Hey Coz, Sure would like to hear the story of Southern Belle


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Barcelona, Spain
Mar 22, 2009 - 01:13pm PT
Whoa, we had to wait for that tale, but the wait was worth it! Thanks! Walt told me his part of the story (multiple times, sometimes twice in a row, I think!), and he always got a little more excited than normal for him when talking about this route. Now I understand why. How did you manage to keep that story inside yourself for so long?

A request (Clint?, anyone) - Karma and S. Belle must both be on this photo. Could anyone sketch their lines on top?


Trad climber
Mar 22, 2009 - 01:38pm PT
Reread the entire thread again this a.m., last night I was blown away. Needed chalk just to finish reading the thread. Was the hard part negotiating the cajones wheelbarrow up the trail? Incredible face, incredible climbers.....incredible.

Big Wall climber
So Cal
Mar 22, 2009 - 02:29pm PT
Great stories Scott!

One of the proudest routes in North America. The lack of complete ascents & the number of unsuccessful attempts is rather revealing. You & Schultz really scored with that route. I agree with you that Walt would have wanted it left the way it was bolted. The ethics applied to the routes creation are so sharply contrasting with the ones SJ & DR used to create Growing Up.

Hearing a detailed account of this route is something many have anticipated for a long time now. For some reason, the whole South Face of Half Dome area had not got the attention it deserves, until recently. I would imagine that more people will be seeking to do some of the routes over there now that better info & pics temp one to dream of sunny skies & dreamy rock.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Mar 22, 2009 - 03:05pm PT
mcreel, actually this overlay is on the second page of this thread:

Southern Belle & South Face cross each other, but Growing Up stays left.

I think I have the lines a little better in this one (from the Long, Hard and Free page http://www.stanford.edu/~clint/yos/longhf.htm#half:

I'd like to improve the topo, too - Scott's and Hank's stories should help a lot with this. (I'll need to hike up there with a telescope or something to positively locate some of the features).

It's still so impressive that Hank and Alan went up there onsight, 6 years after, with an untested topo and without Dave to tell them where to find the bolts!! That is full-on adventure and beyond.

A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
Mar 22, 2009 - 03:13pm PT
So great to hear the story of Southern Belle. I think the South Face of Half Dome is one of the most striking, mysterious, and awe-inspiring faces around. Everything back there seems so untouchable to mere mortals.

Lets hear some more, how about Autobahn and The Fast Lane? JM you were in on The Fast Lane. What about Autobahn (no guide in front of me right now, can't recall the FA). Those both look incredible and maybe (a little) more plausible to mortal men...

cheers and thanks

Mar 22, 2009 - 03:38pm PT
Wow ... what cool looking pitch. This must be the pitch Croft told me about. Didn't Peter and Bachar or Shultz do this before "Southern Belle" was done? I've always wanted to do this pitch.

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Mar 22, 2009 - 04:05pm PT

On page 1 of this thread, John Bachar said he did it with you....

"Me and WB did the first ascent of the crack on pitch two...

Remember that old buddy?

Thought I was gonna take the ripper of my life. One of each Friends.... hahaha"

(OK, it's been over 20 years so memories may not be so clear...)

Mar 22, 2009 - 04:09pm PT
LOL Clint

That's too funny. But to tell you the truth I never did this climb.

I believe it was John and Peter because Croft told me about that pitch and how cool it was. Some OW to thin hands on that overhanging dihedral.

Best to you Clint, hope to see you in the Valley soon again .....

P.S. The Valley is getting heavily hammered with wet heavy snow today from that storm.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Mar 22, 2009 - 04:24pm PT
Thanks for the correction, Werner. Although Croft went up there twice with Dave Schultz to try to repeat the route, too.

What an outrageous crack, though. And to think that something so steep leads to a freeable face.

Social climber
wuz real!
Mar 22, 2009 - 04:27pm PT
That's one of the coolest looking pitches that I have ever seen!
Lynne Leichtfuss

Social climber
valley center, ca
Mar 22, 2009 - 04:27pm PT
Say, Chris Mac, this thread is my vote to be on your monthly email topic mag. One of the best of the best. Lynne
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Mar 22, 2009 - 04:29pm PT
I want to add a little context to Southern Belle and to Cozís historic story here. For many years most of us were aware that the back of Half Dome had enormous route potential, even before Galen and Warren finally got their aid route done in 1970. It was not a secret to us. It was obvious that many lines could be established on the wall but which were beyond us in those days. So we yearned for it and talked quietly over the issues.

By the mid-seventies a bunch of us were scoping this incredibly beautiful wall and trying to figure out paths of least resistance, poking around the base for days, glassing it from other vantage points. John Bragg and I even were up there in July of 1975 and while there, established the Call of the Wild, a fun several pitch roof and crack climb on the back of the Pearly Gates area, while snooping around for this bigger game. But in fact no one for 15-16 years after Warren and Galen were done, actually went up there and squared off with the other bigger challenges back there. One of the greatest flowers in Yosemite.

There was a central problem. It was not just a matter of fire power. Obviously requiring a base camp, ground help, money, preparatory climbing and huge amounts of energy, time, and commitment, this salient problem was the enormous runouts that surely would develop up there. They just had to. And the assessment was nightmarish. It looked like climbing for a future era.

So, back to context. That Walt and Dave actually addressed this issue finally in 1987, and Dave got Coz to help him establish the FFA a year later, still signifies a new order of climbing, frankly, that we had not seen before but surely all dreamed off---climbing this hard and this runout was purely fiction before then and mostly still is. Doing 5.11 and 5.12 sections 100 ft above protection. It just had not happened before and we all had been real busy making certain for decades that it DID not. So it did turn out that what we had been fearing for 20 years---that the face would be so terrifying---was true. A huge leapfrog past what was the cutting edge.

I think in the interchange above it is clear that today there would be the possibility of making (while on lead) the route somewhat less runout, but now that this line is historic and with Walt having passed, the surviving FA/FFA party wishes to keep its statement intact. Running out free leads was very much part of climbing expression and especially of steep slab and steep face. And as Coz implies, it was the ultimate and eternal expression of the mastery and genius of Dave Schultz and Coz in their prime.
Chicken Skinner

Trad climber
Mar 22, 2009 - 04:42pm PT
Hi Coz,

I have to agree with you. Schultz was extremely talented and had nerves of steel, a lethal combination. Walt told me that Southern Belle scared the crap out of him. It is a proud route for sure.

tom woods

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
Mar 22, 2009 - 04:43pm PT
I've spent some time up there walking around and looking. It's clear that there are only two ways routes will go, lot's of bolting, or lots of runouts.

Like Chicken Skinner said on the Karma post, those dikes, on Karma look huge from the ground. I guess that's not true once you get there.

Either way, a super proud line and there is tons more room for other routes, but like Peter Haan said, the routes would take a lot of effort, time, money...

Social climber
No Ut
Mar 22, 2009 - 04:54pm PT
I don't know which story is more inspired/inspiring, scary/beautiful or downright perfectly adventurous than Scott's or Hank's regarding Southern Belle. Sometimes people get themselves into a state of mind/body that seems normal to them at the time, but is anything but. It's so gratifying to me that you two have finally fully shared these visceral vignettes from the collective edge of a unique type of climbing experience. You've both done it in your individually inimitable styles such that I predict these recollections - jotted down in the heat of the remembrance of battle - will in years and decades to come be regarded as a high-point in climbing literature.

Thank you, my friends!

-JelloSlimesHisWayUpTheSouthernBelleAlongSideCozAndHankster - InHisMind
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Mar 22, 2009 - 05:27pm PT
The dikes on Karma are huge, but they are like saws mostly---will cut the rope---and for the most part are very very sloping. Their bottom edge is large but tops are steeply ramped.

here is the link to the Ken Yaeger's/Skinner's thread:


and this is a photo from that thread:
Chicken Skinner

Trad climber
Mar 22, 2009 - 06:00pm PT

This is a view looking down the pitch after the one Peter Haan just posted. Southern Belle goes up the wall in the background and this view gives you an idea of how radical Southern Belle is. Imagine running it out on that stuff.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Mar 22, 2009 - 09:15pm PT

right here, right now
Mar 22, 2009 - 09:40pm PT
Peter Haan said:

"Doing 5.11 and 5.12 sections 100 ft above protection. It just had not happened before and we all had been real busy making certain for decades that it DID not."

Good prelude to my point.

In your words, aside from a terrific tell of a horrific and visionary adventure, I see some hints of sadness within you about the regard for this route.

It's as though the assessment of the community, either by way of subsequent rap bolted routes, lack of attempted repeats, lack of other routes done in kind as was yours, a dearth of aspirants stepping out to carry the torch forward by way of emulation; that all of this somehow devalues your effort.

Were I in your shoes on this one, I'd start by owning the intrinsic value of my ascent as a stand-alone experience. Sure, all of us want to make a contribution and likewise garner a degree of appreciation from the community along with reinforcement and positive feedback based on our creative and highly invested efforts.

But you guys just blew the doors off of all of this; we'll be lucky to see one or two attempts per generation on something so committing. With this, the net effect is that it doesn't get readily absorbed by the community.

But, but... now that we have your stunning & detailed report, the star gets a little brighter to steer by...
The Warbler

the edge of America
Mar 22, 2009 - 10:32pm PT
All the elements come together here to make one of the most classic free climbs in the world, if not THE most classic, it seems to me. Line - direct, position - dead center, rock quality - good as it gets, boldness - well... , location, location, location. Since I'll never climb enough to be confident to swap leads up it, I'd love to toprope it, but that'll never happen either. The route looks incredible!

The route will never be popular, that is, it won't often be climbed, at least not in my most extreme imaginings of the future of our game. But it stands as a silent and solitary tribute to the essence of climbing in possibly the most amazing climbing area in the world. So it will be popular in the imagination of climbers, a rock hard example of what is possible, and imagination is what fuels the fire.

So congratulations, Coz. With Southern Belle, you and Dave have inspired generations of climbers to push it beyond the line. Some of them might even do so on the same wall by a different route.

I don't see that Growing Up diminishes Southern Belle in any fashion. Quite the opposite - one emphasizes the magnitude of the other. It will be interesting to see the turns climbing takes in our lifetimes, but a route like Southern Belle will never be outdone - equaled possibly, but never outdone.
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