What's the deal with Fish Crack?

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bob d'antonio

Trad climber
Taos, NM
Sep 16, 2007 - 03:20pm PT
John, green shoenairds. I climbed with Henry right after the Breach Wall deal. He had these little inserts (carbon fiber) for putting into eb's for more edging power.

We were climbing in northern New Mexico at the time waiting for sun to hit the cliff around 10 am... Henry looks at his watch and says...it must be happy hour somewhere, knocks down a few beers then climbs a new 5.11c/d r thin seam/crack on sight with about three pieces of gear in 70 feet.

We named it Life in the Fast Lane.

He was/is a gifted climber.
Raydog

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
Sep 16, 2007 - 03:23pm PT
RE:
"the Breach Wall deal"

wonder how many remember that?
I'd like to hear more...
bob d'antonio

Trad climber
Taos, NM
Sep 16, 2007 - 03:37pm PT
Ray...Henry got a bad rap on that one. Very few climbers could have gotten Rob down alive. He got lost on the decent after the fall and had to bushwack through unknown terrain (for Him) and finally got help after wandering lost for a few days avoiding lions and the such and getting help for Rob. Henry stayed until Rob was in the hospital and secure.
Raydog

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
Sep 16, 2007 - 04:03pm PT
sorry for thread drift here Nefarius,

RE:
"Henry stayed until Rob was in the hospital and secure."

that's amazing since the "word" was so contrary to that but somehow I'm not surprised by the distortion. wow.

Tahoe climber

Trad climber
a dark-green forester out west
Sep 16, 2007 - 06:57pm PT
Thread drift, maybe, but fascinating, besides.
Would someone tell the whole story, please?
Raydog

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
Sep 16, 2007 - 07:31pm PT
I'll start - from what I remember.

The scene - Breach Wall Mt Kilimanjaro.
Henry Barber, Rob Taylor(?) go down there to make an ascent.
There is an accident, and a controversy about responsible action ensues - it goes national. Henry Barber's reputation is challenged.

ok, someone else?

Bob?
J. Werlin

climber
Cedaredge
Sep 16, 2007 - 07:32pm PT
The Breach

For only $2.26 you can read the whole tale. Kind of a classic. But Barber certainly gets cast in a dark light.

Bob D' maybe it's time for a Hot Henry thread. Let some of the old valley boys rant/vent.

Sorry for the drift.

Fish crack. In '91 I climbed a bit with Chris Gill at the City. Later, I got a card from him saying he had flashed the Fish Crack thus winning a 6-pack on a bet with Henry.
Maysho

climber
Truckee, CA
Sep 17, 2007 - 01:26am PT
Nefarius,

Back then Fish crack was often compared to the Cringe when considering the rating. Also a classic case of where ones strengths lie. Back then I was a ninety pounder with precise toes and twig arms. The more technical Fish was a lot easier for me to tackle than the enduro Cringe. But more burly dudes often said the Cringe was easier, and must of encouraged the rating inflation. I led both the same year, 78, each one second try respectively. For me on those "try" meant I fell off once, split and came back weeks or months later and sent it.

For the Cringe, I followed a gym workout Mark and Max gave me. Back when gyms were gyms, I used to be the only tiny white guy straining to push iron around in the Berkeley YMCA basement, getting encouragement from black football dudes, or on school nights in the city, being a minority as a straight guy - lift weights maybe skip the showers at the Y on Golden Gate in the tenderloin.

It paid off and I sent it that spring, first time I used a cam, just one, and 4 #7 hexes. But I stopped at the old anchors, since JB hadn't chopped them yet.

I am psyched to send it with the undercling, next spring if not before, 30 year rematch!

Peter
Oli

Trad climber
Fruita, Colorado
Sep 17, 2007 - 05:13pm PT
To the person starting this thread. When you say you "did laps" on Fish Crack, does that mean you were top-roping? If so, how could you know how hard such a climb was? Or did you sight-lead it and do laps leading? Just curious.

Henry was simply brilliant, and he wasn't in today's magic shoes. He was using some awful Vasque Ascenders. Nor did he have #1 Friends, etc., and it was a much more difficult thing then.

As for "stealing" the route. I will beg to differ with you, my friend, Werner. Is everyone an "as#@&%e" who steps in when someone else goes away? But the fact is, Barber led up to near the top, with rain falling, slipped, and fell about 30 feet. John and Ron attempted the route the next day but didn't succeed. Ron fell 25 or 30 feet on a small stopper wedged between two crystals. John went up and wouldn't commit -- in part because he didn't like the look of that stopper that had kept Ron from going into the river and probably dying. Barber returned the following day and led it. Now it's much easier with Friends and better shoes.

If you will read the account in Wizards of Rock, you will see that John did not at all feel the route was stolen. He sings high praises of Henry, as does and should reflect his own greatness of character.

Pat
LongAgo

Trad climber
Sep 17, 2007 - 07:58pm PT
Hmmm ... seemed at the time (ebs, hex nuts and early stoppers) the rating was less the issue than the protection and resulting sense of doom. I just couldn't get what seemed like adequate pro at a key thin point. Then I fell on the very pro in question, which usually made me feel better (when it held, of course!) but in this case I just got more nervous and mad and admiring of Henry's brain and nervous and ... you know the cycle. After starting the whole thing over and fiddling and fiddling again with the pro, I just went for it at the touchy part and got it, so pooped I nearly came off the higher jugs bvb writes about.

Later, I thought about the rating and concluded, who knows, but compared to Butterballs (a benchmark of the time), ya maybe a grade harder. But what preoccupied me far more was wondering where Henry got his brain, because I assumed he too had iffy pro at a hard section. I took Fish as a mind game of the time and Henry as a mind thriller of the day. So many of his feats seemed more brain than brawn climbs, just as Pat writes, for he didn't do any super work out regime that I knew about anyway. And then there was his barefoot phase ...

For me, the people making the lines on rock are more interesting than the lines themselves. Come to think about it, there is no such thing as a route. It is a complete artifact, a notion in our brains, a topo in a book or website, with meaning only as people called climbers move over the lines with their expectations, hopes, equipment, reactions and counter reactions just as on this thread, all a web of sharing, yaking, or just silent pondering, a neuron hum inside.

Hats off to Henry, then, and whatever buzz Fish made and makes for all following along one or more of his fine, often mind tweaking paths.

Tom Higgins
LongAgo
Raydog

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
Sep 17, 2007 - 08:29pm PT
Tom, Oli, thanks for the posts. You guys rule.
WBraun

climber
Sep 17, 2007 - 08:33pm PT
Pat

There's a lot more to it then the simplistic explanation you're giving. A lot more.

But we'll leave it as that and that's fine since it's history and not that important and we'll take the better road and focus on the good.

And the replies from yourself and Higgins were nice, and yes there's no doubt about it he was a Master of Stone and blew me away as how he could climb some of those hard routes in those shitty ass green horrible shoes.

He probably could have climbed that stuff in roller skates too.
Oli

Trad climber
Fruita, Colorado
Sep 18, 2007 - 02:16am PT
Sorry Werner if I left anything out, but I never knew Henry to "steal" anyone's route. That would, of course, imply someone owned it in the first place. No one owns any line of climbing just because they might have designs on it, though I know some people felt they did own a climb if they, say, discovered it or were trying it first. I suppose there is a certain respect people could pay another party making an effort, but if someone wants to try too then they must be allowed to do so. When I spoke with Bachar about the climb he made a point not to say anything about Henry stealing the route. He only had praise for Henry, and that's probably because he (Bachar) has the right perspective on it, whatever might have seemed strange back then. It would be interesting, though, to know what toes were stepped on back then, just for some little historical context, without saying anything bad about anyone.
Nefarius

Big Wall climber
Fresno, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 18, 2007 - 11:14am PT
As to Oli's question... The route was lead, and then TR'd a number of times. Really, besides the point, however. I have done this with a number of routes, as tons of other people do, and have found this crack to be significantly easier than climbs rated a number of grades lower. Pretty standard day, really - find a hard crack, lead, run a couple of laps, move on to something else. Rinse repeat. Seems a whole lot better than getting stronger in a gym to me.

I was just curious what the history was, etc., having heard there was a re-grading of the thing. With this logic, however, maybe if someone like Kauk walks up and leads the thing, then leaves a solo TR system there and runs some laps on it it becomes easier, huh? That'd be really cool! Next time you see him, can you ask him to do that on some routes on the Captain as it would speed up my schedule for freeing something there?! I'm looking at the West Face, btw (in case you're reading, Ron). Maybe we can get Astroman down to the .10's too so endurance isn't as much of a factor? Thanks, appreciate it.

As far as Henry... I'm not sure when Fish Crack went up, but I saw pics of him on Butterballs, circa 1973 and he wasn't wearing any stiff boots as described above. He was wearing some sort of climbing shoe. Just an observation. I understand the argument about the pro, etc, however, one would have to assume that the other climbs of the era were being put up with the same gear, shoes, style, etc. So that really doesn't pan out.

All things said, in modern times, with modern shoes and gear, I found the crack to be .11c/d at best, in comparison to climbs that went up during the same time. Others, who are supremely more "qualified" than me to throw a grade at this thing agreed, while others thought that climbs significantly harder, in my mind, were easier than FC... What does this say? It says everyone has differing strengths and weaknesses and varying body dimensions.

It's kinda difficult to talk about stuff like this on the net. I think a lot of meaning gets lost. I was basically trying to share my experience and ask other's opinions. Pretty harmless, really... Basically, "Hey, I did this today... Here's my take on it. What did you think?"

Cheers!
scuffy b

climber
The deck above the 5
Sep 18, 2007 - 11:35am PT
I think it's bad news to hear that Fish Crack could be easier
than Kaukulator...because that means Kaukulator, which I actually
want to do, is harder than Fish Crack, which is too hard for me
to think about.
Just rain on my parade, why don't you?
Really, thanks for starting up a good entertaining thread,
Nefarius.

sm
nate

Trad climber
virginia
Sep 18, 2007 - 01:41pm PT
For what it is worth, this spring I walked butterballs and fell once on fish crack. If we are to think of them as similar styles they are not of similar difficulty. Tips w the start and not the aider felt harder than the fish -but it also felt harder than any other 12a in history. So with modern gear if Butterballs is 11c , fish could be 11d/12a, and tips could be 12b ? When you start bringing into play similar climbs from other areas say Leave it to jesus at the new river gorge, crime of the century in squamish, and others (maybe desert climbs) I don't think the fish would stand out as being soft at 12a.
LongAgo

Trad climber
Sep 18, 2007 - 06:24pm PT
For those interested in the guy behind the climb and fireside chat about him:

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.html?topic_id=450677

Tom Higgins
LongAgo

bvb

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Sep 19, 2007 - 02:26am PT
ok, altho i am SO not worthy, i'd just like to chime in with my humble opinon:

if someone scouts a line, then spends a lot of time cleaning it up (a lot of now-classic routes in teh lower merced required HEAVY vegitation removal)...

i thnk they should have a few months to send...at the least, as much time as it took to clean.

seems fair, right?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Sep 19, 2007 - 11:26am PT
I first did Fish Crack with Hugh Herr and remember well why it was so difficult. You have to arrange protection while in a pump inducing rounded layback most of the way up the route, which makes the onsight flash a very demanding prospect. The crack is flared and had lots of irregularities on the inside that shut down any easy slotting. Combine that with being unable to easily pull in and inspect the potential placements and a very limited arsenal of gear (tiny teetering wired hexes) and you have your hands full.
Hugh didn't get it first try without a hang up high. As I cleaned his pro by yanking straight down on the pieces in plain sight from his belay, I would repeat my mentor's mantra. "Hugh, you are a lucky boy," I would drone and move up to the next piece of cheese. Wonder that he was, Hugh came back two seasons later, sans feet, and sent the thing! Absolutely amazing!
Henry was an extraordinary climber beyond any doubt but I think he paid a high price in integrity and friendship to achieve the notoriety and fame that he needed.
Nefarius

Big Wall climber
Fresno, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 19, 2007 - 12:05pm PT
Thanks for sharing all of the cool stories guys!

Goes to show what a wonderful thing cams can be, I guess.

bvb: I'd go along with that. I know this is one of those topics that will get people riled, one way or the other. No one "owns" the route, or even claims to "own" routes, I don't think. However, when you've put some time into cleaning a route and getting it ready to climb, and then some jackass sneaks in and sends the route after your hard work, I can see people, certainly myself, being kinda pissed about it. It's certainly kind of a dick move and not cool.

For this reason, when I am working on something or have found a new area with potential, I keep it a secret. I'll talk about it after they're sent. In the end, I'm sure it's saving someone some pain.
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