Amazing solo stories...


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Gym climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 3, 2008 - 07:56pm PT
sawin, thanks for those pics - That picture of Reardon on the face traverse on the Vampire is amazing and makes my huevos shrivel. He soloed that thing many times - that was his strength, thin face.

He also free soled the Pirate, 12d. He loved that thin stuff.

RIP buddy.

Gym climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 3, 2008 - 08:58pm PT
We've all heard this one but in the spirit of the JT reunion I'll recount it again....

One day after an early morning bouldering session, me and Yabo were beat. We decided to call it quits and take a rest day. We sparked a doobious cigarette and started yapping. Yabo told me he wanted to solo Spiderline (which at the time had only been top roped, never lead).

I told him he should wait until he got it "really wired". Then he told me he was meditating on the ledge below Spiderline the night before and all of a sudden there was a spider dangling in front of him. It had lowered from the crack above. He then said it was an omen letting him know he could solo Spiderline.

I tried to keep a poker face. I really thought he was getting too lost in this "omen" stuff but I couldn't tell him. I tried talking him into waiting again and he seemed OK with that. I split for camp and told my friend Buck Norden (sp?) about what just happened. He thought Yabo was losing it too.

Our conversation was interrupted by a whooping high pitched, "yay yay yay yay".
What the fuk was that? We looked up and there he was, a third the way up Spiderline.

I grabbed my camera and we ran up to the base to take a picture. Before we got going, Yabo's feet popped out of the crack and his body took a wicked swing outwards. Amazingly enough, he hung on!

I thought, "Cool, he can still downclimb from there". That's not what happened - he kept going.

John Yablonski on the first free solo (and lead) of Spiderline, 11c/d.

The he got near the last move - a funky roll over onto a dicey slab move. It was hot out and Yabo was sweating and shaking fiercely. So he takes his shirt off for the last move!

He was shaking like a leaf in a hundred mile per hour wind and he rolled into the slab move and climbed away. Norden was facing in the other direction - he couldn't watch.

Me and Norden went over to the Scatterbrain boulder and were talking about what we just saw. We both thought we should tell Yabo to cool it or he was going to get killed. Just then Yabo popped up on a boulder above us and said,"Who are you guys to tell me anything. I just soloed Spiderline!". Then he spirited away. He obviously overheard our conversation

When I ran into him later he had cooled off a bit. I did notice the largest hand jam gobie I have ever seen - on the back of Yabo's right hand. It was as round and almost as thick as a half dollar...the dude hung on hard.

Under the dwarf maples near The Same Mansion
Apr 3, 2008 - 09:56pm PT
"The Fissure Beck pitch was a bit of a surprise for sure. The exposure is drawer filling to say the least. I definitely wasn't expecting anything like this to pop up. I chose right side in because I couldn't fathom facing out and doing it left side in - although that appeared to be the easier way to do it. I also thought about laybacking it for a tenth of a second - the barn door off that still gives me weird nightmares. "

Thanks John for the "Amazing Solo Stories"... This is what Super Topo is all about for me.... By the way: I did it right side in also but lobbed off anyway!
AndySan Diego

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
Apr 3, 2008 - 09:58pm PT
Thanks for posting that JB. I only knew bits & pieces. Frikin incredible experience, story & pics!

Trad climber
Apr 4, 2008 - 12:23pm PT
Ok here's a gumby-vs-harman story:

So two friends from Calgary, AB drove out to crack paradise Squamish. They were amazed at the amazing Chief and also by how good (and cheap) the bomb chronic was.

So the next day they fire up the Squamish Buttress and at the top of the 10c pitch-- with one pitch of very wandery 5.8 left-- they see the beginnings of an amazing sunset and they bust out the chronic. One massive doobie and superb sunset later, very happy, they decide to proceed to cold beers in camp.

But, it being a moonless night, and they gumbies, they have no headlamps, and so can't see a damn thing. After an hour of baked stumbling around ledges, holding up an ever-weakening lighter, to try to find the 5.8 pitch, they realise they they are going to be spooning.

So they spend the night huddling on the ledge and the next day just as there is light, they hear voices chattering, and here come Hamish Fraser and Peter Croft, free simul-soloing the warm-up lap (of 17 pitches) of their massive link-up day. Croft apparently told them hwere the best place for breakfast in Squamish was ;-)
Tahoe climber

Trad climber
a dark-green forester out west
Apr 4, 2008 - 01:31pm PT
Awesome stories & sweaty palms.


Sport climber
Orange, CA.
Apr 5, 2008 - 12:20pm PT
RE: RIP buddy,

Bachar I was hesitant to note the above as from Wikipedia it
stated assumed and may not be within the legal time frame to
assert. My condolensces to the family.

That thin 5.11 Green Arch to the east of Open Book would also
be an amazing free solo in my opinion.

After Valhalla earning my right to passage as a stone master
I looked at your 5.12 to the south of Valhalla which is also
across Fern Valley. It looked PHD, and I was not ready for a
dissertation. However I believe I now remember the Pirate
between Weeping Wall and Sunshine Face. Thin and clean aid
it would have to be for me now, and hoping it would not pirate
pro as this to is out of my league.
The Pirate


Social climber
The Deli
Jun 3, 2008 - 07:05pm PT
Could Obama ever free solo?
the kid

Trad climber
fayetteville, wv
Jun 4, 2008 - 09:04am PT
i have quite a few fond memories of climbing with JB in the 80's and not too many pictures to go with it..
But on this day we soloed Darth vader on our way up to boulder @ high profile nobs...


Chalkless climber
the Gunks end of the country
Jun 4, 2008 - 09:35am PT
Reprinted from another thread.

Day One - Death by Solo on 5.2 - almost at Coopers Rock

Starts off uneventfully enough. We get to the crag at a leisurely 9:30 or so. The sign-in sheet is soggy.

I set up a TR for Arch 5.6 just to get us warmed up. A hops on and begins to figure out sandstone. By now another couple from PA has shown up. They set up a rope right next to ours and another one on the other block of Sunset Wall. P gets pretty much shutdown on his first outdoor attempt. I am not too worried. I just go up, top out. Got the anchor on a sliding X, so I just move it all the way right and lower off. This sets up Central Face climb, a grade lower. A and I work a couple variatons on that theme.

While we are doing this another gentleman shows up and sets up a another couple ropes. P begins to try out Central Face Climb.

Suddenly we hear a tree crashing down on the left end of the block. A and I look over just in time to see the tree crash down with a climber landing flat on his back, head toward the cliff. We did not even know he was there before.

A immediately tells P he is getting lowered. I head over to do whatever I can. P decides to call 911, which would have gone smoother if he knew what county we were in. The climber, let's call him E, is conscious. He knows what has happened. He claims not to be in any particular pain. He also gets very upset and insists on not calling 911. He does not want an ambulance.

E is on his back - no helmet, somewhat curled up. He is laying between three large blocks. The rope bag probably saved his life. It is between his head and one of the three blocks. He claims no particular pain in his back, neck, or head. He complains that he has had the wind knocked out of him. Considering his fall was probably 20-25, that is not too surprising. His legs are above him and one of the other rocks. My brother will be arriving in the next 15 minutes or so. It does not seem as though emergency care is required. Since he is conscious and talking, we just let him rest a bit.

He wants to get the rope bag off. I ask again whether he has any pain in his neck. No. With as little movement as possible the rope bag is freed from his arm and removed. He can now move his head. We let him recover for a few more minutes. He is still upset and wants nothing to do with any ambulance service. Finally we agree to help him get up slowly. A back pack on his back may have kept him from breaking any ribs - or not?

He stands without any assistance. We suggest that he should visit an urgent care clinic, emergency room, or regular doctor. It seems that some X-rays are probably in order.

Soon he is showing his true colors. Of course, he is a "guide" and outdoor instructor of some sort and considerable experience. Rather than leave, he "must climb" with his partner. First his partner works a 9 at the end of the block. He takes a couple, not 4, ibuprofen somebody came up with.

As I stroll leisurely up the 5 he starts correcting A on her belaying technique. He says she is going to "kill me". She is ticked as he starts trying to "help out" while she is belaying. My brother, who has just recently arrived, and has caught part of the story says something curt. He is considering a body blow.

A is really ticked by the time I get down. We have been climbing for at least a year, and the clown who just took a 20 foot header soloing a 5.2 and pulled out a one inch thick rhododendron tree by going up it hand-over-hand to about 6 feet up the trunk, is telling her she is going to kill me on a 5.5 TR!

E eventually gives his climb a try. He clearly is in too much pain to continue. He calls somebody and says he expects to go to a chiropractor. By now he is complaining of shoulder pain and it is hard to breathe. The ranger has stopped by to find out what happened as a result of the 911 call. He is not going to be talked into seeing qualified medical personnel - at least not by the time he left us.

Hope he is okay.

But for the rope bag, he probably would have left in a bag.

Trad climber
One Place or Another
Feb 25, 2009 - 07:44am PT

Mountain climber
Jul 8, 2009 - 07:44am PT

Social climber
chicago ill
Jul 8, 2009 - 08:00am PT
Nice shot! What is it?

A hard right down Big Tujunga Canyon
Jul 8, 2009 - 08:07am PT
I think that is "Father Figure"
seamus mcshane

Jul 8, 2009 - 08:16am PT
That's Father Figure.

Palms are moist...and I've got goosebumps.

About an hour ago, I re-read "The Only Blasphemy" for the hundredth time.
My palms and eyes became moist.

"All climbs were easy for Bachar, and he had to make his own difficulties. He completely dominated the cliff with his grace and confidence. He never got rattled, never lost control, and you knew if he ever got killed climbing, it wouldn't be his fault. You'd sell all your gear and curse God for the rest of your life- on aesthetic, not moral grounds." - John Long

Profound words from an amazing solo story.



A deep dive in the shallows of life..
Jul 8, 2009 - 10:09am PT
Bachar...soloed...Father Figure...

I've stood in the dirt beneath Father Figure and looked up at the chalked holds...impossibly bad holds which are impossibly far apart...and thought that even a gecko would have problems with this climb.

And Bachar soloed Father Figure...

Trad climber
Boulder, CO
Jul 8, 2009 - 11:44am PT
The Darth Vader picture and the request for a Derek Hersey story lead me to:

Mid 80's sometime, I am roped on either sh*t hooks or Darth Vader (I don't remember which). My wife is lounging at the base, enjoying a book and along comes John and he solos whichever one we were not on... He comes back around, sidles shirtlessly up to my wife and asks "What was that route I just soloed?", my wife (still) looks back at him and asks 'who the f*ck are you?' I thought my partner (Mike Forkash) was going to lose it right there he was laughing so hard. She got properly introduced at that point and we had a nice chat.

A few years (92?) later and I have dashed from work to do the first pitch of the Naked Edge, just because it's a favorite of mine. We get it done and I look over to the right and there is a new clip-up there. It looks pleasant enough and we decide to do it. Up comes Derek soloing from the base of Redgarden and asks what we are up to. I knew him a bit from the area and we had done a couple of things together at Devil's Tower. Anyway, Derek decides he wants to do this new thing with us and asks if we could wait while he gets his harness. So he down solos beneath us, runs to his bag, grabs his harness and solos back up to us! We jump on this thing (Slow Train Comin') and get it done.

RIP both of you.
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Aug 13, 2009 - 09:13pm PT
John Bachar on Father Figure, 5.12 Joshua Tree ; taken by Allen Roberts ( The Voice).

Poulsbo, WA
Apr 2, 2010 - 10:32pm PT
Happened to find this thread today. Wow. This stuff is treasure. And the discussion was started by John himself. This one's a keeper, for sure.

If it weren't for SuperTopo, how much of this history would ever see the light of day?

We all know there's much much more to be told on this topic.

One thought about ec's post:

ec said
Croft showed-up at Sunrise Mountain Sports years ago when we had designs for a new climbing gym/shop. Someone remarked about how tall the bouldering area was (I can't remember the actual height, somewhere between 15-20ft). Croft, looking at the plans and calmly says, "That's about as high-up as I would ever want to go."

We all looked at each other with a WTF look. Peter wasn't joking...

I'd be busting my gut laughing at that. One idea, though. If he wasn't joking, maybe he meant that's as high as he would ever want to climb on plastic in a gym. As in that would be all he could take before he got bored senseless. Just a possible explanation.


Anacortes, wa
Apr 2, 2010 - 10:40pm PT
This thread only makes me sad.
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