Don Jensen


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Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 26, 2009 - 03:07pm PT
Nope, sorry, not "Diamond Don."

Also no relation of Jay Jensen, a next-generation Palisade guide from the same Bishop High School class as Gordon Wiltsie. They both worked PSOM through the early 70s.

Social climber
Mar 26, 2009 - 04:03pm PT
Doug what great energy you've put into this thread.
Very similar to your book A night on the ground.....
thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts of your good friend


Ice climber
Rustys Saloon
Mar 27, 2009 - 12:42am PT

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Mar 27, 2009 - 01:57am PT
Thanks Doug, superb posting and I think this one will open up numerous tangents down the SuperTopo highway.


Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Mar 27, 2009 - 02:01am PT
beautiful on all different levels.

I love your vision, I've had similar in similar circumstances. I sensed the serenity of that experience in your writing too. Powerful, awesome, expansive and then intimately close.

You wrote about this in the 1969 Ascent once... here is a link:
someone here said that it was an influential article to them. I can see why.

And Roberts' book Deborah: A Wilderness Narrative paints his portrait of Don Jensen.

"In the parking lot we set up our rain fly again, as we had on the first day of the trip, and crawled into our sleeping bags beneath it. An electric light glared over us like a watchman, and a generator roared noisily from a power shed beside the driveway. It looked as if it might rain again. I asked Don how his feet were. He said that they felt all right. In his single, short answer I heard all the vague sorrow that was also building inside me. Don fell asleep just as it began to rain lightly. I lay there, on the verge of sleep, thinking of ice-cream cones and baseball games and the wonderful ease, the ease of walking on sidewalks and of driving cars, the luxury of soft chairs and indoor fires, and especially the ease of unanxios sleep. But sixty miles north of us, already touched with winter snows, Deborah lay fathomless in the darkness, and nothing would ever be easy again."


Mar 27, 2009 - 02:01am PT
The Jensen pack was a very good design. Bev made some and I asked her for one and I used it for many years.

It would still be a good pack today ....?

Social climber
Mar 27, 2009 - 02:40am PT
hey there dr... say, thanks for this very wonderful lesson and post share, about don jensen...

very nicely done and very nice history..

thank you so very much... i really love the picture...

Mar 27, 2009 - 09:17am PT
Wow Doug, nice piece there! If I knew I was going to read things like this every morning with coffee I'd probably get up even earlier!!!!!!! There are so many great stories to be told eh? Would love to get my hands on one of those packs. When did you put that design to work at Yvon's?
Keep it coming please. Thanks.

Oh yeah, the guy has got to have one of the best last names ever in my biased opinion! hee hee.

Bob J.

Social climber
Telluride, CO
Mar 27, 2009 - 09:31am PT
Last week I day hiked with friends in death Valley. Hugh and Janet had these new looking Jensen packs made is some of Chuck's (Kroger)vintage nylon material. I asked when Chuck had made those packs. They burst out laughing and told me that I had made those packs in the late 70's! I had forgotten that Chuck had had me make a bunch of them becuase the one's he made were falling apart. ah - memory...I knew they looked familiar.

I do remember that Don Jensen was a huge influence on and mentor to Chuck. Chuck had the one glorious summer working with Don and DR in the Pallisades. Don inspired Chuck in mountaineering and especially in inventing things and making his own equipment and clothes. DR inspired Chuck in clean climbing altough it was hard to take the love of hammering anything and everything out of Chuck.

I think I threw away a bunch of falling apart gear that Chuck or I had made during our 2003 remodel but maybe it is in the attic. I might have to light a candle and start melting the edges of nylon just for old time's sake and maybe i will remember what I made.

Thanks DR for keeping the spirit and legends of Don Jensen alive. Please keep telling us these grat stories & memories.


Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Mar 27, 2009 - 10:31am PT
Here is a shot of the Harvard Mountaineering Club and a somewhat rare shot of Don's face. From Climbing in North America.

Left to right; Don Jensen, John Graham, Dave Roberts, Pete Carmen, Rick Milliken, Hank Abrons and Chris Goetze. 63 Wickersham Wall expedition.
east side underground

Trad climber
Hilton crk,ca
Mar 27, 2009 - 10:50am PT
thanks doug, are those martinis " shaken not stirred? "

Trad climber
Mar 27, 2009 - 12:16pm PT
DR- Great post and photos!

Trad climber
Iss WA
Mar 27, 2009 - 12:48pm PT
Awesome thread! Doug, thank you :) Had to add these. Great pack by any date or standard.

Jensen in lwt pack cloth with Galiber Hivernal and a McInnes axe

Jensen in 8oz duck with Galiber Makalu and a hickory Chouinard piolet

N face of Deborah, the steep East Ridge in cloud.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 27, 2009 - 04:22pm PT
So many great responses, and so personal! Thank you all.

Ed, so intriguing to me that you report similar visions in similar circumstances. That is very encouraging, as I have never before publicly mentioned my, to me, striking vision -- especially the imagery and the experience of feeling my skeleton as cold as the ground and feeling totally at peace with that. And of course it's slightly edgy to admit that the circumstances included the influence of DMT, which is perhaps the most powerful psychedelic known. It is of course covered by the Analog Act of 1988, but I have my suspicions it will never be tested as the Feds are aware that the very compound has been demonstrated in healthy human brain tissue in at least 5 studies. Most particularly it is produced by the pituitary, where it ebbs and flows a diurnal cycle that some suspect is tied to our circadian hormonal rhythms. (It peaks at 3:00 AM -- what's the weirdest time of day for you?) Though none of that is at all well understood. Pretty hard, though, to presume to bust anyone because their brain contains a compound that their brain indeed makes.

Anyway, I'll quit this line of reasoning for now, but it verges on the book I am writing, The Alchemy of Action, which is all about where the high comes from, out of the hard work and edge of danger of climbing. This follows on from the ideas I laid out in that 1969 article, "The Climber as Visionary."

Must get back to work here, but thanks again all.

And Dane -- I looked all over the internet for a photo of LePhoque boots, and here you drop them into the thread. I loved those boots!
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 28, 2009 - 09:39am PT
Here's one of Don's little-known routes, The Surgicel, along the broad Northwest wall of Temple Crag. Several pitches to the obvious twin spire. He did a route up the left side "5.7" with his wife Joan, that's named for its first pitch up the Chinese Mustard Dihedral. Even in this light I think you can see yellow lichen on one wall and red on the other. His line up the right skyline, which he called "5.8" finishes in the striking cracks on the prow. Going up the talus of the Third Lake Gully in front of it, you will stop to catch your breath underneath The Surgicel, and it's pretty obvious that both lines look a lot harder than Don's ratings.

BTW, Norman Clyde's August 11, 1931 Northwest Face route starts up that talus fan (usually a snow gully) just behind The Surgicel. First technical route on Temple Crag, and I guess you could say he was as much a sandbagger as Jensen by rating it "fourth class." Clyde had the all-star team with him that day: Robert Underhill, who the week before had introduced modern ropework to the Sierra, and Glen Dawson and Jules Eichorn, the hot young Valley guns of the day. The following week they all put up the East Face of Mt. Whitney.

For context, here's the whole NW Face. Even Mt. Gayley way right.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Mar 28, 2009 - 06:51pm PT
The team Doug just mentioned from Climbing in North America.

Gotta love that Sierra cup on Underhill's belt!
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 28, 2009 - 08:01pm PT
Check out the gaiters over tennies on Clyde. Here they are again on the FA of the Milk Bottle summit block of Starlight, two days before that FA of the NW Face of Temple Crag, which itself was just 5 days before they posed for that shot after the FA of the East Face of Whitney. In between, they copped the FA of Thunderbolt.

Those boys were gettin' busy!

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Mar 28, 2009 - 08:10pm PT
I was poking around Roper's High Sierra guide and noticed that Chuck Kroger and Don did two routes on Temple Crag. You did one with Chuck too, Doug. Any recollections?

Half of the routes listed here are his including one with Joan Jensen. Anyone know about these routes?

Jensen's Temple Crag----?!?
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 28, 2009 - 08:57pm PT
Yep, it sure is Jensen's Temple Crag. I have a route picked out to name in his honor over on that NW Face.

I'll get to that as soon as I finish another route, also on the complex NW Face, that's going to be the Clyde Arete. I got about halfway up it 3-4 years ago at 5.8R. Stymied there by a 5.10 section, but then it got dark and we rapped. It appears that spot will have a solution nearly as novel as the tyrolean on the Sun Ribbon.

That NW Face is more subtle than the Celestial Aretes side.

But 40 years before it became Jensen's Temple Crag it was Clyde's. He got the second, third and fourth routes. 1926 and 1930, solo. Then 1931 with the boys above.

Looks like I misspoke about where that last route goes. That gully just past the Surgicle is Clyde's 1930 route, the first route on the entire NW Face of the peak. I'd call that pretty bold to launch up that huge and complex face, all alone. The 1931 route is up the big gully left of there, the most obvious snow gully from Third Lake.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 28, 2009 - 09:34pm PT
1969 was Jensen's big year on Temple Crag, the year of his Celestial Aretes.

Mountaineering Guide Service (pre-PSOM) moved down from Sam Mack Meadow to Third Lake and Jensen became Chief Guide. That meant he assigned clients to the other guides, after taking his pick of the litter.

Don ended up guiding on sight the FAs of the Venusian Blind, the lower half of the Moon Goddess and the lower half of the Sun Ribbon. Both of those latter two climbs have convenient bail-out spots into gullies.

I had a private client for that whole summer. Not a bad gig, and we toured the West, mainly climbing in Wyoming. By August I was fat and happy and took off with Roper to try for the second ascent of the Lotus Flower Tower. We were snowed out -- yep, in August -- and by the time I got back to the Palisades I could not believe how transformed Temple Crag had become. In just one season, thanks to Don Jensen's vision.

So the next spring I moved up to Third Lake in May, along with Tim Harrison and "Crazy Lester" Robertson. I went right over and started working on Dark Star. You could call it the logical progression from aretes onto walls, but really if you took the Celestial Aretes side of the Crag, the NE Face, Dark Star was all there was left. By the time the climbing school cranked up in June, we had freed the crux second pitch at 5.10c and were well established on the wall.

That climbing was too hard to tow clients up, so we didn't get back to it until September. In the same two-day stretch, Don and John Fischer finished Dark Star while Chuck Kroger and I climbed parallel up Barefoot Bynum. Both were all free, 5.10c and 5.10b. I'm not sure how Roper ended up reported them at 5.7 A3.

Dark Star was the name of a long and particularly spacey Grateful Dead number I was listening to on my boom box that summer while moonlight played across the Celestial Aretes, and Barefoot Bynum was the wine we drank out of gallon jugs partying with our clients every Friday night.

A glance at your FA list shows that 1970 was Temple Crag's second biggest year.
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