Barry Bates and Mark Klemens--Valley free climbing


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Aug 15, 2008 - 09:36am PT
Barry resoled (great work) my Friction Loafers back when he was running the REI wall in Cupertino. Barry was a humble guy, easy going and friendly. The climbing was important to him not the fame. After a rain storm I found the left hold of the start to the "Bates Eliminator" laying on the ground, torn off by a chump who couldn't wait for things to dry out. I kept it, thinking to bolt/glue it back on but ultimately decided that's not what he would have done.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 15, 2008 - 10:49am PT
John Long captures exactly the intent of my post when he stated up-thread: “I was never so stoked as when I bagged the Bates Big Four: Vanishing Point, Five and Dive, Lunatic Fringe, and Independence Center (which is far harder than 5.10d). Those are all-time classics, as are Cream and Steppin' Out (Klemens).”

If you could climb Barry’s routes and Mark’s routes, you could take the next step in thin and wide cracks. They were fearsome, desperate affairs.

The only true, unadorned whimpering for me was on a Bates route. I watched my hexs rattle out below me and my hands ooze out above me—and the whimpering bits in between stuck in a special new kind of Purgatory where retrograde motion was allowed. As Jim has said many times: “I didn’t like cimbing with Barry; he was too strong.”

Getting up a Bates route was an end point for me. But, when new guys like John came to the Valley, the Bate’s and Klemens’ routes were not the standard to aspire to, they were the starting point. The aspirations lay much further up the scale.

right here, right now
Aug 15, 2008 - 12:06pm PT
Roger said:
“But, when new guys like John came to the Valley, the Bate’s and Klemens’ routes were not the standard to aspire to, they were the starting point.”

Yes Roger, by the time I started working through the Yosemite standards, 1977, those routes were the entry point to hard climbing, the key stepping stones, and they formed the foundation of the “must do” classics. For those of us then intrigued by the popular goals (Klemen's routes somewhat less popular, with thin cracks being more accessible), the Bates routes in particular comprised, for various reasons well elucidated in your OP (and still do I imagine), a “What’s What”, rather than a "Who’s Who" within the Valley canon.

Already by the later 70s, notwithstanding general knowledge of things like the Bate’s problem, it was the route list more than the man that was celebrated; apparently, to some substantial degree, the climbs overshadowed the man.

Perhaps to have one’s deeds outshine any particular force of personality isn’t such a bad thing?

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Aug 15, 2008 - 12:46pm PT
Pat --

Roger began his original post with this: "Why are Barry Bates and Mark Klemens not on everyone’s short list of the most important Valley free climbers?"

I don't believe we need to interpret an explicitly regional discussion of landmark climbs and landmark climbers as any kind of a slight towards the visionaries of other areas, or even other historical periods.

Books such as Chris Jones' "Climbing In North America", and your own "Master Of Rock", have ensured many of us are keenly aware of the broad national scope in the March of Standards. Limits are certainly being pushed all over the world, all the time, by all sorts of people. And lord knows the slack is right in there with the other standard-setters of the time.

But, to underscore Roger's point in all this -- while your acheivements have been exhaustively documented by historians far and near, how much do we hear about Bates and Klemens?
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 15, 2008 - 01:28pm PT
Hey Kevin,

You raise a good point about extending the story into the late seventies. I don’t think I am qualified, but I can you tell you my thoughts. I have started a new thread so that any responses don’t detract from the purpose of this thread.

Sorting out late 70's Valley free climbing

scuffy b

Aug 15, 2008 - 02:26pm PT
Oli, Roger is not trying to elevate Bates and Klemens to a
level higher than, say, Greg Lowe or Pete Cleveland or you.
The subject seems to be the importance of Bates and Klemens to
the explosion of free climbing in the early 70s IN YOSEMITE.

When I started climbing in Yosemite in 1972, do you think the
fact that Greg Lowe had climbed 5.12 in the 60s informed my
attitudes? Of course not. I'd never heard of him. Most people
climbing in the Valley at that time hadn't, and you've got to
remember that he was calling everything 5.9 or 5.10 anyway.
People might say "Utah 5.9 is super hard" or something like
that. Vanishing Point, Cream, Steppin Out, climbs like that are
what fired the imagination of young, new Valley climbers.

At this point, we all know that Robbins did hard free climbing
in Colorado in the 60s. Those accomplishments were simply not
part of our inspiration, in some part due to the fact that
very few people were aware of them.

Personally, I was more inspired by your freeing Rixon's Pinnacle
than by your freeing the Slack. I think that is because of the
timing. For aspiring Yosemite climbers of 1972-74, the climbs
established in 1970 and 1971 seemd more influential than ones
done in 1966 or 67. No value attached, that's just the way it

Surely, you can't be trying to minimize the importance of Haan,
Bates and Klemens as influences for Valley climbers of
the early 70s, just for the sake of bringing up regional
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Aug 15, 2008 - 02:34pm PT

One other correction:

"Important free climbs include Chris Fredericks’ English Breakfast crack in 1966; ..."

This was not freed by Fredericks. It was freed later, by Bridwell. This has been posted elsewhere in this forum, but has not made it correctly into the guidebooks so far.

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Aug 15, 2008 - 02:49pm PT
One thing to remember about the climbs Roger mentions - these are fantastic routes, absolutely stellar lines with classic climbing, not just off-the-cuff lines with a few super hard moves. That had a great influence on all the Stonemasters: to go after the big classic lines, the stuff that you would look at and imagine wonderful things.

If you want to just go on pure dificulty, as I've mentiond before, the hardest thing done back in the day was by none other than Bridwell - Abstract Corner (5.12b in my book).

Also, there were a lot of routes (like the center and right side of Absolutly Free, Twilight Zone, Doom, etc.) where a leader couldn't afford to fall, at all, and these represented other kinds of challenges beyond just pure difficulty.


Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 15, 2008 - 02:57pm PT
Hi Clint,

I am not sure that I would want to wade into that. Although I have heard things about this before, Jim is on record as ascribing that free route to Chris and I have not seen what you are referring to.

scuffy b

Aug 15, 2008 - 03:04pm PT
Kim told me, almost apologetically, that they had used aid
on English Breakfast (decades after the FA)
I don't think it was a secret, it just got into Roper's guide
without any FA/FFA discussion.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Aug 21, 2008 - 11:38am PT
I certainly seem to be following Klemens around the Valley these days, the harder wide-circuit seems almost defined by his routes, take Cream for instance, you can't look at that without wanting to climb it.

And Bates' Five and Dime is sort of the final for 5.10d in the Valley, a very sought after climb.

But who will write this history?
Who will publish the follow on to Climbing in North America?

There is a lot more history out there, beyond the Valley, that needs to be captured that isn't anywhere written down yet.


right here, right now
Aug 21, 2008 - 11:49am PT
Ament's "A History of Free Climbing in America" does catalogue quite a broad spectrum of historical event and in chronological sequence. A must have really.

But to focus on Bates/Klemens forward, as a Yosemite specific retrospective, and done as a story... We'll see what the Stonemaster book does for us and then re-asess?

Perhaps Largo will establish those guys as the baseline, or rather as an essential segmental leaping-off point for Stonemaster era achievement.

It is hard to believe Ali-O was unaware of Bates, as she was well travelled by the end of the 70's.

Ice climber
Aug 21, 2008 - 12:16pm PT

Thanks so much for bringing this topic up. Bates and Klemens wer the two "under-appreciated" climbers in C4 back in the 70s. Not that their peers or the climbers who struggled up their routes could not or did not appreciate their talents but many others just did not know them by their climbs. I did some climbing with Mark back then and it always seemed to me he just wanted to keep a low-profile, which was sort of in keeping with the general philosophy at the time. Let your deeds speak for themselves and don't spray. Barry was pretty much the same. I was in awe of him one day following him around like a wide-eyed groupie, trying to succeed on some of his C4 bouldering circuit problems. He was so f#%king good and smooth. Klemens just intuitively knew how to slide upwards, like mercury flowing skyward, on hard 5.11 wide cracks. My fondest memory of him though is when he took a rest day in C4 and just sat in a chair with his BB gun, shooting squirrels.
That was the only time I saw him smile or heard him chuckle!!!
Both of those guys left a huge impact on us mortals..........

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Aug 21, 2008 - 12:42pm PT
From the Introduction to Yosemite Climbs
George Meyers and Don Reid
Chockstone Press


The following history section, covering the years from 1870 to World War II, was written by Richard Leonard, David Brower and William Dunmire and appeared in Steve Roper's guide book A Climber's Guide to Yosemite Valley, published by the Sierra Club in 1971.

...Even in those prehistoric days before the discovery of the incomparable Valley, there were legendary rock climbing exploits. Such was the first descent to the base of the Lost Arrow. The Indian maiden Tee-hee-neh rappelled on lodgepole saplings joined together with deer thongs to recover the lifeless body of her lover, Kos-soo-kah. By means of thongs and the strong arms of the other members of the tribe, they were brought back to the rim of the Valley, where Tee-hee-neh perished in grief. This legend is reported by many different sources: Hutchings, in 1886, stated the height of the rappel to be 203 feet, a truly remarkable rock climbing achievement.

It was not until 1833 that the white man is known to have seen Yosemite Valley. From reports published long before the later and widely publicized discovery of the Valley, we learn that Joseph Redderford Walker and party came from the vicinity of Bridgeport, perhaps over Virginia Pass and along the divide between the Tuolumne and the Merced rivers, to the Valley rim. There they marveled at waterfalls over "lofty precipices... more than a mile high." The first rock climbing attempt by white man was soon stopped by difficulty, for "on making several attempts we found it utterly impossible for man to descend."

In 1851, however, Yosemite Valley was really made known to the world, when the Mariposa Battalion, organized by harassed settlers of the foothills, trailed Indians to their stronghold in Ahwahnee - "deep grass valley."

Yosemite soon became a source of attraction for tourists from all over the world. One of the earliest to arrive was James M. Hutchings, who first came to the Valley in 1855. Throughout the early history of the Valley he was interested in attempting to climb every point around the Valley.

John Muir first came to the Sierra in 1868. Through him more than any other man has the beauty of the region been made known to the entire world. His climbs in Yosemite Valley and the High Sierra, many of them the earliest of which we have knowledge, place him among the pioneers of California mountaineering. His Sunnyside Bench, east of the lip of Lower Yosemite Fall, is still one of the untrammeled beauty spots of the Valley. His early exploration of the Tenaya Canyon let to route finding in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. He made first ascents of Cathedral Peak and Mount Ritter, and was the first to traverse under the Lost Arrow along Fern Ledge, beneath the crashing power of the Upper Yosemite Fall.

In early October of 1864 Clarence King , assisted by Richard Cotter, fresh from a victory over Mount Tyndall, made the first serious topographical and geological reconnaissance of the Yosemite Valley. On this survey they climbed practically every summit on a circuit of the rim of the Valley. This circuit included only the easier points, such as El Capitan, Eagle Peak, Yosemite Point, North Dome, Basket Dome, Mount Watkins, Sentinel Dome, and the Cathedral Rocks. Any summits which were much beyond this standard of difficulty seemed to them completely beyond the range of human ability. In 1865 the California Geological Survey wrote concerning Half Dome, Mount Starr King and Mount Broderick, "Their summits are absolutely inaccessible."

Spurred by this challenge James M. Hutchings and two others made the first recored attempt on Half Dome in 1869, but were stopped at a saddle east of the Dome. After at least two intervening attempts the Scotch carpenter and trail builder, George G. Anderson, finally engineered his way to the top on October 12, 1875.

Inspired by the success on Half Dome, adventurous climbers turned their attention to Mount Starr King, the "extremely steep, bare, inaccessible cone of granite" referred to by Whitney in the Yosemite Guide Book. George B. Bayley and E. S. Schuyler made the ascent in August 1876, somewhat to the dismay of Anderson, Hutchings and J. B. Lambert, who, using a different route, a year later found the summit monuments built by the first party. Bayley was one of the most remarkable climbers of the time. In 1876 Muir recorded that "Mount Shasta, Whitney, Lyell, Dana, and the Obelisk (Mount Clark) already have felt his foot, and years ago he made desperate efforts to ascend the South Dome (Half Dome), eager for the first honors." Later he was distinguished by an early ascent of Cathedral Peak, and an ascent of Mount Rainier during which he was seriously injured by a fall into a crevasse, recovering only to be killed in a city elevator.

After the great ascents of the "inaccessible" summits of Yosemite, there was a period of quiet in the climbing history, for everything seemed to have been done. Hutchings had claimed the ascent of all Yosemite points, except Grizzly Peak and the Cathedral Spires, and a climber of another generation came forward in 1885 to make the ascent of Grizzly Peak. He was Charles A. Bailey, who later became an enthusiastic member of the Sierra Club, locating, climbing and naming Sierra Point for the Club.

Since it now appeared that all the major summits in the Yosemite region had been climbed, there was a long gap in the climbing history, broken only by the exploratory routes of a few outstanding climbers of the period. Those whose climbs are best known are S. L. Foster, Joseph N. LeConte, Charles and Earl Michael, William Kat and Ralph S. Griswold. Foster was best known for his canyoneering in the Merced and Tenaya canyons beginning in 1909. LeConte has been remembered through the description of his ascent of the gully on Grizzly Peak, which permits a route to the Diving Board on Half Dome. He also wrote of several other "scrambles about Yosemite" of nearly three decades ago. It has been said of the Michaels that they climbed everything that did not require pitons. The same description might apply to Kat and Griswold. All have been so modest that it is possible we may never know the true history of the interesting routes which they had pioneered.

Again it seemed that nothing more could be done. However, in the early thirties, a new phase of rock climbing was growing, based on the development of modern technique in Europe, in the summer of 1931. Robert L. M. Underhill, the leading American exponent of the use and management of the rope in rock work, interested Californians in this phase of climbing. It has been mentioned that some very remarkable climbing was done without the knowledge of this safety technique; but the early climber who have discussed the matter agree that their climbing frequently involved unjustifiable hazard. Moreover, it was clear to them that they could not attempt routes of very high angle and small holds. Thus the introduction of a new type of climbing, combined with the protection of pitoncraft, again opened a new field.

It was not until September 2, 1933 that the first rock climbing section of the Sierra Club felt competent to make organized attempts upon the spectacular unclimbed faces and spires of Yosemite. Although as long ago as 1886 Hutchings, in reporting the relatively easy ascent of Grizzly Peak, claimed that the last "unclimbed summit" of Yosemite had been ascended, nevertheless the Cathedral Spires, the Church Tower, the Arrowhead, Split Pinnacle, Pulpit Rock, Watkins Pinnacles and the Lost Arrow still stood forth without even an attempt ever having been recorded against them. In addition to these summits there was a field, practically unexplored, of route finding on faces, arêtes, gullies and chimneys. Among these may be mentioned Washington Column, Royal Arches, Panorama Cliff, Glacier Point, Yosemite Point Couloir, Cathedral Chimney and the arête of the Lower Brother. Ropes, pitons and trained experience in their use were the keys to these ascents, which were later to become so popular. Climbers, profiting by the achievements of their predecessors, added still more ascents to the growing list of Yosemite routes...

The following section, covering the years from 1941 to Chuck Pratt's climb of the Crack of Doom in 1961, was written by Steve Roper and appeared in his 1971 book. The remainder of the history section, covering the years from 1962 to the present, was compiled by George Meyers.

During the eight years between the 1933 trip and the entry of this country in World War II, about forty first ascents were made. The most active climbers of this period were Kenneth Adam, David Brower, Jules Eichorn, Morgan Harris, Richard Leonard, L. Burce Meyer and Hervey Voge. Brower made eighteen first ascents, twelve of them with Harris. Perhaps the most continually popular routes of this era were the regular routes on both the Cathedral Spires, and the Royal Arches Route.

During World War II there was a climbing hiatus, but when the war ended a new generation of climbers quickly appeared. Few of the climbers active in the 1930's were to establish new routes in the post-war era. In 1945, a Swiss blacksmith named John Salathe came to Yosemite to hike, climb and live with nature. He became a vegetarian as a result of a fleeting conversation with "angels" - these same apparitions later pointed out to him three great Valley routes: the Lost Arrow, the southwest face of Half Dome and the north face of Sentinel Rock. All had been attempted in the 1930's and all were considered great prizes. Two factors allowed Salathe to become a legendary climber: his determination and his development of the world's finest pitons. It had long been known and accepted that traditional soft iron pitons couldn't be forced into bad cracks, they would buckle and bend. Employing the skills of his life work, Salathe was able to fashion extremely stiff and durable pitons from Model A Ford axles. Using such iron, he was able to climb, with Anton Nelson, the southwest face of Half Dome without bolts. It is safe to guess that many bolts would have been necessary had conventional pitons been used. Thus, it can be seen that the invention of hardened steel alloy pitons opened up an almost limitless number of first ascent possibilities. Other climbers were not quick to accept the new pitons and the corresponding new standards; Salathe was the great pioneer of the late 1940's. His solo escapades on the Lost Arrow will be remembered far longer than the first "ascent," members of which threw ropes over the summit and prusiked. His notable five-day ascent of the Lost Arrow Chimney, also climbed with Nelson, was the first Grade V climb done in the country.

Although Salathe was the finest aid man of his day, he was not known as a good free climber. He often remarked, "Enough of this hiking, let us get on to the climbing," the hiking referring to free climbing. And yet, at times, he was bold on free climbing; a climb called the Hand, in Pinnacles National Monument, was led by Salathe, using four pitons for protection. Although only 5.6 in difficulty, the Hand is fearsomely exposed and the route is devious. Bolds have now replaced his pitons and it is impossible to see how he managed to place them. One assumes that they were used to reassure the belayer, who was out of sight around a corner.

After climbing Sentienl in 1950, Salathe began to fade from the scene; he had done his three climbs, there were marital problems and he was over fifty years old. He soon left for his native land. Returning to America in 1962, he occasionally visited the Valley, where he would be surrounded by idolators. Surreptitious tape recordings and photographs were made as John Salathe sat oblivious, cooking the grasses from a nearby meadow. A healthy glow was ever-present in his blue eyes; he could chastise Allen Steck, his climbing partner on Sentinel; "You see, Al, if only you had eaten as I did you would have felt better on the wall." Then Allen would say, "You know John, they have done our route in three hours now." And the serene reply, "But not the same route, Al - they could not do our routes that fast. Oh, now that the bolts are in, perhaps... three days?" Then he would shake his head.

Steck was the leader of the post-Salathe generation; in a period of three years he climbed not only Sentinel's north face, but also two of the classic buttress routes in the Valley: Yosemite Point Buttress and the East Buttress of El Capitan.

Most of the noteworthy climbers in Yosemite from 1933 to 1955 came from the San Francisco area. Los Angeles, the other great population center of California, developed good climbers during that period, but their efforts were largely confined to a local cliff, Tahquitz Rock. An exception was the venerable Chuck Wilts, who had vied with Salathe for the price of the Lost Arrow Chimney. Wilts and his wife, Ellen, made the first ascent of Rixon's Pinnacle, at that time one of the hardest short routes.

In 1954 a pudgy beginner named Mark Powell was taken up the Lower Cathedral Spire, and of the resulting fiasco his partner could only say, "That fellow Powell just doesn't have it." But he did, and the mid-1950's can only be thought of the Powell Era. With climbing partners of the caliber of Wally Reed, Bill Feuerer and Warren Harding, Powell established nineteen new routes. In one active ten-month period, he put up ten routes, including such classics as the Arrowhead Arete, the South Face of North Dome, and the Powell-Reed Route on Middle Cathedral Rock. A serious ankle injury in September 1957 put an abrupt end to his productive efforts. Of Powell's three main climbing partners, all went on to achieve various degrees of notoriety. Reed was without question the most unheralded climber ever to come out of the Valley; few knew of his amazing control on 5.9 routes. In the early 60's, before he "retired" to go back to school, he made many first ascents. Feuerer became known as the "Dolt" for some of his infamous blunders, and in the 60's he began making beautiful and ultra-expensive climbing equipment. While Reed and Dolt went on to other activities, Harding was just beginning to make a name for himself.

He started climbing in 1952 and was a weak member of a Grand Teton ascent, causing someone to remark on his lack of endurance. This could well be an apocryphal story, for Harding became known as the iron man of Yosemite climbing, the man who could drill bolt holes all night. His perseverance on the Nose of El Capitan is well-known by now; the first El Cap is his testimonial to his drive and vision. Pleased by his success, he turned to other intimidating walls, overcoming with bolts and siege tactics cliffs which no one had yet dreamed possible. It has been suggested that Harding was ahead of his time, that his 110-bolt ascent of the Leaning Tower would certainly be done someday, so why not in 1961. However, at the time, Harding was criticized for an apparent predilection for security. (Perhaps the question is reopened by the 1986 27-bolt ascent of a line that parallels the Harding route.) His 1970 ascent of the Wall of the Early Morning Light strained most climbers' perception of the justifiable use of bolts, and in the years that followed, Harding only occasionally climbed in the Valley, establishing a few routes up obscure and somewhat ugly walls.

Before Powell and Harding even began climbing, Royal Robbins was putting up America's first 5.9 climbs on Tahquitz Rock. During the 1950's he made few trips to the Valley, but among his early accomplishments were the second and third ascents of the north face of Sentinel and the fourth ascent of the Arrow Chimney. Of his three first ascents in the fifties, the major one was the first Grade VI in the country: the great face of Half Dome, climbed in 1957 with Jerry Galwas and Mike Sherrick. Five days were spent on the wall. During his 1958-59 incarceration in the Army, Robbins heard stories of what was going on in the Valley: Powell had just put up his great routes and a young Bay Area upstart, Chuck Pratt, was responsible for some of the best climbs of 1958 and 1959.

Pratt had immediately shown a great interest in free climbing and seemed to possess a supernatural ability. An early free lead on Phantom Pinnacle and a great crack lead midway up the north face of Middle Cathedral Rock were among his climbs. As the productive decade of the 60's dawned, Pratt and Robbins, totally committed to climbing, were the dominant figures. These two, accompanied by Tom Frost and Joe Fitschen, made the second ascent of the Nose in six and a half days. This convinced them that even the greatest Valley walls were possible without fixing ropes from bottom to top. Robbins made first ascents of seven Grade VI's in a three-year period. Pratt, meanwhile, was quietly climbing big walls and leading the most difficult crack climbs yet established; his Crack of Doom, climbed in 1961, was for many years the hardest crack climb in the Valley. Later, his strenuous and difficult-to-protect Twilight Zone left a route still well respected.
In this same period, attention turned to the monolithic El Capitan. The year 1961 saw Robbins, Pratt and Frost put together a circuitous route up the broad southwest face of El Capitan that required only 13 bolts and had much free climbing. The Salathe Wall was as much an effort to reduce the number of bolts need to climb El Cap (the Nose had required 125) as it was a progression toward less reliance on fixed ropes. With El Cap's first route behind them, Robbins and company started to look at the style in which the next routes would be established.

The next major route on El Cap, the 1962 ascent of the Dihedral Wall, by Ed Cooper, Jim Baldwin and Glenn Denny, was novel in two ways: it involved individuals from the periphery of the regular Yosemite community; it also seemed somewhat retrograde of the stylistic standards that Robbins had adopted on the Salathe. Fixed ropes were used to 1, 900 feet and about 100 bolts were placed. Other walls were climbed on El Cap and elsewhere in the Valley over the next few years. The development of aid climbing during the early 60's was in large part due to the efforts and energies of Robbins, who climbed most of the major rock formations. His 1963 solo ascent of the Harding route on the Leaning Tower was the first solo ascent of a major Yosemite wall. The culmination of the aid techniques of this period was the 1964 ascent of the North American Wall, the first route to venture onto the compact, steep, and "unretreatable" southeast face of El Cap. Four of the strongest climbers Yosemite had trained, Robbins, Frost, Pratt and Yvon Chouinard, teamed up to create what was clearly the hardest wall climber ever done anywhere. From sieged, fixed rope routes, on to semi-fixed, to reconnoitered (as was the NA Wall, climbed previously by Frost and Robbins to half height), the natural progression of wall development was for a two-man team to manage a big new route on their own. Chouinard and TM Herbert accomplished this in 1965. Robbins culminated his Yosemite career three years later by making the second ascent of the Muir Wall, the first time El Cap was soloed.

The 60's saw the first of the climbing bums, when the hard-core activist had left the lifestyles of the "outer world" largely behind them for a total commitment to the pursuit of climbing cliffs. Perhaps ten to twenty climbers were in full-season residence during the early 60's. This number was to double by the middle of the decade, and by 1970 perhaps double again.

The walls were not the sole magnet for young climbers of the 60's. Soon after Chuck Pratt plied the shorter cracks in search of difficult testpieces. Frank Sacherer arrived on the scene and used a driven approach in his free climbing to consolidate the standards that Pratt had earlier established. In a period of two years, 1964-65, he put up many free climbs and succeeded in eliminating aid from many of the older aid routes. These included such fifties classics as the East Buttresses of El Capitan and Middle Cathedral Rock, the Lost Arrow Chimney, and the Direct North Buttress of Middle. His remarkable shorter efforts included dispensing with aid on the Dihardral, Bridalveil East, and the right side of the Hourglass. These later routes pushed the free climbing standards up a notch to around 5.10c. Other climbers were also active during this period: Ken Boche, Yvon Chouniard, Glenn Denny, TM Herbert, Bob Kamps, Layton Kor, Jim Madsen, Steve Roper, Galen Rowell, and Kim Schmitz. Sacherer left the Valley scene in 1966 to pursue a physics career (though he died in the Alps in the late 70's) and it was left to Pratt, Chris Fredericks, and particulary to newcomer Jim Bridwell to lead the way to higher free climbing standards.

Bridwell first climbed in the Valley in 1962, and after some tutelage under the likes of Pratt, Layton Kor, and Sacherer, he started to repeat many of the harder wall climbs of the Robbins era, including (sometimes last known) ascents of walls such as Arches Direct, East Face of Higher Cathedral Rock and the Direct Northwest Face of Half Dome. Bridwell, together with Kim Schmitz and Jim Madsen, among others, represented the new generation of wall climbers. These wall climbers of the late 60's, while somewhat slow to establish new wall routes, made quick ascents of the existing ones.

Since the thirties, when the routes followed major chimney and crack systems, new routes had followed progressively thinner crack systems. In the 70's this trend saw routes that included long successive pitches of knifeblades and rurps, and the free climbing of finger cracks, something unheard of in the 60's.

While A5 was introduced by Robbins in the 60's, using pitons and rurps, oftentimes in piton stacks (perhaps most notoriously on the 10-hour A5 pitch on Arches Direct), the years following the consolidation of the late 60's saw A5 expressed by more and more technical means. Routes impossible using 60's technology were later climbed using mashable copperheads (and tiny aluminum heads) and an impressive array of skyhooks. The technology of the 60's aid climbing was also used more often and in a more sustained fashion. The use of rurps saw new light with Charlie Porter's ascent of the Shield in 1972, where he placed 35 in a row. Porter, a former auto mechanic and metallurgist, was the most notable of a new imaginative generation of aid climbers. In addition to his many El Cap routes, Porter produced slider nuts (refined from Bridwell's designs of 1965) and camming nuts that foresaw the future e in free climbing protection. After the introduction of Friends in 1978, the previously scary nemesis of the wall climber, expanding flakes, became slightly less scary, and some routes on Hlaf Dome in particular, saw ascents that had intimidated earlier generations of climbers.

The huge area of El Cap to the right of the North American Wall, referred to by Robbins at one point as "rotten," was opened up in the early 70's. This was done first, ironically, by Robbins himself, in an unsuccessful bid for the first solo first ascent of an El Cap route, and most significantly, by Charlie Porter. In quick succession Porter climbed the Zodiac and Tangerine Trip, now seen as some of the best aid climbing on the cliff, and certainly among the steepest.

While Porter opened many eyes to the possibilities of expanded hard aid, connecting the thinnest of flake systems to create routes up inobvious walls, it was Jim Bridwell who leaped upon the idea with characteristic energy. First he pushed a major new route up the wall to the left of the North American Wall, the Pacific Ocean Wall, with Coloradan Billy Westbay in 1975, and then over the years progressively harder and more tenuous lines: Sea of Dreams, Bushido, and Zenyatta Mondatta. One technique that was first seen with the Bridwell routes was the use of a chisel to clean loose rock from small slots in which to mash copperheads. (Later climbers have expanded this chisel use to the plain manufacture of copperhead slots in blank corners.) Also, Bridwell borrowed from Kim Schmitz and Jim Madsen the timesaving use of dowels, and from Harding, drilled hook placements.

Much of the relatively slow pace at which El Cap routes were being established was due to the plainly formidable appearance of such a huge cliff. But the aura of intimidation that surrounded the big aid routes was shaken when outsiders Chuck Kroger and Scott Davis drove into the Valley and up to El Cap in 1970, and without fanfare, established the Heart Route in impeccable style. El Cap's image suffered considerably further when Steve Sutton and Hugh Burton, teenagers from Squamish Cliff, came to the Valley in 1972 and climbed a good new route on the cliff, capping their accomplishment with a bit of irreverence by naming it the Magic Mushroom, as much a defiance of the self-serious attitudes of the Robbins era as it was a celebration of the drugs they quaffed enroute.

Others were active in establishing big aid routes. During the 70's Nose veteran and crag rat Warren Harding was occasionally active on the walls, climbing big, steep, obscure and often blank routes that have not seen second ascents and that are now largely ignored. Most notable was his ascent of the Wall of the Early Morning Light with Dean Caldwell in 1970, a route that stirred such controversy (because of the 300 holes drilled) that Robbins felt compelled to chop the route. Impressed with the standard of the climbing, he abandoned his bolt removal efforts about halfway up the route. Rick Sylvester, most known for his ski/parachute leaps off El Cap, was one of the first of the 70's residents to establish a new route up El Cap - The Heart Woute - and he furthered his reputation for weird boldness by establishing a route up the path if Upper Yosemite Fall, climbing with Bugs McKeith during a period when the fall had temporarily dried up. In the decade of the 70's the number of El Cap routes alone rose from ten to 38, primarily due to the efforts of Dale Bard, Hugh Burton, Mark Chapman, Bruce Hawkins, Ron Kauk, Bill Price, Steve Sutton and others, who, partnered with Porter, Bridwell or among themselves, established numerous routes on El Cap and Half Dome. The El Cap route tally now stands at 60; the first six years of the 80's has seen activity by John Barbella, Charles Cole, Jay Smith, Mike Corbett, Steve Grossman, Steve Schneider and others including old hand Jim Bridwell. Corbett, incidentally, notably holds a record 30 trips up El Cap, via 24 different routes. Unfortunately, the Harding Dawn Wall debate over justifiable bolting reemerged wit the ascent of Wings of Steel where close to 145 drilled holes were placed over 1,200 feet. In the 70's, foreign ascents of classic El Cap routes became commonplace, even exceptional (the second ascent of the difficult Pacific Ocean Wall was done by Australians). By the 80's four new routes were established on El Cap by foreigners, two by the Spanish Gallegos brothers, and two that included Australian Greg Child.

Since Royal Robbins first soloed El Cap in 1968, perhaps half of the El Cap routes have seen solo ascents. Jim Dunn was the first to solo a new route, Cosmos, in 1972. Later that year, Charlie Porter soloed two new routes. In the last ten years another four solo routes have been established.

While the walls were being assailed and as the available store of big, blank rock in need of a route was running out, free climbing underwent the same development of standards seen elsewhere in the country during the period. With the move toward thinner crack systems that accompanied the search for virgin territory, standards were forced to rise. The tentative acceptance of gym chalk, tincture of benzoin, and protection nuts helped crystallize the common perception that rock climbing was not as much in search of a summit as it was a gymnastic activity. In the early 70's in the "granite gymnasium," this attitude presented hundreds of opportunities. Supple, smooth-soled shoes allowed better use of thin cracks, and their superior smearing capabilities were a boon to the developing face climbs. But development of nut protection probably did more for the rise in free climbing standards than any other technological advance. With nuts, and particularly nuts that would work in Yosemite's parallel sided cracks, protection could be placed quickly, non-violently, and with one hand. At first, the use of nuts and the climbing of First All-Nut Ascents, was an event in itself, with a "Nutbook" recording all these events; practically all the classic walls of the 60's received first (and sometimes last) all nut ascents. The climbs on the Nuts Only Wall date from this period. The development of more sophisticated crack protection has paralleled the increasing standards of the sport. Ray Jardine's Friends, introduced in 1978, were matched perhaps in their impact on the climbing scene only by the Chouinard stoppers of 1972 and Polycentrics a couple years later. The 1980's see many alternative devices for use in parallel-sided cracks of Yosemite.

Coincidental to the late 60's and early 70's development of the 5.10 standard was the change from the clunky klitterschuhe to the supple E.B. For the next dozen years this shoe was standard footware for all Yosemite free climbing. The development in the last five years of newer "sticky rubber" climbing shoes has had perhaps the biggest effect on the Valley's face climbs. Some Apron routes are significantly easier with the new shoes, perhaps an improvement equal to the break made in about 1970 from edging the apron climbs to frictioning them.

Jim Bridwell was by the 1970 the moving force on the free-climbing scene. While he had always demonstrated an extraordinary ability during his apprenticeship under Pratt and Sacherer in the 60's, by 1970 he had moved out on his own, cleaning massive amounts of dirt and vegetation from routes that have since become classic, including Gripper, New Dimensions, Butterfingers and Outer Limits. Other climbers got into the act and pushed the standards, most notably Barry Bates on Lunatic Fringe, Center of Independence, Vanishing Point and Five and Dime, and Rik Rieder on Paradise Lost, Chain Reaction and A Mother's Lament. Bridwell's partner on many of his early 70's free climbs was Mark Klemens, whose talent for offwidth cracks led to Steppin' Out, Cream and ultimately Basket Case. Peter Haan combined technical difficulty with bold climbing when he free climbed the Left Side of the Hourglass, a route well respected even today. Under the wing of Bridwell, younger aspiring climbers were encouraged to push themselves up harder and harder routes. One of the earliest and most talented partners Bridwell brought out was Mark Chapman, who lead his way up some of the hardest climbs of the early 70's, including Hotline, the coveted first ascent of the Nabisco Wall, and the freeing of La Escuela, the first Yosemite climb with two 5.11 pitches. Bridwell's "Brave New World," as he titled a 1973 article, involved climbers beyond just the resident Yosemite community. Easterner Steve Wunsch was active over many years on routes such as Orangutan Arches, and with Barry Bates, on New Dimensions. The visit by Henry Barber in 1973 shook up the somewhat tight-knit Yosemite community with his firey ascent of Butterballs (creating Yosemite's hardest testpiece), an unroped and rapid climb of the Steck-Salathe, and his energetic stacking of such classics as New Dimensions, Nabisco Wall, and Midterm into a single day. Jim Donini pushed standards to a new high in 1974 with his multi-fall effort on Overhang Overpass, a route made all the more remarkable considering the parallel-sided crack and the crude nuts of the day. Barber returned in 1975 to produce a new standard with the Fish Crack, a route difficult to protect even today, and still well respected at 5.12b. More frequently, visitors to the Valley were climbing well enough to contribute routes of a good standard. England's Pete Livesey was particularly active, with first free ascents of Crack-a-Go-Go, in 1974 and Moratorium, in 1975.

By 1974 Bridwell presided loosely over a spontaneous group of young California climbers. Known as the Stonemasters, this group was the mainspring behind much of the incredible new route activity that followed over the next five years. Amid the talents of John Bachar, Dale Bard, Mark Chapman, Mike Graham, Ron Kauk, John Long, Tobin Sorensen, Kevin Worrall, John Yablonski, and others, Bridwell was no longer the top dog; he went from the sharp end of the rope to a role of director, but as such was instrumental in the establishment of some of the best routes of the time: Hot Line, the right side of the Folly, Geek Towers, and Crucifix. Even Bridwell's ten-year experience with the changing scene did not prepare him for the speed with which new routes were evolving. After the first ascent of Hot Line in 1973, Bridwell predicted with some force that the 15 feet of aid would last at least ten years; two years later Ron Kauk and John Bachar climbed the route totally free as one of the first 5.12 routes. The Stonemasters did much throughout the mid 1970's to solidify the 5.11 grade and to develop what are now hailed as classic routes. Ron Kauk emerged as perhaps the dominant figure on the free-climbing scene for the next ten years; his flash ascent of Butterballs and climbs like Blind Faith and Kauk-ulator solidified hard climbing in an uncomplicated style. While not climbing at the extreme level of Kauk or Bachar, Chapman and Kevin Worrall unearthed a host of obscure yet classic routes, including Windfall and Beggar's Buttress. Many others were also active up through the mid-70's: Vern Cleavenger, Chris Falkenstein, Ed Barry, Werner Braun and Rick Sylvester.

In 1976 and 1977 Ray Jardine made quite an impact on the free-climbing scene, though with controversial methods. Unlike the style that had evolved with most other climbers in Yosemite, where the falling leader would lower (yo-yo) to the last no-hands rest between attempts, Jardine would openly rest on protection to work out the moves. He distinguished between a "flash" ascent (climbing on sight from the bottom to top without resort to any form of aid - either resting or falling on protection) and a "free" ascent (where the climb was lead from the bottom to top - albeit after much rehearsal- without falls or resting on protection). He searched out extreme problems to work on, and over the course of many days he would get in shape, rest on protection, and get a little bit higher each time. Eventually, he would be able to lead the climb from bottom to top without resorting to a rest - his "free" ascent. Throughout this time Jardine was fortunate to have many Friends along - the world's supply of these protection devices was solely and secretly his - and they were of immeasurable help on his characteristically long endurance problems. In fact, on Elephant's Eliminate, the flared crack was unprotectable without the devices. Jardine's most difficult routes, Hangdog Flyer, Crimson Cringe, Rostrum Roof, Elephant's Eliminate, and Phoenix were among the hardest routes done at the time. Phoenix, climbed in 1977 at 5.13, remains one of the hardest Yosemite testpieces. As belayer for many of Jardine's efforts, John Lakey got in a good bit of climbing on these extreme routes himself, and in a curious twist of fate, was the first to manage the 5.12 Owl Roof when the team gave that longstanding problem a try in 1977. Jardine's style of climbing on these routes was perhaps not as close to his "flash" ideal as other leading climbers might have done (John Bachar flashed the second ascent of the Cringe, without Friends, soon after the first ascent), but it can be said that he simply altered in degree the means by which many of the most difficult ascents of the last 15 years were done, the main difference was his wiring of the moves by continuing to climb after resting on protection, in preparation for the final "free" ascent. It should be noted that during the period of these difficult ascents Jardine was prolifically making excellent new routes of a lower standard - "flashed," or at least climbed with only minimal compromising of that standard - throughout the Valley, from the base of Washington Column, the Ribbon Falls amphitheatre, to Elephant's Rock. After the remarkable free ascent with Bill Price up the West Face of El Cap in 1979, he turned his attention to free climbing the Nose, and through misguided and inexcusable action chiseled face holds in several spots to enable him to climb to Camp Four. It was later apparent that some "hold hacking" had been done on some of his earlier routes.

Other climbers were active at pushing the 5.12 standard with more conventional tactics. As mentioned elsewhere, Henry Barber was the first to introduce 5.12 to the Valley, in 1975. Ron Kauk climbed the intimidating Tales of Power in 1977, the dramatic Separate Reality in 1978, as well as more recent contributions, such as Back to the Future, in 1986. Many other climbers were active at the top levels, including John Bachar, Dale Bard, Bill Price and Tony Yaniro. By 1980 Price had established a solid 5.13 with Cosmic Debris. During the last five years many of world's best climbers have come through Yosemite, but most active establishing high-standard routes have been Dmitri Barton, Werner Braun, Rick Cashner, Scott Cosgrove, Peter Croft, Ron Kauk, Steve Schneider and Jonny Woodward. Unquestionably it has been left to local John Bachar to push the standards on the free climbing scene. Bachar has sought to counter the extreme hangdogging that has characterized much of the hardest climbing elsewhere (styles further removed from Jardine's old "flash" ascents than Jardine's himself!) by establishing difficult routes in unpreviewed fashion and doing bold routes that do not allow compromises of style. The Believer, at 5.12, steep and runout, is characteristic of his best routes. The 5.13 Phantom, climbed in 1986, is as much a testpiece because of its move difficulty as the traditional style in which it was first ascended.

Many others have been prolifically establishing quality routes over the last five years, including Ken Ariza, Scott Burke, Dave Hatchett, Grant Hiskes, Bruce Morris, Don Reid, Walt Shipley, Dave Schultz, Kurt Smith.

Third classing of difficult routes is a theme that has accompanied the history of Yosemite climbing. Since the late 60's, when Royal Robbins showcased his boldness with solo ascents of contemporary testpieces such as Reed's Direct, various climbers have occasionally sought out difficult routes to free solo. Mark Klemens first soloed the Left Side of Reed's; Peter Haan followed with Crack of Despair. Henry Barber's on-sight solo of the Steck-Salathe in 1973 clearly set a new standard in unroped climbing. This was followed by Earl Wiggins up the two pitches of Outer Limits in1974, and probably the boldest solo of the 1970's Charlie Fowler, in a remarkable on-sight solo of a circuitous route, the Direct North Buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock in 1974. John Bachar climbed the familiar but 5.11 New Dimensions in 1976, and later that year cruised up more familiar territory on the Nabisco Wall via Butterballs. In 1980, Bachar made the hardest climb in Yosemite yet soloed on sight, the 5.11b Moratorium. Peter Croft has been active, soloing many of the 60's classics in remarkable bursts of energy; on a more ambitious day he soloed the North Buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock, the Northeast Buttress of Higher Cathedral Rock, Steck-Salathe, Royal Arches, North Dome, and Arrowhead Arete. In 1986, German Wolfgang Gullich free soloed Separate Reality. In the 80's, many of the classic 5.10 testpieces of 15 to 20 years ago serve as training ground for Valley regulars and as medium for gaining a lot of ground fast, as if doing laps in a pool.

Another recurrent theme that has expressed itself sporadically throughout the last 20 years of Yosemite climbing has centered around speed ascents of the big walls. Eric Beck and Frank Sacherer stunned the 1965 Yosemite community with their one-day climb of the West Face of Sentinel, the first time a Grade VI had seen a one-day ascent, and this without Jumars. This was followed a year later when Steve Roper and Jeff Fott climbed the Northwest Face of Half Dome in a day. Since the late 60's, when Kim Schmitz and Jim Madsen were halving the standard times on the classic 60's walls, climbing the Nose in a day had been an unspoken goal: Bridwell teamed up with John Long and Billy Westbay in 1975 to do just that. Since then many of the walls have seen very quick ascents, culminating in an extraordinary day in 1986 when John Bachar and Peter Croft climbed both the Nose and the Northwest Face of Half Dome in 18 hours and 3 minutes.

The mid-70's saw a concentrated effort to reduce or eliminate aid from the big walls. The super-clean East Face of Washington Column was a natural target of free-climbing efforts. While it saw several attempts by 1974, the route went totally free to John Long, Ron Kauk, and John Bachar in 1975. A year later Kauk returned, leading all the pitches in a no-falls ascent, a feat repeated by Bachar a short time later. Astro Man, as the line was renamed, provided the most sustained free climb yet produced in Yosemite, and even today remains as one of the very best free climbs in the world. While the beauty of Astro Man directed many to the resource of big aid routes that lined the Valley, it was clear that free climbing on the walls demanded an incredible energy: Astro Man had produced twice as many hard pitches as any other route at the time.

While free climbers had attacked various parts of the Nose of El Cap over the years (Jim Bridwell and Jim Stanton had freed the Stovelegs as early as 1968, leaving a climb popular in itself for a few years), it was ripe in 1975 for a team to climb the route with free climbing as a primary objective. John Bachar, Ron Kauk and Dale Bard succeeded in freeing all but 400 feet of the 3,000 foot wall. In efforts ranging over a period of several years, Coloradans Jim Erickson and Art Higbee finally free climbed the classic Northwest Face of Half Dome in 1976.

By 1979, with free climbing being the preferred mode of ascent throughout the continent (Colorado's walls were falling fast to the free climbers), El Cap finally saw a totally free ascent with Bill Price and Ray Jardine's climb of the West Face. This was particularly remarkable in that the free route turned out to be surprisingly moderate compared to the standard of the time.

The North Face of the Rostrum saw much development and several free routes. John Long and various partners freed the classic Chouinard-Herbert route up Sentinel Rock, and John Bachar and Mike Lechlinski free climbed all but six aid moves of the West Face. Max Jones and Mark Hudson were particularly active by the late 70's; the pair completely freed the classic North Face Route on East Quarter Dome, at 5.12, producing Pegasus, and soon after freed all but seven aid moves on the South Face of Mt. Watkins, also at 5.12.

Similar to the Nose as an attractive free prospect, much of the remaining aid on the Salathe Wall had been eliminated over the years, starting with a free connection from the first pitch of the Nose to the Salathe's Half Dollar by Kevin Worrall and Mike Graham, during which Graham showed some audacity and created a controversy by chopping the original Robbins bolt ladder. Later, John Long freed the third-pitch roof and with a gang Stonemaster effort the route was freed to Mammoth Terrace creating the Free Blast. Five years later Max Jones and Mark Hudon continued the theme higher on the wall and except for the Hollow Flake pendulum, pushed the route free all the way to two pitches above El Cap Spire. The trend to free climb on the walls continued with the 1982 free ascent (aside from a short bolt ladder) of the Gold Wall going to Rick Cashner and Werner Braun (the free variation renamed Silent Line), and in 1986 the freeing by Braun and Scott Cosgrove of the Ribbon Falls West Portal and the Northeast Corner of Higher Cathedral Rock.

As the free-climbing revolution developed in the 70's, it became clearer that the potential for difficult new routes was not limited to crack climbs. With some minor exceptions (the Snake Dike and Peanut, among others), face and slab climbing had traditionally been the domain of Glacier Point Apron, where since the 1960's bolts had been placed to protect the wandering slab climbing. The 70's saw incredible development on the Apron, in large part due to the advent of friction shoes. The main participants in the early 70's included Mike Breidenbach, Vern Cleavenger, Tom Harrison, and Rik Reider (who with Rabb Carrington produced in 1972 the most difficult and serious face route for the next seven or eight years - A Mother's Lament). By the late 70's, Bruce Morris and Chris Cantwell were attacking the right side of the Apron, producing many short but worthwhile routes. Unfortunately, many of the leading aficionados of Apron climbing have elected a boldless use of the bolt. In search of another route to the top of Glacier Point, in 1980 Cantwell, Morris, Scott Burke and Dave Austin completed work on a line that accomplished just that. Called the Hall of Mirrors, it involved several bolt ladders that have doubtfully been as free as reported. The 1980's have seen further route development, but with the introduction of the new high-friction shoes, any routes of significance in the future must show far greater boldness.

While face climbing has always been a means to reaching otherwise inaccessible crack routes, the early 70's saw a burgeoning interest in face routes, somewhat a result of so many local climbers with active pasts at Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks, in Southern California. Routes up the slabs of the Royal Arches, while tentatively explored as early as 1958, with the freeing of Arches Terrace, were climbed seriously in 1973 with Shakey Flakes, followed the next year with Greasy But Groovy, by Tahquitz veterans John Long, Rick Accomazzo and Richard Harrison. Other routes have been added subsequently, most notably Friday the 13th, a serious route put up in 1985 by Dmitri Barton and Scott Burke. The early 70's face revolution was fueled in large part by the legacy Frank Sacherer left with his 1960's climbs on the incredibly free climbable Cathedral Rocks: East Buttress, DNB and Sacherer-Fredricks. Ray Jardine and Rik Reider were among the first to see the possibilities with their 1972 route, Paradise Lost. They were followed quickly by a small group that included John Long, George Meyers and Kevin Worrall, who were primarily responsible for major face routes that often had a seriousness not found on the hand crack climbs. Stoner's Highway, Black Primo, Quicksilver, and the freeing of the Bircheff-Williams were products of this time. Ron Kauk and Kevin Worrall teamed up in 1977 to create the excellent and serious Space Babble. The 18-pitch Mother Earth, climbed in 1976, showed the possible quality and length of Middle Rock free climbing, a potential that was realized again in 1984 with the Smith-Crawford. In 1976 enthusiasm for the steep face poured over onto Lower Cathedral Rock, where Richard Harrison, Rick Accomazzo, and John Yablonski established serious routes that ten years later have yet to see second ascents.

Face climbing is found throughout the Valley, and the last ten years have seen short testpieces show up on practically every cliff. Scott Burke, Bruce Morris, Steve Schneider, and others have been active in establishing good face routes. North Dome and, particularly, Half Dome have rewarded many face climbers of the last few years with excellent routes that are long, clean and difficult. Several routes have been done on the face near the classic 1965 Snake Dike. Most impressive is the 12-pitch Autobahn, done by Charles Cole, Rusty Reno and John Middendorf in 1985, and next to it, the Fast Lane. But the most striking of the 1980's face lines is Karma, a 13-pitch route that weaves a difficult course up the broad south face of Half Dome to the right of the Harding/Rowell aid line. First climbed in 1986 by Dave Schultz, Ken Yager, and Jim Campbell, its 74 bolts protect 5.11+ face climbing up a series of steep dikes, connected with only short sections of aid.

As the most difficult new crack lines have gotten thinner, it is perhaps somewhat inevitable that they share many of the characteristics of steep face climbing, but with the more visible line and protection that crack provides. Since on many of the modern testpieces natural protection is supplemented and sometimes completely replaced by bolts, they require an inordinate amount of energy to establish, and the style in which protection is arranged has become the subject of debate.

With many climbers in year-round residence, climbing activity has occurred year round. In 1974 some of the temporary frozen waterfalls saw ascents by those to impoverished to travel. The first to receive an ascent was the upper part of Sentinel Falls, a four pitch, sometimes vertical ice route, climbed by Mark Chapman, Kevin Worrall, and Jim Orey in late 1974. With Worrall's first ice experience behind him, and Chapman's inexperience bettered, the following February they launched up the frozen Widow's Tears, which luckily remained frozen long enough for the 11-pitch ascent. Other ascents of Sentinel Falls have followed off and on over the years, but the Widow's Tears has seen fewer climbers, due as much to the infrequent buildup of ice as tot he seriousness of the route. In 1976, ice build up enough to allow Chapman, Worrall, and Pete Minks an ascent of the Silver Strand, a smooth sheet of ice that occasionally flows around the wall west of the Widow's Tears. Charlie Porter climbed a couple of chutes and gullies in the Valley in 1973, and a few minor routes have been done by others. In 1987 an ascent was made of the lower Sentinel Falls. The 80's now see many parties primed to take advantage of the proper conditions of cold and wetness which can produce incredible possibilities.

The lifestyle and state of the committed resident climber of Yosemite is no better exemplified than by Werner Braun. Braun has repeated many of the harder climbs over and over, refining his technique and flow with a driven furvor. By 1987, he had climbed Astro Man 27 times, the last nine times in an eight-month period. Short routes like Outer Limits, Meat Grinder, Lunatic Fringe, and Five and Dime he has climbed 50 times or more, often times third class, clearly demonstrating in near perfect, efficient motion the closest match of rock and the climbing man. Braun also exemplifies a clean style of climbing that is Yosemite's heritage. He disdains hanging on protection, yet is active in the exploration of hidden gems that seem to be a constant resource of Yosemite. This is a man who simply loves the motion of rock climbing in a beautiful place.

Perhaps no other route demonstrates the progression of Yosemite climbing better than the Steck-Salathe. After the frustrations of numerous parties and finally a 5-day ordeal, Allen Steck and John Salathe earned the summit of Sentinel Rock on a July day in 1950; their climb became a classic. Robbins made the second ascent in three days, and during the course of the 60's the route was whittled down to a totally free, three-hour climb. In 1973 Henry Barber stepped into a new realm of commitment by climbing the Steck-Salathe on sight and unroped (though with the aid of a 25-foot sling a the crux moves). Today, on-sight free-solo ascents of this 5.9 route by committed climbers are not uncommon. Similar episodes echo throughout the Valley on routes like the Northeast Buttress of Higher Cathedral Rock, Yosemite Point Buttress, and the East Buttress of El Cap. The North Face of the Rostrum, first aid climbed over a period of days, next climbed clean, then free climbed at 5.11, was free soloed after rehearsal by Peter Croft in a couple of hours.

Different stages of evolution exist for different routes. There are climbs yet unseen by the climber's eye. Who will free-solo the East Face of Washington Column? Can an all-free way be found up the sweeping South Buttress of El Capitan (the Nose) or Salathe without rock desecration? The West Face of Sentinel was climbed in a day long ago, climbed clean a dozen years ago, yet a segment on the fifth pitch is barred a host of top free climbing talent form an all-free ascent. Aside from simply technical prowess, the best of Yosemite climbing has always involved some degree of audacity and daring; the early explorations of Anderson and Bayley, the 1934 ascents of the Cathedral Spires, Salathe on the Lost Arrow and Sentinel, Harding's vision on the Nose, the adventurous first ascent of the Salathe Wall, and the bold efforts of Pratt and Sacherer. These events were followed by Jim Dunn on Cosmos, Barber alone on the Steck-Salathe, the winter climb of the Widow's Tears, the audacious routefinding of Karma and the remarkable free solos of John Bachar. Will the future development of climbing standards depend on these traditions of stylistic boldness?

Climbers have always accompanied their outreach to higher standards and newer climbs with a bending of the commonly accepted rules of the game. Even as early as the ascent of the Nose, older climbers had disdain for the number of bolts that were used in that ascent. In 1961 Robbins (who had always preached that bolts would or could destroy climbing by overuse or thoughtless use) used 13 bolts on the Salathe Wall. By 1969 he had put up a route two-thirds the size (Tis-sa-ack) with 110 bolts. He justified it by saying that it was a "route worth bolting for" - and one that would eventually be climbed. (If Robbins had been told in 1961 that he would someday do a 20-pitch route with 110 bolts he would surely have denied any such thing.) In the 70's Bridwell and others innovated aid climbing with the use of the chisel and copperhead. Robbins never would have considered this, having once said that he felt that 20 routes on El Cap would be about right. Now, thanks to new, non-"traditional" techniques, there are three times that number. Jardine used extreme hangdogging so he could climb above his ability and accomplish his climbing goals. Bachar began using aid to place bolts on free climbs (in Tuolumne), an unheard-of tactic, that Bob Kamps and Tom Higgins (who themselves had bent earlier rules a bit by their use of bolts) never used, but which opened up much otherwise unprotectable rock. (Bachar now eschewed that technique as too compromised.)

Now we are left to wonder just how far the free climbers of tomorrow will bend the rules to accomplish their goals. In most other areas hangdogging is the most popular means of getting up extreme climbs. More and more bolts are being placed on rappel. How will the Yosemite climber deal with these new ethical dilemmas? Is there a chance that the inevitable evolution will result not only in higher standards of technical difficulty, but in higher standards of boldness and imagination as well, a tradition that has its routes with the earliest Yosemite pioneers?

Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 21, 2008 - 05:05pm PT
Hey Kevin and Mike,

Can you post your comments and questions on the Sorting out late 70s Valley climbing.


Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
Aug 22, 2008 - 03:22pm PT
I was just disappointed these two cat's
didn't seem to be around
when I drifted in about '77.

They were cult legends then, and now.

One look at Cream, and you'll know why :)
Wade Icey

Trad climber
Sep 1, 2008 - 12:46pm PT
Wade Icey

Trad climber
Sep 1, 2008 - 01:10pm PT
Wade Icey

Trad climber
Sep 1, 2008 - 01:23pm PT
this is really interesting, lois, you should read it.

Social climber
Sep 3, 2008 - 01:25am PT
hey there bvb... say.. where did you find the neat picture of my brother mark (chappy) climbing owl roof???

say, where is owl roof... (i know i can do a yahoo search) but since i am here, now.. :)

really "whewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww-eeee" kind of a pic.. .man, oh, man...

mark has a lot of pics to share, but i never got to see them all... went to texas... sure missed out... hope someday i get a chance to get over there to see some of his pics and hear stories..

thanks for sharing that really neat pic... god bless...
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