Old Geezers! (Yes you!) Write up your FA Stories and tidbits


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Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 4, 2007 - 12:40am PT
A number of years back I thought of creating a First Ascender Registry where first ascent parties could record their thoughts, feelings, ethics and experience of their climb. It would also be a resource so in the future, when we're all dust, future generations might look back and understand why you ran it out, why you rap bolted, and why you do or do not want your route to be changed in the future as ethics evolve/devolve. It almost got off the ground at RC.Com but the devil was in the details.


I would definately suggest this to all the first ascenders of routes covered by supertopo. In the route beta section of supertopo, post a few tibits or a story of your route. How you felt about it, what ethics went into it. Anything. Make the history more alive.

Also, before you get even more senile, write up some stories and tidbits of various routes you created. Doesn't have to be a publishable epic. Just interesting and historical stuff like gets posted on supertopo all the time. Historians will google it later. Also contact Chicken Skinner (Ken Yager) for all historical and hysterical yosemite route info. He's doing a museum and it includes information. I'm exhausted, somebody post his address.

This is a unique sport in that the pioneers are still around. Tell us what you thought and what you think. It's a somewhat unique opportunity in the history of a sport where the myths and realitiies can actually be compared right from the horses mouths.


Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Jun 4, 2007 - 01:13am PT
Please, Michael;...it's just a climb; Friendship goes WAY beyond the silliness of climbing, and you know it. AND , we have been friends since you were 14...not 15....(Get your facts straight.....). I still consider you my friend, and always will;....I learned what it was like to be a climber from you;....and on that foundation, I have been able to go all over the world climbing and have a blast. I owe alot to you and all that you shared with me and taught me over the years. But climbing is just that;...climbing;...and friends are much more;...don't kid yourself. Stingray is just another climb on a cold, dusty piece of rock out in the middle of nowhere. You have climbed so many rad climbs;......it's just a rock. I've done a fair bit climbing myself;...it's only rock. Your friend. Todd Gordon.

Jun 4, 2007 - 01:14am PT

You pinned it out to make it go? hahahaha

Oh man .....
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jun 4, 2007 - 01:28am PT
I heard that the geezers, young and old, are all over on RC.com.
john hansen

Jun 4, 2007 - 02:01am PT
It's amazing the legends that hang out on this site,,, .

My best FA was an eighty foot 5.9 at the Indian Springs turnoff going up Hwy 80 to Tahoe. We used to go up there alot and work out on top rope.
There was a face off to the left that was way more wild than the little fourty foot slab we practised on, but after climbing that little face a hundred time's ,I figured I was ready to lead this thing.
It took us fifteen minutes to make it the one hundred feet over to the base of the climb thru the brush.
There were two paralell cracks leaning up to the left for about twenty five feet. I got a couple pieces in and headed out right and up across a broken area to a solid looking flake another ten feet up.
When I got to that flake it moved when I touched it,, there would be no protection here...
So, up 40 feet I'm looking at a ground fall, with another 40 feet to go.
For some reason I really wanted to get this FA on my home crag.
We had no 'Friend's' or TCU's ,, just nuts... pitons wern't allowed at that time. I got up to a spot ten feet from the end and I joined three totally sketch pieces together, with no chance of holding a fall. I went for it and made it.

Last time I was up there the practice slab was grid bolted, and my climb had six bolts...
with a bolt on that final move , it is pretty safe
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Jun 4, 2007 - 11:44am PT
"Workable state,"...hmmm, say no more.

a luxury Malibu rehabilitation treatment facility
Jun 4, 2007 - 12:06pm PT
Chuck and I drove to the cliff. He asked me which crack we should try. I pointed to a line that looked interesting. We hiked up to it, uncoiled the rope and racked up. Chuck led the first pitch. I led the second pitch. Chuck led through to the easy slabs at the top, belayed me up and asked me what I wanted to name the climb. I came up with a name that was mildly suggestive, yet captured the climbs' character. Chuck asked me how hard I thought it was. I shugged my shoulders but said that I was a little gripped on my lead. Chuck said he was too and then asked me what we should do next. Off we went.

I don't know if the climb has ever been repeated or if anybody else even knows about it. They probably do - it was over 25 years ago after all. It doesn't matter - at least not to me. I only hope that if it's ever repeated that they enjoy it as much as I did.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Jun 4, 2007 - 12:12pm PT
Been there.

Done that.

Can't remember most of it.

John was your spelling of "ledgends" deliberate? lol
dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Jun 4, 2007 - 01:09pm PT
No Mike, no wire brushes ever. I like loose grit, why mess with it!

p.s. "Randy Vogel has me pinning and widening it to make it free." It's history now, Randy has a pretty good memory.
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Latitute 33
Jun 4, 2007 - 01:53pm PT
I just love these hysterical [or were these to be historical?] tidbits.

Wow! Didn't know I had Mike doing anything (except crediting him with the FA on TR).

And that vicious Todd Gordon guy, stay away from him. A real back stabber.

And me? A route stealing, guidebook profiteer, hasbeen.

Maybe a group hug would help with all the bad feelings.


Gym climber
Jun 4, 2007 - 02:11pm PT
I'll bite and give a brief story of an FA over on Glacier Point Apron.

It was the daze just before we realized that motorized drills were in fact not legal by the words of the Wilderness Act. David had scoped a route, and I was game to give it a go.

Just left of Anchors Away, David started up towards a small, left facing overlap. 30 feet up, he feels it's time to place the first bolt, which goes in pretty fast when you've got a BullDog.

Clipping in and climbing higher, he comes to a point about 50' up. He's got to make a couple of moves to get up to the overlap. David would have placed a bolt just there, but Anchors Away comes in from the right and there's a bolt close by. Instead of giving the appearance of a cram job by placing a bolt within 10 feet of the adjoining route, David makes the moves up (5.10-) to the overlap. I still believe I could have pulled in enough slack to keep him off the ground should he have skated.

Up to a stance, he places the second bolt under the overlap. He's now about 60' up. Climbing smooth, David underclings and balances up and out the feature. Finding a good stance about 15 feet up, David contemplates another drill session. Instead I yell up "Hey, you're not going to drill there, are you?" You see, David was climbing so smooth I thought the moves to be about 5.7 (when in fact the climbing is .10+).

He looks down, then without drilling he heads up. Stopping at the next stance, he's now a good 25' above the last bolt. Still feeling good and strong, he begins to continue on, but backs down to the stance to sink in the third bolt of the pitch. Good Idea!

With the 3rd in place, he heads up again, climbing out another 25-30 feet before placing the last of the four bolts on the pitch. The belay is about 150 feet up, on level with the second belay of Anchors. Four bolts placed in stance and the pitch was up in less than 45 minutes; 5.10d.

Seconding, I quickly realize that I was sandbagged on the ground. 25 feet up, you make 5.8 moves to get to the first bolt. After unclipping the second bolt, I snake out the moves under the overlap, solid .10+ up to the stance, then smeary .10c type moves to make it to the third bolt. I was shaking, even though the rope to me came from above.

I got up to the third bolt and couldn't believe that David actually climbed past this point before returning to place the bolt. Madman on FA energy. Keep away from that stuff.

Moving up to the last bolt, the wall steepens and I wonder how on Earth I'm going to make these last moves to the belay. My question is answered in stone, beautiful incuts on the Apron appear and the headwall yields to gorgeous .10b climbing.

Now it's my turn to take the lead and I try not to change the nature of the route. Right off the belay the climbing is stiff and I manage to get in a bolt good and high. More .10+ climbing gains a small dike heading up to a polished slab of granite.

A bit up the pitch I drop the drill and watch it fall 60' (the length of the tag line), where it finds a sudden stop. This ejects the battery, which continues to hail down the stone, crashing into a bizzillion pieces at the base. Farther up the dike, the second battery fades and we rap down, leaving the drill standing out of the rock with the bit sunk half way into the hole. Funny that.

Returning with a feshy, I head up again. Trying to match the bold runs of the previous pitch, I take several headers while attempting a mantle half-way up the pitch. What a rush, falling past the bolt where a BullDog hangs by FiFi.

After 3 or 4 whippers, David takes over (he's so damn impatient!). Climbing to the dike's end, David steps over to the polished slab, climbs a few moves and blows off. One or two tries later, he finally realizes a bolt will give him some courage. So the last bolt goes in and he squeaks up the final section of slab to a handsome ledge.

On the follow, it took me two falls and some light tension to get started on the slab. At the top we agree; hard, friggin' hard.

I guess we missed the cut-off point, the latest Free Climbs book lists our climb on the bottom of the page with only the name, grade, and s simple arrow pointing up: Slamdance, 5.12.

When you put up a route, you often wonder how others find the climbing. In the years since the FA, I've wandered past Slamdance a few times. Usually there are poot slings on one, if not all, of the four bolts of the first pitch. Past there, the bolts of the 2nd pitch look lonely.

Has anybody nabbed the second?
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 4, 2007 - 05:16pm PT
Hey K-Bro

I've looked at ShamDance a thousand times and wondered about it. I'd be very surprised to hear about an ascent although the stone looks beautiful. The dike looks sweet. I've always intended to TR it from the top down but never got around to it.



Gym climber
Jun 4, 2007 - 08:51pm PT
m'Bro Karl,
The first pitch is a real beauty, but a bit bold (as noted). Somebody stole the hanger off the first bolt, I'll be replacing that soon...then we can fire it up! I'm kinda wondering what the 2nd pitch feels like nowadays.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 4, 2007 - 10:43pm PT
The rock probably feels the same, we probably feel old and frightened!



Social climber
The West
Jun 5, 2007 - 01:12am PT
wish I was old enough to have (bump) stories
The Warbler

the edge of America
Jun 5, 2007 - 04:16am PT
Karl really does have a good idea, even though most people aren't taking him seriously, I'll start with the last, and maybe the best Valley FA I've done.

Sometime in the mid seventies, after Bridwell did Straight Jacket on Basket Dome, he told me about a long straght in crack system on the wall right of that route and near the arete of a massive right facing arch that dominates the southeast face of Basket Dome. He was really excited about it at the time, and said he thought you might be able to faceclimb to it, or that I might be able to.

Went up the Snow Creek switchbacks 30 years later to scope it out. Schwacked almost all the way to the base and saw potential for a start. Couple days later walked up Tenaya Canyon and way up the talus past Half Dome with some glasses and my camera. Began to see a line from the lowest point of Basket Dome up through some disconnected features, to three giant ramps that switchbacked nicely toward the crack system Bridwell told me of. From the end of that three hundred foot crack a weakness appeared to lead for five or six lower angle pitches to the top of the dome. Careful inspection of the photos I took that day led me to believe a route was there, and that it might not even be that hard.

There is a route there now, but it's kinda hard.

It took my partner Sean Shannon and I three trips to the Valley and some twelve days of climbing, bolting and working the route, before it was ready for a ground up ascent,

Not a ground up "trad style" ascent but more of a redpoint. With a trad flavor. We did start at the ground and climbed up, for two days, on the final ascent.

We tried to do a true ground up ascent, but what I was hoping to be 5.9 or easy 5.10 pitches at the start turned out to be four good 5.11 pitches in a row. Thin face crux on the pitch off the ground. Pure crack in a bombay flare, tight hands to rattley fingers to offsize pod on pitch two. Arches style thin, relentless, 11.d edging on pitch three. A tricky routefinding problem with a vertical step on pitch four.Two days of climbing and the hard looking part was still way the f#ck up there.

Rapped to Valley, went to SAR cache, got six static ropes from Werner and a ride back to our car at Porcupine Flat, hiked back to the rim, bivied, and rapped 1000 ft down the top of the climb to check it out, and determine if it would be doable. Living in San Diego with a wife and kids kinda takes the adventure ability down a notch or two.

Looked good...real good, but hard. The "hand cracks" Bridwell told me about were arrow cracks, with a few fingerlocks here and there. The rock was excellent, the position the cracks took spectacular.

Returned a year later, rapped down and did the upper five pitches, starting at the last belay on the crack, perched on the lip of a forty foot roof at the end of the massive 600 ft arch. What was to be pitch fifteen was 5.11 face right off the belay followed by linking small corners and arches up a rolling slab to a splitter crack finish and a good ledge.

Pitch sixteen meanders after a steep lieback flake, to a mantle, that places you below an 11d slab with three bolts, some dime edges and not much else, that gets you to a flake system, the belay comes after 180 ft.

Pitch seventeen has two easy 5.11 sections and ends liebacking a four inch thick flake separated from the wall by three or four inches. Super clean. The belay is standing on the flake where it becomes a thin ledge with a deep clean crack behind it.

The flake system continues up and right toward the summit of Basket Dome, but pitch eighteen follows the plumb line of a Tuolumne style black streak. All bolts, one cam in an overlap near the top of the 10.a pitch. Sweet slab climbing, perfect rock, way up there.

The belay below the last pitch is positioned below the steepest bulge in that zone and the climber mantles a big ol diorite knob with a stopper behind it, clips a bolt and does some thin 11a moves in a stemmy bowl to immediately easing rock and a big belay tree nearly at the dome's summit.

On the drive home we decided to do whatever we had to do to link these upper five pitches with the lower four we did a year before.

Our third effort we allowed ten or twelve days in the Valley. The ramps I had hoped to follow in the center section of the route were ruled out due to a thirty foot long, eight foot high blade of vibrating stone sitting with its ass end on the ramp and its snout cantilevered out in space. We found a route around this obstacle, that led us up into the bottom of the huge arch, and happily to a perfect bivi ledge atop pitch eight.

From our previous high point of four pitches we did a short 5.8 pitch to the base of a vertical straight in, straight up thin crack -120 ft 11.d. A desperate flared barndoor lieback start to pumpy fingers and hands, then up a steep stem corner with tiplocks to an exposed flat belay ledge positioned in the center of a 200 foot long arete.

Here the crack of pitch six becomes a ramp/hand traverse that turns the arete and leads back into a deep bowling corner that is the start of the huge arch above. This 5.10 pitch finishes on a handrail traverse with exciting distance between cams to a stance below roofs and a vertical corner.

Pitch eight (11b) liebacks a thin crack to hands through a roof, then up a steep leaning offsize with a bomber edge to more roofs, and finally the bivi ledge.

Two gnarled scrub oaks, each with a sleeping spot below, share an inspiring view of the Northwest Face of Half Dome, and a view straight up the unclimbed arch.

Pitch nine downclimbs a ramp to the left, down mantles a ledge, easy 5.11, to an easy ramp that rises to the arete of the arch and an airy three bolt belay.

Pitch ten is bouldery hard 5.11 moves sideways off the belay to a 1 inch thick flake that miraculously winds its way forty feet up the steep wall toward the three hundred foot crack system. The belay is atop the end of the flake.

Pitch eleven is the route's crux. Desperate face climbing left off the belay reaches the crack after twenty five feet. Good jams and fingerlocks disappear after twenty feet, and the angle steepens.

At this point we made a decision that will surely be controversial. The crack would take A1 arrows or A3 stoppers. At the time the 00 cams had not come out, and even those would have been hard or impossible to place in the leaning crack. We bolted it, rather than fix pins. Given the length of the route and the diffculty of the climbing on the pitch (12b) in comparison to the majority of the route's climbing, we decided it was the way to go.

After the pitch's 12b sequency, super thin crux, are forty feet of sustained 5.11 high body tension moves ending at a diorite knob that allows a shakeout. More thin crack leads to a band of giant holes that march across the face in a quartz band. Rather than follow the crack into the holes, the route exits left to the far left hole, a six foot high mini cave with a sandy floor.

At this point two parallel cracks are leaning at about a 30 degree angle, roughly paralleling the arete of the arch that was exited far below, and inching closer and closer to the edge as they rise. The cracks become unclimbable where they pass through the bulge above the holes, but some thirty feet higher again become climbable.

Fortunately, the far left hole belay positions the leader within a few steep moves of a dike that pops 3 inches out of the wall. A mantle places the boots on the lip of "The Crack Sniffin Dike". An exciting sixty foot 5.11 traverse brings the leader back to the coveted crack and a two bolt belay.

Pitch thirteen (The Hangnail Pitch) begins with good fingers for twenty feet to the end of that crack. At this point the crack system is double, so the leader moves down and right (5.11) to the neighboring splitter. Here his feet are about ten feet from the lip of what has become a forty foot roof below (the arch). Eighty feet of continuous, leaning 11d arrow crack with 00 cam pro brings the climber to the belay and even closer to the roof's lip. This amazing, laser straight splitter is the only flaw in the slab for nearly two hundred feet to the left. The leader should carry some prussiks on this lead as a fall and a pulled piece could mean a Touching the Void situation.

Pitch fourteen is easy 5.10 and becomes almost horizontal at it's end, with the leader's feet at crack level and protection placed by leaning over and peering into the crack at your feet. The belay is at a point where the four pitch crack system, "The Bridwell Cracks", finally disappears around the lip of the arch's roof.

The last 5 pitches I've already described.

Every belay on this route has two stainless bolts. All bolt protection is stainless, 90 bolts total. Six pitches have no protection bolts. Three pitches have all bolt protection. Most of the bolts on this route were placed on the lead, but not all. Some hero could have certainly done the route ground up, but we were happy to do it as we did. It's a good, hard, classic route, Great variety, quality rock, awesome positions and exposure, a line that starts at the very bottom of the dome and follows a mostly obvious route to the summit.

The final ascent we did with a bivi atop pitch eight. The days were getting longer and hotter, and we didn't want to be on the crux pitch in the midday heat. Because we had been working the route, we were able to stock water on the ledges, making hauling easier. We bivied on the Valley rim at a beautiful site behind Basket Dome near the stream that falls down it's East gully. An hour descent put us at the base, and we waited til 11:30 to allow the 11d third pitch to be in the shade. Arrived at the bivi just at dark. Summited the next day at sunset. No falls.

The way to do this route is in a day if possible. Bivi on the rim, leave your sleeping gear, crack it to the base, send the route and return to camp, a fifteen minute walk from the topout. Rapping off above the dike pitch would be tricky, so it's a committing challenge for a one day ascent. Spring has the advantage of water in camp and at the base. Car to camp is two hours. The topo should be in Reid's new guide. The cracks and the upper part of the route are easily seen from Mirror Lake near Basket Dome's skyline.

"Milestone" V 5.12b 19 pitches FA Sean Shannon, Kevin Worrall May, 2004
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 5, 2007 - 11:04am PT
Thanks for that story Kevin.

I'm not sure everybody understands what goes into creating a route like that. You've provided one vision of how to make your own adventure and contribute to future adventures as well. (a blessing for cliimbers who get to enjoy without years of hiking, scouting, drilling and such)

Guess there's no gumbie route on Basket Dome! That place is wicked.




Gym climber
Jun 5, 2007 - 12:18pm PT
Now there's an FA story...yikes. What a colossal amount of work.
I like your descriptions, "Easy 5.11..." After Hairline, I wonder
just what that means.

Good on ya!

San Fran Cisco
Jun 5, 2007 - 02:25pm PT

and an old link for reading pleasure:


Boulder climber
Jun 5, 2007 - 10:22pm PT
Ask Kevin about bolts poppin' with Meyers, and how the rope feels in the hands on the slide down.
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