The history of New Dimensions?


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Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 10, 2009 - 03:37pm PT
New Dimensions
FA Jim Bridwell and Mark Klemens 5/70
FFA Barry Bates and Steve Wunsch 1972
I climbed this route several times and think this is one of the best routes I climbed in the Valley.
Last time - I was imaging how bold and determined was first assent party in early seventeens . Since Pitch 3 and 4 hidden from the view you have no ideas what you going to meet after pitch 2. And you can see the rest of the route only after turning small bulge at the beginning of P3 - and what you see at this point -is striking line.
As from the name of this route - it seams that it was first route which change YDS from Decimal to open ended. Was it first 5.11 route?
And what is the story of nearby "Klemens Escape" (FA Jim Bridwell and Mark Klemens 5/70) - was it bypass to avoid last two hard pitches same year Bridwell and Klemens climbed ND?
It should be very interesting history of this first assents and first free assent,- would you share?
BTW, One of the member of FFA party was recently welcomed to ST

Edit: thanks ihateplastic- I edited my typos

Trad climber
Lake Oswego, Oregon
Apr 10, 2009 - 03:44pm PT
I just sent a nag message to Barry... hopefully he will chime in.

Tiny correction: Mark Klemens

EDIT: Looks like the correction has now been made.

Gym climber
above the play park
Apr 10, 2009 - 03:46pm PT
The purity of the Decimal System was violated by 5.10- it is, after all, harder than 5.1.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 10, 2009 - 03:51pm PT

We discussed what routes might have been the first 5.11 in Yosemite, back in 1999 on rec.climbing. Part of it discussed New Dimensions:

>Scott Presho wrote:
>>According to Gary Arce in Defying Gravity: High Adventure on
>>Yosemite's Walls New Dimensions (5.11) on Arch Rock
>>Bridwell and Klemens 1970
> This sounds close, but not quite right. In the Brave
>New World article, Bridwell discusses a 1971/72 ascent of New D,
>and says it was "originally done free by Barry Bates and
>Steve Wunsch". Bridwell also mentions that the FA was
>done by Klemens (perhaps with Bridwell), but the implication
>is that they used some aid originally.
After casual research (looking in various guidebooks),
maybe* Arce is right. The 1971 Roper guide has the 5/1970 version
of New Dimensions (Klemens and Bridwell) as 5.11 A1. And the
current guides show the FFA (5.11a) by Bates and Wunsch in 1972.
Roper's 1971 description is strange. The first pitch is
"A short, very difficult pitch" (actually I agree it's tough,
although given a semi-moderate 5.10b in the current guide).
This just echoes what Peter already posted. Roper's description
also indicates it might have been considered the 5.11 pitch.
[postscript/2001: Dave Altman said that this first pitch was
originally rated 5.11, but Bridwell decided to downrate it to 5.10
after Bev Johnson followed it with no falls!]
The final pitch (now 5.11a) was given in 1971 "The 4th pitch
continues straight up to a fixed pin where a pendulum right leads to
easier climbing." This seems weird. The pitch leads continuously
upwards, straight to the top. It's hard, and the last few moves
are tougher than those below, but I think they could be aided.
So it seems weird that Klemens and Bridwell pendulumed.
Maybe they hadn't fully cleaned it yet?
[postscript: it was clean; they just got defeated, one move
from the top, partly due to poor protection. They swung
10' over to "Slyline/The Voyage".]

[Edit: as Pat points out below, the above excerpt is not a proper discussion of what was the first 5.11 in Yosemite, as it leaves out the other routes discussed.
This was just meant to shed some light on the rating of New Dimensions in the 1971 Roper guide, and subsequent developments when it was freed.
I am happy to believe that Slack Center and Serenity Crack were the first 5.11s in Yosemite, even though they have since changed and are no longer 5.11.]

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Apr 10, 2009 - 04:54pm PT
What a great route. Wish I had pix of Rudy and I on it.
Mebbe he's got 'em.....the dog!

Trad climber
Mountain View, CA
Apr 10, 2009 - 05:18pm PT
I can confirm the Bev Johnson story about the first pitch. One day Bev and I were climbing and she recounted that tale. As a bit of a side story, on that day we were attempting a very early repeat of the route Whack and Dangle on Five and Dime cliff. Bev warned me that if she succeeded there was a good chance that that route, too, would get downrated.


Gym climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Apr 10, 2009 - 05:28pm PT
Kauk was the first to on sight flash it. I was the second...

Then some kook free soloed it.

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Apr 10, 2009 - 05:30pm PT
"Then some kook free soloed it."


Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 10, 2009 - 05:42pm PT
John, how many times you did climbed this rout before decided to free solo it?
Tell us how it was ? Do you still remember detail ?
Correct me if I am wrong it was also first 5.11 solo?

Gym climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Apr 10, 2009 - 06:01pm PT
Ron and I used to top rope the last pitch for a workout. We must have done it twenty to thirty times. After a while we wouldn't even get a pump.

I had soloed Left Ski Track, 11a in Joshua Tree but the crux on that is close to the ground. New Dimensions was a whole other ball game. Ron watched me when I first did it. We walked back to the Cookie and on the way he soloed River Boulder, 11d. The road was closed and we met up with Vern and Ray - they gave us a ride back to Camp 4. Vern and Ray didn't believe I had done it.

Ron and I drank Tequila that night under a full moon....quite a day.

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 10, 2009 - 07:28pm PT
Thanks John. What a great feeling climbing without being pump. Big respect for what you done
I also want tequila now
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 10, 2009 - 07:30pm PT
Way cool! Thanks for sharing this, John.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Apr 10, 2009 - 10:21pm PT
As Bachar and Bates and Higgins and others who were
there know, the first two 5.11 routes were in 1967,
Center Route on the Slack (Pat Ament) and Serenity Crack
(Tom Higgins), both of which were later altered, the first
when a big block broke out creating a couple of bomber
hand jams right at the crux move, and Serenity
got easier when aid climbers and pitons made big holes of the
crack. Pratt gave Center Route its 5.11 grading and reported
as such to Roper, because he and Royal, Kamps, Hig, Chouinard,
and others had tried it and felt it would be 5.11 if done. Pratt
also tried Serenity and confirmed its 5.11 grading. Center
Route especially got easier, but it was significantly more
difficult with the block. Then in 1970 Bridwell and Mark Klemens
did New Dimensions, but there was no 5.11 on it
until Bates, with Wunsch, led the last hand-finger crack
free in 1972. Whether or not a route changes, is
altered some way, it remains that it was 5.11 when done.
Kamps always told me he thought Center Route and Serenity
were the first 5.11s. For unknown reasons, some have disputed
the validity of these routes. Those who were there don't,

Trad climber
The Great North these days......
Apr 10, 2009 - 10:58pm PT
Jb, good grief. I TRed river bouldered in the early seventies, I am sure after you. I never knew I was doing 11d that early (on tr).....

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Apr 11, 2009 - 01:23am PT
I think (not positive) I did the 3rd free ascent of ND. 2nd went to Bridwell and Barber, probably July, 1973. I did it with Gib Lewis, no falls, right after Jim and Henry.

I must have done that climb a dozen times, and top roped the last pitch twenty times at least. I can only get the very tips of my pinky and ring fingers in the last few moves - way too thin to free solo. Hat's off to Bachar. That's the shizzat. But John was soloing much harder stuff at Josh.

While ND remains one of my favorite climbs anywhere, it's only hard on the last ten feet of the first pitch (c/d), and the last body length of the last pitch (11a). You can totally run the rope on the rest (mostly 10a).

An all time classic - 4 short pitches of gold, on diamond hard rock. Nothing at the Cookie really compares. Only thing at Arch that compares is Gripper, but that's mostly 5.9.


Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
Apr 11, 2009 - 01:54am PT
this little reminiscence from John B. is an excellent example of why it is worth wading through all the ST noise. Thanks!

Monument Manor
Apr 11, 2009 - 02:54pm PT
Pat - according to Reid/Meyers, the first 5.11 was Swan Slab free by Lloyd Price.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 12, 2009 - 11:04am PT
This seems like a good place for this bit of clarification.

What is the story behind the chiseled foothold at the crux? Enough people are here to answer this one with any luck.

Way back when John Dill was a Camp 4 climber just like the rest of us, he was headed out for the day all covered in rope and nuggets. When I asked about his plans, he replied,"I am going to do New Dimensions......without THE FOOTHOLD!" with a grin. That was the first time that THE FOOTHOLD entered my consciousness and I never have gotten the stright story as to its origin.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Apr 12, 2009 - 02:08pm PT
Well, Stevie. Right. I did ND a couple of times. Once with Vandiver in 1974 and again with Molly Higgins in 1975. We all know that nearby Gripper, done back in 1970, had a ton of weirdly enhanced foot and hand holds in the crux above the roof which you pretty much don’t even need. It was as if JB (Bridwell) was up there on acid--- at least that is what I thought when I did a really early ascent of it. Gripper is not even that interesting, especially compared to ND. (Everyone ululates about the long final straight-in crack up top but I frankly found it boring.) Bridwell was a better climber than that but somehow thought he had to take special measures to make it a climb. It was really upsetting to basically everyone once we all got up on it. Fortunately he kept his holdmaking down to a dull roar and knew it was really an unpopular tangent of his. Freestone is probably the most notorious of his "creations"--- a crack was widened by pinning the crap out of it for quite some time so tips could go in up there. And this silly activity was shared by others, leading to Jardine's Ice Traverse of the Nose.

There was an incredible amount of hyperbole surrounding New Dimensions, especially before the whole route was done--- it was done in pieces at first. Looking back it is actually quite funny. Quite a few climbers could have lead that pitch quite reasonably back then but the Bad JuJu was just over the top!

The first pitch was supposed to be insane 5.11, was nearly impossible yah-dee-yah-dee-yah and right away it became known as medium 5.10 and that only in the last bit at the top, to the tree. Lloyd had been on it and had come back screeching about its difficulty. Overall, group had been scaring themselves with ghost stories, really. This happens a lot.

The last pitch is really a classic beautiful dihedral crack problem, has some natural knobs and other edges in it. I remember the dihedral twists a little, like a plant. It builds and builds slowly as you ascend it. What is it from the belay stance, maybe 80 feet long?? Some good locks, some off-finger issues too. The tendency is to get tunnel vision leading it, thinking the bastard is going to eat you alive and that the winning approach is to gun up the crack--- this is before you realize that there is the inobvious semi-thank god handhold up and right from the actual crack just below that exact top as the crack gets really tight. And to stabilize those last two or so moves, isn’t there “The Foothold” ? It is not much and it looks enhanced as I recall. But only slightly. And very reminiscent of Gripper’s handiwork, certainly. "Rockfall did it". So I guess I am saying although JB and I never discussed if he resorted to "male enhancement" up there, it looks like it, wasn't required if it was, and was looking this way within a year or so of the FFA...and holdmaking was not one of Wunsch's nor Barry's pastimes, and very very few climbers came before me.

I suppose if you were going to do laps on the thing as so many have, avoiding the exit-right move and just staying in the crack, that would be a good exercise especially since after awhile it is hard to get a pump on the thing, so much of it is actually mental. What you suspect John Dill was up to that day.

Social climber
Apr 12, 2009 - 05:14pm PT
Peter, Pat, Largo, Al Dude, JB, et al:
A hearty hello to all. About the chipped hold John Dill referenced: I always thought it was that face hold that magically appears at the crux of the first pitch (the overlap) If I remember right it was sort of a horizontal crack that looked like a section had been knocked out creating a nice face hold just where you need it. A classic and well thought out thank Bridwell hold. As mentioned by others this pitch was originally thought to be 5.11 which might explain why Jim felt it necessary to chip here. I don't recall ever seeing any chipped holds on the last pitch. It seems unlikely that Jim would have chipped here as he and Mark didn't free it. As Peter mentioned neither Steve nor Barry were into this. Why Jim felt so inclined to chip always baffled me. He was,as Peter said, more talented than that. However, he was always an outside of the box sort of thinker. He did revolutionize aid climbing by introducing chipping here as well. It was in the form of using a cold chisel to create/enhance copperhead placements. I always wondered if that bumb of a foothold on the right hand wall of Waverly Wafer where one can get the no hands rest before launching into the lieback was enhanced. Rik Rieder did what I believe was the third ascent of New D with Jardine in the fall of 1972. This ascent was also the first all nut ascent. I would think Rik flashed the last pitch as well. Rik, as all who climbed with him that year can attest, was an outstanding climber. He had perfect technique, he was bold as well as principled. He was easily climbing as well or better than anyone in the Valley that fall. I remember how impressed Jardine was with his climbing on their ascent. I seem to remember him telling me how Rik climbed up to some fixed pin on the last pitch and calmly tapped it with his finger attempting to assess by the tone it made whether it was any good prior to clipping it. I would love to hear Rik or Ray's thoughts and memories. Rik and I earlier in the year also climbed the Center route of the Slack and the Swan Slab aid route (the latter along with Dale Bard). When we did the Slack I am vitually certain the block Pat mentions was still in the route. It was a big spike that had rappel slings on it. It didn't seem like 5.11. It certainly wasn't as hard as the last pitch of New D which I probably wasn't capable of climbing at the time. I remember there being some bouldery thin moves off the ground. I did it in Robbins boots. The Swan Slab aid route definitely seemed like 5.11. It was a short bouldery thing involving making a long reach with your left while pressing out a shallow pin scar with your right hand. At the time Rik led it, it didn't have the bolt that's there now. He took an awkward ground fall or two on it before getting it. Pat, I don't believe people doubt the validity of some of these early test pieces, its more a case of history and time sorting things out. Often times it takes a number of ascents before a climbs true rating and place in history become apparent. This works both ways of course. Both Donini's Overhang Overpass and Kevin's first pitch of Birchef Williams were perhaps, initially, conservatively rated and now deserve stiffer grades. New D's 5.11 rating has stood the test of time. It involves endurance, sound and varied crack climbing skills, and the crux comes after several hundred feet of challenging climbing. The Swan Slab aid route, though not an endurance problem still deserves its 5.11 rating. For whatever reason the Center Route of the Slack's grade just didn't hold up. This of course doesn't reflect negatively on your ascent which was still cutting edge for the day.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Apr 12, 2009 - 05:48pm PT
That was good Mark, really. And also your comments on Rik Rieder. He really was a great guy and climber. After his accident on the Pacific Ocean FA attempt, did he eventually resume climbing? I am thinking not.

Warbler's Bircheff-Williams was a GREAT route and very very creative achievement of his! And clearly 5.11. Really incredibly cool. Never got over to Overhang Overpass though.

best to you, ph.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 12, 2009 - 06:04pm PT
Thanks for the clarification Peter and Mark!

THE FOOTHOLD on the crux pitch is a nice little crescent right where the crack size hits off hands. Just like the hold on the second pitch of Outer Limits right where the traverse starts.It could be natural but the surrounding stone is mighty smooth.

The last pitch starts off nice hands in a tight corner. The crack narrows and the dihedral opens wider as you climb. Cams would make ND much easier than what the early parties faced.

It was my first breakthrough into 5.11 and I got all of that route with my poor technique. Almost pitched off the finish buckets because I was soooooo pumped! It was Fig's first 5.11 too!
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Apr 13, 2009 - 12:06am PT
Mark, lots of good thoughts. I have my doubts,
first of all, for various reasons I won't go into now,
but very real reasons, that the Swan Slab
thing was even done, although I had heard stories
later about the attempts and so forth, but as for you experience
with Center Slack, vs. New Dimensions, my experience
was the opposite. John Bachar and I climbed New
Dimensions one day in the early 1970's two or three
years after it had been done by Bates, and I found it quite
solid and straightforward. I was willing to give that
last pitch a 5.11 grading, but it was nowhere as difficult
for me as the Center Slack. John said to me he hadn't seen
anyone climb ND that solidly, so I think I did it in adequate
style. It really surprised me when I grabbed the
bucket at the top. I was thinking there was going to be
much more ahead. Anyway, when you mention the big spike
with the slings around it, on the Slack, you're talking
about the big spike right at the top of the route that
everyone lowered off. The block that came out was lower,
and believe me you would have found it much more difficult
right there than the "bouldery moves" at the bottom. Now
all the route has is those bouldery moves at the bottom,
as your description so clearly elucidates,
and the crux has good hand jams. So I reasonably assume
you did it after the block in question came out, and your
memory is of the other big block just above,
beyond the difficulty.

I have done enough 5.11 in my day, and plenty of them in
Yosemite and elsewhere, to know what 5.11 is. I can easily
see how Slack Center could be viewed as 5.10c now, as it is,
with its changes, but the original pitch stopped all the
best in the area at the time. And if I recall, no time passed
before the block went missing. But having done both
New Dimensions and Center Slack, the latter is/was
the more difficult technically, while of course, ND
was the grand, lovely crack climb of superb quality
and length. I guess one of the
questions is whether we want to grant people an achievement
if, by some gross change, it no longer exists. We tend to
forget what the times were back then, few now can remember that
consciousness, those shoes, that gear, and other factors...
I've had John B., John L., Tom H., among others say they feel
it was the first 5.11, so I am not alone certainly in that
thought... Bates would tell you what he thinks as well,
and I would trust that. I'm not sure where the idea
comes from, though, that the grading didn't stand
the test of time. It was something else
that didn't stand the test of time, I guess -- not the
strength of the climbers but maybe the strength of the rock?
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Apr 13, 2009 - 01:14am PT
I remember bouldering and climbing with
Rick Reider in Boulder several times in the
late 1980's and early 1990's. He read a draft of
one of my books and came to my door one night
weeping, said he loved the book. He struck
me as one of the most beautiful and sensitive
spirits I had ever met, rich in honest and
powerful feeling. He also was bouldering
very impressively, simply walked up Smith Overhang
on Flagstaff, and I think that was his first try.
Then he vanished, and I married and moved from Boulder.
I would love to see him again, if he might be
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 13, 2009 - 10:13am PT
What's in a grade? A route by any other number would still smell as sweet!
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Apr 14, 2009 - 12:05am PT
Well, Steve, it all has to do with the history
of New Dimensions and the claim by some that
it was the first 5.11. It's a small detail of
the whole history, but worth getting right. There
are plenty of mediocre and/or lousy stewards of
the history, especially those who remember
something someone did or said and that someone
they can't remember now told them at some point
they can't right now recall, or maybe they read
it somewhere, but..., and another kind of bad
steward is the person who is biased, always
favoring their own friends or people of their
own region, and in their minds lessening or
altogether dismissing those not of that crowd.
I hope some of these discussions
can inspire more accurate thought on these various
subjects... not just about my climb, and it should
begin with those who were
actually there, or if there are no longer such people
then those who were close to being there and
were devoted to preserving the history as accurately
as possible...

Trad climber
Apr 14, 2009 - 12:39am PT
You've got access to the archives, isn't there a picture of Mead Hargis climbing the last pitch of New D in RR's? That would be an impressive feat today with cams!

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Apr 14, 2009 - 12:56am PT
I remember doing the Center Route of the Slack either in 71 or 72 with Werner and Luke Freeman. I don't think there was any doubt that it was 5.11 back then. I'm sure people nailed it for another few seasons, widening the locks, plus the block came out (similar to what happened on Right Eliminator at Ft. Collins - which got way easier after a hold broke) creating a big hold. We used to do Slack Center almost every time we passed by, finally just soloing up to a fixed pin up about 20 feet and lowering off on a trail line instead of bothering with the rest of the route.

I suspect the problem some have is that Slack Center was basically a two or three body-length boulder problem just off the deck (after which the difficulties ease dramatically), whereas the other routes mentioned were multi-pitch and don't really compare.

Some folks consider the mantle on the DNB to be 5.11, and that was done in '65. I've heard others say that Twilight Zone is 5.11a and that was done in, what, '68? Perhaps the first no-question-about-it 5.11 was Abstract Corner, done in '71. Or Hourglass Left, in '70.

I don't really know, but it's all interesting to consider so long as things don't get too serious.

One last question - did Lloyd Price actually free that pin hole start to Swan Slab? I know Rik Reider did it around '72 and it was quite hard with bunk pro - basically you had to solo the botom crux before a bolt got added. It had a nasty ankle wrenching fall you basically had to take a few times to get the ultra greasy moves sessed out. Later, Bachar used to free solo the whole route, including the 2nd pitch, which was also hard.

Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Apr 14, 2009 - 01:10am PT
By modern standards, I wonder what the first 5.11s in the Valley, in the U.S., and the world were? That is, if a route was newly ascended now, in its present condition, and with modern equipment - there's no way to roll back the clock. But we can certainly assess how things would be graded now.

Another interesting thought-experiment. If climbs were in their original state, and if climbers had similar equipment to what was used when they were first freed, what were the first 5.11s? Wales or the Peak District in the 1950s? Colorado or Utah in the mid-1960s? Shawangunks or Yosemite in the late 1960s? Or sometime earlier in the Elbe region or the Dolomites?

It's all pretty subjective, so fertile ground for discussion.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 14, 2009 - 01:20am PT

> I remember doing the Center Route of the Slack either in 71 or 72 with Werner and Luke Freeman. I don't think there was any doubt that it was 5.11 back then. I'm sure people nailed it for another few seasons, widening the locks, plus the block came out ...

From Pat's description here and elsewhere, somebody pried the block out very soon after his FFA in 1967 - so perhaps in 1967 or 1968. I know those handjams where the block used to be are now the end of the hard climbing.

> I suspect the problem some have is that Slack Center was basically a two or three body-length boulder problem just off the deck (after which the difficulties ease dramatically), whereas the other routes mentioned were multi-pitch and don't really compare.

It's true that cruxes near the ground tend to be downrated. But Swan Slab Aid Route is very comparable with Slack Center, in terms of its crux down low. Swan Slab was not listed in the 1971 Roper Guide as a free climb, but Bridwell's 1973 Brave New World article listed it as 5.10D
and in the 1982 Meyers guide it was given 5.11a (FFA 1967).
Of course ratings changed a bit between Brave New World and the Meyers guide, so I don't take BNW as fully accurate; just a sample.

> Some folks consider the mantle on the DNB to be 5.11
Only in the supertopo guide, I think. :-) It would be 5.11 if you try to face climb around it, but not if you just mantle.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 14, 2009 - 01:26am PT

The first 5.11s in the world were probably not in Yosemite. Pat's book is a good place to get a good feel for this. My very abbreviated list has them as boulder problems, then as climbs at the Gunks and Devil's Lake:

7C (5.13d, V9) 1959 Red Cross Overhang (original dynamic style) Jenny Lake, Tetons John Gill (maybe too short to be considered (3-4 moves))
7A (5.12c, V5) 1961 Thimble, North Face Needles (SD) John Gill (30' high)
6c+ (5.11) 1964 (V2 bouldering?)? Shawangunks (NY) Larsen, Williams
6c+ (5.11) 1965 Son of Great Chimney Devil's Lake (WI) Pete Cleveland

Actually this list is rather poor - I don't even have the name of the first Gunks 5.11 route (or was it bouldering?). Doug's Roof? And I don't have a copy of Pat's book on hand.

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Apr 14, 2009 - 12:11pm PT
My posts were specifically about 5.11 in Yosemite. No question about it, Chingadera at Tahquitz was 5.11 (Kamps and Powell) and that was done in 1966. I'm sure other 5.11s were around before then.


Social climber
Apr 14, 2009 - 12:30pm PT
Howdy Largo,
I am sure there were other 5.11s around as well. I think some of the early 5.11s Bridwell did in the Valley were done before New D as well. My point is that I think New D (more than any other route)in the seventies was the benchmark 5.11 by which a Yosemite climber measured his ability. If you could climb New D you were a legitimate 5.11 climber, one who more than likely worked his way up through the grades (figure a number of Bate's classic 5.10s were ticked along the way) and had a good solid foundation in crack climbing. One needed skills in everything from finger locks, to off hands and flaring chimneys as well.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Apr 14, 2009 - 01:01pm PT
I never thought that the specific subject of the first 5.11 in the Valley was ever an issue or contentious. In Roper’s Green guide both The Slack and Serenity are listed as 5.11. Of course with the loss of both of those routes as originally done by Pat and Tom, and Bridwell believing that New Dimensions was 5.11 A1, most casual history buffs think the first 5.11 was New Dimensions as freed by Barry and Steve. But there is no sinister intent in that as far as I have ever heard. It is based on current ratings with the changes in the rock on Slack and Serenity and the current rating of New Dimensions.

Other than Pat and Tom, I don’t think I have every spoken to anyone who climbed their routes in the original conditions. I have to believe Jim did, but I have never asked him.

In any case, notwithstanding my sense that the first 5.11 was more or less a settled deal--The Slack in 1967 by Pat--it still remains a contentious issue because Pat feels strongly that his place in Valley history has been diminished because the first 5.11 is not front and center in Valley history. (While I agree with Mark’s comments above, they do not sit well with Pat.) I am sympathetic to Pat’s issue but I don’t think there is much to be done about how much importance history will place on it--we won't be around to vote, and nobody can do the original routes. Nevertheless, at least on ST, we can lay it out for everyone.

Pat’s write up in A History of Free Climbing in America sums it up very well I think:

“Late summer or early fall 1967. Pat Ament and Larry Dalke made the first free ascent of the Center Route on the Slack, 5.11, a short climb along the base of El Capitan in Yosemite.

“This was Yosemite’s first 5.11. The route later would be altered (a block pulled out, leaving a couple of solid hand jams instead of finger-tip jams), decreasing the difficulty. Some climbers then suggested a lower grade of 5.10 c or d, while other climbers felt it should retain its 5.11 grading. According to John Long, ‘1 climbed it after the block pulled out and thought it was still 5.11.” (Personal correspondence.) Ament:

“I took a 2-inch fail above the crux, when a block I was standing on shifted out of the crack an inch and caused my foot to slip off. I had just clipped into a piton above my head, and when the block shifted I was instantly stopped by the rope. I returned to the ground, removed my rope, and did the climb again—taking more care with the little block. Chuck Pratt gave the Center Route on the Slack its grade of 5.11 —and called it the first in Yosemite. It was not an untested route. Royal had tried it, as had several other Yosemite veterans. Bob Kamps and Yvon Chouinard, 1 believe, were among those. They were probably all better climbers than I was, for the most part, but at that time in my life I was very fit and determined and had been doing a lot of bouldering. This was a very small climb, really, but technically speaking it was indeed the first 5.11 in Yosemite.”

Pat and I exchanged a series of e-mails on this topic a few years ago (totally 23 pages when printed. Can you believe that?). It came up when I referred to the period between 1967 and 1970 as the ‘lull,’ in which not much happened in the Valley. While that statement is true for my what-came-next view of the history of the Valley free climbing, it is offensive if your most important climb is in that period, as is the case with Pat.

It matters a lot to Pat that The Slack Center was the first 5.11 in the Valley, and I think we should respect that.

I accept that Pat did the first 5.11 because there is no good reason to think otherwise. Tom’s Serenity was the second 5.11, also done in 1967. Both are rated 5.11 in Roper’s Green Guide. And somewhere in the 1967 season, Lloyd is credited with climbing the Swan Slab Aid Route all free in the Meyer’s guide. This didn’t get rated 5.11 until the mid-70s guide came out, and Pat and John both seem to question if Lloyd actually did the route in posts up-thread. (I do not remember anything about the Swan Slab Aid Route.)

When taken together, these routes have a bizarre place in Valley history. Sort of like the Valley climbing god—think Nike--deciding that 5.11 couldn’t start yet. Even New Dimensions, with Jim’s belief that it was 5.11 A1 and then not going back himself to free the last pitch after Mark swung off, adds to the bizarreness of sorting out the first 5.11s in the Valley.

All three 1967 routes were aid climbs originally and continued to be aid climbed after they were free climbed. Serenity got easier due to pin damage. I don’t know anything about the details of the first ascent of Swan Slab, but Lloyd apparently didn’t rate it 5.11 (for sure, Jim didn’t in his Brave New World article). If the climb was free climbed by 1971, Roper didn’t even know about it to include it in his green guide. And a loose block filling good hand jams came out of The Slack.

The odd bit about The Slack is that the block that was filling the good hand jams was loose when Pat led the pitch—according to Pat—so it is hard to see that the block would have stayed in for long. Either the winter weather would have pushed it out or someone, either an aid climber or a free climber, would have pried it out when they too discovered it was loose. I think most of us would have pried the thing out and reclimbed the pitch as a normal part of doing a first free ascent. Maybe Pat can tell us why he didn’t or couldn’t. This doesn’t say anything about how hard the pitch would have been in 1967 if Pat had pulled it out since folks continued to nail it after Pat free climbed it.

My own view of tracing the history of climbing in the Valley is the numbers are only a part, and sometimes a small part, of the engine of Valley climbing progression; some times they help and sometimes they don’t. What I think matters most is tracing the climbs that caused other climbers, sometimes the next generation of climbers, to try things that were not previously tried. (This is the same point Mark makes and the reason that New Dimensions was so important in the development of the wave of hard free climbing in the 70s.) Pat objects to this approach (strenuously so) to the extent that it leaves out The Slack since it was milestone of the first Valley 5.11.

I think there are different ways to account for the history, but the numbers are interesting to me only to the extent that they affect the way climbing progresses. A case in point is the history of the first 5.10 in the Valley which points out the issues that come into play in trying to balance the relationship of the first to reach a number versus the impact on climbing progression.

The original ‘history’ was that Pratt's Crack of Doom, climbed in 1961, was the first 5.10. The current ‘history’ is that Robbins' Rixon's, climbed in 1960, was the first 5.10. Both histories are Roper’s. If the interest in establishing the first 5.10 is focused on what happened next, most of us would say Doom is much more important than Rixon's. I cannot tell in Pat’s write up in his Free Climbing History of Rixon’s if the layback is 5.10 or ‘just’ scary, hard 5.9—Pat just says that the layback is easier than the off-width. Royal rated Rixon’s 5.9 as a layback but that doesn’t mean much since first ascent rating are reassessed as others climb the route. If it is ‘just’ scary, hard 5.9 (odd sounding, isn’t it?) as a layback, then, frankly, I cannot quite figure out how Royal’s Rixon's was the first 5.10. (Now that would be heretical!) I have never heard who first climbed Rixon’s as an off-width.

If an early 60s climber wanting to reach or surpass the newly minted 5.10s in the Valley by the two best free climbers he or she could climb Doom with its committing off-width or you climb Rixon’s which was, perversely, more committing to climb as a 5.9 unprotected layback as Royal had done than as a 5.10 off-width.

Pointing out these details is sort of fun but also points out how murky it can be to assign historical importance based on the numbers. (As an aside, I think the way Pat sums up the first free ascent of The Slack in his History of Free Climbing write-up sets the right balance.) And for sure the details of the first 5.10 in the Valley don’t have any direct relationship to thinking about the first 5.11 in the Valley. More importantly in my mind, neither Royal’s nor Chuck’s position in Valley history is affected by sorting out the first 5.10, whereas in the case of the Slack keeping its place in the history as the fist 5.11 is very important to maintaining Pat’s place in Valley history.

The real difficulty in keeping the Slack and Serenity in the minds of young climbers, even in 1970, as test pieces was that repeating them was only possible for a relatively short period. This was even more difficult given that for the next couple of seasons after both The Slack and Serenity were first free climbed, the period of 1967 – 1970, there were relatively few new climbers or new routes: the 60s climbers were past their primes or had moved on and the younger climbers of the 1970s had not shown up yet. By the time those younger climbers did show up the 5.11 status of both of these routes was lost. (I know that John thinks that the Slack was still 5.11 into the 70s, but the consensus was that it was ‘just’ hard 5.10 after the block came out. There is no coterie of climbers who have done the routes in their original condition the way there is, in say New Dimensions in this thread or The Good Book which cannot be safely climbed nowadays.

This doesn’t change either route’s original status as 5.11, but it surely affects what young climbers now know or care about. They cannot go do the climbs as done by Pat and Tom, nobody is around to talk about the routes, and the guide books don’t include the history—how many young climbers have or use the Roper’s Green Guide? For New Dimensions the original climb is still there, and while Jim honestly thought that some part of the lower pitches was 5.11 (he otherwise would not have rated the climb 5.11 A1) anyone who wants to can go see for them selves.

I will end by repeating that I continue to think Valley history should clearly state that The Slack was the first 5.11, as it was stated by Roper in his Green Guide, and that it was downrated to 5.10 after a loose block either fell out or was pried out.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Apr 14, 2009 - 01:16pm PT
Thanks, Pat and Roger! Historiography and its application to climbing is a fascinating subject. Anyone writing about climbing history soon runs into this - first when getting the facts straight (so far as is possible), then when trying to interpret them, and put them into some sort of context or perspective. All while knowing that a truly objective history of anything is a goal not easily attained, given that we're all subjective.

I did the start of Slack Centre in 1976. Less than ten metres of climbing, to some slings wrapped around the base of a big flake protruding from the crack. By then, that part of the climb was essentially pulling up on pin scars, with one or two tricky moves. It may have seemed a little easier, at least mentally, because it was right off the ground. I did Serenity about the same time. The first part of the first pitch was very scarred, but the third (crux) pitch wasn't so bad. I wonder if there are pictures of the third pitch from 1967 and then from the early 1970s? May be interesting to compare. By the mid 1970s it was graded 5.10d, but whether that was due to scarring, or equipment/technique improvements (EBs, nuts), or both, I can't say.

Gym climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Apr 14, 2009 - 01:43pm PT
New D chipped?

I don't think the last pitch is chipped. Maybe some other pitch is chipped but I never noticed that either.

I suppose there is minimal pin scarring on the last moves of the last pitch but they are not that noticeable in my recollection.

Just for the record....jb


I never got the feeling that the rest foothold was chipped either - always looked natural to me.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 14, 2009 - 05:20pm PT
I don't like the notion a that any of it has been chipped but the clarification of events possible here might just put the matter to bed.

Gym climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Apr 14, 2009 - 05:56pm PT
I agree with Warbler - there's no chipping on the last pitch. That rest foothold is natural and it's not even near the crux anyway.

Chapman's right about New Dimensions being the first "gold standard" Yosemite 5.11 of the day. The other candidates were too short or too close to the ground....

Some kook with sticky rubber and a chalkbag...


Trad climber
Mental Physics........
Apr 15, 2009 - 12:08am PT
Ironically I read this great thread last night before going to bed. Then, in the early hours of the morning I ended up dreaming that I was free soloing New Dimensions and found myself hanging by my tips, in a place I did not want to be, with no way out.

Luckily, it was at that instant I woke up.

I'm sure glad I/we had hexes and stoppers when we first did this ultra classic in 78' and surely your solo of it Bachar, was a giant turning point for all of us!
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Apr 15, 2009 - 12:09am PT
So many good thoughts. I appreciate everyone's

Let me say first that I had a strange feeling
when someone said New Dimensions was chipped. When
I did that route with Bachar I saw no chipped holds,
and especially not that little key rest hold out to
the right, the one that lets you get refocused before the
last moves. I was glad to hear John B. chime in on
that, as I share his opinion. My personal
experience with Bridwell was that
he was of high integrity, though no one is perfect.
I climbed with him quite a bit, and it is beyond me
to imagine he chipped, but people say he did. It must
have been on rare occasion in his youthful enthusiasm.
We all had that disease. He did a few wierd things,
as did we all, for example when he rappelled from above
to set the chockstone on Owl Roof, fixed a sling on
it, then complained when Higgins happened to show
up and use it. But that was more comical than
offensive. Anyway...

I really appreciate your comments Roger. Maybe my
persistence about what Tom and I did back then has finally
worn you down a little (I hope). Several points, though.
You kind of make it sound as though I am obsessed
with my place in history. Well I think it might be
human nature for each of us to want to know we made
some little contribution and that others won't for
some petty reason or jealousy or bias strip us of those
things... so small and few as they be. But they were
big back then. You have to remember in the mid 1960's
5.11 was way out on the fringe, beyond what
all the best climbers were doing, in essence. Pratt
was better than all of us at off-width cracks, in part
because he had the perfect body, wide shoulders, thin
chest, and he quickly recognized he had a flare for those
things (no pun intended). But what impressed me was how
well people such as Sacherer, Pratt, Robbins, Kamps, and
Higgins climbed when they weren't gymnasts and didn't
train other than in basic, specific ways. Most of them
only did the usual pull-ups and maybe a few weights,
specific to climbing. Because I did Center Slack, I had
no illusions of being better than those heroes of mine.
Nor do I view that as the case, when I envision the history.
I admired all of them. Remember also that I had done
quite a few climbs rated 5.11 in Colorado during the
two-three year period prior to 1967. Royal was the
real spearhead.

Royal was in his best shape ever when he visited Colorado
in 1964 and took me under his wing. He led onsight
Final Exam in 1964, and rated it 5.10, a climb
no one now doubts is solid 5.11, though a short climb.
He and I also did a classic 5-pitch route, Athlete's
Feat that August of '64, the first pitch of which is
now rated 5.11 (and it now has a bolt, whereas Royal led
it unprotected, looking at a nasty ground fall). So
there were a couple of 5.11 routes in Colorado done
by a master Yosemite climber. I guess it was only right
that I do a 5.11 in his land (though that was never
my idea at the time... I only saw the pitch and had a
desire to climb it).

I can't honestly say exactly when the block on Center
Slack was pulled out. I have used words such as "quickly,"
or "soon after," but really that can be very relative.
In retrospect it feels as though it
happened quickly, but it could have been a couple or
few years later. Mark C.'s description of it sounds as though
already the block was missing when he did it.

I have never questioned the superior length and beauty
of New Dimensions, or that it might be some kind of
"gold standard." I certainly found it to be lovely and
elegant. Before I climbed it with Bachar, a year earlier
I was in the Valley with Breashears, and one evening
we went down and, almost in the dark, did the first pitch.
I found it to be about 5.10a or b. As I have said,
I later found that last pitch to be definitely
easier for me than the original Slack. Who cares if
the Center Slack is short? It's about one step above
a boulder problem, but imagine if you came across that
original pitch two or three pitches up.

About the block on Center Slack. I have wondered
if someone pried it out, and that could be my
paranoia acting up. I have also said I don't know
if it came out that way or simply fell out by
itself. The strange thing is that it felt very solid
when you were just getting to it and going up past it.
The block being there created two finger-tip cracks on
either side of it, and I mean lousy things
that were really difficult to hold onto. Some really
tough moves through there, in a half lieback, and then you
could reach the flat finger hold formed by the top
of the block. With some footwork, the difficulty was
then over. It was easy now to move up and get standing
on that flat spot at the top of the block. It was here
I discovered the block was loose, as it shifted an inch
suddenly out of the crack. It moved by itself back
into position, though, as if spring-loaded or something
or possible functioning on some kind of fulcrum inside.
I went back a short time later, maybe a season or two,
and led it again, and it was still pretty darn hard.
And I knew then the block was loose. But you would never
suspect it was loose, as it was flush with the wall, unless
you knew by having had it shift out. When I returned later,
and I can't remember when, but in the early '70s sometime,
the block was gone, and the whole difficulty was gone.
All that was left were those "bouldery moves" at the
bottom up to the hand jams that now were/are there,
and it was a whole different climb. Then again,
though, someone as experienced as
John Long can understand that even those bouldery moves
at the bottom, if encountered high up somewhere, might
still be minimal 5.11. And 5.11 was pretty easy for John
in his day. I mean it didn't slow him down too much,
so I can imagine why he might think that.

We can downrate a lot of climbs based on their difficulty
being at an isolated place near the ground. One could
possibly downrate Crack a Go Go, for example, based on
the idea that, as I found, the toughest part was
right off the ground, and awkward
and strenuous (not as difficult, by any means, as the
original Slack). I personally like to give the benefit
of the doubt and give the grade of a section of rock based
on wherever it would happen on a climb. Obviously some
things would be much harder higher up. John, though, is
generous and respectful, virtues for which I admire him
more and more as I get to know him.

By the way, though, John (Largo), Chingadera was done in
Febuary '67, and not '66.

I could spend a whole while in a discussion about, was
it Clint's? commentary about the first 5.11s in the country?
We can pretty well assume Red Cross Rock, for example, is
a boulder, ironically also something that was chipped
into submission, i.e. changed. There are lots of
horrendous boulder problems all over the country, even
in strange places such as Utah, i.e. Greg Lowe, and a
few things even I did on Flagstaff, or all those
things in the Gunks and at Devil's Lake. Lots to discuss
there, that I will save for another tirade.

Another commentary I'll leave alone for now is the Swan
Slab thing, only to say that I am virtually confident we
can remove that one from contention, as among the first 5.11s.

Thanks again to Mark Chapman, Kevin, John B, and John L.,
and Roger, and others for being patient. I do care about the
history, and it's not because I demand my place in it. I
happen to care just as much about the achievements of
everyone else, and it bothers me when I forget even a small
detail of the significant story. That's why I plan to
improve my History of Free Climbing and continue to polish it,
with everyone's help... I also try to be objective. I will
not shortchange someone because I think something negative
about them or something they did.

Monument Manor
Apr 15, 2009 - 03:40pm PT
You can dismiss anything YOU want.....the book says your wrong!

Apr 15, 2009 - 04:16pm PT
Arguing about the first 5.11 is like arguing about the first v3. Kinda pointless, isn't it?
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Apr 16, 2009 - 04:45pm PT
First of all I don't think anyone has been
arguing. It feels more like civilized people
having a few civilized reflections about a time
long gone but that remains precious in memory.
And the discussion has been specific to the Valley
and has been about the whole world, although a few
have tried to open the discussion to that bigger view.

If I accurately interpret the tone of the last comment,
it might indeed seem, by today's high standards,
that 5.11 is almost beneath us to talk about
anymore. In fact, though, everything is relative
to its day. 5.11 was as significant way back then
than the tough pitches are today. You have to
remember that was a time when 5.11 was out there
almost beyond the ability of the best of the best.
Just as the four-minute mile was a breakthrough point
for runners. Can we in any way belittle that achievement
of first running a mile under 4 minutes. Heck, I can
hardly drive it that fast, even now.

There weren't millions of climbers back in the
golden age. No one trained
in gyms or developed high-tech training regimes.
There were a few, such as Gill, Goldstone, or myself, who were
gymnasts and trained, but often in ways not necessarily
conducive to climbing. Even as a gymnast I was never
all that strong. Most other climbers did the
usual pull-ups to get back in shape a little, then
trained on the rock. No one back then started when they
are five years old, the way many do today.

It's hard for today's climbers to realize exactly what 5.11
might have been like with lousy climbing shoes, i.e.
none of the current rubber that almost glues itself
to rock, or how much more difficult it would be, say,
to lead New Dimensions with a clumsy, heavy rack of
pitons, and how hard it would be to get in and take
out those pitons, as opposed to the enormous
modern convenience of Friends. New Dimensions was
a substantial achievement, even considering that it
wasn't originally done all free.

The general progression
of consciousness is always such that we start at
a certain level, and each new breakthrough is one
of the building blocks for tomorrow. Those little blocks
each has a place. Take one away, and, well, maybe the
whole tower comes crashing down. I suppose I'm getting too
metaphorical, but in my way of thinking all of these
little obscure things in the past are important and
should be properly valued, even some 5.8 or 5.9 done
by Mark Powell or some fundamentally unknown climb
somewhere by one or another of our past heroes.

As for "v3," I'm sure people were bouldering at that
level long before 5.11 became the top of the standard.
There have been phenomenal boulderers all around the
country, in the Gunks, at Devil's Lake, of course Gill,
and Greg Lowe, even a few in Colorado... I hope you're
not making a comparison between v3 and 5.11, but if you
are, well, then I probably don't understand the v system.
Anyway I can't imagine anyone could make a claim to the
first v3, as that would be too vague, whereas the talk
about 5.11 is relatively specific...

Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Apr 16, 2009 - 04:48pm PT
I was going to mention also, John (Largo)
that Kamps' Chingadera, which you mention,
does in fact pre-date the Valley 5.11s,
so it would be one of the early 5.11s in California.
Powell told me not long ago that really good
climbers found it almost impossible to clip that
bolt Kamps placed on Chingadera much less find a
way to stand there in balance and hand-drill it
(with a hammer). Kamps was a mighty talent, as
was his right-hand man Dave Rearick.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Apr 16, 2009 - 05:01pm PT
Sorry about all these posts. I just
remembered I wanted to say something
about the East Chimney of Rixon's. That was
a bizarre fluke, when Royal went up there.
He was really full of adrenaline and
maybe even a little crazed. He started out
be leading straight up the crack to the
left and promptly, after about 15 or 20 feet
(maybe more, I'd have to check my notes)
fell straight to the ground, miraculously
landing on his feet and not hurting himself.
Hardly taking time to brush himself off,
he turned to the right-hand crack and
began the infamous lieback up it. That he
called it 5.9 originally, well, that was
the top of the standard then, so it was an
accurate rating. But as we began to fine-tune
the gradings, it was clear this pitch was a whole
ball park more difficult than all 5.9s and many
5.10 routes. Try going up there and liebacking that.
Royal's brilliance really shines through, in
retrospect, also his luck! He seemed to hit the
one place where you can suddenly turn out of that
lieback and pull into the squeeze chimney above.
But no one "in their right mind" (I say with
tongue in cheek) would do it that way or even
want to try it that way. The off-width
alternative is really plenty hard. I've done it
several times, once with Higgins, and it's
substantially harder than anything on Crack of Doom.
Yes it's only that one obscure pitch, and the
Crack of Doom rises up the whole side of Elephant
Rock, but there are no particularly beautiful or
aesthetic pitches on Doom. The second is the beauty,
if there is one, a pretty solid squeeze chimney
where you overhang your belayer, with no protection
for about 50 feet. Unless you don't know how to
do those kinds of cracks, you wouldn't fall out of it,
though. The first pitch is a painful handjam,
the third is a deep chimney ending with a tight
squeeze like the Narrows on Sentinel, and the final
pitch is just a short wall between two ledges, with a
finger crack up it. A few tough moves there, which
are the crux of the whole climb, and it's over. But
it's not a climb that strikes you as gorgeous as many
other climbs of similar length do, such as New Dimensions.
Dome is more aesthetic-looking from a distance. It's
quite striking when viewed from the other side of the
Valley. For when Pratt and Mort did that climb,
though, shortly after Royal's East Chimney, it
was a real feat by comparison to much of what was being done.

Apr 16, 2009 - 05:03pm PT
Pat, why write off the Swan Slab 5.11?
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Apr 17, 2009 - 02:32am PT
I could do something like a thesis
on that subject, and I was there
and remember a lot about all that,
but even though there is lots to talk about
I just am not in the mood, because right
now it just doesn't interest me
and would probably only degrade the
discussions and stray probably too
far from the general subjects at
hand. Another place, another time.

Apr 17, 2009 - 04:10pm PT
I thought the subject was 1st 5.11 in the valley. You wrote Lloyd Price out, gave yourself credit, but now its off limits? pfffft.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Apr 17, 2009 - 11:57pm PT
You seem to be in a mood to contend,
and maybe you'd do better to focus
your energy on someone else, or some
other topic, because as I see it
it's not about writing anyone off
or giving myself credit. It's about
discussing to the best of our
abilities historical tidbits that
were significant to a few of us
who were there and who still care, and
others have said up-thread, above, pretty much
in subtle ways what needed to be
said about Swan Slab without in fact
saying anything mean at all. The last
person I would ever write off
is Lloyd. That's not what's happening.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 19, 2009 - 12:21pm PT
Back to the crux...

From Roper's Camp 4.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Apr 20, 2009 - 08:13am PT
And of course Jim lived in the Valley, and lived
climbing truly, but those
numbers don't seem right. How could he have
done only 4 5.10 first ascents in 1970, and only 8
first ascents total for the year 1970? I would have
thought he was doing that many a week.

Sport climber
Lexington, KY
Apr 20, 2009 - 10:24am PT
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Apr 20, 2009 - 11:48am PT
I think Steve's (Ropers) numbers are correct, but I would disagree with his summary of the 1970 season.

In 1970 I count 64 new routes (using Ed's data base).

Of these 64, 49 were all free routes (I include New Dimensions even though it was not all free).

Of these 49, 15 were 5.10.

Of these 15, 12 included Jim Bridwell, and/or Barry Bates and/or Mark Klemens, in all pairs.

For the year, Jim had 8 FA, 4 of which were 5.10
Barry had 7 FA, of which 4 were 5.10
Mark had 13 FA of which 8 were 5.10.

The next year, in 1971, Jim got busy: the writing was on the wall. Of the 53 all free first ascents that year, 34 were 5.10 or 5.11. Of those 34, Jim was on 12. Jim, Barry, and Mark were on 19 of the 34.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 22, 2009 - 11:07am PT
I wonder if Barry is going to comment on his day out with Steve Wunsch on New D?

Trad climber
Lake Oswego, Oregon
Apr 22, 2009 - 11:35am PT
Barry told me the other day (or is it, "The other day Barry told me...") that he wrote a response to this thread but it was "lost in cyberspace." Then he decided it was better to let napping puppies continue to nap. I'll poke him again and see if we can get some non-controversial comments.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Apr 22, 2009 - 12:27pm PT
The puppies are up and wide awake, Barry

Apr 22, 2009 - 06:54pm PT
Great read Guy's thanks!

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Apr 22, 2009 - 09:26pm PT
I'm not worthy to be part of this conversation, but I do want to point out my appreciation for Snyd's extremely funny last post.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 22, 2009 - 10:50pm PT
Don't bow too low, you'll hurt yourself! LOL

The Snydline wasn't lost on me. So hard to be here now when you are there later......or maybe I have it backwards?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
May 3, 2009 - 11:43am PT
The New Dimensions report from Pat's Free Climbing in America.

Love the photo!

May 3, 2009 - 01:44pm PT
The History of Rock Climbing by Pat Ament, by Pat Ament.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
May 3, 2009 - 02:57pm PT
Atcha, I think that is by Ament, right?

I have always loved this historic photo though. The group should be reminded that Bev Johnson ended bagging both Bridwell and Barry, consecutively and it kind of looks like that is what is going on here. Great Shot by PA.

Social climber
wuz real!
May 3, 2009 - 03:59pm PT
Hey pat, heres a thought, since everyone (Kauk, Bacahar, Kor, the Colonel, etc) is doing it, why not take your slides on the road? You could show us slides of the Slack, Supremecy, the Black, athlete's feet, all kinds of stuff, and talk about it all you want. You got the goods. We'd come to see and hear.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
May 3, 2009 - 04:35pm PT
Cool photo. Maybe in the next edition, an explanation will be added about how the first pitch was originally rated 5.11 and appeared that way in the Roper guidebook, but was later downrated because Bev Johnson climbed it free. (Strange criteria but good story).

May 3, 2009 - 05:03pm PT
Most likely the first pitch was rated 5.11 because it was done in those blue Royal Robins wall boots. Most were still free climbing in those boots at that time. Those boots sucked for free climbing by today's standard.

Bates was one of the first guys to switch to EB's and in the process tearing it up on the free climbing and bouldering arena.

When I first saw EB's in the mountain shop in 69 the the guy there told me they'll never work here in the Valley because they are too soft.

WTF did I listen to that guy for???????
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
May 3, 2009 - 05:55pm PT
Good point about the shoes, Werner - I didn't think about that.

Social climber
wuz real!
May 3, 2009 - 06:06pm PT
The first time I did that route the first pitch was called 10b, and was Wheels', we had EB's , I am not a face climber, I could only shudder about what was to come. Somehow the math worked out that I got the last pitch; challenging, but pure joy, made for a vedauwoo crack climber. Definitely one of the cooler climbs out there!
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
May 3, 2009 - 09:07pm PT
I have no idea what was going on when that picture was taken. It is sort of fun to think that it related to a rivalry between Jim and Barry for Bev's attentions, but I am not sure that that really happened. Bev was so independent that I cannot image what anyone thought that they could get out of folding one's arms or looking away. We all pretty much knew to lick our wounds in private.

Great lady, even from this long distance.

When was the picture taken away? Barry? Pat? I get the feeling that it was taken in 1972 or 73--that's when I remember Pat being in the Valley, but I am not sure. And who is over Jim's shoulder?

Regarding Jim rating ND 5.11 A1, the most important point, from a historical perspective, is that Jim thought it was 5.11. My guess is that if he had rated it 5.10 A1, it would have been several more years before anything would have been rated 5.11. By recollection only, it seems to me that most of the early 70s 5.11s in the Valley were originally rated 5.10 (Some one with a good memory and a latter guide can sort that out.) My guess is that Barry and Steve would not have rated ND all free at 5.11 if there were not a precedent to compare it to. (This is also the line of reasoning that Jim took in working out the a, b, c, d sub-ratings.) No one wanted to be first with a new big number.

By the way, this line of thinking started when I looked at the first 5.12s in the Valley and realized that there were several that are now considered 5.12 that were originally rated 5.11. In the case of "Hot Line," Meyers rated it 5.11 even after Ron and John rated it 5.12. It got me thinking that crossing those big number thresholds is less a matter of the actual final agreed rating than what climbers thought at the time. Sort of like saying that if we all thought that ND was 5.11 when Jim and Mark climbed it, it was, at least for as long as it had to be.

Peter, did you know that ND wasn't 5.11 A1 when Jim and Mark did it? Not trying to put you on the spot, but you were there.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
May 3, 2009 - 09:21pm PT
ND was my first 5.11. When I first approached the crux I felt really strong and confident until the fixed piton nearly came out when I touched it, panic took over shortly followed by a fall. Composure regained, I went back up, tapped the pin in, and then noticed the thank god foothold to my left.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
May 3, 2009 - 10:50pm PT
My photo of Jim, Bev, and Barry was in the late
1960's, I'm sure, maybe '69? Though I'd have to get out the slide to check a more exact date. You see Jim Pedigrew
in the immediate background. But Bev was never quite clear
who she loved more, I think, Jim or Barry. The mood I've
always felt in this photo is that the lean had gone to
Jim, who is looking a bit exalted, and Barry a bit down and
out. I bouldered a lot and climbed with all three of them
during this time... I don't think the story is right that
ND was downrated because of Bev. Everyone paid her the hightest
respects, whenever I was aware. I think people simply do the
best they can with ratings, then later feedback and experience
allows them to fine tune. Clearly the first pitch of ND was
never 5.10, and clearly the last pitch -- though technically
it doesn't have one single killer move -- is certainly sustained
and awkward enough to be 5.11... when it was done free by
Barry and Steve. Thank you Peter for your kind words on the photo. I always had my camera around and am so grateful, because I have a goldmine of photos from those different years.
Roger, I was in the Valley every year, almost every climbing season, sometimes four times a year, from 1964 up through about 1972, then it slowed down, to fewer visit, but good ones always...

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
May 3, 2009 - 11:42pm PT

I think you meant to say:

Clearly the first pitch of ND was never 5.11, ...

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Aug 25, 2009 - 11:16am PT
New Dimensional Bump!
Eric Beck

Sport climber
Bishop, California
Aug 25, 2009 - 12:57pm PT
Regarding the references to chipping by Bridwell, I'd like to point out that this can be a greyer area than first appears. He offered the example of a rotten scabrous flake attached tenuously at the bottom. It can be removed cleverly leaving a usable hold or unthinkingly leaving nothing.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jul 3, 2011 - 02:33pm PT

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Oct 10, 2012 - 01:53pm PT
So I just did this route for the first time a few days ago...and I don't get all the hype. In fact, I thought it kinda sucked.

Sure, it's a clean, continuous crack system. But the climbing is inelegant, awkward and not really a lot of fun. Lots of reaching deep into flares for jams, and short moves because your arm is so extended. I think literally every route I've done at Arch is miles better than this pile.

Five stars? Call me a heretic, but I'd say two at most.

Trad climber
It ain't El Cap, Oregon
Oct 10, 2012 - 02:45pm PT
I guess I would say for three decades after its FA New Ds was THE classic. Sure there are "better" routes today but when you consider the history and the number of boys turned men (and men turned crybabies) by this route it remains a CLASSIC.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Oct 10, 2012 - 03:21pm PT
Great comment from Largo earlier in the thread:
I don't really know, but it's all interesting to consider so long as things don't get too serious.
I like that.

Thoughts on the early thread: New Dimensions and Slack aren't, or never were in the same league.
I never climbed it when the "block" was there, but by my era Slack was something to do on the way by. New Dimensions was, and remains, the real destination.
Double D

Oct 10, 2012 - 04:02pm PT
When I was a wee pup and 1st cutting my teeth on 5.10’s, I ventured out to lead the first pitch of New D. Just as I started up, Bridwell comes out of the bushes most likely on a candy induced walk. The Bird was the man back then and it totally warped my psyche to have him watching one of my first attempts at a 5.10. Just under the belay where I switched cracks I swung into a lieback and stepped on my line causing me to log some serious air time. I sheepishly finished the pitch feeling totally dejected by blowing something so simple in front of this hero of mine.

Adding insult to injury, Jim asked if he could take a tow and proceeded to waltz up in his converse high-tops making it look like a 5.4. When he reached the belay he said, “you’ll do ok if you just remember to not step on the rope.” Somehow his casual and humorous criticism eased my anxiety and led to a lifelong friendship.

New D has always the benchmark for Yosemite 5.11’s in my mind. When Ron and John finished Gate of Power, Bill Price and I were getting beta on it and Ron, with a straight face, stated, “yeah, Gate’s probably 5.11… you know if New D is 5.11.” … Minor Sandbag?


Trad climber
Cali Hodad, surfing the galactic plane
Oct 10, 2012 - 04:20pm PT
Cool thread. I luved ND, did it several times and wish we would have done it many more. Regarding the 1st pitch and Doc Bridwell's scalpel work, lol ... I have done it with the chipped hold and without it (avoided it) & it didn't seem anymore difficult either way!

edit: btw, i have never mentioned this to no one, and it's gonna seem like blasphemy, but; i was riding along on the eastside one day with GM and out of the blue he pop's this one on me, "JB didn't really solo ND, he just said that to piss off the Bird!" I was somewhat perplexed at what I heard, but had come to respect George for his candidness and honesty, so I didn't press him on it and nothing more was said.

Bridwell was down in Patagonia the winter (summertime there) of '74-'75, and that word had evidently gotten down to him some how (prollie Mountain mag. note). Or maybe it was the year GM went to Patagonia ('75-'76/'76-'77??, i forget).

Regardless, even if he didn't do it that early he did solo it soon after (duh, no shit)!

I do recall an early posting/bulletin in Mountain on JB's free solo of ND, which I think was in the Spring of '75 and therefore coincided with Bird's Patagonia trip. But, maybe GM was just F'n with my head that day, although i sincerely doubt it!!

weeg - nun'a us ever fell off new d, cuz we wuz all badazz, bitd (or at least walked, talked & dressed like one, lol)! & badazz's don't know how ta fall off sh#t ... end up fall'n into a lotta sh#t tho! (c above)...

Trad climber
Placerville, California
Oct 10, 2012 - 04:22pm PT
hey implicitd!

amongst all this chest-beating,
do you care to share a tale
of when you....

fell off new dimensions?

Trad climber
Cali Hodad, surfing the galactic plane
Oct 10, 2012 - 07:47pm PT
So, does anyone know the date of JB's first free solo of ND? Or at least the year!

edit: see the edit on my last post!!

btw, the GM i was referring to is none other then George Meyers (in case ya hadn't figured it out).

Ihateplastic - thnx! Bridwell was in Mammoth & working on the mountain the winter of 75-76 cuz i recall him coming over to our apt and giving a slide show on the POW, etc! I am sure of that. And the year it went down he was in Patagonia (i think) like I said. Pretty sure it was the 74-75 winter & also pretty sure it was posted in Mountain magazine as a 'news flash' or whatever they called them little updates. I never questioned the veracity of his statement, as far fetched as it seemed. He said exactly what I posted above and it was sorta shocking. We both just sat there in silence pondering the whole scenario, and that was it. I wasn't really part of that inner circle but he (GM) was, so I just left it at that and never said a thing to another soul until now! Thought about it every time this thread popped up, but decided against it.

"People thought I was..." Yeah, I recall reading, hearing that same thing from JB. I am not doubting that he did solo it some time after. We all know that happened. Maybe the same year. So, what difference does it make, other than it would be a bit bizarre if it is true?

Trad climber
It ain't El Cap, Oregon
Oct 10, 2012 - 10:02pm PT
Splitter... not 100% sure of the credibility of the referencing site but it seems about right in my hazed memory.

1976 Free soloed New Dimensions (5.11) in Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California. Bachar had previously top-roped the route, including the crux pitch with its thin hand and wide finger crack over 300 feet off the ground. News of his risky ascent shocked the climbing world. Later Bachar told the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, Colorado: "People looked at me like I was very weird for a couple of months. They thought I was crazy or something."

Trad climber
Cali Hodad, surfing the galactic plane
Oct 11, 2012 - 12:40am PT

Ed - Thanks!!

edit: Sounds about right. Bridwell might of been in Patagonia during "the late season." (Yose) He wa in Mammoth during the Spring of '76! But that isn't really here nor there (just what i thought the situation was). The point is, was it truly a hoax? Or some false info on GM or someone else's part? Only they know. I stand on what I heard George tell me that day. I don't believe he would've been attempting to circulate an untrue rumor. Only he can answer to that! Whatever!
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Oct 11, 2012 - 12:59am PT
Perhaps the most audacious piece of rock-climbing in the late season was John Bachar's solo ascent of the last three pitches of New Dimensions (5.11). This is the first 5.11 to be soloed in Yosemite; the last pitch is particularly precarious, involving wild finger-jamming and laybacking in a flared corner.

Mountain 47 p13

1976 January/February

(note correction on issue)

Trad climber
It ain't El Cap, Oregon
Oct 11, 2012 - 03:01am PT
Just to further confuse matters... Pat Ament in his book Wizards of Rock writes that John climbed New Dimensions in "March or April 1976."

That doesn't jive at all with the Mountain reference, especially since they would need the news before publication. Since they reference "late season" I wonder if it was late in 1975.

All of this is of no real importance since the fact is John free-soloed New Dimensions! Whether it was a Tuesday after 3:00 or on St. Patrick's Day matters not.

I knew John back then and, while he could be bold in his statements he would not have lied about this. Not to impugn Meyers... I just gotta go with JB on this one.
Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Oct 11, 2012 - 03:33am PT
I used to do ND annually from 1977 to 1987 or so, and I did fall off the last pitch while leading it on sight with hexes and stoppers in October 1977. Kinda fun lunging for the last horizontal ledge and flying down the dihedral instead.

I do remember doing ND in maybe 1987 and watching Bachar solo the last pitch. He seemed to do it quite regularly as part of his soloing routine. He was back down on the ground near the base of the route where we were and it was startling, I remember, to see the same guy walking around with just shoes and a chalk bag that we'd seen finishing off the crux dihedral a few minutes before. Like having a time traveler materialize in your midst. Like a visitor from an alien planet . . .

Trad climber
Cali Hodad, surfing the galactic plane
Oct 11, 2012 - 03:34am PT
Since they reference it late season I wonder if it was was late in 1975?

That would seem to be the only plausable conclusion. Yose season, as I'm sure you are aware, generally goes from sometime in March through October/mid Nov, depending on the weather.

not to impugn Meyer's

Of all the character's I have known in my life, I would put GM at the top in regards honesty & straight fowardness, his veracity and integrity was impecable, imo! Not to say there isn't, wasn't another reason behind that claim. Maybe someone else passed it on to him and they were mistaken and it later got cleared up and I didn't here about it, or whatever. George did have a good poker face, but if it was a joke that face would desolve within seconds. And I stared him long and hard in the eyes and he didn't budge. His expression looked a tad bit soured in fact! Like I said, we sat there in silence for quit some time. George would not have intentionally maligned anyone, let alone JB or any other climber.

We all know that "John free soloed New Dimensions" that is not what is in question here. The question is when did he first free solo it. And, furthermore, I am sure that he was the first one to free solo it. And he prollie did it many times afterward. As did WB & Croft. I saw both of them do so in the mid eighties. But that is not the issue!

I truly hope that I wind up looking like a fool, maybe I was/am so f'n gullible that it was an obvious joke and I took it seriously. But I do not believe so. George did joke about things, so I do hope I somehow missed the punchline on that one, but i doubt that.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Oct 11, 2012 - 03:54am PT
Thanks, Survival, for the insight. I don't recall ever
saying the Slack was in a league with New Dimensions, or ever
would I think so. New Dimensions is a much longer climb, more
elegant, a real morning or afternoon out on a nice piece of rock,
a real ascent. But for one who is/was a dedicated boulderer, I take
seriously shorter climbs. There are many good and grand climbs
of a smaller nature. Thousands of short pitches just off the
ground have given much pleasurer to unbelievable numbers of
climbers. One could name these short routes, but the Slack Center
was always for me that kind of enjoyable challenge. It got
dramatically easier when it changed, and no one can be expected
to know how difficult it was in its original form, but I say
it was a fair bit more difficult in the purest technical sense than
the crux of New Dimensions. Those who tried but failed to do the
Slack back then, Robbins, Pratt, Kamps, Higgins, Sacherer, Bridwell,
Chouinard..., the best climbers in California, knew it was a
breakthrough at that time. Higgins just cruised New Dimensions,
after it was done free by Bates and Wunsch. So let's just say the Slack
was a small, obscure climb that broke into the newest high grade
of the day. That's why it's important, because it is historical,
not because it is some striking and gorgeous Yosemite line.
It was a step beyond, however small a step. Good point, Roger, on how
New Dimensions is there for people to look at now, although even that
is not what it was. Climbers didn't have "Friends" and cams to easily
slide in, didn't have sticky rubber (try some of these slippery
Yosemite cracks in a pair of Cortinas, as Pratt and Kamps used).
Most didn't use chalk, although Gill and I had started certainly
by that time. I can't honestly remember if I had chalk on the Slack,
possibly not. Climbers today don't comprehend the realm of that earlier
consciousness, what a big difference it made. So when people go
up on New Dimensions now, they don't have the same situation as
Bridwell did or even Bates and Wunsch. That was a profound achievement,
and it showed how great Bridwell was, whether or not he did the route
all free.

It was always my impression that the business about Bev Johnson
climbing New Dimensions' first pitch, and then Jim down-rating it,
was a later thing, that it came about somewhere in conversation
but not exactly at the time of her ascent. Bridwell had great respect
for Bev, by the way. I think I was wrong in saying the first pitch
never was 5.11. Yes it was originally thought to be.
Again, no Friends or modern gear, and Jim simply led up that
long crack. One can see how things might have been quite a bit
more difficult back then, and if he got
a little off or whatever, or the gear didn't go in as well as it
might, or any of a hundred possibilities, the pitch could seem harder
than many of the 5.10s at the time. But I think even before Bev climbed
it Jim got to thinking it might not be 5.11.

Contrary to the silly statement by someone that I insist on my
place in history, the Slack would never be enough to do that for
anyone, nor would I have thought it would. Yet one has to realize that
we all were at the brink of 5.11. A few had been done in Colorado
and the East and Utah and City of Rocks, and Yosemite was about to
have its own few. If it hadn't been me it would have been one of
the other guys. It was a big deal back then. Pratt told me about
how he and a bunch of others had worked on it, and he mentioned
names of those he knew had tried it, and he said frankly, "That will
be the first 5.11 if done." I was curious and walked up to look at
it. I was with Larry Dalke, and I climbed it. When I returned to Camp 4
and told Chuck, he said, "That's the first 5.11 in Yosemite." If
anyone knew what was going on in the Valley then, it was Chuck. Roper
had given Chuck the assignment to collect all and any information on
new routes, for Roper's guide. Thus when the guide came out, the Slack
and Higgins' more impressive route, Serenity Crack, were the first and
only 5.11s. For many, 5.11 was a new consciousness. It was a turning
point. Of course it wasn't a big, spectacular climb like New Dimensions
or Crack of Doom. It was certainly much harder than the hardest
part of Doom. It got much easier when the block broke out.
At that time, that same trip, I led Crack of Doom, Rixon's East,
Ahab, Left Side of the Remnant (first ascent and free ascent), and
a dozen other 5.10 climbs. Some people think the Slack was the only
thing I ever did in the Valley. I had previously done the West Face
of Sentinel and Nose, and a number of other walls and hard free
climbs.... The Slack was just a little blip on the screen of
history. But it remains a detail worth knowing, if we care about
the history in any finer, more accurate sense. It's not in a
league with anything other than itself. It was a unique little
climb, minor even before it changed. By the way, at that time I
also did a few other climbs most don't even know about, such as
the free ascent of Limbo Ledge, a solid 5.10 route, and the
first free ascent of the West Face of Rixon's.

I always had the utmost respect for my friends Bridwell and Bev and Bates
and everyone back then. Each had his or own blips on his or her own
history screen. For Pratt, the Twilight Zone (in 1964, as I recall, without
looking), was a phenomenal achievement that remains a climb no one does
in anything that resembles how Pratt did it, no chalk, no big bros, no
giant Friends, no wonderful modern shoes.... and, again, the consciousness
of that time.... Pratt was always gracious, at least with me, and
knew the difficulty of the Slack. He also expressed great admiration
for Higgins and Serenity. He understood the significance of these
small climbs and the fact that the majority of people in the community
did not quite want to believe such a thing as 5.11 existed yet.
Even Roper down-played both climbs a little in the guide, leaving
the A-1 ratings and mentioning the 5.11 free ascent almost as
an aside.

Yosemite has always had the most amazing individuals, Bridwell,
Bates, Beck, Sacherer, Robbins, Pratt, you name it. I was in awe of
all of them, even less known names such as Lauria and Powell and
Fitschen and Frost and Chouinard. Each had a unique personality and
talent. Higgins and Kamps were unequalled in my eyes. My Slack was
nothing in and of itself. But in the context of its time, and under
the circumstance of that moment in history, it was the 4-minute mile
of a sort, however short the route was.

By the way, I begin to think I have no right to question that Swan
Slab climb. I have been thinking, and if someone says a climb was done,
unless we know otherwise and have the facts, we should give
them the benefit of the doubt. I had heard all sorts of stories and
such, and more said it was 5.10 than 5.11, and some said this and some
said that, and I finally just more or less dismissed it in my mind. But
that would be to do the same as those who dismiss the Slack as something
too small to be considered. I only wish I knew more about the Swan
Slab thing and what really happened and who did it, exactly.... If I
recall, I did some route right there myself about that time. But I
don't remember anything more than that. Whatever I did back then
on Swan Slab must not have been something worth remembering.

Finally, what is important is that we remember all these climbs,
all the nuanced histories, and not conform to the mediocrity of
modern-day historians. That's one of the things so great about
SuperTopo, that we can work together to talk about some of these
events of long ago. Supertopo is a virtual history forum, and there
are some really precious treatises about any number of interesting
climbs and people. The alternative is to let all the history go,
let memory fade, give up, and not care.... I prefer to remember,
as best I am able.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Oct 11, 2012 - 04:06am PT

Seriously foreshortened..., from below.
One can see about half way up where a block
once existed and now mighty
handjams... It appears so easy from this angle...,
but it's steeper than it looks.

Trad climber
Cali Hodad, surfing the galactic plane
Oct 11, 2012 - 04:26am PT
Contrary to the silly statement by someone that I insist on my place in history.

Pat - I don't know who made that statement, but as I recall, your place in climbing history was firmly established by the time I started climbing in the winter of '70-'71!

edit: interesting history lesson, btw! thnx

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Oct 11, 2012 - 03:28pm PT
Pat, you're welcome.
Patrick Sawyer

Originally California now Ireland
Oct 11, 2012 - 04:18pm PT
This is a fascinating thread. I have read every word. I admit that this post is a bit off topic, but please bear with me.

And further down I want to show my appreciation to several climbers.

I never climbed New Dimensions, probably every other pre-1977 climb at Arch Rock, but ND was on my tick list. Still is but… (And I cannot imagine doing ND or any of the climbs mentioned in my old blue RRs.)

I was never a strong 5.11 leader. Good follower, but I have lead some nice/good 5.11s, primarily in Yo Valley, The Meadows and here in Ireland (5c/6a E3/e4).

After I did a summer on fishing boats in Alaska, I went back to my second love soccer, (climbing is always my first) and played at college, university a couple of semi-pro teams.

So I went to Europe at 26, stupid and foolish enough to thinks that I could break in when most football players start apprentices at 14-16, or even younger.

But I figured why not, I could always climb in my 30s and off-season (football).

Well, at the expense of my climbing, I tried several years on teams in England, France and Ireland. Never became a pro.

I write this for two reasons, firstly, while never a super gifted climber I had some talent, but I some ways never a natural like some people.

Secondly, one of the people I climbed with and hung out with back in the mid-1970s was David Yerian.

Dave recently started a Werner appreciation thread. I only climbed with Werner (and Bridwell) once, Lunatic Fringe. Bridwell led, Werner followed and I was up fourth while the Bird and Werner were rapping off.

I was never in their crowd or at their level.

But there are three people I would like to show my appreciation to, actually more, but Ron Kauk, Rik Rieder and Kevin Worral. These three were at the top of the game but never talked down to me (like some did) when around C4 or Degnans, the lodge cafeteria etc) when I would mention I managed to lead a middling 5.10 that these guys could cruise up.

Ron, Rik and Kevin were always gentlemen to me. I partied some with them but never climbed. (I actually did do a climb with Rik, and for the life of me I can’t recall what it was, imagine that, you’d think I would, something over by the Arches).

So my hat is is off to these three. Genuine people. Also Roger Breedlove, George Myers, Ed Barry, Donny Reid, Dave Hitchcock, Charlie Porter, Lou Dawson and a number of others… they were always willing to chat with me and give me the time of day, some I even climbed with.

And of course Peter Barton, a lovely bloke, who I was going to do the West Face of El Cap with until Dale stepped in (I don't fault Peter for switching to Dale, as he was a far more experienced climber than I was, I would have probably done the same). I remember talking with Dale in C4 parking lot after, he was choking through his tears. Very sad and a tragedy. RIP Peter.

I write this because there were several mentions on the thread about Rik being a gentleman. I heartily agree.

And Pat, I still have yet to win the Irish or EuroMillions Lotteries, but if I do (fingers crossed but not holding my breath) I’ll get you over here on the lecture circuit as we talked about several years back.

In the meantime, I climb a bit in Ireland but being a full-time carer is not easy, but had I not taken the football dream, and stayed focused on climbing, I never would have met Jennie, and her doctors agree that she probably would have died from drink if I did not come in to her life.

And she is very well worth my time.

Happy climbing folks.

Now if I could just be a solid 5.11 leader.


I did not mean to hijack this thread.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Oct 12, 2012 - 09:59pm PT
Thanks Patrick. You mentioned some great names, great people,
and I would add/include all of them, in my own rambling list of people
who in some way or another touched my life. I gave the merest few

My friend Bruce has pointed out to me how I talk so much about the
Slack, and of course he's right. When I don't chime in on certain
subjects people want me to, and then other times they wish I said
less. I think one could easily determine
that I am obsessed with myself. I hope I can say that's not in fact the
case. Why I write so much. First of all, I am a writer. We tend to
be profuse, even when we're not submitting polished writing. I
personally like long entries, if they are halfway intelligible, such
as Roger Breedlove's. He is a good writer, and though Roger
and I have a few disagreements I like the way he thinks and writes,
the way he is always respectful, and what he says means something.
Roger is like me, in that it feels there is a lot to say on
certain subjects, even subjects that are not terribly important
in the big spectrum of things. The Slack is about the smallest
subject on the planet, really, and it only has significance as a
historical detail, something about which I am able to speak
because I did the free ascent at a rather important time in our
humble history. I would be last to hang my reputation on the Slack
or think it would prove anything about my ability. Over and over again,
people tell me they like what I write, they like the history, the
detail I am able to provide at times. I'm not always right, but I get
pretty close a lot of the time, with the help of those who also
participate in such discussions. I do not write about the Slack because
I insist on it as some momentous event or to draw attention to
myself. That would be pretty silly, since it's such a tiny climb.
It's a pretty osbscure detail of that history. Much more important was
Higgins' Serenity Crack.

I was a guidebook editor/writer for years and more or less conditioned
myself to look at the finer details of climbs, to visualize rock and
remember. A climb might be likened to a Shakespeare play. There are
scenes and discourse and many characters, and if one later gets into
a discussion about the play it's important to have a reasonable
memory of all those things. Of course as time goes by, the memory
of such things weakens, unless one continues to talk about such
things and keep them at the forefront of memory. That's a tool of
mine. I write about and talk about all these things over and over,
and the memories stay pretty fresh. One can take the "play" analogy
into smaller climbs as well, even boulder problems, and the
very minutia of a piece of lichen, even if it's no longer there.
It was, once. Strangely sometimes I entirely forget an experience.
People have reminded me of some climb we did, and I have no
recollection of it at all. Most of the time I can tell you far more
than you would ever want to know about even the most obscure and
seemingly meaningless piece of stone. I remember facial expressions
and moods. Maybe that's why I am a decent historian. I even
remember what people tell me about their own experiences. As I age,
and with these illnesses, I find that sharpness, that clarity, of
memory is under pretty severe attack.

Royal and others often send me their writing, because I am pretty good
at checking the facts. Royal tells me he forgets much about most of
his climbs, and so do other friends say that. It scares me to think
that will happen, and it WILL happen, to me soon enough, I'm sure.
But I keep at it. I apologize for being profuse, but as long as
people say they appreciate what I have to offer, and there aren't
too many who just find my words annoying, I will continue, when I
feel like it, to write....

Trad climber
Oct 15, 2012 - 07:49pm PT
Weeg asked for a personal account of falling off of NewD.

Nothing too crazy here...I went up there and sent the route up till the last 20 ft or so...then fell off. My belayer fed out slack thinking I was gonna clip and thus I just kept falling for a while.

A great climb that I havent been on since that first time. Those 5.10 pitches were classic and lots of fun.

I think it should be rated 11a as ratings are too soft nowadays and egos inflated.


Trad climber
Cali Hodad, surfing the galactic plane
Oct 16, 2012 - 12:02am PT
i think it should be rated 11a...

the 1st pitch could possibly be rated 11a if ya avoid the chipped toe hold. the chipped hold (for your left foot) comes right after you switch cracks and is the crux move (along with the hand/ fingertips jam that compliments it), imo! there is another small natural hold for your left foot just a bit above it. like i previously stated, i did them both ways several times and neither one seemed much harder than the other to me at the time. but you do have to look a little harder for the natural hold since it is not as evident/obvious as the chipped hold! try it that way some time and report back!

May 21, 2013 - 09:07pm PT
New Dimensions bump!

Trad climber
May 22, 2013 - 09:02am PT
I didn't see when the chipping I blind?

Also was it chipped prior to Bachar soloing it?

Oakland, CA
Jan 30, 2014 - 04:31pm PT
Bump for one badass route.

Things I couldn't find on New D, now after three goes on it:

-A chiseled hold on p1. There is that one smooth, flat edge off the blunt right side of the crack, tiny, useful, but part of a larger horizontal imperfection there, doesn't look like it was crafted from scratch.

-A chiseled hold on p4. That bending, helix-like corner is so clean it hurts.

-Any way to get the p4, pre-crux tight hands climbing to feel 5.10. Bodylength "crux" fingerlocks up top are cake comparatively. How the hell do you climb that long rattly section @ 5.10, from where the decent hands end to where the good fingers begin? Felt desperate and I dogged it all three times I was up there. The .11a pulls up top come as a relief...
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 12, 2014 - 12:51am PT
New D was my first 5.11 lead in Yosemite and it took everything that I had to not butterfinger right off the final jugs.

The crux pitch on a rack of nuts was pretty interesting with one fixed angle in place when I was there. I was beyond impressed when JB free soloed it because it is a bad size for everyone in the last corner.

Still the standard for 5.11a after all these years.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Jun 18, 2017 - 10:14pm PT
New Dimensions bump and a quick Brutus reporting of the '5.11' grade...

"I've seen 5.11 divided into 11 different grades of increasing
difficulty, as follows:

5.11a    5.10d    5.11-    5.11b    5.11    5.11c    5.9 squeeze    5.11+  
5.10 OW     5.12a     5.11d


Trad climber
Jun 18, 2017 - 11:48pm PT
Wacky to the casual observer but man I can't disagree with that rating's scale

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jun 19, 2017 - 12:31am PT
Most rock climbers aren't mathematicians, or logicians.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Oct 8, 2018 - 12:47pm PT
Damn! I love that take on how 5.11 breaks down... thanks Munge and Brutus!

Trad climber
mt. hood /baja
Oct 8, 2018 - 01:15pm PT
Munge that is spot on !

San Jose, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 8, 2018 - 03:49pm PT
5.11a 5.10d 5.11- 5.11b 5.11 5.11c 5.9 squeeze 5.11+
5.10 OW 5.12a 5.11d

I think this chart is misleading.
If you equally climb thin and wide cracks and face climbs Yosemite grades sequence going generally from low numbers to hight numbers, with small exception of routes first climbed in early 60 th and rated below 5.10
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