first use of the word "offwidth"


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Social climber
wuz real!
Nov 21, 2008 - 10:33am PT
Always climb the wide with pride.

But check your ego at the Belay...
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Nov 21, 2008 - 10:33am PT
Hi Kevin,

I tried to recall when we started referring to 'offwidth' climbs. It seems to me that they were always 'offwidths,' but someone had to start calling them that. Mark, Jim and Peter put up a bunch of hard off-widths in 1971, and it seems to me that we called them 'offwidths,' at the time. My first 'offwidth' was following Peter up the FA of "Secret Storm." I remember being at the crux, struggling, and calling up to Peter, "How did you get up this?" He told me how to do it. I got up it, but I kept thinking that I must be doing something wrong--missing a hold, or turned the wrong way, or something. Peter was so solid on that stuff--must be eaay--that I hadn't even bothered to watch.

I don't recall being the first to call them 'awful widths.' We were always twisting words around to make jokes, and I repeated any goods ones I heard.

Social climber
wuz real!
Nov 21, 2008 - 10:40am PT
"someone had to start calling them that"
, Pratt?
scuffy b

On the dock in the dark
Nov 21, 2008 - 10:53am PT
"a shockingly unlimited fashion"

you know, those guys

I think there's more to come. Thanks, all.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Nov 21, 2008 - 10:57am PT
Chuck certainly did them early, but the term "off-width" doesn't sound like him, at least to me.

I can imagine in 1970 when so many new hard cracks were being climbed and discussed in that awful camp we stayed in under Glacier Point, someone would have made the joke. It had to come in the context of clearly defined thin cracks--tips, fingers, rattle-ly hands, hands, fist--and squeeze chimneys to make sense. Since no body part fit, except the distinction of getting your knee in or not, 'off' makes sense. It sounds more like Barry Bates or Bev Johnson or Eric Beck, although Eric was not in the Valley much that year.

I really don't know.
Alan Rubin

Nov 21, 2008 - 11:28am PT
I first climbed in the Valley in '66, and am pretty certain that the term "offwidth' wasn't in general use during that season, I definitely recall it being used when I was there in '72, but despite trying to dig through my foggy brain can't come up with any specific memories of whether or not the term was being used when I was there in '70, so Peter's around '71 sounds right. If I'd have to guess at the original source, I'd bet on The Bird. He liked to categorize things, so it would fit into the "crack spectrum" that Roger referred to. Maybe someone looked into this earlier in the thread, but was the term used in Bridwell's Ascent article introducing "letter grades" in the early '70s?
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Nov 21, 2008 - 11:31am PT
If I had to guess who used the term "offwidth" first it would have to be Bridwell. Pratt was out of there by the late 60's although at the beginning of the 70's he was camping with us a little bit, leisure climbing and being with old friends. I really doubt Chuck started the term. It became part of oral tradition in 1970-71. Regardless, there were a couple years there where we did see offwidths as a category to go after and get done. It was great for me since I have giant fingers and even in great shape weighed 190. By 1973 onwards thin hands and finger crack climbs were the collective focus. And by the time everyone was trying to wear lycra, offwidths were something the help had to do! Or as my old friend Inez referred to as "Blue Collar Climbing". But to be sure, Pratt was truly the Father of Offwidth. And he put up most of the best "wide" we have in the Valley and elsewhere using "technique is your protection" thinking the whole time.

Social climber
wuz real!
Nov 21, 2008 - 01:07pm PT
Hmm? if anyone has a sly wit, it's Bridwell... (Ot, might he have started the climber-pirate thing with the "walk the plank" episode recounted in the P.O. fa account published somewhere or other?) Did 'chalkbag', 'quickdraw' and offwidth all come about the same time? From the same source?

So, as Columbo, Elijah Bailey, Sherlock Holmes, or Porfiry Petrovitch might recount; It looks like the word "Offwidth" seems to have come into colloquial usage, post 1966 and before '72, lots of evidence and accounts point toward, '71, At least in Yosemite. Which seems like a likely place for it to have been hatched.

I still wonder if it was used in Vedauwoo in the early 70's, or by 1970. I will check that halfpenny guide when I can. i know it was in common usage, there, when I arrived in '77. It might have been used in the description of the first ascent of 'Fantasia', on Poland Hill, as recounted in Halfpenny, I just can't recall the wording. If anyone has the Bonney guide to Wyo it would be worth searching through, too.

Social climber
wuz real!
Nov 21, 2008 - 02:15pm PT
etymology of "Brown point"?

Trad climber
My Inner Nut
Nov 21, 2008 - 04:15pm PT
Isn't that where you grab the rope, pull on gear, step on gear, and "all that sh!t" ?
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Nov 21, 2008 - 06:17pm PT
Yeah Jayb, we started making quickdraws in 1970-71 also and would have a bunch of them on harder free pitches. Knotted doubled or tripled 9/16” webbing with of course two ovals. We thought we were tricky. Sometimes even preclipped one on our hardware sling to the rope before a crux section. And it was Bridwell’s name. He had tons of names for stuff or frequent word usages as he was tremendously fun and witty. He also knew how to keep a tense or tough situation really fun and seemingly “light”. Look here he is showing us his new bridge on Sea:


Boulder climber
Salt Lake, UT
Nov 21, 2008 - 07:11pm PT
Sounds more like something Don Whillans would say. And certainly he had plenty of experience in them.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 21, 2008 - 10:00pm PT
it seems that by 1971, all the OW grades from 5.9 thru 5.11a had been climbed. Many of the ≥5.10a climbs were put up by the Bridwell group... and in a systematic march through the 5.10 grade into 5.11

The pre-70s OW's were put up by Pratt, Robbins and Sacherer... and span 5.9 thru 5.10d.

from George Meyers, Yosemite Climbs 1982
OFFWIDTH ( 3½" to 8")


The Cleft FA 1958 Chuck Pratt Wally Reed
Peter Pan FA 1962 Bob Kamps Jim Sims
Apron Jam FA 1965 Galen Rowell Gordon Webster


Banana Dreams FA 1974 Vern Clevenger
Cookie, Left FA 1968 Royal Robbins Loyd Price
This and That FA 1972 Jim Donini Jim Bridwell
Nothing Special (Mongolian Clusterf*#k) FA 1972 Jim Donini
Chingando FA 1965 Chuck Pratt
Reed's Pinnacle, Left FFA 1962 Frank Sacherer Dick Erb Larry Marshik
Bong's Away, Center FA 1970 Barry Bates Mark Klemens
Hourglass, Right FFA 1964 Frank Sacherer Tom Gerughty
Gollum, Left FA 1972 Peter Hahn Rick Linkert David Moss
Orange Juice Avenue FA 1975 Chris Falkenstein Don Reid
Secret Storm FA 1971 Peter Haan Roger Breedlove
Doggie Do FA ? Chris Fredericks
Geek Towers, Center FA 1974 Jim Bridwell John Syrett
Geek Towers, Right FA 1971 Mark Klemens Jim Bridwell
Worst Error, Right FA 1962 Frank Sacherer Galen Rowell
Crack of Doom FA 1961 Chuck Pratt Mort Hempel
Crack of Dispair FFA 1964 Frank Sacherer Chuck Pratt Tom Gerughty


Vendetta FA 1967 Loyd Price Roger Gordon
The Slack, Left FA 1965 Chuck Pratt Royal Robbins
Smoky Pillar FA 1973 Jim Bridwell George Meyers Vern Clevenger Larry Bruce
Book of Job FA 1971 Rick Sylvester Ben Read
Pulpit Pooper FA 1972 Jim Orey Jack Roberts
Jam Session FA 1971 Mark Klemens Jim Bridwell


Twinkie FA 1973 Ray Jardine Chris Nelson
The Shaft FA 1971 Matt Donohoe George Meyers
Wild Turkey FA 1974 Dale Bard Ron Kauk
Edge of Night FA 1967 Chris Fredericks Rich Doleman Jim Bridwell
Fallout FA 1972 Jim Donini Steve Wunsch
Mental Block FA 1973 Dale Bard Jim Bridwell
Barefoot Servants FA 1980 Don Reid Alan Bartlett Alan Roberts


Twilight Zone FA 1965 Chuck Pratt Chris Fredericks
Steppin' Out FA 1971 Mark Klemens Jim Bridwell
Plumb Line FA 1974 Dale Bard Jim Bridwell Kevin Worrall


Cream FA 1971 Mark Klemens
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 21, 2008 - 10:38pm PT
Free Press 5.10a FA 1971 Galen Rowell Sibylle Hechtel

it's a flare
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Nov 21, 2008 - 10:53pm PT
Here's a slightly updated version of the offwidth section in "routes by type", possibly with a few misclassified. I should probably clean out the "TR" designation, since I think most of those have been led.


938. Supertoe Left 5.7
747. Little John - Left 5.8 *
1032. True Grit 5.8
9. Sawyer Crack 5.9
192. The Cleft 5.9 R *
269. Moss O Menos 5.9
286. Prime Time 5.9
610. Side Kick 5.9
742. La Cosita - Left Variation 5.9 *
987. Sow Sow Sow p1 5.9
1943. Apron Jam 5.9 *
2051. Tithe 5.9
2116. Tilted Mitten - Center 5.9
2120. The Sphinxter 5.9
2128. The Mummy's Revenge 5.9
2509. Bridwell Corner 5.9 *
716. Peter Pan 5.9+ *
152. Banana Dreams 5.10a
178. Cookie - Left 5.10a
390. This and That 5.10a *
471. Mongolian Clusterf*#k 5.10a R
491. Chingando 5.10a *
502. Reed's Pinnacle - Left Side 5.10a *
516. Bongs Away - Center 5.10a
560. Copper Penny 5.10a *
702. The Hourglass - Right Side 5.10a
780. Gollum - Left Side 5.10a
954. Orange Juice Avenue 5.10a *
988. Sow Sow Sow 5.10a
1124. Secret Storm 5.10a *
1127. Doggie Do 5.10a
1384. Geek Towers - Center Route 5.10a
1386. Geek Towers - Right Side 5.10a A2
1843. Milk Dud 5.10a
2124. Yin-Yang p2 5.10a
2592. Pink Dream 5.10a ***
2596. Crack of Doom 5.10a *
2597. Crack of Despair 5.10a *
1074. Absolutely Free - Right Side 5.10a R/X
187. Vendetta 5.10b *
273. Strategery 5.10b
736. The Slack - Left Side 5.10b
967. Dick Wrenching Classic 5.10b
1171. Smoky Pillar 5.10b
2455. Pulpit Pooper 5.10b *
2485. Jam Session 5.10b *
274. Armbar Province 5.10 A1
719. Peter Left 5.10b/c *
2521. Battle-Ship 5.10
401. Generator Crack 5.10c TR *
636. Wild Turkey 5.10c *
1123. Edge of Night 5.10c *
1144. Fallout 5.10c
2119. Mental Block 5.10c **
2398. Barefoot Servants 5.10c
80. The Bin 5.10d *
93. Extra Credit 5.10d
163. Twilight Zone 5.10d **
458. The Shaft 5.10d
546. Steppin' Out 5.10d **
2580. Plumb Line 5.10d *
42. A Desperate Kneed 5.11a *
1589. Power Failure 5.11a **
2484. Cream 5.11a **
1639. Basket Case 5.11b
76. GRE 5.11
627. Scab Laborer 5.11? TR
1382. Freestone 5.11c ***
2577. Jaws 5.12a TR

and a couple of the climbs in the 1982 ow list are in the Chimney section now:

2594. Worst Error - Right Side 5.10a *
148. Twinkie 5.10c

Book of Job was for me a thin crack crux

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 21, 2008 - 10:58pm PT
it would be cool for barbarianism to post here, but he hasn't since January...
Lynne Leichtfuss

Social climber
valley center, ca
Nov 21, 2008 - 11:03pm PT
Many on ST know The Bridwell Paisley Shirt pic is a favorite lifetime pic ever for Lynnie in the ST archives.

Dang, thought I'd gotten beyond it and on to new life. Then it gets posted again. Yikes and Sheee, ok I'll deal with it. :D
Where is that shirt ? Is it still alive. Anyone? Lynnie

EDIT: Note Bridwell's slings match shirt. Someday in history these fashion notes will find their mark, describing people that clearly were above the cut at their particular time in history..... Climbing and motivating with "the leader shirt".

Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Nov 21, 2008 - 11:59pm PT
It was right at the early 1970's (I can check a more exact date, if need be) that Tom Higgins and I climbed Pratt's route the Left Side of the Slack. I well remember leading that crux section and Tom and I referring to it as "off-width," and indeed it is a strange width where nothing fits very well. I recall Bridwell using the term around this time but also Barry Bates. Earlier, though, I remember Pratt calling a couple cracks he and I did "bad width." It's possible the bad width evolved into off width. I also recall the term "wrong width," also coined, I believe, by Pratt. But the real precursor to off width, which I know I was using in the late 1960's, and I know Chuck used, was "off size." And I could easily see how those combinations could mix and in a twinkle become off width.


scuffy b

On the dock in the dark
Dec 3, 2008 - 02:05pm PT
Does anybody have a 72 Ascent handy?
That's got Yosemite Notes from the 71 season, which didn't make
it into the Green Roper.
It records the 1st ascents of Cream, Jam Session, I think
Peter Left, Steppin Out, L. Hourglass, Narrow Escape.
Good possibilites here. Maybe Roper descended into the barbaric
new terminology?
The phrase that stuck in my memory from those Notes is
"horror show"

Trad climber
Dec 3, 2008 - 03:02pm PT
This has been an interesting discussion, partly because it helps to highlight how technical jamming had become by the early seventies in Yos.

The Germans gave us "Duelfer" for layback, but they didn't really evolve a uniform vocabulary for distinguishing cracks, even though Dresden had tons of hard off-width and squeeze chimneys in the early 20th century.
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