Driving Miss Bridwell


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Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 2, 2008 - 10:27pm PT
previously appeared a few years ago, but is effing funny so here:

Driving Miss Bridwell

The VW van was unusual; it had doors on both sides. It was called a Transporter, and had a hell of a lot of miles on it. I recall it was maybe an old 1964 but it was my new bedroom for a few years. What it lacked at first was an 8-track and knowing that music is at the root of it all, somehow I saved up enough S&H Green Stamps to score such a unit, and so greedily installed the booty before another climbing season could try to start without rhythm and textures.

Since Camp Four had very very few sound systems resident, the bus was popular especially with Werner, Klemens, Bridwell, and our other friends who came to drink at the trough, so to speak. Clapton, The Stones, CSNY, The Youngbloods, Mayall were some of the favorites, but I was a jazz fan also, so I had some Coltrane too. Klemens and I shared this taste but the harder work of Coltrane was too much like screaming, for Royal and most other sensible friends. It was very hard for me to tolerate this lack of tolerance on their part. For every climber, there was a chosen musician, who clearly had the secret key for his climbing; for Klemens and I, Coltrane was indisputably why we were the offwidth dragons.

Jim and I were driving around the Valley one time, the weather was crappy, but when you have a master plan, it just doesn’t matter. We made do, as we had the 8-track and we had new routes to scope out with our temporary though copious spare time. There was some gas in the tank and the motor hadn’t blown up yet. As far as JB was concerned, it was a mellow, wet afternoon in the mid and lower Valley and we were centered. Just like he was happy to belay off of a battery of rurps 6 years later 2000 ft off the talus on Pacific Ocean. But for me, the DJ of the moment, Coltrane was honking at me from way back, loudly too. And I was grinding away inside about how in my life, I was standing on crumbly nothings and that it all hurt and I couldn’t find the answer. Kind of like a Higgins edging route that went for months. What I mean was that I was a mess and now looking back, I was not any fun at the moment either.

So JB goes, you’re freaking out again Haan, and this Coltrane stuff is horrible or something to that effect. I think he even used the side of his mouth to tell me this. And it didn’t help that we only had about a dozen 8-tracks total to work with for months. I suppose he could have said, “Coltrane’s approach, though tossing up huge melodic questions and though not atonal, requires more engagement then I currently want to offer it”, but he didn’t. While he was sitting next to me on the VW bench, in my 21 year old mind’s eye from Berkeley--- which of course, though in brutish turmoil, nonetheless knew everything---was hatefully picturing him as suburban for about an hour (there was nothing worse to be, if you were from Berkeley, even though it is a suburb). He couldn’t tell---it was my mean little secret. After all, a year later, he and I are doing Henley Quits with him ripped on acid while he is in ladies’ pink stretch Capri pants from Merced Goodwill and a three-musketeers style shirt and vest he had sewn himself. So maybe I was on to something about this suburban thing.

His slashing comment only made matters worse as I was kind of needing for Coltrane to actually have the answer here and I wanted JB to go with me on this. But he not only didn’t, he didn’t need to, because the answer was clear: climbing, nothing else---oh and his harem. After all, he was so much older than I---he was 27, practically middle-aged like Royal, older than dirt! I had been bothering the Lion but he could work with it. So obviously the truth was right there and I of course missed it that afternoon and had called it suburban.


Dec 2, 2008 - 10:34pm PT
Such dense content. A novel would be a nice continuance. You wouldn't be able to put it down. So funny. Thanks Peter.
Inner City

Trad climber
East Bay
Dec 2, 2008 - 11:31pm PT
Man Peter, from one north Berkeley dude, Merry Christmas! and do you have any other presents for us?

So Good for this site. A Renaissance of web wonder.

right here, right now
Dec 2, 2008 - 11:32pm PT
The mighty S&H Green Stamps!
Squashed by the Blue Stamp empire, at least in my corner of the 'burbs.
(How young, like in dog years, does one have to be to have no recollection of such things?)

Yes, yes, could we have just one more story before bedtime?

Not here
Dec 3, 2008 - 12:04am PT
Thanks for making me laugh...


Dec 3, 2008 - 12:50am PT

I'll never forget your VW van and you letting us blast your tape deck to Cream and Hendrix.

Thanks for being a great guy back then and still now.

East of Seattle
Dec 3, 2008 - 12:54am PT
Great stuff Peter. Thanks.

Tarbuster. I'm a '65 baby and don't have a clue what you're talking about.


right here, right now
Dec 3, 2008 - 12:59am PT
I was born in '60.
In the late 60s, I used to go to those stores with my mom, stamp books in hand.

I never saved up enough stamps for the coveted Dolt pitons though, heh, heh...


East of Seattle
Dec 3, 2008 - 01:10am PT
Now I do remember. Hard jog... Don't think I ever knew what they were called...


Dec 3, 2008 - 12:39pm PT
Very cool. Thanks for the revival.

right here, right now
Dec 3, 2008 - 01:43pm PT
Nice touch there pc!
Okay so you couldn't really get Dolt gear at those stamp stores...
Mostly just household stuff.

Just how many Peter Haan stories are floating around out there?
All running free like wild horses I suspect.

Trad climber
Portland, Or
Dec 3, 2008 - 04:12pm PT
Outstanding. Irreplaceable text.

Boulder climber
Redmond, OR
Dec 3, 2008 - 04:52pm PT
deep, personal, hilarious, brilliant

Trad climber
the campfire just a ways past Chris' Taco stand
Feb 15, 2009 - 12:20am PT
Bump for another awesome tale. These stories are like little treasures.

Lynne Leichtfuss

Social climber
valley center, ca
Feb 15, 2009 - 02:39am PT
Pretty good writing Mr. Peter Haan. Well, more than pretty good. Great !

But gotta tell ya..... I get all excited when I read these threads and then I look at the date and see I'm like months or a year too late. ):

What is Taco etiquette regarding old threads ? How can one respond to them if the Poster is not knowing it is a live topic again ? Does it matter ? Jess wondering what to do. Lynnie

EDIT: Well in this case the thread is only a few months old, but some brought back to life are pretty old.

Trad climber
one of god's mountain temples....
Feb 15, 2009 - 04:47am PT
That is the beauty of it Lynn. Unless you are talking sh#t about someone by dragging up an old thread, then there is no reason not to bring these different threads back to the surface. Everyone gets a second chance to view and respond and if the major players of a thread need to respond, usually someone will tell them if they aren't paying attention. I think most active people around here have a few friends who would give them a heads up if something needs their attention.

Thanks for the bump of a cool thread...

Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 15, 2009 - 09:50am PT
I am really glad you characters enjoyed this vignette. It was incredibly fun to write I will tell you. And for some reason it went rapidly too, like in a half an hour or so. It was not one of the efforts that was a real sweat-out. Like you, I wish we had more of this kind of stuff on ST. I have about ten of them by the way most of which have been posted over the years.

Lovegasoline, now that was witty as hell. What Wern was going for was bone vibration I think. (G). Actually I have the impression he could hear enough back then so that music worked. Every now and then I have the notion to write Werner's biography; the guy is incredible. I've known him since the very first months he began climbing; an amazing individualist.

By the way, Werner and I did a rescue on Secret Storm one afternoon back in the mid-70's. I wrote about it here years ago. It was a very funny situation. this is the link for that post, part of an offwidth thread. http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.html?topic_id=114638&msg=116429#msg116429

best to you all, ph.

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Feb 15, 2009 - 11:16am PT
There's good stuff on Super Topo, Peter, but this is really in a class by itself. Evocative and superbly written. I hadn't seen it before, but it is one of a relatively small number of pieces that is worthy of periodic bumping, not only for the benefit of new audiences, but because it is and will be a pleasure to reread over and over.

Chalkless climber
the Gunks end of the country
Feb 15, 2009 - 11:22am PT
"suburban" - wow! That is harsh. Good thing the internet wasn't invented yet!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Feb 15, 2009 - 12:19pm PT
The adventures of the occasionally less than elegant Gypsy! LOL
Echoing Rgold, every pass through your prose is a pleasure, Peter! Thanks again for the memories.
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Feb 15, 2009 - 12:37pm PT
Great stuff! Give the man a beer and a keyboard - type us some more.

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Feb 15, 2009 - 12:51pm PT
I am really glad you characters enjoyed this vignette.

Peter, your vignettes and longer tales are priceless. Not least for all the perspective time's brought.

Mountain climber
Monrovia, CA
Feb 15, 2009 - 01:27pm PT
Superbly written, thank you.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Feb 16, 2009 - 01:12am PT
Gary asked me if I had some Coltrane, something about OW music... and Peter, so I searched and popped this wonderful piece up again.

Now I don't have any of "the harder work" so I'll start Gary off with some of the softer stuff, you know, like Mr. Knight, Giant Steps, and Blue Train and see how it goes....

Do you think we can get Planet Granite to play this stuff for an OW sesh?

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Feb 16, 2009 - 11:10am PT
Music to inch along by.....
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 16, 2009 - 11:15am PT
Good approach there Ed. I really appreciate your care and caution. If Old Gary was given a full and direct bow hit right off the bat he could be injured maybe worse. I did see his video birthday/birthday video at the Park Entrance you hosted when the two of you drove up from the provinces. I get the idea. And I understood why there wasn’t a cake.

Ed, yeah, you’re right to suspect the upper level---”harder” as you say---tunes involve secrets that cannot generally be told. When you get to Coltrane’s “Ascension Edition II” although the title suggests a completely appropriate piece of offwidth music, as we’re calling it, it’s a deadly trap actually and many haven’t made it.

Way beyond “sandbag”. Worse than what we call a “false lead” in climbing. That’s right, normal people would die as Bridwell was fond of saying. I think on ST there are only a couple others that are rated for that track. Fish comes to mind right off. Most are still nibbling amiably though temeritously on “Giant Steps” after prepping with Miles’ “Kind of Blue”, a jump in itself admittedly.

Now taking the other end of the discussion, for heaven’s sake don’t back completely off the task and start playing “Kumbaya” or “Michael Rowed The Boat Ashore” again like you always do for Gary because these kinds of compositions fail to develop enough body torque (viz. counterforce) to climb even Pharoah’s Beard. And he will just get tunnel vision anyway, miss all the crucial subtle holds with such a simplistic one-form melodic line as these two songs offer, even though I know they are popular with many, notably Scuffy. In a word, play Easy Listening for any of those pilgrims and they will come flying right out of there. I mean it Ed. Even Pharaoh’s Beard.

Starting with heavily syncopated pieces that still keep a melody line sometimes helps, I would suggest. Stay away from anything lubricious.

Whether Planet Granite will deign to play these high-performance double black diamond jazz works we are referring to here (some so arcane they can’t even be named in public), I would have to doubt it. My impression of those people is that they are all nice but aren’t proposing an elegant solution to The Mind-Body Problem. I know that Pacific Edge will play it although they don’t have the proof either; I am sure Tom Davis and Diana Princess of Seabright (the G.P’s) must be starving for The New after 16 continuous years of U2. Both of them are tremendously good climbers, though nearly as old as Gary C. Maybe they’ll be sympatico.

Try to burn yourself a CD of the right stuff, so to speak, and take it with you and see when Gary seems ready to host in his climbing sequences a conjecture as complex as this late-career Coltrane piece. The purple cordless ghetto blaster with fold-down wheels and solar charger that Gary got for his birthday would be good to take on some of your adventure routes by the way, maybe the gyms. Warning labeling on that CD is indicated though for sure; some outsider might unknowingly pop your custom CD in and wipe out Livermore or Sunnyvale or The Marina just like that.
Jack Burns

Feb 16, 2009 - 12:49pm PT
Stellar Regions is another of Coltrane's free jazz albums that is pretty wild and "unlistenable". Not everyone's cup o tea but you can't deny that Coltrane was searching for something.

There's a book called Ascension (forget the author) which is sort of a "musical" biography about Coltrane, detailing his musical pursuits as opposed to his personal life. It does a good job explaining Coltrane's transition into the "free jazz" movement with other players like Pharoah Sanders. Coltrane had been off the heroin for a while and had become deeply spiritual. He was also using LSD a fair bit. His free jazz, to me, represents his spirtitual quest and the abrasiveness of his later work seemed to explain that this quest was not without suffering or agony.

Another great story, Peter. Thanks for posting.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 16, 2009 - 01:28pm PT
Funny Walleye.

Years ago I saw Pharaoh at the Kuumbwa Jazz Society in Santa Cruz. The show was superb. P.S. kept his face hidden from us as he played huge powerful passages of cascaded tonal tsunamis, transporting everyone and everything within in earshot. It was hard not to weep. At one of the crescendos in the piece he exposed his face; he had full chrome contacts on. The effect was unbelievably exciting, the implication that what the music was calling about, was real. Huge.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 2, 2009 - 11:11pm PT
Jazz Bump!
mark miller

Social climber
Nov 2, 2009 - 11:47pm PT
Peter please write some memoirs of "A better time" in climbing. Thanks for the recollections.
Lynne Leichtfuss

Sport climber
Will know soon
Nov 3, 2009 - 12:11am PT

Mimi's first post is Really Spot on. Really. Peter, you need to take your Thread idea and spawn the Novel.....Your writing is more than Great. Seriously Dude, make it happen. Start today, tomorrow is not guaranteed. Peace Always and Best to Yo, lynnie

Nov 3, 2009 - 12:18am PT
Tomorrow is always guaranteed, whether one lives or not.
Lynne Leichtfuss

Sport climber
Will know soon
Nov 3, 2009 - 12:27am PT
Hi Werner,

Enjoyed talking with you in Yo Valley during Facelift. :D

Tomorrow is, yes, and always will be tomorrow. As a human we may not be here on this planet to experience tomorrow on this terrestial orb...but we will be somewhere and Tomorrow is and always will be tomorrow....whether we experience it here or elsewhere. Sincere Peace and Joy, lynnie

Edit: I always enjoy your thought provoking ideas and comments. :)
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 3, 2009 - 01:01am PT
so fans, here is a revival of the North Dome Gully tale I kind of dusted off just now and posted:

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 22, 2010 - 11:36am PT
Classic Birdbump!
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Nov 3, 2010 - 08:09pm PT
Perhaps it would be useful to explain what an 8-track was. :-)
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
Nov 3, 2010 - 08:36pm PT
Tuned to the same channel, in far away Idaho, "suburban" was the evil. Tripping sucked but it pointed up the fact that all the neatness and conformity was not the truth. It was a trap. A tamed world of bliss built for us by our forefathers so we would not need to suffer. Conformity, not cunning, nor strength, was required to survive. No more hunt and kill. No more fighting for freedom.

And thus came the Entertainment Revolution. A giant vortex of entertainment choices, dragging the young by their very coolness into the crushing black oblivion of spectatorism. Not awake, not asleep, just outside the action, watching, waiting. The mass, the pressure, the thick sensation of electronically driven light. It grasps at you now as you read this last word.

Social climber
Bouncy Tiggerville
Nov 3, 2010 - 08:47pm PT
Great story, Peter! I especially like this bit:

For every climber, there was a chosen musician, who clearly had the secret key for his climbing; for Klemens and I, Coltrane was indisputably why we were the offwidth dragons.

Thievery Corporation is mine now, but for years it was James Brown.

from where the anecdotes roam
Nov 3, 2010 - 08:54pm PT
nothing that has passed will further fade once haan has fixed it within his prose

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Nov 3, 2010 - 09:06pm PT
Great write up Peter!

Really put me there, as I have had some wet dreary dirtbag tours in barely working vehicles myself.

Nov 3, 2010 - 10:17pm PT
Peter -


Keep it going. Best yet.

Were you at that Esprit Party In 77?

Guido was... I remember but then I forget ...

Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 3, 2010 - 11:04pm PT
Thanks everybody! The encouragement is thrilling! It DOES make a difference.

A companion story, a tale that goes with this Driving Miss Bridwell thing, is concerned with a couple of hours Bridwell and I spent on Henley Quits: "A Brief Walk with Bridwell":


and written around that same time a pair of tales concerning the earliest big-scale rescues on El Cap:




Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Nov 4, 2010 - 01:21am PT

Peter had to be there as he was a big part of the rebuild at Esprit along with TM and Harper and lots of funny stories. Remember the ride up from Santa Cruz in the convertible and the wild Sax music from that dude in the underpass in the park? Jeeeez those were wild and crazy times.

So Peter how is the novel coming along?

Boulder climber
new york
Nov 4, 2010 - 03:42am PT
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Social climber
Polynesian Paradise
Nov 4, 2010 - 05:41am PT

Peter, GREAT STUFF! Thanks so much!

Trad climber
Lander, WY
Nov 4, 2010 - 10:05am PT
I love reading these things. Keep it up, you're a good writer!
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