Overhang Overpass- bar dips and a hangover


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Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 3, 2009 - 07:34pm PT
Overhang Overpass- bar dips and a hangover

In 1974 Charlie Porter saw that I was coping with an excess of unfocused energy so he told me about this beautiful, super clean corner high up on Lower Cathedral Rock that he had just tried. He and Mark Chapman had climbed the short 5.9 (old school) first pitch but had been stymied by a bulge in the corner itself.

John Bragg, equally restless, decided to go up with me and have a look. With blessings from Charlie, John and I soloed the initial few hundred feet of Overhang Bypass, which served as the approach to the corner. After a bit of a thrutch over the overhang on the first pitch we came face to face with the corner. Wow! Porter hadnít exaggerated. The corner was a beauty, clean and elegant something we could really sink our teeth into. Unfortunately, we had bitten off more than we could chew. We struggled up past a fixed piton (courtesy of Charlie and Mark) and came to a screeching halt at a 2- inch bong they had placed just below the bulge. We couldnít get high enough above the bong to take what would qualify as a fall. The ignominy of it all, thoroughly chastened we limped back to the Valley just in time for our usual session at the Mountain Room Bar.

I had never before had what I would call a project but I couldnít get that corner out of mind. What was I lacking? Not gear, I was fully equipped with E.Bís, swami belt, chalk bag and the best pitons and nuts that money could buy. I know, Iím too frigin weak. Luckily, the idea of training was just beginning to emerge and Camp 4 was now fully equipped with parallel bars and a pull up bar- the slack line would arrive a few months latter. I found bar dips easier than pull ups so I attacked the parallel bars with a vengeance. In a short period of time I was doing 60 rep sets.

Suddenly, I felt ready. A friend of mine, Bill Putnam had just arrived from Boulder and was eager to have a look. Our pre climb session at the bar that night took on a life of itís own and the next morning I was greeted with a hangover that pushed back the adventure a day. Good thing, my body was able to rest after all of those dips.

The next day, head clear, we began the approach, but not before Bill told me that, since he was out of shape, he wanted to assume belay slave status. The first pitch out of the way, I once again confronted the corner. Based on my first encounter I assumed that if I got over the bulge I would be home free- WRONG! I was suffering from an optical illusion; the corner above the bulge appeared to kick back to less than vertical.

Bulging with new muscle (thanks to the bar dips) I climbed to the fixed bong and surmounted the bulge with something approximating ease only to encounter the REAL problem. There I was 10 feet above the bong staring up at a seemingly endless, parallel sided, vertical, off fingers crack. Was I bold- no, dumb- yes, but not so much so that I didnít immediately realize that there was no way I could possibly hold on with rattly fingers and at the same time manipulate a nut into a useful placement in a parallel sided crack. Where were the cams I needed? Oh, I remember, about five years in the future.

The wuss factor won out, and unwilling to do the gentlemanly thing and jump off 10 feet above my gear, I launched on up, desperately hoping to find easy ground QUICKLY. Not so, adrenalin and fear propelled me for a full 30 feet before I found a couple of opposing footholds that allowed a thank god stem. My heart sounded like Buddy Rich beating drums on my chest as I placed a bomber stopper.

As far as I know the climb didnít get a second ascent until the development of cams a few years later allowed for more casual protection options. Thatís the nice thing about first ascents- ignorance is bliss.

scuffy b

Frigate Matilda
Apr 3, 2009 - 09:34pm PT
Whoah, this is a good tale.
Even with the good goods, this doesn't get done so much.

I'd like to do the climb, but I can't handle hangovers nearly
so well as all the other climbers seem to.

Thanks, Jim. Every little bit helps (that is, keep telling us

right here, right now
Apr 3, 2009 - 10:09pm PT
First hand accounts, of first ascents, of thrilling and seldom attempted climbs.
I'm fading from this venue but I'll come back for stuff like this...

Trad climber
Apr 3, 2009 - 10:19pm PT
You're a terrific writer, Jim. Very engaging stuff! I love the line: "Where were the cams I needed? Oh, I remember, about five years in the future."

Keep posting stuff like this, please!!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 3, 2009 - 10:45pm PT
Great stuff. As I recall, it was the first 5.11d in the Valley. Downgraded in the most recent edition of the guide to 5.11c, I guess because it's easier to plug in cams than face the potential 60' whipper?

Tacoma, Toyota
Apr 3, 2009 - 10:47pm PT
this is why supertopo kicks ass. great post.

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Apr 3, 2009 - 10:48pm PT

Apr 3, 2009 - 10:56pm PT
Dale Bard took the big whipper on it. Couldn't get anything in and went for it. Took the rope between his legs and got his vitals.

He came back to C4 bleeding from his balls.

When in doubt run it out .......

Apr 3, 2009 - 10:59pm PT
Jim, your recent posts are gold. Thanks for sharing these slices of history. Would love to hear the story of the Enema sometime...
Russ Walling

Social climber
Upper Fupa, North Dakota
Apr 3, 2009 - 11:01pm PT
I've got a minor chubby.....

Great stuff!

dangling off a wind turbine in a town near you
Apr 3, 2009 - 11:08pm PT

That's all, just


Big Wall climber
So Cal
Apr 4, 2009 - 12:48am PT
Great story Jim! I did this route 2 years ago & found it full value. The crack is rather smooth inside and is harder than it looks. Jim's story really adds to my impressions of how it must have gone down, back in the day.

My pics are not great but...
Looking up from down below, on the approach pitches.

The 5.9 roof undercling that approaches the corner.

Amazing rock, amazing views, up near the top.

Ŗ ő ō T « H

Boulder climber
the greasewood ghetto
Apr 4, 2009 - 02:36am PT
Whoa ... don't let the sporties see that - they'll have it grid-bolted faster than you can say PINKPOINT .

Trad climber
Iss WA
Apr 4, 2009 - 03:20am PT
It's a walk...the wall is safe.

Trad climber
Apr 4, 2009 - 03:47am PT
ST at its best. As Tarbuster wrote:

"First hand accounts, of first ascents, of thrilling and seldom attempted climbs."

Jim, your post just reinforced my view that you are one of the most gifted writers of the vertical. Your article, "A climber's life" in Alpinist #2 was probably one of the best, most well-rounded articles I've read.

And one of the funniest ST posts ever also hail from your keyboard:

"At the catholic high school I went to in Philadelphia in the late 50's- dry tooling was what guy's did when they couldn't get dates."

Jim, you definitely ROCK!


Trad climber
The Great North these days......
Apr 4, 2009 - 10:34am PT
Thank you! Keep them coming!

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Apr 4, 2009 - 12:55pm PT
Another great story, Jim. Hopefully your working on a book?

I'm doing well, I'm still getting out. My son still takes me rock climbing as long as I wear adult diapers!


Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
Apr 4, 2009 - 01:05pm PT

Gym climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Apr 4, 2009 - 01:07pm PT
I remember doing an early repeat with Kauk. Really hard to place hexes. Very parallel crack and smooth as glass. It may have been the second ascent, I don't know but it was right after Dale took the big ripper and we definitely used hexes ( #5 or #6 size?).

We thought it was solid 5.11d if you jam it. It might have been easier to layback but you wouldn't be getting any hexes in if you tried to lead it that way.

I hear they rate it 11c now days?

Seems more like easy 12a if I remember correctly.

Thanks for the memories Jimmy!

Social climber
Apr 4, 2009 - 06:32pm PT
Great story Jim. I remember looking up from that bong I placed and thinking that looks stout up there. Hard to protect as well. Better save it for another day! After hearing about what happened to Dale maybe its better I never got another crack at it!
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