Fritz Wiessner- A Man For All Mountains

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Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 21, 2009 - 08:58pm PT
I have been wanting to start a Fritz thread for a while especially after roaming over his routes in the Gunks last fall.

Hard to find a more astonishing climber and his style was always exemplary. Top of my pantheon for sure and I had the great fortune of climbing with him and John and Ila Rupley when I was a teenager.

Plenty more to follow, but this fine Ed Webster piece appeared in the Legends of North American Climbing issue December, 1988.













neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
Mar 21, 2009 - 10:28pm PT
hey there, say... this sounds great... i will be back to read, as more comes in, too...

thanks for thinking up such a share... :)

i love to hear history stuff... and learn about the heart and work/climbs of a man... and all the wide open adventure they have seen... how they first started and all the etc...
east side underground

Trad climber
Hilton crk,ca
Mar 21, 2009 - 11:10pm PT
you have to admire Mr. Wiessner,for not going to the summit to stay with his sherpa, great story
Porkchop_express

Trad climber
the base of the Shawangunk Ridge
Mar 22, 2009 - 12:20am PT
Good thread! I will be getting out tomorrow in the Near Trapps- I think I will climb one of Fritz's routes in honor of this great man.
paul roehl

Boulder climber
california
Mar 22, 2009 - 01:05am PT
Seem to remember Weissner doing the Nutcracker after age 70. Is that right?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 22, 2009 - 01:11am PT
It wouldn't surprise me but I can't confirm that one.

From the same issue, one of Fritz's finest efforts.




Patrick Sawyer

climber
Originally California now Ireland
Mar 22, 2009 - 01:17am PT
A legend.



From Wikipedia

Fritz Wiessner (February 26, 1900 - July 3, 1988) was a pioneer of free climbing. Born in Dresden, Germany, he emigrated to New York City in 1929. He became a U.S. citizen in 1935.

Wiessner started climbing with his father in the Austrian Alps before World War I. At the age of 12, he climbed the Zugspitze, the highest peak in Germany. In the 1920s, he established hard climbing routes in Saxony and the Dolomites that have a present-day difficulty rating of up to 5.11. This was at a time when the hardest free climbing grade in the United States was 5.7. At the age of 25, he made the first ascent of the Fleischbank in Tyrol, which was proclaimed the hardest rock climb done at that time.

Wiessner was not an imposing physical specimen; he stood 5'6" tall, balding, slope-shouldered and stocky, with a wide and friendly grin. His specialty lay in wide crack climbing, or offwidth, a technique that demanded both technical mastery and uncommon strength.

In 1931, Wiesner made contact with members of the American Alpine Club and immediately set a new standard in American rock climbing. Across North America, he established an incredible list of first ascents at such climbing areas as Ragged Mountain (Connecticut); Cannon Cliff, New Hampshire; Wallface Mountain, New York Adirondack Mountains; Devils Tower, Wyoming (the first free ascent); and Mount Waddington, British Columbia.

Fritz Wiessner, age 81, Mt Lemmon, 1981, climbing on the Rupley Towers. Photo: John Rupley

In 1935, while climbing at Breakneck Ridge on the Hudson River, Wiessner spotted the gleaming white quartzite cliffs of the Gunks in the distance. The following weekend he set off in search of the tantalizing cliffs and immediately set about climbing the highest point in the area, a cliff now known as Millbrook mountain. Along with John and Peggy Navas, he established a route now named Old Route 5.5, the first recorded technical rock climb in the Gunks, and in doing so established the area as a mecca for rock climbers.

Wiessner, often in partnership with fellow immigrant Hans Kraus, established numerous first ascents in the Gunks, including many climbs that are popular (and intimidating) to this day. Perhaps their best known combined effort is the very popular High Exposure buttress 5.6, which they first climbed in 1941 with a hemp rope and three soft iron pitons. Other notable Wiessner first ascents in the Gunks include: Gargoyle 5.5; High Traverse 5.5; White Pillar 5.7; Baby 5.6; Frogs Head 5.6; Gelsa 5.4; High Corner 5.7; and Yellow Ridge 5.7. In 1946, he led Minnie Belle, the first 5.8 in the Gunks.

In 1935, Wiessner established a climb in Connecticut called Vector that may have been the country's first 5.8.

When rock climbing, Wiessner often paired himself with novices, and with women in particular. He always insisted on being the lead climber (in an era when a leader fall could easily prove disastrous for the entire party and the maxim of the day was "The leader must never fall"). After meeting Hans Kraus, he relaxed his "lead-climb only" rule (which Kraus had also adopted), and the two men climbed as equal partners.

In 1939 he led an ill-fated American expedition to K2, coming within 700 feet of the summit before having to turn back. Wiesser recounted that, although the difficulties of the climb had been passed and the remainder was straightforward, he turned back in deference to the wishes his sherpa, Pasang Dawa Lama, who feared offending his gods by being on the summit in darkness. (Reference: personal communication to John Rupley) No one came as close to the top of the mountain again until July 31, 1954 when the first ascent was achieved by Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni.

During his first years in America, Wiessner founded a chemical company that specialized in waxes, including a widely-used ski wax known as Wiesner's Wonder Wax. He successfully developed his company during the great depression of the 1930s.

Wiessner was also a proficient skier. He was reportedly disappointed that he was not allowed to fight for the U.S. in World War II; he served as a technical advisor to the 10th Mountain Division and to the equipment for cold climatic areas commission of the office of the quartermaster general in Washington DC.
In 1945, he married Muriel Schoonmaker. In 1946, his son Andrew was born. In 1947, his daughter Pauline (Polly) was born. Daughter and son both accompanied their father on many later expeditions and climbing trips. Muriel was a trusted climbing, rambling, and skiing companion to Fritz for the rest of his life.
In 1952, the Wiessner family moved to Stowe, Vermont, where Fritz would live to the end of his days.

Wiessner remained an active climber up into his eighties, often stunning onlookers in the Gunks by soloing his early routes. He loved to solo his climb Gargoyle at Skytop by the light of the full moon.

Once, when climbing with a much younger climber sometime in the mid 1970s, the younger climber led the first pitch, and confided to Wiessner that he had soloed the route earlier in the week. "Ah, you must vee climbing pretty goot!" Wiessner said. He then took the lead for the second pitch, putting in no protection - effectively soloing the pitch. When his partner reached the top, Fritz grinned impishly. "I must vee climbing pretty good too" Wiessner (then in his middle 70s) said. (The source for this anecdote is Guy Waterman).

Wiessner died after suffering a series of strokes at age 88.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Mar 22, 2009 - 01:17am PT
There is also a memorial to him by his partner John Rupley, at http://www.climbaz.com/interviews/wiessner.html

I think Ron met or even climbed with him, and may have stories.
Mimi

climber
Mar 22, 2009 - 01:30am PT
Hearing from Gunks climbers that were around when Fritz was in his 70s, he'd free solo many of the easier classics that were his favorites and not always with the smoothness and grace of his earlier years. But he ended up not dying with his boots on. Some would venture to say, to his dismay.
Jaybro

Social climber
wuz real!
Mar 22, 2009 - 02:05am PT
I never got to meet Mr Wiessner.

though I've done all the routes with his name on them on Deto.

A friend of many of ours, Mark Smedly, once told me he was waiting to do the Weissner route until he had rope soled shoes. If I get some I will be happy to climb it with him. Disclosure,; I have climbed it before, with and without rope and sticky rubber.

One December I led it in Kronhoffers. May be as close as I ever get to the original experience.

thanks for bringing climbing closer to a lot of us, Fritz!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 22, 2009 - 02:17am PT
I have some espadrilles but not of the climbing type. Certainly better than most materials on limestone before rubber came along. The feel would probably be pretty good.
Curt

Boulder climber
Gilbert, AZ
Mar 22, 2009 - 11:06pm PT
I got to meet Fritz at Jim McCarthy's 50th birthday party in '83 or '84 (which ever one Jim turned 50, obviously) - what an amazing guy. Since then, I have also climbed with Fritz's son Andy--and with Andy's son Angus. Three generations of climbing Wiessners--that's pretty cool.

Curt

Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Mar 22, 2009 - 11:10pm PT
That's interesting Curt. Andy last I knew was living in Vail with his wife Patsy Batchelder. Very cool couple too. She is an old friend of mine, and I believe the grand daughter of Grandma Curry. Are they still there? He is an environmental lawyer.
the museum

Trad climber
Rapid City, SD
Mar 22, 2009 - 11:55pm PT
Back in the day at the Tower, I was camped next to nice old couple. The fellow was William House, and he knew Weissner...we had a nice talk that nite.. it was cool that an old dude and his wife went to the tower to go camping... Ah the memories.
AndySan Diego

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
Mar 22, 2009 - 11:55pm PT
Sometime around 1984. My friends & I were hanging around some boulder problems in Indian Cove at Joshua Tree. We were enjoying a little herbal refreshment. When this old guy approaches. He had these funny Euro looking climbing shoes. We exchanged hellos & we were all stoked to see such an old guy still out climbing. We asked where is rope & partner were? He explained he was just soloing easy routes. But he was more concerned because he locked his keys in his car. Feeling sorry for the Old Guy. My friend Dennis McCarty got his car open with a coat hanger. The old guy was extremely happy & gave Dennis a $20 Bill. But before doing so, the Old Guy signs it “Fritz Wiessner”. Being young fairly new pot smoking punk climbers, we were clueless. It wasn’t until we got back & did a little research that we realized we had met one of the legends of climbing.
Curt

Boulder climber
Gilbert, AZ
Mar 23, 2009 - 01:26am PT
Yes, Andy is still in Vail. He is currently with the Western Land Group, a consultant to Resolution Copper Company. That's actually how I (unfortunately) met Andy.

Curt

Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Mar 23, 2009 - 02:59am PT
Yes Fritz and I and Royal and Liz climbed Nutcracker on Fritz's birthday. I think it was his 65th birthday, though I'd have to go back and check for sure on that. I recall it was about 1968 maybe. Again, I'd have to check, but that sounds right. On a second rope right behind us, as part of the whole birthday party team were Roper and Chouinard... It was a great fun day. Fritz had a smile the whole climb. He wore some clumsy looking mountain boots but walked right up all the moves, the delicate stuff and even that mildly strenuous mantel at the top. But he obviously had many years of technique. After the climb he took us all to dinner at an upstairs room at Degnan's Royal or someone reserved. Pratt was there, but I don't think he did the climb with us...
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Mar 23, 2009 - 09:09am PT
Bump for Fritz. . .

Some of his routes are uber-classic!
Alan Rubin

climber
Amherst,MA.
Mar 23, 2009 - 01:40pm PT
I could tell many stories about Fritz, he was an amazing man---an inspiration to all of us who had the pleasure to meet and climb with him, and to many more who just were/are aware of his accomplishments.I'll relate one story which in particular captures the essence of Wiessner. During the early '70s the American Alpine Club held it's annual meeting on a couple of occasions at the Mohonk Mountain House in the Gunks. In those days the meeting was held annually on the first weekend of December. I recall arriving for one of those meetings late one Friday afternoon. Those familiar with the northeast, will know that early December is almost invariably gray and raw, and this afternoon was no exception with even a few snow flurries in the gloom of the approaching evening. As the "elite" of American climbing gathered in the Mountain House lobby dressed for cocktails and socializing I ran into Fritz's son Andrew and asked about his father's whereabouts. "He's out climbing" was the reply---of all the assembled climbers, Fritz, then in his early 70s, was the only one out on the rock, soloing one of his favorite routes in far from ideal conditions!!!! I know that Ed Webster was working on a Wiessner biography, I hope he completes the project in the near future. A couple of other comments. The William House mentioned by an earlier poster on this thread, was an amazing climber in his on right. He was Fritz's partner on the FA of Waddington as well as one of the Devil's Tower team, and also made the first lead of the crucial "House Chimney" during an attempt on K-2. To honor another great climber it should be emphasized that while Fritz was on the FA of High Exposure, it was Hans Kraus who led the crucial pitch. There were many giants in those days!!!!
tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Mar 23, 2009 - 02:03pm PT
I find it supriseing ther there are no records that i am aware of with Weissner routs in VT even though he lived much of his life here? I may be wrong but Fritz strikes me as the kind of climber who keeps meticulous records of FA's and possibly have a climbing journal? Does anyone know of any VT routs that Fritz may have put up?
Alan Rubin

climber
Amherst,MA.
Mar 23, 2009 - 02:28pm PT
I believe that Fritz made the FA of the prominent crack on Elephant's Head in Smugglers---likely with a bit of aid. I'm not aware of any other routes he put up in the Green Mountain State, though I would be surprised if he hadn't done a route or 2 at Bolton. It is worth noting that by the time Fritz moved to Vt. he was in his 40s, there was a war going on during his early years in the state, he was under a "cloud' as a result of the K-2 disaster (for a long period of time he was literally "black-balled" by the AAC and other elements of the US climbing community as a result of this matter), he was running a business and raising a family, and overall his "new route heyday" was largely in the past. Even a man of his talents and energy had to slow down to some extent.
Brian Boyd

Trad climber
Scottsdale, AZ
Mar 23, 2009 - 04:42pm PT
ADOPT-A-WEISSNER

Here's Fritz's grandson Angus. Some of you met him at the Cochise sushifest:



He's been climbing for a short while, but is both a great guy and an attentive belayer. He just moved back to Denver, and is looking for climbing partners. Until he moved, I've been taking him out once a week, and he has a great appetite for all sorts of stuff -- sport, trad, bouldering, and canyoneering as well. If anyone up there wants to adopt him, let me know.
johnboy

Trad climber
Can't get here from there
Mar 23, 2009 - 06:43pm PT
From "The Adventure Climbs of Herb and Jan Conn"

Khayyam Spire route in Cathedral Spires:
"The Conns noted what looked like a large cairn on the summit of Khayyam. They wondered if this was one of the spires Fritz Wiessner had climbed in the 1930's. This idea was strengthened on the Conn's second trip up Khayyam, when Herb and Jan found something they had missed the first time. Under one of the large rocks at the base of the cairn was a much-weathered cardboard ticket to a parking facility in Connecticut. The Conns speculated that Wiessner and party searched their pockets for something to leave and that was all they could come up with."

Anyone around Sylvan Lake should give 'Wiessner Chimney' a grunt. Its a 5.6 route. Yeah, its says 5.6, OK.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Mar 23, 2009 - 07:54pm PT
I forgot to mention Dave Rearick was also
on that "mass" ascent with Fritz of Nutcracker.
We all had a great time with "the man," and
he clearly was enjoying himself.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 23, 2009 - 10:09pm PT
Thanks for the story Al and by all means spin away!

So Hans got the glory pitch on High E. Ever hear Fritz grumble about the one that got away?

Which Gunks route do you think Fritz did the most times?

Pat- any photos from that outing. Somebody had to have a camera!
John Ely

Trad climber
DC
Jun 3, 2009 - 09:25am PT
Hey guys, I was going to add some stuff to the Wikipedia article. I got to see Wiessner once, climbing frogs head in 1977 with Williams while me and a buddy were on Pas des Deux.

Does anyone know what Wiessner's business was in the US. Webster doesn't mention it? Neither do the Watermans.

best, John
jstan

climber
Jun 3, 2009 - 09:58am PT
High Exposure*
by Hans Kraus

Many years ago, in 1941, Fritz Wiessner and I walked home from a day of climbing at Mohonk. In those days there were hardly more than a dozen people climbing in this area and very few routes had been put up in the Trapps. We did not have to look for a free space between two climbs to map a new line. We would look up at the cliff and if we found a corner, a ridge, or a face that appealed to us and made us curious how it would feel to be there, we climbed it. As Fritz and I walked home after a pleasant day, we passed Sleepy Hollow and as we looked up the cliff we saw this huge roof jutting out over a beautiful ridge that caught our eyes. I wondered if it could be climbed.

The next week Fritz and I tried. It was a beautiful day and as I climbed up the first rope length, the rock felt warm and pleasant. We had tied into double hemp ropes, for nylon was not known at that time. These ropes were rather heavy and they were not as reliable as nylon ropes, so a double rope was advisable for any new climb that might prove difficult. After reaching the end of the corner, I found a good stand and asked Fritz to follow. From here it was possible to get over to the ridge that looked steep and beautiful in the sun. A ledge led out from the corner and on to the next rope length. It was good clean rock leading out to the airy ledge and it was a real pleasure to climb up to the big terrace under the forbidding ceiling.

After Fritz had followed and tied himself to a rock, I started out after looking once more at the half-dozen pitons and ten carabiners hanging at my side. The pitons were of the vertical and transverse variety. There was only one ring angle, a new army piton that had been given to us for testing. It wasn’t too difficult to get under the roof but there the world seemed to end. A little ledge would serve as a foothold beyond the roof, but it would mean I was committed to the climb, and I didn’t know how it was going to go on. So I placed a piton, put in a small carabiner chain( we had no slings) reached out with my left arm, pulled my body out from underneath the overhang, and in one move stood on the ledge. From here the rock went up very steeply and gave me the feeling of being on the rocks of the Dolomites that I love. At first however, I was quite afraid and only happy when I had placed a second piton and I had snapped the rope into the carabiner. Then I moved out to the left and halfway up found up found a good place for the ring piton. I hung in and stood there for a long time. The exposure was beautiful. Turning left, I gained the upper part of the ridge and climbed out.

Fritz followed quickly, as we used to in those days, left in place all three of the pitons we had used. We sat there and looked over the valley, a valley that was very quiet with very few houses. We looked down on the dirt road that is now 299 and it lay quiet without any cars. Then we coiled our ropes and walked home.

Home in the Gunks in those days was the Bayards Inn and that is where we always left our car. We considered the walk to and from the place a pleasant warmup. After dinner we walked out into the yard and looked at the dark hills and the valley that lay dark and quiet with very few lights. We went back to bed to rest for another day of climbing.

*Reprinted from The Eastern Trade – Aug. 1972
Fuzzywuzzy

climber
Jun 3, 2009 - 11:29am PT
Met Fritz in Vermont when Ned Gillette asked Allan Bard and me to accompany him to Fritz's home to have some "color" present while he interviewed him. Very interesting afternoon in 1978. A gentleman in every respect.

Steve -

The espadrilles were great on wet rock as the rope soles actually had more friction when wet. I have heard many tales from Adi Yoerg (FW's young competition in Vermont) who relayed a tale that took place before the war, (he was German) of going into Italy and climbing a huge south face only to find that the dry soles were super slick on the dry rock - so they pissed on the soles of their shoes and climbed on!! I am sure this is true.

I have another story of Fritz that really illustrates the evolution of climbing- and the conceptions that both stymie and stoke the sport.

Adi hears about this "old man" who is putting up rts and goes to the area (I so not think it was in the Gunks) and snoops around to scope out what Fritz its up to. (As Adi was a guide and Fritz had done many climbs with guides he was a bit put off by the mans reputation and wanted to see for himself).

Adi has been wandering around looking up at the rocks when he finally hears some struggle going on up in a chimney.

"Oh Tom, there is Fritz - stuffed in the chimney in his leather knickers - going for all the friction he is worth! I am out on the holds, with the air all around - Isn't THAT climbing"!

This is not meant in any way to insult Fritz. Just an interesting story of the times.

Phil1465

Trad climber
Brooklyn
Jun 3, 2009 - 12:08pm PT
I'm you started this thread... and great stories thanks

Everytime I get a chance to do an Uber-Classic the idea that these guys Fritz, Hans, Pruden... put them up in boots! hemp rope! and banging in petons just blows my mind.

But what also really impresses me, is that these people were not just climbers, but well rounded prefessionals and leaders in their chosen field.
Alan Rubin

climber
Amherst,MA.
Jun 3, 2009 - 01:12pm PT
In reply to John Ely. As mentioned in the Wikipedia article Fritz ran a chemical company (his training in Germany) which manufactured a ski wax amongst other products. Remember in those vitually lift-less days all skiers utilized waxes, so this was a significant product. And, like Fuzzy-Wuzzy, I too, had the opportunity to participate in an interview with Fritz at his home in Vermont, this one with Ken Nichols for the Traprock, Connecticut guidebook--though I was even more fascinated leafing through Fritz's climbing scrapbook including his early days in Europe--truely amazing!!!! I imagine that one of his kids has the book as a family hierloom, though it would be wonderful if it (or, at least a copy)were donated to the AAC museum. Someplace I have a wonderful slide, taken at the Gunks during the first visit of Soviet climbers to the US ('75 or '76)of Fritz with the Russian "grand old man" Vitali Abalakov--both in their 70s,smiling, short, bald, but shirtless and buff!!!!--they could almost have been twins!!! I wish I was tech-competent enough to digitize it so I could post it here. I believe that a similar photo appeared in the short-lived North-American Climber magazine.
blahblah

Gym climber
Boulder
Jun 3, 2009 - 01:37pm PT
First known/reported ascent of Devils Tower by conventional rock climbing means (i.e., disregarding the stake ladder).
richross

Trad climber
Jun 3, 2009 - 01:51pm PT
From North American Climber.

DanaB

climber
Philadelphia
Jun 3, 2009 - 03:11pm PT
Fritz and Hans were still seen at the 'Gunks I first arrived there. It was quite a sight to see these two gentleman slowly and solemnly walking down the carriage road, side by side, heading off to climb a route on a beautiful fall day.
What I find most amazing about Wiessner was the range of his activities back in the days of more primitive transportation and before the interstate system.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jun 3, 2009 - 03:22pm PT
He was a man for all women too. In 1973 while I was in the Gunks, Fritz volunteered to take my girlfriend and her friend up a 5.6 while I was off on something harder. My girlfriend reported back that both she and her friend were belayed up the climb, onto a spacious ledge and right into Fritz's waiting arms. He was in his 70's then, kinda reminds me of Fred Beckey.
Alan Rubin

climber
Amherst,MA.
Jun 3, 2009 - 04:05pm PT
Rich Ross--Thanks for scanning and posting the picture--one of my favorites. It was fantastic--and an honor--to watch the 2 of them interact. Abalakov really wasn't climbing anymore--at least rock climbing, but Fritz was his normal energetic self--directing the climbing during the visit and leading teams up respectable routes. A great experience. And Jim-- you gotta give Fritz and Fred a break in that department. You know we're both getting on in years ourselves !!!!
richross

Trad climber
Jun 6, 2009 - 05:28pm PT
Taken a few hours ago.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jun 7, 2009 - 01:18am PT
from Yankee Rock and Ice - A History of Climbing in the Northeastern United States
by Laura & Guy Waterman

7: Fritz Wiessner

To have come this far in American rock climbing with scarcely a mention of the name of Fritz Wiessner is akin to staging Hamlet without the prince. It is no disservice to the fine climbing of Case's or Underhill's various proteges to concede that the yet more brilliant achievements of the little man from Dresden put them in the shade. Fritz Wiessner did not come to the United States until 1929 and did not discover our climbers and cliffs until 1931, so he was not present at the dawn of northeastern climbing. But during the 1930s his presence was soon felt as is the presence of the sun on a summer's day.

A less likely physical specimen for a man who may well have been the greatest climber of his generation can scarcely be imagined. If the reader pictures a tall, handsome, hawk-eye Teuton, godlike, with a shock of wavy blond hair, broad bronzed shoulders, slender hips, and an air of imperious grandeur and mystery about him, the return to reality may be hard. Fritz Wiessner might more readily have been taken for a baker or bartender than a great alpinist. More gnome than god, he was well below average height, balding, slope-shouldered and stocky, almost without a waist, his features readily creased in a wide and friendly grin. The shape did not easily disclose the strength of arm or catlike agility, while that cheerful grin concealed drive and determination almost unparalleled even among the world-class climbers of his day.

Born in 1900, Wiessner was a German who started climbing in the Austrian Alps with his father before World War I. By the age of sixteen he was a regular climber at the fairyland world of sandstone towers near Dresden, where the pure art of free rock climbing was then more advanced than anywhere in the world. The brilliant Fehrmann, the great bearish American Oliver Perry-Smith and others were leading far ahead of English and American standards, and Fritz was soon aspiring to the front rank of Dresden free-climbers. By the 1920s he was repeating the most difficult and infrequently climbed routes throughout the Alps and doing his own first ascents at a very demanding standard. His special strength lay in wide crack climbing, which requires both technical mastery and uncommon strength.

Alone of all the top Dresden climbers, Wiessner elected to come to the United States, emigrating in 1929 and becoming an American citizen in 1935. Had others of the Dresden men come over, the course of American climbing might have been very different and more rapidly approached European standards. But since he came alone, his name and climbing achievements during the 1930s stand in a class by themselves.

It was not until 1931 that Wiessner made contact with American climbers. Living in the New York area, he met American Alpine Club climbers, few whom climbed much in the East but who put him in touch with Percy Olton. In 1931 Fritz joined Olton and his growing band of Hudson Highland explorers at the Crow's Nest. On the first day he served notice that a new standard of climbing was in store for the New WOrld by attacking that most characteristic of Wiessner attractions: "a wide, slanting crack." Above the strenuous start, intricate route-finding led up through delicate face climbing, laybacks, and an overhang. The excited New York climbers dubbed this intimidating line Fritz's Ritzy Route and hastened to introduce the newcomer to all of the principal cliffs they knew. At each he established routes of a difficulty they had been unwilling to try. On Arden it was the Piton Route, "by far the most difficult" on the cliff (in Orton's words), surmounting steep bulges and a strenuous hand traverse. On Storm King, Fritz worked out The Chimney, more difficult than the earlier Underhill and Pollock routes, requiring "a greater variety of climbing than any other course in the Highlands... and there is no doubt about the exposure," according to a thoroughly impressed Olton. On Breakneck Ridge, Fritz's Prize Route took a magnificent line up the steep, dark rock, with "the smallest margin of climbability" of any of the Hudson Highland climbs.

In 1933 Wiessner contacted Underhill and arranged a visit to New Hampshire's cliffs. At Cathedral Ledge, Underhill showed him teh 5.7 direct start the Will Allis had barely managed to struggle up. Ever at home in a wide crack, Wiessner was up it effortlessly. ("They did not know how to do these climbs," explained the patient veteran of the Dresden circle.) When Underhill called up that he would not attempt to follow that way, so that a complex rearrangement of ropes and belays would be necessary, Fritz called back to ask if the route went straight up the crack. Assured that it did, Wiessner simply untied, threw down the rope, and soloed up the remaining three pitches of the Cathedral Standard (5.6).

At Cannon Wiessner opened a third line north of the Old Cannon route. This was the first to involve the "Old Man" profile, as it finishes by climbing a splendid corner among the various vertical planes that, seen from the road, compose the famous profile. Although technically easier than either the original or Whitney-Gilman route, Wiessner's route has become a much-traveled line, despite the risk of much loose rock. In seconding the original ascent, Underhill was impressed less with the technical skill of the lead than with Wiessner's agility in threading through so much loose rock and gravel without dislodging anything on his follower. "Like a cat on the rock," he marvelled.

On this New Hampshire trip, Wiessner also opened up a new cliff, Humphrey's Ledge, in the neighborhood of Cathedral and Whitehorse. The route that bears his name on Humphrey's was not climbed in its entirety in 1933. Fritz's party (including Underhill and Pollock) avoided the bottom pitch by a circuitous detour and employed a classic shoulder stance at a later point in the climb.

While these New Hampshire triumphs were highly admired at the time, Wiessner's technical prowess reached its greatest American pitch on the unlikely ground of Connecticut's little traprock cliffs. In three years, 1933 through 1935, Fritz made several visits to the New Haven area, climbing with Hassler Whitney and his brother Roger, Henry Beers, and William Burling, and two young New Haven climbers of promise, Betty Woosley and Bill House. At the Sleeping Giant he established a splendid line up the highest section of the Chin, which remained the standard of the area for years. At East Peak he swarmed up a classic Wiessner jam crack that widens into a chimney, then leads out over an overhang into a double crack system above--all unrelentingly vertical and wildly exposed, rated 5.7, though clearly harder than Whitney-Gilman, and still a popular and demanding climb today under the name of Rat Crack.

It was at Ragged Mountain that Wiessner's most imposing lines were put in. In the center of the highest cliff is a low-angle slab that rises to a broad ledge 30 feet below the top. From either side of this ledge, large vertical cracks lead straight to the top. Few holds help the climber; they must be dealt with by good jamming technique or wide stemming. Fritz climbed both with virtually no protection and in a style that modern climbers rate 5.8. This was a level of difficulty new for the United States. Twenty years later a Yale climber said of one of these two cracks: "Your author knows it exists but doesn't even want to see it, let alone you-know-what it."

Even more astonishing at this time was Vector, which Fritz put up with Roger Whitney in 1935. The current authority on Connecticut rock, Ken Nichols, describes Vector thus: "Starting as a small, relatively easy inside corner, this fine route finishes as a flared crack through a bulge. It was a bold lead in the mid-1930s, with only a single pin being placed for protection below the bulge before a 20-foot runout through the crux above." Fritz went up twice to try it but each time turned back, reluctant to commit himself to such a strenuous and unprotected sequence of moves. On the third occasion he made the commitment and completed what probably remained the hardest single lead in the country for almost twenty years. (A 1952 climb in California's Taquitz area is sometimes called America's first 5.9. A 1937 climb, The Mechanics Route, also at Taquitz, has been called "the country's first 5.8." Not so, While some may fault Wiessner's Connecticut climbs for being short, there is absolutely no question that they were technically at least 5.8. In 1987 two climbers with extensive eastern and western experience climbed both The Mechanics Route and Vector within a few days' time; their conclusion was emphatically that Vector was a far more serious lead.)

In the late 1930s, Wiessner got to the Adirondacks. He had made a brief and unsatisfactory reconnaissance before with Henry Beers, at which time a cursory look at Wallface left him with the impression that the main face was unclimbable. Nevertheless, he was back at Indian Pass in 1936 and again in 1937, only to be snowed off twice. Finally on Memorial Day weekend 1938, he returned with Beckett Howorth and Bob Notman and pushed a line up the center of the face that had repulsed Case and Goodwin years before. Weissner used Case's 1933 line as a down-route, generously praising Case's route as "possibly an even nicer climb than ours... cleaner... interesting crack and face work." By this time, Wiessner had fallen in love with Wallface and its setting, which he ever after regarded as the most beautiful climbing area in the Northeast, because of its "feeling of altitude" and "charm of solitude" so uniquely combined there. During this three-day weekend in 1938, Fritz's party also polished off new routes on Indian Head and at Chapel Pond, advancing the standard of difficulty at each cliff.

Besides pioneering new routes in the Hudson Highlands, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and the Adirondacks, Fritz Wiessner also discovered the Shawangunks (chapter 9), opened up new cliffs on Mount Desert's pink granite, and eventually moved to Vermont where he explored the Green Mountain cliffs. Thus he is remarkable for the regionwide breadth of his activity. Even Lake Willoughby's crumbling cliffs, the long-dormant ice climbing mecca that seemed to be discovered for the first time in the 1970s, had been explored by Fritz and his climbing partners thirty years before. One might expect that the interstate highways and improved communication among climbers might have produced many more regionwide itinerants, but the ranks remain thin of those who have made such significant contributions over the entire Northeast. It is not until Henry Barber in the early 1970s that comparable breadth of innovative climbing can be found.

While Fritz himself felt that his rock climbing peak was reached in Europe in the 1920s, he emerged as a major mountaineer on the world stage during the 1930s. The catalog of his accomplishments during that decade is without parallel among his contemporaries--a major attempt on Nanga Parbat in 1932; coming very, very close to climbing K2 in 1939, years before any of the big Himalayan 8,000-meter peaks had been climbed; British Columbia's Mount Waddington in 1936 with Bill House, one of the top ascents of the decade; a bold and virtually unprotected lead of Wyoming's Devil's Tower, its first free ascent, in 1937, in which Fritz felt he was in peak form; plus innumerable other mountaineering coups around the globe. It has been said that half the mountain ranges of the world have a "Wiessner Crack." He was called the greatest climber of his generation.

Even more astonishing perhaps was the incredible staying power of this Dresden youth who began climbing in 1911. When he was still getting up all his old routes at the age of sixty, younger men thought him remarkable. At sixty-four he spearheaded an attempt on the unclimbed Elephant's Head cliff in Smuggler's Notch: the first complete ascent fell to another, but not until Fritz had worked out the technical difficulties of the crucial first pitch--a steep crack, of course. In his seventies he was still going strong, befriending young climbers, never dwelling on the past, always looking for the next climb. When nearly eighty, he would apologize that he no longer cared to lead above 5.6 but would willingly follow 5.9. Once at the Shawangunks, when he was well over seventy, he joined a young partner to climb Madame Grunnebaum's Wulst, a dead vertical 5.6 of fearsome exposure, especially on the airy second pitch. On their way to the climb, his young friend disclosed that he had recently soloed this route, at which Wiessner beamed and commented: "Ah, you must vee climbing pretty goot!" The younger man led the first pitch, then handed the rack to old Fritz, who proceeded to lead the entire second pitch, with its three wildly exposed 5.6 bulges, without placing a single piece of protection--virtually the equivalent of soloing the upper pitch. When his partner reached the top, Fritz grinned impishly and said: "I must vee climbing pretty goot!"

In his middle eighties, to observe his countenance, the spring in his step, the animation in his conversation--to say nothing of his grace on steep rock or his effervescent enthusiasm for climbing every month of the year--one might have easily mistaken him for one in his fifties, though in unusual physical shape and confident attitude toward life and climbing. Finally, in his upper eighties, a series of strokes brought this most remarkable climbing career to a close. He died in 1988.

In his prime, Wiessner's personal style was not universally admired. Perhaps as tacit acknowledgment of his superior skill, he insisted on leading almost every climb he did in this country during the 1930s. Underhill recalled that one of the conditions that Fritz laid down in arranging for their tour of New Hampshire cliffs in 1933 was that Fritz would do all the leading. Some other climbers found this attitude overbearing and preferred not to climb with him. It would be incorrect to exaggerate the extend of this feeling among climbers, however; many partners thoroughly enjoyed Wiessner's company, felt he was a patient teacher, and commented on his freedom from overbearing self-importance. Perhaps it was merely that Wiessner recognized that only the leader undertook the genuine risk in climbing under prewar conditions. When he was over eighty, he followed a younger partner, Jim McCarthy, up a 5.6 route famous for its intimidating qualities (High Exposure at the Shawangunks--chapter 9); when congratulated afterward, he demurred: "I didn't climb it. Jim climbed it. I just followed." Then, as fifty years earlier, the old Dresden warrior felt that if you weren't out there at the front end of the rope, you weren't really climbing.

Although an inspiration to modern climbers, his impact on the 1930s scene is harder to evaluate. In a sense, Fritz Wiessner was not an important influence on American climbing in the 1930s, because what he was doing was so far ahead of what others were willing to try that he did not significantly improve the general standard. His influence was felt in his dedication to Dresden ideals of free climbing, so that northeasterners were further indoctrinated with the idea that to use aid was to cheat. Furthermore, of course, he left a legacy of routes for all to enjoy. Perhaps his greatest gift to eastern climbing was his "discovery" of the Shawangunks. However his influence be evaluated, Fritz Wiessner became by 1933 and remained for fifty years a dynamic presence, well known to all the northeastern climbing community.




Reference Notes
Ed Webster's profile of Wiessner in Climbing, "A Man for All Mountains," December 1988, pp. 102-108, is an important source, although its emphasis is on Wiessner's worldwide achievements rather than the northeastern United States. For his Hudson Highlands early climbs, see Percy T. Olton, Jr., "New York Rock Climbs," Appalachia, June 1938, pp. 12-26. Our prime source for his New Hampshire ascents was conversations with Robert L. M. Underhill. His Connecticut climbs are covered in Rubin's historical essay in Ken Nichol's Traprock: Rock Climbing in Central Connecticut (New York: American Alpine Club, 1982). Wiessner's Adirondacks trips were written up in (unsigned) "Rock Climbers Route: New Way Up Wallface," Bulletin of the Adirondack Mountain Club, June-July 1938, pp. 8 and 14; M. Beckett Howroth, "New Routes in the Adirondacks," Appalachia, December 1938, pp. 259-260; and Wiessner gave a more general write up of the region's climbs in "Rock Climbing in the Northeast," Bulletin of the Intercollegiate Outing Club Association, Winter 1948, pp. 42-48, 72. Wiessner was very helpful to the authors in compiling this chapter, both in conversations and correspondence; and climbers too numerous to mention contributed to our understanding of how Wiessner was perceived by the climbing community of the 1930s.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Jun 7, 2009 - 01:31am PT
Thanks for this unique, fabulous and rather poignant piece from the Watermans...a separate subject of course.

I knew Andy Wiesner. He married a dear old friend of mine, a descendent of Grandma Curry, by the way. (She had been a girlfriend of one our ST-town members for a few years). I visited her in Idaho and then later they came to my horse ranch about 17 years ago. I guess this Angus Wiesner is their son or nephew! God how time is relentless. Some of the qualities for which Fritz is so well-known are present in Andy, an environmental attorney in Colorado.

best to you Ed, ph.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jul 29, 2009 - 10:09pm PT
As requested by Steve Grossman:










donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jul 29, 2009 - 10:12pm PT
Is there rock in Vermont? I thought it was all over in New Hampshire.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Jul 29, 2009 - 11:41pm PT
I did various climbs with Fritz over the years. Dick Dumais' book on Shawangunk rock climbing has a picture of Fritz climbing Never Never Land (5.10a) in mountain boots. I was the belayer at the other end of the rope on that. Fritz was 73 at that time. Steve posted that picture in the Cornerstone of Eastern Climbing thread; here it is again



I remember another time when Fritz happened by when I was leading some Gunks 5.11 (whose name escapes me at the moment). When I saw him later, he cheerfully and patiently explained to me how I had done it all wrong. I later went back and, using his observations, found it to be significantly easier.

I don't know what Fritz's favorite climbs were, but I know that into his eighties, he could be found soloing up Northern Pillar and down Southern Pillar (or vice versa). When you Western folks here that these climbs are 5.2, you won't be impressed, but these climbs have lots of real climbing on vertical rock and overhanging stemming way off the deck. Those of us who make it to our eighties will probably be happy if we can get up onto the toilet seat without direct aid, much less solo anything like that.

The thing about Fritz is that he just plain loved climbing. I remember getting calls from him when he was in his late seventies, maybe eighties, and he'd say, "Are you free tomorrow? I'm chust itchink to go climbink!" Then he'd show up and he'd be all smiles, as if he was in his twenties and sneaking off from work to steal a climb.

The fact that, when he came here, there was no one in America who was even remotely in the same league meant that Fritz didn't have the kind of communal support that elevated his climbing in Dresden---the bold and serious 5.8's he did here were already completely beyond his companions abilities and perhaps understanding. (And oh yeah---there is no comparison between the Mechanics Route and Vector, which I think is harder (and more run out) than some of the Tahquitz 5.9's that came later.) Moreover, Fritz was perhaps at his best on offwidth, as his effortless virtual solo of the Wiessner Crack on Devil's Tower suggests, and he never found an appropriate venue for that talent. I have no doubt that had there been others at his level here, he would have done some 5.10's in this country in the thirties.

Fritz may have had an extra twinkle in his eyes for the ladies as Jim recounts, but in my experience he was always courtly and gracious in a decidedly old-world way. He lit up a room, and indeed the entire Gunks escarpment, with his presence, and I think everyone who was privileged to know him misses him, even to this day.

Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Jul 30, 2009 - 12:43am PT
Bump for my namesake. I picked "Fritz" in 1970 as my climber name, because the cool dudes in Sun Valley Idaho were all Austrian ski instructors with similar names.

Fritz W. was very cool!
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jul 30, 2009 - 12:58am PT
Thanks, Roy!

"Fritz was perhaps at his best on offwidth" - an early WideFestishist, perhaps?

Wiessner wasn't quite right when he said the Waddington was the highest mountain in Canada proper. A bit like saying that Mt. Whitney is the highest mountain in the US proper. Even in 1936, it was known that there were many higher peaks in northwest B.C. and southwest Yukon, up to and including Logan. Some on the border, some entirely in Canada.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Dec 12, 2009 - 01:06am PT
was looking for the Underhill Bulletin on euro rope techniques and found this little bump.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
Dec 12, 2009 - 02:20am PT
Wiessner route on Inner Outlet
Wiessner route on Inner Outlet
Credit: mike m
Here is a pidture of the Wiessner route on Inner Outlet. He was the man! He put this up in 1937 along with Khayyam Spire,
Kayyam Spire
Kayyam Spire
Credit: mike m
Spire Two
Spire One on the left, Spire Two in the center, and Kayyam is the spir...
Spire One on the left, Spire Two in the center, and Kayyam is the spire with the large yellow face slightly down and right from Spire Two.
Credit: mike m
& Olton's Shoulder these are these biggest spires in the needles and these were FA's of the spires. They are still formidable climbs today and it is amazing that he even found them without any history of techincal climbing in the area This is not to mention doing the first free ascent of Devisl's Tower. The first ascent of Waddington and an altitude record on K2. He is a personal hero of mine and named aroute after him on Old Baldy called Fritz's Forehead. Lastly, his route on Devil's Tower rated 5.7 in the guidebook is very, very strenuous. You could put a line of 15 bolts up the crux crack and sport climbers would easily call it 5.10. It is also very cool because you do it with the tower to your back and facing out toward the surrounding hills.
richross

Trad climber
Dec 13, 2009 - 06:38pm PT
Some fun Fritz Wiessner Gunks routes.

Taffy Bunt on Grey Face 5.5 in 1980.

FA 1940.

Credit: richross
Credit: richross

Geoff Ohland on Lakeview 5.4,late 70's.

FA 1943.

Credit: richross

richross

Trad climber
Dec 13, 2009 - 11:10pm PT
High Exposure.

Auto-X Fil

Mountain climber
Aug 9, 2010 - 08:21pm PT
Fritz bump.
Curt

Boulder climber
Gilbert, AZ
Aug 13, 2010 - 01:55am PT
Rich,

Nice pics of Grey Face. That was my first lead in the Gunks--also in 1980.

Curt
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 20, 2010 - 09:12pm PT
I had the pleasure of visiting John and Ila Rupley recently. John told me a story about being benighted with Fritz while climbing Cathedral Peak near Portal in the Chiricahua Mountains. Fritz told a story at that bivy about an early trip to the Himalayas (pre K2) where he was holed up with a friend and their bivy was about to be struck by an avalanche.

One climber turned to the other and offered a friendly "See you in hell!"

"Well, at least it will be warm there," said Fritz!
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Nov 21, 2010 - 10:40am PT
I can't imagine tying a loop of Goldline around my waist and setting off on some 5.7 with just a couple of pins

So imagine what it was like for Fritz, whose early ascents involved tying a loop of hemp around his waist. I think that nylon ropes only came into use after WW II.

By the way, the pics of High Exposure are nice but out of place in this thread; High E was arguably Hans Kraus's finest Gunks accomplishment. Hans was a talented and prolific climber for sure, but came from a Western European tradition that was a lot more oriented to aid climbing than the Eastern European tradition Fritz came from, and when it came to free-climbing prowess, I don't think there was anyone even close to Fritz's capabilities, including Hans.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Nov 21, 2010 - 10:47am PT
In 1973 I was in the Gunks with my girlfriend from Philadelphia and a friend of hers. Fritz (somewhere in his 70's) volunteered to take the girls climbing so that i could go off and do something more difficult with Wunsch.
My girlfriend reported that she was belayed up a 5.6 pitch onto a big ledge. The belay, however, didn't end until she was safely and FIRMLY in Fritz's welcoming arms.
dirt claud

Sport climber
san diego,ca
Nov 21, 2010 - 12:24pm PT
As a student of climbing history, I have very much enjoyed reading about Fritz W. and hope to do some of his routes if I ever get back east. Thanks all for the cool stories and pics.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Nov 21, 2010 - 12:30pm PT
In 1973 I was in the Gunks with my girlfriend from Philadelphia and a friend of hers. Fritz (somewhere in his 70's) volunteered to take the girls climbing so that i could go off and do something more difficult with Wunsch.
My girlfriend reported that she was belayed up a 5.6 pitch onto a big ledge. The belay, however, didn't end until she was safely and FIRMLY in Fritz's welcoming arms.


Jim, as we approach Fritz's years, we should recall that he was, in more ways than one, a master technician.

But as least as legend has it, I'm afraid in the ledge dalliance department he was eclipsed by Hans.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 8, 2012 - 01:01am PT
My foot just slipped off a bump...whoop-la!
tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Sep 8, 2012 - 06:38am PT
Jim. the new Vt Guide, Tough Shist is on the shelvs. there is a lot more that did not make the book. My great 3 pitch 10a on Bird mtn. did not get in. Some of these areas, Bird mtn for example are on land that the state F&G department oversees for hunting and fishing and they do not allow climbing. I have found many old WWII era pins up there. perhaps one or two of them are Fritz's?

The VT guide can be purchaced here. http://www.vermontrock.com/
Isa Oehry  on P2 of Isabella 5.10a Bird Mtn VT
Isa Oehry on P2 of Isabella 5.10a Bird Mtn VT
Credit: tradmanclimbs
Hendo1

Trad climber
Toronto
Sep 8, 2012 - 11:40am PT
In the late '40s Wiessner discovered the small Montreal climbing community and spent quite a bit of time with them, as it wasn't far from his home.

His FAs in Quebec, like John Turner's, aren't that well known because the guidebooks are in French. But he did put up some classics.

From Chic Young's "Pushing The Limits"
From Chic Young's "Pushing The Limits"
Credit: Hendo1
AP

Trad climber
Calgary
Sep 8, 2012 - 12:06pm PT
Was it Messner who called Fritz the most important (or was it pivotal?) climber of the 20th century?
JerryA

Mountain climber
Sacramento,CA
Sep 8, 2012 - 12:07pm PT
On a trip to NYC in the early 1980s ,I went to the Gunks for the first time and the climbing shop set me up with Kevin Bein as a guide. I had a wonderful introduction to an interesting area with a great climber . Kevin introduced me to Fritz and Jim McCarthy on the Carriage Trail . It was the highlight of a grand day.
Alan Rubin

climber
Amherst,MA.
Sep 10, 2012 - 10:21am PT
I can confirm that Wiessner's route L'Imperiale on Mt. King in Val David, Quebec is a very hard and serious route. Back in the mid-'70s Al Long and I seemed to be climbing pretty well during a visit to the Val David climbing areas but were stopped cold by L'Imperiale---couldn't even see what to do, though had little trouble with the supposedly harder "Direct" put up by Turner or one of his compatriots a decade or so later. Though Canadian John Brett was apparantly the first to climb on the Val David crags, it was Wiessner's subsequent visits that really began the development of the area and of rock climbing in general in Quebec.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 18, 2013 - 05:37pm PT
Fritz Bump...
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Feb 18, 2013 - 05:55pm PT
Thank you Steve.....some climbing history that ISN'T about Yosemite!
Brandon-

climber
The Granite State.
Feb 18, 2013 - 06:05pm PT
Great history here. Thanks, I missed it the first time around.

Weissner and Underhill were my old school heroes when I first started learning my climbing history.
jogill

climber
Colorado
Feb 18, 2013 - 07:18pm PT
It was fun in the 1950s to come across traces of FW in the Needles of SD.

;>)
Neesh

Trad climber
Connecticut
Feb 19, 2013 - 03:44am PT
Every time I climb one of his routes I think about what he had when he made the FA, inspiring
neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
Feb 19, 2013 - 05:05am PT
hey there say, steve....nice to see this bump, :)
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Feb 20, 2013 - 02:47pm PT
A bump.

Fritz and I went out to Stoney Point on what I remember as being his first Stoney Point experience - in the mid-70s. He wanted to climb some friction - some face climbing, but nothing to exposed. I took him took to Spencer Slab - he loved it.
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Feb 20, 2013 - 03:39pm PT
I'm not sure if any one saw the mountain profile of K2 in a couple recent issues of Alpinist. They go into good detail about Weissner's near successful climb in 1932 (right year?). Thinking that the Bottleneck was not safe, he cramponed up the rock next to it, which no one else has even attempted. Absolutely hard core stuff. One just shakes one's head in wonder.
Alan Rubin

climber
Amherst,MA.
Feb 20, 2013 - 03:43pm PT
Fat Dad--1939.
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Feb 20, 2013 - 07:43pm PT
Thanks Alan. I knew the year sounded wrong.
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Feb 20, 2013 - 08:24pm PT
I wrote a short paper on Weisner's ascent of K2 in college. I still cannot think of a more impressive ascent in mountaineering history. technically not a success I suppose and sadly there were men of much lower ability and perhaps character involved who created problems and ridiculous controversy regarding Weisner's actions.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 25, 2013 - 01:53pm PT
Heroic Bump...
Ibex

climber
Apr 26, 2014 - 06:01pm PT
A great man, indeed. Thank you all for posting this info.

As I am heading to K2 this summer I try to understand where exactly Wiessner ended up. In the following photos / drawings it is suggested that he traversed left all the way to the so-called "hockey stick couloir", at the end of which Kukuczka and Piotrowski found it hard climbing a 30m final rock barrier. I very much doubt that Fritz traversed so much to the left, but if he did (and if he really reached 8380m) then history should be rewritten, because Jerzy may have met Fritz's steps...
Credit: Ibex
Credit: Ibex
Ibex

climber
Apr 26, 2014 - 06:17pm PT
The last photo above is taken from Ed Viesturs' book, and I do not know if the line on it was drawn by Wiessner himself. In any case it seems unclear to me whether this line fits with his description below:

Credit: Ibex
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Apr 26, 2014 - 07:40pm PT
I was in the Gunks in 1973 with my gf and her girlfriend. Fritz was there and he volunteered to take the ladies on a popular 5.6 so that I could climb with the boys. Heather, my gf, reported that Fritz led the first pitch with no pro and set up his belay on a spacious ledge. He then belayed Heather who on reaching the ledge was greeted with a big smile as Fritz continued to belay her right into his waiting arms. The same friendly belay was given to Heather's rather startled friend. Fritz was a mischievous 73 at the time.
Stewart Johnson

climber
lake forest
Apr 26, 2014 - 09:47pm PT
Brilliant.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
Apr 27, 2014 - 12:36am PT
He did a bunch of classic 6's, 7's and 8's at the tower and the needles in the 30's. He must have been one tough dude. Was one of my heroes and still trying to repeat some of his routes. He found and climbed the biggest spires in the Needles that still command respect today. Most of them are wide cracks that are very sand bagged for the grades given today. Many of the spires probably didn't even have a road anywhere near them.
Ibex

climber
Apr 27, 2014 - 06:26am PT
Great, but you do not seem to be answering my questions :-)
little Z

Trad climber
un cafetal en Naranjo
Apr 27, 2014 - 07:06am PT
Jim, you beat me to the punchline. That frisky Fritz is the one I remember from climbing at the Gunks in the mid 70s. Always energetic and outgoing, doubly so if there were young chippies in your group. He was quite the inspiration. A lover of life, lived large.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
Apr 27, 2014 - 07:49am PT
Ibex I had a great book on the subject, but think it got loaned out to someone along the way. I always thought it was amazing how far he got that long ago. Quite the tragedy ensued I hope you have much better luck.
Ibex

climber
May 2, 2014 - 03:05pm PT
I take it that no one actually knows the answer. Even the ultimate guide book by J. Kielkowski (K2 and the Northern Baltoro Mustagh) is showing Fritz's route going up and around the corner, beyond which is the upper end of the Hockey-stick Couloir.

I trust Wiessner, but I also wonder whether Pasang Lama ever read and confirmed the claim that they reached 8380 meters after that left traverse. Yet, in any case, I suppose that only Fritz had an altimeter. And do not take me wrong: unquestionably, Fritz Wiessner is a great hero.
Ibex

climber
May 3, 2014 - 03:55am PT
Mike m: You do not need to find the book, just try to remember its title or its author. That would help a great deal.

By the way, it must be said somewhere that JIM CURRAN (in his book: K2 - The Story of the Savage Mountain) has messed it up a great deal saying that BARRRY BLANCHARD et al have partly repeated the Kukuczka-Piotrowski route. In the AAJ (1994, p.246) Barry states clearly that in 1993 they followed the above-mentioned route to just above the serac before they traversed right to the Cesen spur. In other words, they hardly entered the immense south face. I do not know where this misunderstanding originates from. Here is the quote from Curran's book, which is completely false:

Credit: Ibex
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
May 3, 2014 - 10:47am PT
It is something like K2 the 1939 tragedy the story of the Weissner expedition. By curren. Sounds like you have read it.
Ibex

climber
May 3, 2014 - 01:50pm PT
You probably mean this one:
http://www.amazon.com/K2-1939-Tragedy-Andrew-Kauffman/dp/0898863732
yet, this is not by Jim Curran. I would like to read it, yet it has the same kind of clues
(see drawing in posting: Apr 26, 2014 - 03:01pm PT).

mike m

Trad climber
black hills
May 3, 2014 - 02:36pm PT
That is the one. Sorry about the misinformation was trying to pull info off my phone. Been a long time since I read it, but I remember it being a good read.
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