Inspiration Buttress 5.8 Cathedral Rocks Leaning Tower FA 1965 Joe Faint, Mike Borghoff Pat Pinnacle 5.7 Lower Merced Canyon, North Pat and Jack Pinnacle FA 1958 Wayne Merry, Mike Borghoff Reed's Leeds 5.10b El Capitan Southwest Face, Base Moby Dick to S. Butt. FA 1963 Wally Reed, Mike Borghoff Phantom Pinnacle, Outside Face 5.10d Cathedral Rocks Phantom Pinnacle FA 1950 Bill Dunmire, Bob Swift FFA 1957 Rich Calderwood, Mike Borghoff
I met Mike a few times, never had the chance to climb with him. He seemed like a nice guy to me. He must have made an impression on me, because I can still clearly see his face... one of the Yosemite brethren.
I never met him, but I remember reading his articles in Summit magazine as a young climber. A lot of climbing writing is pretty egotistical: the author, either directly or through the indirection of transparently false modesty, is frequently in the business of selling his or her superiority.
Borghoff, as I recall, was genuinely in the opposite camp. His articles, always humorous and sometimes hilarious, seemed to focus on his inadequacies and the amusing consequences thereof. At a time when many climbers were regularly able to detect cosmic significance in their endeavors, Borghoff offered personal insights into the everyday epics, big and small, sometimes entirely internal, that make up so much of the immediate experience of climbing.
For someone raised on the romantic writings of Gaston Refuffat in Etoiles et Tempetes, someone whose efforts to glide effortlessly up the rock, in imitation of the pictures of the master in Neige et Roc, were continually defeated by the inconvenient necessity of pulling like hell just to stay on, Borghoff offered a chuckle and, far more importantly, a big sigh of relief. There was, after all, room in the sport for those who couldn't keep their mountain-guide sweaters immaculate and their separation from the rock impeccable.
"You can grunt and heave, sweat and strain, wear yourself out, and unless you simply forget about it and step up, you won't even get off the ground."
"It's so good and wonderful and so other-earth-other-sky transcendentally different in Yosemite that I could spend a dozen karmic cycles there and not exhaust the place."
"Excluding Royal Robbins (who is in a brilliant class all by himself, a Stirling Moss, an index of perfection) Valley climbers are brooding misfits who know only too well what awaits them down in the San Joaquin Valley and beyond."
“When I first hit Yosemite in 1957, I was a mountain trooper from Colorado, as straight as a lodgepole sapling and celibate to boot. Fortunately, two derelicts then in garbage-can residence soon put me straighter with vicious amounts of Red Mountain wine. When not busy laying the groundwork for the Golden Age (that's about all they were laying), it seemed to my neophyte eye they stayed drunk. Why not? Even many years later women were unknown to that distant world... The only thing down at Camp 4 in the Elder Days was dog sh#t and Tri-Delts surrounded by their betrailered parents, about as accessible as the Crab Nebula. So we had beatoff contests at the bivouac ledges, drenched our sleeping bags in semen, got drunk and indulged in towering fireside smut."