Hot Henry changed climbing!


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Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Mar 24, 2013 - 02:13pm PT
Meastro Bump...

Social climber
Some Rehab in Bolivia
Mar 24, 2013 - 02:15pm PT


mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Mar 24, 2013 - 02:46pm PT
Severe Steve bump ahead!

Credit: mouse from merced

May result in tired damage!

Thanks on a Sunday morning, guy!

Mar 25, 2013 - 02:37am PT
Locker, thanks dude! That vid is awesome!
steve shea

Mar 25, 2013 - 11:01am PT
That was a good vid. And Bob is right Henry changed climbing for me. In 76 or 77 Henry spent part of the summer climbing on Independence Pass in Co. I climbed with Henry a fair bit. We did a lot of the classic established routes. He was a great climber but the drinkups after were very memorable as well and part of his climbing day, just like brushing his teeth as he said in the vid. Henry and I tried Bicentennial Roof a few times, unclimbed at the time. On one attempt it was my turn to lead and I dislodged a huge chunk of rock directly toward Henry. It was part of a flake allowing a rest before getting on with the difficulties. Two other routes pass by the flake. I had been by it dozens of times over the years with no sign that it would come off. Well on that day it did and missed Henry by centimeters. We had both sufficiently soiled our britches and decided that was enough for that day. Retired to the bar early that day. There were a lot of old aid climbs around so one day we went up to try Dean's Day Off an old 1 pitch A2 crack. Henry led it barefoot. It thins out to a seam at the crux and he used #1 stoppers and crackn'ups for pro. He was up there a long time slowly but smoothly moving up and fiddling pro. We had been climbing lots of 5.11 and 5.10 and he looked no different on this. When he got up and set the anchors he said calmly that was solid 5.12 and it was hard. I went up next then Pat Adams. At the time there were very few claimed 5.12's around. I think John Long and Lynn Hill did one and that was it. Kind of a historical climb because it was an early .12 breaking into a new grade, barefoot, on sight, no falls, retreats or even concerned facial expressions. The pro was not very confidence building either. It was for me the most incredible display of rock climbing I had seen and quintessential Henry. I seem to remember he went barefoot most of the time to keep his feet tough. I tried barefooting after that summer with Henry. I was actually making good progress with it on climbs and going barefoot all the time to build up my feet. Then one day stepped on broken glass, got a massive cut. That was it, no more barefooting for me. Henry was very solid and calculated in his progess forward. Once he he moved up he stayed up. Not much up and down working out moves. He did that in his head then made the move and stayed there, barefoot.

Mar 25, 2013 - 11:22am PT
I have a copy somewhere of the "Wide World of Sports" video and besides "The Strand", I thought he also soloed "Dreams of White Horses". I was a beginning climber at the time and was completely inspired by Henry.
Dingus McGee

Social climber
Mar 25, 2013 - 11:24am PT
yeah Steve Shea,

that was back in day when everyone rated their hard piece of work 5.12. And at this time Henry rated Mr. Clean solid 5.11 and used 3 pitches to cover 300 feet. Many of us then said no move was harder than 5.9 but some people insist on calling it 5.11-.

Nowdays not very many people put 5.15c on their hard piece of work.

Conclusion: If Henry was much better than you, you would idolize him to max. But Don Peterson said to me, "He's barely better if any than the rest of us." Having climbed with Henry I might add he was a publicity seeker and route stealer with little explorative skills to find his own projects.

steve shea

Mar 25, 2013 - 11:35am PT
Hey Dingus thanks for the comments. I idolize no one, A. B, my comments are in the context of my time climbing with Henry that summer long ago. I do not know personally of a dark side with route stealing etc. Could've happened I do not know or care at this point. How's Vedauwoo warming up yet? -6F here in Jackson this am. Going to COR if it warms up spring is here in the Northern Rockies. BTW John long and Lynn Hill did Dean's Day Off not long after I think they agreed with the .12 rating, not sure. Also this was not the latter 70's. this was earlier. I don't know about the front range, we were provincial, but there were NO .12's in our neck of the woods. Wunsch, Erickson, John L, Lynn and many other top climbers of the day tried their hand on Independence and still no .12's but for Largo/Hill and Henry. But Henry was barefoot and different. I don't know much about rock standards after. I concentrated on alpine climbing and left for the mountains.
Dingus McGee

Social climber
Mar 25, 2013 - 11:53am PT

From my perception during that time I feel very certain that Henry did not set the standards whatsoever in the latter seventies. Steve Hong clearly closed out the competition from any nibblers of this title.

Vedauwoo I suppose as normal is cold and windy. Seldom go there. I have been putting routes up at Guernsey State Park. Undisputably the warmest place in the state. We already had a 74F day and when you add 20F for sunny next to the rock with no wind then you have a place too hot--but it felt good. Here is the area we are working on:

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
Mar 25, 2013 - 12:58pm PT
Whoa! he certainly inspired me. If he wasn't setting standards, he certainly was opening up peoples eyes by going to places all around the world that we'd never even heard of and knocking off most of their classic test pieces in amazing style.

I know there was some talk of him being a "trust funder", don't know if that's true or not, but in my eyes that didn't diminish his amazing list of hard climbs.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Mar 25, 2013 - 01:13pm PT
In my view, Henry had more energy and perhaps financial resources than most everyone at the time. It is true what Dingus McGee and Don Peterson say about him above. But as we all know, a great deal of success is due to just being there, being productive. He was as competitive as a rugby player, openly so, and scornful too and even a little spacey. But he was very funny and I guess a good injection of new blood at the time.

Trad climber
Elk Creek, Idaho
Mar 25, 2013 - 02:27pm PT
Tributes and praise! ... a paragon thread for the ST classics archive.

Any illumination pertaining to Henry's bodyweight in his most vital climbing years?

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Mar 25, 2013 - 02:41pm PT
HH climbed a few years ago with my brother, in Squamish. He remarked "I'm climbing as well as I ever did. There's just more of me.

I suspect there's a lot of us that can relate to that comment. The on-sight free-solo of Steck-Salathe, and swooping in to pick off Fish Crack particularly opened my eyes. Bob is right. He did, indeed, change climbing for me.

This thread started when I was incarcerated at Taft, so I missed it the first time. Thanks to those who bumped.


Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Mar 25, 2013 - 02:42pm PT
Dingus....I've climbed with both Don Peterson and Henry. To pararaphrse from a Presidential debat....Don, you're no Henry Barber- not even close.
Henry did rub a lot of people the wrong way, perhaps that's why some won't give him his due.
Dingus McGee

Social climber
Mar 25, 2013 - 03:24pm PT

it sounds like you were one of these people,

Conclusion: If Henry was much better than you, you would idolize him to max

And you could not see how good Don was??
steve shea

Mar 25, 2013 - 03:32pm PT
Jennie, he was lean but as Largo said up thread not very athletic looking. They way he/we sucked down the suds it's a wonder anything got climbed. Henry reminds me of Greg Lowe. Greg was a very talented rock climber the best of the Lowes. Greg's and Henry's mental approach was similar. The rock had no chance, it was already climbed in their minds.
Alan Rubin

Mar 25, 2013 - 03:35pm PT
I have to take exception with Dingus's comments---at least the undertone if not the specific facts.

As one who has known Henry since fairly early in his career and climbed with him during that period though was never a close friend, I think that I have some degree of perspective on his personaility and contributions.

While in the days of Henry's prime, as in most periods of climbing history, there were others of a similar level of ability who made major contributions, there are usually those, such as Henry, who's "total package" make them stand out from the others. While Steve Hong, and others, made major climbs and were undoubtedly comparably proficient on rock, most of their climbing tended to be localized to specific areas and or styles, while Henry made his "mark" not only across the country, but overseas as well, on ice and alpine routes as well as rock climbs, solo as well as roped. Yes, maybe because of his personality and "professionalism" he received more media exposure than some of his more "camera shy" peers, but this factor is in itself very significant in assessing his impact on the overall climbing community---as one won't have much of an overall impact if one's abilities and contributions are not known beyond a small circle of friends. During the same time frame similar comments can be made regarding Pete Livesey in the UK. So, yes Henry wasn't the only top climber in the '70s, far from it, but he was a, if not THE, standard setter.

As for Dingus's other comments--as I noted above, he was a publicity seeker, but so what, this aspect of his personality in no way undercuts his actual accomplishments.
As far as his being a "... route stealer with little explorative skills to find his own projects". Well, maybe he "stole" some routes on occasion (though that concept, especially in the days before large expenditures for bolting projects, is always quite questionable)but the lack of explorative skills part is just pure nonsense, as anyone familiar with his routes in the northeast can attest.

As Pat and others stated in the earlier incarnation of this thread, Henry is far from a perfect person, as all of us are, but this thread isn't suggesting that he be sainted, it is only about recognizing his impact as a climber on other climbers of his and subsequent generations. I've never "idolized" Henry, I haven't always agreed with him, but I have always acknowledged and admired his climbing prowess and the very real impact he has had upon our sport.
Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
Mar 25, 2013 - 03:55pm PT
What impresses me is when people try to do things that no one has ever tried to do, particularly when it's dangerous and psychologically intimidating. Henry Barber's one of the guys who pushed the envelope.
Dingus McGee

Social climber
Mar 25, 2013 - 05:08pm PT
Don Paul,

Henry did push some envelopes. Here is one example. It was 1975, upon my leaving I meet a guy heading to the Scab Boulder in the BH Needles. "Holy Sh#t, the man of the mags is here", my partner J Slitcher whispers. At this time I know nothing of H and have to ask for details.

After some beers in the Parking lot the newsboy hatted gentleman returns to the parking lot. Another friend of mine shows up and wants me to boulder with him. While at Scab he reads the latest entry into the Scab register, "These B1's are Bullshit", H. Barber. The following line was immediately added that read, "Then go try Thimble." Ah, Henry never pushed that envelope. Yes, he could talk the walk. And it seems you guys are more than willing to talk his walk.

The next day I was to boulder with John Gill. Can I keep a secret? Was I an authority on B1 ratings? Gill wanted to know what I though of the ratings. Gill ask what this fellow looked like and said he would like to have a chat with him. Henry apologizes? I felt like John was hedging when he said, "Sort of", to me.

Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
Mar 25, 2013 - 05:33pm PT
I never met the guy. I know people rarely live up to the legends people create about them. I can forgive people for being egotists, or for chasing publicity. Maybe its because I was never in the game, just climbed for my own reasons and never needed to be the best. But that spirit, that just because no one else can do this, doesn't mean I can't - is a really inspiring idea.
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