Mark Powell, Royal Robbins and the Southern Californians

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Messages 21 - 40 of total 99 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
MisterE

Trad climber
My Inner Nut
Oct 29, 2008 - 10:27pm PT
Steve: Excellent article - thanks so much.

Glad to hear the archiving project is going so well - Mark will be an invaluable contributor!

Erik
john hansen

climber
Oct 29, 2008 - 11:57pm PT

You always have great stuff Steve, I have read hours of your post's here on the super T.

Just like El Cap Pic's reports. Appreciated more than you know.

So ,just saying, keep em coming. Can't wait for the next one.

John Hansen
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 3, 2008 - 02:12am PT
1970, the year that I started climbing and the year that desert adventures entered the consciousness of North American climbing via Ascent and the superb historical writing of Steve Roper. If you love desert lore as much as I do, then feast away!

















I just returned home from interviewing Mark for an amazing ten hours. Contrary to the myth, his career did not end in 1957 and he continued to do climbs of record into the early seventies at a very high standard especially considering that one of his ankles was fused with a very limited range of flex. His love of adventure is truly an inspiration and his geographer's attention to detail going all the way back to childhood summits and scrambles is astounding. What a treat!
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Nov 3, 2008 - 10:44am PT
I guess I'll have to make this post one of my home pages, so I don't forget to read it all when I have some time.

As one who took a nasty fall and buggered his ankle pretty badly - but recovered pretty much fully - I have to wonder how Mark would have fared had he the benefit of New Millennium medical treatment.

Be sure to ask him about his injury, Steve.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 3, 2008 - 01:00pm PT
I already did.......
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 5, 2008 - 11:20am PT
Nose pioneer bump!
Sewellymon

climber
.....in a single wide......
Nov 5, 2008 - 11:34am PT
Steve,

Thanks for doing the interview w/ Mark.

After Kamps passed, I felt Mark’s remembrances needed to be saved - at least here on ST. Bonnie Kamps finally got Mark’s OK for me to call him (after much persuading), but he remained really hesitant. I am thrilled Mark finally relented. His tales deserve a permanent place in Ken’s Yosemite Climbing Museum.

LongAgo

Trad climber
Nov 9, 2008 - 03:26pm PT
Steve,

So great you have taken an interest in Mark and cast of active characters and stories of the time. And thank God for old Ascent articles giving us the retrospective on those days.

I climbed with Mark Powell and Bob Kamps way back when in the Needles of South Dakota, a place called "Proc" in the southern sierra (I think Bob named the place after Mark!) and Domeland. Mark loved Bob and they could get into laughing sprees the likes of which I'd never seen before, maybe with the help of a little weed. I hope Mark shared some of his desert stories as he and Beverley and Bob and Bonnie had some wild desert adventures including digging up dumps in mining towns when that was legal and when it could render good old bottles and insulators. Bob and I descended into some dangerous long since closed desert mines together, maybe with Mark, I can't recall. But I do remember Mark climbing pretty darn well after his ankle fusion ...

Thanks for adding still another segment to the history of California climbing. We are all richer for it.

Tom Higgins
LongAgo
Mimi

climber
Nov 13, 2008 - 01:33am PT
Tom, I had the pleasure of viewing some of Steve's interview footage of Mark before I met him at the Nose 50th. What a nice man. The interview is wonderful and really captures Mark's spirit. His ready laughter is classic and it's easy to imagine those laughing spells you describe. What a prolific climber, even after his injury.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 13, 2008 - 11:08pm PT
In 1968, Mark and Beverly Powell were camping right next to a formation in Joshua Tree called the Blob along with Beverly's mother. From the picnic table Mark began eyeballing a set of discontinuous cracks and figured that a line was possible. It went at F8 and while casting about for a name they came up with Mama Woolsey (which was Beverly's maiden name) in honor of their campmate.

Some years later, in 1972, Mark was passing by the same spot and noticed three bolts low on an attractive looking face just left of Mama Woolsey. Bouldering up, Mark immediately decided that the first bolt was unnecessary and came back with a hammer and chopped it! Bolt kit in hand, he had worked up past the next two bolts when a young lad rushed up and not knowing who he was, yelled at Mark to get down off of his route! Mark immediately replied that the upstart youth didn't own the route or the formation either and told him to "get lost, bug off!" Nice holds lead upward and after a few more bolts went in, Papa Woolsey was created at F9.

Some decades later, at Bob Kamps' memorial scattering of ashes atop Fairview Dome, a rather sheepish but still very youthful appearing man approached Mark and identified himself as the upstart from Papa Woolsey and admitted to a longstanding grudge over the matter as the route had become an area classic! Mark couldn't recall who the fellow was but the coincidence was uncanny and I would love to know who tried to bark Mark Powell down from a good climb so long ago.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 15, 2008 - 12:48pm PT
I heard at the reunion that Mark was mighty good at coming up with limericks on demand. I wonder if any ever got recorded?
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Nov 15, 2008 - 03:40pm PT
Mark not only remembered limericks - he had a unbelievable memory for climbing routes.

In 1966, when I mentioned that I was going to do the NW face of Half Dome, Mark asked if I needed any help with the route and then sat down and sketched out a pitch-by-pitch topo with little side bars of detail like "be cautious under Psyche Flake" or "the last pitch is easy, but it's important to find the bolt because a fall here could be disastrous".

Then in 1967, before Boche and I went up on the 8th ascent of the Nose, he took out his pencil again and produced another perfect topo of the route. Pitch-by-pitch - perfect.

As for his climbing ability after his ankle was fused, in 1963-64 he put up a few new routes (The Chingadera, The Chauvinist) and variations (The Reach, The Green Arch, Sling Swing Traverse) at Tahquitz Rock.

Some of these routes were well known for sections of "Powell 5.7 friction". Back in the days of Kronhofer klettershoes, friction was more difficult and most often relied on edging more than smearing. Powell attributed his prowess with friction to his fused ankle which allowed him to stand with less effort on small rugosities. His ankle acted as a firm platform. Needless-to-say, "Powell 5.7 friction" seemed more like 5.8 to the rest of us.

I spent the summer of 1965 in the Needles of South Dakota with him and Beverly, Bob and Bonnie Kamps, and Dave Rearick. We did a few first ascents, one of which was The Phallus, where I – being the least experienced - was the last man up and – being the least experienced - was chosen to be the backup to a questionable rappel bolt … and thus – being the least experienced – was the last man down sans backup (the old “if it holds the three of us, it’ll hold you” story).

Sitting around a campfire every evening with the likes of Powell and Kamps in the Needles and Yosemite's Camp-4 are episodes in "My Life in Spire Repair" that are some of the warmest. More on that later.
Largo

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Nov 15, 2008 - 04:12pm PT
I've said this before - I firmly believe that if MP wouldn't have shattered that ankle he would have been right up there with Robbins per his stamp on American and world rock climbing. No question he would have been on the 1st ascent of The Nose, and probably many other walls besides.

His routes at Tahquitz (the ones Don L. just mentioned, and various other ones as well) greatly influenced The Stonemasters in terms of running the rope on face routes and keeping the bolt count down. Chingadera is probably 5.11c - not shabby for forty years ago in those flimsy Krohoffers (I belive Kamps was in Muir Trail hiking boots). Another Powell route - Black Harlot's Layaway, has even harder face climbing (11d). Powell was one of the great ones to every serious So Cal climber of my generation.

I'd love to see Steve Grossman's recent interview.

JL

guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Nov 15, 2008 - 04:26pm PT
Castle Rock Spire 1961 ish

Salathe Route. Powells 4th time, our first.

Powell belaying Roper? Sort of. Most likely working on a new and nasty limerick to spring on Roper before he finishes the pitch.

I will post a TR of this beautiful route and the adventure of climbing it with two classic characters in the future.


Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 16, 2008 - 12:42am PT
There once was climber named Powell
New routes, e'er was he on the prowl.
Thin cracks and blank face,
Off the deck, he was ace.
With wit that would make rope mates howl.

Edit: Trying to keep to the 8 8 6 5 8 format...
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Nov 16, 2008 - 03:44am PT
Yes, Kamps wore size 5 EEE Pivetta Cortinas.

TM ALWAYS complained when on a Kamps route - about Kamps' stubby little feet and stubby little fingers, "No wonder he can stand on edges that small and get his stubby little fingers in these teeny little cracks."
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 16, 2008 - 01:41pm PT
Man, those are some tiny shoes!!! Too funny that TM, with fingers big as brats and feet to match, would complain so. LOL
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Nov 16, 2008 - 05:24pm PT
I had to keep at least one pair in stock for Bob at all times at West Ridge.

TM called them Hobbit boots.
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Nov 17, 2008 - 11:24pm PT
Well Steve that was OK, but Hennek and I just drove north to Dr. Dick Longs house in Carson City and had some time to work on some lymericks. Really not fair as the essence of the game is you have minimal time to compose. "Bring it on".

"There once was a climber named Powell.

Whose antics were suspect and foul.

In place of a Bong

He used Ropers Dong

While Roper cut loose with a howl!"
Mimi

climber
Nov 17, 2008 - 11:39pm PT
Now that was funny!

Sounds like you've captured the wooly flavor of MP's poetry according to Bonnie Kamps.
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