Chuck Pratt


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Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Topic Author's Reply - May 20, 2009 - 05:52pm PT
Max, Thanks for the FA list. It says volumes all by itself.

I think the last entry is slightly off, in an error that has been repeated in guidebook after guidebook. I'm pretty sure Chuck's intention was to name it Nob Hill Ropist, making it a pun off the phrase you'd expect.

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
May 20, 2009 - 06:03pm PT
How about the real Twilight Zone first ascent story. The way I heard it, CP was in hiking boots, chuged up part of the route, then got a knee good and jammed and went off belay and sent his belayer down to the car for more gear. He hauled up the new gear on the rope, and finished the lead.

BITD, you couldn't get much in the Zone to begin with - maybe a couple good pieces for the entire pitch. But I've always wondered exactly what went down when Chuck first led this thing.

PS: What gets rarely mentioned is that last pitch of the Zone. It used to have a big dirt hummock at the end of the lead with all these rope marks grooved into the dirt, and you had to sort of pinch the hummock/grooves to get over the top. Dicy . . .

And did you know that Chuck climbed the Steck/Salathea like thirty times, or maybe even more.

Talented guy. A legend.

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
May 20, 2009 - 07:14pm PT
Here's what I think is a complete list of Chuck Pratt's FAs and FFAs. It only adds 10 routes to the list already posted by MaxJ.

190. The Cookie - Original 5.8 1 FA: Chuck Pratt, Dick Sykes, 1958
202. The Cleft 5.9+ R * 4 FA: Chuck Pratt, Wally Reed, 1958; FFA: Chuck Pratt, Chris Fredericks, 1965
1078. Split Pinnacle - East Arete 5.8 ** 5 FA: Chuck Pratt, Krehe Ritter, 1958
2235. Lower Cathedral Spire - Northeast Chimney 5.8 1 FA: Chuck Pratt, Steve Roper, 1958; FFA: Tom Kimbrough, Roman Laba, 1966
2295. Penny-Nickle Arete 5.7 A2 1 FA: Chuck Pratt, George Sessions, Krehe Ritter, 1958
1562. The Crack of Dawn 5.9 1 FA: Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt, Tom Frost, 1959
1666. Astroman 5.11c *** 11 FA: Warren Harding, Glen Denny, Chuck Pratt, 7/1959; FFA: John Bachar, John Long, Ron Kauk, 5/1975
2225. The Ski Jump 5.7 1 FA: Chuck Pratt, Bob Kamps, 7/1959
2344. Middle Cathedral Rock - North Face 5.9 A4 1 FA: Chuck Pratt, Bob Kamps, Steve Roper, 1959
1495. Bishop's Terrace 5.8 *** 1 FA: Russ Warne, Dave McFadden, Steve Roper, 12/1959; FFA: Chuck Pratt, Herb Swedlund, 1960
1843. Mt. Broderick - South Face 5.8 A3 7 FA: Bob Kamps, Joe Fitschen, Chuck Pratt, 5/1960
2282. Higher Cathedral Rock - North Face 5.9 A4 1 FA: (partial) Chuck Pratt, Yvon Chouinard, Bob Kamps, 7/1960; FA: (complete) Chuck Pratt, Dennis Hennek, 1968
2318. Chouinard-Pratt 5.11 1 FA: Yvon Chouinard, Chuck Pratt, Bob Kamps, 1960; FFA(first 5p): John Long, Pete Minks, 1976
2580. The Rostrum - West Base below bench 5.8? A2? 4 FA: Chuck Pratt, John Fiske, 1960
878. Salathe Wall 5.10 C2 35 FA: Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt, Tom Frost, 1961
2653. Crack of Doom 5.10a * 4 FA: Chuck Pratt, Mort Hempel, 1961
2654. Crack of Despair 5.10a * 4 FA: Frank Sacherer, Galen Rowell, 1962; FFA: Frank Sacherer, Chuck Pratt, Tom Gerughty, 1964
2406. Lower Cathedral Rock - North Face 5.9 A3 15 FA: Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt, Joe Fitschen, 1963
66. Midterm 5.10b *** 1 FA: Chuck Pratt, Tom Frost, 1964
730. Ribbon Falls - East Portal 5.9 A4 1 FA: Al Steck, John Evans, Chuck Pratt, Dick Long, 6/64
916. North America Wall 5.8 A2 29 FA: Tom Frost, Yvon Chouinard, Chuck Pratt, Royal Robbins, 1964; FCA: Dougald MacDonald, Chris McNamara, 1997
1435. Lost Arrow Chimney 5.10a 10 FA: John Salathe', Anton Nelson, 9/1947; FFA: Chuck Pratt, Frank Sacherer, 1964
1740. Mt. Watkins - South Face 5.13a or 5.11d A0 ** 19 FA: Warren Harding , Yvon Chouinard, Chuck Pratt, 7/1964; FFA: Brooke Sandahl, Steve Sutton, 1999?
60. Entrance Exam 5.9 * 3 FA: Chuck Pratt, Chris Fredericks, Larry Marshaik, Jim Bridwell, 1965
83. Cross-Country Crack 5.9 1 FA: Chuck Pratt, Tom Kimbrough, 1965
84. Kindergarten Crack 5.8 2 FA: John Evans, Chuck Pratt, 1965
95. Juliette's Flake - Left Side 5.8 1 FA: Chuck Pratt, Jim Bridwell, 1965
164. Twilight Zone 5.10d ** 3 FA: Chuck Pratt, Chris Fredericks, 9/1965
526. Chingando 5.10a * 2 FA: Chuck Pratt, et al, 6/1965
776. The Slack - Left Side 5.10b 3 FA: Chuck Pratt, Royal Robbins, 1965
2238. Lower Cathedral Spire - Pratt-Faint var. 5.9 * 1 FA: Chuck Pratt, Joe Faint, 1965
2255. Higher Cathedral Spire - East Corner 5.10a * 5 FA: Tom Gerughty, Chuck Pratt, 1965
2635. Crack of Redemption 5.9 4 FA: Chuck Pratt, Chris Fredericks, 1965
2261. The Sequel 5.8 * 5 FA: Joe Faint, Chuck Pratt, 10/1966
1061. C.S. Concerto 5.8 * 3 FA: Yvon Chouinard, Chuck Pratt, Mort Hempel, 1967
2184. The Mummy's Revenge 5.9 4 FA: Tom Kimbrough, Chuck Pratt, 1967
568. Flatus 5.9 * 5 FA: Chuck Pratt, Tom Bauman, 5/1968
1678. North Dome - Southwest Face 5.9 1 FA: Bev Clark, Chuck Pratt, 4/1968
2554. The Mosstrum 5.8 A3 1 FA: Bob Bauman, Chuck Pratt, Bruce Kumph, 1968
2153. Gobi Wall 5.8 A4 9 FA: Chuck Pratt, Ken Boche, 1969
1211. Galloping Consumption 5.11a * 4 FA: Chuck Pratt, Steve Roper, 1970; FFA: Don Reid, Alan Roberts, 1987
2279. Higher Cathedral Rock - Northeast Corner 5.8 A3 1 FA: Chuck Pratt, Joe Kelsey, 10/1970
895. New Dawn 5.8 A3 29 FA(to El Cap Tower and partial traverse): Yvon Chouinard, Chuck Pratt, Dennis Hennek, Chris Jones, by 1970; FA(full): Charlie Porter, summer/1972 [Edited]
246. Capital Punishment 5.7 3 FA: Chuck Pratt, Bruce Price, Jerry Anderson, 1972
472. Nob Hill Ropist 5.8 R/X 1 FA: Chuck Pratt, Tim Auger, Jerry Anderson, 1973
473. Deception Gully 5.9 1 FA: Chuck Pratt, Tim Auger, Jerry Anderson, 1973
608. Inner Reaches 5.7 2 FA: Chuck Pratt, Tim Auger, Jerry Anderson, 4/1973

The number at the start of each line is the guidebook sequence number (maybe helpful if you are not sure where the route is). The number between the rating and FA: is the number of pitches (it is inaccurate for many of the climbs).
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
May 20, 2009 - 07:32pm PT
I doubt it, but I can't say with absolute certainty. So ST campers, who knew what Chuck was doing in the late 70s? I was in SF, going to school, and working for the SF Symphony.

navblk4 is on a mission here. Sort of a National Inquirer inquiry.

navblk4, what was your teacher's first and middle name?

Frankly, the whole concept that someone looked like Chuck therefore might be Chuck is sort of funny. Doug and Chris both looked sort of like Chuck. But even if they all dressed alike, stood still, and didn't say any thing, I think we could still tell them apart from 25 yards.

If it were me, I'd throw snow at them and watch them react.

Doug: "Oh boy, let's go.

Chris: "What is the meaning of snow since no two are alike?"

Chuck: "F*#k you Breedlove. I'm outa here."


May 20, 2009 - 08:33pm PT

What is this? 895. New Dawn 5.8 A3 29 FA: Charlie Porter, Yvon Chouinard, Chuck Pratt, Dennis Hennek, Chris Jones, 1974

Last I remember watching Charlie Porter solo the FA of the New Dawn. What are all these other guys doing pertaining to 895?

I drink your milkshake!
May 20, 2009 - 09:10pm PT
Awesome thread.

Edit: Looks like Pratt ticked the north face of each Cathedral Rock.
the museum

Trad climber
Rapid City
May 20, 2009 - 09:43pm PT
I met Pratt at Devil's Tower. That was a big deal for me. He and one of his cronies were climbing Soler.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
May 20, 2009 - 09:49pm PT
Hey Ryan, got any untold stories about Chuck in your channeling mode?

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
May 20, 2009 - 09:49pm PT
Yo Roger

Funny, the concept of Pratt, DR and Fredericks all looking alike. All short, all had great beards and all super climbers. Intellectually gifted, deep thinkers and known for periods of solitude and sometimes strange and aberrant behavior. The real question is which of the three is the real Checkered Demon? PH will have to clean up the image of Pratt again, I can' find one of Chris but here is one of DR at one of my weddings.


I drink your milkshake!
May 20, 2009 - 10:31pm PT
I feel a little out of place on this thread, so I should stat with my only personal Chuck story as a disclaimer. I'd grown up on a pile of "Chuck as icon" stories, a couple of which will follow, and so the man had grown larger than life as can happen when the tribal myth machine gets rolling.

I'd always wanted to meet Chuck and finally got my chance at the Camp 4 shindig. There he was, just a little gnome of a guy. Approaching to be introduced I had a monologue going in my head repeating a loop of "you're going to meet Chuck Pratt, he's a legend, this is AWESOME." Working myself up to meet royalty.

After the actual introduction: he stuck out his hand and might have said "hunh" or "glurp." I grabbed that hand and pumped it like a salesman and semi-shouted, "I can't believe I'm shaking your hand! You're Chuck Pratt, you're a legend, this is AWESOME!!!" And that was when time stopped and I saw him and me frozen as if memorialized and I saw the look on his face and finally realized that my whole fantasy of meeting Chuck Pratt just went pffffft.

Story #2 repeats what Largo mentioned above. I'd always heard the FA story of Twilight Zone as follows. Pratt soloed up a ways and said, hold on, maybe you should toss me the rope. Hehe, wait, maybe that's Six Shooter. On the Zone Pratt shimmied up an inconsequential ways, like say 50 feet, and hemmed and hawed and decided he might actually want a piece of pro after all. The piece that's in the car.

The car. Down the first pitch. Down the talus. To the road. The piece he wants is in the car.

The belayer sauntered down, had a soda, hobnobbed with some beauties down at the river, scurried back up, sent the bong up to Chuck who, apparently, was chilling halfway up Twilight Zone (????!!) and the rest is history.

(For realz?)

Story #3. (Repeated just as I've always heard it with zero to minimal embellishment.) Back in the day, as the earth cooled, Camp 4 was peopled by two sorts of wild beasts: the climbers, led by Royal Rockwalker and the five-foot shaggie Chewinard; and the bears of the forest, led by their immortal king Spartacus. Spartacus was the size of nine Volkswagens. He'd gained strength as a cub by snacking on Miwoks. One time he roared and Sentinel cracked in two and created the Steck-Salathe.

Climber and bear co-existed for centuries. The climbers plucked many a cherry line. The bears hunted for the climbers' snacks. One day Chuck returned to camp (maybe after a six-hour armbar on Twilight Zone) to find his humble pup tent ransacked. Chuck was a gentle soul but this was too far. This breached the rules of engagement. This was an insult. The culprit? Chuck found a paw print the size of Delaware - Spartacus had grown too arrogant. He no longer respected the climbers as fellow forest denizens.

Spartacus must be taught a lesson.

Chuck assembled his equipment: his down jacket, a bottle of wine (perhaps pinched), and a rock weighing in the vicinity of 400 pounds. Chuck trundled this rock to the top of Columbia Boulder and sat down to wait. Darkness fell. The universe swung overhead. Chuck was as still as a gourd.

Then, monstrous footfalls and the sound of great pines being felled. The ground trembled. Spartacus emerged from the treeline and cast his head about and sniffed. Perhaps he could find some more goodies here among the climbers. Ponderously, Spartacus wandered past Columbia Boulder. Chuck stood without a sound. He raised his boulder above his head and cast it down with all his might on the skull of the great Spartacus.

Doink. It bounced off like a superball. Spartacus blinked and shook his shaggy head and said hrmph. Then wandered off to see what was cooking in Harding's Jag.

Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
May 20, 2009 - 10:40pm PT
The bear story with Columbia Boulder is my favorire Pratt story. I'm having trouble remembering the bear's name. Spartacus?
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
May 20, 2009 - 11:52pm PT

> What is this? 895. New Dawn 5.8 A3 29 FA: Charlie Porter, Yvon Chouinard, Chuck Pratt, Dennis Hennek, Chris Jones, 1974

> Last I remember watching Charlie Porter solo the FA of the New Dawn. What are all these other guys doing pertaining to 895?

Oops. I've edited it now. The other 4 guys climbed the right side of El Cap Tower and traversed partway to the Dihedrals on the Dawn Wall before realizing the cracks there were closed and would require too much bolting.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
May 21, 2009 - 12:18am PT
Since I didn't get any takers the first round, I'm going to ask again. Does anyone here know anything about Chuck's time in Thailand? Where did he stay, who did he hang out with, did old climbing friends visit him there? Who was with him the morning he died?
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Topic Author's Reply - May 21, 2009 - 01:34am PT

Chuck returned year after year to a place in the highlands in northern Thailand on the banks of the Mekong. Same guest house bungalows where he always had the same cabin for the winter. The breakfast the morning he died was hosted by the Thai owner of the bungalows who knew Chuck pretty well after all those years. Others from the States were said to have been present. I've heard the name of the place and of the proprietor, but it meant nothing to me and has slipped away.

Chuck was cremated, as he had asked, on the banks of the Mekong. The Buddhist monk tending his funeral pyre offered the opinion that Chuck was a Bodhisattva, one who was on his way to becoming a Buddha.

This was all related to me by way of Millis, but told by a woman who Chuck had been especially close to during his last years. Her name has escaped me too, but she lived over Teton Pass on the Idaho side, and had visited Chuck a number of times in Thailand, and went there immediately after his death to gather his things. When she returned home, there was a postcard from Chuck waiting for her, written 3 days before he died.
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
May 21, 2009 - 01:41am PT

The more addenda the better. Keep it up.

I'm still waiting for someone to confirm that damn bear's name.

May 21, 2009 - 01:44am PT
When Chuck left his body was there a monk in his presence?

If so that would be auspicious ......

edit: Awesome post, yo
Todd Eastman

Bellingham, WA
May 21, 2009 - 01:59am PT
We are climbers, our sport is in part based on climbing but from that, grows the friendships, loves, stories, and legends that are what climbing means to us. Thanks to all for your contributions and memories.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
May 21, 2009 - 02:06am PT
Roper's Camp 4 says (pp 156 - 157): "Pratt had names for some of the distinctive bears that called Camp 4 home. Beauregard, Spartacus, Caligula, Lancelot, and the looming El Cid. These animals were clever enough - or satiated enough - not to make forays every night; sometimes they would lie low for a week and then catch us badly off guard, destroying our possessions. To this problem we addressed ourselves often, plotting and scheming. Sometimes we would tree a poor bear and, with well-directed rocks, force it to stay up for hours, peeing and panicked. This did little good and we really didn't enjoy the torture. One evening TM Herbert had endured enough. He sat patiently atop the Wine Traverse Boulder cradling a huge rock, waiting for El Cid, who often ambled by this particular boulder at dusk. Sure enough, along cam the creature and down crashed the stone onto Cid's skull. A perfect knockout strike! A small "click" resulted; El Cid looked around, shook his massive head twice, and then waddled into camp to see what was cooking."

Then he tells a story about a non-climber catching and skinning a bear in the boulders behind Camp 4.

These are the sorts of tales that grow in the telling, and are all the better for it.
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
May 21, 2009 - 02:12am PT
Finally ... I knew it wasn't Spartacus - it was El Cid!

I guess it's whoever told the story first.


Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
May 21, 2009 - 04:43am PT
Now, Pratts hospital episode, after falling off the car, while drinking too much beer, and ending up in the hospital under the care of the talented Dr Sturm and his able staff, just wasn't all that BAD. There were some great perks in the old hospital, with antiquated paraphernalia such as circa 40's wheel chairs more a curiousity than a problem, but, "oh la la", the nurses were something to die for. Fortunately we did not, but, for many of us who spent time there,(Powell, Roper myself,Kamps, etc.......) recuperating from downward bound flings, whether auto or granite born we had an interesting experience. Alas, you can see why Chuck was reluctant to check out before complete recovery was certified or the smuggled beer depleted.

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