Dolt Photos - First Ascent of the Totem Pole

Search
Go

Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Messages 1 - 95 of total 95 in this topic
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 20, 2008 - 05:36pm PT
I just ran across a couple of boxes of Dolt's slides and since I'm working on a few Dolt stories, I thought I'd post them to get your juices flowing.


The Totem Pole in Monument Valley


Dolt's Photo for the tourist trade


Find the climbers


Can you spot them?


You can see their silhouettes

More Dolt photos


Look closely


Hairy rappels


Looks like Mark Powell


Maybe Don Wilson?


Your guess is as good as mine

More Dolt photos


In the crew in Monument Valley


On top L. to R. Powell, Gallwas, Wilson (in back), Dolt (Bill Feuerer, in front)


Powell, Wilson, and Dolt


Powell, Wilson, and ?

A series of Dolt stories are forthcoming
Captain...or Skully

Social climber
Boise
Nov 20, 2008 - 05:37pm PT
Sweet, Don.

Chompin' at the bit......
TKingsbury

Trad climber
MT
Nov 20, 2008 - 05:49pm PT
*drool*

wow, really awesome stuff!

psyched to see more if possible...
Captain...or Skully

Social climber
Boise
Nov 20, 2008 - 05:58pm PT
Thanks Don, That rules........
Largo

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Nov 20, 2008 - 06:00pm PT
I swear that thing looks like it's cracked all the way through in some spots (the big horizontal cracks). What an FA!

JL
ontheedgeandscaredtodeath

Trad climber
San Francisco, Ca
Nov 20, 2008 - 06:04pm PT
Didn't a member of the FA party tie the ropes to his ankles, hang his feet over the side and tell his partners he dropped the ropes?

I think I read that in the original desert rock book.
Gene

climber
Nov 20, 2008 - 06:27pm PT
Fantastic. Thanks, Don.

Keep digging and posting up treasures like these.

gm
graham

Social climber
Ventura, California
Nov 20, 2008 - 06:45pm PT
Those summit shots are some of the coolest I have ever seen! Thanks for posting them

Mike
Chicken Skinner

Trad climber
Yosemite
Nov 20, 2008 - 07:20pm PT
Great stuff Don! Thank you. I hope you find those Nose photos.

Ken
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Nov 20, 2008 - 07:39pm PT
Yes, that photo of the four on top of Totem Pole has long been one of my very favorites. Jerry Gallwas sent me many of these photos and quite a few others, such as of Cleopatra's Needle, a real sliver, when I was working on my history of free climbing. Gallwas is a great guy and was immensely helpful. What a story all its own, of those four going down to the desert and climbing all those classic spires...
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Nov 20, 2008 - 09:11pm PT
Another vote for that summit photo of 4 as a classic!!
murcy

climber
San Fran Cisco
Nov 20, 2008 - 09:22pm PT
spectacular pictures!
Scared Silly

Trad climber
UT
Nov 20, 2008 - 09:26pm PT
What history .... damn.

Thanks.
pc

climber
East of Seattle
Nov 20, 2008 - 09:40pm PT
Fantastic! Thanks for sharing.
guyman

Trad climber
Moorpark, CA.
Nov 20, 2008 - 09:56pm PT
Great shots.

Don thanks for showing.

On the summit shot:

Guess the liquid in the puddle???????

GK
N0_ONE

Social climber
Utah
Nov 20, 2008 - 09:58pm PT
Right on! Thanks!
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
Nov 20, 2008 - 09:58pm PT
Don,

It may be just my creative memory but wasn't Tom Condon involved in the project?

Charlie D.
The Warbler

climber
the edge of America
Nov 20, 2008 - 10:01pm PT
Those are superb photos - from an historical perspective alone they're amazing. Beyond that, they're great photos in terms of composition, and that summit shot is the best ever. It looks like it was directed by a Hollywood genius, with a staff of stylists all intending to make the guys look hardcore, flippant, a little whacko, artstic and badass all at the same time.

Brilliant. And Dolt has the James Dean look down. What a crazy adventure THAT must've been!

Thanks for sharing those Don Lauria.
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 20, 2008 - 10:07pm PT
Two things. Yes, the liquid was not rain water. And I believe Tom Condon was involved in the second ascent with TM Herbert.
Lightgirl

climber
Mendocino, Ca
Nov 20, 2008 - 10:19pm PT
Yes, Thank you Don for the great photos! I think my favorite is the top one of the totem pole. The lighting is perfect and the clouds seem to frame it perfectly. Awesome!
Brunosafari

Boulder climber
Redmond, OR
Nov 20, 2008 - 10:19pm PT
definition of "authentic."

I like the "guess" shot showing the two stepper etriers left behind; quite an esoteric feeling, no?

Thank you, Don!
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Nov 20, 2008 - 10:23pm PT
spectacular!
mojede

Trad climber
Butte, America
Nov 20, 2008 - 11:24pm PT
I really liked this one--great scans to show the folks here.

Thanks for sharing.

Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Nov 21, 2008 - 12:25am PT


Bow down before the Pole;..the tallest, skinniest spire in the world.....
goatboy smellz

climber
colorado
Nov 21, 2008 - 12:30am PT
So close yet so far.
WBraun

climber
Nov 21, 2008 - 12:37am PT
The arrows show some of the more prominent lightning scars on this photo.

When you climb the "Pole" the lightning scars are all over this thing. Some of the scars jump into the cracks and come back out elsewhere.

goatboy smellz

climber
colorado
Nov 21, 2008 - 12:42am PT
Where do you think those lightning bolts come out Werner?
WBraun

climber
Nov 21, 2008 - 12:54am PT
Back out on the face.

Mike Hoover actually told me about them just before we went to climb it.

He saw them while filming Eastwood during the making of the "Eiger Sanction".
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Nov 21, 2008 - 12:58am PT
The fearsome red shaft;....The Totem Pole

Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Nov 21, 2008 - 01:00am PT
Dave Evans preparing to climb the Pole;

Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Nov 21, 2008 - 01:02am PT
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Nov 21, 2008 - 01:04am PT
Can't you read?....

Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Nov 21, 2008 - 01:06am PT
Those are great. Thank you so much for posting!
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Nov 21, 2008 - 01:07am PT
One of the greatest climbing adventures of my life, and a summit I desired more than almost any;...The Pole...( I was a happy boy...)



Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Nov 21, 2008 - 01:09am PT


Awesome from any angle....

Strider

Trad climber
one of god's mountain temples....
Nov 21, 2008 - 01:27am PT
So it begs the question...is it possible to climb the Pole anymore? If you ask really nice, will they let you climb it?

-n
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Nov 21, 2008 - 01:30am PT


bvb

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Nov 21, 2008 - 01:35am PT
wow. wow. talk about amazing photos that evoke an amazing time, in an amazing place...
crusher

climber
Santa Monica, CA
Nov 21, 2008 - 01:49am PT
Don those photos are incredible - what a feeling they evoke - the summit photo is like from a time long past...wow.

And Todd's yours are way cool too.

Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 21, 2008 - 02:12am PT
Ament,

You talked about Cleopatra, well Dolt was looking at it.

Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Nov 21, 2008 - 02:52am PT
Cleo

Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Nov 21, 2008 - 02:56am PT
captain chaos

climber
Nov 21, 2008 - 08:10am PT
Great photos, what a crew and trip- thanks Don...
rick d

climber
tucson, az
Nov 21, 2008 - 08:57am PT
dec 14th will make the 20th anniversary of my ascent (in the teens). I had a beautiful triple height post card of the original route at one time (lost in a move a decade ago).

A fine route and fine memories (of getting caught by tribal police).
Chiloe

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Nov 21, 2008 - 09:24am PT
The 1970 Ascent cover, and accompanying articles by Roper and Pratt, inspired my
first desert trip in 1971. The Totem Pole was already "off limits," so we made the
6th ascent of the Titan (photo here) instead.

I would have liked to do Totem Pole, Spider Rock and Cleopatra, though. (Even moreso,
now that it's clear many folks managed to climb them after all). Don, thanks for posting
this historical gold.
Chiloe

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Nov 21, 2008 - 09:34am PT
The 1970 Ascent covers:



Mike.

climber
Nov 21, 2008 - 11:20am PT
Great historic photos. And not-so-historic photos.

Thanks!
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Nov 21, 2008 - 12:42pm PT
Don
You are incredible. Not only your own stories, but
so much more history. Thanks so much for posting up.
This is better than the history books!
Jeremy

Social climber
Hanging with your mom...
Nov 21, 2008 - 12:58pm PT
BOW DOWN BEFORE THE POLE!!!!!!!!!!!!

WOW!!!

Thanks SO much!!!!

Man that is soooooo cool!

J
Jingy

Social climber
Flatland, Ca
Nov 21, 2008 - 01:17pm PT
Great Vintage(?) photos.

Oh, yeah, in each of the photos I was able to pick out the bodies, even on the iPod.


Great stuff

Thanks
The Alpine

Big Wall climber
Tampa, FL
Nov 21, 2008 - 01:19pm PT
Great stories. It made me remember the old Totem pole thread that had this movie:

http://www.climbing-area.info/photos/videos/klettern/long-movie/adler.wmv

Classic....
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 22, 2008 - 01:26pm PT
I had never seen that movie. Give us the details. When? Who? How?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 22, 2008 - 09:38pm PT
Glad those photos are still around, Don. Thanks for posting them up! Steve Bartlett (aka "Crusher") is writing a book on desert towers and would love to have access to them.

For more desert lore see the Mark Powell thread.

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.html?topic_id=708058&msg=725957#msg725957
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 30, 2008 - 04:13pm PT
Weathered sandstone bump!
Fletcher

Trad climber
Norman Clyde's napsack
Nov 30, 2008 - 06:34pm PT
Wow, great photos and and all. Nice.

That movie is awesome. Looks like Ron Kauk is one of the dudes.

Fletch
Thorgon

Big Wall climber
Idaho Falls, ID
Dec 1, 2008 - 12:43pm PT
This is an awesome turn of good fortune for the climbing community! I am amazed how much great data is surfacing!
Now if I could only find my old slides from Seneca Rocks,
WV?
Better go buy a Lottery Ticket, cause it's my lucky day!

Thor

Yes, keep up the good work Don, and if you decide on a garage sale of that Treasure Chest of 'old relics' your hiding let us know, ie old rock hammers, pitons, Carabiners etc..!!! Hehehehe
survival

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Dec 1, 2008 - 04:04pm PT
Bitchin' bump....
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 6, 2008 - 03:25pm PT
Another installment for this formation from Summit June 1976.















This Ed Cooper shot has the best lighting for seeing the route itself.
The Alpine

Big Wall climber
Tampa, FL
Dec 6, 2008 - 05:31pm PT
I know nothing about that movie other than it was posted in this thread: http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.html?topic_id=278055&msg=278522#msg278522

From the sounds of it, seems as though maybe Werner had something to do with it?

That movie is awesome. It would be great to see a modern day recreation.
noshoesnoshirt

climber
Dec 6, 2008 - 05:38pm PT
HOLY CRAP!

What film/camera for the Dolt photos?
Unbelievable clarity on those old slides.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 6, 2008 - 06:38pm PT
Dolt shot with a Leica camera but only Don could likely verify the film type.
noshoesnoshirt

climber
Dec 6, 2008 - 06:51pm PT
Thanks Steve.
I still can't get over the clarity of those photos.
Makes me want to quit my job.

I think I'm gonna quit my job...
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 7, 2008 - 06:57pm PT
The slides are Kodachrome
Roxy

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
Dec 9, 2008 - 11:40pm PT
bump to another FA read, right on!
Stonyman61

Trad climber
Hartselle, Alabama
Apr 8, 2009 - 06:22pm PT
So awesome. Thanks for sharing. Love the history. One of my favorite films of all times..


BK
Crimpergirl

Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
Apr 8, 2009 - 08:34pm PT
Wow! Cool!
neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
Apr 9, 2009 - 11:33am PT
hey there all.... really do love these photos....

:)
oldguy

climber
Bronx, NY
Apr 11, 2009 - 12:57pm PT
As to the puddle on the summit, it came not from rain which is rare in the region, but from Mark Powell who, since they were being watched by tourists and Navajoes down below, laid down to relieve himself. It should also be noted that when Dolt and Don Wilson were prusiking to the last belay stance they were blown forty feet out and half way around the spire by a fifty mile an hour wind. Quite a ride I would think. Also, the "dropped" ropes story comes from the second ascent when TM Herbert, who was setting the ropes up for the rappel while Rearick and Condon were busy with other chores, simply said, "oops", probably the most understated of TM's wonderful comic bits.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 11, 2009 - 01:44pm PT
Mark had a pretty good laugh about that incident when I interviewed him recently. The local entrepreneur had seized the moment and bussed several dozen tourists and other interested folks out to witness the spectacle! That puddle of piddle is famous!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 7, 2009 - 05:13pm PT
Desert Classic Bump!
Pate

Trad climber
The Lost Highway
Nov 28, 2009 - 09:35pm PT
BUMP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jan 29, 2012 - 08:23pm PT
Long overdue bump...
Walleye

climber
The Hot Kiss on the end of a Wet Fist
Jan 29, 2012 - 08:34pm PT
A thin, towering thread amongst giants. Thanks!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Feb 12, 2012 - 01:49pm PT
DoltPole Bump...
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Feb 12, 2012 - 02:01pm PT
Super Cool, Don.
crunch

Social climber
CO
Feb 12, 2012 - 03:33pm PT
Here's an account written by my old friend and partner Bill Roberts:

Totem Pole
Totem Pole
Credit: crunch


“Behind Enemy Lines” by Bill Noname
It had been far too long since I had had a good adventure. Moses was a great time but that was almost a month ago. And with the new year rapidly approaching little time was left to squeeze in another good time before starting the 1987 season. “What would be a good but wild thing to do” I asked myself. Well I wasn't into freezing so my thoughts returned once again to the desert.

Back through old issues of Climbing and Mountain I go, seeking out information about the gems of desert climbing, hoping to pin down a good project. The next day I run into Charlie Fowler and start asking about the “Sundevil Chimney” on the Titan. A 900-foot soft stone tower seemed like it might make for a wild time. "Yea, that's the ticket!" Before leaving I asked Charlie about the Totem Pole. He says, “it's pretty easy…probably about 5.9, Al or so.”
“But isn't it illegal?" I asked. “The Indians don't seem to mind” was his response. Wow! The Totem Pole. That would be even wilder that the Titan. Especially with the added intrigue of being “behind enemy lines,” so to speak.

“P—, lets do the Totem Pole.”
His response was quick and decisive. “Sure! But you've gotta drive…it's your turn. But wait, isn’t Monument Valley off-limits to climbers?”
“Well, sorta. Charlie said the Indians really don't seem to mind and the route is only 5.9, Al. We should be able to cruise it.” Well maybe the Indians didn’t mind too much, but P— and I decided to try and minimize the chances of failure. We needed a third member of the team, someone to do the drop off and pick up…R—!

“R—, you wanna go to Arizona? P— and I are going to do the Totem Pole. On the way back we can do the Titan.” Well, R— didn't seem to mind playing third man on the Totem Pole as long as he could see some action on the Titan. Now we needed to come up with camouflaged ropes and clothing. It was decided P— would wear “Ninja” black and I would wear a sandy-colored assortment. Our ropes would be black and very dirty yellow. Perfect! We'll cruise in and out and the Navajo won't see a thing…or so we thought.

Leaving Boulder at 1:00 in the afternoon put us in Monument Valley around 1:00 am. It was New’s Eve. We are greeted by a chained gate and signs indicating that just about everything in Monument Valley is illegal. We realize we are now in enemy territory. Closer inspection of the gate reveals the chain to be unlocked. So deeper we go…onward toward our goal. P— supposedly knows were the Totem Pole is since he had done an aerial recon just the week before. But in the moonless dark of the night everything looks the same. “Take this road…I'm sure it's the right one,” P— says with confidence as we turn onto the narrow rutted track. Soon the lights of the truck are shining on the front door of a Navajo residence! That's all we need! Wake the “lnjins” and get caught before we even touch the spire. Then R— calmly points out that because we are on an Indian reservation—the Navajo Nation in fact—the US Constitution didn't apply anymore, and we would be subject to Navajo tribal law if caught. “Hum…hadn't thought of that,” was all I could say.

After more groping about, we finally come across it. The whole scene takes on an air of surrealism. The incredible quietness and solitude, together with the shadows let the imagination run wild. And it was cold too—colder than we thought it could get in Arizona. Soon we were looking for a secluded spot to bivy before arising early to start our stealthy sojourn.

At 4:00 am we’re up. All I could think was this was too much like an alpine climb. But nonetheless, we had to get moving. Feeling like agents from Central Intelligence we all three coordinate watches and reiterate the plan: R— would get out before sunrise, resetting the chain on the gate. He would then play tourist and come hack in around 1:00 pm to meet us at our prearranged pickup point. Meanwhile, P— and I would hike across the dunes to our appointed task. As we walked along we thought of alibis we might try if we were caught. We had two complete sets of clothes. Our “commando” camouflage and our “happy camper backpacker” clothes. This way, if we were apprehended on the walk out we could claim we were backpacking and just get hit with the fine for walking off of established trails, or so the theory went. … We set off in the darkness, minus headlamps.
Hiding our remaining gear down low, we hike up the talus cone to the base of the climb. The first pitch starts with a beautiful overhanging thin crack that turns into a five-inch offwidth. After two moves I’m aiding as my fingers are numb and we are here to get up and out, not to try to free every move. Halfway up the first pitch I find myself clipping into rotting 1/4" webbing tied to an old piece of 2x4 for pro. I had already used the two #7 Tricams but was wishing I had a few more. I didn’t trust the webbing to lower off of, so I somehow managed to move upward, fearing the Navajo more than falling. Soon the crack returns to hands and fingers and I’m at a narrow, exposed belay. I very quietly tell P— to start climbing and before long he’s dealing with the same wonderful offwidth that I experienced. While P— is climbing I notice dust clouds kicked into the air by a vehicle in the distance—and headed toward us! “No, it couldn’t be. They can't know we are here! Can they?” After P— arrives we survey the situation. The truck seems to have turned around. This was good because the next pitch looks like the infamous “Supercrack of the Desert;” only overhanging and in a much more wild setting! P— is soon jamming smoothly up the pitch looking more like the Ninja warrior I now imagine him to be. The exposure becomes obvious as I follow the pitch. But my biggest fear is being shot while climbing. So, I keep motoring. At the tiny exposed belay P— and I decide that the climbing probably wasn’t 5.9. And if Charlie was wrong on that, then maybe he was wrong on the bit about the Navajo.

The last pitch was overhanging and wild also. The tower at this point is about 30 feet thick. After a series of tied-off blades I'm thinking this is pretty hard for Al. But that didn’t matter now as we are getting close and I can almost taste success. Of course, deep down I knew that making the top wasn’t even halfway for us. We still had to get off of the reservation. Soon I’m cruising the bolt ladder and find the last bolt missing! “Unreal! So close and this happened” My fear and questioning soon turn to a form of decisive energy. Whispering for a lot of slack I free the last couple of moves.

The top of the Totem Pole; but I don’t even think about standing up. I simply slither about surveying the horizon for dust clouds, hoping that down there the braves are still sleeping or at least not inspecting the Totem Pole. Confident that the way is clear I whisper down to P— to jug on. As P— jugs the pitch I notice eight oddly placed bolts. My mind is soon filled with memories of Chevrolet television commercials. You know, the ones with a beautiful woman sitting in a 1967 Chevy convertible on top of some spire in the desert.

Soon thoughts of 1960s automobile commercials are replaced with the awareness that a Navajo tribal ranger is below yelling up at us! I look over the edge to see P— halfway up the pitch, spinning in space, with the ropes sucked up all about him, trying to make his six-foot-plus stature appear small. Then it dawns on me that the ranger isn’t yelling at us, but at someone down on the talus cone who was apparently watching us. Later P— told me that he almost yelled out to the ranger, that we had to go to the top in order to come down. The only reason he didn't was that he heard a woman respond to the ranger before he had a chance to. Incredibly, the ranger and woman leave without looking up!

Finally on top, P— is looking as jazzed as I've ever seen him. I peek over the edge to see a white Chevy Blazer driving away and think to myself “Wonder if the Navajo got a deal on Chevys?” P— is stilled jazzed and claims that the ranger saw us and is just “f*#king with our minds.” So we track the dust clouds as the ranger drives off to the south and turns up a canyon. I say, “Let's get moving” but P— wants to wait a bit since he is convinced the ranger is “just playing with us.” Finally deciding that missing the rendezvous with R— would cause major problems, we proceed to bail. The first rappel is another entry in my book of “wildest ever” rappels. The top of the Totem Pole is actually a greater diameter than the middle section.

Soon we are on the ground back at our stashed gear, the whole time keeping an eye out for “Injins.” I was wondering what they would do if they caught us now. Would they bury us up to our necks in ant piles and leave us for the crows? Into our “happy camper” suits we go. Burying the ropes and gear at the bottom of the backs ensure that we look like backpackers and that the worst they might do is get us for illegal hiking and camping. Nevertheless we proceed across the dunes with caution, seeking out low channels whenever possible to reduce the chance of revealing our movement.

Arriving at the pickup point reveals: No R—! We immediately start thinking that the “Injins” have R— and we have to rescue him. But wait, we are the ones in need of rescue—having committed such a heinous act. We are the ones behind enemy lines, as vulnerable as can be. And our trustworthy partner in crime is nowhere to be found! So P— gets this great idea that he will pose as a tourist who has somehow become separated from his group. He will carry a camera only. I stay behind with the gear in hopes that R— will arrive.

December 31, 1986 was pretty cold in Monument Valley and as the sun was not-so-slowly sinking in the west I was wishing I had more clothes with me. Suddenly, out of a nearby draw comes Mr. R— with a tall Budweiser in his hand! “R—! Where in the hell have you been!” “I’ve been sitting around the bend at our prearranged spot for the last two hours, where have you guys been?” he says. Oh well, so much for our critical planning.

“Where’s P—?” R— asks. I explain to him what happened and how we thought the “Injins” had captured him and the truck, and how P— was off acting as a tourist to try and find out where he was. But the important thing was that we now had an escape vehicle, with beers and tunes!

By our fifth or sixth lap around the loop road darkness has long since fallen and R— and I conclude that P— has probably been abducted by extraterrestrial aliens. It seemed liked the kind of thing that might happen in a place like this, and besides, I’m sure his parents would understand. As we are driving out of the park a Navajo police vehicle approaches. As it gets closer I see P— sitting in the front seat. We stop side by side and P— quickly jumps out of the patrol car, a finger over his lips indicating to us to keep our mouths shut. Before long the white Chevy Blazer we saw earlier that day also joins us. R— and I are keeping quite since we don’t know what story P— has concocted. After 20 minutes or so, we have convinced Elmer (the Navajo ranger) that we were just passing through and had camped out and done a bit of hiking. He proceeds to tell us how serious our trespasses were, detailing $1000 fines, confiscation of our property, federal offenses, Indian courts and the like. In the end he fines us each $1.00 which we happily pay.

Before long we're heading north into Utah. As we drive along R— reads from the literature he picked up earlier that day. “No liquor is allowed on the reservation.” “No camping is allowed except in designated sites.” “Hiking is limited to established trails.” “Absolutely NO CLIMBING is allowed in the tribal park.” Well, I guess we didn’t break too many rules. And as we drive deeper into Utah on that New Year's Eve feeling like we had just pulled off the greatest caper of our lives, P— says, “You know, the Mitten Thumb looked pretty neat; what do you think, Bill?”


Bill Noname (aka Bill Roberts) summit, Dec 31, 1986
Bill Noname (aka Bill Roberts) summit, Dec 31, 1986
Credit: P— (Bill Roberts Collection)
KabalaArch

Trad climber
Starlite, California
Feb 12, 2012 - 05:00pm PT
PT
So it begs the question...is it possible to climb the Pole anymore? If you ask really nice, will they let you climb it?


I’d personally trade you all of your Cerro Torres in the world for the Totem Pole.

Forbidden Fruit – well, that doesn’t really augment its allure. This is a matter of Athena Nike aesthete.

I’ll share what I know, which may not be much…but might mean a summit for some gun.

I climbed in Indian Creek with a guide who’d summitted. Their strategy was simple enough, just needs some finesse.

They’d gone for a pre-dawn start up the Bandito Route, established up the S. Face after the general and overall climbing closure, on a Christmas morning, hoping to minimize their exposure to Tourists in general, and those specifically herded into the Navaho tabletop bazaar which rings the roadhead, some 10 miles from the Pole – this area is actually a security watch post.

Unfortunately, the final pitch brought their shillouttes into the breaking dawn. The tourist busses busted my friend’s party. Being kids and all, they largely escaped censure at the hands of the Navaho Tribal Police, who may and will: confiscate your car, your rack…and you. Stories of climbers returning to find their car’s windshields smashed in with baseball bats come from credible sources.

So, if your plan involves poaching, you’ve got to get creative. Rental car shuttles? Backdoor approach hiking, with livestock?

So…skipping ahead, the question is how to pull of the ascent, without pissing of The People?

1st thing I learned was that the only way to get close enough to The Pole to taste the 1st hand jamb is to – Hire a “Guide.” Was about $70 – cash. For this sum, you may expect to be driven in a Chevy 4x PU right up to the base, and stretch your legs a bit. Bring binos and cameras with telephoto lenses….because, if you’re going to poach it, with or without Native cooperation, expect to move very quickly, and likely as not pre-dawn, if not under cover of the winter night.

Hiring a Guide is also an opportunity to rebuild bridges with the Tribal Authorities. I pitched a Permit system, since a source of revenue is of the utmost to the Navaho. Just one step at a time, and we may get some few climbing privileges back, without alienating them but instead helping them.

I used my opportunity to demonstrate modern cams, since their general knowledge is based upon destructive pitons. My Guide and company had never seen them, but immediately grasped their non-invasive principle.

I also tried to convey that the Totem Pole is held as holy by as many honkies as Peoples.

Just to hang out at the bedrock was worth the bread. Didn’t hurt to come home with a 36” high telephoto printout of the Bandito Route – every bolt on what few ladders exist glow in the afternoon sun.
Jeremy

Social climber
Albuquerque, NM
Feb 12, 2012 - 05:15pm PT
THANK YOU DON!!!!!!!!!

#1 of my top 10 list.

BOW DOWN TO THE POLE!!!

WOO HOO!!!!!!!!!!!
LilaBiene

Trad climber
Jun 13, 2012 - 12:13am PT
Don, I wish I could convey the range of emotions these pictures evoke for me. Thank you for sharing, and thereby preserving, one cool as Hell glimpse into another world...
StahlBro

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
Jun 13, 2012 - 12:19am PT
Fantastic! Never get tired of the desert spires!

Credit: StahlBro
Studly

Trad climber
WA
Jun 13, 2012 - 12:47am PT
Great thread. Did you guys ever hear the story about why the Totem Pole is completely closed to climbing now?
skywalker

climber
Jun 13, 2012 - 12:53am PT
Because of dogs named "Dark Star" or some phallic insecurity?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jun 6, 2013 - 12:31am PT
Not quite sure how this one got past me but here is the original account of the FA by Mark Powell from Summit April 1958.


Jerry Gallwas prusiking on the cover.







LilaBiene

Trad climber
Jun 6, 2013 - 12:36am PT
Awesome, Steve!!! TFPU!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jun 7, 2013 - 12:18am PT
Mark Powell didn't write many articles so this one is even sweeter.
Carmel Climber

Mountain climber
Carmel California
Jun 18, 2013 - 07:13pm PT
To All,

Get it through your heads, the Totem Pole is off limits for climbing. It's sacred to the Navajo people. That's that! So you'll know. The pole is in Monument Valley. One way in, one way out. They lock it up at night and you better be out of there by that time. There is no driving to it. You'll be spotted if you hike to it. You'll be spotted if you try to climb it. You can be fined, you can be jailed. Just like in Yosemite. You'll have to be content climbing El Cap or Cerro Torre. You were just born 40 years too late!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jun 19, 2013 - 02:02am PT
"sacred" is often not a permanent concept, actually.

Shiprock was called "sacred" at one time, but it really got closed initially because too many noobs were trying to climb it and kept needing rescues.
Later, Cameron Burns asked around and it turns out the people who had the grazing rights to the Shiprock area would permit climber access if you gave them something useful in return (like cleaning up broken glass at the base).

Cave Rock is another example - nobody paid attention for a long time, then somebody noticed climbers were having fun there and started complaining....
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jun 19, 2013 - 09:30am PT
Correct any incorrect info here, but I do know that the Navajos were extremely pissed off over Spider Rock being climbed in Canyon de Chelley. They have always had a story about the Spider Woman coming down and nabbing unruly children. I talked about it with a Chinle local once, and climbing Spider Rock pretty much destroyed the Spider Woman myth, and it is a myth that all of the locals have known for centuries.

Sure, the Navajo are modern, in the sense that this was a bedtime story to make sure the kids behaved, kind of like the bogey man.

I remember when Tom Cosgriff did Spider Rock. He told me that as they were climbing out of the Canyon, some locals were pushing rocks down on them, and they had to wait for them to leave. So I say that the problem with climbers all started with Spider Rock. I know for a fact that this was a huge abuse. To this day a non-Navajo can't go in there without a Navajo guide, which we were careful to use. We brought no alcohol in there either.

A weird but true fact:

We used to BASE jump in Canyon de Chelly totally legally. A white or non-Navajo can't go down into the two Canyons without a guide. Since Carl Boenish and friends did the first jumps in there, from the start they took a guide, as did all parties afterwards.

We would go out there and jump for a week straight, with our guide picking us up and driving us back to the exit point, even long after dark. One Thanksgiving, we were treated to a huge dinner of frybread and other good stuff in one of those little hovels in Chinle. The house had a whole bunch of BASE pictures on the walls, and they insisted that us 3 sit at the only table, while the women, kids, and old people sat on the floor to eat. It was very cool. So they liked jumpers.

We scouted the area thoroughly, and found one really nice spot, that probably hasn't been jumped since. We had to get the permission of a 90 year old woman who owned the little farm plot in the canyon floor. When we did the jumps, her kids put a big recliner in the back of a truck and came out to watch from below. It was cold, so they built a big fire and put the old woman, who didn't speak English, down by the fire in her recliner. She thought it was cool, or at least she was smiling about it.

They loved it.

We would go get our permits from the local park service, which was a small office, because the Navajo ran the place despite it being a national monument. Eventually the district ranger found out about the jumping and it was shut down. The main exit point still gets jumped, but now the locals make no money from us. The people are so poor there. We paid the old woman for the privilege of landing on her field, for example. So we were tight with the Chinle locals.

We asked permission and were very respectful. We wouldn't set foot on the valley floor without a guide. This is no longer possible due to the park service jack offs as far as BASE goes.

The Navajo were pretty cool. There is a lot of alcoholism on the res, but not among the ones we hung out with.

That went on for quite a while, and we kept it secret from all other jumpers, lest somebody go in there and blow it for everyone, which eventually happened.

Here is a pic of a group of us in Chinle with our guide. We always used this one guy. His name was Dan Staley, and he was super cool and explained all sorts of things about the canyons and their history, indluding when Kit Carson ran a whole bunch of Navajos up Canyon del Muerto and slaughtered them:

That's me on the left, next to our guide. This was back in the mid eig...
That's me on the left, next to our guide. This was back in the mid eighties. The rest of the jumpers are a who's who of original BASE.
Credit: BASE104
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 19, 2013 - 11:36am PT
On our way to or on our way back from a San Juan river trip, Bill Russell and I visited Monument Valley.

All you had to do was tell Billy that driving to the base of the Totem Pole was prohibited and before you could blink we were there at the base. That's it! Then we went home.
crunch

Social climber
CO
Jun 19, 2013 - 12:01pm PT
Nice story, Base104

The Navajos originally gave permission to climbers to climb Spider Rock and the Totem Pole. Climbers (and base jumpers, by the sound of it) were welcome.

As Clint suggest, one of the reasons for the climbing ban is the threat of a constant stream of climbers, every weekend. The Navajos could see how allowing access to all would depersonalize and cheapen the experience, destroy the ambience that surrounds the Totem Pole and Shiprock. It would destroy exactly what climbers came looking for (some of the Sherpas who live around Everest may now be regretting the circus they have enabled).

The Totem Pole, for instance, just three pitches, an easy guiding objective, would today be the same mob scene as Ancient Arts in the Fishers.

Not sure what the solution is. How about a requirement for all who want to climb Standing Rock, in addition to paying some kind of peak fee, to do what would effectively be a number of hours (20?) of community service on the rez, before climbing?
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jun 19, 2013 - 12:26pm PT
Yeah. Some of us have been happy that certain areas are illegal to jump.

It helps to keep away the riff raff for the hard cores who know how to do them on the down low. I can think of a number of objects like that, including El Cap, which I used to have dialed and was never even chased or seen, other than by climbers who I used to fly by under canopy. I would say hi to them if I knew them.

Climbers would never rat out a jumper back then. Now with cellphones and crowded El Cap, I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't call 911 on you.

That sucks. I hosted many of the biggest jumpers on the planet in the SAR site. Rangers never walked inside of the SAR site boundary. They would see things that forced them to fire everyone!

By the way, who did Troy Johnson climb Iron Hawk with?
Cam Burns

Social climber
CO
Jul 1, 2013 - 09:31am PT
Later, Cameron Burns asked around and it turns out the people who had the grazing rights to the Shiprock area would permit climber access if you gave them something useful in return (like cleaning up broken glass at the base).

What Brandon, the grazing permit holder, wanted was $20 and some motor oil so he could drive his car to visit his kids in Arizona. I suggested cleaning up the 6 garbage bags' worth of broken beer bottles and the awful graffiti on the boulders. He hadn't thought of that and probably couldn't have cared less. He said, "okay, good idea." Brandon ended up visiting us nearly every day we were on the route and ate dinner (pizza) with us each night. The weather at that point was really strange. Every day at about 3 pm the storms would roll in and lightning would blast down onto the prairie around Shiprock. So we'd bail, and go get Little Caesar's pizza in Shiprock. Fun times.
Slabby D

Trad climber
B'ham WA
May 16, 2014 - 12:17pm PT
Bump for awesome thread
Roots

Mountain climber
Tustin, CA
May 16, 2014 - 04:29pm PT
Great stuff - been reading Crusher's book about all the Spires (history) out that way!
SilverSnurfer

Mountain climber
SLC, UT.
May 16, 2014 - 04:42pm PT
Enormocast podcast #55 is an interview with Eric Bjornstad including a discussion of the Totem Pole ascent and The Eiger Sanction filming.
Messages 1 - 95 of total 95 in this topic
Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
 
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks


Try a free sample topo!

 
SuperTopo on the Web

Review Categories
Recent Trip Report and Articles
Recent Route Beta
Recent Gear Reviews