muir wall


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Trad climber
Jan 3, 2009 - 03:11pm PT
Different styles for different generations. Each conforms to the preceps of the day, and pushs the envelope as they see it, opening the path for the next crew. Myself, I'm waiting for a sport route up Fitzroy, just me and my grigri. :)
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Jan 3, 2009 - 03:19pm PT
Great thread and photos - let's see more.

So you guys used a power drill. Why didn't you hand drill? Also, how many bolts did you place in total? Did you replace any old bolts with new as we do today, or were they all new? Any anchor bolts, or only lead bolts? Did you put in any completely new bolts? Were they in new areas of the rock, or on the existing route?

What year were you up there? I was on the Muir in May 2001, and we were climbing slowly and running pretty dry. I spotted, swung over and scarfed three two-litre bottles of water tied to a bolt that wasn't on Muir Wall, and figured they were about three years old, though I can't remember why. I seem to recall it was to the right of the big dihedral near the top, maybe six or eight pitches from the summit. Wasn't somebody up there in around '98? Can't remember...


right here, right now
Jan 3, 2009 - 03:27pm PT

The word chip has several meanings; the one that we are concerned with here is the earliest known of these, namely 'a small piece of wood, as might be chopped, or chipped, from a larger block'.

The phrase 'a chip on one's shoulder' is reported as originating with the nineteenth century U.S. practice of spoiling for a fight by carrying a chip of wood on one's shoulder, daring others to knock it off.

This suggested derivation has more than the whiff of folk-etymology about it. Anyone who might be inclined to doubt that origin can take heart from an alternative theory. This relates to working practices in the British Royal Dockyards in the 18th century. In Day and Lunn's The History of Work and Labour Relations in the Royal Dockyards, 1999, the authors report that the standing orders of the [Royal] Navy Board for August 1739 included this ruling:

"Shipwrights to be allowed to bring [chips] on their shoulders near to the dock gates, there to be inspected by officers".

The permission to remove surplus timber for firewood or building material was a substantial perk of the job for the dock workers. A subsequent standing order, in May 1753, ruled that only chips that could be carried under one arm were allowed to be removed. This limited the amount of timber that could be taken and the shipwrights were not best pleased about the revoking of their previous benefit.

Hattendorf, Knight et al., in British Naval Documents, 1204 - 1960, record a letter which was sent by Chatham Dockyard officers to the Navy Board, relating to the 1756 dockyard workers' strike at Chatham. The letter records a comment made by a shipwright who was stopped at the yard's gates:

"Are not the chips mine? I will not lower them."

In 1830 the New York newspaper The Long Island Telegraph printed this:
"When two churlish boys were determined to fight, a chip would be placed on the shoulder of one, and the other demanded to knock it off at his peril."

More pictures please!!!
Flag'em, Scan'em, Post'em Kurt!
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Jan 3, 2009 - 04:44pm PT
Coz wrote

" so in other words, what's being done now is worlds harder than what we could have even dream of. We just never thought of adopting the current tactics being used. "

My point just being, that plenty of folks are doing WAY hard in GREAT style these days, and plenty aren't.

Same as it ever was.

Meet the new climbers, same as as the old climbers, cept more of them.

BITD Skinner and Jardine did things different than Bachar and Croft. Often, different things.

Harding and Robbins climbed different.

Same today.

You guys had your own list of sins but many, many proud sends. You say you're not dissing the current generation of climbers but the words read differently. If you say you mistyped, that's another thing.


Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Jan 3, 2009 - 04:49pm PT
So, Coz, if you had gone back, ground up, a second time, and done the .13d part. Would your second ascent, the first free ascent, have been less satisfying to you?
Ottawa Doug

Social climber
Ottawa, Canada
Jan 3, 2009 - 05:08pm PT
Awesome pics and story. Thanks a ton! It's a route I have yet to do, but I do see it in my future. Not free though and just the original.



Trad climber
Jan 3, 2009 - 05:27pm PT

I must say I thought of it and so did Kurt. But climbing all those hard pitches and then sending the 13d seemed miles away from possible. I really think if we had just camped out on Chicken head for about another couple weeks we could have done it.

People told me to just rap in and then red point that hard pitch and I would have done the FFA, but that tactic didn't seem worth it or valid to us.

I do not know if you read my previous post but Tommy and Nick only freed it from atop fixes lines to grey bands. So the whole climb done in a push would really be something, especially if the party doesn't rehearse the final crux pitch. I think that is a next great challenge in El Cap free climbing.

Just get out of your car, shoulder your haul bag and climb the thing. That would be old school and proud. It's all prep and ready for the on-sight.

Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jan 3, 2009 - 05:35pm PT
A ground up, almost but not quite by a whisker FFA of any line on El Capitan is impressive stuff. Even now, let alone a decade or more ago. Particularly as the Muir team was scrupulous about their style and route, in keeping with the style of the first ascent of the Muir. Not all El Cap free climbers since seem to have emulated that.

Many modern 'free' ascents of El Cap depend on extensive rehearsal, cached supplies, changes to the nature of existing climbs (added bolts, tick marks, etc), sieging, (sometimes) major variations to the line, and on and on. By on-sight ground-up standards, not really free at all. Though I wouldn't fault anyone for not exactly following the line of a pre-existing route, given the differing contexts of aid and free climbing - as long as the climbers are clear as to what they've done. If you've freed say 90% of ABC route, with variations for the rest, it seems reasonable to say you've freed that route.

I've always figured that the golden rules of climbing are to minimize or eliminate your impact on the natural and human environments, to be scrupulously honest with yourself and others about what you've done (and how), to respect the styles and traditions of the places you're climbing, and to ensure that there is some challenge relative to your ability. (And have fun.)

The replacement of existing bolts using a power drill was in all the circumstances not inappropriate, despite the fuss that was made. (Or, perhaps, the NPS looking to make an example of someone...) Trivia. They could well have hidden the drill a pitch or two below the top. The absence of a "smoking gun" would have made it a hard case to prove. And it was a public service to replace the bolts.

ps Kurt - thanks for the pictures and story. I remember well your visit to Squamish, and Kickin' Access, in 2002.
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Jan 3, 2009 - 05:58pm PT
Yes I did read it but maybe I didn't understand fully. Did they, at one point, have fixed ropes from Gray ledges to the ground? That does seem a bit much.

How hard is the climbing up to Mammoth on the Shaft? No one would ever complain about a "free" ascent of the Salathe or Freerider for fixing to Mammoth and then rapping off for a day or two.

I can see your desire for adventure and challenge but I can also see the desire for a free ascent of El Cap. For me, and you, there is a line where the adventure and challenge dies. I suspect the line varies from route to route and obviously person to person. The IDEAL, of course, it seems without doubt, is to walk up to the base and climb to the top, with no excessive foreknowledge (you guys DID have a topo of the Muir and, just like Max and I did, no doubt parsed it for all the information it was worth) without falling or hanging on gear.

Ah, well, we are only human. Evolving, I hope.


right here, right now
Jan 3, 2009 - 07:24pm PT


I should clarify:
My links to the phrase finder tool about such things as “let the chips fall where they may” and “a chip on the shoulder” aren’t really meant to be incendiary as regards this thread.
Although to a certain degree, they do apply, hehe.

Wandering thread drift really.
Survival/Bruce Birchell just got me thinking about it.

Here’s the last one I’ll cloggg pipes with, Lisa just got me onto it:

“put up your dukes”

[It is suggested to be of Romany origin. This belief comes from the Romany word dookin, meaning fortune telling or palmistry. H. Brandon, the editor of Poverty, mendicity and crime... To which is added a dictionary of the flash or cant language, 1839, lists this meaning in the book's glossary:

"Dookin - fortune telling."

The palmistry association does link dooking with hands, but, that aside, the evidence to support the Romany source isn't very strong.]

[What we do know is that put up your dukes was known by 1874 - the first record of it that I can find in print is in John C. Hotten's 1874 edition of A dictionary of modern slang, cant, and vulgar words:
"Dooks, or dukes, the hands, originally modification of the rhyming slang 'Duke of Yorks,' forks = fingers, hands... The word is in very common use among low folk. 'Put up your dooks' is a kind of invitation to fight."]

I especially like this one:
[Samuel E. Chamberlain's My Confession, circa 1859, also makes the link between dukes and hands/fists.
"I landed a stinger on his "potatoe trap" with my left "duke," drawing the "Claret" and "sending him to grass."]

And as it happens the three phrases did sequence nicely.
........................end of silly thread drift.

Social climber
wuz real!
Jan 3, 2009 - 08:06pm PT
Coz, Kid, your ascent and the style that you employed, is what it's all about, to me, and really, why I climb at all.
There have been other things done, up there, that are amazing, in their own idiom. Different tasks, though.

That other controversy? i've taken my Bosch up more than one pitch before, too. I also use higher tech ropes, these days, than the goldlines I learned climbing, on.

That bust, was a career move by someone who, though he has good qualities expressed in any number of other situations, some of which I have shared in, will always be remembered by some of us, as the one who attempted the most drunken ascent of Deto's Durrance route.

Accusers are people too.

Trad climber
Jan 3, 2009 - 09:42pm PT

The climb Kurt, Greg and I, did was actually three routes. It started with the Muir Wall to the Grey Bands, then we climbed a new route we called the Shaft to Chicken Head ledge, about ten classic pitches. From there we took the Magic Mushroom to the top.

There is a complete topo in an old issue of climbing. Tommy and Nick climbed the Muir to Mammoth rapped and rested, then climbed to Greybands and fixed lines to the ground and rested, jumared lines and repeated the Shaft to Chicken Head, and finished on the Magic Mushroom. They had rapped from the summit and rehearsed the crux pitch (on the Magic Mushroom) prior to their ground up push.

The Muir wall was wrongly named as the route we climbed, and Tommy claims to have freed the Muir, but that is simply not the case at all. I am not calling anyone a liar it's just all very confusing. Tommy and Nick did the second ascent of our climb not the FFA of the Muir Wall.

Jan 3, 2009 - 09:49pm PT
Just see ....

They climbed that big rock with their bare hands ....
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Jan 3, 2009 - 10:23pm PT
Tommy was working the route with lines to Grey ledges. Don't know anything about their final push.

Funny thing, Triple Direct has not had a free ascent although every inch of it has goine free.



right here, right now
Jan 4, 2009 - 12:18am PT
”Just see ....

They climbed that big rock with their bare hands ....”

That’s brilliant!

All this talk about style, past & present attitudes……
In the end that is just subtext; it matters and it is interesting, but it’s not the core of why we spend time on the forum.

Scott Cosgrove:

You and Kurt have the tiger by the tail here:
A thread is opened on a terrific adventure: a historic ground-up bid at free climbing the Muir Wall.
Nearly everyone on this forum is a climber and uniquely interested in this stuff.
Yet few of us have even attempted such a thing.

We want know what it was like being up there; what kind of unique obstacles you were presented and how you overcame them.
We want to hear about changes inside you that happened only in that place under those circumstances, due to any one of the many constraints: stylistic, physical, teamwork-wise, time span .... whatever.

Maybe just pick one pitch, one afternoon, one particularly weird or thrilling state of mind and tell us about it!
We'll follow up with more neat Hudon-like questions about the basic gig of livin' large.
Take us there, share with us just a glimpse of that thing we all really dig.............
Climbing those big rocks with bare hands.

climber a single wide......
Jan 4, 2009 - 01:02am PT
what Roy said

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Jan 4, 2009 - 01:21am PT
Here here. I dig your thread drift Roy.
And tales of climbing big rocks with bare hands too!

Trad climber
Jan 4, 2009 - 06:09am PT
More etymology, Tarbuster! Maybe you could start a "climbing etymology" thread...
the kid

Trad climber
fayetteville, wv
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 4, 2009 - 08:26am PT
wow, i did not think i would stir up an ethics issue here. but then again, this is rock climbing.

I respect all that has been done before and after my day in the sun. What Tommy and the rest of this generation is doing on el cap is amazing and something i could not have imagined during those 3 months we worked this project. Mark and Max were an inspiration for my climbing and Todd and Paul's ascent made free climbing on el cap possible for me to attempt.

what i wanted to do was show the first ascentionist the respect by attempting this route in a similar style. TM and Royal set the standard that we all hoped to follow. So it didn not make any sense to me to do the route on aid first and see what could go free. Again it's really simple- start @ the bottom and work your way to the top. Fix lines to work the route to a certain high point and then pull the cords and send. And have a good time and haul lots of good food and other treats to make it a "plush adventure"

Someone asked: why not hand drill and how many bolts and where?
I had just finished El Sendero Luminoso in the Potrero Chico (15 pitches, all sport ground up 5.13-) and this is the mode that i had been in since 1990. Drilling quality bolts on quality routes. Mostly ground up and some rappell (rifle, clear creek, shelf road and the potrero were my canvas)!

Scott and i felt all the belay bolts we encountered were sh#t, so naturally we wanted to replace every station. We never added a single bolt to the AID line of the Muir. We added a few lead bolts to our variations.

why not hand drill? Been there done that for 8 years. When the best tool for the job is in your van you are going to use it. We were not the FIRST nor the LAST to power drill on el cap! This does not make it right but it is reality.

I wanted adventure and that is what i got. I also got a lot of fun out of it, some bad but most of it good. I was climbing with two old friends on a route that i started looking at in 1988. We did not know when or where we would get shut down and that was what kept it so exciting every day! I have pushed the sport climbing thing for years and there is not as much joy in an FA when you have worked it to death to send it (Slice of Life).

so my goal was to find adventure and mystery again and that is what we got plus and $2000 bill to go with it!
so enjoy the post, the pictures and the stories and let's keep this about adventure and the mystery of FA's!!!

another fav photo:
Greg and Scott chilling on chickenhead after a sic traverse got us there and an epic haul session for all our crap!


the kid

Trad climber
fayetteville, wv
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 4, 2009 - 08:29am PT
My bad_ this photo is the bivvy ledge before we traversed across to chickenhead.
This next pitch was the most amazing pitch on the route for me. Unclimbed ground across the Shield head wall. When i did the shield in 1986 with Rick Lovelace i was scared silly on the head wall and now it was time to free climb across it! I will always remember the feeling of anxiety and then elation on this traverse!
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