A Charlie Porter Apparition

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O.D.

Trad climber
LA LA Land
Topic Author's Original Post - Feb 15, 2008 - 01:11pm PT
On a pleasantly cool morning, early in the Summer of 1973 (or was it 1974?) my climbing buddy (and high school classmate) Randy and I were perched on a belay ledge, mid-way up an obscure route, on an obscure crag, in what had to be backest of the backwaters of the climbing world at that time. We were on one of the granite crack 'n slab climbs found in Little Cottonwood Canyon, a few miles east of Salt Lake City. As we re-racked gear in preparation for the next pitch, we noticed the head of a climber appear over a bulge in the rock below us. It was a hat, actually -- a white beret, which we then observed was worn by a man with curly white hair, white eyebrows, and blonde-white beard. The rest of his clothing was white as well, including shirt, pants, and socks. He had smudges of white powder on his face, and his hands were powdery white. For a couple of provincial schmucks like Randy and I, the appearance of this climber was nothing less than other-worldly.

We were also amazed by how quickly he was moving; Randy commented that his belayer must be literally throwing the rope up the rock to keep pace. The Man wasn't carrying much gear -- a couple of nylon runners and a few 'biners. And a mysterious, powder-covered bag clipped to the back of his swami. He was coming up the same route we were on, which begins with a 5.8 straight-in hand crack and finishes with a couple of pitches of 5.8 smears, knobs and crystals.

But our sense of amazement wasn't limited to his climbing speed, or his somewhat freakish appearance. He deviated a little to the left as he passed our belay, acknowledged our presence with a slight nod, and continued upward. Then, the end of his rope appeared over the bulge below us, while he kept climbing. We were dumbfounded. What the hell happened to his belayer? A major communication fowl-up? Poorly-tied knots? WTF????

The modern reader will no doubt get a good chuckle out of our naivete. In just a few moments, Randy and I -- the quintessential country bumpkins -- were exposed to previously unimaginable concepts, like using gymnastic chalk for climbing, and free-soloing. After we finished our climb, we could hardly wait to head to our local climbing shop to report what we'd seen. "Oh, yeah" one of the guys in the shop said, "that would have been Charlie Porter. I hear he's got a construction job in town for the Summer, and that he's been seen scoping out some of the local crags." Randy and I knew who Charlie Porter was -- he was one of the climbing heroes that snot-nosed high-schoolers like Randy and I absolutely worshiped. We kicked ourselves for not having recognized him, and for having missed a chance to perhaps even chat with him for a few moments.

Here's a photo of Charlie Porter taken in Alaska, in 1976. This is pretty much how he looked when we saw him (sans white beret, white shirt, and chalk dust).

Photo credit: Russ McLean (borrowed from amazon.com)

That brief encounter with Charlie Porter had a lasting impact on me and my climbing. Of course, Randy and I immediately got hold of chalk bags and chalk (which wasn't easy back then) so we could be just like Charlie. Within a couple of years of that encounter, I discovered the joy of free-soloing moderate routes on local crags. I even did a solo climb of the Great White Icicle in Little Cottonwood; probably not the first, but certainly an early solo, using the primitive ice gear of the time. As I pulled over the last bulge of ice at the end of the climb, I clearly recalled the experience of seeing Charlie Porter appear over the bulge of granite, alone, and in complete control.

Even with the power of Google, it's been difficult to determine where Charlie Porter is these days and what he's been up to. That latest info I've been able to find is a reference to his working as a crew member on a boat during a 2001 sailing/climbing expedition to Greenland. The same reference also mentions that he (at the time) had his own sail boat which he kept in the fjord region of southern Chile.

Does anyone have any more recent info on the whereabouts of Charlie Porter?
marky

climber
Feb 15, 2008 - 01:18pm PT
dude's done some fine climbing
Raydog

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
Feb 15, 2008 - 01:26pm PT
neat story!
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Feb 15, 2008 - 01:39pm PT
Last I heard he was sea kayaking somewhere near Tierra Del Fuego.
cmalcolm

Mountain climber
Feb 15, 2008 - 02:44pm PT
That says something when you can't get "Google" info on someone who did so much great climbing and we are still talking and remembering.

Maybe that is how he want's it.

Werner told me Porter, mentioned Angles. When doing the Shield head wall. Be cool to hear that Apparition tale.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Feb 15, 2008 - 04:05pm PT
Ah, now while we've never met and I don't know him, Charlie's exploits have always resonated with me and he was a central driver of my own far, far more limited climbing career. As such, I've always liked to keep tabs on him periodically.

Charlie 'went native' during a trip to Argentina/Chile back in the 80's and has been down there ever since. He's stepped up from kayaks several times and has captained a succession of his own increasingly larger sailboats over the years. For some time he has run a charter service to Patagonian glaciers, South Georgia Island, and around Tierra del Fuego - mainly to scientific and film crews. I suspect this operates as part of the non-profit Patagonia Research Foundation he founded. In short, he's still 'living the dream' in every respect and every bit as well as he did in climbing - and doing his part on global warming to boot. So here you go...





[url="http://www.condesa.org/march-24-burnt-island/" target="new"]The Adventures of the Vessel Condesa[/url]

Burnt Island - March 24th, 2007

... In the Micalvi there is a bar.

When the Micalvi bar is going full tilt, a Babel of languages from around the world is spoken, and the air is rare. For a sailor to be sitting there, he has to have paid his dues, because it ain’t exactly a Sunday sail to get down there in the first place. You don’t need to worry about anyone forgetting how to tie a bowline or anchoring too close to you. One night a few weeks ago was exemplary. We had Isabel Autissier (sp?) multiple single handed ’round the world race winner, author, and French national hero, a little tipsy on pisco sours, and shall we say, open to suggestion. There was this guy Cristophe, who won the Vendee Globe, and so many other sailing rock stars that I won’t bother to enumerate, but that’s just the competitive stuff. Then there were the first people to complete the Northwest Passage in a sailboat, and a whole bevy of Antarctica notables. Charlie Porter lives in Puerto Williams. He is not only a noted Antarctic pioneer, but he was one of the original Yosemite big wall climbers, along with Yvonne Choinard et al. The bullshit is so rarefied that if you are going to compete or contest, you better have at least two solo circumnavigations under your belt, or have performed a self-appendectomy at sea, sans anesthesia, with a Swiss army knife. The precious few at the Micalvi who aren’t sailors are either the staff, or climbers. The climbing in the area is pretty serious too, so all of these people are at the top of their game. Sometimes there is even cross-training, climbers who are sailing to Antarctica to do first ascents. I cannot compete, so I just act humble and cordial while listening the the guy who discovered a new species while scuba diving 400 feet under the Ross Ice Shelf is talking to the guy who backed off a new route on K2 because he was going to miss the start of the BOC on the boat he was captaining. ...

[url="http://www.galebrowning.com/south.html" target="new"]Report from Gale Browning Ocean Racing LLC[/url]
Ventisqueero Romache Fiordo PIA
March 12, 2006

We are drifting around in front of a the eastern arm of the PIA Glacier watching big chunks of ice calve off. It sounds like gunshot when the ice hits the water. Pretty powerful.


Ice calving of the face of a glacier in the Cordillera Darwin.

Later in the day, we anchor near the western arm of the PIA Glacier. The anchorage is already occupied by Charlie Porter’s steel ketch, Ocean Tramp. Charlie is a well known character in these parts taking scientists and film crews to the glaciers to study their movement and size. The PIA Glacier has been particularly active in the last couple of days. Alex, Joe, Jim S and I take a dinghy ride to the glacier and climbed along the moraine on the western side. The hill side looks like a big earth mover has just been there with dirt and rocks freshly turned over and pushed aside.

Brenda Hall, a geology professor from the University of Maine, is on board the Ocean Tramp to map and date moraines at 10 key glaciers in the Cordillera Darwin in conjunction with the Patagonia Research Foundation. Juan, the first mate from Puerto Montt, Chile is the only other crew aboard the boat. They all joined us for dinner and Charlie dominates the conversation answering questions about the glaciers. Moraines are created when the glacier pushes or carries along rocky debris as it moves. Dark bands of debris are visible on top and along the edges of glaciers. Medial moraines run down the middle of a glacier, lateral moraines along the sides, and terminal moraines are found at the terminus, or face, of a glacier. Sometimes one glacier flows into another, also creating moraines. Glaciers reflect climate change and by taking core samples in the ice, much can be learned about the climate and how it has changed over several thousand years.


[url="http://www.climatechange.umaine.edu/Research/Expeditions/2005/patagonia.html" target="new"]Abrupt Climate Change - Ice cores from Patagonia[/url]

Climate Change Institute
February 20, 2005

At Puerto Williams, the team will meet up with Charlie Porter and his boat, the Ocean Tramp. They will load gear on the boat and purchase any last minute supplies. On the 26th the film crew should meet up the rest of the team. They plan to spend a couple of days resting and finishing preparations for sailing.


[url="http://www.sgisland.org/pages/main/news18.htm" target=""]South Georgia Newsletter [/url]
January 2005

Charlie Porter returned for another season of glaciology in his yacht ‘Ocean Tramp’, and yacht ‘Paratii 2’ owned by Amyr Klink arrived on January 22nd, carrying Brazilian wildlife photographer Haraldo Palo jr. Haraldo is making a film about South Georgia wildlife which will highlight the plight of the Wandering Albatross.


[url="http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950CE3D61E38F935A35756C0A9679C8B63" target="new"]A Steel Yacht Serves As a Field Laboratory[/url]

New York Times
May 6, 2001

Tucked into a far corner of the harbor serving Puerto Williams, Chile, a navy town hard by the Canal Beagle, rests a small fleet of rugged steel yachts that have clearly traveled long miles to get there. The one called Gondwana -- a 49-footer named for the southern hemisphere's onetime supercontinent -- is skippered by an antic American whose English and Spanish are both delivered in staccato bursts framed by peals of laughter.

The sole proprietor of his far-flung Patagonia Research Foundation, the 50-year-old sailor and scientist Charlie Porter is a study in perpetual motion. Fittingly, his floating field laboratory, Gondwana, is as mobile as he is, regularly covering the thousand miles of waterways from Puerto Montt to the north, to the southern tip of Cape Horn.

'I'm in the right place at the right time doing the right thing,' said Porter in a recent interview, while describing his current studies in climatology and historical archaeology.

'A lot of the other yachts you see here are basically charter boats for Cape Horn tourists,' he added. 'But I'm doing something completely different, exciting and important work. We're acquiring the baseline data for all the natural science that will be developed down here in the future. There is so much about this place we don't yet understand.'

Porter's journey to the far reaches of South America was as winding as the intricate channels through which he now plies his profession. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Porter attended Boston University before striking out for California's Yosemite Valley and several years of serious climbing, particularly the vertical walls of El Capitan.

It was in search of fresh peaks to scale that Porter came to Chile and, once there, from the mountains to the sea. Affixing the portable Klepper kayak he had brought along with the sliding seat and oars of an Alden rowing shell, Porter rambled some 2,000 miles through the southern fjords by following the long-established portage routes of the Patagonian Indians. He even rounded Cape Horn by kayak in 1979, one of the first persons to do so.

During his travels he developed an interest in natural history and enlisted in botanical and oceanographic surveys of the region. Once back in the States, he stayed long enough to build a steel version of a Tahiti ketch, aboard which he returned to South America and a decade of work in Chile's northern fjords.

As his reputation as a sound seaman and research fellow grew, Porter continued to attract scientists from universities and foundations in the United States and Europe who had acquired financing for specialized projects and required a partner to assist them with both the science and the demanding logistics. Having outgrown his ketch, Porter acquired Gondwana.

'You need a vessel that you can handle by yourself but which can spend a month in the fjords with eight people aboard,' Porter said. 'We usually carry two or three Zodiacs and use the boat as a base camp, secured in some narrow slot in the channels. We can go up to 50 miles out with the Zodiacs to do our sampling, whether we're coring lakes and peat bogs, as we did this season, or heading up to the glaciers.'

In recent years much of Porter's work has centered around climate research in the country's wild southern wilderness. By studying the core laminates in lake sediment and bog vegetation, and measuring the flow rate and overall health of the area's glaciers, Porter said that scientists were striving to understand the schematics of climate change.

In 1998, Porter was also involved in an archaeological expedition along the Magellan Strait in search of artifacts left by Magellan and other early European voyagers. During the hunt, Porter discovered a cache of pewter plates, coins and other items deposited by officers of the survey ship Beagle during Charles Darwin's famous voyage in the 1830's.

'It was quite spectacular,' he said.

Later this year, Porter will travel to Sydney, Australia, to take delivery of a 60-foot cutter that he plans to use for research in South Georgia Island and Antarctica. He will sail the boat back to Chile via the Southern Ocean and Cape Horn, a voyage he reckons will take 45 days. It is evident that Porter has no plans to slow down.

'I've already got plenty of projects lined up in the years ahead,' he said. 'You know, once you answer one question, another always pops up.'

[url="http://books.google.com/books?id=pXR4estfVQIC&pg=PA238&lpg=PA238&dq=%22charlie+porter%22+%22Gondwana%22+tierra&source=web&ots=kJZk8iF4sW&sig=mxry4xMlnTuVMWCDfUXBZ5PGEU8" target="new"]
THE AMERICAN ALPINE JOURNAL, 1996[/url]

TIERRA DEL FUEGO

Monte Sarmiento, West Peak. The twin peaks of Monte Sarmiento had been climbed only once before. Italian expeditions made both ascents. the first in 1956 (East Peak) and again in 1986 (West Peak). With the objective of new routes on both peaks, our team was composed of Stephen Venables (British), Tim Macartney-Snape (Australian), John Roskelley, Charlie Porter and me. Taking a roundabout route, we spent six days in Porter’s 50-foot sloop Gondwana, reaching the Sarmiento area from Puerto Williams on the Beagle Channel. After securing the boat in a sheltered cove on an arm of the Cockburn Channel on April 13, we explored different approaches to the mountain for several days in foul weather before finally deciding that the Southwest Face of the West Peak offered the best possibility. After two camps were established on the mountain, we were ready for a summit dash on April 21. But two separate accidents thwarted our plans. The first mishap occurred when a sudden wind gust blew me off a ridgecrest. I managed to arrest the fall but badly sprained an ankle in the process. A day later, while traversing a patch of ice, Porter was blown off his feet in almost the same spot. He suffered more serious injuries when he dislocated and broke a bone in his shoulder after jabbing his arm in a crevasse to stop the fall. After the entire team retreated to basecamp near the beach, Porter chose to sail directly across the Strait of Magellan to Puerto Bulnes, the nearest roadhead from Punta Arenas, where he could receive medical treatment. I accompanied Porter, as our only means of transportation was about to disappear. He piloted his boat in considerable pain with his arm in a makeshift sling. By the time I returned to the Sarmiento area in a fishing boat five days later, our three companions had been able to complete the anticipated new route to the West Peak’s summit. On April 26, the almost constant wind and snow ceased for 10 hours, allowing Roskelley, Macartney-Snape and Venables to climb the southwest face’s steep snow with underlying ice and 70” to 85” serac ice steps. The typical Patagonian summit ice mushroom was turned easily from the southeast. Extreme winds hit them on the descent with zero-visibility

[url="http://www.rockclimbing.org/tripreports/respect.htm" target="new"]Southern California Mountaineers Association[/url]

Trip Report - 1986

...

Yes, Virgil is following in the footsteps of men like Charlie Porter, the legendary Yosemite climber known for (among other things) pioneering gigantic rurp aid ladders up incipient vertical cracks (no bolts or chalks, just rurps; if the top one pulled loose the resulting fall would zipper them all out clear to the bottom. Charlie was thought dead for several years, lost at sea while attempting to paddle a kayak, solo, from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean, around Cape Horn. Early this year, Charlie was discovered alive and well, living with a tribe of Patagonian Indians (and a common law Indian wife) on Tierra Del Fuego. Yes - people like Cunningham, Whillans, Shields, and Porters; climbers with heart! Our two Virgils stand out as Defenders Of The Faith, one with barred fangs, the other with a brilliant conceptual mind. But the latter stands virtually alone, trying to save us from ourselves; a Don Quixote like figure, dreaming the impossible dream. With his ambitious marathon fell running and jumaring up his ‘Towers to Nowhere' he is truly a 'Conquistador of the Ridiculous' in the finest tradition. Carry on Virg, you deserve our support, for without members like you we're all too likely to become the Rodney Dangerfield Climbing Club!!!
O.D.

Trad climber
LA LA Land
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 15, 2008 - 04:22pm PT
Wow, healyje -- I'm eatin' this stuff up!!! Thank you!


EDIT: "...Cape Horn by kayak..." Sheeeeezz!!!
nature

climber
Santa Fe, NM
Feb 15, 2008 - 04:30pm PT
excellent post/thread. Thank you very much for the contributions.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Feb 15, 2008 - 04:36pm PT
Yeah, good stuff.

But when it credits him with "rounding the Horn" I wonder if the strict interpretation of doing it east to west from 50 degrees South to 50 degrees South is in play.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Feb 15, 2008 - 04:39pm PT
Added one more excerpt just below the picture of the Ocean Tramp
Mtnmun

Trad climber
Top of the Mountain Mun
Feb 15, 2008 - 04:42pm PT
A man's man, Charlie Porter, great stories!
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Feb 15, 2008 - 04:43pm PT
And the REAL find from the Beagle would have been the whaleboat that was stolen by the Yaghen indians.

A remarkable story really.
Stranded, some of the men fashioned a raft and were BARELY able to return to the ship, rescue the rest, and set off in search of the highly valued craft.
They found bits and pieces, an oar in an indian settlement, a scavenged bit of metal.
Unfortunately vengeance was wreaked, likely on innocent bystanders.

An unsolved mystery.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Feb 15, 2008 - 04:55pm PT
Oh, and his mother, [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Cooney" target="new"]Barbara Cooney[/url], was a gifted and [url="http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F03E0DB113BF936A25750C0A9669C8B63" target="new"]renowned author and illustrator[/url] of children's books. His uncle, [url="http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE3D7113FF932A25750C0A965958260" target="new"]Howard Porter[/url], was a respected scholar of Greek and Latin studies and ran part of the code breaking group within the Enigma Project that busted German encryption codes during WWII and received a bronze star and British Empire Medal for his service. From the look of it, Charlie appears to come from quite accomplished stock.
O.D.

Trad climber
LA LA Land
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 15, 2008 - 05:58pm PT

If anyone gets stuck indoors this weekend and has a little time to kill cruising the Internet, I recommend following the link provided by healyje for the Vessel Condesa. Start with the "About Me" section -- wouldn't that be the life? but nobody has a totally perfect life, as the Captain of the Condesa explains.
426

Sport climber
Buzzard Point, TN
Feb 15, 2008 - 06:02pm PT
"If you wait for the weather, you'll never do chit." CP, purportedly.
Raydog

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
Feb 15, 2008 - 07:18pm PT
outstanding healyja.
Lambone

Ice climber
Ashland, Or
Feb 16, 2008 - 01:23am PT
wow cool!
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Feb 16, 2008 - 02:25am PT
Thank you! I can put up with a lot of idiotic threads - which I don't read anyway - if there's some like this.

Hopefully Werner, or perhaps John or Largo, can add some stories.

ps I thought apparitions were ghosts? Or did you mean an "appreciatarition" thread?
marky

climber
Feb 16, 2008 - 02:33am PT
dude meant apparition when he wrote "apparition"

Double D

climber
Feb 16, 2008 - 09:24am PT
Thanks O.D. & healyje for an awesome thread. Charlie is the real deal, that's for sure!
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Feb 16, 2008 - 09:17pm PT
Hmmm, I have to say I'm a bit surprised this thread didn't spawn more comment, but as I said, I didn't know the man - you folks did.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Feb 16, 2008 - 10:08pm PT
I didn't know him, but made the seventh ascent of the Shield on my first pilgrimage to the ditch for that very purpose.
A decade later befriended Bocarde in the AMGA.

Was gonna bump this one anyway.
cheers Joe,
Ron

WBraun

climber
Feb 16, 2008 - 11:20pm PT
Oh we don't need to glorify every damn person.

Those who knew Charlie, knew he didn't care for any glorification.

He was a real down to earth guy, and one of the baddest ass modern pioneers. Real low, low profile.

That's why you don't ever hear much about him. One of the toughest hard core guy you'll ever run into, and while you're around him you'd never ever know.

He's a real legend ....
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Feb 16, 2008 - 11:30pm PT
Werner,
read your first and last lines.
WBraun

climber
Feb 16, 2008 - 11:34pm PT
Yeah I know Ron

I'm not very smart like most of the people on this site.

But Charlie wanted me to do the 1st ascent of the Shield with him.

He laid down 40 rurps on the tarp and I just sh'it a brick when I saw that and slithered away.

Me an Dale did the 5th ascent FYI though .....
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Feb 16, 2008 - 11:37pm PT
Lotta good it did us, huh?
Watusi

Social climber
Newport, OR
Feb 17, 2008 - 12:02am PT
Yeah...Quite the guy for sure!
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Feb 17, 2008 - 12:22am PT
Werner, I'm really not into the whole fanboy or hero thing in any way. I was just thinking some of you who were around might have some insight into this guy as he seems more enigmatic to me than legendary.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Feb 17, 2008 - 09:25pm PT
At the time the Shield was done - 1972 - I wonder if anyone else had seriously considered it as a line? Were climbers in the Valley even talking about it as a possible route? There were some very solid climbers around then.

Sutton & Burton had done Magic Mushroom that spring, which shared the last few pitches (from Chickenhead Ledge) to the top. I wonder if they looked down when they were there?

Had Porter done any routes on El Cap before the Shield?

(also posted to Shield Headwall thread)
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Feb 17, 2008 - 10:08pm PT
You can't see chit from Chickenhead due to the bulge.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Feb 17, 2008 - 11:06pm PT
Jox,
do you like Oscar Wilde?
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Feb 18, 2008 - 12:19am PT
You already got it, "keep our faces".
marky

climber
Aug 30, 2008 - 01:46am PT
I've been on terrain CP soloed in the Valley and in Alaska. He was a pioneer with an unusually keen eye for aesthetics and a visionary sense of style. Had I done what he had (when he did), I would have sprayed about it 24/7. Totally dig this guy's style. I would like to know more about this guy and what he climbed in his heyday. So consider this a bump.
Anastasia

climber
Not there
Aug 30, 2008 - 02:40am PT
I had no idea about his accomplishments. He really appears to be one of those guys you wish could rub something onto you. I wish he was more well known so others could model themselves to be more like him.
Then again, to become a greater person is to seek those obscure paths that only a few have walked before.
His path is an original which makes him incredible.
Taking my hat off,
AF

donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Aug 30, 2008 - 10:33am PT
Charlie now lives on Chiloe, a large island off the west coast of Chilean Patagonia.
Patrick Sawyer

climber
Originally California now Ireland
Aug 30, 2008 - 12:56pm PT
I climbed with him once, otherwise I really didn't know him all that well, but I can say that he was/is definitely a character.
rockermike

Mountain climber
Berkeley
Aug 30, 2008 - 03:21pm PT
whops, I miss read the OP. I thought this was about this guy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkvCDCOGzGc

he's got style too al la 1951, but I don' think he climbs. ha

bump for both Charlies
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Aug 30, 2008 - 03:27pm PT
I would love to hear more stories about, or even by, Charlie Porter.

Does SuperTopo's Chiloe have some connection with the island in Chile with that name?
TrundleBum

Trad climber
Las Vegas
Aug 30, 2008 - 04:35pm PT
MH gets a cigar ;)
Captain...or Skully

Big Wall climber
up Yonder (someplace else)
Aug 30, 2008 - 04:45pm PT
I met Charlie once, in '92, in the Valley. Quiet, unassuming guy. You'd never know he put up all those hard guy walls.....
Wade Icey

Trad climber
www.alohashirtrescue.com
Sep 1, 2008 - 01:09pm PT
bump
Norwegian

Trad climber
Placerville, California
Sep 1, 2008 - 01:34pm PT
greg child told the 'angels' story in one of his books... from distant recollection it goes something like this:

charlie was cleaning one of his pitches high on his shield route. the weather was shitty and most other parties had bailed to the meadow to drink and listen to the grateful dead.

they peered up into the heights and noticed a lone soul up there where the steepness of the cliff outsmarts the falling precipitation.

as charlie was jugging and cleaning, the rope was bouncing over a sharp, mushroomed head of a piton high up. charlie saw this a ways above him and realized his plight.

he continued to jumar, knowing that every movement nudged him a little closer to the great transition.

he prayed and nothing changed and he thus denounced god.

he eventually made it above the damaged point and maybe it was then that he payed respects to his angels.
Jonny D

Social climber
Lost Angelez, Kalifornia
Sep 1, 2008 - 02:35pm PT
are you sure it's charlie porter greg child was referring to? for one thing, charlie did not solo the shield, so he had no reason to clean his own pitch. also, i remember hearing the same story about jim beyer soloing the shield. just wondering.
Captain...or Skully

Big Wall climber
up Yonder (someplace else)
Sep 1, 2008 - 02:37pm PT
Valley stories have a way of transmogrifying......
matty

Big Wall climber
Valencia, CA
Sep 1, 2008 - 04:50pm PT
Norwegian

Trad climber
Placerville, California
Sep 2, 2008 - 12:03pm PT
johnny i think you are correct. that story was about mr. beyer. all those stauch soloists blur together.

the greg child book is called mixed emotions - good short stories.

i wonder if jim beyer praised his angels at that moment?

.... so the porter / angel rendezvous remains a mystery??
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Sep 2, 2008 - 10:06pm PT
My favorite shot of Charlie by Bruce Carson. Most pictures of him are back and shoulder climbing shots and the hat is all you get. It's funny...



Some shots of Horse Chute.

snakefoot

climber
cali
Sep 2, 2008 - 11:58pm PT
bump...an inspiration by all means...
dogtown

climber
Where I once was,I think?
Sep 3, 2008 - 12:37am PT
Charlie Porter Valley God and king of Patagonia.
marky

climber
Sep 3, 2008 - 02:54am PT
did he do any climbing in Patagonia? or just kayak
dr. death

climber
Sep 4, 2008 - 01:48pm PT
hey good old times: two friends and i did the 3d on the captain in sept of 72, charlie was the only other person on the wall other than the base climbs. those were the days. the next year we worked out mashies, bashies and gummies (all some type of aluminum block or even foil molded into-onto a crack or seam with a #1 copperhead behind the lump) on the back of the boulder in the arizona ave. camp in camp 4. all in the name of getting up without bolts. great guy, haven't seen him since. good to hear he 's out doing it.
paul May

Mountain climber
mi
Feb 7, 2009 - 09:23pm PT
this is an old post but I thought I'd chime in about my encounter with Charlie. I was 18 yrs. old and with a buddy we left Detroit Mi. and headed out to 'discover ourselves' and learn to ski mountaineer and ice climb in the Canadian Rockies. We were idealistic to say the least, but bolstered by strength and ambition we landed in Lake Louise with our gear and food for the winter. Not knowing where to go we ended up at the lake louise hostel and befriended a guy named Mel, who was in charge of the banff area hostels - we told him what we were up to and he offered to let us run the Hilda Creek hostel for the winter all we had to do was be there for any guests (which there were none). Temps were regularly 0 to 40 below F. but we were in heaven. After a week of being there one late night we heard voices and in walked 3 climbers just back from Mt. Kitchner, they introduced themselves as Adrian and Alan Burgess and Charlie Porter (we didn't know who the were). For the next 3 weeks we helped them ferry loads to the base of Kitchner where they had dug out an ice cave to use as a base for an attempt on the north face. The experience of shuffling these loads in was incredible, over the Athabasca river and up and over some very steep terrain, along cliff edges etc... all the time listening to their stories. The climb ran into difficulty with Alan dropping out because of an infected toenail and then near the top 1/3 of the climb Charlies ice ax broke on some black ice which forced them to abandon the effort. For our help Charlie took us out and taught us how to ice climb on a waterfall near the ice fields highway, I'm not sure of the name but it was past the ice fields on the right, we watched in what can be described as shock as he soloed the 90 degree ice without protection for a rope length, he then set up a belay and coached us on the finer points climbing ice. While Charlie was a powerful influence on me as a kid, the Burgess twins were even more so they were always laughing and telling stories asking for tea and just joking it up non stop. Charlie on the other hand seemed to be happy only when he was climbing. We stayed up there until spring and then moved on to the Sierra's, Cascades and the Winds, the whole trip lasted 1.5 yrs. and I am so glad we did it. It was years later that we found out just who we had met in the Canadian Rockies. Just wanted to share. Paul
Just wanted to share.
RDB

Trad climber
Iss WA
Feb 7, 2009 - 09:43pm PT
Great story OD! What on rock couldn't he do? Then Polar Circus and a solo of the Cassin?

No question one of my early heros. I use to style a white golf hat as a sincere form of CP flattery :)

Hey Paul did we happen to meet at the base of Louise Falls that winter? I played with some Terros that belonged to either the Burgess Twins or Porter that the hostel hosts had been loaned. Sounds like you?!
Captain...or Skully

Social climber
North of the Owyhees
Feb 7, 2009 - 10:26pm PT
That guy's the real deal.
Hardman.
paul May

Mountain climber
mi
Feb 7, 2009 - 10:56pm PT
Dane I think we did, I emailed you..
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Feb 7, 2009 - 11:23pm PT
Responding to Mighty Hiker's (Anders') really excellent and central question, " I wonder if anyone else had seriously considered it as a line? Were climbers in the Valley even talking about it as a possible route?"

Well I think this question is the real subject of the thread.

The rest of us had not a clue about the line! We all could have climbed the route of course, and did later, but the real contribution quite honestly is the fantastic creation Charlie gave us all right out of thin air. It really was absolutely masterful. And as others have said upthread here, he was a really great guy.

I think that photo of Russ McLean's is wonderful too. It might be the best shot of Charlie from those years. Russ and Charlie were close for a number of years. In fact I think they were on the same construction site in SLC (73, as O.D. ponders).

Charlie was like Kroger and Davis and Kor, outsiders who danced all over our Camp Four hegemony big time. A good thing. If you stayed in Camp Four regularly most of us got a little unproductive compared to those that rushed in for specific goals and then had to leave. We all were good, but some of us had gotten lazy.

best, ph.
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 7, 2009 - 11:44pm PT
Yo Peter, too bad we can't get McClinsky on here as he has a wealth of Charlie Porter stories. They were good friends for years, climbed in Yosemite, Alaska and lived together in Salt Lake City for a spell. Russ also carried his Pentex Spotmatic, (camera of choice for many of us for years), with him everywhere he went so there probably exists a vast resource of photo memorabilia just waiting to post.

cheers

joe
Largo

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Feb 8, 2009 - 12:28am PT
"Early this year, Charlie was discovered alive and well, living with a tribe of Patagonian Indians (and a common law Indian wife)on Tierra Del Fuego."

Still livin' large . . .

JL
The Warbler

climber
the edge of America
Feb 8, 2009 - 12:59am PT
I would second Peter's comments on The Shield.

I'll never forget seeing Charlie up on those rurp cracks and being basically dumfounded.

I grabbed some binos and couldn't believe how thin the line was - and how spectacular. I feel lucky to have witnessed it.

The Shield was a big leap forward for wall climbing, made by a man who was probably the most unassuming climber of that era.

Charlie deserves every bit of his legendary status. His solo of Asgard was off the scale for badassness.
dogtown

climber
Cheyenne,Wyoming
Feb 8, 2009 - 08:27pm PT
Bump,Charlie is for sure one of a kind.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Feb 9, 2009 - 06:24am PT
Like the energizer bunny...

[url="http://www.earth.ox.ac.uk/~chrisd/mdds08/" target="new"]Madre de Dios Speleo 2008[/url] - Records of Past Climate from the Remote Island Caves of Southern Chile / A University of Oxford approved expedition

(Look under the 'Personnel' link...)
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Feb 9, 2009 - 06:49am PT
Copy on that Guido, for sure.
rrider

climber
Mckinleyville, Ca
Oct 5, 2009 - 08:21pm PT
More easy-reading and fluffy descriptions and recollections...I always did want to be up on the Shield. Out of my league, though. Remember watching some of their FA, it was easily as amazing -plus more mystical -as the first moon landing. Right about then I got to go on that exorbitant rescue on Nose Camp 5.

Intro to Ice

I never became an ice climber. But the concept of the medium itself has always fascinated. Plain old harmless water: transformed from something alive-with-motion, life-sustaining, and with no form of its own; into something inert, moody, and worked into awe-inspiring architecture. A magic treasure of the season.

Yosemite Valley, early '70's - during one of the awsome cold snaps around the time of the FA of Widow's Tears. Charlie Porter was going to check out some ice he had scoped out on GP apron. I was available, and willing. Don't remember where this was. Possibly way over on the left side. I never even paid attention to what rock routes it was near.

All I remember was early morning, looking up at a little ice tongue; maybe 10 ft wide at the base, maybe around 8 inches thick, and maybe about 120 ft high. The slab was fairly steep; 70 degrees maybe. The ice path ended up at a roof created by a thick arch. Dropping down from the lip of the arch was this crazy column of ice. It was shaped like a plumb bob, or a top. The top was probably 6 ft wide, and in a free drop of about 8 ft, tapered down to maybe 2 ft, where it rejoined the slab. It resembled some raggedy chandelier (in the back of my mind, I thought Sword of Damocles).

Anyway, Charlie front-pointed up about 50 ft, set a screw or two, and came down so I could have a go. The weather was warming up more than we had planned. The ice was starting to deteriorate faster than I would have expected. Drops of water from high up were hitting us. Looking up at that huge plug of ice, we became more and more apprehensive. We had nothing to prove; just playing around, mostly. So after little more than an hour or so, we packed up and hiked down the talus and into the trees and tent cabins.

After about 10 minutes of hiking, we were still in the woods, and we heard this thunderous impact coming from over by where we had been. We both pretty much were guessing the same thing. Once we got down to the Valley floor, we found a view of our patch of ice. The big icicle was now missing from under the arch.

Pate

Trad climber
The High And Lonely
Oct 6, 2009 - 12:19am PT
Charlie "rounded the horn" through the Straits Of Magellan, an impossibly confusing archipelago for sailing through before GPS. It offers significant protection from the gnarly easterly wind. I read in one of the sailing mags about Charlie's trip through in the Klepper long ago- he's a very big deal in Boston.

"More people have been to outer space than have rounded the horn alone"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovhi4Di_GGw&feature=related

I, the albatross that awaits for you at the end of the world...
I, the forgotten soul of the sailors lost that crossed Cape Horn from all the seas of the world.
But die they did not
in the fierce waves,
for today towards eternity
in my wings they soar
in the last crevice
of the Antarctic winds

The memorial at the edge of the world facing south:
Credit: Pate
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Oct 6, 2009 - 01:01am PT
RR: Right about then I got to go on that exorbitant rescue on Nose Camp 5.

Werner told me about that during the FaceLift. They got the helicopter pilot to fly by Porter and Bocarde on the Shield, fairly close in, and shouted at them. No pictures, though - that would have been all-time classic.
Fuzzywuzzy

climber
Oct 6, 2009 - 11:56am PT
Rik - Do you remember when CP climbed Clouds Rest in winter? Called it "Cloudburst". And back there somewhere he skied into Tuolumne and climbed OZ's drip with Billy Nickell too. I remember him talking about the north faces of the Grand Cyn of the Tuolumne being sensational ice - he had checked that area out as well.

One winter day in C4 he comes up with his Dachstein mitts on and hands me a can of heated pine tar - "pour this over my mitts" I'm thinking, jesus Charlie those are Dachstein mitts, this will ruin em. Anyway it was his idea of waterproofing/weather proofing the mitts. Said they gripped better too.
rrider

climber
Mckinleyville, Ca
Oct 6, 2009 - 02:30pm PT
hey Tom,

Good ones. I never knew those ones. How about "Mayor of Briceburg"? Never went down there. Abba Zabbas, anyone, hahh?
Fuzzywuzzy

climber
suspendedhappynation
Oct 6, 2009 - 03:00pm PT
Rik - As I recall Briceburg was where he was making the Porter Cam Nuts? Anyone visit during those times and see the production?
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Oct 6, 2009 - 03:19pm PT
Geno Ottonello, the "judge" in Yosemite owned a nice piece of the Merced River frontage a ways down from the bridge. His daughter Carol and I, my squeeze at that time, spent a great deal of time exploring the area and would often visit Charlie.

How many of you remember the large "Jesus Saves" sign at the top of the Briceburg Grade? Always a time for reflection on the condition of your brakes. Coming down the Grade with mad man Ray Darcy at the wheel one time, TM reached over, turned the ignition off and pulled the keys out so we could all live to tell the story.

cheers

Guido
C4/1971

Trad climber
Depends on the day...
Jun 27, 2010 - 12:36pm PT
The toilet at Briceburg had the largest collection of Black Widow spiders I have seen anywhere in my life. I thought CP was charmed after he did the Shield, but using that toilet daily would have had very little appeal to me....
Bldrjac

Ice climber
Boulder
Jun 27, 2010 - 01:20pm PT
As I remember it, Charlie labeled himself the mayor of Briceberg and that's where he had his machine shop where he manufactored his special gear for aid climbing. Anyone remember his "grasshoppers" or "Centopedes"? They were multi-legged RURP-like pitons that you just tapped gently into seams. Built especially for horizontal placements. Somewhere I have a picture of him and Bev sitting on the porch, grapevines above them on the veranda.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jun 27, 2010 - 02:05pm PT
I would like nothing better than to check out Charlie's custom hardware. All those "RURPS" in the Groove on the FA of the Shield weren't Chouinards. LOL

Charlie spent some time monkeying around with nut designs along the way.





I wonder how many sets of these rolltop hexes he ever made?

I posted some interesting Porter news tidbits on this thread...

http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/1193315/Classic-Valley-News-Clips
JP.Franklin

Trad climber
Santiago-CHILE
Aug 19, 2011 - 08:18pm PT
Current info about Charlie´s life in CHILE.
http://diario.elmercurio.com/2011/08/14/revista_del_domingo/_portada/noticias/C7D85D9F-37DD-4D06-B7C7-45326DBD8ACC.htm?id={C7D85D9F-37DD-4D06-B7C7-45326DBD8ACC}

ms55401

Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
Aug 19, 2011 - 08:22pm PT
come on, I'm not going to register -- just post the f'ing content.

seriously. Just post it.
JP.Franklin

Trad climber
Santiago-CHILE
Aug 19, 2011 - 08:26pm PT


come on, I'm not going to register -- just post the f'ing content.

seriously. Just post it.

Unfortunately it is wrote in spanish....
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Aug 22, 2011 - 11:57am PT
I have a little experience with Charlie. He actually bouldered
with me a small bit. He wasn't so into bouldering.
I didn't know him from anyone, but he
had a rich smile. We laughed.
I always hate to contradict the historical
bastions, but I think Bridwell and more than one other person
were looking at that line, the Shield. I was there at the
time. I was there every season from '64 on, virtually.
It was clear that almost
any line would go, with a little luck and the right gear.
My pal Jimmy Dunn, for example, was looking at all sorts of lines...
another outsider who was easily equal to the task of Yosemite.
I personally remember looking up there and imagining all sorts
of routes. True, it might be that the big headwalls didn't
draw the eye to them, so big and blank looking as they seemed.
Yet we knew there were cracks, small tiny cracks through places
that looked blank. After the final headwall of the Salathe,
a lot of those kinds of things began to seem plausible.
I was an aid climber, though, and aid climbers see
lines where there are none. At that time I myself
was in no hurry to do anything,
though, but try to keep my mind in one frazzled piece after
all the damage of the... '60s...

Charlie looked me up in Boulder, and we climbed together in Eldorado.
I have one distinct memory of taking him up Supremacy Crack. Now,
some thought of Charlie as an aid climber only, or that aid was
his forte. He followed this solid 5.11c, overhanging hand-crack,
hammering out the pitons I had placed on lead, and he did it in
astonishing style. So he was a very capable free climber.
And every time I was with him or climbed with him he had that
cheerful demeanor, that light touch but strong spirit.... He and
I climbed some with Breashears, the best of the new wave of
free climbers, around 1975, and Charlie could keep up on
just about anything. By the way, another Charlie, one Colorado
master Charlie Fowler made the first hammerless ascent of the
Shield.... I often think of Charlie Fowler and Charlie Porter
as comparable geniuses, and brilliant at all types of
climbing, from rock to mountains and ice...., although Charlie
(who also free soloed the DNB) quicky mastered the 5.12 realm...
O.D.

Trad climber
LA LA Land
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 28, 2011 - 11:28am PT
Here's an update on Charlie Porter's activities in the Cape Horn region, based on an August 14, 2011 article in the paper El Mercurio (Santiago, Chile). He continues to live in Puerto Williams, Chile, and now runs his own research foundation, called the Patagonia Research Foundation. He has married a second time, to a biology professor who works for the Chilean sub-Ministry of Fisheries. His foundation specializes in climate, geology, and biology studies in the Cordillera Darwin. His expeditions continue aboard his sail-powered research vessel Ocean Tramp ( which he also rents out to other research groups, most recently the University of Maine's Climate Change Institute). He has personally established and maintains 31 automated weather stations throughout the Cordillera Darwin. He says: "Now I'm not here so much for the adventure, but more, for the science".

Wow -- this man never ceases to amaze. Godspeed, Charlie Porter.

Here are a few images that illustrate where he is, and what he's up to.

Puerto Williams, at the tip of South America. The tip of Antarctica ju...
Puerto Williams, at the tip of South America. The tip of Antarctica juts from below.
Credit: Google Earth
Charlie Porter. Photo dated August, 2011.
Charlie Porter. Photo dated August, 2011.
Credit: diario.elmercurio.com
Porter at one of his weather stations.
Porter at one of his weather stations.
Credit: diario.elmercurio.com

Humorous postscript: When the newspaper reporter interviewed Porter, he described Charlie as talking excitedly and non-stop, "...like one of Alvin's Chipmunks..."
nutstory

climber
Ajaccio, Corsica, France
Dec 30, 2011 - 04:17am PT
A Charlie Porter new apparition.
Porter Engineering #4, #5 & #6
Porter Engineering #4, #5 & #6
Credit: nutstory
Dos XX

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Dec 30, 2011 - 11:02am PT
Cool gear, @nutstory! I've always admired how well you present and photograph the pieces in your collection.

I wonder if Porter cut and drilled these pieces himself? It looks as though the size # corresponds to the depth of the "I" section, in inches.

Good work, @nutstory.
WBraun

climber
Dec 30, 2011 - 11:16am PT
To this day there's no one that can compare to Charlie Porter that came out of Yosemite.

He's the supreme bad ass.

Hardest core dude ever.

And one hell of a funny guy .....
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 30, 2011 - 12:14pm PT
How many first ascents did he make on El Capitan, and has anyone else done more?

ps Not that quantity is any particularly useful measure - just curious.
Dos XX

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Dec 30, 2011 - 12:54pm PT
How many first ascents did he make on El Capitan, and has anyone else done more?

Addressing the first question:

From the 'Obscurities' .PDF here on SuperTopo

Charlie Porter Routes on El Cap (ordered West to East)

1. HORSE CHUTE, with Hugh Burton
2. EXCALIBUR, with Hugh Burton
3. SHIELD, with Gary Bocarde
4. GRAPE RACE, with Bev Johnson
5. NEW DAWN Solo
6. MESCALITO, with Hugh Burton, Steve Sutton, Chris Nelson
7. TANGERINE TRIP, with John-Paul St.Croix
8. ZODIAC Solo

Maybe Werner or deuce4 can help out with the second question?
nutstory

climber
Ajaccio, Corsica, France
Dec 30, 2011 - 01:00pm PT
It looks as though the size # corresponds to the depth of the "I" section, in inches.
Yes Dos XX, in fact it works like Chouinard Tube Chocks #4, #5 & #6.
A good photograph has often been the very beginning of the dream for me.
WBraun

climber
Dec 30, 2011 - 03:30pm PT
It's NOT about how many first ascents one has done on El Cap.

It's NOT even about climbing at all.

It's about the man himself ......
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Dec 30, 2011 - 03:45pm PT
^^^ Love how you drill down to the essence with so few words.

Don't ever change.

DMT
Ihateplastic

Trad climber
It ain't El Cap, Oregon
Dec 30, 2011 - 03:53pm PT
I was a bit too young to hang with Charlie but I saw him often in the C4 lot. You could just smell the success on that man! A god? No, of course not but a man with a HUGE set!
Kalimon

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
May 7, 2013 - 08:38pm PT
BUMP!
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
May 7, 2013 - 09:11pm PT
This is from back in 2005, but it's worth reading to know what necessary day-to-day hassles folks deal with working with Charlie's foundation.

http://climatechange.umaine.edu/Research/Expeditions/2005/Patagonia/03122005.html
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