The first ascent of The Central Pillar of Frenzy

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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...
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