The first ascent of The Central Pillar of Frenzy

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Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 11, 2008 - 10:46pm PT
The first ascent of “The Central Pillar of Frenzy.”

The great thread Steve Grossman started for John Long's "The Royal Scam" got me to dust off the bits and pieces of the stories of the first ascent of the CPoF.

The ‘official’ history, which I restate from my Middle Cathedral Commentary published Mountain 52, Nov/Dec 1976, is straightforward.

“In the late 1960s, Tom Higgins started the route by attempting the Chouinard Pratt free. Jim Bridwell and Roger Breedlove climbed the first two pitches on a reconnaissance in 1972. The following year they returned with a full rack of nuts and two knife-blades. They were stopped on the eighth pitch by unprotected climbing. Later in the spring, Breedlove and Dale Bard traversed on the eighth pitch to the Bircheff Williams route. In 1974, Gib Lewis and Tobin Sorenson nailed the pitches straight up to the U-shaped bowl. Bridwell, Billy Westbay and John Long climbed those pitches free in 1975.”

So how did the "Central Pillar of Frenzy" get two finishes?

In the spring of 1972, the rescue team all rode down to the El Cap meadow parking lot on a false call. Whoever was climbing the Capitan didn’t need a rescue, and we were all more or less milling about, waiting for someone to tell us we could go back to camp. I had sweet-talked the manager of the Ansel Adams gallery into giving me a steep discount on a pair of Leitz binoculars, on a lay away plan, with immediate rights to use. They were only 8 power, but the clarity of the image and the light gathering ability were outstanding, and I was getting really good looking at rocks.

Since Peter Haan had set me on a path to master climbing and first ascents the prior year instead of continuing my efforts to master the art of the poseur-—another story--I was combing the cliffs looking for new stuff to do. With the almost magical capabilities of my new binoculars, I had spied the nearly invisible crack system left of the "Chouinard Pratt."

That day the light was perfect for studying Middle, so I turned my back on the aborted rescue on the Captain and stared at the new route. Bridwell was standing next to me, and I offer him a look. He turned around and took the binoculars. I carefully draped the sling over his head-—you don’t want to be dropping objects with magical powers.

Through the lens, the 2-5 pitches stood out pretty plainly. You cannot really miss the straight-in cracks, but somehow they had lain dormant. Even Pratt had climbed the corners of the "Chouinard Pratt" several times to add a direct finish through the U-shaped bowl, and somehow he never wandered off to the left to have a look-see. Neither had Tom Higgins on his attempts to free the "Chouinard Pratt." They probably didn’t have Leitz binoculars.

After Jim had his look-see with my new binoculars, he put them down. He didn’t see the point either.

“So what do you do after that?” He asked, skeptically.

“Climb to the U-shaped bowl and go off the Cat Walk,” I replied. “That’s where all the other routes between the East Buttress and the DNB go.”

Jim looked again and it hit him. Jim has surprisingly adept body language. You could almost see him estimating the rack, placing the protection, and setting the belays.

Then he instantly put the glasses down.

“Stop looking,” he whispered. “Others are watching us. Don’t look.”

Of course, I looked.

There was Ray Jardine, following our interest and gaze.

A few weeks later, Ray and Rik Reider climbed “Paradise Lost” in the blank spaces between the “Powell Reed” route and the “DMB.” It was Ray’s idea, and he summed it up by stating, “I got us into trouble, Rik got us out.” This route was the first of what would become the new wave of Middle free climbs. It was more noteworthy then than it appears now. I think that neither Ray or Rik had done much hard climbing--5.10--at that time and certainly not a long new route.

Anyway, it was a good thing he didn’t have cool new binoculars like mine to see deep into those cracks to the left of the "Chouinard Pratt," otherwise we would all be climbing the “Lost Pillar of Paradise.” (Now that would be a stupid name, if you ask me.)

In the fall of that year, when we all returned to the Valley, I asked Jim to come with me to give it a try. Unfortunately, although Jim and I were good friends, I don’t think that we had ever climbed together, and Jim just assumed that he would do all of the leading. He was probably concerned about my competence and his safety. Jim was climbing at a high standard, creating new free-climbing dimensions. He was also not too keen on repeating routes, so there was a big gap. Just two years before, I could probably only climb 5.9 competently. So we had never climbed together.

That changed a little the next couple of years, but we largely had different climbing circles, and I was gone much of the time guiding. Other than the four first ascents we did together in Yosemite-—three were my projects, one was his--we didn’t climb together much.

Part of the issue with climbing with Jim was that you eventually needed to break away to do your own climbs. He was such a good climber and so charismatic, and such a good teacher, that at some point we all needed to cut the cord, so to speak, to stand on your own.

Jim also was developing the skills to play the impresario, organizing which routes to work on and organizing the rope guns to get up them. I think all of us had to find a way to feel like we were fully responsible for our own new routes. The trick was to do it without upsetting the communal flow. A year or so later, we simul-climbed the "Yawn" in the Meadows. I had led up into the roofs and traversed under them almost to their end. Jim followed and led the next pitch that starts up the big, obvious corner. When the rope became taunt, I could not see him or hear him, so I undid the belay and let out some slack. The rope pulled up, so I started up, expecting that he had set a belay. When I climbed around the roof and into the corner, the rope stretched up 165 feet to Jim, standing in a jam crack, with one or two pieces clipped between us. Once Jim reached the top, he put me on belay. Jim had spent a good amount of time following the first pitch studying the roof and crack system that runs out to the left. This became the “Wailing Wall,” an early 5.12, which he climbed either that same year or the next. But, as I said, that was a year or two after the first time we started up the cracks to the left of the "Chouinard Pratt."

On that first attempt in the fall of 1972, we climbed the first two pitches. On the second pitch, those great cracks were full of dirt and grass, and there were large hummocks beside the crack, my light gathering binoculars notwithstanding. Jim was flailing away, cleaning the cracks, knocking the hummocks off, getting pumped, and cursing. With all the dirt and grass, he was working very hard. As second, I had the benefit of relatively clean cracks and found lots of footholds that had been under the hummocks holding the dirt in place.

Jim looked down and asked, “What are you standing on?”

“Uh, big edges, really big edges, right next to the crack,” I replied. Of course I said it in a tone that tried to make it sound like Jim was blind, or daft, or so devoid of face climbing skills that he didn’t bother to look, but he knew I was joking and just laughed at the ironies of being first.

I also proposed the name of ‘Central Pillar of Frenzy’ standing on those big edges. Jim was sort of cool to the idea. His look was a combination of perplexity and gently rebuffing an obviously stupid idea. I persisted and explained that it was sort of a pillar type feature and that it came from the “Central Pillar of Freney” on the Grand Jorassas, which I think are in Paris, England. There had been an article about the climb in one of the winter issues of the "Mountain Magazine." Also I had no idea how to pronounce French, so Freney became frenzy.

Then I finished the pitch. It was still early in the day, so we rapped off. Jim was imparting to me the time-honored tactics of a Valley Hardman in the early 70s: never miss an opportunity to put off until tomorrow what could be done today.

The next spring we returned with our rack of nuts, no bolts and two knife blades. We had the new religion of clean climbing, and we were learning the art of the heroic gesture. Although it sounds obvious today and was probably obvious by the end of the 1973 season, starting up a new route on Middle with only two knife blades and no bolts was high commitment. Everyone has done the first five pitches of the CPoF, so we can skip to the sixth. Above that point the climbing changes completely and becomes more distinctly Middle in nature: thin, overlapping flakes, small corners, smears, tiny edges; hard to protect; combination climbing-—normal climbing in Eric Beck’s terms. The next two pitches worked out well, and we had high hopes that our gamble was going to work. But on the 8th pitch, Jim tried it several different ways and finally backed down, saying it needed bolts. So we rapped off.

I took my Lietz glasses back to the meadow and from other perspectives and with other lighting searched for a way past the high point. I noticed the black diorite intrusion dike that arched up and left, then down, connecting the top of the 7th pitch with the "Kor Beck" corners. An honorable escape.

When we returned, Jim invited Dale Bard and Ed Berry. I didn’t understand why-—not that it wasn’t going to be fine climbing with Dale and Ed, but it would add time and seemed to be a complication. Jim didn’t give a very satisfactory explanation, and I didn’t press. I roped up with Dale, and we started up. I had not climbed with Dale before and was surprised at how nervous he seemed, given his newly acquired reputation for hard climbing. I don’t know how old he was, maybe only mid teens. I probably seemed old to him at 22. Jim and Ed came up second.

We were climbing faster than Jim and Ed and were soon a couple of pitches above them. As I was starting up the 6th pitch, Jim called up and asked which way I was going to go on the 8th. I shouted down that I was going to traverse off to the "Kor Beck." After a pause, Jim shouted up that he and Ed were rapping down, and he made a sarcastic comment about having a good time on ‘your’ route. I thought it was weird but shrugged it off.

Much, much later I figured out that Jim had invited Dale and Ed to be the rope guns to do the hard face climbing above the 7th pitch. It didn’t occur to him or me that any misunderstanding could be resolved by just talking about it. Neither of us had had the experience of long marriages and raising kids that gives one practice to just start talking. I would have been more than willing to let one of those immensely talented guys lead the 8th pitch and finish in the U-shaped bowl.

On the 8th pitch, I climbed up the corners and placed some protection—several crappy small stoppers slung together—then down climbed and started up the dike. At the peak, just before the crux, I stopped and placed a bolt. My feet would stay on the dike for about four taps of the drill, and then I would move them back to the top edge of the dike and continue drilling. Tap, tap, tap, dink, shuffle, shuffle, tap, tap, tap, dink, shuffle, shuffle…. Once the bolt was in, it was a quick move past the crux and around the corner to a belay.

When Dale and I got back to camp, everyone was excited about the new route on Middle. Jim and I were describing the new climb to a large group standing in a circle in the parking lot. We were going through the pitch descriptions, miming the strange music-less dance of climbers the world over, placing our arms and at least one leg into an imaginary space, fingers and toes placed just so, and moving all of the earth down a bit to show the progress we had made.

We rated all of the pitches except the first at 5.10. Amongst the group was Will Tyree who drawled, "That would make it the hardest free climb in the Valley. Maybe the whole world."

Will always spoke as if he were saying lines in a Western movie, with the scene set in a bar on a Saturday night, before the fighting began. He was from the Northwest, was really big and powerfully built, and had a habit of making jokes about doing the listener harm. At least we all hoped they were jokes. One year, Will worked as a lumberjack in the summer off-season. That fall he told us how strong and tough you had to be to be a successful lumberjack. Just to make the point clear, he waved his hand at all of us skinny regulars and told us he could take any of us, anytime. I don’t think anyone doubted it.

Anyway, Will’s comment gave Jim and me pause, so with a quick glance at one another and a nod, Jim down rated it to one, maybe two pitches of 5.10—the 6th pitch and my “The Chickenshit Traverse." (I didn’t mind the sobriquet since it was a good lead.) Consensus YDS rating in action.

The climb got lots of attention and many ascents. Jim Donini did an early ascent, and when he returned to camp, he asked if I had placed the bolt on the traverse, then sarcastically stated that he would have put it in sooner. I didn’t ask, but I am guessing that he climbed straight up from the belay to the bolt. That would be a scary 60-80 footer onto an all nut belay.

Everyone referred to the new route as Jim’s new route, which ticked me off to no end.

They were my binoculars forcryingoutloud.

I complained to Bev Johnson about it, but she shrugged it off and gave me a long “Ahhhhhhhhh,” with big doe eyes and a tilt of the head, which could be taken as sympathy or suck-it-up. Or a little of both.

I may have messed up Jim’s planned ascent of a direct finish to the route with young rope guns, but Jim would return two years later with John Long and Billy Westbay to climb straight up above the 7th pitch all-free.

A great irony of all these machinations is that only the first five pitches are ever climbed nowadays and every few years John’s The Royal Scam gets dusted off to everyone’s delight.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 11, 2008 - 10:57pm PT
Thanks Roger, great story about a well loved route... keep thinking I should go back and do it again, haven't been on it for a long long time.

Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Dec 11, 2008 - 11:00pm PT
A (big) boy & his route!
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
Dec 11, 2008 - 11:39pm PT
excellent! nice story roger, thanks
The Warbler

climber
the edge of America
Dec 11, 2008 - 11:39pm PT
Hey Roger -

Thanks for a great story about the first ascent of one of the Valley's most popular routes. Bridwell has been getting a lot of attention lately, as he should. He shaped the direction of freeclimbing in the Valley as much as or maybe more than anyone. It's amazing to think that a route as obvious and relatively easy was just sitting there right next to the road unclimbed as late as '73.

Pretty sure Vern Clevenger and I did the second ascent. I have strong memories of a storm coming in as Vern finished leading the pitch before the "Chickenshit Traverse". I left the belay determined to finish the route as you guys had done it. That seemed like the crux pitch in a steady rain. I repeated the route years later with George Lowe, and couldn't imagine how I reached that one protection bolt with rainwater running down the rock - it seemed sporty enough dry. He loved that route.

I found a 9 inch long long dong all but buried in the dirty chimney following the fourth pitch that day with Vern. It was in perfect condition, with the initials YC stamped in it. Yvon or Chuck must have dropped it on their ascent of The Chouinard Pratt.

The Direct Finish probably has some excellent climbing on it that never gets done. Dale and I did a spicy direct start too. When we did the Direct Start after Brid had done the Direct Finish, he asked me in kind of an irritated way, why I would want to do a face climbing direct start when the cracks were so obvious. I remember telling him "for the same reason you wanted to do a direct finish." He thought about it for a moment, seemingly considering some sort of comeback, and then just grinned.

KW


Lynne Leichtfuss

Social climber
valley center, ca
Dec 11, 2008 - 11:51pm PT
Pretty special to meet Mr. Breedlove at the Nose Reunion. A thoughtful gentleman, well read literati, one who can translate the language into meaningful and compassionate conversation that makes a difference in peoples lives. Plus I hear he's a darn good climber. Peace, Lynne
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Dec 12, 2008 - 01:06am PT


Hi Lynnie. Here is Roger and Bridwell at the base of the Cookie back in 1971 (viz. 37 years ago) Note that since this moment, Roge's Afro has been brought into control. (Side note, JB's everyday wear as well). We should have a Roger Breedlove Appreciation thread or DAY but most fear a massive server outage @ ST as the guy is so well-liked. Since then, since those days in the Valley, he has constructed a massive life, raised two amazing daughters (Alex and Linday) with his fabulous wife Marsha and continues to be the stupendous friend he always was and has amazing judgement.

I was awed spending the several days with him during the Nose thing. I picked him up at SFO at noon and we drove to the Valley directly. But you know, it was as if we had folded time and space (ref. Dune) because it seemed about 15 minutes later after talking " a bit" we were in the Valley in daylight, light enough to look up at El Cap to wonder "what were we thinking". As everyone else does from our pack. And pretty quick we hooked up with Ed Hartouni, "the lowly particle physicist" from Livermore.

I don't know a better-natured climber in all my 45 years of this. Klemens used to enjoy talking (affectionately) about Roger behind his back noting that when Roger spoke, it "was like he had discovered the secret to the Universe" (and we would laugh derisively, picturing "deer in the headlights" and stuff) but it has apparently turned out to be true. This man has lead a great life and obviously continues with it.

Oh, and one more thing: this has to be one of the all-time best climb-naming coups.

SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Dec 12, 2008 - 01:10am PT
Great story, Roger.
And a super sweet route too!
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 12, 2008 - 01:17am PT
A nice story, and a lovely route!

I had hair like Roger's, but mine was auburn.
Lynne Leichtfuss

Social climber
valley center, ca
Dec 12, 2008 - 01:40am PT
Peter, what a great pic and one I don't think we've seen before on ST! Yeah, besides a Grate Family "the Dude" does other stuff like helping newbies like me survive on the Taco.

Story: about the first thread I ever logged onto was a Roger Breedlove, John Long et al thread about writing, authors and philo ....(Clueless me had no idea who these people were, except for JL) I entered a post....Ignored (pro cause I was an idiot :D) But Mr. B. emailed and 'splained the Taco to me and how to "go about the business".

The Largest thing RB did was write a metaphor about grieving in the most beautiful language and it was balm to my soul. And the dude didn't know me and didn't even need to take the time. But it was so powerful I have given it to others who have also lost the ones they love.

Yeah, guess RB is ok ..... but yo Dude....don't let it go to yo head. Per WBraun Bwahahahah Lynne

PS Love sie nombre, Central Pillar of Frenzy...!
steelmnkey

climber
Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
Dec 12, 2008 - 10:12am PT
Thanks for that story Roger. A great read.

How 'bout some pics... everyone's gotta have pics...







Mike.

climber
Dec 12, 2008 - 10:30am PT
Classic gold. Thanks, Roger, Peter, Greg, et al.
philo

Trad climber
boulder, co.
Dec 12, 2008 - 11:01am PT
Well that was a fun read. I really enjoy the historical context in these threads. Thank you for posting up.
Even though it was the late seventies when I did this wonderful climb it is one of the routes I remember clearly and fondly. The CPoF truly deserves "Classic" status.
Thanks again for the climb and the story.
yo

climber
I drink your milkshake!
Dec 12, 2008 - 11:04am PT
Roger's the best. He's an excellent dancer, too.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Dec 12, 2008 - 11:18am PT
The Devil is ALWAYS in the details:

“it came form the “Central Pillar of Freney” on the Grand Jorassas, which I think are in Paris, England”


and....

“I had sweet-talked the manager”….. “into giving me a steep discount”……” on a lay away plan with immediate use.”

(sounds much like our corporeal lives in summary!!!)
scuffy b

climber
On the dock in the dark
Dec 12, 2008 - 11:21am PT
I've only been on this fine climb a few times. It's pretty
popular, right? (i.e. usually occupied)
With Embick & Graber, in 77, we climbed 6 pitches, then rapelled
off. I think the 6th pitch is rarely climbed these days,
we liked it pretty well. Off-balance barn door aspects to it,
thin crack layback kind of thing.
The rappel was a bit off-line but not a problem.
steelmnkey

climber
Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
Dec 12, 2008 - 11:35am PT
Scuffy,
I didn't climb it until the summer of '96 and only then because we happened upon it when there wasn't anyone else around (shocker!). I remember getting to the top of the "usual" pitches and thinking, hey, that looks sorta doable up there. Then rapping so we could hit the bar. Still, bet it ain't no summer stroll up there.
G.
spyork

Social climber
A prison of my own creation
Dec 12, 2008 - 01:30pm PT
Has anyone climbed the entirety of Central Pillar recently? A valley local told me you only climbed 5 pitches, you didnt climb the entire route.
the Fet

Knackered climber
A bivy sack in the secret campground
Dec 12, 2008 - 01:37pm PT
You know it's been said the "golden age" of Yosemite climbing ended in 1971.

But all these amazing stories make me think the following era was just as special. Maybe it was The Platinum Age of Yosemite Climbing. :-)
Chris2

Trad climber
Dec 12, 2008 - 01:38pm PT
Yea, I was told that as well spyork. When I quickly fired back,"have you?" he COMPLETELY stumbled over his words.
bvb

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Dec 12, 2008 - 02:00pm PT
oh my, but that is a fun route. best rock EVAR. starting the 2nd pitch, circa '77 or therabouts:

Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 12, 2008 - 03:48pm PT
Thanks for all the kind words, but….

Peter, you have got to be kidding!!!

Klemens made affectionate comments behind my back, about ME? Talk about getting a “Deer in the headlights look.” Right here in my office. He he.

Of course, as you can all see and I can attest, a firm grasp of the secrets of the universe starts with really good optics and spotting invisible cracks on obscure cliffs far from the road.

As I re-read (and edited) my recollections, it occurred to me that the CPoF is tied other firsts: John Long launching his writing career, Geroge Meyers launching his climbing picture book career, and, maybe, Jim launching his career as the Valley impresario. If my facts are right, it is something to ponder.

I think that The Royal Scam was John’s first major story. (Is this true, John?)

Geroge organized a photo shoot on CPoF with Rik Rieder soon after the first ascent, which I think was the first time he tried to set up a shot. This is the only shot I have. It was published as part of my Middle Comentary. (I’ll post it later from my computer at home.)

Jim climbed lots with lots of partners, some of whom were younger, but I think that CPoF may have been the first where his plan was to have the younger climber(s) take the crux lead. In 1971, Jim climbed “Outer Limits” with Jim Orey and climbed “Butterfingers” with Charlie Jones, but I think Jim took the lead in both. (?) In 1972, he, Steve Wunsch, and Jim Donini climbed “Goldrush” and he and John Bragg climbed “High Pressure” but I think that in both cases, it was a team of equals. If this is true, then it might explain why he didn’t tell me his plan on CPoF. Does this sound right to those of you who were around in 1971-1973?

Kevin, it is mindboggling that you climbed up that dike in the rain. It cannot be more that 1 ½ inches of slightly lower angle rock with otherwise smooth rock around it. I don’t remember any distinct features out there. Just shuffling along on top of the dike, trying to avoid a long pendulum fall back under the belayer.

As for folks who have only done the first five pitches, if you like ‘normal’ climbing on Middle, the pitches above the 5th are very good. I, obviously, have not done the direct finish or the direct start—I am circuitous kind of guy—but the 6 and 7 (and Chickenshit traverse) pitches are good climbing. I am sure that the direct start and direct finish are excellent but are probably very hard. They are also probably only protected in the 70s heroic style (sounds like an art period, doesn’t it).

It is interesting to note the variety of styles that come up on Middle. Scuffy noted hard laybacking on the start of the 6th. I actually remember climbing it the other direction, putting my right shoulder against the little left facing corner and chimneyed with my feet against nubbins to the left. Normal climbing as Beck called it. I climbed Beverly’s Tower on the Cookie that same way. Laybacking is too scary and hard. Of course there are tons of layback moves in those upper pitches but they are partial moves mixed into everything else you have to do.

Thanks all for the nice comments. Time to go.

TL,C Roger
Chris2

Trad climber
Dec 12, 2008 - 04:33pm PT
bvb that is an awesome photo of the route...I always prefer black and whites...thanks
scuffy b

climber
On the dock in the dark
Dec 12, 2008 - 04:48pm PT
Hey, Roger, I even thought it was a right-facing corner,
so what do I know?
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 12, 2008 - 05:02pm PT
I wouldn't say that Jeff,

I thought that the crux bit on the 6th was right off the belay with a steep shallow left facing corner. Once the angle dropped back a bit you could get into the main right facing corners that form the bulk of the pitch. I remember those as being just regular climbing. But the bit off the ledge was short but hard. Does that sound like we were on the same climb?

Having said all that, what is most notable is that I did that pitch 35 years ago. What I remember is very clear, but that is not the same as saying it is correct.
steelmnkey

climber
Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
Dec 12, 2008 - 05:56pm PT
A little reference material to refresh memories.
Info from the Yellow Meyers guide, 1982

steelmnkey

climber
Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
Dec 12, 2008 - 06:01pm PT
Adapted/digitized from a drawing by Al MacDonald in the 1964 Yosemite Guide by Steve Roper.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 12, 2008 - 06:41pm PT
love the art Steelmnky... the sun is rising a little bit more north than usual to get those shadows if I remember things correctly!
Chris2

Trad climber
Dec 12, 2008 - 06:44pm PT
Awesome steelmnkey I just saved that topo and plan to turn it into a poster! Very cool.
Largo

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Dec 12, 2008 - 06:46pm PT
It seemed like everyone in Camp 4 had a hand, at some point, in the "first ascent" of CPF.

I remember when Roger finished it off, we all stormed up there to repeat it, and we all did all seven pitches including the Chickenshit Traverse. It didn't become popular to only do the first five pitches till years after Roger's FA.

I thought the first seven, the direct start and direct finish would all become mega classics because they featured great climbing and were not super hard (root stunt notwithstanding). I was wrong on all three counts. I doubt one party in fifty climbs the first seven, and it sounds like the direct start and direct finish see little if any traffic at all. Pitches 6 and 7 and the Chickenshit Traverse are all very much worth doing, but they involve that sketchy kind of combo face and crack and stemming, off wires for pro, that spook folks these days.

Go figure . . .

JL
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Dec 12, 2008 - 08:10pm PT
"but they involve that sketchy kind of combo face and crack and stemming, off wires for pro, that spook folks these days."

"Go figure . . ."


I’ll field that ball:

1) Things like that spooked folks in “those days” too.
But getting spooked and hanging in was one of the crucial layers in the cake, eagerly devoured by anyone at the table.

2) The idea of doing a few pitches of anything, then bailing, somewhere along the line became normalized and this gave credence to the spirit of quitting, which has its own backwards allure, shored up as it is with the idea of convenience.

 Pretty much just stealing a kiss and moving on.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Dec 12, 2008 - 09:25pm PT
(Yes yes, to kiss and tell, I too have done just the first five pitches a bunch of times, ropeless even, um, except for the rappels)
The Warbler

climber
the edge of America
Dec 12, 2008 - 11:27pm PT
bvb,

Really like the black and white photo. Nice to see that shadow detail, and the shallow hex placement in the foreground. The architecture of those first pitches is awesome.

Roger,

Mindboggling might be an exaggeration, but amazed would describe my own feelings when I made that traverse on dry rock the second time. Some climber once told me that faceclimbing on edges wasn't any harder in the rain - maybe he was right...

I think it's kinda weak that so many people never climb higher than the ledge atop pitch 5. The following three pitches of the original route are better and harder climbing than the fourth and fifth, and leaving them out means an incomplete ascent of a classic and historic climb.

Whatever...

Gotta get back to the pizza deck, I guess.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 29, 2008 - 07:55pm PT
Have you done it since the route lost the root?
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Dec 29, 2008 - 08:24pm PT
As described in the other thread, we did the whole route without the root.
(Remarkably my voice-activated software just sorted the difference between with those two words...)

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.html?topic_id=740075&msg=751354#msg751354
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 29, 2008 - 08:30pm PT
Probably not hard for DNS to distinguish between "rout" and "root"/"route". :-)
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Dec 29, 2008 - 10:43pm PT
*discursive chatter bump*

Well not exactly Anders,
I pronounced them both "root", so it is surprising.
I've learned that if I want it to recognize and spell route I have to say "rowt".

(And yes I know that is how most people typically say it, but not me because I'm rowdy,
But that is no reason for us to dive into a rout over it)
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 29, 2008 - 11:01pm PT
Roy- I was curious if Kevin had a before and after perspective from several trips up the upper pitches.

From the original Meyers Green guide, this topo.

Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Dec 29, 2008 - 11:15pm PT
I thought the whole thing about the root was just something Largo effected for good story, concerning the direct finish.
heh, heh, heh...
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 29, 2008 - 11:18pm PT
Does that mean the story may not have been well-rooted?

I suppose that next you'll be telling us that one can't hit a golf ball from El Cap Spire and land it in the meadows.

O tempora! O mores!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 29, 2008 - 11:18pm PT
The root of deception......

Excellent story, Roger! I keep coming back to it.
The Warbler

climber
the edge of America
Dec 29, 2008 - 11:42pm PT
Steve,

Your pun about the root stirred a memory of a small tree somewhere on the root, er, route, but I can't pull it into focus.

I've only done the eight pitch version twice, and those ascents were long ago. I confess to an ascent or two of the five pitch version long before the pizza deck was an option...

I remember George Lowe being pretty amused when George Meyers and I sparked a doobie on the big ledge atop pitch five. He insisted on leading the next pitch believing we were unable to climb 5.10 in our silly condition. After seeing us function ably with a toprope, he permitted George and then me to lead the seventh and eighth pitch respectively. Reliving the day in my mind, maybe that factor made leading the traverse in the rain on the SA seem so hard to imagine in retrospect.




Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 1, 2009 - 04:55pm PT
It has taken me a long time to find and scan the sources I promised on the naming of the CPoF. While I only remembered the winter notes in Mountain 25, showing the Frêney face of Mt. Blanc and reporting repeat ascents of the Central Pillar of Frêney, it turns out there was, on the same page, a note on the adoption of clean climbing in Yosemite.

The previous issue, number 24, in November 1972 notes three ascents of the Central Pillar, indicating its difficulty. The cover of 24 also shows what real climbing was in 1972: Whillans Boxes pitched on at Camp 4 on the South West Face of Everest during the 1972 European expedition. (Just as an aside, Robbins said of Whillans: “There is no one else I would rather be with an a desperate situation in the mountain. Unless only one of us were to survive.”)





In January of 1973, Mountain 25 showed winter climbing in Scotland on the cover, just to make sure that uppity Americans didn’t get any ideas that we knew anything about real climbing. The picture shows the crux pitch of Glover’s Chimney on Ben Nevis.



Inside there is picture of the Frêney Face on Mr. Blac that shows the Central Pillar, right up the middle. It was first climbed in 1961. But more interesting is the long note on Yosemite Valley that starts on the previous page announcing that nuts are being adopted for protection, instead of pitons. Yvon Chouinard is listed as an American correspondent but the writing is almost certainly Ken Wilson’s. While the tone sounds a little strange to us today, the facts and their importance are correct. One of the most interesting bits is the note at the end on Bridwell’s second ascents of Peter Haan’s Left Side of the Hourglass and Mark Klemen’s Cream. Unfortunately, I don’t have the earlier Mountain’s that noted the first ascents.





Of course, we have our own Camp 4 in Yosemite. We are so resourceful that we drive our cars right in: we don’t need no Whillan’s Boxes marring our alpine experience.

Shown: me sorting gear. Rik Reider inspecting my stuff. Ray Jardine serenading. And Jim Erickson passing through. George Meyers, who had enlisted Rik and me to climb the CpoF for his photographic benefit, took both of these pictures. It was one of George’s first forays into climbing pictures, which in turn launched his publishing career.






As you can see, the Scottish have nothing on us: we have snow on our routes just like Ben Nevis.
bhilden

Trad climber
Mountain View, CA
Feb 1, 2009 - 05:06pm PT
Roger,

I think you mean Jim Erickson not Eric Erickson. Great thread!

Bruce
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 1, 2009 - 05:12pm PT
Thanks Bruce. I corrected it.
Captain...or Skully

Social climber
North of the Owyhees
Feb 1, 2009 - 08:55pm PT
Yowza.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Feb 1, 2009 - 09:24pm PT
Check out Jim Erickson:
Goofy footed as all get out, missing an arm, remaining hand passing time on his johnson.
DJS

Trad climber
Mar 19, 2009 - 08:45pm PT
Bump
DJS

Trad climber
Mar 19, 2009 - 09:09pm PT
Bump
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 31, 2009 - 11:59am PT
Since I have now figured out how to use OCR software, I can post readable text from the Mountain 25 notes I posted above, which summed up the shift that occurred in the early 70s.

As Mountain notes, the all-free, all-nut ascents were the rage of young modern climbers (the best ones!), and Charlie Porter's big wall ascents are treated as the exception by Ken Wilson, Mountain's editor. I think this was pretty accurate in 1972.

The notes on Jim Bridwell's second ascents of Mark Klemon's Cream and Peter Haan's The Left Side of the Hourglass point out the importance of these climbs in pushing the free climbing standards of the time. However, I don’t think that Ken's comment about Jim's ascents breaking a psychological barrier holds water--everyone was still scared to death of both of them (the routes, I mean).

Valley vignette:

On a fine day, Jim asked me to go bouldering with him. It was an odd request because Jim didn't have much interest in bouldering, and my interest in bouldering was limited to finding nice sunny flat ones near the Merced where I could create romantic enticements in my search for the meaning of life.

But, how could I refuse.

I assumed that we would go to the standard boulders with all the caulk marks that ended near the Mountain Room, but Jim started off towards Manure Pile Buttress. I pointed out a few interesting looking boulders, which we passed. Then I pointed out that most were covered with moss and had bad landings. Jim persisted, telling me that he thought there was a good place just a bit farther towards Manure Pile Buttress.

Finally, we arrive at a giant stack of three boulders, two on the bottom, and one on top, with a cave like space between. In the cave, the top boulder and one of the bottom boulders formed a straight up, horizontal edge that ran out the along the edge of the cave. I was thinking in terms of a roof jam crack and noted it had a fairly sharp edge but was a horrible width. Also, the rock was covered with moss, pine needles and dirt. And the floor of the cave was boulder strewn and uneven.

What a glorious find, I think to myself.

As I stood and watched, Jim climbed back into this embodiment of the perfect bouldering cave, and from a crouch, reached up with both hands and grabs the edge and underclings out of the cave, moving from right to left. He doesn't try to find foot holds--just pure gut busting underclinging.

When he gets to the end, he steps down to the ground and suggests that we go back to camp.

Sometimes, being with Jim was like channeling the Delphi Oracle.

A few days later, Jim did the second ascent of Peter's Left Side of the Hourglass

Text from US climbing notes, Mountain 25

"Yosemite emphasis swings to hard free-climbing as nuts replace pegs. Charlie Porter repeats Tis-sa-ack, solos Dawn Wall and climbs Zodiac on El Capitan.


"A very satisfying change has taken place in Yosemite climbing during the past year, in that nuts are being adopted for protection, instead of pitons. For some years now, climbers have carried a token set of nuts, using them when they felt it was safe to do so, but thwacking in a solid pin whenever the going got rough. Now, however, at least among the best free climbers, pitons are only used as a last resort; or, better still, the hammer is simply left in the camp-ground, collecting dust. The new game is the ‘all-nut’ ascent, and a book has been started to record them.

"Exactly why nuts should have come into their own after being in the background for so long is not altogether clear. It is probably due to a combination of the obvious damage caused by repeated piton insertion and removal, the many articles that have pointed this out, and the fact that, quite simply, it is an idea whose time has come. Certainly, it has introduced a new element into local rock-climbing, and people feel that the use of nuts not only enables them to understand the irregularities of the rock more completely, but also helps them to climb better. The idea is taking hold in other areas of the country, for piton damage is endemic, and all this speaks for an intense interest in free-climbing.

"Indeed, aid-climbing — even using nuts instead of pins — is very much on the way out in Yosemite these days, and many of the best young climbers don’t even bother with it. Not surprisingly, this has led to a lessening interest in the big wall climbs for which Yosemite has been so long renowned. Of the bigger routes, only the Nose and Salathé on El Cap, and the Direct on Half Dome (on which British climber Alan Rouse broke his leg), have achieved any degree of popularity.

"Significantly, the many new routes of the last few years on El Cap still await second ascents: there is little interest in them.

"There are, however, exceptions to all trends, and Charlie Porter has been quietly doing his thing. Accompanied by Jack Roberts, he began by making the second ascent of Tis-sa-ack, on Half Dome, a route that had repulsed some five repeat attempts. He then went on, this time solo, to make the third ascent of the Wall of the Early Morning Light, or Dawn Wall as it is universally known. He did not, however, take the original route, where many bolts have been chopped in the early part, but rather went up the right side of El Cap Tower, the route favoured in the early attempts. This notable effort took him ten days, and he is reported to have chopped a number of bolts that he deemed unnecessary, in the upper sections.

"It is not intended to belittle this achievement, but it should be pointed out that among the hard core of young Yosemite climbers the Dawn Wall is a subject of extreme disinterest they do not consider it to be a legitimate route.

"Finally, with Gary Bocarde, Porter started up the Salathé/Muir combination, to break out on to the impending headwall to the left of the upper part of the Muir (the Shield), having taken a reported 30 rurps, and used all of them, as well as placing 24 bolts. During the spring, the old master himself, Royal Robbins, made a number of hard sight- leads of free climbs, but he failed to achieve one of the few remaining goals left to him in the Valley: the first, solo first ascent on El Cap. He spent seven days on the unpromising- looking rock to the right of the North America Wall, before retreating. The distinction, of course, fell to Jim Dunn, with his route Cosmos.

"To sum up, then, it has been a year of great activity in nut- protected, hard free-climbing. Currently, that is where it is at, and a host of excellent climbers are relentlessly raising the standards.

A late note:

"The Fall saw a further handful of notable climbs. Charlie Porter made the solo first ascent of The Zodiac — a very difficult aid climb on the South East Face of El Capitan to the left of the East Buttress (see note on page 33). Billy Davidson and Mike Brittenbach made the third ascent of Tis-sa-ack in 8 days. They apparently had an exciting time, taking two longish falls and describing the route as ‘a horror climb’.

"On the left side of Glacier Point Apron Rik Reider and Rab Carrington established A Mother’s Lament (Grade 4, 5.10) up the slabs between The Cow and The Calf.

"On the short, hard, free-climb scene, Jim Bridwell’s second ascents of the Left Side o f Hourglass and Cream stand out. These very serious leads had gathered a certain aura and Bridwell’s ascents break a psychological barrier that had developed round these climbs."
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jul 30, 2010 - 06:24pm PT
Real Climbing Bump!
Paulina

Trad climber
Jul 30, 2010 - 08:01pm PT
Love real climbing and history thread resurrection. CPoF (first 5 pitches) kicked my butt twice! But I will return, yes.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 23, 2011 - 10:13pm PT
bump for climbing
tuolumne_tradster

Trad climber
Leading Edge of North American Plate
Jan 23, 2011 - 10:34pm PT
couple of scanned slides from the 80s


Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jun 7, 2013 - 11:28am PT
BBST
steveA

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
May 1, 2014 - 05:39pm PT
Bump.

I was just thinking what a great route this is, although it wouldn't be called a "modern" route. Did it with Jim Donini a few weeks ago, and there was a line on it, when we came back to do the Beck/B? route a few days later. Sorry for the senior moment, but I'm too lazy too search for the correct route name.
It really is a quality route--hence the usual line at the base.
Chief

climber
The NW edge of The Hudson Bay
May 1, 2014 - 08:47pm PT
Another bump for a great story about a great route.
1st five of CPoF is a Valley must do, maybe top ten material.
Did pitches six and seven to the dike traverse and BW and KB raps with Sutton so we could check out the Wazoo line (which climbs right through the apex of the dike).
Worthy and recommended.
It would be interesting to hear if anyone's climbed pitches eight through ten in recent times.
Maybe with some tidying and decent rap anchors they'd see traffic and stay clean?
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Aug 14, 2014 - 06:47pm PT
Just a bump for just another great route.
Credit: mouse from merced

I climbed this with Kelly Laakso the same trip in 1986 when we got to climbe Reed's Direct, or most of it.

It's a bit weird, when I think of both of these routes, not having completed the final section. Some (probably many) of you have had the same non-experience of not doing both routes in their entirety and rapping.


The Warbler

climber
the edge of America
Aug 14, 2014 - 08:42pm PT
When I did the second ascent with Vern Clevenger, I was following the fourth pitch and spied something mostly buried in the back of a chimney slot.

I reached back and pulled out a 9 inch long dong(that's right) with an offset eye.

Mint condition, as if never driven, with the initials YC stamped into it the only markings.


Botched the sequence a few years later and gave it to my climber GF.


Damn...
Chief

climber
The NW edge of The Hudson Bay
Oct 21, 2014 - 03:58pm PT
Ms. Chief and I had a four day visit to The Valley last week courtesy of Ron's hospitality.
First time in almost eight years!
Had to climb the first five of CPOF.
First pitch, as slippery, awkward and insecure as ever, maybe worse for all those thousands of chalked hands and rubbered feet. Bad enough to make you wonder about the direct start till you rap and see the lack of pro.
Second pitch, as fine as fine can be.
Third pitch, cool roof even if I was considerably less than graceful dragging my aging carcass over it. Wide section above pretty casual with the 3.5 and 4 Camalot.
(The anchor could use another bolt as the two there are over three feet apart.)
Fourth pitch, decent but surprisingly short, like only 20 meters?
Fifth pitch, the unappealing chimney start is actually really cool and the last half of this 45 meter pitch, pure quality to the rap anchors Sutton and I placed 18 years ago now.
Paused long enough for a smoke and reminisce on the next two pitches to The Chickenshit Traverse.
Rapped down through the Wazoo (no chalk at all!) and BW to avoid the six parties behind us.
If that was the only route I ever climbed in the Valley, it would suffice.
Planning to flog myself into better shape and come back next year for the whole rig to the top of the tenth.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Oct 21, 2014 - 04:40pm PT
Chief,
FYI, my friend Job and I rapped down the entire Grand Wazoo about a month ago.
We had climbed up the Kor-Beck and were planning to replace the old bolt
anchor at the end of p6 or so of the Central Pillar of Frenzy.
However, it started raining and got real slick, so we will have to try again someday.
I did at least get a look at where the pitches went, so the topo will look decent.
There were a couple of bail biners high on the Wazoo, but of course it's hard to tell exactly how long they had been up there.
Chief

climber
The NW edge of The Hudson Bay
Oct 21, 2014 - 06:00pm PT
Thanks Clint!
Straight forward rap down The Wazoo?
Bail biners on one of the last pitches?
PB
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Oct 21, 2014 - 07:13pm PT
Perry,

Yeah, the raps down the Grand Wazoo were straight forward.
We were very glad, because it was dark and slick from the thunderstorm,
and we didn't want to face the significant hangup risk if we went
down the Kor-Beck.
We rapped from a bush/bay tree on the Kor-Beck traverse ledge down to
the top anchor of the Grand Wazoo.
All the raps went well. I remembered about the anchor location under
the roof.
The bail biners were on a crux section of the last pitch, where the bolts were close together - bolts 10-13 of 18 on that pitch.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Oct 22, 2014 - 06:21am PT
Bump for Awesome!
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