burning down the house- 25 years later...


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the kid

Trad climber
fayetteville, wv
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 26, 2009 - 09:07am PT
The Schneider thread got me thinking this morning of a route we did together 25 years ago this month.

Burning Down the House was a line i had spied on the north side of Fairview during the summer of 1984. While doing F.A's on the whales back i got to the see the line light up in the evening and see an amazing route going through these steep arches.

I recruited Steve for the route and our goal was minimal amount of bolts and clean style.

We got the first two pitches in with only 2 bolts and rapped with out leaving lines. Vern and Claude found us that night in camp and proceeded to give us grief for even going up there. Well i'm sure we deserved some of this wrath as we are punks and they were the old guard! This got our blood boiling so we decided the drill was the very last resort.

We went back the next day and re-lead each others pitches to get a feel for each others style and eye for a line. We got the route done that day with only 5 more lead bolts and both Steve and I pushed it and ran it as hard as we could. Steve lead a sic 5.11 pitch and every time he was going to drill i said higher and higher he went. When we got to the last arch it was my lead. I got a shitty bolt in and ran it through what looked like easy ramps. 45' later and i'm staring at this 5.10+ slick as snot mantle with no feet. I am gripped and whimper to Steve to get ready...
i grease through this and move into the next ramp and the next until onto 5.9 ground and the finish slabs.

We finish the route in the dark and are very psyched to have nabbed a nice line on the unclimbed north face.
End result being 9 pitches, 7 lead bolts, 5 belay bolts and 2 pins and 5.11+ for the overall grade.

I am so proud to have had the good fortune to climb with Steve and so many amazing people over the years and to share pure adventure and the risks and rewards that go with it.

25 years later and i'm pretty sure it's still waiting a second ascent, as are quite a few old school slab routes out there. Any of the youth or remaining old schoolers still game for some puckerfests?



Sep 26, 2009 - 09:25am PT
i feel lucky to see this OP in it's pure form, standing alone, inscribing an arc from conception, through adversity in context,
and on to a wistful statement pointing out the neglect. before i mucked it up with this second post, it had kind of
self contained, capsulized image of what it refered to, like a forlorn, unopened package sitting on the mantle.

i know the feeling. that notion of putting up bold statements have left me wishing for reports of second ascents.
in retrospect, i wish i had put those things up in a more accessible style. (and location)

particularly since i'm now amongst the ranks of the reluctant

edit: the song rocks, though that other Byrne lyric about water flowing underground... "one day you may find yourself..."
oh, shipoopoi has repeated one of my obscurities, i appreciate that guy

re-edit: i hope this line of 'reasoning' has enough holes to pack it with the proper respect

Trad climber
pacific beach, ca
Sep 26, 2009 - 09:28am PT
Mr. Smith,

thx for the history.

anyone got pics of this line?

East Coast US
Sep 26, 2009 - 09:36am PT
People must be worried about copyright infringement; that must be the reason that the route hasn't seen a second ascent. I'd imagine that David Byrne is just sitting at the base of the route with a mini-gun, locked and loaded, waiting to nail someone.
David Wilson

Sep 26, 2009 - 10:06am PT
hey kurt, we crossed paths on the zodiac about the time you did this route. i think we all shared that bivvy below the circle. i was up there with eric brand. later, we did some routes down at arch.

"burning down the house" is a bold and proud route that may go a long time yet for a second. i assume the few bolts are old 1/4" - wonder what kind of shape they're in now?

hope you're well. david


Sep 26, 2009 - 10:17am PT
Hey Kurt, I asked you about some stories from that a couple of years ago and you produced. Thanks for that.
I may not get the second ascent, but hold me to my word, I will do that route. I would probably have tried it this summer, but a job kept me from that. My buddy and I are 1 pitch from the top on a route between BDH and Farewell to Kings. The green streak headed straight through the Arch de Triumph Roof. All from the ground on stances because.....................that's what you guys did and that's what we want to do!! Its hard. I've already started making plans to have the time next summer. I really appreciate those routes up on FaIrview from you and all the others. I've had my best FA experiences, best drawer filling moves, and best times with my friends up on that big dome. 26 routes and counting..............not to mention I've repeated many over and over. BDH and our route are next.

Thankyou thankyou thankyou Fairview FA'ers. This may sound goofy, but my life would not be the same without your contributions.
Great tales!! Lets have a shitload more.
Bob J.
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Sep 26, 2009 - 11:30am PT
It's funny, how when you're on a FA, you can just keep going and going and going without placing a bolt and the subsequent ascents are all shivering and shivering looking for the bolts. It's like you're on a higher plane of consciousness or on some "mission from god".

Max and I went up on what was to later be "Mr. Kamps" on Fairview once. We climbed all the way up to the crux face on top of that corner with only a couple of bolts and maybe a pin or two. For some reason we rapped off and didn't finish the FA. Luckily though, if we had finished it, it would have been a death route instead of the classic it is now.

Kurt, you fly out here and we'll grab Schneider and we'll go do the second ascent. We can laugh at how young and dumb we were back then and maybe even get up the route.

the kid

Trad climber
fayetteville, wv
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 26, 2009 - 12:31pm PT
Bob J.
Man that is a nice part of the face and i always wondered why it never got more action. good luck on your project. post some pictures.

Steve and i were too gripped and traveling light to take pictures! But i will dig up a nice pic of the north face all lit up.

As for Fairview, that places holds special meaning for many a meadows climber and i think all the routes done on that proud dome are just amazing!!

Scotty Burke and i had a good times (sometimes way too good) on Farewell to Kings and that album was the inspiration. For that route we wanted to get enough bolts in to make this route a repeatable classic. Has anyone here done it?

keep on keeping on and enjoy the memories..

the kid

Trad climber
fayetteville, wv
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 26, 2009 - 01:03pm PT
here are two photos of the north face in decent evening light:

and the close up of the house:

this would be a good time for other folks with F.A's on Fairview to share their stories!

Sneaking up behind you...
Sep 26, 2009 - 01:11pm PT

Back in time..
Sep 26, 2009 - 01:29pm PT
Kurt. I remember bouldering with you in the early 80's at josh
always looking for a boulder problem that you could not fire, ( it never happend ) ever since I met you, you were solid and always got the job done, In great style...

God Speed....


Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Sep 26, 2009 - 04:33pm PT

Thanks for the recollection. You should expand it; I am sure everyone would love to hear more!

Sep 26, 2009 - 07:01pm PT
I did it Kurt. RAD route. I fell right at the crux fugget!!!!! Not a sport route. Not the most hideous as far as RO's go that's for sure.
How hilarious would it be to get a group folks together to head up BDH the same day. Everyone comment and we'll get at least a thousand hits here on ST.
I'll assume that at least one party will have a GREAT story to come of it.
Bob J.


Trad climber
Sep 26, 2009 - 07:27pm PT

You pegged it, your mind is in a different place, for me my arms are in a different place. I don't want to burn out hammering so I run it out further and further. It's not that the FA is trying necessarily to make a burly route, it just sometimes turns out that way.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Sep 26, 2009 - 07:35pm PT

my guesses for the lines of Always Arches and Burning Down the House, based on the topos / route descriptions

A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
Sep 26, 2009 - 09:06pm PT
whats Always Arches rated?

will you die if you fall? I know you probably will on Burning Down the House. Although its aweful tempting looking, ain't it?


Social climber
Sep 27, 2009 - 01:22am PT
hey there the kid, say, thanks for this very interesting share... this falls under: us non-climbers learning unique history and such, from you all....

say, mark hudon:
as to your quote:
"It's funny, how when you're on a FA, you can just keep going and going....."

i can reaaly see and feel the power in that, thanks for the share...

Big Wall climber
Sep 27, 2009 - 02:27am PT
OMG Kid, has it burn 25 years since we did the House. wow, i got goose bumps reading your post. that route was a sick tribute to the times. bachar can be blamed for the runouts, we were like total disciples.

i remember heading above the arch on the first pitch and just switching into solo mode. we were typically risking our lives every week on free solos of stuff like fairview regular route, west crack, rawl drive, so going into that mode like hud talks above is a total reality. you feel more protected carrying the drill on the fa, than making a repeat ascent without the security blanket. anyway, i guess i just put in one bolt on that pitch, and you were pretty much looking death in the eye for awhile, you would just go skating off this roof onto the slab below if you blew.
kurt, i remember you coming up the pitch, looking at what i had done, and saying
"i would have maybe put put in another bolt, dude".

after putting in the first two pitches, we went back the next day. i was sleeply soundly up at tpr with a hot waitress, when kurt comes a knocking. he got me up, it was cold, and we had breakfast at the restaurant. kurt sucked it up and led my intro pitch and we were off. we pinched crimps in the cold morning air, trusting our feet all day on henious smears, pushing the envelope and ourselves, and making intense life threatening decisions on every single foothold deciphered from the fairview skin.

when we summited, we knew we had created a true horrorshow, but had no idea that the route would go without a repeat for 25 years. mike waugh(fourth ascent of bachar-yerian), apparently took one look at the death runout on the first pitch and said no way. and around 1990, my friend tracy siedel of germany and i believe his brother made a heroic attempt to repeat the route. Somehow they did like five of the hard pitches and just had kurt's bad ass last pitch to go. this is were things went wrong. finally sketching on some foot smears, tracy's partner took a horrific fall on the pitch(just think of hankster cartwhelling into oblivion on southern belle), and they made an bloody and gear depleting retreat back to the ground.

bob J - is this iike the only route you haven't done on fairview. i hate to see you repeat this on old rusty 1/4" bolts

anyway, it was two of the most amazing days of my life, my first of just two fa's on fairview, and i just shake my head now at how stupid we were. we were freaking lucky to live through those times. Kurt and i solidified a lifelong friendship right there on that climb, and we have always known from then on that we would always be there for each other no matter what. but kurt, you got one thing wrong. we were not both just young punks back then, just you...the KID.


Boulder climber
the ground up
Sep 27, 2009 - 03:48am PT
" I did it . . . Not the most hideous as far as RO's go that's for sure. "
Do tell (?) . . .
the kid

Trad climber
fayetteville, wv
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 27, 2009 - 10:47am PT
Right on Steve, thanks for sharing your thoughts! We were fired up and it was so freaking cold that day. We were underdress and under bolted and we pulled it off anyway. Fear is such a strong motivator and i always gathered great power and confidence through my partners.

Many years have passed since those two days in the meadows, but i remember it like yesterday. I can see the crispness in the air. Feel the anticipation and fear and doubt that was there until we tied in. After that it was game on!

Bachar was the master and he taught me so much and was proud of his disciples!
The 80's were really a lost era of the ground up tribe and there is a book or story to be written. By the end of that era sport climbing, comps, sponsorships and rap bolting had changed the game forever. I fought that change until 1990 and have no regrets defending the faith. (hence the name of my FA on Whales Back- Defenders of the faith- also a Judas Priest album- thanks to Dave Hatchett who turned me onto that band!)

Climbing has been so good to me and has brought me so much joy and given me so many great friendships. We should all feel lucky to share such an amazing sport.
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