Trip Report
Ancient Gold, a Suicide Rock TR
Tuesday September 18, 2007 8:04pm
My oldest son Ian has developed a keen interest in experiencing climbs as I saw them back in the seventy’s at Suicide and Tahquitz Rocks here in California. Over the past few years I’ve had the pleasure to relive the thrills of my old stomping grounds with a very eager young man determined to develop a strong head for leading.

Ian on Serpentine

Last month while doing Serpentine on the Suicide's Weeping Wall Ian spied the smooth expanse of rock to it’s upper right. I told him it was the “Window Pane” on “Ten Carrot Gold”. He was impressed it was so flawless and lacked bolts, intrigued he asked if it was hard. My reply was, for the lead its not that it’s hard but more an excursion into your own reasons you climb. Somewhat perplexed he was curious as to what I was really meaning to say… I pointed out there also seemed to be a variation to the left of it that offered a few more bolts. This could be a good option to get a feel for the rock before you tackled the original route. He thought about it for a minute considering both options and says he’d like to do the original way up the Pane. So we put Ten Carrot on the list to do the next time, giving him the chance to bone up on some more slab skills.

Over the period of the next month he asks a lot about the climb. I tell him about the first ascent party, John Long, Rick Accomazzo both of whom Ian knew having recently surfed with Rick and Biked with John. But Ian hadn’t ever met Richard Harrison. I told him that Richard had Painted all the hardware they were planning to use on the FA gold as a final detail to the route they had planed to establish. It amounted to a handful of bolt hangars and a couple Knife Blades. I went on to say it’s been a long time since I did the route but I had remembered it being quite enjoyable and the hardware was still gold clad at the time. I reminded myself out loud the last time I did the route was with his mother a few years before he was born. Hearing all of this made him want to do it all the more.

We arrive at its base on Sunday afternoon at around 3:30 and even I am apprehensive about the climb. I offer to take the first pitch because of my concern of how far out the second bolt is above the first and besides he was so keen to do the Window Pane. As I throw the rack together I’m finding myself eager to put this to bed and asking myself in silence why I still climb? It’s been twenty nine years since the last time I did this route and would it still hold the same meaning for me? So off I go very quietly keeping to myself moving deliberately from hold to hold putting in the distance needed. The cool breeze and perfect conditions cleared all my stress and the thankfully very few problems I have in my life. A chance to truly concentrate on what was before me… I caught a sigh of relief from Ian as I clip the second bolt and pretty much assure myself safe passage to the top. Drifting a bit I comment about the unknown you experience on a first ascent and how a number of elements dictate where you might place the bolts and its not clear for everyone. I continue that we today have our path before us on established routes so it’s not so unknown where our next piece of protection is going to be and we can take for granted the bolts we clip. We even know with today’s guide books what the difficulty is between each bolt so finding some unknown takes a little more effort. Yakking even more I say a fun exercise is to never grab the bolt and imagine standing there for the first time and placing it. Perhaps you can even conger up some inspiration as to what the first ascent party felt.

As I reach the top of the first pitch I find all the apprehension and maybe any doubt of my abilities flush away. I am once again reminded why I climb and I am feeling quite alive.

In a very focused state Ian follows the pitch with a slight shake of his head here and there as he looks back at the previous bolt. I know his mind must be turning inside out as to what’s in store for him on the second pitch. I can see he is getting a feel for keeping over his feet and mindful of his center. All the time knowing he will have to put all this to use on the Window Pane soon enough. I comment he’s developing some good foot work but I don’t think he heard me.

As he reaches the belay I mention it’s nice the bolts have been improved over the years (maybe last ten or fifteen) although I do miss the touch of gold. The added strength at the belay is welcomed when you look out and see the next placement a good forty feet up and right. I tell him the missing old fixed Knife blade straight out right might actually be better gone for less rope drag but it didn’t register with him I could see. A moment or so after his comment that he wants to gather himself mentally he grabs the two quick draws he needs for the only bolts on the pitch and a couple cams for the belay and he’s off.

Shameful Advertisement for climbing Knickers

If there is a true crux of the route its right off the belay and Ian fusses with the sequence with a bad start but finds the correction quickly and he’s off into his own unknown. He tries to joke about his bumbling the start then says his head isn’t on right as he keeps going. I tell him if he thinks he’s as solid as he looks to me, then he has nothing to worry about. With one move remaining he pauses, then steps up and quickly clips the bolt with a hoot of satisfaction. Having got the swing for the friction technique this section of the climb requires he continues to the top with a feeling what must have been like being on the home stretch.

As I come up I can only smile doing this for the first time in sticky shoes. The method of taking baby steps seemed to work the best to assure you stay well planted to make the best of the friction on a holdless face. As I top out I congratulate him on a job well done and the decent belay he had set up for his old Dad.

For more photos of this adventure please visit Ancient Gold, a Suicide TR at

Edit: Damm I finally figured out how to format these links. look out!

  Trip Report Views: 5,557
About the Author
graham is a social climber from Ventura, California.


Social climber
flagstaff arizona
  Sep 18, 2007 - 08:09pm PT
f*#kin' a man, that was brilliant. it took me straight back to my first time up ten karot gold -- a climb that is less about your skills and more about your head.

thanks for the tr. made my day.
E.L. "One"

Big Wall climber
Lancaster, California
  Sep 18, 2007 - 08:38pm PT
One of the all time classic climbs anywhere !!!! Those pics made my calves hurt again !! Thanks


Social climber
No Ut
  Sep 18, 2007 - 08:39pm PT
Nice and poignant, Mike...

right here, right now
  Sep 18, 2007 - 08:58pm PT
Good job Mike!
What a neat thing to do with your son.
Your writing is spare and clean too: very refreshing.

  Sep 18, 2007 - 08:59pm PT

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Sep 18, 2007 - 09:12pm PT
Why is it called the "Window pane"?

I remember leading a second pitch after the first pitch my buddy did, and both were heady.

the critters had eaten a hole in my buddy's tie dye t-shirt that day. great tie dyes from that guy in Modesto. vibrant colors.

anyways, 10k was a way special route for us. still adventuresome for us, in that we didn't know if we had it in us to do it and keep our sh#t together. much thx for a great line.



Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
  Sep 18, 2007 - 09:35pm PT
Very nice Mike!
Makes me want to head right out there with a couple draws and some gold paint.

Ain't that one o' them "museum" climbs?

Social climber
State of decay
  Sep 18, 2007 - 10:25pm PT
Very nice Mike.
I remember the window pane pitch quite well although I haven't done it in 20 years.It's got to be a trip sharing those old adventures with your son now!
We had a poster of Robs' picture of Bartlet on that pitch hanging above the iron rack at the old Pack and Piton. Seems like a long time ago. Nice that you recalled us, the Pack and Piton Boys. We always felt like second string Stonemasters, but I wouldn't trade those days for anything. Thanks for the kind words.
Ricardo Carlos

Ice climber
Off center
  Sep 19, 2007 - 01:09am PT
Wow the pictures take me back. If I close my eyes I can feel the warmth radiating from the rock after the sun is off the face. The smells and feel all comes back.
Climbing with my daughter last weekend she scolded me for stopping climbing to Yak for ten years. I said it will not happen again and I hope to teach grand kids as well in the next twenty years.
Sure will be glad to see the pockets on the knickers. Also bringing white back, it is about time HB was not the only guy in white pants . RCS
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Sep 19, 2007 - 01:37am PT
thanks for wonderful trip report. going back and doing climbs done long ago is so much fun, like meeting old friends and picking back up where you left off, but deepened by the experience of those missing years.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Sep 19, 2007 - 01:49am PT
need the white painter pants, thread bump.

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
  Sep 19, 2007 - 01:57am PT part many peeps catch the "windowpane" double entandre?

70's. maybe you just had to be there....
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Sep 19, 2007 - 02:01am PT
you had to be there...

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Sep 19, 2007 - 02:03am PT
"dual"? 'scuse me while I Kiss this guy.

Trad climber
Lee, NH
  Sep 19, 2007 - 10:54am PT
Love these generation/return stories in general, and yours was written spare and smooth as the rock itself.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Sep 19, 2007 - 11:01am PT
Great TR Mike! What fun and adventure you can have on those gleaming slabs. I especially like Harrison's gold paint on the hangers, nice touch. Great to see your son's youthful curiousity about the route so grounded in your own history. Very cool thing to be able to share. Get on up there and have a look around. Curiousity thrilled the cat and always will as long as these routes stay wild. Thanks for posting and good job Ian for mustering up the family composure!

Museum climbs, my ass!

Mudcat Spire
  Sep 19, 2007 - 11:08am PT
Yup, lets hear it for generational tales. Nice goatee as well.

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
  Sep 19, 2007 - 12:18pm PT
such a nice thing to share Mike, how cool

Trad climber
  Sep 19, 2007 - 12:31pm PT
Great writing Mike. It's such an enjoyable route and it's good to see the new generation getting as much fun out of it as we did.

Social climber
Ventura, California
Author's Reply  Sep 19, 2007 - 02:11pm PT
I’m glad I could stir up the old thrill memories for a lot of you.

Bvb, I think Munge may have eluded to perhaps there’s more to the Windowpane story as well but as far as my son knows it’s just a piece of glass. Unless Largo wants to embellish us of course.

After weighing through the “Museum Climbs” thread I thought it was significantly important to note this kind of route is still sought after to this day. Jan, you are right about this new generation. Ian has a posse of friends, gym climbers, sport climbers who are all chomping to do these mental test pieces. We did some harder stuff the next day but he was the most proud swinging leads with me on TCG or is it TKG?

Anyway I like all these young climbers...real character’s have been built on these kinds of climbs.

Thanks guys

Oh yeah, Munge be assured you can paint in any one of our pants :-)

Trad climber
  Sep 19, 2007 - 02:20pm PT
So Mike, I keep seeing Bolton in these nice white capris and I am insanely jealous. When might we see some of the new Stonemaster line of clothes available.

Social climber
Ventura, California
Author's Reply  Sep 19, 2007 - 02:29pm PT
Jan, I keep trying to be stealth on where to find our new product line with the odd link slipped in here and there.

Try this to get you there quicker Bolton’s Capris are here



Social climber
flagstaff arizona
  Sep 19, 2007 - 03:31pm PT
on another note, does anyone else remember the profile of graham that ran in mountain magazine sometime in the late '70's, titled "the quite american"? seems MG hit britan and repped the SoCal posse, big time. blew through every hard freeclimb in britan without breaking a sweat. nobody over there had even heard of the guy. haven't read that articles in decades, but i can still quote it from memory:

"have you heard about the yank, been doing all the hard routes?"

"british pride sputtering inside me: all the hard routes??

"profit of doom, footless crow..." and so on.

mike, you are the very embodiment of a "class act". thanks for just being here, whenever you post up you make the day a little brighter for all of us.

Social climber
Ventura, California
Author's Reply  Sep 20, 2007 - 11:39am PT
Thanks for that Bob VB

I would have liked to have taken credit for doing Footless Crow but that's a story... as I was down climbing ten feet back to a semi-rest place I fell and pulled all the hard work out and went sailing. Too knackered as they say in Britain to go back up that day and then never got back to Goat Crag… That’s life` I guess

I might not be so quite anymore though?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Sep 20, 2007 - 11:51am PT
The Mike Graham appreciation thread has the "quiet American" profile that you are after bvb. Not a lot else in the mags about Mike otherwise but that visit made a big splash for sure.

Woodland Park, CO
  Sep 20, 2007 - 12:06pm PT

i saw a guy (Rundy Vogel?) one time free-solo it, he was "Shaking like a dog shitting razorblades".

Social climber
Ventura, California
Author's Reply  Sep 20, 2007 - 12:20pm PT
WOW! There have been some wild solos for sure. From the sound of your description that may have been hard to watch. If on sight you could get suckered into going the wrong way on that one.

Amazed every damm day!

Woodland Park, CO
  Sep 20, 2007 - 01:26pm PT
Yes Graham, it was hard to watch. But now that I think about it, he was probably acting to get a rise out of the peanut gallery below.

I have high respect for those who climbed ANY of those Weeping Wall routes with EB's (or less) !!

I remember taking some LOOOONG sliders even on Serpentine with EB's on !! Sloooowly watching the bolts go by, one by one, on my way down !!

Nice trip report, brings back memories.


Social climber
Ventura, California
Author's Reply  Sep 20, 2007 - 06:35pm PT
OK I feel dumb now. PMS I thought you meant you saw someone named Rundy solo Footless Crow! Some strange British name, thought it was curious his last name was Vogel. I think my mind was there after my last post. Yikes…

For sure Randy was pulling everyone’s leg.

Jeff, you bring up two guys who are Icon’s of California climbing. Dave Evans and RANDY Vogel. Both I am very grateful to call close friends. Randy must have had his oats get to him that day on TK

Still feel dumb though.
dee ee

Mountain climber
Of THIS World (Planet Earth)
  Sep 21, 2007 - 03:11pm PT
Nice story Mike, I hope I get an opportunity to climb it with my son Jake. Maybe in a few years!
Off White

Tenino, WA
  Sep 21, 2007 - 07:27pm PT
I'm going to bump this because it is so much sweeter than much of what is on the front page. Ten Karat was one of the looming climbs of my youth, and I've got a son who is much like Ian, smitten with the resonance of history and the notion of climbing as a crucible for distilling the dross from one's life. Thanks for the lovely tale Mike. The kids are alright.
Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
  Sep 22, 2007 - 03:34pm PT
Very well done, Mike, but especially Ian. What a wonderful world to be able share mountain experiences with our kids. I am waiting for the TR when Ian drags Dad up Valhalla!

Social climber
Ventura, California
Author's Reply  Sep 22, 2007 - 04:19pm PT
He’s eye balling it Rick. Ian and I did Largo and Clark’s direct start to Hesitation after TKG which was a new route for even me. I said we’re pretty close to Valhalla if he wanted to check it out. Told me he didn’t want to spoil it.

You know the last time I did Valhalla was with you and Henry Barber. Henry stills tells me that was his most favorite day climbing ever. I remember it like it was yesterday, Hot Henry crammed in the back seat of your Pinto telling us all about his last trip to Britain for two hours straight. I'm guessing that’s a big reason we both went there in the years to follow.

Dave, how old is Jake now? I had Ian on the rock kind of early but it was just the two of us most of the time so we were pretty limited with what we did. Coming down the chimney from Pisano the other day there were some people on Surprise which was good to see. He thought it looked pretty good and I told him he did it when he was eight. He say’s how did I belay you? I told him I don’t remember but I may have just dragged a rope along. Made me laugh because I feel the same way today if I’m leading a pitch with him. Considering my weight there’s no way he’s going to stop me!

Raining pretty good here in Ventura today, hope we still get our October Indian summer.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Sep 22, 2007 - 08:15pm PT
A Tucson climber named Marty Woerner (later Sadhana) put up one of my favorite routes on the Weeping Wall, Duck Soup. I recall some bolts being placed on rappel on the FA and a little controversy at the time. The route winds around a bit but samples some of the best stone around. Any of you guys done that one?

Trad climber
Mental Physics........
  Sep 22, 2007 - 09:54pm PT
Ditto Mike, great thread! As we all know, the weeping wall was not only our primary hangout at Suicide, but also our
slab technique hone-zone.

I quite recall finally getting up the Cajones to jump on Ten Carat Gold, but just before roping up Sybille took at 35 to 40 footer on the thing. The weekend crowd stared straight up at her as regained her composure.

My jets were a bit cooled and it took a few more weekends for the testosterone to re-build. Luckily there was no shortage of the stuff in those days...

captain chaos

  Sep 23, 2007 - 08:57am PT
What a great time for you and Ian, Mike... I think that's one of the greatest gifts of having kids, and that's getting to do the things with them that you love and shaped your life. From what I can tell it looks like he inherited your head and talent on the stone, great to see... you bringing him to Nepal?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Sep 29, 2007 - 04:28pm PT
Well Mike, it seems that your little adventure made the grade. From Richard DuMais' Great American Rock Climbs, 1995.

24 Karat at this point brother, nice job again.

Social climber
Ventura, California
Author's Reply  Oct 1, 2007 - 02:00pm PT
Hey Steve,

Where do you find all these old articles, your library? Never seen that one above, thanks.

Going back over this I’m thinking about the Duck Soup route. My recollection of the time was that we thought it was some good climbing. I don’t think I knew it was placed on rappel when I first did it and when I found out it didn’t matter that much to me. The oddest thing I remember is the guy that put it up never ventured back around as far as I know. Anyway it wasn’t like it was bolt ladder with odd clips at your knees and all. In fact it was maybe a little thought provoking. Pretty sure I did it with Rob Muir and I also remember getting a second degree sunburn on my back that day. That part of the wall can be like a reflector oven.

I’ve heard it called California’s first “Sport Route”. Interesting no one ever chopped it or for that matter anyone I knew never even talked about chopping it. Good thing because it’s a great climb.

Thanks again,


Trad climber
  Oct 1, 2007 - 05:23pm PT
Not Calif, but about fathers and kids. My daughters never got into climbing and unless they change after high school it won't happen. Too bad as it must be one of the best things to share.
One of my friends here, Chris Perry, is about 64 ,moved to Calgary in the 70's and put up many routes in the bold Brit style, no bolts allowed. Now he puts up new routes with his son top down with a Hilti. Old dogs can learn new tricks.
The son, Ian,is the rope gun for the 5.11 stuff though Chris does well on 5.10.

Trad climber
  Oct 1, 2007 - 05:36pm PT
The worst sunburn I ever got was at the "semi-hanging belay" on 10 Karat Gold. What a great climb, though!

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
  Oct 2, 2007 - 11:20am PT
An interesting aside about the first ascent of 10 K was that we added an extra bolt on the first pitch (the 4th) after Richard led the thing believing no one would want to climb it if it had a fifty foot runout in the middle of lead 1 (on easy 5.9ish stuff). The idea to do the route came from climbing that corner to the right (Goliath??) with three people, and when the third followed the 2nd and last pitch, he moved out of the crack and climbed a ways up the "Windowpane," which we thought impossible in the old shoes. On the first ascent I remember leading the "Pane" in those old red PAs and being amazed my feet were sticking. That's an all time classic slab route. The first pitch - almost every move is 5.8 or 5.9. Tends to focus your mind wonderfully.

Somebody ought to bust out old Rebloting Development stories - from the pre-Fire era. That route was horrifying in the old shoes!

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Oct 2, 2007 - 12:33pm PT
Was you reblottoing on da Winderpain pitch big fella or in anticipation? But seriously, I always wondered about that route name.
John Vawter

Social climber
San Diego
  Oct 2, 2007 - 02:14pm PT
Ten Karat is one of my favorites too.

About Duck Soup, this may be apocryphal, but I heard that Marty Woerner originally named the route Tyrannosaurus Rex. It might have been fearful when he first started working on it, but by the time it was finished the "new generation" had raised free climbing standards so much that it paled in comparison. The name invited disparaging remarks, like it was as easy as duck soup. It stuck.

It's still a cool route, especially the third pitch.

Social climber
Ventura, California
Author's Reply  Oct 2, 2007 - 02:34pm PT
AP my oldest daughter loved climbing the most after High school so you may still get the opportunity. Peak bagging has the same gratification also.

John I actually thought there was a gold knifeblade under that small three foot arch instead of that bolt way off to the right. That’s a good story about Richard’s concern for future parties. Refreshing and to the character of the days.

Yes Rebolting stories let’s hear them!
Double D

  Dec 16, 2007 - 05:29pm PT
Awesome writing Mike! It really shows the essence of your thoughtfulness and fathering abilities! You have been such an incredible influence to the climbing community for a very long time. There are several things that I have always been grateful to you for, and figured it’s about time to express my thanks.

First off, you saved the life of a dear friend, Rik Rieder. Rik was my first contact with the climbing community of Yosemite and always was motivating to hang out with. I later became good friends with his brother, Kurt, then slowly the rest of the Rieder clan. I know they will always be grateful for your amazing rescue on Pacific Ocean wall as well.

My second thanks come from when we were just groms. It was in the C4 parking lot just after you assisted in the Half Dome rescue of Billy and I…a very humbling experience to say the least. We were hanging at the cars and you were turning us on to some good Jazz piano tape, probably Keith Jarrett. In an older brother type of way, you came up and told us not to get bummed out about the experience…that it could have happened to anyone…to just chalk it up to experience and move on. You have no idea how much that meant to me.

Next you invented the tool that was most responsible, in my humble opinion, for pushing the limits of aid climbing. Most folks don’t realize this, but your portaledge revolutionized big wall climbing in a way that perhaps the younger generations wouldn’t understand. Prior to portaledges the accommodations on walls, sans ledges, were bat hammocks. I read a post by Werner that put the misery of these things in perspective. Your shoulders were being rolled together like a getting stuck in a vice. Even with spreader bars, at best you could only sleep for ½ hour at a time. After two or three nights of this, we were climbing in a perpetual, sleep-deprived haze. Portaledges changed the face of big wall climbing like sticky shoes did for free climbing. With a clear head from a good nights sleep, the realm of possibilities on walls flourished.

You always had a watchful eye out for your brothers on the walls. When Augie Klein, Max Jones and I topped out from an early ascent of Tangerine Trip in a freak May blizzard, you were the one keeping a watchful eye on us from the meadow with the SAR telescope. I also remember well when we were doing the 3rd ascent of PO, you were the one watching from the meadow as we fixed that same pitch that you had rescued Rik from years earlier (at least I think it was the same pitch). We were all under 20 at the time and this was a daunting undertaking. Everyone else was telling us that we weren’t ready and that we all had a death wish. You and Bridwell were the only ones encouraging us to go for it.

Finally I remember a short phone conversation we had when I had just had my son, yours was about three if I remember correctly. You were relaying the joys of fatherhood and how cool these guys were as they grow up to become your little buddies. I think you were the first guy I ever heard talk with enthusiasm about having kids.

God has given you an incredible gift of encouragement and it’s evident in your writing. Thanks for all of your inspirations and keep it up!


Social climber
Ventura, California
Author's Reply  Dec 17, 2007 - 01:53pm PT

Thanks so much for the nice words and welcome to this welting pot of experiences.

The Rik Rieder event is branded deeply in my soul. Bringing him down alone was probably the single most grueling piece of work I’ve done on the captain. I am so glad it turned out for the better. All my best if you see him.

As you all know, I too was once rescued along with Tobin Sorenson. I know too well the feelings that follow, humbleness, anxiety, self worth… you definitely grow from it.

You guys ushered in a new generation with your early accomplishments and the PO Wall ascent you did is testament to that. As a lost friend of mind put it “slaying the mythical dragon” it takes a young uninhibited mind sometimes to pull it off. Wasn’t it Kurt who did the second ascent lead of the wave pitch on Greasy but Groovy?

I remember the early OR days and seeing you in a suit and Tie enjoying the scene.
You know I have this picture I see all the time of my youngest son Alec on his mom’s back in one of your Baby packs you designed and marketed. Great stuff!

Hope all is well with you and yours


Mike Graham

Edit: HaHa, I meant “Melting Pot” must have been a Freudian slip.

Hey John, you're welcome!
john bald

  Dec 17, 2007 - 03:16pm PT
Thanks Mike for the TKG TR...always the first route that comes to mind when sending folks that way.
Steve, great reminder about Duck Soup. My first lead in new RR's before I got a pair of EB's drop shipped from relatives in England. Wow these funny looking boots really work!
Slab on!
Double D

  Dec 17, 2007 - 09:55pm PT
"Wasn’t it Kurt who did the second ascent lead of the wave pitch on Greasy but Groovy?"

I honestly can't rember who led that pitch but I do remember that that was one of my favorite face climbs in the Valley. I was in awe of what you guys must have felt like on the FA. I always wondered if you somehow rapped in from above to scope it first. We went through a huge face climbing phase, mainly on middle and when we did greasy... I was blown away at the high quality, edges and angle...unlike anything else of that era.

Social climber
Ventura, California
Author's Reply  Dec 17, 2007 - 10:39pm PT
For the record, I wasn’t on the FA of GBG. When I went up there I used the old “Hot Toes” ploy in my Eb’s to back off that thing.

Somewhere a while back I posted a Picture of Kline on Free Wheelin. May have been that Stonemaster thread way back.

Here’ it’s easier to post it again


Social climber
Ventura, California
Author's Reply  May 17, 2008 - 06:07pm PT
I thought I would piggy back this TR into the Suicide “Gold” category.

Rick, since you asked

I am waiting for the TR when Ian drags Dad up Valhalla!

You can always go back

But you may have to work a little harder at it.

In 1973 I was sixteen with only a few things on my mind, (Mostly) climbing and making gear for climbing. Staying in shape was easy back then. You didn’t need to work out for climbing because you seemed to always be on the rock. The making gear part was more a novelty back then but sure won over doing my school homework. I could actually visualize there was an occupation looming somewhere in my climbing future.

School was just a stone’s throw from great bouldering at “Pirates Cove” in Corona Del Mar. I was fortunate to have a couple of understanding teachers who would actually let me cut class and go and get my morning workout. I was bouldering as much as I could because I was determined to climb “Valhalla” at Suicide Rock in the San Jacinto Mountains. It still stood unrepeated since the first ascent and was repelling strong teams. Jim Ericson and Scott Stewart from Colorado, who had just a few days before bagged the prized FFA of the crag’s “Insomnia Crack”, had given it their best effort.

There were others of like minds who had set their sights on that climb. At that time it was the new standard. It was a chance to personally test the sum of all your preparation, to measure yourself against the generation before you.

When Valhalla was finally repeated, it all happened in rapid succession. I was fortunate to pull off the Sixth ascent leading all three pitches and a week later following Terry Emerson up the Seventh. This one climbed formed the basis of a lasting bond for many of us that still continues to this day.

When I founded the “Gramicci” Company in the early eighties my focus switched to the making gear for climbers and it demanded more and more of my time. The act of climbing itself became more difficult to keep up with and staying in the kind of shape it required proved daunting with a growing business and family. The following years I would get out on the rocks with my kids, showing them a world of challenge in the outdoors. It felt that the globe trotting days of climbing the best routes were to be just memories.

A few years back I thought it would be great to climb Valhalla again before or on my fiftieth birthday. However that date soon passed. There is truth in the saying that time goes by faster the older you get.

Through time I have found that good things can happen when you don’t try so hard. Your mind is in a different space, not weighed down with expectations and the pressure of failure. Look back to the times when you simply summed up a great experience to, “I was having a good day” or “I was feeling good that day”. Those are the moments you try and duplicate but are again elusive because you’re trying too hard once more.

My chance to climb Valhalla once more came a few weeks back when my Son felt it was his time. Fantastic I thought, even to follow it would be a treat. I would be able to test myself again, this time against my youth of ‘73.

We got to the base of the route in the late afternoon around 4:30. I told Ian it looks like I’ll lead the first and third pitch leaving him with the crux second pitch. Racking up in silence I try to clear all the notions of “what if I can’t do this” so I try to focus on nothing. In the end the only thing that really put my head on straight was getting to the top of the first pitch. Anchored in and my shoes loosened I brought up Ian.

Looking very powerful he arrived at the belay very quickly. With his adrenaline pumping he hadn’t noticed he had opened the tip of his finger on a sharp flake below. As he started up the second pitch it opened even more making it difficult to hang on. Seeing the disappointment in his eyes he returned to the belay.

Without giving it much thought I tightened up my boots real well and told him I should give it a go since we were here.

Ian sizing up the crux on the second pitch

When I got out to the first bolt I looked up, saw where I needed to be and before I knew it I was clipping the second bolt with the crux behind me. Looking back at my wide eyed son I heard him say “Damm Dad, you looked like you did that before” With a big smile I reply, “yeah just a few times"; Who knows, maybe after thirty five years there was still some remnants of the moves deep in my subconscious waiting to be useful again. At this point it was just like the first time all over. Here I was, over fifty and having a momentary feeling of being sixteen again. Continuing to the belay I reveled in the quality of the rock and the remainder of the pitch.

Ian put up with his bleeding finger and refused to let me lead the third pitch. As I followed the last pitch I notice its run out in spots and comment on what nice job he did with the lead. When I get to the top I can see he is a little bummed since he really wanted to lead this route on-sight. He told me it was still good he got to do the route with me anyway.

I told him the best part of all this is that he gets to come back and do it again.

You can view more photos by following this link You can always go back
Mighty Hiker

Outside the Asylum
  May 17, 2008 - 06:24pm PT
Thanks, Mike! A few times I've gone back to memorable climbs, and it's always a treat.

"In 1973 I was sixteen with only a few things on my mind, (Mostly) climbing and making gear for climbing."

What about girls? :-)

Social climber
From the Time Before the Rocks Cooled.
  May 17, 2008 - 08:55pm PT
I'm pretty sure we did the second ascent of Ten Carat Gold BITD. Now, I don't remember who I was with, but I do remember other guilty parties from that afternoon back in the Summer of 1973.

We were at the base of the wall and I saw Largo, Harrison and (Terry Goodykuntz?) at the top of Goliath. Johnny and I shouted greetings to each other, and he and Richard started raving about this new route they had just done. "Ho man... You should get on this thing. Richard and I just did it last weekend. Not too hard."

Now I'd known John for a long time by this time, and Katrina would not have been such a disaster if Largo were around to have filled the sandbags. However my skip-loader was equal to his dump truck, and my partner was game. There's this great ledge near the top of Goliath that looks directly down on the Windowpane, so the lads settled in to watch the show. All they needed was a bag of peanuts...

We made short order of the first pitch, and I headed around the corner on to the 'Pane. The dudes, I'm sure, had other things to do but they hung with Johnny on that ledge watching with great intent. …don't recall ever being so closely scrutinized on the lead before, or since. Twenty feet out from the bolt, Largo reminded me of this member of the Peanut's gallery:

As I continued padding up the slab, palming and pressing, trying to feel every nubbin under my PAs, the tunnel was closing in and a great quiet descended as I approached the thank gawd bolt. I certainly felt like Bartlett looked, but there was no way that I could show it.

The restraint required to NOT grab that biner after the clip can't be exaggerated, since I had witnesses looking on. Their disappointment was palpable!

The moment that I started climbing up the remainder of that slab, the show was over. The Boys immediately headed out, and on the summit I belayed my partner up in solitude.
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Lassitude 33
  May 17, 2008 - 09:12pm PT
Mike, Great story about climbing Vahalla (again). Congrats on the fine lead and getting to share it with your son!

Robs, I can visualize the scene you describe so well. Nice story.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
  May 17, 2008 - 11:48pm PT
Arriving late on this thread. Extremely exceptional writing, Mike. Really. This is what modern rock climbing authorship is about. You clearly know that it is not just a specialized form of travel writing. Thanks for the private vision. Thanks tons! You always were really great!

best PH

Boulder climber
Institute of Better Bouldering-DirtbagDad Division
  May 18, 2008 - 12:58am PT
Wow, I just stumbled onto this thread late and all I can say is "inspirational!" I don't know if I'll ever climb Valhalla with my son (he's just four, but maybe I still have time!), but Ten Carrot is certainly within the realm. Poetic and a great reflection of the history connected to the now. Thank you.

Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
  May 18, 2008 - 10:00am PT

Thanks for the latest installment of the excellent adventures of Ian and Mike! It is inspiring to see you and Ian picking off the old classics: Figures last month and now Valhalla.

The Vampire waits patiently in the shadows across the valley.


Social climber
Ventura, California
Author's Reply  May 18, 2008 - 11:57am PT
Anders, I thought I should be real careful talking about girls or sex considering what happen to Locker last week. Funny that was the first thing my wife said too when she read it. “What about girls?”

Nice one Rob! Classic, if I saw PA’s on your feet I might have stuck around for a show too.

Randy, I was obviously never one for repeating routes too much as I always seemed to move on. BUT that was the forth time I did Valhalla.

I have had some great conversations with Clark Jacobs the past few months (the resident authority on the route). You probably know being a guide he’s done that route getting close to 200 times. I would love to TRY and get him to write about his ascent when he spread Bud (Ivan) Couch’s ashes over the climb. It’s really a special tale.

Peter, your post really means a lot to me thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed the stories.

Rick, Fletcher, it’s nice to still be able to inspire. It one of those gifts that keeps moving forward.
Dogtown Climber

Trad climber
The Idyllwild City dump
  May 18, 2008 - 11:59pm PT
Its been 20+ years for myself as well,But it feels like I just lead it again thru your post.Keep-em climbing sounds like he's do-in fine. Great read.
Lynne Leichtfuss

Trad climber
Will know soon
  May 19, 2008 - 12:38am PT
This is about the best climbing thread I have read since I joined ST a couple months ago. I went on the link you posted from the Josh redux, Mr. Graham, and if any of you missed it, it was just as good or better than this Thread.

As prior posters have said, your writing skills are excellent. You feel like you are on the rock with you and Ian, one can learn from how you describe what you are doing, how you are doing it and with what equip.

In other posts recently, younger climbers have asked how to find mentors to help them. If they read Threads like this they would learn a ton. Perhaps you and Ian could post more of your climbs with the super pictures and information.

Amy and I enjoyed meeting Ian at Josh. He is not only a good climber but a cool young dude (a real gentleman!)


Trad climber
  May 19, 2008 - 08:20pm PT
Bumping for Lynne and everyone else.
Great TR
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  May 20, 2008 - 02:18am PT
I was commenting to scuffy yesterday as we wandered around in "The Land Of Climbs That Shall Not Be Named" (aka TLOCTSNBN, which is Aztec for "never you mind") that I hadn't climbed at Taquitz or Suicide since the early 80s... would seem that a road trip would be in order, as I cannot stand to read such great TRs and not be incited to make a visit. And my very first climb was White Maiden's Walkway where, belayed on Goldline, I did my first lead and pounded in my first pitons... Letty French was the leader of this roped team, one other young guy who I forget... it was a Sierra Club outing, Riverside Chapter RCS.

There, that thoroughly dates me.

So it is time to reconnect with the ancient past and revisit a local that has always held a warm place in my heart.

Thanks Mike for the great story.

Social climber
Ventura, California
Author's Reply  May 21, 2008 - 01:08pm PT
Thanks for comments and the bumps

Lynne, thanks for the Kind words and all. I know Ian enjoyed meeting you and Amy in Josh.

Just got back from another fun couple of days of picking off little routes I’ve actually never have done (well most of them). There sure seems to have been a surge in the eighties at Tahquitz and Suicide. I have my own theories as to why, maybe you all have thoughts on it?

The Big stone across the valley from Suicide

I want to nominate the following route for at least one star in the next guide. Luckily I had a respectful enough group with me not to make any snide remarks about me climbing a route called “Thin Man”. Through the years I have collected quite the arsenal of wired nuts. With the choice my rack offers, you can seemingly make the “R” rating go away on this route. We all agreed the climb had a lot of fun variety and being completely protected naturally its as good as the day it was never done.

Walking past this one below I commented to John Sherman it was the first route I ever put up. Even with a broken finger and water running down the route he had to do it. I assured him the bolts are where you need them and having climbed the Eiger and Troll walls were a good prerequisite. We were all not sure how often “Ours” gets done but for me it was nice to do it a second time.

So Ed or anyone else, if you do make it down and need an afternoon diversion be sure to check these out.
F10 Climber F11 Drinker

Trad climber
  May 21, 2008 - 02:31pm PT
Graham, I have done the last two routes you mentioned several times and always had a good time. Especially Thin Man with all those thin cracks toward the bottom. It is alittle different from the normal slab type routes. Lots of good times in the "other valley"

  May 22, 2008 - 09:52pm PT
Graham Serpentine was my 1'st lead, thanks for the photos.
I thought the route was more to the center of the rock?

I don't remember the 1'st pitch of 10 Karat Gold traversing?
I have done the 2'nd pitch straight up version with possible
belayer takeout potential along with the variation that
traverses to the right, and I believe I only used a bolt
approximately 20' above the approximately 20' traverse to the
right? I don't remember rope drag.

The last time I did either variation of 10k gold was a little
over 10 years ago and almost 20 years ago Valhalla.

Note on Valhalla:(to the kid): If you can lead and flash the 5.10
(c) I believe just next to Serpentine and flash 10 Karat
Gold you should probably be ready to give Valhalla a try.

Social climber
Ventura, California
Author's Reply  May 22, 2008 - 10:10pm PT
That’s a good route to start leading on. Bold IMO for a first.

That's a variation you did on TKG I found out later from Clark Jacobs. He and Jack Roberts put it up some time back. They called it “white line fever” Hope I remembered that right.


Just livin' the dream
  May 23, 2008 - 01:26am PT
"Looking back at my wide eyed son I heard him say “Damm Dad, you looked like you did that before”

Best line in the entire story, Mike. I'm still chuckling.

Thanks for an excellent TR and all the climbing history that tagged along with it.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Feb 6, 2009 - 12:12pm PT
All that jitters is Gold...Bump!

Trad climber
Golden, CO
  Feb 6, 2009 - 02:39pm PT
Nice, Mike...and I agree with Tar, well written. I'm still trying to work up some interest on the part of my youngest. I'd love to climb with my child.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Feb 7, 2009 - 12:39pm PT
Sweet company to be sure!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Mar 22, 2009 - 11:44am PT
Bump for fathers and sons out together!

Trad climber
  Mar 30, 2009 - 03:08am PT
Hi Mike.

Jeeze, talk about a blast from the past. What a BUNCH of memories! I've done a lot of things and been a lot of places in my life, but running over these is a definite highlight. I know this thread is a bit old, but that's just how time falls into place.

I was surfing around doing a search this evening for Clark Jacobs who I first met at Pasadena City College in the Spring of '73. I don't know why, but out of the blue I just found myself wondering what had happened to him, when I stumbled onto this series of threads at SuperTopo and found a picture of me joining the "Stonemasters" way back here

Wasn't Clark there that day yelling up at me? I know Tobin was. Clark was there either that day or the weekend Phil Warrender fell so many times on New Generation that he gave up. Seems to me you and Tobin went back to finish it a few weeks later.

So I couldn't help but reply here as it's a pleasant surprise that you rememberd and attributed me after all these years! But like you, the "Valhalla Club" was definitely a thing to remember, even to this day.

Talking about shoes, I did that lead in an old pair of brown suede leather "RD's". I bought those after Bud Couch recommended them to me, and Valhalla was considered one of the hardest things around. The last time I saw Bud was late Summer of '73 at Tuolumne, when a bunch of us hitched a ride from Hot Creek to Oakland with Galen Rowell so I could fly back to LA. Galen lit up our fears by taking the turns in that road down from Tenaya pushing an old station wagon into full four wheel drifts, then laughing histerically at us as we protested, "we're all gonna' die!" Galen pushed me a bit further into photography, which is about all I do these days after retiring out of Hollywood. I was equally sad to hear about Galen when he passed, as I was when I heard about Tobin decades before.

But back to Valhalla, from '69 through '73 I had used PA's, but they were trashed, as the RD's were always a bit harder and I used the PA's to oblivion. So all I had that day I joined the Stonemasters were the RD's, but having worn them completely out as well, I sent them over to Wilson to resole in the Spring of 1973. Wilson put the hardest darn old "green dot" soles on those things he could find in his back room there in Bishop, even harder than the originals! It was like trying to climb on Teflon.

Do you remember I fell into your belay maybe five or six times trying to edge the damn crux because I could NOT get a handle on a smear? Valhalla might be a modest little 5.11a today, but I still wonder how many could edge it in really HARD soled ankle high shoes?

Now I haven't climbed seriously for twenty years now, except to lead a few things for new guys around San Luis Obispo around 2000, and was suprised to hear many young men talking about Tobin who had put up some fun things there. They had never met him and he was still a hero. All I could say was that he was one of the most memorable persons I had ever known as was sorry to hear he had gone way back then. Remember he used to boulder UPSIDE DOWN?!

But the last time I did Valhalla in about '87, I was about 40 years old and just skated through it using a beat up pair of Fires, following a pretty good climber buddy named Eric Charlton up so fast that I had passed the crux realizing I had failed to unclip! I downclimbed back below, unclipped, and did it again, still without a slip. That's the difference better shoes made even then. People today may not know about how much more difficult these climbs were using old shoes.

Few today could easily lead the Chingadera using Piveta hiking shoes, which if I remember right, is what Mark Powel told me he used when he put it up as a 5.10+. And I think Bob Kamps was still using Pivetas when I first met him at Stony Point in 1969. Think about all the slick FA's Kamps did in the 60's using lug Vibram soled hiking boots!

And speaking of lug soles, consider Rebolting Development. How many today could edge that climb wearing Robins Aid shoes with lug soles, standing on those tiny quartz corn nubbins and banging in the bolts with an old wooden handled Yosemite hammer and a 1/4 inch bolt kit without a hand guard in traditional lead?!!! Again, if I recall, that's what Mike Kaeser and Greg Bender wore when they put it up!! Mike, Greg, and I migrated on up to Tahoe in '72 when we found out they were paying house framers something like $400 a week, at least $3000 in today's dollars because you could buy a brand new car off the showroom floor for $2500!! So we pounded nails the entire Summer of '72, burning through about everything in the basin and at Lover's Leap. Talk about memories. Wow. So it was the next Summer before I got back to Idlewild and did Valhalla with you.

Those were the days we used to "tie off" onto the tip of the drill bit with a little loop of 3/8 webbing and would find ourselves hang dogging a tiny bit here and there from the drill just barely introduced into the rock to ease the edge we were standing on. At least once I leaned onto one of those loops a little too hard and broke the tip of my drill bit off and found myself airborn for quite a fall. I think I remember Phil Warrender telling me he pretty much quit climbing doing the same thing into an 80 foot fall or something on Witney Portal Buttress. That was Trad climbing, looking backward.

And like you, by the mid 80's I found myself pushed beyond mainstream climbing, married and working full time as a sound engineer in the film industry down there in Hollywood, house payments, two cars, 90 hour work weeks. As I remember, I did end up working on some commercials with Largo, John Bachar, and Lynn Hill, and maybe an old "That's Incredible" episode too. But I still climbed on for a while, watching 5.11 falling way back into oblivion under 5.12, 5.13, 5.14, and on and on.

But still, in those old RD's, Valhalla was a difficult lead, a memorable moment, and it was a priveledge to have become a member of the Stonemasters. I was very proud. Thanks for belaying me through it, as in all the things I've done and all the places I've been, that was still a pivotal experience that evokes some of the most intense nostalgia from my youthful days. It's only a highlight, but it does fairly represent that period between 1969 and 1989 when I could reasonably call myself a traditional climber.

Happy to see you're still at it.

BTW, the last time I saw Clark Jacobs was on a climbing promo film I did at Suicide in about '90 or so for Allstate Insurance, as he was the guide on the job for Bob Gaines or something, as he pretty much made his life a full time climbing adventure. If anyone has a handle on how to get in touch with him, I'd like to say hello. Don't know why he came to mind after all these years, but he did.

Terry Emerson


Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
  Mar 30, 2009 - 12:29pm PT
Awesome, Terry. Great to hear from you.

Terry wrote: "People today may not know about how much more difficult these climbs were using old shoes."

Most of the harder Suicide and Tahquitz routes went up before EBs, meaning we were using either the old red PAs or the leather uppered RDs. Neither boot was worth a sh#t for smearing. You had to edge everything, and the slightest miscue and - ping! You were off for the big one.

Might be an interesting exercise to get a few modern day climbes and fit them up with PAs and let them loose at Suicide. Ten Karat would be a nice start.


Trad climber
Jamul, CA
  Mar 30, 2009 - 12:36pm PT

I spoke to Clark. He would like to speak with you. I sent you a PM with the info.

Trad climber
  Mar 30, 2009 - 06:56pm PT
Hi John!

Thanks for the reply. Jeeze, but it's been a while.

I stumbled in here looking for Clark, and talked to him this morning, first time in 20 years, and we ran over a lot of ground, terra firma where your name came up more than once! I had not known how close he came or how tough he's had it recently. But his stories are miles deep and oceans wide, as just about the main thing he's done with his life was Stonemaster adventure climbing, guiding, and search and rescue.

I advised him, perhaps a bit boldly, that one of the most valuable things he owns today are all those carfully crafted memories, and on a fit of inspiration suggested that with his good natured, wry personality and boxfull of world class golden experiences, he ought to begin to put them to paper himself. His consistent perspective and life saving moments really do pulse with intrinsic blood. But he's an honest soldier and wasn't sure he was qualified.

Really, says I? With an entire milk crate full of old bolts he'd replaced from trad climbs over thirty five years, each one numbered and categorized by climb and FA, and his years of S&R out of both Camp 4 and Idlewild, his fine FA's, Charthouse memories, his 130 ascents of Valhalla, his 24 ascents of the Vampire, his thousands of guided climbs, bodies who's lives he virtually breathed life back into, bodies carried out, body PARTS carried out, bodies finally burried....NOT qualified?!

But that's Clark. He needs the boost of noteworthy credit and a little fire built up under him, it seems.

I suggested he look to you for a hint of guidance, as that's been your forte for decades, offering him all the support I had. It would be nice to get him online with a laptop or something. That would be fun. I think he could put together his own collection of brain fissures, and it might help him pay all those med bills.

But I did get a hold of him though. Aint' it something, the Inet?

And yes, with respect to the Suicide and Tahquitz trads, those climbs were definitely MUCH harder in "old shoes", more than most newer people realize.

But then maybe PA's might be too much of a break for all the adrenal substance out there today, as those are the shoes we favored most long before sticky stuff and hot pink laces; the GOOD shoes. I'm wondering if those who really want a traditional challenge test the metal by hunting down a pair of Pivetas instead, then try one of those Kamps or Powel climbs that everyone thinks are just too easy, the one's the hot doggers of the age just hike by. Lug soles had even LESS edge footprint than PA's! But then maybe I'm being a bit vain here, and ought to just reign that old passionate arrogance back in a bit before it leads me to some wellspring of my own embarrasment.

But I do believe you're right. 10 Karat in PA's might be a bit of an eye opener for many modern climbers, maybe even the hardcore soloists who never seem to suffer a trembling thought of trepidation.

And remembering Tobin too, when I said he bouldered upside down, I really mean UPSIDE DOWN! Do you remember that!? He used to begin at the base doing a handstand facing the rock, and digging his toes into the hand holds, and palming the footholds, inch his way up the problem and pull himself up over the top of the rock with the insteps of his feet.

But if I may, I'm beginning to think -- especially now in retrospect -- that it really seems that many early Stonemaster, busy or quiet, well known or obscured, were just naturally crafted from some very rare elements, not just those readily evident by first glance at the Periodic Table. For me, just realizing the depth of soul and colorful character the survivors all seem to have today, is an eye opener in itself! And that doesn't even consider the true gems that are no longer with us.

At least I'd like to think so.

Meanwhile, thanks again for the thoughtful reply!


Trad climber
Cheyenne, Wyoming and Marshall Islands atoll.
  Mar 30, 2009 - 07:16pm PT
Bump. I just had too!

Social climber
Ventura, California
Author's Reply  Apr 1, 2009 - 12:39pm PT

Great to here from you and see you surface here. I might have missed it if you hadn’t sent the email.

Here is a shot of you leading. I have never seen a more impressive set of calves on anyone since.

Great stories and memories you have of those days. I had totally forgotten Tobin’s upside down stuff. He really clowned around when we all took bouldering too seriously. Too funny!

The greatest thing to come out of using those old shoes were the lessons in footwork they gave. It’s the ace up the sleeve today and allows us old-timers to pull off the improbable. Funny though the really hard stuff still today at Suicide needs a good edge.

You flushed out a lot of stuff there thanks. I was always wondering where you went off to next.

Stick around we would like to hear more.


Mike Graham
zoom loco

Mountain climber
san diego ca
  Nov 18, 2011 - 11:20am PT
Thanks for sharing. I had never heard of this climb and now I must get on it!
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Apr 17, 2018 - 07:43am PT
Great route and great story!

Thanks...brings back memories of being able to semi boldly slab climb...(!).

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
  Apr 21, 2018 - 08:26pm PT
Very nice father and son tale Mr. Graham! You are a fortunate man.