To Be Brave - Royal Robbins Autobiography


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Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Aug 30, 2009 - 01:52pm PT
I still think Russ' synopsis of the "Growing Up" thread is best...

SFHD rap bolted by a naked talus runner and a pro climber, who also does construction to feed his kids. Route is probably great, but since style is still important to many, FA guys are getting an earful. Other guys are loving the new way to do giant walls safely, and are coming to the defense of the FA guys. Many old crustys in the fray. Lots of bad spelling. Young guys poking old guys with sharpened stick clips.... old guys peeing on ball-less young guys..... Since opinions are like bungholes, even 5.4 leaders from the Gunks are lipping up along with the hardest of the hard from every era. No end in sight.

it was a early 1000's post of a thread that went on for another 1000 posts...

Welcome Royal Robbins, I hope you enjoy the campfire, you'll find it wise to wander off to bed early from time to time, and at other times, as Doug alluded to, be upset that you are the last one howling at the moon...

It is a special place, sorta like the New Yorker observed
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Aug 30, 2009 - 01:57pm PT
Thanks, Roger.

Nicely put and good insight. We have come to expect no less of you.

I'm still impressed by what happened on the 'Growing Up' thread. You're right, thanks to this medium it became something well beyond the reach of even good investigative journalism or live campfire. The filtering out you mentioned was of course necessary (bloody my knuckles? I think not.). And the weeks it took to run its course actually encouraged thoughtful as well as hot-off-the-cuff responses.

Not to hijack Royal's thread here, but I worked hard to write a piece about Growing Up for the AAJ that was informed and heavily influenced by that thread. Maybe I should post it up. Or not. Let sleeping dogs (sic) lie, and all that. I sure wish it would get climbed again so some fresh perspective could emerge.
Tamara Robbins

Sep 1, 2009 - 12:37pm PT
I have an original copy of a songbook that many may remember... unfortunately the cover is gone so I can't name it! Anyhow, I remember the family belting them out on our numerous road trips! Particularly "Gory Gory" about a climbing fall, "Abdullah Bulbul AMir", "Streets of Laredo".... Dad may be able to recount the book's origin and name?

Sep 1, 2009 - 01:28pm PT
Ed, that was a well spoken of a piece on some chaotic threads as I've ever read.

Doug, it would be a good thing to read those words, perhaps a new thread? Did Growing Up ever get a second ascent after all that hot air?

BTW, Largo giving a preproduction read of Royals book 5 stars means I'm getting it for sure. At least the first one:-)

Royal, the ethics debate has fragmented even more since you stopped climbing. I think being either the greatest climber, or certainly one of them anyway, of your era, gave you incredible strength and power to your well crafted logical words on the issue of clean climbing and bolting that few have possessed since.

Regards to all


Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Sep 1, 2009 - 01:50pm PT

Royal hasn't "stopped" climbing. He just started boating, writing, etc. There are several folks that can attest to him still climbing.

Royal Robbins

Trad climber
Modesto, California
Sep 1, 2009 - 08:52pm PT
Tamara mentioned singing aloud on our way to climbs and things like that. We did. We loved music. That book of songs she refers to is "Song Fest", the (irreplaceable) IOCA (Intercollegiate Outing Club Association)song book. It has a song about a climbing accident ("Gory, Gory, What a Hell of a Way to Die") It begins "Will it go around the chockstone, cried the belayer, looking up". And it has another about the battle between Abdullah Bulbal Amir and Ivan Skavinsky Skivar and a sad one about the cowboy dying in the Streets of Laredo. Tam memorized much of those. Those are the ones we sang most often, but there are many others in Song Fest.
Thanks, Doug. It's great to see you and other friends as part of this. I will be back. (This is enjoyable!) Thanks to whomever for posting the links. I'll look them up.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 1, 2009 - 08:59pm PT
Hmmm. Perhaps such songbooks were common to climbing and mountaineering clubs then, especially those that were affiliated with educational institutions. Perhaps an outgrowth from scouting or something. The Varsity Outdoor Club at UBC had a songbook which it regularly used, although I don't recall anyone singing on the way to climbs.

Royal: I'll post some more links to interesting threads when I get a chance. Once you start poking around, you'll find that many good threads themselves have embedded links to other good stuff. We met two years ago at the FaceLift, where I took this photo of you, Tom and John Stannard.

Nate D

San Francisco
Sep 1, 2009 - 09:16pm PT
So with a handy search tip from another thread (thanks cintune!), I was able to find the "Sorting out late 70's Valley climbing" thread that Roger had started a year ago:

A like your thoughts on the forum. The internet, for better and sometimes for worse, has definitely changed the nature of the climbing community.


Sep 1, 2009 - 09:31pm PT
Dang, I just went rummaging through the stacks of accumulata filling the mansion, stumbling over a quietly rusting Chouinard axe, a still-working vintage Primus, notes submitted to the Brown-Pembroke Outing Club on a Tetons trip, Whitewater Coaching Manual by Jay Evans, U.S. Olympic Coach, One Morning in Maine, A House is a House for Me, The Whole Earth Catalog, a forgotten shoe horizon (late Fire to early Mythos), until a blind shifting of weights sent a giant stone rolling toward me, chasing me back in here with no "Song Fest".

I know it's here somewhere, though, so thanks for mentioning it. If only the lights had been working in that wing...

Sep 2, 2009 - 12:39pm PT
Dingus Milktoast

Sep 2, 2009 - 01:06pm PT
We do that song thing too! Only more modern ya dig?

So instead of Sound of Music songs we do Limp Bisket and System of a Down.

Turns some heads let me tell you! A group of climbers belting out the Bisket's Keep Rollin walking up a trail can be a scary thing (*when done right*)

Keep rollin rollin rollin rollin
Keep rollin rollin rollin rollin


Or try shouting out


"Why'd ya leave the ketchup on the table?"
(group shouts) "YOU WANTED TO!"

I don't think I trust
pro, this is suiciiiiiiide!

Lateralis is another good trail song!


Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Sep 2, 2009 - 02:41pm PT

btw all, the book is available to ship, as of at least last night when I ordered my copy.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Sep 2, 2009 - 05:10pm PT
I missed the meat of this thread when I was in Vedauwoo the other week. Coolness!

Mark Stumpf and I climbed Fantasia @ the Leap in '75, that, was true adventure on a Robbins route. Likewise, Danse Macabre and the window (I failed) at Devil's Tower.

Again, Royal, I really appreciated what you had to say at the Bachar memorial (as well as in the books and articles over the years) and look forward to whatever you may have to share with us here, at your own pace and time.

I still have my Blue Meanies.

and, oh yeah, as a preteen, I was part of the Campfire at the CMC Campground by Devil's Lake Wisc, when we sang "Gory, Gory"
Brian Hench

Trad climber
Laguna Beach, CA
Sep 2, 2009 - 07:37pm PT
Found the lyrics to Gory, Gory. Not sure if they are accurate or not.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Sep 2, 2009 - 09:43pm PT
The notes on p.179 of the book "The Stanford Alpine Club" (1999), suggest that Al Baxter wrote these lyrics in the late 1940s:


Songs: most popular during the first 2 years [1946-47] were
"Gory, Gory What a Helluva Way to Die," lyrics by [Al] Baxter,
inspired by Larry Taylor's paratrooper song "Blood on the
Risers"; "Here's to the Next Man that Dies," lyrics by Baxter;
and Larry Swan's "Tibetan Marching Song."

The lyrics for the first stanza and chorus are given on p.67;
they match the lyrics in the online page.
The source is given as:
Al Baxter, "Gory, Gory", "SAC Songbook",
Melody: "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"

Trad climber
Sep 2, 2009 - 09:58pm PT
Damn, I hope I look as good as Royal when I grow up! He looks like he's either going to tend to his garden or repeat The Salathe Wall.

Sep 3, 2009 - 12:00am PT
Anders' photo would not have come to pass were it not for Ken and Anders' determination that it would happen. After thirty years I of course wanted to meet Royal and Tom. I am not brain dead, or so I would claim. But you see to meet them you have to take their attention away from the youngsters lined up five deep to meet them. Young people who have dedicated themselves to something, and who have come halfway around the world, for this one moment. You can see it in their faces. You also have to realize that this kind of situation demands far more from Royal and Tom than did any of their climbs. In a word, it is draining. There is a tremendous need for people to get what they seek without being disappointed. The pressure is immense. Truly immense. There is simply not enough time.

The truth is we all went through the wars together. We and thousands like Doug and Curt Johnson were all there working hard when this country successfully threaded the eye of the needle no one believed could be threaded.

But together - we did it.

All of us.

We needed a miracle.

And a miracle is exactly what we got.

It was quite a moment.

And, of course, Anders knew exactly what was happening.

Sep 3, 2009 - 12:11am PT
^^^^^ Nicely said.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 3, 2009 - 12:25am PT
It was mostly circumstance, plus a hint or two from Erik (MisterE) that did it. I was sitting beside Erik in the audience - it was at the 2007 FaceLift, an evening show of "The West Face of Sentinel", with commentary from Tom and Royal. It seemed like a good opportunity for a nice group photo, and with a bit of effort it happened. The first time the three had been together in person.

Sadly, I either forgot to take a picture of Erik and Royal, or did but it didn't come out. It was the first time they were together since 1965, when the unbelievably cute photo of Erik in the following thread was taken.

Sep 3, 2009 - 04:29pm PT

From Brian Hench:

Found the lyrics to Gory, Gory. Not sure if they are accurate or not.

There are enough differences between that and the published version I have to vouchsafe the claim that it was produced from memory, but a good memory.
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