Crag with the Line of Citadel dead center:


Gordon Smith heading up Citadel in 1975:


Ben Nevis in clearing storm:


Our "cheating machine" in '75. We were filming Yvon and Johnny for a never-released Nat'l Geo extravaganza, and were ferried each day to the top of the mountain!


Clocwise from top left, on the summit of Ben Nevis: Yvon Chouinard, Johnny Cunnigham, Hamish McKinnis, Tut Braithwaite:


Zero Gully dead ahead, Hadrian's Wall and Point Five up and right:


Closest thing to Scottish ice in Colorado? Duncan Ferguson and Mark Wilford on Englishman's Route, Hallets Peak, mid-80's.


Duncan totally stylin', as always:


Mark & Dunc:


Duncan, MasterOfTheThinIceUniverse, Ferguson:


Jello, shaking his way up the Smear of Fear, in the spirit of the Scots:


Jello again, tickling the North American Crystal, on the Glass Pony Shop, Jaque Cartier River, Quebec:


Ephemera, Jaque Cartier River:
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 7, 2009 - 04:18am PT
Tut and Jeff on Ice Again! YC's caption reads "piolet traction is being used where it belongs here!"



Nice shots Jello!

Wee Jock- I am no lover of flexible ethics even if it's Hamish doing the tweaking! The aid matter was put to bed with Polar Circus and the Bugs McKeith chapter over here. The line is always clear if you are straight with yourself.
Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Feb 7, 2009 - 04:27am PT
Thanks, Steve, it was fun digging them out. Now it's time for both of us to get some sleep!
Wee Jock

climber
Feb 7, 2009 - 06:04am PT
Hi Steve, old bean .... I'm not really talking about flexible personal ethics, I am wondering about the ethical principles that are the accepted ethics in winter climbing today behind, for example, 'torquing' as free climbing Vs 'French Free' pulling up on a jammed nut as aid climbing. Should using ice axes on/in rock, as opposed to ice (and frozen turf) be considered aid? (I would say yes) Do crampons qualify as 'nailed boots' (I would say yes and traditionally using them is not aid, even on rock) ... but ice-axes qualify as sky-hooks and crack'n'ups. Or is it the same ethical leap in principle as the leap between cutting and pointing and therefore OK in principle?
Just an old fart wondering about the new ways and wishing that there was an icy goulotte someplace in the steamy jungle back of the boat anchorage......

By the way, Dane I am far to young to know anything about that red handled beasty thing in your photo
richross

Trad climber
gunks,ny
Feb 7, 2009 - 07:19am PT
Mark Robinson,Stoney Clove,Catskill Mountains,NY mid 70's.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 7, 2009 - 12:29pm PT
The whole mixed mania phenom I find to be more akin to aid climbing, these days, than to its Scottish ridge and gully roots. Personally, I like sticking ice tools in ice and don't care to bugger up my picks tweaking and twisting. The angry inch is lodged firmly enough in my consciuosness when my whole show is hanging there on one tip trying to find a home for the other!

Perhaps some Mixed Masters present can bring the game up to date?!?
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Feb 7, 2009 - 12:44pm PT
Seems Jello really broke the mold...
Maybe a few words on the mixed matter Jeff?



from Climbing 6/2002
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 7, 2009 - 01:04pm PT
I'm with Steve on mixed. I find myself glazing over when it comes up.

Maybe it's a little like my view of modern rock climbing: it's fascinating and I'm humbled by the obvious strength and technique involved, but it has broken contact with what I can physically relate to.

Or maybe it's more in that vein of ice-tools-belong-in-ice. Skiing might be a good analogy there. Hucking cliffs has a certain daredevil fascination, sure. (Not MY knees, though, thanks.) But I was raised with a racing orientation. Skiing happens with your skis on the snow. Techniques like pre-jumping a roll work to keep em there = faster. All the aerialist stuff is mildly annoying, like shoo those gymnasts back to their trampolines.

Just an old fart sayin'.

I eagerly await Jello's take on it.
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Feb 7, 2009 - 01:14pm PT
Awesome photos Jello!

Modern mixed and aid? First time I actually paid any attention to hooking with tools was when Jared Ogden took ice tools on a rock climb in the Black Canyon I think and then "freed" some previously difficult aid in rock shoes with tools. I thought what the hell?

The next chapter for me was Steve House and Vince Anderson on Alberta last winter via a new route. Mark's or Steve's writing (can't remember which) about the climb made the most sense to me. Something like "using a tool while hooking and torquing is faster than traditional aid." My focus was on faster than "traditional aid".

Looks a lot like some of Jello's pictures. Anderson on Alberta.

Steve House photo

But once you're kitted up what does it matter what your picks are in when you are pulling? My little experience for this kind of climbing showed me that the conditons can change so quickly that the route may not even be the same the next day let alone the same difficulty. Same discussion I had heard before about "conditions" on hard mixed climbs like "Beyond Good and Evil". One climber gets a life changing experience. The next week/month/season a climber gets a autobahn offering nothing impressive on the same climb.

But isn't that alpinism? Each climb distinct to the climber and never to be repeated?

With a climb like Gordon and Tobin's on the Grand Jorasse back in the '70s, when they said "freed" we all understood if was free like in Yosemite "free". Hands, feet and heart "free". These days "freed" in an alpine environment means you look for the M grade. Letters have changed but M is just another version for "fast aid".

Andromedia Strain in Canada is a good example, old grade was V WI4 5.9 A2, the "modern" grade is V WI4 M7 and more typically done in a day.

Being one of the "old guys" who came back for seconds the first thing I needed for modern mixed was a whole new attitude which Twight slowly screwed into my psyche over a few years time. And a long lay off from hard climbing. With the enlightenment came a new set of tools made to take the abuse and not get totally trashed 1st pitch. Forget what you ever knew about swinging...now scrape and hook seems to work just fine. Saves what little ice you'll likely find and your tool. Picks get tuned differently as well and the tools can be much lighter.

Just the FNG's observations from only a couple of seasons of "modern mixed" for mortals. Others here have forgotten more than I'll ever know about the game. But I suspect many of the original crowd here that loves the swing of a bamboo piolet, would really enjoy this kind of climbing at a more moderate level given half a chance.

It certainly surprised me! Scratching and hooking your way up several long sustained pitches of M4 or M5 (easy by today's standards 5.8/5.9) is as close to alpine climbing bliss as I've ever been. On the flip side, my observation at the time, of climbing the same bit in a more conventional '70s fashion would have made the climb harder, slower and less secure. Gotta say the "fun" factor might well have gone way up too though with old techniques. We would certainly been able to "enjoy" it longer :) Time and techniques move on.


Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Feb 7, 2009 - 01:24pm PT


From "Mountain Climbing", Out of Door Library, 1897
Reilly

Mountain climber
Monrovia, CA
Feb 7, 2009 - 01:38pm PT
So, Dane, unless I missed it has nobody mentioned the axe Bill Sumner (the founder of Seattle's Swallow's Nest) made which had mercury in the head to give it more impact? I'd like to see him try that these days. You'd need to file an environmental impact statement to buy the thing. I gotta say it did 'set' nicely. I think he only made a couple of prototypes.

As an aside, Dane, is Bill still living in Alma Ata, Kazakhstan? I know it is now Almaty but I still call St Petersburg Leningrad.
Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Feb 7, 2009 - 02:05pm PT
Ever since ice axes were taken to the Alpine peaks, climbers have been inserting picks or shafts, hooking and torquing on rock. In my opinion it shows a decided lack of imagination not to want to see what one can do with them. I really got bored with thick ice: wanted to bring winter sport closer in line with gymnastic rock climbing. In France one winter in the early 90's, Thierry Renault and I did a really good, 10-pitch climb called Blind Faith, that has a 5-meter icy rock roof on the 4th pitch, that we used a few points of aid on. Following the roof, I checked out the potential tool placements, and could see how it could be "freed". Back in Colorado, I looked around and found Octopussy, to prove out my ideas. Anyone who does much of this kind of thing will tell you it "feels like free climbing", requiring all the body control, etc of free rock climbing. As far as pick-bashing goes, guys like Duncan, Malcolm and myself used to go whole seasons on one set of picks, taking pride in careful, precise placements on the rock.

I'm not very fond of full pitches of bolted dry rock on some modern M-climbs, though. That sort of thing seems unnaesthetic and uninspiring. I always was on the lookout for climbs like Deep Throat:


richross

Trad climber
gunks,ny
Feb 7, 2009 - 02:13pm PT


RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Feb 7, 2009 - 02:30pm PT
A select few have the vision. The rest of us follow along kicking and screaming in "blind faith" :) Thanks for the push Jello!
Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Feb 7, 2009 - 02:49pm PT
Well, thanks, Dane. Why didn't you and I ever hook up for some adventure BITD? Seems like we were interested in the same stuff?

Another thing about modern mixed is that it (as has sport rock climbing) truly has openned the greatest climbs in the world to fast, fit, bold and experienced new-generation alpinists, like Steve House, Vince Anderson, Simon Anthematten, and the best of them all, Ueli Steck. Without modern mixed experience, these guys would not be doing the climbs they are. It's a whole new world of alpinism.

-Jello
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Feb 7, 2009 - 02:55pm PT
From CLIMBING 51, nov/dec '78:







RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Feb 7, 2009 - 03:29pm PT
Jello asks: "Why didn't you and I ever hook up for some adventure BITD? Seems like we were interested in the same stuff?"

While I would have been honored BITD, that is pretty funny

One of the reasons I suspect was a conversation I had with Roskelly about Tawoche. (for those that don't know it's a huge VII, 5.11, M6)

John mentioned that you were severly kicking his ass climbing wise for the first part of the climb. He told me that he really had to dig deep playing catch up to just come close to climbing at your level. When John admits something like that I was more than impressed. That and the rocks zipping through your bat tent. We were interested in the same stuff Jeff but you actually could climb it!

That and the fact that you see this as a climb.



BITD I could manage to get up most 5.11s or a bit more and thick ice was "easy" but that thing still SCARES me!

But seriously, where you took mixed made it easy for the rest of us to follow along on more moderate terrain. As you have already pointed out it is in the alpine environment where the tools and techniques have really benefited everyone involved.


Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 7, 2009 - 04:00pm PT
The farthest reach from a sure thing that a Jello could conjure up one fine frozen day. This sort of adventure has lots of smears and not just a pharaoh's beard at the lip. Jello's eye and efforts are always intriguing, purposeful and bold as love!
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Feb 7, 2009 - 10:58pm PT
From climbing number 58, January/February 1980







Bldrjac

Ice climber
Boulder
Feb 8, 2009 - 12:46am PT
Roy,

funny you should post that article from Climbing..........I was thinking of doing the very same thing. That was a cold climb.
The continuing story after the climb was this...........

After the climbing we descended uneventfuly down to the tent and after taking off my boots I discovered I had frostbite with black toes and we still we had to ski out. Tobin and I slept in the tent and the next day we skied out to the road and Tobin drove me in my Datsund B210 the 12 hours to Bellingham, WA where I checked into the hospital and waited until my toes got better and I could return to LA. Meanwhile, on our way up to Canada before the climbing, Tobin and I had promised the outdoor club in Bellingham that on our return we would give a dual slideshow for them. Tobin on his second ascent of the Harlin Route on the Eiger with Alex Macintyre and me on my ascent of the North Face of Huntington.

But now The deal was I was in the hospital "Burns Ward" and I wasn't supposed to leave. My toes might get infected. But we had a show to give. Promises to keep..........So Tobin gets a six pack of beer and convinces the person in charge of the ward that it's OK if I leave for a couple of hours because Tobin will watch over me and everything will be OK. No one will know and my toes will be safe with Him. So Tobin wheels me down the hall in the wheel chair, out of the hospital, down three floors (I can't walk and am on pain killers), and into the B210 and we go to the auditorium .
Once there Tobin wheels me in, down and up onto the front stage. He anchors the wheel chair so I don't roll off and with my face to the audience and my back to the pictures and my mind numb with pills I proceed to give the worst slideshow of my life. Afterwards, Tobin gives his show on the Eiger and with only four pictures entertains the crowd of eager listeners...........after the show he takes me back to my bed in the hospital and no one is the wiser. We left about one week later.

That was one heck of a trip with Tobin. And I've returned many times over for more winter climbing.
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Feb 8, 2009 - 03:01am PT
We are so lucky to get these stories down in print. Some times I wonder if guys like Jack and Jello (and the others here) realise just how many climbers they have influenced over the years.

Super Taco is a very cool place and the community richer for all their contributions!

Tobin wrote a bit about Charlie Porter and the Burgess twin's winter attempt on Kitchner. On the Charlie Porter thread up currently one of the guys that whitnessed that attempt wrote a few words about his experience. Amazing, simply amazing experience here.

More from Kitchener via © Raphael Slawinski's web site:
http://members.shaw.ca/raphael2/index1.html







The looking down the "easier" Blanchard/Doyle ice strip.


© Raphael Slawinski

geiger

Trad climber
Doylestown pa
Feb 8, 2009 - 08:39pm PT
What a thread on one of the best catalogs printed. Just finished a great read, "Let My People Go - Surfing". YC story of the development of Patagonia (think clothing, not region). It really brought back the history of a lot of gear and climbing stories as well as his company philosophy.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 8, 2009 - 08:48pm PT
A timely American Alpine Two'fer from Climbing May-June 1978.

















Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Feb 8, 2009 - 08:54pm PT
Thanks for telling that story Jack,

I remember the particular weekend in Joshua Tree when news of your climb on Kitchner with Tobin came to our little group of itinerant Southern California climbers. Dramatic stuff both then AND now; with emotional impact.

'Nice comic relief with the slideshow bit…
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Feb 8, 2009 - 08:56pm PT
Ha!
Good one Steve.
I leap frog Jack's intention with my post any you just did the same with me!!!
I have that same Eiger/Dru article on the griddle...
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 8, 2009 - 10:49pm PT
Sorry Roy! My poster's bunyan got to twitchin'.

Hilarious story about the wheel chair slide show! Tobin must have been pretty smooth to get you out of the burn ward.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Feb 8, 2009 - 11:46pm PT


Since we have the color picture…
We may as well go for the full article!











From climbing number 51, November/December 1978
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Feb 8, 2009 - 11:47pm PT
We know light is right Jack,
But when is it just plain skimpy?

RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Feb 9, 2009 - 12:52am PT
Hey guys how about scanning in Jack's 1979 AAJ article on Huntington? And to complete that season is there anything written on the S face of Denali?
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 12, 2009 - 04:01pm PT
Rick A:
>They had identified what they considered to be the three hardest >Alpine routes in the world at that time: the Harlin on the Eiger, >the Gousseault on the Jorasses, and the Voie de L’amite on Pointe >Whymper of the Jorasses. All of these were unrepeated and, more >importantly, had been established using siege tactics: fixed >ropes and the like.

Hi Rick,

just as a matter of historical truth: the Gousseault route on the Jorasses was NOT first climbed using siege tactics. In the first serious attempt, on the 1971 ascent and the 1973 climb, Desmaison fixed only few initial pitches, but the rest was climbed in one push. And by the way, even the number of pitons used in 1971 and 1973 may have been exaggerated under the influence of the gigantic controversy that followed Desmaison rescue.

Both 1971 and 1973 climbs were some of the last occasion "traditional" ice climbing techniques (i.e. single axe) were used in the Alps (before the advent of "piolet traction"). Because of that, Desmaison and his mates had to maximize rock climbing, and this largely justifies the large use of aid. Particularly in 1973 (when Desmaison had not to resort to desperate survival tactics as it had been the case in 1971), aid was really used when needed (btw, Giorgio Bertone - one of the member of the 1973 team - was one of the finest free climbers of his day)

This of course doesn't detract one bit from Gordon and Tobin extraordinary feat in 1977 - they opened an almost entirely new line (see here)
http://www.thebmc.co.uk/News.aspx?id=2945

they did it in an immaculate style, and the result was possibly one of the hardest mixed routes in the history of alpine climbing.
Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Feb 12, 2009 - 04:34pm PT
It's interesting to compare those routes that were done on both sides of the Atlantic back in the early to mid-70's. I haven't done the Desmaison or the Dru Couloir, but I would compare the MacIntyre-Colton with the Ramp Route on Kitchener, the Super Couloir with direct start (Tacul), with the Grand Central Couloir (Kitchener). Ice and mixed climbs longer and more difficult than these are generally found only in Alaska, some in the Andes, and most notably, the Himalaya.

-Jello
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 12, 2009 - 05:02pm PT
What astounds me is that we have a voice for just about every big, classic ice route in Europe on this thread!

Thanks for sharing!
Bldrjac

Ice climber
Boulder
Feb 12, 2009 - 05:10pm PT
It's just that I love the feeling of fresh, cool mountain air rushing up my dress!!!

Tobin was ALWAYS a smooth talker. He stuck around the hospital for a while as I recovered and the nurses just LOVED having him around. He was a very loveable guy.
Bldrjac

Ice climber
Boulder
Feb 12, 2009 - 05:12pm PT
Roy,

At least I had the good sense to keep my "knickers" on in the photo!!

That issue is classic. Jim's mug shot on the front and me on the back cover. UGH!
Bldrjac

Ice climber
Boulder
Feb 12, 2009 - 05:47pm PT
The full story on the Dru Couloir direct has yet to be told.

As I remember it Randy Trover and Mugs joined up as one team and Steve Shea and I roped up as another. Both teams has their sights on the Dru Couloir. No one was even thinking about anything else. So all four of us bivouaced at the top of the tram, in the tram station that night so we could get an early start the next day.

AS it turned out Steve and I got ahead of Randy and Mugs but we all found ourselves at the start of the climbing difficulties at the same time.......For some reason it was decided we should all rope up into a party of four, with Steve and I at the head. Steve and I swung leads while Mugs and Randy followed behind. We have two ropes. One for leading and the other for Mugs and Randy to follow on. We bivouaced that night on a 'cozy" ledge that just fit all four of us. The bummer was that late afternoon snow showers would roll in and dumped snow would collect at the head of the couloir and we keep getting hit with these mini avalanches.....

The morning of the second day Steve and I look up at this thinly iced corned system and just assume this is the route. In fact the standard route split off left and assumed more complicated climbing. Steve figures "what thehell. It looks climbable" and just heads on up. I figure that he's a better climber than I so I owe it to him to just belay him as he tackles this vertical, poorly protected pitch. I follow and lead an easier and shorter pitch, which is then followed by another hard scarey pitch led by Steve..........Now you have to realize that Steve Shea was probably at the top of his mixed climbing game and was one of the best mixed climbers in the US of A back in the mid-seventies.............He was grumpy and he swore alot but he ALWAYS got the job done and he never quit. NEVER! So now the snow showers are beginning again and as Mugs and Randy jumar the pitches behind us I sit and watch as the snow piles up around me, enclosing me in its cool cocoon ........

It's late afternoon on the second day. Everything is covered in snow. Steve has been on this hard lead now for a couple of hours and then finally I head a yell from above. "Jack. I'm in the main couloir. Come on up". So, Steve has completed the lead into the Dru Couloir and is only waiting for me to follow and then for us to go up...........Then a yell from below, "Mugs and I have to go down. We have a train to catch to Amsterdam. We have to leave". Mugs and Randy needed both ropes for their rappel and we needed both ropes to go up and over and out..................


After a very long time and much shouting through wind and snow, it was decided to go down and out.....to bail.
Disappointed but also somewhat relieved. I always felt bad about coming down from that effort. I think if we had just continued and completed the climb it would have been a great statement about Steve's skill and ability since he did most of the hard leads. We would have spent another night out but we would have survived OK and gotten down the next day anyway...........but at the time it seemed like the right thing to do.

One week later Tobin and Ricky went back up and did the complete route to the summit of the Dru. Finished what we began. I forget where Steve I were. I think I was still camped in Snell's Field but went up to solo the North Face of Le Courtes. Steve might have met up with someone else and gotten on another route.........and I can only guess at what Randy and Mugs were up to in Amsterdam.

All-in-all It was a damn fine climb with good company.......and it was a warm, fuzzy feeling to have Tobin and Rick show the locals that YES!, Yankees CAN climb ice.....Keeping IT in the family so to speak. Showing the French how to climb in their own backyard. That was what felt so good!




Wee Jock

climber
Feb 12, 2009 - 09:12pm PT
Hi Bldrjck ... I think that you yanquee had already shown that you could climb alpine ice in 1975. John Bouchard and his pal Steve (of the unpronouncable last name) - or was it Rick Wilcox?? did the third ascent of the original route on the Dru Couloir in a day - just beating Terry King and myself to the bronze medal for the route (we did it the next day)! I remember steaming up the Droites NF full steam ahead with Kingy a few days before that, racing those Yanquee 'A' team B*gg#r$ to the top!! All good fun - we left Dirty Alex and Black Nick (our other 'B' team) footering around in the rimaye like a couple of grannies!!

I did the second ascent of Bridalveil Falls in Telluride in 1976 with Steve Shea in very lean conditions ... we drove to the foot of the route(!!) - don't remember him being grumpy at all. We had a good laugh, mind, and didn't hang about on the route at all. Yup, you chaps did know how to climb ice!

BTW, what is Steve up to? I saw him on Ripley 'Believe It or Not' many years ago falling down a couloir that he was skiing on Grand Teton and then getting up and walking away.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 12, 2009 - 09:33pm PT
Some Bridalveil visuals from Glenn Randall's Vertigo Games.



Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Feb 12, 2009 - 09:55pm PT
Wee Jock, Jello, Luca, & Jack!
Lovin' these first-hand stories.

I've seen that footage of Steve Shea falling down that couloir.
He just keeps going, and going, and going.
Fairly incredible that he walks away.
Bldrjac

Ice climber
Boulder
Feb 12, 2009 - 11:20pm PT
I think Steve is still falling down that couloir.....

I heard that Steve lives in Jackson, WY and runs rivers now. I believe he got out of climbing.

Yeah, John Bouchard got the attention of the French. Climb their hardest routes, solo one or two more and then run off with the most desirable woman in the valley...
Style is EVERYTHING!

Jack
Bldrjac

Ice climber
Boulder
Feb 12, 2009 - 11:27pm PT
Jeff,

How about an account of your ascent of Hungo Face on Kwande. Now THAT was a route well ahead of its time. Hard, run out ice climbing in a pretty remote valley.

Jeff, tell us a story.


Todd Eastman

climber
Bellingham, WA
Feb 12, 2009 - 11:47pm PT
Great stories! Thanks.
Wee Jock

climber
Feb 13, 2009 - 02:01am PT
Aaaah Bldrjac - you damn Yanquees - overpaid, oversexed and overhere....where have I heard that before?
Wee Jock

climber
Feb 14, 2009 - 10:25am PT
Hey, Luca
The last line of your post was, I fear, a wee bitty overstated....!!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 14, 2009 - 12:06pm PT
Some more scenery from Mountain 29 Sept 73.


Such a splendid shot of the Ben by Hamish MacInnes to start.









Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Feb 14, 2009 - 02:25pm PT
Luca Signorelli;

Thanks for your comments. I know you are an avid historian of alpine climbing and I respect your views. I have seen references that 300 pitons were used by Desmaison and company on the first ascent of the Gousseault. I assume that these pins were fixed in place as was the custom in Europe then, but even if they were not fixed, the French had to have carried a huge big-wall rack of pitons on that climb. Gordon will confirm that he found on his first attempt, and on the successful attempt, a lot of equipment remaining on the route, including ropes, cached packs full of gas canisters and other detritus.

With respect to the Harlin route on the Eiger, it is well documented that fixed ropes were strung almost from top to bottom on the first ascent. I think that we can agree at least that this route was “sieged” on its first ascent.

Jack,

Thanks for the story of your climb up the Dru Couloir with Steve Shea, Randy Trover and Mugs Stumpf. But I have to disagree with your statement that Shea reached the easier angled ice of the original Dru Couloir (Couloir Nordest des Drus) route before retreating. From what Tobin and I observed a couple of days after your climb, Steve stopped well before reaching the main couloir and just below what turned out to be the crux of the Direct route. The evidence for this is mentioned in my article that I wrote right after our climb, which is up thread. The last piece of equipment we saw was a tied off ice screw, placed in a narrow strip of shallow ice in the vertical upper dihedral of the Direct. It was a six-inch screw and was placed about halfway in, tied off using a green piece of webbing. That screw and that green sling are etched indelibly in my mind—sheer terror seems to enhance the ability to recall events.

There was no carabiner attached to it and it certainly looked to me like a piece from which the leader lowered off. If Steve really reached the 70 degree upper couloir, why did he not clean that screw and sling when rappelling down? We were all impecunious back then and none of us left pricey screws without reason. Why would he leave just this one piece and clean everything else? Also, as I mentioned in the article, Tobin finished this pitch and it was miraculous that he was able to find a belay anchor by chipping out ice to discover a tiny rock spike. Ice screws were useless up there because the ice was thin. If there were a rappel anchor higher up placed by Steve, believe me, Tobin and I would have found it; we were closely studying every inch of that couloir, as if our lives depended on it, in fact. My article gives credit to your team for discovering the Direct and climbing most of it, but I believe that Steve stopped below the crux of the Direct. Steve, if you’re out there, I would love to hear your view on this.

Jeff,
As Lucas and Gordon’s comments underscore, Tobin should be recognized as one of the top alpinists of our generation, right up there in your lofty company, when the history of 1970’s ice and mixed climbing is considered. I have always thought that Tobin has not gotten enough credit for his great 1977 season in the Alps. That is what my article seeks to remedy and this thread helps as well.

Another shot from the top of the original Dru Couloir route:

lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 14, 2009 - 03:35pm PT
> I have seen references that 300 pitons were used by Desmaison > and company on the first ascent of the Gousseault. I assume
> that these pins were fixed in place as was the custom in
> Europe then, but even if they were not fixed, the French had
> to have carried a huge big-wall rack of pitons on that climb.
> Gordon will confirm that he found on his first attempt, and on > the successful attempt, a lot of equipment remaining on the
> route, including ropes, cached packs full of gas canisters and > other detritus.


Hi Rick,

believe me, the quantity of pitons used an all Desmaisons attempts to the route (including 1971 "near climb" and 1973 success) were far less than 300.

On 1971 (the attempt that ended 80 meters below the summit where Gousseault died), Desmaison took

 2 ropes 50m x 9mm
 1 rope 50m x 7mm.
 nylon tape 15m x 5 mm (for abseil loops)
 4 etriers
 40 pitons
 25 krabs
 6 ice pitons (the old, flat type, not ice screws)
 2 hammers
 1 ice axe (the classic, long shafted type), plus one "ice hammer"

(plus of course clothes, gaiters, rucksacks, plenty of food etc).

In 1971 he fixed only the first two pitches of the route, then the rest was climbed in normal fashion.

The issue of the gear in 1971 is far from academical, as it was one of the main point of contentions in the huge controversy that followed (that's why I've the full list - it comes from Desmaison). Out of the blue, Renè was accused to have "underestimated" the mountain, and to have provoked Gousseault death trying to climb the mountain in "light" style (I know that 40 pitons aren't exactly light, but that was 1971!)

When Gousseault's conditions began to dwindle (on February 18), his ability to remove piton decreased dramatically, with the result that Desmaison had to fix almost the pitches above the 25th, then abseil down, remove the pitons, then prusik the rope up again recovering the ailing Gousseault in the process. This slowed down their progress to three pitches per day, with made Gousseault's chances to survive even slimmer.

In 1973 Desmaison, Claret and Giorgio (Bertone) took a similar quantity of material (the pitons were again 50), but the quality was more "modern" (they had few ice screws, hammoks etc), and had more rope (as another crucial factor of the 1971 disaster was that the climber got the reatreat cut when one of their ropes was trashed by stonefall.

The first stash of material found by Gordon (and that disintegrated when Gordon tried to recover it) was abandoned in 1973, when the climbers decided that they had too much gas/food. The fixed ropes on the lower pitches where the results of few years of attempts. The single fixed rope below the junction of the "first ramp" with the direct start taken by Gordon was abandoned in winter 1972 by Desmaison and Bertone during an aborted attempt to complete the climb.

The famous Millet sack at the end of the "rateu des chevres" (below the start of the final ramp) was empty, and I believe it was left there on purpose by Desmaison


>With respect to the Harlin route on the Eiger, it is well documented that fixed ropes were strung almost from top to bottom on the first ascent. I think that we can agree at least that this route was “sieged” on its first ascent.

Absolutely no arguing here: the Harlin route was climbed as a full siege style, kitchen sink included - actually, was the epythome of that trend. The same applies to the Directe de L'Amitiè. So, their eventual repeat in alpine, single push style by MacIntyre/Sorenson (the former) and Baxter-Jones/Colton (the latter) where really, at least from the psycological point of view, the sign time had changed.

But the Gousseault does NOT belong to that type of climb.
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 14, 2009 - 03:49pm PT
Gordon:

not at all - I really believe that it was one of the biggest exploits on the Alps for that time (and there were plenty of exploits back then).

Even just considering "Scala di Seta" a wee less harder than the Gousseault (after all is rather shorter), it must share the same level of sustained-ness as any other route of that area of the Jorasses. And believe me Gordon, despite the hype, there arent' that many other walls in the Alps that allows you for 1200+ of mixed climbing that's so sustained from start to finish (no initial boring snow slope there, no 800+meters of broken rubble). Maybe the single pitches aren't as hard as many modern technical routes, but the overall level required is just there...
Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Feb 14, 2009 - 06:23pm PT
This thread is really good!

Jack, your story on Huntington reminds me just how far out there you and Simon had gone! Amazing climb. Rick, no doubt about it, Tobin was one of our best. And teamed with Wee Jock, just exactly what couldn't those two climb? Luca, I don't think we've met, have we? At any rate, it's good to have your knowledge and input on Supertopo.

-Jello (Jeff Lowe, for Luca)
Wee Jock

climber
Feb 14, 2009 - 09:13pm PT
Hi Luca
Actually, I reckon that the pitch that Tobin led on the red tower WAS probably as hard as anything mixed done free in crampons in the alps up to the present. It was a very bold bit of climbing (scared the crap out of me - especially as I couldn't see anything - just hear the jangling of the gear, the scratching of his crampons, the bleating for skyhooks, and then he came flying down out of the storm clouds way over to my right (or left as I believe I was facing outwards as the time)and stopped with a bang!! Twice!!). I was very happy having a top-rope on that pitch, let me tell you!!

Desmaison certainly left a lot of gear (and Gaz) in those sacks just below the junction ... and having rapped down that start it looked like it was pretty well fixed - not the ropes, but the pitons were all in place...Black Nick and I used just one jammed knot to rapp off (at an easier part) - the rest was off fixed pegs. I suspect that at least the first quarter of the climb was fixed - up to and including , even, the 'A1' pitch, perhaps, again not so much with ropes but the pegs were 'prepared' - Tobin and I saw a fair amount of tatty old stuff - bits of rope, rusty pegs etc - for a couple of pitches past the junction...which we ignored ... and then Wrygob mentioned that they saw a lot of fixed stuff including rope higher up. Kingy, Dirty Alex and I found a lot of gear, including bits of old rope, in place on all the hard sections when we climbed most of Desmaison's start in 1975 ... it was hard work avoiding it!! We traversed into the Shroud from about 50 meters below the sacks. (BTW, did Desmaison in 1968 not do pretty much what we did in 1975 for the Shroud - avoid the bottom ice-goulottes (there was all sorts of stuff coming down them) by climbing up those rocks on the right??)

Certainly Desmaison did not 'siege' the entire Goussault in the sense that Seigneur and Harlin did for their climbs, but they did 'work' the route - more in the modern sense, perhaps??!

I'm sure that I read - perhaps it was in the Vallot guide that I got a few years later (dunno where that book's got to, now) - that they used 340 pegs ... I assume that they made 340 piton placements rather than 'equipping' the route with 340 pegs, also for belays and runners, not necessarily just for aid. That would be just an average of 9 placements per pitch, including belays, runners and aid! There were some chrome-molly and hard steel pegs in the sacks Black Nick and I found that would be 'reusable' (I, ahem, found a leeper, a silvery Stubai channel peg and a kingpin that were spared by the crevasses at the bottom which I, ahem, appropriated and used on our ascent, or at least the leeper was used) in addition to strings of soft steel pegs most of which disappeared into the crevasses. I suspect that they were left on the route 'a priori' to fix more of the route for the 1973 ascent, but the team decided not to bother, in the event, preparing any more and left them behind. Decided just to go for the top.

Bit of a 'sentimental' moment, finding the empty sack on the Rateau de Chevre...I assume Desmaison just jammed all the gear into his own sack and left Goussault's behind??

Interesting route, historically!!


Question for you, Luca - I get the impression that Demaison actually fixed most of the original start to the Goussault when he did the Shroud - I have the idea in my head that he fixed the bottom section on the Shroud climb, avoiding the goulottes, and that the original Shroud and the Goussault shared the same start. Do you think, did Desmaison fix the start of the Shroud - and then just check out the first couple of pitches with Goussault before making their assault, or was the Goussault entirely new??

For Rick A - I think that Luca entirely agrees that the Harlin and the Seigneur were entirely sieged - and that the ascents by Tobin, Dirty Alex, Black Nick and RBJ signalled the arrival of a new approach to 'super-route' climbing in the alps. I think Luca is pointing out that the Desmaison was not a seiged climb in the same sense ... that it prefigured the change over, being more of an in-between climb. My own opinion is that the Desmaison was a 'worked' rather than seiged ascent, and that Desmaison et al, followed by Tobin and me were the 'missing link' so to speak between old and modern alpinism...Desmaison (and Bertone) were half way there ... Tobin and I finished the job off (even it it was on a more direct line than the Goussault itself). Of course I had better say PDQ that Gabarrou and Boivin were pretty quick on the uptake!! And Cecchinel and Nomine had the right idea, of course!! The Dru Couloir Direct, by the by, was more in line with the technically hard new 'couloir ascents' that Cecchinel and Nomine, and Boivin and Gabarrou were into...which prefigure modern ice climbing.

 Luca - did Grassi come into his stride a wee bit later? in the 80's?
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Feb 14, 2009 - 11:48pm PT
Gordon, you should make a list of the gear you and Tobin took on the Gousseault to highlight the differences between the first and the second ascent!

I will concede that the Gousseault wasn’t technically seiged, but the difference in style between the first and second ascent is stark. Black Nick and the Brits succeeded in their goal of climbing three of the hardest alpine routes — the Harlin on the Eiger , and the Gousseault and the Directe de L’amitie on the Jorasses —in better style than the first ascents, albeit with some help from that cheeky yank, Tobin; on two out of the three!

Join me tonight in raising a glass to Tobin; how I wish he were here.

Tobin descending from the Dru.


Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 15, 2009 - 12:30am PT
My glass of Jolly Roger is raised for Tobin and his mates. Praise to partners and the persistence of memory.
Wee Jock

climber
Feb 15, 2009 - 12:39am PT
Rick A: I would, I would!! (Only it would be apple-juice ... Tobin having been a tee-totaller and I only drink very sparingly (the wife insisted that I drink wine last night - Feb 14!!) - it's also just after lunch here...it's tomorrow as well!!) I feel that it was one of those 'dammit!!' things ... getting frostbitten - Tobin and I were planning the Harlin as #3, then the Matterhorn as #4. At least he got them, I suppose - he did phone me at my mum's house in Scotland to ask if I was coming back, but I was a little bit worried about the skin-grafts on my frostbitten feet and anyway I was totally broke and had to work. I just wish that I hadn't led us up the garden path after our first bivouac as we then would have finished the route without the second bivi and without the storm. Oh well, c'est la vie!! As Jack said, he WAS a loveable guy and very easy to get along with indeed. But bold!! I don't know if I could have gone back up after those two long falls he took! Pity he never knew that he probably has his own route on the Walker Spur!!

Luca ... I've been rereading Benoist's topo of the route ... seems to me that he didn't do the complete original start but traversed in from the Shroud's goulottes, at least he didn't go the way Kingy, Dirty Alex and I did. It also strikes me that if his grades are accurate then the actual climbing that Tobin and I did in the upper section was much harder and more sustained, though maybe 3 pitches shorter - we did lots of hard mixed climbing in crampons on steep rock - slabs, walls, overhangs - plastered in very thin ice and verglass - that was at least as hard as the hardest stuff I climbed in Scotland ... Very sustained climbing with mostly hanging/semi hanging belays from the point that we split off up right. I remember vaguely that Tobin wrote a spiel for Mountain Mag about it - does anyone have it?? He remarked in that how exhausting the climbing was, and that we were in pretty poor condition when we got to the top( I didn't realise about the frostbite, however, until we got down to the hut ... just knew that my feet were very cold)!! And boy, were we hungry!!

Just a tit-bit to pull Ricky's chain a little (Rick, how I love to pull your chain, you attorney, you!!) It seems that some French don't even seem willing to recognise that we ever did the route ... Benoist, in relating the history of the climb before talking of his ascent, only recognises the second WINTER ascent (ie French in 2000), and doesn't mention ours - autumn doesn't count?? Doesn't that get you going!! Well I suppose, now, that maybe he was right!

For Steve - great article by Rob Collister! Looks like he was using Chouinard gear. I remember reading that article and being really inspired to go out and climb Point Five the next year (with my Chouinard axe and dinky little Salewa hammer). The other thing that inspired me was Big Ian Nicholson's solo ascent of Point Five the year or so before Collister's ascent with Cohen. Very inspiring indeed!!

Todd Eastman

climber
Bellingham, WA
Feb 15, 2009 - 01:43am PT
Wee Jock - as I remember, the French were a bit at a loss when the English speakers got up their hallowed routes. I think that they couldn't grasp that climbers that honed their skills on small crags or outside of the Chamonix area could have the skills to play in their mountains. Of course if any of the Peter Minks stories are even half true, I can see why anyone speaking English or some American or Scottish variant of it might be regarded with a high degree of suspicion. You and your bunch of pranksters seemed to be having lots of fun and climbing hard stuff so we tried to follow your example.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 15, 2009 - 01:52am PT
You wouldn't care to elaborate on the aforementioned Minks mischief, would you, Todd?!?
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 15, 2009 - 02:28am PT
Rick:

>Gordon, you should make a list of the gear you and Tobin took on the Gousseault to highlight the differences between the first and the second ascent!

Gordon and Tobin did NOT make the second ascent (actually, it would have been the third, however) of the Gousseault - they climbed a completely new route (Gordon has proposed a name - "Scala di Seta" - in Italian), with only three or four pitches in common with the Gousseault! This make their feat MUCH bigger (in my opinion) that a mere repeat would have been, and elevates as one of the most relevant climbs ever done on the GJ and the entire Alps

>I will concede that the Gousseault wasn’t technically sieged, but the difference in style between the first and second ascent is stark.

I think I can't make myself explained on this. The style of 1971 (and 1973) climbs of the Gousseault was - how we can say - "classic": the same style used by Bonatti in his great climbs. No front ponting tecniques (or piolet traction), and thus the climbers had to maximize rock climbing vs ice climbing, that was necessarily cumbersome and slow. In many ways, Desmaison (and Bonatti!) were at big disadvantage than their younger counterparts after 1973, as the use of two ice tools allowed for faster, more efficient ice climbing on much steeper ice. It's basically step cutting vs. front pointing - step cutting is not "worse" style at all, just more cumbersome!

Two months ago a friend of mine interviewed Bonatti on this, and the old man was quite blunt (as usual!) on this: he considers all the repeats of his north face of Grand Pilier D'Angle route done in the 70's as cheating - he and Zappelli did step cutting all the way up!

What said above was NOT the case for the Harlin Direct on Eiger or the Directe de L'Amitiè, who were genuinely besieged in mammoth and very unethical fashion (particularly the Amitiè, considering the first climb was done in 1974), so their first alpine style/single push ascents were actual improvements (and, btw, were treated as such even back then!)

However, let me repeat it here: Gordon and Tobin did NOT make a repeat, they climbed a new route! In case nobody now, it's the only route on the Jorasses opened by an American!

>Join me tonight in raising a glass to Tobin; how I wish he were here.

Absolutely, he was one of the greats, and I've always believed his achievements in the Alps were terribly underrated.
Todd Eastman

climber
Bellingham, WA
Feb 15, 2009 - 03:03am PT
I must comment on the fact that Wee Jock and his friends were not part of the Minks episodes but were probably where I heard them from. These accounts had reached legendary proportions when I had first heard them in 76. Evidently in the early 70s the British Pound was running rather weak to the French Franc and the exchange rate was most unfavorable to visiting Brits. Typical Alpine weather demanded long stays in the Chamonix Valley in order to capitalize on the few windows of good weather. With funds running short extreme measures were occasionally taken to secure food stocks. In one purported incident, Mr. Minks had gone grocery shopping wearing his down jacket and when settling up for a Mars Bar at the counter, a greasy roto chicken from the revolving roaster fell out of the jacket. In a state of confusion, it was rumored that M. Minks picked up said roto chicken and beaned the checkout girl as he made his hasty exit. Of course this was as I heard the story in 76. Now the other story might have not involved Mr. Minks but did involve the disappearance of many kilos of desiccated sausage that hung from hooks above the bar at a local drinking hole. The heist was allegedly accomplished by stuffing a Franc coin into a light socket that caused the lights throughout the bar to go off. When the lights came back on the sausages were gone. Snell's Field (camping) was searched but the no suspects or meat were found. The locals took a rather dim view of these events but to me they seemed to fit in with "hard" image I had come to expect from the Brits. Wee Jock and his friends, unlike the legendary Brits of these stories, were not crazed but rather super competent and fairly normal.
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 15, 2009 - 03:32am PT
Gordon:

>Desmaison certainly left a lot of gear (and Gaz) in those sacks just below the junction ... and having rapped down that start it looked like it was pretty well fixed - not the ropes, but the pitons were all in place...

A lot of pitons (not the ropes or the gaz) that you did find on the starting pitches - I meanwhen you did the attempt with Nick were not just left by Desmaison. Those pitches had been climbed for years, as early as 1962, I believe that Berardini and Paragot were the first to get there. The reasons it's of course that they were the most convenient way to access the Linceuil without climbing those ice pitches of the R start (the start more often used now). In fact, I believe you saw there a lot of stuff left by Desmaison in 1968 (you mention this in your post, few lines later)

> Certainly Desmaison did not 'siege' the entire Goussault in the sense that Seigneur and Harlin did for their climbs, but they did 'work' the route - more in the modern sense, perhaps?

Well, yes, the start was certainly worked out. But anything above the wall leading to the first ramp (where you find an old rope), was "terra incognita" when Desmaison climbed it with Gousseault. And, as you experienced on your own, it's a place where it's easy to get lost!

>I'm sure that I read - perhaps it was in the Vallot guide that I got a few years later (dunno where that book's got to, now) - that they used 340 pegs ... I assume that they made 340 piton placements rather than 'equipping'

No, the Vallot 1979 (Volume IV) doesn't mention the number of pitons. Gino Buscaini knew Giorgio Bertone and Desmaison well, he got the route topo directly from them. The "330 pitons" is just a number that popped out here and there, has no basis on reality.

> Bit of a 'sentimental' moment, finding the empty sack on the Rateau de Chevre...I assume Desmaison just jammed all the gear into his own sack and left Goussault's behind??

I've a theory on this, but I'll left it for my book... ;).

>Of course I had better say PDQ that Gabarrou and Boivin were pretty quick on the uptake!! And Cecchinel and Nomine had the right idea, of course!! The Dru Couloir Direct, by the by, was more in line with the technically hard new 'couloir ascents' that Cecchinel and Nomine, and Boivin and Gabarrou were into...which prefigure modern ice climbing.

True: It should be noted however that all those routes where climbed quite early in the developement of "piolet tractions" - the Dru Couloir was first climbed in December 1973, the Supercouloir of Tacul was climbed in 1975. But I've my opinions on this - I hope Gabarrou will not get offended if he'll ever read this, but those early climbs where basically nothing truly new, as I believe that you Brits/Scots did much of the same thing back home in the same years - and earlier.

In my humble opinion (I take complete blame for this!) the real revolution in the Alps began in 1977, when Giancarlo Grassi and Gianni Comino came into the steep ice arena. Because they saw that those new tools could be used for: not just long difficult alpine lines (often on par with earlier stuff - I'm being told that the Lesueur '58 route on the NF of the Drus is much more difficult that the NE couloir of the same mountain), but real NEW and outrageous stuff - south facing couloirs of rotten ice, phantom/ephemeral lines, climbing seracs, and of course technical water icefall in winter.

> Luca - did Grassi come into his stride a wee bit later? in the 80's?

Giancarlo began climbing in the 60's, in his teens. He climbed the Walker spur on the Jorasses in 1968, just 19 years old. In the early 70's he did a lot of hard rock climbing, in 1973 he climbed "Sole Nascente" on the Orco Valley together with Giampiero Motti and your very own Mike Kosterlitz - first truly modern (i.e. Yosemite style) climb done in continental Europe. He began to take interest on steep ice climbing when he met Gianni Comino (who was much younger than him), and in the three years that they climbed together they literally changed the face of the sport. Then Gianni died in 1980 on the Brenva face of Mt. Blanc in an attempt to solo the big seracs on the R of the Poire (which he did almost complete - he was killed by an avalanche shortly below the summit ridge), and Giancarlo continued with different partners all through the 80's, climbing thousands of new lines (insane stuff, tracking his whole activity would be impossible even for me!). I think is masterpiece remains the Phantom Direct on the South Face of the Jorasses, still unrepeated today. He died in 1992 at 48, in a banal climbing accident he would have survived if rescue had not been botched.

>I've been rereading Benoist's topo of the route ... seems to me that he didn't do the complete original start but traversed in from the Shroud's goulottes, at least he didn't go the way Kingy, Dirty Alex and I did

There are FOUR different start for the Gousseault

1) The 1971 start - it's the one used by Benoist and Glairon-Rappatz (the one of the topo)

2) the 1973 start - the one you used in the first attempt

3) the "scottish/american" start :-) (the one you used with Tobin, and later - probably - used by the Chechs in 1979 when they opened "Rolling Stone"

4) The Berhault "shortcut" - in 2001 he first climbed the R hand start of the Linceuil, then traversed on the Gousseault just below the start of the second ramp. Saved one if not two days of climbing with that, but it's more or less a cheat....

>It seems that some French don't even seem willing to recognise that we ever did the route ... Benoist, in relating the history of the climb before talking of his ascent, only recognises the second WINTER ascent (ie French in 2000),

No, he knew about your ascent, I'm being told he's a climbing history aficionado like I am (the difference being that he climb all these big routes after reading about them, while I'm here discussing with you on Internet!). He meant "second winter ascent" really just as the second winter ascent, that's all.

Gordon, you're a terrible influence in my climbing life, I was supposed to be ice climbing today, and I'm still here boring everyone to tears with the history of the GJ!

;)
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 15, 2009 - 03:34am PT

> Luca, I don't think we've met, have we? At any rate, it's good to have your knowledge and input on Supertopo.

Hi Jeff,

thanks, my pleasure to be here. I don't think we've met, but we may have few common acquaintances.
Wee Jock

climber
Feb 15, 2009 - 05:30am PT
Hi Luca
You should not be reading this until tomorrow - so don't answer till then at the earliest as I'll be pissed off at you for screwing up an ice climbing day ... sometimes, except for when my wife is being very nice to me, I yearn for snow and ice and big North Walls!!

I understand completely about the 'attempts for years' in approaching the Shroud - that first bit of the Goussault was well enough known. Our 1975 approach to the Shroud was via the 1973 opening of the Goussault, I'm sure', and my RETREAT with Black Nick was down that same line. My first attempt on the Desmaison with Black Nick was the same line that Tobin and I later followed.

I'm pretty sure that on multiple attempts at the Desmaison before the 1973 ascent a lot of preparation of the route was done up the 1st ramp to the A1 pitch and perhaps beyond, with a lot of pegs 'preplaced' - we saw scraps of fixed rope on harder spots up the 1st ramp. I suspect that the attempt with Goussault may have been much 'purer', in that respect?? There seems to have been a lot of gear in place - much more than 40-50 pitons would suggest!

According to Lindsay Griffin there seems to be some doubt as to where Rolling Stone actually started .... Lindsay commented to me that there is a lot of confusion as where those 'mythical' routes on the Walker go!!

>>Well, yes, the start was certainly worked out. But anything above the wall leading to the first ramp (where you find an old rope), was "terra incognita" when Desmaison climbed it with Gousseault. And, as you experienced on your own, it's a place where it's easy to get lost

Actually, I don't think that the Desmaison route is hard to find at all, at least up to the headwall,(except perhaps around the 'A1' pitch at the end of the 1st ramp, according to Benoist) if you go out to climb the ramps ... ask Wrygob - he commented to me 'how the bloody hell could you miss the route??' - only we weren't out to climb the ramps, we were out to climb the direct - we just didn't know that we SHOULD have been looking to climb the ramps!! What confuses me is that Desmaison definitely talked of his route being the 'direct' of the face ... if he wanted to do the direct, how come he didn't climb the route we did? Also, why did the route he did not end on the Hirondelles? It seems to be a route that naturally parallels the Shroud. Why did he dog leg in the way that he did? If you ask me the route that Tobin and I did SHOULD have taken the 1973 start, right across the ramps, and the route that Desmaison did SHOULD have taken the 1977 start - straight up the ramps... (The only place where we got 'lost' was when we tried to avoid coming back down from our 1st bivi and facing the horrible 'slot' ... eventually we realised that what we were doing was totally illogical (cheating) so we went back down and did things properly - up the slot.) We essentially followed our noses and the line we followed across all those parallel ramps was, perhaps by magic, all there .... a 'silken ladder'!!

>>True: It should be noted however that all those routes where climbed quite early in the developement of "piolet tractions" - the Dru Couloir was first climbed in December 1973, the Supercouloir of Tacul was climbed in 1975. But I've my opinions on this - I hope Gabarrou will not get offended if he'll ever read this, but those early climbs where basically nothing truly new, as I believe that you Brits/Scots did much of the same thing back home in the same years - and earlier.

What I meant here was that Cecchinel, Gabarrou et al were correct in seeing that the FUTURE was in high standard front pointing (thanks to Chouinard and Cunningham ... ie relate this note to the OP) and not in the 'old' French and German techniques - not so much in the difficulty of those routes.

There were 2 revolutions in Alpinism, IMHO - the second somewhat dependent on the first ... first the destruction of the old 'hallowed' ways - at the peak of which was Seigneur on the Whymper, Harlin and the Germans (particularly the Germans) on the Eiger and Haston/Bonnington on the right flank of the Walker. The attitude that climbs like the Walker and the Eiger and the Matterhorn were climbs only for supermen and that any 'bigger' climbs required Himalayan techniques - thrown to the winds (but note for example Bonatti and Vaucher's accomplishment on the Whymper (but they WERE supermen)!!). The second was your ice climbing revolution - originated by the dru and supercouloirs and then refined by Grassi and Gabarrou and the hordes that have come after. Hey, I think my 'Baumont-Smith' came in there somewhere ... the first alpine route done with a reverse banana pick (that became a commercial product).... To keep this note in line with the OP it was the second revolution that derived from Chouinard and Cunningham. The first derived a great deal from the powder snow bloody mindedness of Patey and the Aberdonians in Scotland in the 50's and the 'great unwashed tide of Brits' in the 70s. Cecchinel and Gabarrou cottoned on PDQ in the early 70's, to start your ice revolution.

'nuff babble. Sorry about hijacking your thread Steve, but we should all be grateful for Luca's input in spite of his self effacement!! And Chouinard was somewhere at the start of all this revolting!!
Bldrjac

Ice climber
Boulder
Feb 15, 2009 - 06:13am PT
My how this post has grown!! You could be right Rick but I hope I haven't been thinking all these many years that we almost had it in the bag.......

What I most remember from belaying Steve at that point was him yelling,
"I've reached the main coulouir. Come on up"! And I definately remember the reason we came down as what I mentioned. Of course you are right about none of us willing to leave a single piece of gear behind during a retreat. Especially if it wasn't needed.

You probably ARE right. My memory is most likely befuddled. I never got to the belay and I don't remember any conversation following or during our retreat. You and Tobin never got the credit you deserved for that climb. My memory IS clear on how hard it was up there...

There were some great climbs and climbers doing amazing routes in the Alps back then. I think Tobin's ascent with Alex of the Harlin route impressed me the most.
Wee Jock

climber
Feb 15, 2009 - 06:14am PT
Luca - one last point ... why do you imply that Goussault and Desmaison did the first ascent ... They didn't quite make it to the top ... almost but not quite - Desmaison hauled up on a wire the last 300 feet ... Desmaison, Bertone, Claret did the first ascent, surely - unless you are being a bit 'romantic' (in the correct sense of the word!) about the original epic.

Also - you ARE still working on your book???? I sincerely hope so!!!
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Feb 15, 2009 - 08:08am PT
Gordon,
Not drinking much? Based on my past acquaintance with Scottish climbers, that does not seem to be in keeping with the finest traditions of Scottish Mountaineering! And this reminds me of a quote from Winston Churchill, something about the finest traditions of the British Navy…

Like Luca, I’m delaying going off to play in the mountains while I write this, but I’ll be riding downhill on fresh powder snow, not ice climbing. Ice climbing is “too much like hard work,” in the immortal words of Tom Patey.
Rick
Wee Jock

climber
Feb 15, 2009 - 08:58am PT
Rick: I was always really good at making a half pint last the whole evening. Never been much of a drinker. Meanwhile I am eating my heart out at the thought of you weasels going out into the powder snow!! Today I walked the dog through the jungle which was still steaming after days of tropical downpour! I keep going and looking up at the cliffs above the beach ... the jungle approach has been too much so far to keep me from them! Plus sheer, unadulterated indolence! Couple of interesting birds around today - fluorescent yellow plumage. Don't know bugger all about anything wild out here - I rely on my wife who seems to know everything, except she never knows the English names for things!

Dammit, that kitten's back - feral kitten hanging around outside yowling. Tiny but FIERCE. I brought it in to feed it and it ripped me apart, then the dog got jealous and chased it away. But its back!

Have you tried ice-climbing with these modern leashless axes with the bent handles? And mono-points? Weird!! Anyone asked YC what he thinks of them ... or is YC just into the clothes business these days?

Happy skiing (and climbing for Luca), you beasts!
Gordon
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 15, 2009 - 11:45am PT
Man is the quotable Churchill entertaining!!! As regards thirst.....

"I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me."

And the aftermath....

"I like a man who grins when he fights."

"I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I'll be sober and you will still be ugly."

Outstanding material!

Wee Jock- There's always another cat to replace the one that wanders or vanishes. The greater continuity of cats---- we have five in upper management here at the house. LOL

lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 15, 2009 - 04:57pm PT
Gordon:
>You should not be reading this until tomorrow - so don't answer till then at the earliest as I'll be pissed off at you for screwing up an ice climbing day ... sometimes, except for when my wife is being very nice to me, I yearn for snow and ice and big North Walls!!

As it turned out it was too late for any decent ice climbing, but I still spent three hours happily snowshoeing in a remote valley - a place you would definitely like to see!

Try to find the time to come here Gordon, I will show you places you wouldn't believe still exists in the Alps!!


> I'm pretty sure that on multiple attempts at the Desmaison before the 1973 ascent a lot of preparation of the route was done up the 1st ramp to the A1 pitch and perhaps beyond, with a lot of pegs 'preplaced' - we saw scraps of fixed rope on harder spots up the 1st ramp. I suspect that the attempt with Goussault may have been much 'purer', in that respect?? There seems to have been a lot of gear in place - much more than 40-50 pitons would suggest!

Definitely no for the 1971 climb , as (as I've explained) Desmaison was much more interested in demonstrating that he and Gousseault had attempted the route with enough material to be sure to get on the top, rather than make an ethical point that in France 1971 no one was interested in hearing.

It must be explained here that the main point made against Desmaison after the 1971 disaster was that the whole climb had been just a gross publicity stunt gone wrong. More precisely, he got accused to have DELIBERATELY waited for days on the small terrace 80 meters below the summit, in order to maximize the media attention on the climb. In all honesty, they had a point here - Desmaison had a deal with L'Equipe that was paid in "days of climb" - the more the ascent lasted, the more money you got. That was standard practice in those days - have you ever wondered WHY all these climbs seemed to last forever? In parte the slow pace was due to the tecniques available back then, but in part that was deliberate.

The big point of contention was that on Saturday 20th February, after Desmaison and Gousseault had been stopped on that ledge for two days, a reconaissance heli of the PGHM came to see what was going on, and the pilot radioed back to the base that the two looked fine, and Desmaison had made a "thumb up" sign. Coupled with the fact that Desmaison's wife (Simone) insisted for reconaissance flight but was NOT formally asking for rescue, this provoked a ugly reaction from the Gendarmerie, who point blank accused Mrs. Desmaison to "have been pulling their legs".

Desmaison version was that he made a gesture with is hands meaning "keep us up - i.e. rescue us". This mess had anyway the effect to create the standard "asking for rescue" gestures you're familiar with (two hands up means "calling rescue / yes", one hand up one down means "don't need rescue / no")

In any case, a lot of people got convinced that Desmaison had lied - they even did make a TV movie in 1975, called "Mort D'Une Guide", loosely based on this version of the story (the movie threw Gaston Rebuffat in an uncharacteristic fit of rage)

In 1973 Desmaison just wanted to climb the bloody route and get finished with it, so he really took a bit more material (ropes, mainly), taking also advantage that he had Claret and Giorgio with him. All the material you have seen above the first ramp where 1973 relics - there's very little left from 1971, excluding the sad and empty Millet sac on the "rateau des chevres"


>According to Lindsay Griffin there seems to be some doubt as to >where Rolling Stone actually started .... Lindsay commented to >me that there is a lot of confusion as where those 'mythical' >routes on the Walker go!!

The doubt is mainly mine, I've been talking a lot with Lindsay on that in the last few weeks. I've NEVER been happy with the "regular" description that's always been given on the original "Rolling Stone" in 1979, chiefly because it doesn't make much sense. I believe they started there (your starting variant, I mean), but they soon moved well into the R, towards the centre of the spur. Do you remember you fist bivy place on "Scala di Seta"? You may remember also that straight above your head there was a huge monolith/tower that seen from the Leschaux hut looks like a giant open hand. Your route touches it below and slightly on the L, while I'm convinced that the Czechs 1979 passed above and on the R (as Gabarrou 1986 direttissima). The "regular" Rolling Stone as it's been always shown was in fact a mixture of your line and the line followed in 1985 by Eric Gramond and C. I should really get in touch with Gramond and ask him which gear he saw, and why he did not follow your line to the top. Too many thing to do and not enough time!


> What confuses me is that Desmaison definitely talked of his route being the 'direct' of the face ... if he wanted to do the direct, how come he didn't climb the route we did? Also, why did the route he did not end on the Hirondelles? It seems to be a route that naturally parallels the Shroud. Why did he dog leg in the way that he did? If you ask me the route that Tobin and I did SHOULD have taken the 1973 start, right across the ramps, and the route that Desmaison did SHOULD have taken the 1977 start - straight up the ramps...

Waiwaitwait - the line on the ramps was the one Desmaison wanted to follow, period. He wasn't interested on leaving the ramps until these ended. Problems began at the "Arrow", the small snow ridge where Gousseault first showed signs of exaustion. Desmaison original plan for the exit isn't totally clear, but I strongly believe he wanted to link the third ramp with the immense corner/depression made between the Hirondelles and the NE face of the spur (it's the line followed by Sachetat and Seguier in 1983 as "direct" exit from the Linceuil - it goes straight to the summit of Pt. Walker). Very elegant - problem is that when Desmaison got there 1) Gousseault was starting to be ill and 2) ice conditions were atrocious. Add to this that the rock in this "corner" is absolute crap, you had a taste of its quality on the "prow" of your route. It's even worse than the Tour Rousse on the original Cassin line. So he made a R turn towards the crest of the spur, along the line of minimum resistance. When he got to the "rateau des chevres", a traverse to the Tour Rousse (or on your "prow") was out of question with the ailing Gousseault.

Your line if very elegant, but I believe Desmaison's line as a life of his own.


What I meant here was that Cecchinel, Gabarrou et al were correct in seeing that the FUTURE was in high standard front pointing (thanks to Chouinard and Cunningham ... ie relate this note to the OP) and not in the 'old' French and German techniques - not so much in the difficulty of those routes.

> (but note for example Bonatti and Vaucher's accomplishment on the Whymper (but they WERE supermen)!!).

BTW, Bonatti has repeated recently to my friend that he really disliked that route, at least as he climbed it in 1964

> Luca - one last point ... why do you imply that Goussault and Desmaison did the first ascent ... They didn't quite make it to the top ... almost but not quite - Desmaison hauled up on a wire the last 300 feet ... Desmaison, Bertone, Claret did the first ascent, surely - unless you are being a bit 'romantic' (in the correct sense of the word!) about the original epic.

Until not long ago, I used to think as you do - the last 80m had to be climbed for the route to be really opened. And I grew up worshipping Giorgio Bertone (the guy was charismatic beyond belief), so the 1973 climb WAS the first climb for me.

But now I wonder. Maybe I'm getting old, or maybe I've been reading "342 heures dans les Grandes Jorasses" a bit too much recently (it's a wonderful book, a crime it was never translated in English - I believe - as it makes "Touching the Void" look like "Winnie The Pooh"). In any case, Gousseault suffered soo much to try to get out alive, and Desmaison fought sooo hard to help him out. And what was done on them was sooo ugly and injust, it really rates for me as the second greatest ugliest mess of the history of alpine climbing (after - guess what? - the Corti affair on Eiger in 1958). So, now I think that out of mere respect, the 1971 should be considered the first climb. Maybe I'm wrong, or maybe you're right, and I'm getting romantic!
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 15, 2009 - 04:59pm PT
Rick A:

just a little clarification on what I wrote few messages ago on the NE couloir of the Drus was related to the original 1973 line, NOT your direct variant, which is definitely much, much harder.
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Feb 15, 2009 - 05:20pm PT
I looked up that quote I referred to above and it was not Churchill, but his assistant, Anthony Montague-Brown who said it. Someone mentioned the great traditions of the Royal Navy. Montague replied,

“The only traditions of the Royal Navy are rum, sodomy and the lash.”
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 15, 2009 - 05:21pm PT
Not sure this does the trick but defintely timely! From Mountain 50 July-August 76 more of the exploits of Wee Jock, who hasn't hijacked anything except my imagination! This will make your inner kitty claw up the sofa!







Jello

Social climber
No Ut
Feb 16, 2009 - 01:36am PT
Continuing good stuff, here. But to include the Desmaison on the Grandes Jorasses in a thread about ice climbing is a little like featuring a steak on the menu at a vegetarian restaurant. If we're talking the evolution of ice climbing, in the Alps it would be something like the Triolet-Les Droite-Dru Couloir-Super Couloir-MacKintyre Colton-then off to the greater ranges with a return home in the early nineties to further take advantage of improved gear, fitness and attitude on the big cascades like La Massue; the huge tapestries on the Tete du Gramusat, etc.

A similar path could be traced in North America. But, in the end, all roads lead to the Himalaya.

-Jello
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Feb 16, 2009 - 02:07am PT
Ice from the weekend. With Chouinard represented on this one by BD.



Wee Jock asks, "Have you tried ice-climbing with these modern leashless axes with the bent handles? And mono-points? Weird!!"

Weird? No question. But you would never believe just how much easier ice is these days with the newest gear.


Wee Jock

climber
Feb 16, 2009 - 06:43am PT
Ah, Jello ... ice climbing is for the meatheads, mixed climbing in the OLD style is for the ballet dancers among us!! Don't you think that ice climbing is relentlessly boring, if a little strenuous - until the ice all falls down leaving Mons. l'Alpiniste with wet and nasty pantaloons!! The craft and cunning that is required to get up a sugary Cairngorm winter ridge or buttress, sniffing out the frozen vegetation, licking the ice with the tongue to check the consistency, testing the snow with a primed digit, tenderly feeling out the rock holds underneath. Ah yes! There's the game for you, my lad. You were pretty good at it too, as I recall!! Ice climbing only gets interesting when the ice disappears to less than an inch thick!! I seem to remember a thread on here somewhere about climbing thin ice ... like slab climbing, wasn't it?
Your old pal Goggs
Wee Jock

climber
Feb 16, 2009 - 06:48am PT
Ah, Steve. Much easier is it? Like climbing on the Etive Slabs with ultra sticky-soled rock slippers instead of good old EB's, I suppose. I have to admit that I regret that I never tried out the old, manly step hacking style of Marshall and Smith ... That would have put hairs on my chest, no doubt about it!!
Wee Jock

climber
Feb 16, 2009 - 06:59am PT
Jello, old bean, the Colton-MacIntyre is a mixed route like the Desmaison ... only not quite as hard. The Desmaison, from doing bits and looking at the rest close up, at any rate, seems to include lots of runnels, goulottes, bulges of grey and brittle nastiness with a bunch of mixed ground intermixed too. As I recall the Supercouloir original start (and crux)is mixed ground, the dru couloir has mixed climbing including an A1 crack. On the SuperCouloir the interesting part IS the first part. The rest is plodding up ice with moderately steep bulges in it to stop you going to sleep! The ice in the Dru Couloir is incredibly boring! Where do you draw the line? No wonder you have to go off to the Himalaya to find ice climbing worth your metal ... It's more fun surely, though, being able to breathe while you climb your route!!

Your old pal Goggs
Wee Jock

climber
Feb 16, 2009 - 07:06am PT
Hi Luca
What did Bonatti say about the B/V? Why did he dislike it?
Wee Jock

climber
Feb 16, 2009 - 07:18am PT
Todd, Kingy is a prude and therefore so long as he was around we never got up to naughtiness ... with the exception of, of course, the great Polythene Roll Expedition of 1975. When Kingy wasn't around ... hmm, trips to the 'Piscine, inside pool' with empty backpacks at night, the Empty Bottle Caper, the Wine Kiosk Kaper.... I hang my head in shame!!! There are a couple of skeletons in everyone's closet - except Kingy, he only had the one (polythene) skeleton in his closet! But boy, was it fun, especially with the Burgess Twins around!!

I missed the famous Alpenstock brawl ... I think that was the year before Kingy and I went Alpineering, or we were up on the hill or something (Kingy would have had nothing to do with it anyway .... we were a right pair of cowards, Kingy and I!!) - sounded like it was fit for a raunchy western movie, that one!!
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Feb 16, 2009 - 10:25am PT
You Brits were mere amateurs when it came to capers in Chamonix. Roast chickens concealed in duvets are small time. One Yank who was there in 1977 "nicked" an entire, three-foot in diameter, wheel of Gruyere cheese, which he shared with everyone at Snell Field for weeks afterwards.

David Bowie’s “Spiders from Mars” album was on the jukebox at the Bar Nationale and one song had the line, “the bitter comes out better on a stolen guitar”. This yank could be heard singing as he made breakfast, “the omelet comes out better with a stolen Gruyere...”
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 16, 2009 - 10:37am PT
Too damn funny! It would be hilarious to talk to the Chamonix gendarmes and find out their greatest hits. Some of the best SAR stories that I have heard are around still because of the incident reports.
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 16, 2009 - 03:32pm PT
Gordon:

> What did Bonatti say about the B/V? Why did he dislike it?

He's not really eager to talk about it. Apparently, the danger (because of rockfall) was not acceptable even for his standard. And I understand he had some sort of fall off with Vaucher afterwards, because of something Vaucher told to the press. In any case, he's not considering it a route he would suggest for a repeat.

The rumour in Courmayeur back in the 70's (when he was living there - as a kid I used to meet him quite often) was that the Whymper "rib" was one of the reason why he had decided to quite jet set alpinism, but I don't really know if this is the case.
Wee Jock

climber
Feb 16, 2009 - 07:39pm PT
I don't know about that, Rick ... we used to collect empty wine bottles to take back to the stores for the refund, until we found out where Payot Pertin stored the empties in a skip behind the store. Lived off steak, frites, salad for several weeks on that until a wee wifey came out of a house in the cul de sac and spotted us and started to yell - 'Au secours, au secours!! Les voleurs sont la!' (or something to that effect). We ran, dozens of empty wine bottles flying out of our sacks and smashing everywhere. I had to go apple-picking in Switzerland for a couple of weeks a a result (so that I could eat = that was another story!!).

I'd better watch out with these tales of naughtiness lest Attorney Accommazo stirs himself from his quips and quiddities and comes running at me waving his briefs (horrible sight, a lawyer coming for you, waving his briefs! Terribly indecent!).

In a more serious vein I noticed a couple of photos in UKC in which the 1960's climbers were sporting 'North Wall Hammers' - old fashioned ice axes with a hammer head instead of an aze. Very craftsmanlike looking bits of kit (used for the 'German' technique for ascending fifty degree slopes of ice, no doubt, instead of daggers) Did YC ever make straight picked axes, or did he only get into the business of making ice gear once he'd worked out the advantages of a curved pick? In addition, I seem to remember that YC was very much an afficinado of the French style of climbing ice, and very good at it. Ironic that the technique he was in part responsible for developing should pretty much wipe out climbers' 'interest' in climbing ice in that way.

Luca - interesting stuff about Signor Bonatti - really makes me want to know more!! I guess I'll have to read your book - WHEN YOU GET IT WRITTEN!! Was Vaucher a bit of a 'prima donna' type? The stories from the Dyrenfurth Everest exped were not too complementary about him and his wife. BTW have you ever tried to get Black Nick's story about his ascent of the Amitie with RBJ? I'd really like to hear that one!! I bet they had an absolute epic, nutting their way up steep, crappy rock for 5 days (though of course they would be stiff upper lipped about it)!!

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 17, 2009 - 11:23am PT
Lucas- Having looked closely at the careers of many alpinists, do you consider Bonatti to be the greatest of his generation?
What would your short list look like?
east side underground

Trad climber
Hilton crk,ca
Feb 17, 2009 - 11:36am PT
great thread- keep it going boys- grandes charmuz north face gets skied by the bad boys these days what do you think of that?
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Feb 17, 2009 - 01:45pm PT
But now I wonder. Maybe I'm getting old, or maybe I've been reading "342 heures dans les Grandes Jorasses" a bit too much recently (it's a wonderful book, a crime it was never translated in English - I believe - as it makes "Touching the Void" look like "Winnie The Pooh").



Great stuff, guys, keep it coming!

-Brian in SLC
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 17, 2009 - 03:31pm PT
Wee Jock, it's a pleasure to get to know you a bit here. Like your sensibility and humor. As a sort-of disciple of the Chouinard ice style, and after some years of helping him write Climbing Ice I'll try your questions.

Did YC ever make straight picked axes, or did he only get into the business of making ice gear once he'd worked out the advantages of a curved pick? In addition, I seem to remember that YC was very much an afficinado of the French style of climbing ice, and very good at it. Ironic that the technique he was in part responsible for developing should pretty much wipe out climbers' 'interest' in climbing ice in that way.

Never a straight pick axe. Not his style of repeat. Consider the Lost Arrow, his first product. Was it soft iron? No. John Salathe had pioneered hard steel pins for the Valley. An older wiser blacksmith, and an older, wizened climber. They were simply revolutionary, tough enough to hammer back out and take higher with you, which was the "clean" climbing of its day, leave no trace. (Except of course there was a stain, a tiny chip, and that became crucial later.) Salathe had gone off the deep end and was out in the Mojave eating grass and communing with his angels, so YC did us all a favor by forging his version of the LA and the big walls opened up. So his business got launched by a very esthetic and very functional commercializing of someone else's innovation.

A dozen years later Yvon came out with the first commercially available curved pick axe. Sorry, Piolet. The question of where that curve came from has only deepened on this thread. Won't revisit that. No question, though, that as a Tool Man he helped us onto the ice as handily as he had helped us get up Big Granite.

But he was not satisfied with facilitating the leap to piolet traction with his tools and his example. And this gets to the second part of your question.

For Chouinard it was all about the esthetics. The elegant way to approach a climbing problem. Finesse not force.

Sure, he commercialized the droop of the pick that made piolet traction hideously effective. But he could see that it would become brutally efficient as a way to attack the steepest ice, and he could probably even anticipate what you implied upthread, that it would come to the point where "Ice climbing only gets interesting when the ice disappears to less than an inch thick!!" That it makes all thick ice ultimately kind of trivial. Piolet traction was too good, in a way, at what it did.

You Scots lot and Jello carried the game off in the direction of the thin smear and the mixed beyond. What a ride!

Yvon looked to a more minimalist way to keep it sporty, to keep the spice in it. To keep the fun alive. And French Technique was exactly that. Of course there were excuses -- good ones -- like saving energy on thousand-meter walls of crunchy neve. But the fun of doing something hard and beautiful was peeking through right from the start.

Take this photo from Climbing Ice (Frost, of course -- talk about esthetics!) on the 'schrund wall of the V-Notch deep in October cold:



Anybody could piolet trax that, waltz right up and get on with it. But sheath your hammer there, boys, and follow me. Can I do this half-French stepping in pied toisieme? He seems to have coined the term, and maybe invented the technique itself. I don't know. Having viewed the rest of the history, it's an open question. But pushing it like that on such water ice (I was there, tasting it), downshifting his grip to piolet ancre and balancing on those points while he rocked it out of the ice, all the while without pro above a very nasty drop into the bergschrund...that is applied esthetics.

It gets worse. This is essentially the same ice, same venue, Frost shooting again:



But here Yvon is pushing it further, downshifting the footwork again to pied assis, the ultimate footfall of pure French Technique. Why? It's the game, pure esthetics. Can I push this elegant style of the old Alpine masters from the frozen snow where it was born onto frozen water where it's a stranger?

Pretty cool! About the height of his art. Doing the most climbing supported by the least tools. I mean, he could be on Eckenstein's crampons right there.

And after that public display, any climber's loss of interest in French Technique is pretty much just laziness and lack of vision.
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Feb 17, 2009 - 04:50pm PT
Great comments Doug. Couple of things came to mind when Gordon posed his questions.

Having recently returned to ice climbing, the newest gear has really brought Chouinard's ideas on ice full circle I think.

Here are a few reasons why. The modern ice/mixed boots are extremely soft in the ankle with a dead rigid sole. French technique is a given using these boots. Take a look at some of the video posted on the hard Cham ice routes and you see exactly what Chouinard, Frost and you were telling us would work 40 years ago. Some of them more akin to a Robbins boot than a good leather Haderer.

The newest hand tools allow you to run your hand up and down the shaft, matching or over lapping with complete security while the pick is buried or even easier just hooked. Even vertical and over hanging water ice these days can be "rock" solid and safe with good tools and the modern screws. Hard to find anything that is pure water ice that feels harder than a 5.10 hand crack these days. In fact from what I had done so far (in my second climbing life) the harder it gets the more like rock climbing it really is.

I haven't experienced this kind of freedom in the mountains since we all went out with just a good pair of boots and a piolet.

Even with what Ueli Steck is doing if you look close there are more things happening than first appear, all built on a foundation Chouinard, crew and the Scotts laid.

lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 17, 2009 - 04:59pm PT
Hello Doug:



>Anybody could piolet trax that, waltz right up and get on with it. But sheath your hammer there, boys, and follow me. Can I do this half-French stepping in pied toisieme? He seems to have coined the term, and maybe invented the technique itself. I don't know. Having viewed the rest of the history, it's an open question. But pushing it like that on such water ice (I was there, tasting it), downshifting his grip to piolet ancre and balancing on those points while he rocked it out of the ice, all the while without pro above a very nasty drop into the bergschrund...that is applied esthetics.

Precisely. That what was Bonatti said to my friend - doing the north face of Grand Pilier D'Angle step cutting is nasty, brutish work, doing it in piolet traction is just cheating (you can basically climb it anywhere). But doing it THAT way, the way of the great French pioneers of the 30's - the way the legendary Couloir Lagarde at the Droites was climbed in 1930, withouth pitons or any other protection, but more than any other route, the way Lagarde itself climbed in 1926 the couloir of the Breche du Caiman (in the Aiguilles du Chamonix), average steepness 65°, not a single ice piton used. This line was unrepeated for 35 years!
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 17, 2009 - 05:33pm PT
Steve:
>Lucas - Having looked closely at the careers of many alpinists, do you consider Bonatti to be the greatest of his generation?
What would your short list look like?

Steve:

it’s undeniable Walter is the closest thing to a real “rock star” mountaineering has created in the last century. His ability to capture the imagination of the great public, and to inspire people to follow his path has not been replicated again (despite Messner). I was in Zermatt at the Alpine Club 150 year meeting in 2007, when Bonatti got the honorary membership, and when Walter stepped on the Riffelberg terrace at sunset to read a salute and open the meeting dinner, everyone there (and I mean, some of the best British climbers of the last 50 years were there!), everyone was all “ooooohhhh”, absolutely star-stuck. The scene was incredible – the sun setting down behind Matterhorn on the longest evening of the year, Bonatti reading his salute, and the absolute silence around. You could really touch the reverence he has inspired. It’s not the type of charisma anyone can produce, particularly in climbing.

This said, I believe he’s been the last giant of the past (I mean, the past in this case are the 30’s, and era that in climbing has produced many real giants), rather than the first new climber of (some) future. His greatest climbing merit was to have broken a lot of psychological taboos (particularly with the Dru solo), and to have injected a healthy dose of individualism into a climbing scene (the Italian one) who was dying of asphyxia because of the stranglehold imposed by CAI and the long shadow of those other “giants” of the 30s (Comici, Cassin, Gervasutti above all). But he was following their steps, not breaking out their trail. When the young Italian climbers of the following generation “rebelled” in the 70’s against the climbing establishment (the “Nuovo Mattino” - at it all began because somone read Doug Robison "The Climber as Visionary", of course!), they were rebelling against Bonatti too.

If for “his generation” you mean climbers born between 1930 and 1938, my list probably would be:

 Walter Bonatti (for the reasons mentioned above)
 Georges Livanos (because of his intelligence and sense of irony, and because he was really the initiator, at least from a cultural point of view, of “modern” climbing in Europe)
 Renè Desmaison (because in many ways he took Bonatti experience one step beyond – for instance the winter ascent to the Freney Pillar was an astonishing exploit - , and because he was one of the coolest guys on Earth!)
 Royal Robbins (because I believe that when he took the Yosemite practices in Europe he gave worldwide climbing a technical and cultural “jump forward” that I believe the sport hadn’t experienced since the late 30’s.)
 Joe Brown and Don Whillans (because they were in many ways real Bonattis, but without all the Nietzchean/Lammerian trappings of "vintage" Bonatti)
 Gary Hemming (because he had an influence on my generation that greatly exceeded his actual contribution to climbing. At some point, we all wanted to be like him, even if we didn't really know a thing about him)
 Boris Korshunov (because he's the closest thing to a real superman I've ever know, and because he represent all climbers - not only Russian - of that age who did incredible things - and no one knew/knows)

Two additional points:

1) The list above is limited to Bonatti's generation. But before and after there were people who - my humble opinion - did thing even more visionary and interesting. For instance (just to remain in Italy), Giusto Gervasutti, the most elegant rock climber of the 30's. Its route on the East Face of the Jorasses remained the most difficult and beautiful rock climb in the Western Alps until Robbins and Harlin opened the American Direct at the Dru.

2) We're speaking of giants here, famous climbers. But - again, my opinion here - I believe there's been many lesser know names who're as interesting to know and study. I'm particularly interested in extremes - "nice" people like Francesco Ravelli, who climbed for 70 years harder than anyone else, opening dozen of routes (like the Hirondelles ridge, or the Innominata), ran a succesful business, a happy and large family, fought in WWI, died 100 years old, never had an accident, and had always a lot of fun. Or, on the other hand, iconoclasts - for instance Warren Harding (finding a copy of "Downward Bound" was a huge satisfaction for me), or Ivano Ghirardini (occultist, programmer, climbing pants designer, enemy of Chamonix, and the man who has deliberately soloed the Croz spur and the Shroud in a storm - to see what it was like.)

The list is huge!
:)
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 17, 2009 - 05:39pm PT
Gordon:

> Was Vaucher a bit of a 'prima donna' type? The stories from the Dyrenfurth Everest exped were not too complementary about him and his wife.

I don't know really, but I think that in any case it's quite easy to argue with Walter - the recently departed Luciano Ghigo (who climbed the East face of Capucin) was one of the few person who always got along with him, even after they stopped to climb together. Another was Carlo Mauri.

> BTW have you ever tried to get Black Nick's story about his ascent of the Amitie with RBJ? I'd really like to hear that one!! I bet they had an absolute epic, nutting their way up steep, crappy rock for 5 days (though of course they would be stiff upper lipped about it)!!

As you know I'm starting "that other project", but in any case I'm looking forward to contact Colton. Of course there's the MacIntyre to discuss, but deep down I'm more curious about L'Amitiè, the main reason being that it's a route whose quality (rock, beauty etc) seem to be impossible to decide. Half of the people who climbed it think it was absolute and total crap, the other half think it's the best big wall of the Alps! I'll keep you informed.

There's a picture of a certain wall going your way...
Ain't no flatlander

climber
Feb 17, 2009 - 06:15pm PT
Regarding the first curved pick on an ice axe, the earliest photo I've seen that clearly shows one in action dates to around the mid-30s in Germany. It had significantly more droop than a Chouinard and a relatively short shaft (maybe 60 cm). Perhaps a one-of-a-kind but somebody was way ahead of their time.

FWIW Bonatti was a great climber but gives a terrible slide show. Desmaison gave one of the most thrilling shows due to the incredible imagery.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 17, 2009 - 10:52pm PT
Thanks for the nuanced response Luca! A couple of the other names that you mention are unfamiliar to me. I hope that your upcoming book goes into the kind of amazing detail that your posts do.
Wee Jock

climber
Feb 18, 2009 - 12:00am PT
Hi DR - you come from Santa Cruz? Wish I'd known you when I lived in Boulder Creek!! Mind you I was into running and swimming in those days (late 80's - mid 90's) rather than climbing ...

Luca - Nick Colton is the nicest of chaps - nowadays!! In the Biolay days he was 'Black Nick, Hooligan in Chief, leader of the Biolay Boot Boys'!! I always wonder why the MacIntyre-Colton is always so referred, or 'the MacIntyre Route' - surely it should be the Colton-MacIntyre (Alphabetically)?? It would be understandable if Black Nick was just a mobile belay that Dirty Alex took up the route - but Black Nick was a hell of a climber, in those early days (technically much more advanced than Alex on rock and his equal on ice, IMO). I believe Nick is again showing the world what us old farts had it in us to do, even now!!

A story about the Colton-MacIntyre - or about before it so became. Alex and I went up to do it a couple of weeks before Alex and Nick actually did it .... we got to the top of the ice-field, just below the goulottes, when an afternoon storm broke (we were going to climb most of the route at night - it was summer, you see) and all hell broke loose - bolts of lightning, peals of thunder, hail and snow, rocks flying about everywhere!! I got scared so down we went. Suddenly, as we were clinging to an 'ilot' of rock on the way back down, there was an enormous flash, a mega-crash of thunder, and a bunch of rocks rolling over us all at the same time. Like something out of Gotterdamerung but for real! I had already been hit by several rocks - which was why I was so scared. I also discovered i that flash of lightning why I always seemed to be the one getting hit - Alex never seemed to get touched .... he was hanging right underneath me - the dirty rat!! Rather ironic, given the way he was later to die! It must have been the only rock that ever hit him!! I didn't get to go back with Alex as I was broke and had to return to Switzerland to work. Oh well! It was a great coup for Dirty Alex and Black Nick!

Just curious - Did Jello and folk like Duncan Ferguson - a couple of the original ultra-hard ice-men from the US - ever take to French Technique? I used to use it quite a lot on less steep ice - saved the legs quite a bit, but it was a bit counter-intuitive. The toes had to face more and more downhill the steeper the ice, so that eventually on the steepest you could go you were reversing up the slope like a truck with its beepers going! I was never elegant like Mons. Chouinard. More like a sack of tatties backing up a hill!!

Another point for Luca - Do you think that people equate difficulty too much with quality ... the Amitie may be a bunch of incredibly steep crap and very hard to climb - which make it great sport to some (extremely masochistic) folk??

Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Feb 18, 2009 - 12:33pm PT
Luca,
Desmaison was paid by the day when he completed the Desmaison/Gousseault, so he might have been deliberately taking his time?! Incredible! I do understand that the Gousseaut was establihsed using the prevailing techniques of the day, but what you are describing with regards to the media circus surrounding the Gousseault exactly supports my point: the contrast in the style of Tobin and Gordon’s ascent with Desmaison’s is illustrative that the “Scala di Seta”, as it has recently been named by Gordon, was a landmark ascent in its audacity and minimalist ethic.

Desmaison spent 14 days (342 hours divided by 24) on route --being paid handsomely by the day---with the spotlight of French media on him every step of the way. A few years later, Tobin (who was 21 years old at the time) and Gordon pack up some ratty, thin ropes, a bag of dried soup mix, and a handful of pins and screws and quietly establish a new direct line in a little over 48 hours. In contrast to Desmaison’s lucratively-sponsored circumstances, Tobin didn’t even have a tent to call his own in Chamonix that summer, as was related by Rob Muir on ST in another thread. Rob and his wife-to-be Candy returned from a trip to Italy that summer to find Tobin making himself at home in their tent at Snell Field. They had to evict the poor lad!

Just imagining Tobin taking repeated, lengthy leader falls on that icy buttress as Gordon describes, like it was some bolt protected slab at sunny Suicide, makes my palms sweat.

I am not denigrating Desmaison at all; he is a giant. But the more one understands the epic story of the first ascent of the Gousseault, the more one can only shake one’s head in admiration for what Gordon and Tobin accomplished.

Rick





lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 18, 2009 - 03:30pm PT
Rick:

>Desmaison was paid by the day when he completed the Desmaison/Gousseault, so he might have been deliberately taking his time?! Incredible! I do understand that the Gousseaut was established using the prevailing techniques of the day, but what you are describing with regards to the media circus surrounding the Gousseault exactly supports my point

I'm afraid I've been creating some huge misunderstanding here, so I'll rephrase it in order to clear my thinking on the whole thing - as the LAST thing I want is to give the impression that Desmaison and Gousseault were the culprits (and not, as it really was, the victims) of the 1971 mess.

While the rescue was underway, and immediately after, Desmaison was accused, with the support of some part of the press, (with the usual mix of direct accusations and insinuations)

1) to have deliberately slowed down the climb and delayed the request for rescue in order to create a greater media interest around the climb

2) to have underestimated the difficult of the climb and Serge Gousseault less than ideal physical conditions (and lack of direct winter experience) in order to "bag it" before someone else could claim the line.

It's true that the first ascent of Linceuil in 1968 had lasted so much PARTLY because Flematti and Desmaison had accepted to haul up a transmission device over the mountain in order to make daily radio contact "live" from the climb. And it's true that Desmaison (as every jet set climber of that age, including Bonington, Bonatti, Mauri, you name it) had press sponsorship who were paid "per day" - the longer the climb, the more money one it got.

However (and I want to stress the "however"!) Desmaison replied, and, in my opinion, reasonably demonstrated that

1) If Gousseault illness and the bad organization of the rescue had not intervened, the climb would have been completed in no more than 7 to 9 days, which was perfectly in line with the tecniques of the age and the type of climb;

2) He had not underestimated the ascent (as the material he had was in line with its seriousness)

3) He had no idea Gousseault had some health trouble - probably due to an undetected metabolic disease.

Most importantly: if rescue had not been botched to such a monumental extent, and - according to some - had not DELIBERATELY botched in order to "teach a lesson" to Desmaison (because of some problem he had in the past with the Chamonix establishment), Gousseault would have survived.

It's very important to note that the 1973 ascent (who was done under meteo conditions even worse than 1971) lasted 9 days. One year before, Chris Bonington, Mick Burke and Dougal Haston had spent 22 days trying to climb the Central Couloir (and they ultimately didn't summit). And the Japanese spent, the same winter TWO MONTHS besieging the deeper gullies of the same Central Couloir, and they definitely had no "pay for climb" sponsorship

>Desmaison spent 14 days (342 hours divided by 24) on route --being paid handsomely by the day---with the spotlight of French media on him every step of the way.

That's not exactly the right way to describe his ordeal. He spent 14 days on the wall seeing his partner slowly descending into illness, then madness, then death, waiting for a rescue that didn't materialize until the 11th hours (and probably just because of a lucky turn of events), when he was himself few hours away from death for kidney failure. And afterwards had to endure months of insinuations, accuses, a huge sense of failure and guilt over Serge's death. Media spotligh in that was was - to make un understatement - a mixed blessing.

I've a picture of him few minute after having been hauled up the summit - he looks like someone who has been freshly dug from premature burial.

>A few years later, Tobin (who was 21 years old at the time) and Gordon pack up some ratty, thin ropes, a bag of dried soup mix, and a handful of pins and screws and quietly establish a new direct line in a little over 48 hours. In contrast to Desmaison’s lucratively-sponsored circumstances, Tobin didn’t even have a tent to call his own in Chamonix that summer, as was related by Rob Muir on ST in another thread. Rob and his wife-to-be Candy returned from a trip to Italy that summer to find Tobin making himself at home in their tent at Snell Field. They had to evict the poor lad!

I've no doubt that what Tobin, Gordon and the rest of the Snell's Field crew did was great, and and I've no doubt that they changed the sport forever, and I've no doubt that they (and the young climber who were operating at the same time on the opposite side of the Alps, and who had similar motivations and similar lack of money!) changed climbing in the right direction, saving the activity (in continental Europe) from a decade of stagnation, that wasn't doing anyone a favour (and to be honest, one of the people who was screaming out loud against that malaise was Desmaison!)

But there's no point making comparisons between "Scala di Seta" (an astonishing, visionary, ahead of its time route) and the Gousseault (another astonishing, visionary, and ahead of its time route), as they were simply different, non-comparable items, climbed with very different tecniques and, even, if just 4 years had passed, in a completely different age. Insisting that there's some kind of ethical superiority in the latter compared with the formed is greatly missing the point.

You can rightly do that ethical comparison between "Scala di Seta" and the Directe de L'Amitie, or with the Harlin at the Eiger, or with the Saxon Direttissima at the Cima Grande di Lavaredo, or with any other relic of the siege style era (even if I'm convinced that any climb is just the results of its age - what will people thing 20 year on from now of Ueli Steck?). But you can't do an ethical comparison between "Scala di Seta" and the Gousseault - that's simply not the case.

Hope to have stated my point with a bit more clarity this time.
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 18, 2009 - 03:53pm PT
>Another point for Luca - Do you think that people equate difficulty too much with quality ... the Amitie may be a bunch of incredibly steep crap and very hard to climb - which make it great sport to some (extremely masochistic) folk??

Unfortunately yes, these days the equation is pretty much "great rock, great climb". Which of course (my opinion) misses half of the point, as the reality is that this mythical "great rock" is not that easy to find, even on Mt. Blanc. And by the way, what's really "great rock"?

Some people seems now to accept only ultracompact rock as it's considered more "climbable", I believe it's another part of the sport climbing era fallout. But the irony is that most of the great classics everyone says they love, don't have that "great rock". As for Mont Blanc, there are only two places where you can find that special granite everyone talks about:

Grand Capucin
http://www.summitpost.org/images/original/349770.jpg

and Tour Des Jorasses
http://www.summitpost.org/images/original/340443.jpg
(this is one of my pics)

Everywhere else in the area the rock is not as solid as in those two places. But this doesn't mean climbs aren't great!!


Wee Jock

climber
Feb 18, 2009 - 08:09pm PT
Luca: I think Desmaison has been very much misunderstood!! I've no doubt at all that the problems between him and the Cham establishment are responsible for this (as well as the rescue scandal on the Goussault). I stand with you on the issue that Desmaison was climbing in a visionary way ... From you I get the understanding that the original attempt was a very 'pure' attempt, particularly with the techniques and ethics of the time, and for that (if nothing else) Desmaison should be revered instead of denigrated. Even the 1973 success was in relatively good style when compared to the Amitie and Harlin circuses. The Bonington/Haston attempt on the Walker was, in my opinion, rather in the same vein as those other media circuses. Dunno anything about the Japanese route. But it is important to recognise that for Desmaison it must have been hard to go against the grain!!

Rick: Be honest ... you are 'sensationalising' Tobin to a certain extent. What you said in your last post makes me cringe - and I know pretty damn well that it would have made Tobin cringe also!! Tobin, you, Steve Shea and Jack Roberts, Kingy, Dirty Alex, the two Nicks, me (though I was different, I was the king of scruffy) etc etc (including all the young scruffs on the other side of Mont Blanc that Luca alludes to) we were all just ordinary chaps in our milieu and the climbs we did were really 'just ordinary, non-visionary' climbs in the style that we all espoused.... WE didn't think we were going out to do anything special!! Any notability has come only after the fact (30 years after the fact), and as a reaction to the hype of the circuses you are contrasting us with, and perhaps with the hype of modern, 'professional' climbing also. Tobin and I did not have a 'minimalist' approach - we just had minimal gear!! If we had had more, we would have taken more!! If someone would have given us money to climb, we would have taken it - and bought some more food!!(it's why I (and Dirty Alex and Joe Tasker etc etc) worked at ISM after all - easy money to go climbing).

Luca: I saw 'Mort d'un Guide' in Chamonix - must have been in 1976?? - was a lot of it filmed on the south face of the Midi??

Just think, YC and his curved pick ice axe have created an explosion in ice climbing and alpinism .... how many of us would have hacked our way up the Bonatti-Gobbi in the old style (or even Point Five, for that matter)?? They have also created an environmental problem - particularly in Scotland. Too many punters on the hill scratching up the rocks!! The hills are alive with the sounds of scratch, scratch, scratching!!

Anyway, I think that we are getting hung up with personality issues, referencing the Goussault too much, when what is more interesting in this thread is the evolution of techniques, equipment and ethics, with reference to the MANY ice and alpine climbs that posters have personal knowledge of.
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Feb 18, 2009 - 11:20pm PT
Gordon,
Cringe all you want; you are too modest. Sure, Tobin was my friend and that makes me biased. But what prompted me to want to write about Tobin’s 1977 season was an email I received last year from a writer for the French magazine La Montagne who asked me for a picture of Tobin to use in an article entitled, “ Desmaison/Gousseault, Chronique d’un Voie Mythique”. That article was accompanied by individual photos of every climber who was involved in each of the ten known ascents of the route to date, including yours. So even some other, more objective observers have a high opinion of the route’s significance. At least I didn't call the route "mythical!"

Sensationalized? I’ll just note that you had a similar response up thread when Luca had high praise for your climb, and Luca is clearly an expert. I’ll let others be the judge of whether I exaggerate. You are not exactly an objective party, yourself, mate!

Rick
Wee Jock

climber
Feb 18, 2009 - 11:59pm PT
Blooming heck, that was a quick response, Rick. Look, Tobin was a great climber and his boldness on that prow pitch was impressive (and I'm telling you he is more fit material for a full biography than others I have come across in the climbing world (hint, hint) but don't turn him into a comic superhero). And the Goussault is a great climb. Desmaison was a great climber. I figure the line Tobin and I followed turned out to be quality route. Blah, blah, blah. But we did not deliberately go out to climb following a special 'minimalist' approach that was pure etc etc. We didn't even go out to better Desmaison and do his route in an out of the ordinary style. We certainly didn't go out to climb a new route! We were just climbing within the standard ethics and techniques of our day and group (which included YOU - look at the Dru Couloir route you did and the style you did it in - and Luca's 'other side of MB' scruffies!!). Desmaison DID try to do something out of the ordinary, and in a sense minimalist, for his time and culture. And when it didn't quite work he got nailed for it!! He WAS visionary!!

Don't be fooled by Black Nicks comment that 'we had these three climbs listed that the previous generation had f*cked up and that we were going to go out and do them properly' ... It wasn't quite like that - I just had this obsession with the Desmaison from reading an article about the epic in Paris Match as a school boy, we wanted to do the Amite because it sounded hard, and we wanted to do the Harlin because it was famous. And we wanted to snag the first 'Alpine Style' ascents of the three (Were Harding, Chouinard, Pratt and Robbins less visionary because their walls are being freed now?). It seems, also, that the Desmaison wasn't really a sieged circus like the others - if Goussault hadn't collapsed the climb would just have been a straight visionary climb that prefigured our generation!
Todd Eastman

climber
Bellingham, WA
Feb 19, 2009 - 02:21am PT
Hmmm... I would guess that we Yanks were blessed with a certain distance from the Alps and the rivalry that existed between the Brits and the French. Until the mid to late 1970s the two climbing cultures had little in common. With Brits and French using Chamonix as a proving ground, the competition for routes must have been intense. By the mid-1970s the alpine climbing styles were more similar though the Brits seem to have been more prolific.

Unencumbered by the history the Brits had with Chamonix, when we came over we did what looked reasonable compared to what we had been doing back in the States. The skills we had gained in various parts of the States were enough to get some Yanks up some very fine routes. Sharing the same language and having a similar climbing philosophy with the Brits helped some of us in our introductions to Chamonix. Wee Jock and his friends showed to me that normal (only slightly crazed) people could climb extraordinary routes. The concern that Wee Jock showed when Jack Hunt and I were two days late returning from a climb is something I still remember.

Having climbed with Tobin only once I will add that he was great fun to climb with and he had an exceptional sense of optimism that was infectious. Isn't the shared sense of optimism what alpine climbing success is based on?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 19, 2009 - 11:00am PT
As we have strayed momentarily back into classical flatfooting, was anyone better than Armand Charlet? A brief look from Mountain 50 July-August 76.



lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 19, 2009 - 04:06pm PT
>As we have strayed momentarily back into classical flatfooting, >was anyone better than Armand Charlet? A brief look from Mountain >50 July-August 76.

Not many. He invented the tecnique as we know it, and (besides doing a billions of great climbs in a time many current "athletes" would only dream of), he did what no one else could try in the 20s and 30s - twice attempt - without pitons - the NF of the Jorasses following the most direct and elegant route - in 1935!.

He was a real god of climbing in its age, with a special status among its peers. Here's what - again in 1935 - Renato Chabod (Gervasutti's best friend and longest climbing partner - he climbed with him the Croz spur in 1935, few hours after the first climb) wrote:

"I've spoken of "idols", and now I'll have to explain myself. I had two "idols": the north face of Grandes Jorasses, and Armand Charlet. I tried to climb the wall, and I thought it was climbable. But I was still afraid of it. I considered it something devilish, different than any other mountain wall, as if some there was some witchery behind its charm. Do you remember Christian Almer answer to Edward Whymper, when Whymper asked him to participate to the Matterhorn race? "Anything you ask, mon cher monsieur - but not Matterhorn - anything you want..."

Now, don't want to put myself at the same level of the great Almer. But my idea of the NF of the Jorasses was the same he had about Matterhorn. With one difference - crucial: he didn't even try, while I did. Do not take this comparison as sacrilegious: but that's like someone thinking he deals with an "impossible" girl, and waste a lot of time on stupid tricks to get to know her, but she's actually just waiting for the first "real" attack, and in the end will concede herself to the some resolute passer-by...

My second idol was Armand Charlet. I wasn't afraid to get in competition with him - but he was for me of god of sort, which couldn't be beaten on "his" Jorasses... I was tormented by doubt, under the influence of the "god" Charlet. I did believe so much to my idols, that I ended up making their evil influence felt to my friend Gervasutti..."
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 19, 2009 - 04:18pm PT
Rick
>Sensationalized? I’ll just note that you had a similar response up thread when Luca had high praise for your climb, and Luca is clearly an expert. I’ll let others be the judge of whether I exaggerate. You are not exactly an objective party, yourself, mate!

Well, unfortunately I'm not an expert - I'm a climbing history enthusiast, and to be honest, I would probably exchange all my nerdy knowledge for a bit of your climbing curriculum - I mean, the first ascents!

This said - I think that a point that was probably lost in my posting was that Tobin and Gordon did something very, very special because they didn't limit themselves to repeating a great route in great style - they created a great new line out of nowhere.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 19, 2009 - 04:19pm PT
Wonderfully considered response, Luca.

Was Charlet directly involved in the development of superior pick shape and character to allow his single axe technique to evolve? His name still persists as Charlet-Moser if I am not in error by attribution and I am curious if he had direct commercial involvement during his career?
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 19, 2009 - 04:29pm PT
Gordon:
> I think Desmaison has been very much misunderstood!!

True, he was really doing his own thing when no one else was, organizing the Dru rescue in 1966, getting to be a good friend with Gary Hemmings and Mick Burke, making somehow politicized statements in the 60's, being friendly with you climbers - that was something a lot of members of the local establishment wouldn't like.


>Luca: I saw 'Mort d'un Guide' in Chamonix - must have been in 1976?? - was a lot of it filmed on the south face of the Midi??

Yes, standing for the West face of the Drus, who it turn stood for the NF of the Jorasses (oh my).

The legend says that in Trento Mountain Movie Festival on 1976, when "Mort D'Une Guide" won the first prize, Rebuffat stormed out the theatre screaming "C'est ignoble!!!!" because of the subject matter.

>how many of us would have hacked our way up the Bonatti-Gobbi

Not many Gordon, but this wasn't the point. According to Giancarlo (Grassi), all the new tools point was to go WAY beyond what Bonatti had done!
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 19, 2009 - 04:45pm PT
>Was Charlet directly involved in the development of superior pick shape and character to allow his single axe technique to evolve? His name still persists as Charlet-Moser if I am not in error by attribution and I am curious if he had direct commercial involvement during his career?

"Charlet" (and Bettembourg) are well known families in Argentier with plenty of ties. But Armand (who died in 1970) had not influence om the development of the curved pick. What I'm being told is that "Charlet Moser" got directly influence by Chouinard, who convinced them try the 55 cm shaft, curved pick axe.

Just for the record - Grivel (who invented 10 points crampons in 1909 together with Oscar Eckstein, and, on their own 12 point crampons in 1929) did develop a line of modular (interchangeable) picks few years later as a completely independent design. This said, the idea of a curved pick came first from outside continental Europe - I believe that was YC idea first.
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 19, 2009 - 04:54pm PT
Gordon:
>Don't be fooled by Black Nicks comment that 'we had these three climbs listed that the previous generation had f*cked up and that we were going to go out and do them properly' ... It wasn't quite like that - I just had this obsession with the Desmaison from reading an article about the epic in Paris Match as a school boy, we wanted to do the Amite because it sounded hard, and we wanted to do the Harlin because it was famous. And we wanted to snag the first 'Alpine Style' ascents of the three (Were Harding, Chouinard, Pratt and Robbins less visionary because their walls are being freed now?)

Very interesting point Gordon. And as I'm a curious fellow (you may have noticed this), I did a search on my own database (computers make everything sooooo easy these days!) of notable 2nd and 3rd ascents of classic line made by Brit climbers during the 70's.

Results (which I'll post tomorrow - too tired now!) quite interesting, as it looks like:

1) You were quite discriminating in your climbing choices

2) You were more interested in "cool" lines rather than in famous ones

3) You were actually reading guidebooks

and

4) You did spent a lot of time on MY side of Mont Blanc (Italian) as over 17 climbs I've "extracted" from my DB, only 4 were done on the French/Chamonix side (but on the other hand, new routes seems to have been climbed more often there)
Ain't no flatlander

climber
Feb 19, 2009 - 05:21pm PT
Luca said "the idea of a curved pick came first from outside continental Europe - I believe that was YC idea first."

He indeed popularized it but the first was in use in Germany three decades earlier. At best, YC reinvented an old idea.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 19, 2009 - 08:00pm PT
Can you produce a photo of any of these old ideas, ANF?
Wee Jock

climber
Feb 19, 2009 - 08:06pm PT
Luca: Perhaps what might be abstracted from what Bonatti said is that if a route is first climbed cutting steps then the only 'true' way of repeating the route is also to cut steps ... front pointing up the Bonatti-Gobbi (or the Shroud, or the Triolet etc etc) is not really repeating the route that Bonatti and Gobbi did - you get no idea of the true difficulty of the first ascent. Personally I regret never doing routes like Point Five and (even more) Orion Direct in Scotland cutting steps - I cannot really appreciate the skill, tenacity, courage to have done those routes in that style! Front Pointing has reduced those routes to 'an afternoon cup of tea with granny'! So what if other, later, routes require front pointing - those routes (obviously) do not!

Another point: Tobin and I NEVER WENT OUT TO DO A NEW ROUTE ON THE WALKER ... That was an accident of not having more of a route description than "the direct route up the NE face of the Point Walker". We followed that (paltry) description, where Desmaison followed the most dramatic line of the face but one that had little relationship to that description! Motivations are being ascribed to us (by you and Rick) that we never had!! The only important thing about the line that Tobin and I did is that you CAN follow your nose up that face towards the summit and you WILL FIND a slender but definite and complete line across the ramps!! Irrespective of any difficulties there may or may not be on the route it is, therefore, a really good mountaineering route! And you don't need a ton of gear to do it - no compressors, bolts, cams, abalakovs, hooks, ice-spurs, specialty ice-axes and ice-hammers beyond the sort of stuff Chouinard and MacInnes gave us at the start of the 70's and ordinary crampons! Having a friend like Tobin is useful, though!
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Feb 20, 2009 - 01:37am PT
True alpinism has never been about gear. Alpinism has always been the man behind the idea, his imagination, determination and willingness to suffer.

The best could always do with a any old club with a nail through it and something to help your boots claw up the snow and ice. We've all known them. They are a bright spot in any climbing career,

Bring along a rope gun like Cassin, Bonatti, Lowe, Robbins, Buhl, Sorenson, Blanchard, Twight or any of the dozens of others and you have a fair chance of getting up something, then or now.

If they stay alive and in the sport, the best look for like souls with the strength and brashness of youth and willingly follow them along or help them along to an even brighter and wider imagination.

"Charlet" (and Bettembourg) are well known families in Argentier with plenty of ties. But Armand (who died in 1970) had not influence om the development of the curved pick. What I'm being told is that "Charlet Moser" got directly influence by Chouinard, who convinced them try the 55 cm shaft, curved pick axe.

Just for the record - Grivel (who invented 10 points crampons in 1090 toghether with Oscar Eckstein, and, on their own 12 point crampons in 1929) did develop a line of modular (interchangeable) picks few years later as a completely independent design. This said, the idea of a curved pick came first from outside continental Europe - I believe that was YC idea first.

I have no doubt YC was the first to have commercial success with a curved pick. I too have seen an early northwall hammer with a curved pick and iirc a short axe as well. Still looking for that reference. YC admits himself that he used a number of axes to incorporate what worked into his own design. I also find it interesting that it was Charlet that made the first piolet for YC but Camp ended up producing the Chouinard axes. Must be a story behind that?! I've also cited one reference, Micheal Chessler @ Chessler books, "Chouinard copied the steep drooping pick of European hand made axes, that planted firmly in hard ice or Neve, and made balance and esthetics primary."

I have yet to verify that info but it is not the first I have heard it. My take is the "real" inventors of what we now know as ice/mixed climbing are the Scotts, Jeff Lowe and hooking tools. The guy that made it possible...through his writings, advertising and equipment sales was YC.

Obviously no one took real advantage of the tools if custom axes were available. When you see what was used for tools/crampons/boots on the first really hard alpine ice climbs.....it might well make you shake your head in wonder today.


Wee Jock

climber
Feb 20, 2009 - 03:41am PT
Bloomin' 'eck Dane, 10 point crampons were invented just a few years after the battle of Hastings when Norman Willie did for old 'arold in the eyeball???? Perhaps we can see the design in the Bayeux Tapestry?? Did they have Chouinard Piolets in those days as well? I reckon the Black Prince (not Edward the Confessor - he came before Harold) was the first person to climb the north face of the Grandes Jorasses - Froissart was probably standing in for Luca as the recording journalist. I'll have to check his journals to see if there is a mention!!
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 20, 2009 - 08:50am PT
Yep, and the curved pick was the secret weapon for penetrating armor!


Here's the relevant passage from Climbing Ice:

"On a rainy summer day in 1966, I went onto a glacier in the Alps with the purpose of testing every different kind of ice axe available at the time. My plan was to see which one worked best for piolet ancre, which one was better for step-cutting, and why. After I found a few answers, it took the intervention of Donald Snell to convince the very reluctant and conservative Charlet factory to make a 55-centimeter axe with a curved pick for the crazy American. In those days a 55-centimeter axe was crazy enough, but a curved pick! I had the feeling that modifying the standard straight pick into a curve compatible with the arc of the axe's swing would allow the pick to stay put better in the ice. I had noticed that a standard pick would often pop out when I put my weight on it. My idea worked..."

page 27-28
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Feb 20, 2009 - 11:39am PT
Ok, ok, I didn't make my point very well :) BITD some pretty hard stuff had been done by chopping steps and water ice was generally avoided where possible. But we avoid water ice now on long alpine routes and look for the squeeky snice. We look for perfect conditions...like on the McIntyre/Colton recently?

Alpine climbing has always been about conditions not the tools used. From what I have read of accounts on the your and Tobin's climb, I suspect you felt better armed than Tobin with his curved gear and you with Terros. Flexi crampons all? Correct me if that is a misunderstanding.

Didn't much matter, what you had or didn't have as you obviously brought enough in retrospect. A couple of young heady lads, with more skill than they might have imagined and a distinct lack of gear that one might have expected "a professional" to have available for such and undertaking.

Imagination, determination and a willingness to suffer is what sets the great climbers apart from good climbers. More than a few of those posting on this thread, even if they don't care to admit it in public. History makes those judgements not the players.

YC had the imagination to "reinvent" the ice tool. Doesn't matter if there were similar tools around before him. If they were available, as some of us think, they never fulfilled their potential. It took guys like DR, YC and their buddies at home and abroad to take full advantage of the tools and more importantly to write about the tools and techniques in the popular press.

Jello and Mike Weiss skipped the alpine hammer phase and took the 70cm piolets up Bridalveil for chrimney sake! And that isn't even giving Greg Lowe credit for his avantgarde climbs.

How about the eclectic set up of gear that made the 1st ascent of Ames Ice Hose? On different pitches after a game of rock/paper/scissors it was a leashless 70cm piolet/rooster head, a set of humingbirds and a set of Terros.

In Canada it was just as bad. Bugs came up with the idea of aiders on Terros. But that was quickly dismissed and not "quite" right even there. Things changed really fast in the '70s with ice climbing. All the good ice climbing areas were involved to some degree.

Having been lucky enough to have climbed through the '70s and now once again out happily hooking away, I get to have a unique perspective.

Many here have an even broader perspective, Jack Roberts comes to mind and some of the obvious lurkers on this thread. But anyone who started climbing real ice with a piolet and an alpine hammer will know where I am coming from.

Stuff we use to grade as VI (and I heard a few Canadian's in the early '80s claim there was nothing harder than 4 on thick ice) is now a 5 and maybe even a lowly 4. The down grades are tool specific imo. I saw it coming on the 2nd ascent of Slipstream. Bonatti saw it 20 years earlier.

Bonatti said it wasn't the same climb without chopping steps and he is right. Take any grade 5 ice today and it isn't the same climb with leashless Nomics, super fast placing screws, lwt weight, high tech boots and soft shell stretchy clothing with garden weight gloves. If you know how to use all of them to your advantage it is much, much easier and safer as well.

I think that is a good thing. Proper respect is due IMO for all those that came before us (climbers today) and did at least as much, and some times a good deal more, with less.

"Tobin's season" with all the players involved is a classic example of "more with less".
Ain't no flatlander

climber
Feb 20, 2009 - 12:40pm PT
"Can you produce a photo of any of these old ideas, ANF?"

Contact Gary Neptune. He has the photo. IIRC it's a screen grab from a pre-WWII German climbing film that clearly shows a short shaft with a curved pick.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 20, 2009 - 06:21pm PT
Thank you No Flatlander. Sharp eye, good memory.

Any Boulder locals who could help us nail this down?

Tarbuster?
Wee Jock

climber
Feb 20, 2009 - 08:29pm PT
As far as - no thick ice is harder than 4 - Jimmy Marshall, the famous Scottish winter climber would have agreed with this, with respect to front-pointing. There is an article in Outside mag where a couple of Americans interview him and he talks of 'his granny would be able to do anything, front-pointing'.

DR - I did a fair bit of climbing with a Chouinard axe and little Salewa ice hammer (all metal, curved T section pick) in my first year of winter climbing and reckon that pretty much anything on thick ice can be climbed using them! I did things like Chancer, Smiths Route, Point Five, Zero and Orion direct with them. On mixed ground neither of us used our gear on rock - we used our hands! On very thin (smears and plates of) ice Terrors were definitely an advantage. In soft snow (the cornice) the terror axe was brilliant!. My last season (1979) I used a prototype Chacal and a Simond Mustang curved pick axe. The Chacal had an advantage on thick water ice over the terror, but I climbed mixed ground quite happily with the Mustang!

A good carpenter does not blame his tools!! The adze on the Terror axe WAS a secret weapon, however!!

We both had Salewa Adjustable crampons which seemed just great to me.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 21, 2009 - 12:44pm PT
I posted this Jimmy Marshall shot upthread already but ever tire of it. Negotiating Parallel B gully.

Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 21, 2009 - 01:13pm PT
Thanks for re-posting Steve. You're right, there's something so archetypal about that shot. I too never tire of it, and never tire of several other of the Scottish images that have gotten onto this thread.

There's something fine and innocently refreshing about simply tackling with gusto the medium that happens to be right in front of you. The Scots were --still are -- blessed with their rimed-up medium. They attacked it with glee when the world wasn't watching. They made tools especially good for it. Like Wee Jock just said again, "The adze on the Terror axe WAS a secret weapon, however!!" And it was also just a local guy hammering out in his little shop something peculiarly good for where he was. And other local guys without even shops, bent over Primus stoves recurving their picks.

I found the same in the Palisades. Just a kid who couldn't wait to come to grips with what was right in front of me. Happened to be mostly granite, but when it was snow and ice too, there was Don Jensen with his Terror hammer. And then along came YC. He had been around more, picked things up. But he too was just a guy with a good forge and a healthy enthusiasm for "forging" onto the medium we found there, which happened to be flinty-hard water ice.

That's what I get out of "Tobin's Season" too. Head up the Shroud because they could. See with their own eyes ice cutting through overlaps to the summit ridge and just go climb it.

Fun, fun, fun.

History comes later, putting it all in context, and I gotta say I'm proud of the strides this group right here have collectively made toward putting the pieces together into a jigsaw that makes a surprising lot of sense, a lucid story of where we've been.

Carry on!
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Feb 21, 2009 - 01:29pm PT
East Side Underground mentioned up thread that the Charmoz had been skied. The subject of the inevitable downgrading of one generation’s ”Last Great Problem” in a few years to an “ Easy Day for a Lady” was covered long ago in a seminal article whose author I forget, but Steve probably remembers. I am more awed by those climbers who chopped, in Luca's words, nasty, brutish (and short?) steps up the Charmoz in the days before front points than modern glisse descents. The cloud of mystery that obscured the peaks then was as forbidding to climbers back in the days before instant information as the technical difficulties.

The fact that the skill and courage of modern climbers or glisse practicioners is almost unfathomable does not detract in the least from my appreciation of the challenges faced by a Brown, Bonatti, a Robbins, a Chouinard, a Whymper, or on the glisse side, a Vallencant or Saudan.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 21, 2009 - 03:35pm PT
Willo Welzenbach's spirit floats around the Charmoz too.

An old photo that I came across in a junk shop looking up that way about a hundred years ago.

Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Feb 21, 2009 - 04:34pm PT
Re: Grivel 10-points invented in 1090!

Dane & WeeJock: I did some quick research on Lucasignorelli’s post that included the fact that Grivel invented crampons in 1090:

Lucasignorelli on Feb 19: “Just for the record - Grivel (who invented 10 points crampons in 1090 together with Oscar Eckstein”

It was a typo. Lucasignorelli has been slaving over his history links late at night.

From Grivel’s fine website is the following link: showing that modern 10 points were invented in 1908-09.

http://www.grivel.com/Storia/Storia_Det.asp?Cat=R

Here is some of the Grivel copy on the process.


The whirlwind Oscar Eckenstein (1859 - 1921) broke into this rather quiet environment in the early 20th century.. An engineer, brilliant mountaineer, argumentative and a loner, he published two articles in the Ostereich Alpenzeitung, on the 20th. July 1908 and the 5th. June 1909, detailing the results of his research on the manufacture of crampons, their systematic use and the incredible feats they could perform. In fig.9 illustrates his designs. Eckenstein’s real innovation and its importance doesn’t just lie in the technical perfection of the crampons but rather in the spirit of courage and innovation with which he defined their use..... his major contribution has been that of a moral nature. This ultimately consists in the faith that mountaineers laid in his inventions: nobody dared before him, but afterwards everybody trusted crampons. (Manual d’Alpinisme du C.A.F. 1934)

Our hero bought his plans to the blacksmith at Courmayeur, Henry Grivel – who, even though he was doubtful, made the crampons for the “English gentleman”, who had the undoubtable advantage of being able to pay. Success was immediate, so much so that on the 30th. of June 1912 a competition for “cramponneurs”, between guides and porters, was organized on the Brenva glacier.

It is important to note that Eckenstein also introduced a special marking system to judge the competitors’ style in the various trials. This could make it the first climbing competition in the history of mountaineering, even though it was on ice.

Fritz
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 21, 2009 - 04:51pm PT
DR
> You're right, there's something so archetypal about that shot. I too never tire of it, and never tire of several other of the Scottish images that have gotten onto this thread

This one below is my own version of that shot (I'll rephrase it - it probably gives me the same archetypal feel you may get from that Marshall pic)



It's Gianni Comino (one of the our "scruffy lads" - I like the definition - even he was the opposite of scruffy), taken by Giancarlo on August 20, 1978. Third pitch, second step of the Ypercouloir. The perspective of this piture is wrong, as I discovered four years ago when I managed to see this pitch with my eyes - the upper column is weirdly tilted, and overhangs. The "wall" on the left is actually a roof.

The pitch took four hours to be climbed, and Gianni could not put any protection - the ice was so rotten and crumbly (ice cream consistence, in Giancarlo's words) that had to climb it basically soloing. The pitch above took another three hours, and Gianni fell for 40 metres, luckily without consequences. The tool used was a normal 70cm axe. without curved pick.

I understand that all this hype on my part for this picture may sound quite silly (if not even a bit boring) formost of the crew posting here - after all, Jeff did the Bridalveil climb in 1974, and I suppose this kind of stuff was rather commonplace in Scotland by 1978 standards. But for us, it was NEW - nothing like that had even been remotely attempted in the Mt. Blanc range, not even by the French (Gianni had soloed the Supercouloir in 1977). I remember seeing this picture on June 1979 in the Courmayeur guides bureau, and feeling a distinctive tingle on my spine, like "uh oh". It hasn't happened much often afterwards, and almost never in the last 10 years!



lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 21, 2009 - 04:57pm PT
Fritz:

thanks, until now I hadn't noticed the typo - and I was just wondering what the HECK the Battle of Hastings had to do with crampons!!

Another demonstration that trying to make thoughtful posting late at night after 10 hours work shifts is never a good idea...
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 21, 2009 - 05:51pm PT
Gordon:

I've found where you've read the "350 pitons" reference to the Gousseault - it's actually the number of pitons claimed for the Directe de L'Amitie (the source is the usual Buscaini/Vallot). Probably memory just played you a trick.

Then, as promised above, here's the list - all the relevant repeats made by British climbers on the Mt. Blanc area between 1970 to 1978. It doesn't cover the Aiguilles de Chamonix area. And of course it doesn't cover ascents who weren't in some way documented (there are many - possibly the majority)



I’ve added also the second ascent of the NF of Greuvetta (which was done in 1964, so outside the range of the 79’s, for reasons I’ll explain later.

The list is ordered by date of the repeat. Remember, these are only the repeats, no the many original routes opened by Brits during that period (so, no ”Scala di Seta”)

All the climbs listed are “peculiar”, left side stuff which seems to me was chosen because they looked cool, rather than anything else.

The most significant of the bunch it’s of course #11, the almost legendary 3rd ascent of the Gervasutti line on the east face of the Jorasses. It’s the only climb listed in the route where the repeat lasted more than the original ascent (3 vs 2 days, this was valid for the 2nd ascent of the Gervasutti too – Julien and Bastien in 1951 stayed three days on the wall). This is a testament to the difficulty of a that line who, in my opinion, was the most difficult rock climb of the Alps before the American Direct on the Drus was opened (far harder than the Cassin spur on the NF Jorasses).

This repeat had also a big resonance in Italy, because the article written by Joe Tasker for Mountain was translated by Italian magazine “Rivista della Montagna”, and made a lot of local climbers aware that alpinists from the UK and the US were not just climbing hard at home (or opening new routes in the Alps), but were also busy tackling revered but hardly repeated classics like this one. For someone was a big shock, as it began to clear the huge misunderstanding (in some way fuelled by Giampiero Motti famous 1974 article on the Yosemite climbing scene – “Il Nuovo Mattino”) that young English speaking climbers were only into pure technical difficulty, and had little interest for classical mountaineering.

Another interesting repeat is #13 – the S face direct to the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey is an obscure but again fairly difficult item, one of the few “Dolomite like” climbs of the area. Quite fascinating too to see many of these repeats done by the same people: Carrington/Rouse, or the Burgess brothers.

From 1975 onward there’s a definite shift towards more recent routes, so I guess there was really a lot of competition in Chamonix to see if these new routes were as difficult as the local climbers/press would made. Another interesting trivia – NONE of the routes of the list were originally climbed by Brits, as if the Snells field crew wasn’t much interested in the stuff.

The route #1 was put as a comparison. The 800m high NF of Mt. Greuvetta is one of the most obscure (if not THE most obscure) NF of the MB area.

The climb itself is a great one, but the face has a dreadful reputation, with a nasty climb/fatalities ratio - it's very rarely climbed, even today. What moved Brown (not Joe) and Woolcock to climb it may be an interesting subject on itself!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 21, 2009 - 07:58pm PT
Shown below is a pair of Austrian made Eckenstein 12 point crampons. They were made in Fulpmes by W Benossenschaf.




That front point curvature sure has a familiar look.



I am curious whether the Eckenstein name disappeared once Grivel independently developed the Ultralight 12 point using a better alloy of steel taken from railroad track stock?

Wee Jock

climber
Feb 22, 2009 - 05:17am PT
Luca - I figured that the date for the Eckenstein crampons was a typo, I just couldn't resist the comment. Two dates known by every Brit schoolkid of my era were 55BC Julius Caesar invaded England (veni, vici, vici) and 1066AD William of Normandy landed at Hastings (this last bit of universal knowledge possibly due to a book called "1066 and all that"). Also, the allusion to Froissart as the recording journalist in lieu of our very own Signor Signorelli!

Luca, you really must stop this crap about boring anyone!!! Every word you write is lapped up by the rest of us!

I love the photo of the very elegant scruff Giani (it would be very hard, I know, for an Italian to compete with us Brits in the arena of scruffiness!!). The ice was crap ... would it have been possible for him to climb the icicle at all with the gear he had if the ice had been hard water ice? The Scot Cunningham with his English pal March climbed the icicle of the Chancer in 1969 using daggers and crampons - prefiguring the advent of front pointing with curved/angled axes. Cunningham experimented with front pointing up ever steeper angles of ice with crampons and daggers while in the Antarctic as a FIDS (Falkland Islands Dependency Survey AKA 'F*cking Idiots Down South') dog team driver. I did an early ascent of the Chancer in 1974 on good water ice using a Chouinard axe and Salewa hammer which I bet made it a LOT easier!!! I don't think I ever placed a single ice-screw in Scottish ice - didn't trust them one iota so I never bothered wasting the energy putting them in (plus I never owned one). I see that now they are very popular in Scotland ...

(By the by you forgot Terry King and my epic second ascent of Grand West Couloir in 1976 in your list!! Even Kingy fell off, but we got up it in the end!). I don't think that the original Cassin start to the Walker had many ascents before Kingy led it free in 1975??
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 22, 2009 - 07:54am PT
>Luca - I figured that the date for the Eckenstein crampons was a typo, I just couldn't resist the comment. Two dates known by every Brit schoolkid of my era were 55BC Julius Caesar invaded England (veni, vici, vici) and 1066AD William of Normandy landed at Hastings (this last possibly due to a book called "1066 and all that"). Also, the allusion to Froissart as the recording journalist in lieu of our very own Signor Signorelli!

Interesting coincidence - my brother (whose name is of course Signorelli!) is an expert on the Norman Conquest (particularly on Stamford Bridge), he has even published some article in Italy about the topic - even if his rabid anti-Norman stance in my opinion does a bit to undermine his academic credentials!

>I love the photo of the very elegant scruff Giani (it would be very hard, I know, for an Italian to compete with us Brits in the arena of scruffiness!!).

Here's it (from L to R): Giancarlo Grassi, Renato Casarotto and (sitting on the wall) Gianni Comino. The date of the picture is 21 july 1978, and the place is the terrace of the Monzino hut. The glacier on the background is the Freney. They had just opened yet another route on the Brenva side.



Renato did a lot of exceptional solo in the 80's (Ridge of no Return on Denali, FitzRoy, Broad Peak etc) then died in 1986 on K2.

As you may see, neither Renato (who was the prototypical Very Nice Lad) nor Gianni look particularly scruffy. They were both coming from relatively well to do families - Gianni was a trainee MD / surgeon. So they could afford Fila sweatshirts, which weren't cheap even back then.

On the other hand, Giancarlo Grassi WAS scruffy. He came from a poor (and I mean POOR) family from the mountain of the Susa valley (W of Turin), and had struggled of his life to maintain his family (and a climbing habit). He was extremely frugal on everything, and careful not to was a single bit of his hard gained collection of gear, but his sense of dressing/appearence remained for all his life that of a broken hippie from the most run down 70's commune you may imagine. I believe that in Italy a lot of people didn't take him seriously precisely for that - too bad, as he was the best ice climber we ever had (it took to French and Canadian to recognize that!)

>The ice was crap ... would it have been possible for him to climb the icicle at all with the gear he had if the ice had been hard water ice?

I believe Giancarlo and Gianni were expecting something like the Supercouloir, or the NE couloir des Drus (which they had no problem to climb) with steeper bits. The Ypercouloir is difficult to evaluate from the valley, as the access is a climb in the climb. So you can't see what's like until you've your nose stuck there. Had the icicle been harder, I think Gianni would have climbed it without too much hassle (he was already climbing lines on seracs, where the ice is normally concrete-hard).


>(By the by you forgot Terry King and my epic second ascent of Grand West Couloir in 1976 in your list!! Even Kingy fell off, but we got up it in the end!).

Wait a sec, what's "Grand West Couloir"? I know that in 1976 you climbed with him the Croz Spur direct, you mean that?

>I don't think that the original Cassin start to the Walker had many ascents before Kingy led it free in 1975?

Three recorded instances since then, or at least, that's what I got from the Boccalatte hut book.
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Feb 22, 2009 - 09:05am PT
The face and gully Gordon references.



"The pitch took four hours to be climbed, and Gianni could not put any protection - the ice was so rotten and crumbly (ice cream consistence, in Giancarlo's words) that had to climb it basically soloing. The pitch above took another three hours, and Gianni fell for 40 metres, luckily without consequences. The tool used was a normal 70cm axe. without curved pick."

Vertical ice high on a big Mtn with a straight pick 70cm axe in 1978? And a 100' fall on ice? That had to be a real adventure!

"But for us, it was NEW - nothing like that had even been remotely attempted in the Mt. Blanc range, not even by the French (Gianni had soloed the Supercouloir in 1977)."

Excuse me, are you saying Gianni soloed the Super Coulior on the Tacul in 1977 with a straight pick, 70 cm axe?

Wee Jock

climber
Feb 22, 2009 - 09:17am PT
Hi Luca
Grand West Couloir on the west face of the Plan...Gabarrou Picard-Deyme route - we repeated it in Sept of 1976. Incidently that had an icicle to climb quite near the top ... unfortunately it broke off when I was half way up!

What an incredible photo that is of the three Italian hot shots ... yup, Grassi would have fitted in very well camped in the Biolay! By the way Kingy was always terribly well dressed - climbed in trendy blue salopettes, matching blue sweater, classy red neckerchief around the neck, and enormous Dolomite Walker boots. Well, he is an actor after all!! And a VERY FAMOUS Fight Arranger for the RSC and the National Theatre in the UK. I have to call him 'Sire' these days!! Fortunately I don't get to actually see him (too far away) else I would have to bow and scrape as well I'm sure. Ironic that he should have climbed in those youthful days with the scruffiest climber of all!! Kingy was always right pissed off that I never owned a camera as all our shots were of scruffy me - none of him!!

Also first solo of Swiss Route on the Courtes in 1974 ... and there again probable first solo of the that longest and most dreadfully serious and dangerous of all ice climbs in the entire world, the Chere Couloir (the one on the north triangle of Mont Blanc de Tacul, not the REALLY SERIOUS one that goes up the seracs to the side of the Frendo) in 1975....I reckon that I'm the person that started using it as a 'school' route (for my ISM students in late 1975) for which purpose it now seems to be the de rigeur training ice climb. Boy I crunched and banged my way up that thing soooooo many times!!

Hey, Dane just posted a pic of the west face of the Plan. The Grand West is the left hand couloir under the summit, the Smith-Sorenson is the right hand one. The Smith-Sorenson has the more direct finish - straight up the headwall below the summit where the Grand West nips to the left up a wee icefall and then back up and right up a ramp to the top.

Quick Q, Luca - did Grassi lead the icicle?
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Feb 22, 2009 - 11:09am PT
Dane emphasized the importance of conditions in alpine climbing and Doug contrasted the ice-cube-hard water ice of his neighborhood, the East side of the Sierra, with the frozen snow conditions that often prevail in the Alps.

Mike Graham and I arrived in Chamonix in 1976 and chose as our first ice climb the Swiss route on Les Courtes (which Gordon mentions he was first to solo two summers before). When we asked the Argentiere hut keeper to point it out to us, he obliged, but said no one had done it yet that year because it was “out of condition”. This puzzled us, because to Mike and I who had learned to climb ice on such DR first ascents as the Mendel Couloir and Lee Vining, it looked just fine, water ice from top to bottom!



Luca-I found a reference in the July 1975 Mountain Magazine to Renato Cassaroto’s first winter ascent of the Andrich/Fae route on the Punta Civetta over six days solo. He was doing early winter big walls, too.

Finally, from this morning’s NY Times about Kate Winslet’s emotional breakdown when accepting her Golden Globe award and why British critics were absolutely appalled.

“…many English people still feel repelled by all that capital-E emoting. Instead, said Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at the University of Kent, they stick to the old standbys: self-deprecation, false modesty and humor.”

This explains a lot.
lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 22, 2009 - 01:59pm PT
>Vertical ice high on a big Mtn with a straight pick 70cm axe in 1978? And a 100' fall on ice? That had to be a real adventure!

Again I feel that the phrasing of my posts is becoming rather poor on these days - I meant TWO 70cm ice axes, not just one.

I've been talking this afternoon with Renzo Luzi, who was a good friend with Giancarlo and Gianni (did the FA of the Freney icefall with Giancarlo and Marco Bernardi in 1980 - Europe highest altitude icefall), and he believes that in 1978 Gianni used - lo and behold - a pair of Chouinard ice axes with a 70cm shaft (the model with the head shown in the '73 Tiso ad on Mountain seen in this thread), as that's the way Giancarlo used to refer them. But I don't know if that still means he was using "straight pick-ed" axes, as the Chouinards werent' exactly straight at all - or at least, were comparatively curved in comparison with the axes used normally back then.

Gianni soloed the Supercouloir on 23rd Sept. 1978, not in 1977 (memory failed ME there), again used the same gear. In December 1978 he and Giancarlo (and Casarotto, I believe) went to Scotland for their first trip there (for Giancarlo the first of many). The climbed dozen of lines there and I believe they used there pair of Terrordactyls for the first time. This Scotland trip had long term consequences for Giancarlo, who began a "search" (he was into this type of things) to find a place in the Alps with real Scottish conditions. He did eventually find them, in the most unlikely place.

By '79 they had both moved to using Simond Chacal, which I believe Gianni used to solo the Boivin-Vallencant at the Nant Blanc face of the Aig. Sans Nom (yes, that was before Andy Parkins) and the Dufour-Frehel/Boivin-Vallencant combination on the NF of the Pilier D'Angle. However, the new tools meant that a lot of the edge of their '78 lines had been taken out, and Giancarlo confessed to his friends that with them on the NF of the Pilier D'Angle "you could climb everywhere". This lead in turn to the third phase of their partnership - the attempt to climb directly all the the giant seracs of the Brenva face of MB (which ultimately proved fatal for Gianni).




lucasignorelli

climber
Torino, Italy
Feb 22, 2009 - 02:24pm PT

> By the way Kingy was always terribly well dressed - climbed in trendy blue salopettes, matching blue sweater, classy red neckerchief around the neck, and enormous Dolomite Walker boots. Well, he is an actor after all!! And a VERY FAMOUS Fight Arranger for the RSC and the National Theatre in the UK. I have to call him 'Sire' these days!! Fortunately I don't get to actually see him (too far away) else I would have to bow and scrape as well I'm sure.

I've seen on the Internet a video with him interviewed on the subject of his theatre work, and he looks like the most unlikely candidate EVER for being someone with a past as a NF climber in the 70's - I swear it's the living proof that appearence can be deceptive. He looks like the epythome of upper class Britishness!

>Ironic that he should have climbed in those youthful days with the scruffiest climber of all!! Kingy was always right pissed off that I never owned a camera as all our shots were of scruffy me - none of him!!

You're speaking of Colton here, eh? Here's a pic taken by a friend of mine during a meet in Scotland.

http://www.fuorivia.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2894&start=15

Scroll down until you see him - there's an Italian behind him playing peek-a-boo!


> Also first solo of Swiss Route on the Courtes in 1974 ...

No, the first solo of the Swiss route was in 1968, by a German climber named Karl Hoffmann. My database never lies! :)

> and there again probable first solo of the that longest and most dreadfully serious and dangerous of all ice climbs in the entire world, the Chere Couloir (the one on the north triangle of Mont Blanc de Tacul, not the REALLY SERIOUS one that goes up the seracs to the side of the Frendo) in 1975....

You may be right here, worth doing some more research! I'll keep you informed of course

>I reckon that I'm the person that started using it as a 'school' route (for my ISM students in late 1975) for which purpose it now seems to be the de rigeur training ice climb. Boy I crunched and banged my way up that thing soooooo many times!!

You mean that all those poor souls that are taken there to learn the ropes and spend hours shivering at the base of the climb waiting for their turn - it's YOU they've to blame? I could blackmail you on this! :=)

>Quick Q, Luca - did Grassi lead the icicle?

On the Ypercouloir? No, that was Gianni. By 1978 Giancarlo was still "gearing up" on ultra difficult/dangerous ice (he would eventually more "take the lead" on this after Gianni's death in 1980).
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 22, 2009 - 06:43pm PT
More lovely filler material. From Climbing July-August 1977.















Wee Jock

climber
Feb 22, 2009 - 08:49pm PT
Luca, I forgot to tell you about the other extremely long, difficult and inordinately dangerous ice route I did in 1975 - on the south face of the Midi. Narrow couloir, best climbed in snowy conditions, running up to the outlet of the men's toilet in the midi station. I did the first (probable) ascent and the second (probable) ascent. Possibly the only ever ascents! Known as 'La Voie Jaune', or 'La Goulotte Jaune' or perhaps just 'Le Couloir Direct WC'. Look, I'm just trying to get my name into your DB more times than that English sod Rousie!! How many more do I have to go?

In a more serious vein I loved the Chacal. Why do silly looking bent handled jobbies make climbing ice any easier? Or is that just the power of suggestion and commercialisation - gotta sell more and more tools to those guys? And knock the price up! I really cannot see why this should be.

Thanks for posting that article on the Croz route ... wasn't it in Mountain, not Climbing?? Talk about loose! I think Keine, further to the right on the main buttress, had much bette