The fashionable Ray Jardine on Separate Reality


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Trad climber
Fruita, Colorado
May 25, 2007 - 02:48am PT
Just a few random points. Ray didn't actually invent the Friend. Greg Lowe did, as I state in my history of free climbing. It was a bit of a theft, actually, a kind of stealing of an idea. The cutthroat businessman would call it jumping on an opportunity or something. None of that stuff, including Jardine's styles, were of much interest to me at the time, though they seemed all the way over in Colorado appalling. I was distracted by women and my own personal struggles and by the mid-70s already had begun to believe the golden days of a few climbers in rare lonely places were unfortunately hopelessly gone. Anytime I made some comment about someone's style, and it was a negative comment, I was amazed at how hard a whole group would come down on me for not keeping up with the times. When gradings seemed even to escalate a bit, Higgins and I did a new route by Reed Pinnacle called "Old 5.10," a route solid 5.11 in reality. We had to make our statements quietly. Werner brings up an interesting point that everyone who has free climbed the Nose has used those chopped holds. I would think a true ethic might be to deem that traverse compromised and to avoid it. Perhaps we're still waiting for a true and pure ascent of the Nose free? When I was younger and a very insecure little boy I became frightened of people and their judgments of me, always watching for any imperfection and any opportunity where they might be able to dismiss my accomplishments. On three or four climbs in Eldorado I made some little mistake or rested on a carabiner on an easy section after doing the hard part, or some such thing, and fearing to say something didn't, and it got me in hot water. I was climbing harder than anyone in Colorado at the time and doing 5.11 two years before it came to the Valley, but that didn't matter to anyone. The imperfections, and not openly reporting those, allowed some people to write me off through eternity. Some wouldn't even notice some of the routes I did in perfect style, which were many hundreds more than those botched jobs. I learned that the climbing community is pretty unforgiving, as well as pretty hypocritical. My friend Bridwell I think was miffed at Higgins doing Owl Roof and said to me one day in the Valley, "He didn't do it without using that chockstone." I learned later that it was Jim who fixed the chockstone and was planning to use it. That didn't make me love Jim any less, though. I didn't even know what integrity was until I started climbing with Gill and Royal and Pratt and Kamps and Higgins and all my other dearest friends who seemed to come to this world with integrity already a finely tuned attribute. My parents had tons of integrity but mistakenly assumed I would naturally follow along. So there was, as I remember it, little instruction in that area, a serious oversight on their part. I had to develop integrity the hard way, and I did -- with the help of many examples, and also with the long suffering and patience of my friends and for their not focusing on my stupid moments. The greatest of the climbers I knew were the most forgiving and good souled. It seemed always the lesser climbers who had the meanest hearts. Somehow my perception of this world is that a life is a progression, at best. Each of us starts somewhere and hopefully grows, hopefully learns, hopefully transcends pride, ego, dishonesty, and all the rest. Not one of us is perfect. We start out (using the analogy of a piano) playing Mary Had A Little Lamb. We make mistakes all over the keyboard. If we stay at it, we refine our technique, get better, do better. Some will always hold to the view they had of you when you were floundering to find the notes. That we are in a progression, or that life is the opportunity for such, I am convinced, and thus it often is better to worry about the mote in one's own eye rather than spend precious energy judging others. Sure judgments can be made, and accurately, but are they helpful and constructive to the person to whom they are given, or are they extensions of our own sense of greatness, our own sense of elitism? I've gotten caught up in this bad kind of judgment and criticism. And of course some won't grow, or won't visibly grow, with any amount of help, and some will go the other way, and that's always sad. They might be the people who least need our condescensions, in view of possibly sending them deeper the wrong way. Who knows? I relate to both what Peter says and to John. I feel the same passions, I think, that these two remarkable climbing pioneers have always demonstrated. I especially like what Peter says about how much we give and gave climbing. I did lots of climbing with Rich, lots of bouldering. I have fond memories of sitting next to him on a ledge in the Royal Gorge on a wall, as cars rattled across the bridge above us near the stars. He and I were both gymnasts and could do all the same things on bars, on floor, whatever. It was being with Rich, though, that made it good, as opposed to his physical strengths. I felt the same for many others, that they were fellow creatures in this ephemeral, warmly sunlit adventure of life, each of us trying to sort out life. John Stannard is one of the most artistic, controlled, and beautiful geniuses of rock that has ever set foot on rock. If ever there was a true master of footwork and little finger holds, it has been John. I will never forget his and my ascent of an Eldorado 5.11, dead vertical, arm pumping, and how easily he flowed up it. I have had the incredible fortune to actually climb with virtually all of the best climbers of my day (which actually was more the '60s and earlier '70s than any other time). Each had his or her singular gift and was not easily or in any meaningful way to be compared to any other. I think one of the strengths of the climbing community, when it is at its best, is what Royal calls magnanimity. He lacked that virtue a fair bit in his own life, and he has had his moments of contributing to the bad spirits of climbing, but he has tried to develop magnanimity in later years. I'm tired and sick right now, can't sleep, up late, so probably not much of what I just said will be cohesive if it makes sense in the discussion at all...


Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
May 25, 2007 - 03:05am PT

Your reflections are well said, and reflect great complexity if one were to ask me.

To the thread...

It's weird for me on the greater issue from this thread, that when I first learned that there were chiseled holds on el cap I was shocked. To the core.

The bastion of traditional ethics had chiseled holds.

Later too when I learned of Roland's Hole route, shock again.

But of the last 10 years, I don't think I've thought once of the travesty of chipping holds on the Nose.

The focal lense dictates the extent of the impact on the perception. It both affects us in a 'real world' sense. It makes tangible the notion that one can set a precedent for history to review. It also does not affect us in that we have a counter-memory an anti-history, a thing called the future. To look forward to it one must not be too antiquarian.

To be cliche a bit: balance

documentary sense of history for the past, magnanimity (if i can borrow that term) in the present, and a monumental sense of history for the future.

It's 12:05am PDT and sometimes the late night is good for writing. Sometimes it is not. Thoughts?

Boulder climber
Asheville, NC
May 25, 2007 - 03:25am PT
Yo! DK!
Doing well. I called and left a message the other day. Hope you are well too. I'm right in the middle of the greatest comeback since George "The Preacherman" Foreman!
Planning a trip out west to see all you guys this fall once I spend the summer sweating up the classics here in KY.

Trad climber
Corvallis, OR
May 25, 2007 - 03:32am PT
Thanks for your well-considered thoughts, Pat. I'm enjoying these posts as they highlight some interesting dilemmas.

I wholeheartedly agree that first ascents need to be represented honestly for historical accuracy. I also reject the notion of chipping the rock to facilitate an ascent (though it’s okay to yank off a huge flake to make a route safer ...)

Anyway ...

I admit that some of my most memorable and cherished days include times when I fell and did not lower to a rest or pull the rope either because it wasn’t practical or I didn’t feel like it. By the standard of the period, I did not do the climb. Nevertheless, I felt that warm-and-fuzzy feeling of accomplishment when I topped out because I pushed my physical and mental limits.

Also, there are several climbs that I returned to with the sole purpose of climbing them clean so that I could honestly say that I “climbed it” by the accepted standard. But when I returned to the climb with this sole purpose I typically felt underwhelmed by the accomplishment.

I guess my point is that I recognize the purpose of standards and ethics insofaras one measures one’s accomplishments with one’s peers. At the same time, sometimes I cherish an imperfect ascent and I’m okay with that. Really.

Trad climber
Varied locales along the time and space continuum
May 25, 2007 - 03:37am PT
Yes, I believe there is something about the late night milieu that is good for writing.

Roger, Peter, jstan, John V., Werner, Pat et al.: Thank you for for such an eloquent, thoughtful, and provocative discussion. You are helping to deepen my perspective of this climbing world of which we are enamored in one way or another. I'm pleased just to be sitting around this campfire and listening.

Is this not the magnanimity of which Pat speaks?


Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
May 25, 2007 - 04:06am PT
Man, now this is some history that doesn't come on the hang-tag when you by a cam.
bob d'antonio

Trad climber
Taos, NM
May 25, 2007 - 11:38am PT
Well written Pat.

Hope things are getting better for you.

Later, Bob

Peter wrote: John, you were a PhD physicist and in your post is the clear taint of lazy condescension. Many of the rest of us instead climbed as very hardworking outdoors professionals. We got our jobs based on our record; we wrote articles, books, and worked hard in talks and forums as notable figures in the art or sport. It was not a hobby as it clearly was for you. Many of us got very very far with it.

Peter...John was far from being lazy in any aspect of climbing.

He help change the way people climbed, he climbed... at the time some of the hardest routes in the world, he published "The Eastern Trade' and did numereous clean ups at the Gunks in the early 70's.

Clearly this was more than hobby for him!

John played a huge role in the history of climbing in the 70's and had a huge affect on many climbers...I know I was one of them!

Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Reply - May 25, 2007 - 11:56am PT
So we start on fashion and end with historical perspectives on ethics and personalities. That’s why style counts.

It really does get to the roots of what we do and what it means to spend so much effort on conquering such uselessness. Peter nearly went ballistic on John for what he took to be John’s too offhanded attitude about how important climbing is to climbers. Climbing, at least doing new routes, is heroic in the ancient sense of the word, and while we struggle to keep our heroes elevated—they are all so damn human when it seems to matter the most that they be heroic. Climbing style matters to those of us who put ourselves and our lives (not just life itself) on the line to try to figure it out.

Ray has always been a lightening rod. Kevin talks about Ray's public display of Christian belief, when ‘born again’ was not part of our vocabulary. He was not a very good climber in the way all of us around in the Valley at the time envisioned it. But he had a huge impact on raising the difficulty standards. And he had way too much hair. And he had a very limited fashion sense (see opening photo).

But what finally lives on is that Ray contributed a style of ‘working’ a route that changed the rules of how to learn to climb harder. If he had stuck to his story of ‘working’ a route until he had it wired and then leading and placing gear, none of us would have had a problem. On another thread, John Bachar talks about doing the same thing on “Bombs over Tokyo.” (This is not to draw John into this discussion, only to support my contention that this aspect of Ray’s climbing is not contentious.)

Ray’s hang-dogging really changed the rules of the game, but left intact the old notions of what constituted the best, pure styles. Not because he did it. It changed climbing, in my opinion, because guys like Ron Kauk and John Bachar did the second ascents of his routes in traditional style and developed a new level of understanding of what was possible. They then adopted the parts that made sense to them and pushed the standards impossibly high. (Again as an aside, in the middle 90s, Lynn Hill came to Cleveland to give a slide show of her ascent of the Nose. I was sitting in the audience with my two little tow-headed girls. I had not followed climbing in anyway since leaving the Valley in 1980, so it was all new to me. When she was describing rapping down the Nose to wire the cruxes, my first thought was Ray’s hang-dogging from 20 years before--he had changed climbing in an incredably possitive way.)

What lots of folks cannot get out of their craws is that Ray seemed to be less than truthful about his style. I think that this may be hard for younger climbers to fully grasp—I can hear a dismissive ‘Whatever!”—but it did matter. Truthfulness sustained the roots of everything that we were trying to achieve. For sure there were testy arguments about what was allowed and what was not, but everyone had to be truthful about what they had done. Look at how much press Michael Reardon got on his believability. It is still paramount.

By the time Ray was perfecting his hang-dogging style everyone else had accepted this glorified if not fully defined desire to climb only all-free in some notion of pure style: walk to the base, rope up, climb to the top, don’t touch the gear. Pat talks about hanging onto carabineers on easy sections and being chastised for it. That indicates how sensitive everyone was. As an aside, there was a sense in the early 70s that if you couldn’t do a route without trying it “too” many times, you should back off, count it as a failure, and let someone else give it a go. How ancient is that? Like studying some ancient religious cult that died out long ago. But, some of the posters on this thread did exactly that. Ray just kept after it.

The issues that some folks seem to have with Ray’s Friends seems a little misplaced in my opinion. I remember folks complaining that Ray would not share his new toys, would not even let folks look at them. Kevin talks about Ray needing lots of iterations to work out the details. Well, yeah! That is how things like this work. Someone gets a good basic idea and then spends lots of time and money working out how to get the really good idea to really work. The fact that it came from someone else's initial spark is irrelevant. All the real work is in getting it to actually work. So, I don’t think you can fault anyone for that. Most folks give up on good ideas after they fail for one reason or another for a 100 times in a row. Ray kept at it.

The negative legacy that Ray left was chipping the Nose. I am sure that Ray cannot claim his place amongst his generation of climbers for this reason. He cannot take it back and lots of us can never forget. Some will never forgive. I am no apologist, but Ray’s chipping is born of an arrogance and greed that seems to be all too common amongst the very best climbers of a generation. To one degree or another there seems to be a point where a climber has to decide where to draw a line of communal ethical standards. If it is some poor sod in over his head pounding in a bolt or pin to save his sorry ass, we all wish folks would just stay off routes they cannot handle. Then we try to repair the damage.

When it is someone climbing at the edge of our sport, someone defining the envelope, we expect razor sharp ethical behavior, but we accept a range of lapses. The sting of someone jumping someone’s ropes or stealing a project is lost in time. We don’t carp about further pin damage on routes and sometimes even ask hopefully if enough pin damage has been done to do the route with passive pro, or even more hopefully, can it go all-free? But we chastise Jim for creating holds in thin cracks, and Dale too. Many climbers never face these issues, so it is hard to grasp what the big deal is. But if a climber is working a new ascent at, or near, the edge, it is a constant question. When does ‘gardening’ end and route enhancement begin? When is a bolt justified and when should you just back off? How about I just enhance this hook placement so I can avoid a rivet and maintain the difficulty? Just because it is your new line, is it right that you use aid, when someone else might be able to do it all free? When is a little pin work to widen a crack okay? And finally when can you etch the route with manufactured holds?

The difficulty with sorting this out is that there is no clear line to be drawn. We are forgiving of ah hoc bad choices made under duress. But when the action is premeditated and is bad, the climber taking the action is saying something powerful about his or her place relative to all other climbers—“I am better. I am above the ‘rules’ because there are no rules for the level of climbing I am doing.” For those of us who have wanderer around on the envelope’s edge know better and take deep offense. There is always the requirement that free choices are made. And for a climber on that edge, the opportunities to define themselves, their time, and our sport should never be wasted on defining their capacity for arrogance or greed.

bob d'antonio

Trad climber
Taos, NM
May 25, 2007 - 12:11pm PT
Roger...Jim Erickson said it best in the climbing film "On the Rocks"...I think he said something like this. Most great climbs have been done by some what dubious means.

Roger wrote: When it is someone climbing at the edge of our sport, someone defining the envelope, we expect razor sharp ethical behavior, but we accept a range of lapses.

Charles Barkley the great NBA player...I'm no role model!!


Trad climber
Salt Lake City
May 25, 2007 - 12:15pm PT
Oli wrote: "Just a few random points. Ray didn't actually invent the Friend. Greg Lowe did, as I state in my history of free climbing. It was a bit of a theft, actually, a kind of stealing of an idea. The cutthroat businessman would call it jumping on an opportunity or something."

Not to be argumentative ... just eliciting further opinion ...

Pics of the old Lowe cams don't look anything like the friend, seems like Jardine took the idea of the cam (as did Metolius, BD, and everyone else did later) and turned it into a real nice piece of functional equipment. There was enough genius in its design to make it virtually unchanged to this day. What's wrong with that?


Gym climber
berkeley, ca
May 25, 2007 - 12:23pm PT
Chiseling the traverse was lame. Chiseling "GEEK" along with a few pin jobs was lame. But they are are part of the human history of those routes and can actually be cool in their way when you get up there and share in it.

How much dammage was El Cap spared b/c of Ray's friends (and their offspring)?
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Reply - May 25, 2007 - 12:26pm PT
Hey Bob,

I know there are really good climbers who do not agree with this point, but I am more inclined to look at the actual history--I think Eric is right. Unfortunately.

It is slippery slope: I can say from personal experience that Ray, Jim, Tom Higgins, and I all cared deeply about climbing and climbing standards. Yet we each drew the line at different points.

May 25, 2007 - 12:35pm PT
When was the Lowe cam first conceived into a practical unit?

Charlie porter gave me his caming nut invention and me and Kauk used it on Tissack back in 70 whatever year that was. We were able to cut the pin count considerably because of that one cam nut.

Leap frogging cam nut with pin placements.

So Charlie porter had the cam nut also. Is he a cam nut thief for that too?

I gave the cam nut I think to Ken Yeager of the climbing museum.

Ken do you have it and a photo?

Isolated in El Portal and loving it
May 25, 2007 - 12:49pm PT
What an incredible example of the value of this forum. I am blown away.

May 25, 2007 - 01:05pm PT
Where is Wheat thin chisel marks?

Are talking about the breaking some of the thin fragile edges that would have broken anyways while leading that pitch?

Heh? Peter Hann was part of the first ascent of Wheat Thin with Bridwell.

I watched them rappel and place the bolts that day on the Wheat Thin.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
May 25, 2007 - 01:26pm PT
For those who would like to see John Bachar's photo of the chipped Jardine Traverse on the Nose, see Bruce Morris's article in the 1982 American Alpine Journal:

Here is a screenshot (sorry, it's fairly large):

Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Ca
May 25, 2007 - 01:31pm PT
Thanks for posting that photo, since that PDF is 1.8 MB...

May 25, 2007 - 01:44pm PT
If you take out what I may or may not have contributed I
would have to say this is the thoughtful honest summary of
an entire climbing era we all have known was possible.
That great day has come. We have gained the summit.

Being habitually unrealistic, it is my hope youngsters will
read this and will say to themselves, “So this is where I am
going. Eventually I will be like these people. Given this, how
should I now adjust what I am doing?” I closely observed
the kids at Ken's Yosemite cleanup. It is an incredibly good
crew. They want to learn. Much more than that. They are
positively hungry to learn.

Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Reply - May 25, 2007 - 03:19pm PT
Hey John,

When I read, “So this is where I am going. Eventually I will be like these people. Given this, how should I now adjust what I am doing?” I marvel at your ability to be all inclusive, allowing someone who may want to emulate 'these people' the same welcoming attitude as those who in reading all this can say with utter confidence that there is no way in hell they will grow up to be like us.


Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
May 25, 2007 - 03:31pm PT
A wonderful thread (started by Roger's whimsy) which probs deeply at what matters about climbing. It has kept me slightly interested in the SuperTopo Forum these days were nothing of substance seemed to be produced.

I have a perspective similar to what Peter went of about initially, climbing has never been "my life" like physics has been, it has always been a "hobby." Yet I believe that I did care deeply about the standard, and the ethics and the history (which wasn't history then, it was the scene then). Style mattered and style is not difficult to describe, at least not as difficult as "ethics" is. And style matters because it is a choice which can put considerable risk on the climber. This is something that did not escape me back then, or now.

In another thread on Arrowhead Arete we learn that the very talented Mark Powell broke his ankle and never returned to his previous level of climbing. That is a very concrete example of choosing to climb in a particular style and the consequence of not quite pulling it out, it ended a career, essentially. That sort of consequence can never be taken lightly, and especially when your whole existence is defined by the sport. While I was never in that category, I can totally relate to it.

The commitment to a particular style of climbing was something I picked up on very early, and accepted. If you can't pull the climb off in the style of the FA, or better, then you have no business doing the climb. Don't go up on El Cap if you are going to retreat and plug your descent full of bolts! (wasn't that in a Chouinard catalog somewhere?). That can be limiting, but it made me a better climber, which is not a statement about my technical capability.

When climbing becomes defined as merely the accomplishment of a level of difficulty, then we loose a lot. "Pushing" the limits of climbing is not necessarily the only ends, though the popularization, and the subsequent commercialization of climbing as a sport have changed many things over the years. As a sport, climbing must become safe and the risks then become failure to perform at a particular level rather than pulling climbs off in style, with commitment.

Just my view... but this all played out on the stage which was Yosemite Valley, as it did elsewhere. Only time will tell, we are still too close to be perceive what has enduring value and what was just a passing fad. But though we may care deeply about what that legacy will be, we are powerless now to shape it, for that time has passed and the deeds have been done. We can only go on now with our own memories and serve as examples, those who still are a part of the climbing community, to the people now writing the history after ours.
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