Cozmic Bandito-Gang Bang- South Face, Mt. Watkins


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Trad climber
Eagle River, Alaska
Oct 6, 2009 - 09:36pm PT
Mt Watkins Act IV - The Final Chapter

The sun rose without fanfare on Day 4. We ate breakfast as usual, sorted the bidneh and I watched as Voodoo Chile left the ledge. Bruce told me this was the summit day and the Brave Little Toaster was almost too happy about getting his little square knobs back on the horizontal.

The Headwall. The proverbial lower out into oblivion. The free jug from hell. I'll be happy if I don't vomit sparks out of my f@#$ing toast hole...

So Bruce heads out to clean the pitch as Mel and I watch.

"Yeah Buggs. Remember that El Cap description I told you about? You know, the one where I described seeing the wall, the space, the wall, the space? Get ready cause here it comes..."


Haul bag lowers out and then swings and spins wildly into the void.


"Okay Buggs, your turn. Just run a bight through your main biner and lower yourself out..."

"WTF?" "You mean like that f#$%ing haul bag that just skittered the F#&% out there into space?" BLT feels sparks working thier way up to the toast hole...

"You've got plenty of rope, you'll be fine."


So we need to do certain unsavory things to get off this large and unforgiving stone. So here goes. Taking the prescribed bight of rope through said carabiner, the Brave Little Toaster works his pucker towards the edge of Not-So-Good-Anymore ledge and leans into the void.

Zwipp! Tension. Lower.

"Oh, this ain't so bad."

Lower. Lower. Lower. Into the Abyss.

Yawning. Yawning. Yawning.

Widening. Widening. Widening.

Shorter. Shorter. Shorter.

I've reached the end of the lower out line. Muther F#$%er. Eyes swirling like spinning galaxies, Hubble-esque spirals smashing headlong into one another...

"Cut to commercial." "I want to get off this s#@t."

In certain situations, there is a point where you realize that going back is not an option, and you settle yourself to the fact that you may die today. But in cases of adventure sports, you realize one fine and soul energizing thing. That if you do, you do so in good company, doing awesome things.

So I did the only thing I thought prudent...

I let go...


Out into the void! Wall,,..wall,,..wall, Half Dome,..granite,..Half Dome,..granite.

Spinning the stretch out of the rope. Finally I am at the end of the swinging and at the end of the rope. Thank God for 11 mm!! Then the work begins. BLT begins the free jug to the anchor, safety. Somehow I feel delightfully satisfied to have this work to do. Somehow it frees me from my terror. Over and over. Stretch. Sit. Jug. Stretch. Stretch. Sit. Jug. Until finally I am at the anchor. Voodoo Chile awaits as I reach for the webbing.

"Well, whatcha think, Rastus?"

I can only manage a "Whew."

The final pitches to the top, up and next to the visor that is the final step to the summit, were awesome. Thanks to the brothers that have brought me here, I can look around at Yosemite from a place where few normies like myself ever get to see. Looking around at the depth of Tenaya Canyon and the ant-size climbers below, just beginning the pendulum at the start of the climb, I feel free. Not toaster size but bolder, maybe even akin to a conventional oven. The fat pine tree at the top makes for a bombproof anchor and I am thankful for the flat ground. Although this too, is short-lived. The pigs still need to get to the valley and the sun is sinking below the horizon.

We head out in the direction of Snow Creek drainage, parched and out of water. I didn't die on the wall, but that did not mean Chief Tenaya was done with the Brave Conventional Oven. As the darkness ensued, the trail, not that there was one, became a side-hill-gouging bush whack. The sharp and relentless branches of manzanita tore at my bare legs, Chief Tenaya chuckling at his sneaky revenge. Soon we could smell and feel the coolness of the creek and finally were able to drop the ninety-pound pigs as well as the acid we had saved.



Pink Floyd.

Swooping owls.

Not an adventure soon forgotten. The Toaster's first Big Wall epic.

Margaritas flowed that night in the Mountain Room Bar from Bruce's Saudi stuffed billfold. The waitresses kept bringing pitcher after pitcher. Beautiful waitresses. Fine, slim and buxom. Sweet and sour elixer that loosened my muscles and relaxed my bones.

The Brave Little Toaster was finally home.


Trad climber
The High And Lonely
Oct 6, 2009 - 09:45pm PT
sweet- nice bb.
Captain...or Skully

Social climber
Idaho, also. Sorta, kinda mostly, Yeah.
Oct 6, 2009 - 09:46pm PT
Wonderfully rendered, Buggs.
You DO have a gift for literature.........'Gracias.
scuffy b

Sinatra to Singapore
Oct 6, 2009 - 09:50pm PT

Trad climber
boulder, co.
Oct 6, 2009 - 10:55pm PT
Ho man! I laughed, I cried, I had flashbacks. Many, many thanks to the Big Brave Convection Oven.
What a great read after a long day of work. You totally rock Buggs.

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Oct 6, 2009 - 11:48pm PT

Thanks Mike--I could feel something welling up in my throat
when you let go. . . OMG!!!!!

Captain...or Skully

Social climber
Idaho, also. Sorta, kinda mostly, Yeah.
Oct 6, 2009 - 11:56pm PT
I really like the different Takes on the same Route.
You captured that Odyssey, in a big way. Thanks for sharing it.

WooHoo! Watkins, Baby! A Huge Rock that AIN'T by the Road.

Trad climber
boulder, co.
Oct 7, 2009 - 01:55am PT
Now sir, if you please sir, could you, would you, compile them all into a "proper tale" for the proletariat masses to enjoy? We, and I'm sure I speak for more than me, so appreciate the engaging way you've told your grippingly great story. Thanx for a phun ride.

BLT wrote;
I've reached the end of the lower out line. Muther F#$%er. Eyes swirling like spinning galaxies, Hubble-esque spirals smashing headlong into one another...

"Cut to commercial." "I want to get off this s#@t."

That was brilliant!

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 7, 2009 - 03:08am PT
Buggs you made the whole thread, just like you did on that climb.
Thanks bro.
For both.
Dick Erb

June Lake, CA
Oct 7, 2009 - 12:37pm PT
The first ascent of the South Face of Watkins seemed to be a rewarding ordeal and the second was certainly not achieved without incident.

Layton Kor, Eric Beck, and I started up in May of 1967, but got stormed off. Then when Kor headed off to the Salathe Wall with Galen Rowell, Eric and I went back for another go at it. The first day was a lot of nice climbing to our bivy at Sheraton Watkins. The next day was quite intense; some aid off the ledge, some easy free traversing out over the huge overhangs to the steep wall above. Several pitches higher was a pendulum which was mine to lead, nailing out to the end of an arch then lowering and swinging to a good bucket and pulling onto a ledge. I walked across the ledge 10 or 15 feet and set up my belay anchor slightly to my right. There is more than one way to follow a pendulum, and the way we chose seemed like a good idea at the time. As Eric was jugging the pitch I threw the haul line to him, and when the got to the pendulum pin he clipped it through the biner and rapped to a good height across from me. I had him on the good old hip belay and then with both hands on the line to my partner pulled him hand over hand across the pendulum and he latched the bucket, but then a little potato chip flake foothold popped and he was sliding down the rap line. I put my breaking hand back in position which left some slack in the rope and watched him swing feeling his weight pulling me off of the ledge. I rolled out on to the face below into a position where the rope was cutting through my testicles. Screaming through the excruciating pain I gasped, "Eric get your weight off the rope it's killing me". He looked up and very calmly said, "It will be a while I've dislocated my shoulder".

Hanging there with my right hand clamped to the rope I watched while with one hand he clipped the jumars one by one onto the climbing rope. Finally after what seemed like an eternity, but was probably about half a minute I went numb. The pain was gone. Eric looking very focused and composed worked his way slowly up the climbing rope, one arm hanging uselessly at his side, until after about ten feet or so he was able switch over to the other portion of the rope that was tied directly to the anchor.

Eventually we were both back on the ledge and it was time to deal with Eric's injury. Hanging upside down with one foot in his armpit I pulled on his wrist, over and over again. We couldn't get the arm back in its socket. I tried another way, one hand in the armpit the other pulling the wrist. It was harder to get as much pulling force this way but somehow after a few tries the shoulder popped back in. It was now late in the day and Eric couldn't lift his hand more than chest high.

We rapped down to a ledge where Eric must have had a painful sleepless night and I sat up convincing myself that we could rappel over the huge overhang below and somehow swing back into the wall below.

Morning came. We started down and got a good anchor above the overhang. With a big knot at the end of the rope I let myself down to the lip and pushed off trying to get as big a swing as possible. Down I went hanging in space trying to pump like a kid on a swing to get back into the wall. When my toe touched the rock I knew I had it made and bounced around 'til I got to a good flake. The rest was easy' but there is one item of interest. Thanks to Pratt's recommendation we carried a bolt kit. He said there were some bolts that were so bad they could have fallen out on their own. I am grateful for that because there was one rap station where I placed a nice two bolt anchor. When Eric got there he said they looked like good bolts and was much relieved. The next rap brought us to one of the pendulum bolts low on the route. There was a lot of controversy about bolting then and Eric and I were on the side of as few as necessary. So I didn't want to add a bolt to a good route and tied into that quarter incher. Eric came down to me and said not a word, no complaints. We tried not move around too much and rappelled to the ground.

Later that year I went back up with Jim Madsen and finally got the second ascent.

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 7, 2009 - 01:17pm PT
Great post Dick!
Full on adventure for sure, just made us look lightweight.
Congratulations on having the balls (BWA HA hahaha) to keep going back and getting the second on a great climb. I know the feeling.
You da man Dick!
Any old pix??
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 7, 2009 - 04:53pm PT
Fantastic stories, Dick! THe first couple of repeat ascents are usually just as grand adventures as the FA's! Thanks for sharing your recollections!

Trad climber
boulder, co.
Nov 7, 2009 - 05:06pm PT
Wickedly good story Dick. You dudes were hardmen.

Mountain climber
Monrovia, CA
Nov 7, 2009 - 05:11pm PT
I gotta go lie down with my feet elevated after that!

Trad climber
Nov 7, 2009 - 05:30pm PT
This thread just gets better and better!
Yah Hoo!

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Nov 7, 2009 - 11:52pm PT
Wow, Dick.
What a story!
Talk about hardmen.
I can't imagine what both of your pain
must have been like!
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C. Small wall climber.
Nov 8, 2009 - 12:53am PT
Thanks, Dick - a great story. How was the eventual successful climb, with Madsen?

And about the brave little toaster bit...

Old Pueblo, AZ
Nov 9, 2009 - 01:45pm PT
Awesome additions to such a great thread.

Oh, and by the way-
Yesterday I saw a silver Honda Element with a "Brave Little Toaster" sticker!
Captain...or Skully

Social climber
Oh, you know.....Here & there
Nov 9, 2009 - 02:43pm PT
Yup, Buggs has a following.
ALL the chix dig the BLT.

Trad climber
Los Angeles
Nov 9, 2009 - 03:49pm PT
Here's to all who have been up there!
A long time ago, John Barbella and I got baked off of it. But I got a few cool shots. The worst day climbing is still better they the best day doing other stuff?

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