South Face C2 5.8

 
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Mt. Watkins


Yosemite Valley, California USA


Trip Report
Cozmic Bandito-Gang Bang- South Face, Mt. Watkins
Tuesday February 3, 2009 2:52pm
Can't find my other pix at the moment from this trip.
AARRRGGGHHHH!!!
Oh well, I can't wait forever to post up. I might get hit by a bus later.

I call it Gang Bang because it's the only wall we ever did with all four original Cozmic Banditos. Myself, Buggs, Keith Royster Stevens, and Mel Johnston. Logistical yes, but what a hell of a party!!

So anyway, here's the first installment. More later.

The objective from Half Dome.





On the march, Mt. Watkins on the right, with that beautiful visor pitch visible at the top.





After the monster Scruffy Buttress, you have to do a pitch and then pendulums to get to the real start. Although this one seemed real enough.





Here's Half Stone from somewhere on the face.




Sorry I'm missing so much from the lower part, but here's the pitch off Sheraton Watkins.



And another.



HELP ME BUGGS!!! I can't find my other set of PIX!!

  Trip Report Views: 2,924
survival
About the Author
survival is a big wall climber from A Token of My Extreme.

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SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Feb 3, 2009 - 02:53pm PT
Nice stuff!

Makes me wanna be anywhere but where I am now. . .


My cubical. . .yuck!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 3, 2009 - 02:57pm PT
Steve,

If I can bring a little relief to the cubicle, then I've done part of my part for the human race today.
bluering

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Feb 3, 2009 - 02:57pm PT
awesome, can't wait to see the rest.
Levy

Big Wall climber
So Cal
  Feb 3, 2009 - 03:15pm PT
Interesting how much grass was still in those cracks off Sheraton-Watkins. When I did it in 1991, it was mostly clean & free of dirt & grass. I do remember the pitch above was gnarly for being rated 4th class. I reported it to Don Reid & I notices he up rated to 5.3 or so. Great route! I wish I had pics but we went light & did it in a long day valley to valley so no camera was taken. It was before the digital photo age.

Thanks for sharing, it brings back great memories!

That's one of just a few VI's I want to repeat!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 3, 2009 - 03:18pm PT
A couple of scenery shots from after we left the giant corner and climbed onto the upper face. We never saw another party up there, it was awesome!


Jet and Clouds Rest.



Sheraton Watkins after the long haul up and left.
I hadn't quite expected this level of traversing.
If traversing isn't your bag, you might not want to come here.



Thanks Levy and Bluering. I'll have some more up later.

It took us three days, but there were four of us and the full on haul! Valley to valley??? Holy buckets, does that mean all the way to the lodge? Nicely done dude, that's a big day!

By the way, I really regret all the walls from the past where there was no camera along. Don't do that anymore! No excuse, now that there are all these little shirt pocket models out there.

'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Feb 3, 2009 - 03:25pm PT
I've heard this route is really stellar, although the approach is a pain. How was the rock? The approach? I would definitely like to do it someday.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 3, 2009 - 04:01pm PT
PTPP,

It was amazing I thought.

The rock was great except for a couple spots. The location is so unusual compared to the Captain!

Yes, the approach was a bear, but it keeps the weenies away. Plus there were some beautiful pools and amazing house size boulders in the canyon.

The scruffy buttress isn't for lightweights either!

Well worth it to do the thing. I loved it.
Mike.

climber
  Feb 3, 2009 - 04:52pm PT
You are a bad man, survival. Making that route look as good as it does. Damn your eyes, man...and thank you!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 3, 2009 - 05:16pm PT
Ha Mike.

Thanks for the compliment. I am missing some killer shots, but I will get some more up tonight after I get home.

At least I have a few great ones from the top, and maybe Buggs or Keith will pitch in on this. Buggs has some tales to tell with this being his first grade VI.

I remember clearly a moment up high on the Scruffy Buttress, crossing an exposed slab and Buggs's (Carrying a monster bag)foot slipped on some loose gravel but he managed to grab a branch about the size of my pinky before he went over!!!
If my eyes matched his at that moment....we were two Bug-eyed motherfeckers!!

I'm at the library with the kids right now......not climbing....
crackfiend

climber
Springdale, Utah
  Feb 3, 2009 - 05:28pm PT
Watkins is my favorite wall in Yosemite.While the climbing not at clean as el cap or hd the setting and fell of tenaya canyon cannot be beat. I remember there being lots of mandatory free climbing and at times the route was not obvious. We bivied at the top of the scruffy buttress and then at a ledge system 3 pitches above sheraton watkins. This has 3 nice ledges, smaller than sheraton for sure but flatter and better to sleep. Some of the cracks are a little mungy but you really get the sense that it doesn't get climbed that often. The pendulum traverse mentioned above the attain the route is off of a pretty scary bolt. My partner climbed the 5.9 variation on the 12th pitch and he encountered no bolts as indicated on the supertopo. The 14th pitch was pretty spicy as well. I would highly recommend it. Definately a step up from a route like the nw face of half dome.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 3, 2009 - 05:41pm PT
crackfiend, I agree about the mandatory free climbing, and a bit of route finding. The grass and dirt (not too bad) enhanced the adventure/doesn't get done that often feel.
Do you remember the wide pitch with the big ass fern growing out of it up high?

Those last few pitches were so bitchin'!!

Getting off the back of that dome was "sport" climbing too!!
(Not so obvious)

Spicier than Reggae Route on HD fo sure.
We loved it.

I have some good pix of that bivy ledge you speak of. I'll put em up later. That was the TEQUILA BIVY!! We stopped even after sleeping at Sheraton Watkins it was so good. We did fix a couple pitches above there...
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 3, 2009 - 08:57pm PT
Time for another installment.

The upper bivy ledge was too sweet to pass up.
It made for a short day, even though we fixed a couple pitches above. It gave us plenty of time to drink all our tequila that night!




Same shot more close up.





Looking the other way at Keith and all the freight!





Close up of Keith contemplating the very nature of canned peaches.



SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Feb 3, 2009 - 10:33pm PT
This is such fun!
Keep the installments up--makes me come back for more!
Lynne Leichtfuss

Trad climber
Will know soon
  Feb 3, 2009 - 10:46pm PT
Sweet, sweet, and mo sweet...pro nevah but in my dreams....so it's sokay to live vicariously at times, yah ? Nice....lrl
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Feb 3, 2009 - 10:47pm PT
great photos. i just posted a link here to the mt watkins page

http://www.supertopo.com/rockclimbing/route.html?r=ybmwsout#beta
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 3, 2009 - 11:44pm PT
Wow, Thanks Mr. M.!!

I'm honored. Will the rest of the pix go there after I get them in here?

I guess it's probably automatic, I'm just not too tech savvy.
Zander

climber
  Feb 3, 2009 - 11:52pm PT
Nice thread! Thanks survival!
Z
Captain...or Skully

climber
in the oil patch...Fricken Bakken, that's where
  Feb 3, 2009 - 11:57pm PT
That's it Surv.....I've decided I hate you.Sounds like you got Mike goin', too!! Great adventures, Man.
Awesome looking wall.
KILLER! WooHoo!!!!!!

Check in at the Sheraton....Where? The Sheraton Watkins!
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
  Feb 3, 2009 - 11:59pm PT
Thanks for the report - looks like a nice area, and climb.

Perhaps the reason that you didn't see anyone else is that you're banditos - and so the pirates went elsewhere. AARRRGGGHHHH!!!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 4, 2009 - 12:09am PT
Thanks Captain,zander and Mighty.

Yeah we snuck up and ambushed that big motherlode, just like Banditos.

"Thee stone, she give up many reeches but you must be able to take the heet..."

You guys have inspired me to do a little more scanning!
Buju

Big Wall climber
the range of light
  Feb 4, 2009 - 12:15am PT
For those of yall who have done it...where/how good are the bivy ledges?

btw...thank for the pics...they are inspiring!!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 4, 2009 - 12:37am PT
Belay station above the second bivy ledge. My ever present wave.
I thought a lot about Harding going without water up there...
Isn't that upper wall beautiful?





Keith getting close to the swing point.





Keith working the swing. "Explore the space. No really....explore the space baby."






Still workin' it, 'bout got it. That visor is the best. Just waiting up there for me....






C'mon up boys!





Anguish

Mountain climber
Jackson Hole Wyo.
  Feb 4, 2009 - 12:44am PT
Did you see Pratt's eagle, the monarch of Tenaya Canyon? He wrote about her in his AAJ article, I believe. She still owned the country back in the 70s when I was on the face.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 4, 2009 - 12:49am PT
Hi Anguish, We saw some really great birds, but I don't think I saw any grey haired eagles.

Everybody's memory seems better than mine though....
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 4, 2009 - 01:41am PT
Hi Grinch!!!
You should be on here!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 4, 2009 - 11:05am PT
Yo Scott...are you there??

Buju,

I think Sheraton Watkins is about 6-7? pitches up, and the next one is 3 pitches above that. We fixed at least two above the second ledge before staying there.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
  Feb 4, 2009 - 01:21pm PT
Looking forward to more installments from your continuing photo essay!

Her'es some pics along the way,
From an ascent in '81 with E & Ed Kaufer:





fotos by Ed Kaufer
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 4, 2009 - 02:00pm PT
Right on Tar! I was hoping you'd post.

Thanks for filling in some blanks with those shots.
Got anymore?? Post 'em!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 4, 2009 - 02:14pm PT
Headwall. I LOVE those freekin' trees growing right out of the face! The striping on the upper right is pretty awesome too.






Different perspective looking down between the legs.
Nice shadows..






Here I was bragging about not seeing anyone up there...but that does appear to be a party working on the lower swings.
I hate my memory sometimes!



Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
  Feb 4, 2009 - 02:24pm PT
Those two are the best pictures I have,
Except for this one I doctored up; depicting the approach pitches.
This is right at the moment when my packstrap busted loose too...



(I made the pack of course; it needed a little tuning ... 'sold it to Dick Cilley)
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 4, 2009 - 02:30pm PT
Ouch!!

Cool picture man. I'm glad you were able to sell the offending object!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 5, 2009 - 01:31am PT
Final installment until I find the rest from this trip.
Some of the best summit shots we ever got.
Three of the best partners a guy could ask for.


L to R, Buggs Seizys, Doctor Keith Stevens, Mel Johnston.





The brothers with Half Dome.





Survival holding the plastic toys that he promised his 4 and 2 year old children he would take up the wall.





Survival, Keith and Buggs with the evening sun.





The full on Cozmic Banditos. Together then, together now.

survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 5, 2009 - 09:20am PT
This will tie in nicely with the Snow Creek Trail TR since it was on the same trip to the valley.

We even had Lynn Romano along on that one!

Anybody want to see some pix???
philo

Trad climber
Is that the light at the end of the tunnel or a tr
  Feb 5, 2009 - 09:33am PT
Please sir may I have some more?
Captain...or Skully

climber
in the oil patch...Fricken Bakken, that's where
  Feb 5, 2009 - 09:55am PT
Very cool.....Banditos, Man!!!!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 5, 2009 - 10:56am PT
Phil, I'm hoping that Buggs will chime in with a few pix that I'm missing from the mix here. Thanks for looking.

Captain, probably the most prolific poster to my slightly stale and not too cutting edge offerings. Thanks to you especially.
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Feb 5, 2009 - 01:07pm PT
Stellar, survival
I always remember Warren Harding's description of the
1st ascent--
". . .when Yvon Chouinard, Chuck Pratt, and I stood at the base of the 60 foot 'head wall' high on the South Face of Mt. Watkins in Yosemite. We'd been on the face four days, about wiped out from heat and short on water rations. We were having some sort of organizational meeting. The topic before the board was quite simple: Shall we go up or shall we go down? (We agreed, we sure as hell can't stay here!) Somehow, the vote seemed in favor of up!
But this would obviously entail a certain amount of bolting. Starting off, I set an example of crudeness by quickly placing three bolts before sagging weakly back down to the belay ledge. Chuck went up next and, in a brilliant display of skill, was able to place only two bolts, both so poorly that it seemed questionable that they'd even hold a man's weight. Down with Chuck and up with Yvon. M. Chouinard had even greater qualifications: vast technical skill plus strong moral fiber. Y.C. proved to be so skillful and morally fibrous that he was able to get in only one bolt (breaking two drills in the process). In desperation (we had brought very few drills because of Y.C.'s high-minded belief in 'giving the mountain a chance') I pleaded with him to come down and let me see what I could do. . ."

What did you guys think of the headwall?
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 5, 2009 - 01:15pm PT
Steve, I remember being really impressed with the climbing.
I got quite all the "sport" I wanted on the wide pitch above the upper pendulum, and the last 3 pitches were about as good as anything I've climbed on the Captain. I remember a long clean crack and turning the visor on the last pitch was wonderful. That's my faded recollection.
mazamarick

Trad climber
WA
  Feb 5, 2009 - 01:31pm PT
Great shots, it's nice to see the climb again. Did the SF route in the fall of'76 with Mike Kosterlitz, part of the British invasion that year (Nick Estcourt,et al)and had an epic requiring 2 approaches because I brought a 120'long haul rope discovered on the first pendulum! Loaned my slides out a few years later and never got them back....bummer of bummers.
Buggs

Trad climber
Corrales, New Mexico
  Feb 5, 2009 - 01:33pm PT
Wow...what sweet and horrific dreams this thread will stir for me when I try to sleep tonight. Bump for the Cozmic Banditos. I have to find my photos and then find my photo bucket pass word and I'll add what I find. What a trip.

Acid owl swoop...
Dangle jug spin nausea...
Manzanita death grab...
Mankful copperhead too close to the ledge...
Chief Tenaya's revenge...

Thanks for letting me have the best spot on Good Ledge, my brother.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 5, 2009 - 01:35pm PT
mazamarick, wow, that IS a bummer! I've had that happen to me also.

I forgot to credit BUGGS with so much great photography over the years. I think he took most, if not all of these pictures. We always share sets with each other, so I'm not positive, but his may have been the only camera along. I hope he doesn't shoot me.....

Edit: Holy Sh*t Buggs, you got me cryin' over here!!!!!

Manzanita death grab indeed.
Jug spin nausea..what was that? I can't see through my tears.

The non-stop epic banter is one of the reasons that it is mandatory to have Buggs along!!
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
  Feb 5, 2009 - 01:36pm PT
Here's a guy who read his history books!
Dressed in white from head to toe: yeah Baby, beat the heat!!!

survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 5, 2009 - 01:39pm PT
It WAS a LITTLE hot up there!
Norton

Social climber
quitcherbellyachin
  Feb 5, 2009 - 01:52pm PT
The First Ascent:

THE SOUTH FACE OF MOUNT WATKINS
CHUCK PRATT

THE HISTORIC first ascent of Yosemite Valley's El Capitan in 1958 opened a
new era in Yosemite climbing. In subsequent years, three additional routes,
each over 2500 feet in height, were established on the great monolith. El
Capitan's great height, the sustained nature of the climbing and the
resulting logistical problems required that the first ascent of these routes
be accomplished in stages, with the use of fixed ropes to facilitate a
retreat to the valley floor. Since the initial ascent of El Capitan, eight
ascents of the various routes have been made, and climbers involved in this
latter-day pioneering have gained great confidence and experience in
sustained, multi-day climbing. By the summer of 1964, with new improvements
in hauling methods and equipment, the time seemed ripe for someone to
attempt a first ascent of such a climb in a single, continuous effort.

One of the few walls that had remained unclimbed by the summer of 1964 and
which afforded a challenge comparable to El Capitan was the south face of
Mount Watkins. Rising 2800 feet above Tenaya Creek at the east end of
Yosemite, Mount Watkins rivals in grandeur even nearby Half Dome. Despite
the obvious and significant challenge presented by the face, the mention of
Watkins seemed to produce only a certain apathy in the resident climbers of
Camp 4. Though many of them, including me, speculated on who would climb it,
yet few of us were moved into action. Then one pleasant July evening at
Warren Harding's High Sierra camp on the shore of Lake Tenaya, when the wine
and good fellowship were flowing in greater quantity than usual, Warren
showed me a flattering photograph of the south face and invited me to join
him. In a moment of spontaneous rashness I heartily agreed, and we
enthusiastically shook hands, confident that the fate of Mount Watkins had
been sealed.

Several days later we were strolling through Camp 4, two rash climbers
looking for a third, having agreed that on this climb a three-man party was
a fair compromise between mobility and safety. However, our recruiting was
unrewarded. The experienced were not interested; those interested lacked the
necessary experience. By evening we had resigned ourselves to a two-man
party when Yvon Chouinard walked out of the darkness. He had ten days to
spare and wondered if there were any interesting climbs planned.

Within the week, after a reconnaissance trip to study the face and plan
a route, we were assembling food, climbing equipment and bivouac gear for a
four-day attempt on the face. The three-mile approach to Mount Watkins began
at Mirror Lake. As we unloaded packs at the parking lot, two young ladies
approached us to ask if we were some of THE Yosemite climbers. Yvon modestly
pleaded guilty and pointed out our destination. They asked if it were true
that Yosemite climbers chafe their hands on the granite to enable them to
friction up vertical walls. We assured them that the preposterous myth was
true. Then, with perfect timing, Harding yanked a bottle of wine and a
six-pack out of the car, explaining that these were our rations for four
days. We left the incredulous young ladies wondering about the sanity and
good judgment of Yosemite climbers. And so the legends grow.

After following the Sierra Loop Trail for two miles, we eventually began
contouring the slopes above Tenaya Creek until we reached the base of Mount
Watkins, where we sought out a suitable camping spot for the night. In the
darkness we noted with apprehension that the granite bulk of Mount Watkins
completely obliterated the northern quadrant of the sky. The following
morning we awoke grim and significantly silent. With lowered eyes we
approached the base of the wall. Unlike most major Yosemite climbs, Mount
Watkins has very little climbing history. Warren had been 700 feet up some
years before, and climbers had studied the face from the southern rim of the
valley, but ours would be the first and only all-out push for the summit. On
his brief reconnaissance, Warren had been stopped by an 80-foot headwall
above a large, tree-covered ledge. After studying the face three days
before, we had elected to follow his route as it involved only third and
fourth class climbing and would allow us to gain a great deal of altitude on
the first day. By climbing a prominent corner at the left end of the
tree-covered ledge, we could gain enough height to execute a series of
pendulums in order to reach a comfortable-looking ledge at the top of the
headwall, thus eliminating the necessity of bolting 80 feet. This ledge
would then give us access to an 800-foot dihedral system on the right of the
face. The dihedral eventually connected with a thin, curving arch leading
westward across the face. We hoped this arch would take us to the great
buttress in the center of the face and that the buttress would in turn take
us the remaining 500 feet to the summit. However, these speculations would
be resolved only after several days of sustained, technical climbing. The
personal challenge, the unsuspected hardships, the uncertainty, in short,
the unknown, which separates an adventure from the common-place, was the
most appealing and stimulating aspect of the course of action to which we
had committed ourselves.

Our immediate concern was transporting 100 pounds of food, water and
equipment up to Warren's previous high point. Loading everything into two
large packs, Warren and I struggled up the handlines left by Yvdn as he led
ahead of us up an intricate series of ledges and ramps. By noon we reached
the tree-covered ledge and the base of the headwall where Warren had turned
back before. Having volunteered to haul the first day, I began repacking our
loads into three duffel bags while Warren and Yvon worked their way up the
shallow corner at the left end of the ledge. Two free-climbing pitches
brought them to a ledge where they investigated the problems of the long
pendulums necessary to reach our goal for the first day - the
comfortable-looking ledge 80 feet above me at the top of the headwall. By
mid-afternoon Yvon had descended 75 feet, climbed across a delicate face and
after trying for half an hour to place a piton, resigned himself to a bolt.
Descending once more, Yvon began a series of spectacular swings trying to
reach the ledge above the headwall. After numerous failures he finally
succeeded by lunging for the ledge after a 60-foot swing across the face.
Warren rappelled to Yvon and after dropping me a fixed rope joined him in an
effort to reach the great dihedral which we hoped to follow for 400 feet.

Prusiking up the fixed rope, I could watch Yvon leading an overhanging
jam-crack in the dihedral. From the ledge I began hauling all three bags
together. I was using a hauling method developed by Royal Robbins for the El
Capitan routes. It consisted of a hauling line which passed through a pulley
at the hauler's anchor. By attaching a prusik knot or a mechanical prusik
handle to the free end of the line it was possible for me to haul the loads
by pushing down with my foot in a sling instead of hauling with my arms. The
method was highly efficient and far less tiring than hauling hand-over-hand.
Yvon and Warren returned to the ledge after leaving 200 feet of fixed rope
and we settled down for the first bivouac of the climb. After only one day
on the wall it was evident to all of us that our greatest difficulty would
be neither the climbing nor the logistics but the weather. It was the middle
of July and temperatures in the Valley were consistently in the high
nineties.

We had allowed ourselves one and one-half quarts of water per day per
Person - the standard quantity for a sustained Yosemite climb. Still, we
were not prepared for the intense, enervating heat in which we had found
ourselves sweltering for an entire day. Those mountaineers who scorn
Yosemite and its lack of Alpine climbing would find an interesting education
by spending a few days on a long Valley climb in mid-summer. Cold
temperatures and icy winds are not the only adverse kinds of weather. The
following morning Warren and I ascended the fixed ropes and continued
climbing the great dihedral, hoping to reach its top by the end of the day.
The climbing was/both strenuous and difficult as we resorted more and more
to thin horizontal pitons and knife-blades driven into shallow, rotten
cracks. However, our biggest problem continued to be the heat. We were
relieved only occasionally from the unbearable temperatures by a slight
breeze. Although we tried to refrain from drinking water during the day so
as to have at least a full quart each to sip at night, we were all
constantly digging into the climbing packs for water bottles. Every few
minutes we found it necessary to moisten our throats since even a few
breaths of the dry, hot air aggravated our relentless thirst. Even the
hauling, which should have been a simple task, became a major problem. Yvon,
who was hauling that day, exhausted himself on every pitch, becoming
increasingly tired as the day wore on.

In the early afternoon, we were surprised by the passing of a golden eagle
across the face. Welcoming the chance for a brief respite, we ceased our
labors and watched as the magnificent bird glided effortlessly high above
us. Although he presented an inspiring sight, we hoped his nest would not
lie on our route. In the days to come, this eagle would seem to make a
ritual out of crossing the face, sometimes as often as three or four times a
day, as though he were a silent guardian appointed to note the progress of
the three intruders who labored so slowly through his realm of rock and sky.
By the end of the second day, we reached a group of ledges so large and
comfortable that we named them the "Sheraton-Watkins.'' It was here that we
were faced with the first major setback in our carefully planned route. The
top of the dihedral was still some 200 feet above us. That 200 feet
presented not only rotten, flaky rock and incipient cracks, but also the
probability of having to place a large number of bolts. Now that we were
within 200 feet of the prominent arch we had seen from the ground, we could
see clearly that it did not connect with the large buttress in the center of
the face, but that a gap of 100 feet or more separated them. The prospect of
bolting across 100 feet of blank wall so appalled us that we began searching
for other avenues of approach to the middle of the face. We were in a deep
corner, the left wall of which presented messy but continuous cracks leading
80 feet to a ledge on the main wall. From this ledge, it appeared that a
short lead would end on the first of a series of broken ramps sweeping
westward across the face. It seemed the only reasonable alternative and we
had just enough light left to ascend one pitch to the ledge 80 feet above
before settling down on "Sheraton-Watkins."

We were up early the morning of the third day in order to accomplish as
much as possible before the sun began its debilitating work. From our high
point Yvon began the next lead. It was here that we began to literally walk
out on a limb. We could see the broken ramps leading across the face for
several hundred feet. Once we left the dihedral, retreat would become
increasingly more difficult. Not only would the route beyond have to be
possible, but we would have to consistently make the correct decision as to
which route to follow. Using every rurp and knife-blade we had brought plus
three bolts, Yvon succeeded in reaching the beginning of the first ramp.
Then I began the first of three leads which were to carry us 300 feet across
the face. Although the climbing was moderate fifth class, it required a
great deal of effort. After nearly three days of climbing, the heat had
reduced our
strength and efficiency to the point where we moved at a snail's pace.

Warren was barely able to manage the hauling bags without assistance and
most of the afternoon was spent in getting our little expedition across the
traverse. Although we had not gained much altitude, our efforts were finally
rewarded when the traverse carried us into the buttress in the center of the
face. Once again resorting to the indispensable rurps and knife-blades, I
led a delicate and circuitous pitch past a dangerously loose flake to a
curving arch. Following the arch as far as possible I descended, leaving
what I thought would be a simple pendulum for tomorrow's climbing team. We
were now situated on widely spread but comfortable ledges, and as we munched
on our ever decreasing supply of cheese, salami and gorp, we caught a
glimpse of our friend the eagle as he passed on his daily rounds.

At the end of this, the third day of climbing, we were well aware of our
critical situation. We had brought enough water for four days. It was now
obvious that we could not reach the summit in less than five. 700 feet
remained between us and the giant ceiling at the lip of the summit and the
route remained uncertain. We reluctantly agreed that it would be necessary
to reduce our ration of water to provide enough for at least one additional
day on the face. We did not yet consider the possibility of retreating
although the prospect of facing the unbearable heat with less than an
already inadequate supply of water filled us with dismay.

The fourth day proved to be one of the most difficult and uncertain any of
us had ever spent on a climb. The sun continued its merciless torture as
Yvon and Warren returned to the struggle. Warren found that I had
underestimated the pendulum. After an agonizing effort, he finally succeeded
in swinging to a ledge and I proceeded up to haul. By
mid-afternoon, after climbing as slowly as turtles up the central buttress,
we reached the most critical point of the climb. Above us a blank, 60-foot
headwall topped by an overhang blocked further progress. Warren had nearly
fainted several times from the heat, Yvon was speechless with fatigue and I
was curled up in a semi-stupor trying to utilize a small patch of shade
beneath an overhanging boulder. In an effort to provide more shade we
stretched a bivouac hammock over our heads, but it provided little
protection. For the first time we considered the possibility of retreating,
but even that would require another day on the wall. It seemed that those
very qualities which had made the climb so appealing might now prove to be
our undoing. Warren investigated the possibility of rappelling 100 feet in
order to reach the opposite corner of the buttress. However, we did not want
to lose 100 feet of hard-earned altitude, especially since we could not be
certain that the left side of the buttress continued to the summit. After a
barely audible consultation, we decided to try the headwall above us, hoping
eventually that we would find cracks leading to the summit, still 500 feet
above us. Warren volunteered to go up first. After placing three bolts, he
came down, too exhausted to continue. I went up next and with extreme
difficulty placed two more, the first direct-aid bolts I had ever placed,
barely adequate, even for aid. Yvon took my place and after breaking two
drills was able to place one more before relinquishing the lead to Warren.
Instead of placing more bolts, the latter lassoed a small tree and prusiked
15 feet to a horizontal crack. With a magnificent display of spirit and
determination, Warren continued the lead over the headwall, did some
extremely difficult free-climbing and reached a ledge adequate for a belay.
Refreshed in spirit if not in body, Yvon followed the lead in semi-darkness,
marvelling at Warren's endurance. Leaving a fixed rope, they returned and we
all collapsed gratefully on barely adequate ledges.

By the fourth day Yvon had lost so much weight from dehydration that he
could lower his climbing knickers without undoing a single button. For
the first time in seven years I was able to remove a ring from my finger,
and Harding, whose resemblance to the classical conception of Satan is
legendary, took on an even more gaunt and sinister appearance. We slept late
the fifth morning and awoke somewhat refreshed. Confident that we would
reach the summit by nightfall, we ascended the fixed rope to study the
remaining 400 feet. Once again we were faced with a critical decision.
Continuous cracks led to within 100 feet of the summit, but it appeared that
they would involve nailing a long, detached flake. Yvon led an awkward pitch
that curved to the left around a corner. After joining him, I dropped down
and swung to the left corner of the buttress. Still I was unable to see if
that corner of the buttress continued to the summit. I decided to climb the
cracks above Yvon. They were of jam-crack width and pushed the free-climbing
to my limit in order to conserve the few bongs we had brought. After a
fierce struggle through bushes I was able to set up a belay in slings. That
morning we had had two full quarts of water for the three of us. Yvon and I
had already finished one quart and when he joined me I was surprised to find
he still had a full quart. Warren had refused to take any water that day,
preferring to give the climbing team every advantage. His sacrifice was a
display of courage and discipline that I had rarely seen equaled.

With added incentive, Yvon led a mixed pitch up a strenuous and rotten
chimney, executing some gymnastics at its top to gain a narrow ledge. He
joyfully announced that the next pitch appeared to be easy aid climbing and
that the summit was only 200 feet above him. Anxious now for the top,
climbed as rapidly as I could while Warren struggled resolutely below with
the bags. What we thought was a detached flake from below turned out to be a
100-foot column, split on either side by a perfect angle crack. The
right-hand crack seemed to require fewer bongs so I quickly nailed my way to
the column's top, a flat triangular ledge only 80 feet from the summit. It
appeared that the next lead would just skirt the gigantic ceiling at the lip
of the summit.

Yvon, resorting one last time to rurps and knife-blades, tapped his way
to the crest of Mount Watkins just as the sun went down. His triumphant
shout told me what we had all waited five days to hear. When Warren reached
the ledge, he asked to clean the last pitch as he felt that he had not
contributed enough that day! Warren Harding, who had been the original
inspiration for the climb, whose determination had gotten us over the
headwall below and who had sacrificed his ration of water after five days of
intense thirst felt that he had not done enough! I passed him the rope and
as he began cleaning the last pitch of the climb, settled down on the ledge
to my thoughts. In the vanishing twilight, the valley of the Yosemite seemed
to me more beautiful than I had ever seen it, more serene than I had ever
known it before. For five days the south face of Mount Watkins had dominated
each of our lives as only nature can dominate the lives of men.

With the struggle over and our goal achieved I was conscious of an inner
calm which had experienced only on El Capitan. I thought of my incomparable
friend Chouinard, and of our unique friendship, a friendship now shared with
Warren, for we were united by a bond far stronger and more lasting than any
we could find in the world below. I wondered what thoughts were passing
through the minds of my companions during the final moments. My own thoughts
rambled back through the entire history of Yosemite climbing--from that
indomitable Scotsman Anderson, who first climbed Half Dome, to John Salathe,
whose philosophy and climbing ethics have dominated Yosemite climbing for
nearly twenty years, to Mark Powell, Salathe's successor, who showed us all
that climbing can be a way of life and a basis for a philosophy. These men,
like ourselves had come to the Valley of Light with a restless spirit and
the desire to share an adventure with their comrades. We had come as
strangers, full of apprehension and doubt. Having given all we had to the
climb, we had been enriched by a physical and spiritual experience few men
can know. Having accepted the hardships as a natural consequence of our
endeavor, we were rewarded by a gift of victory and fulfillment for which we
would be forever grateful. It was for this that each of us had come to
Yosemite, and it was for this that we would return, season after season.

My reverie was interrupted by a shout from above and in the full, rich
moonlight I prusiked to the top where Yvon was waiting for me. Warren had
hiked to the summit cap to see if anyone had come to meet us. He returned
alone and the three of us shared some of the happiest moments of our lives.
As we turned away from the rim to hike to Snow Creek and some much-needed
water, caught a last glimpse of our eagle, below us for the first time. In
the moonlight, he glided serenely across the face as majestic as always, and
as undisturbed by our presence as he had been five days before.


survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 5, 2009 - 01:55pm PT
Thanks Norton!

Wow, this thread suddenly got a lot more fun after Buggs showed up. I'm still laughing! I guess maybe you gotta know him...
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
  Feb 5, 2009 - 02:09pm PT
"Warren had refused to take any water that day,
preferring to give the climbing team every advantage."


No doubt one of the all-time historical entries on Harding.
Thanks for posting the Pratt article Norton!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 5, 2009 - 02:12pm PT
I hadn't read that story in SOOOO many years!
It brought back details of the route in my mind that even the photos didn't. Just goes to show you that words CAN be as powerful as pictures, if not more.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Feb 5, 2009 - 02:55pm PT
Is Keith wearing white Gramicci pants from BITD? Might be time to resurrect the white painter pants thread.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 5, 2009 - 03:02pm PT
Mungie, indeed!
Buggs

Trad climber
Corrales, New Mexico
  Feb 5, 2009 - 03:04pm PT


Alas, the Brave Little Toaster wondering "What the feck gwine on here?"
Buggs

Trad climber
Corrales, New Mexico
  Feb 5, 2009 - 03:07pm PT
Jug spin nausea refers to space jug.

you 'member...

Wall, Space, Wall, Space, Wall, Space, etc.
Anguish

Mountain climber
Jackson Hole Wyo.
  Feb 5, 2009 - 03:19pm PT
Earlier in this thread Chris posted a link to a supertopo page that includes a photograph of the face with the route drawn in. At the top of the face, the line follows the left hand of two parallel dihedrals. Is this correct?
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 5, 2009 - 03:22pm PT
Awesome Buggs!!

Yeah I remember. "I'm a Prince on a Giant Wall on my throne!"
"Nah dude, you're a drunk on a rock."......

What a great picture. Thank you so much for joining in with your finds.
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Feb 5, 2009 - 03:38pm PT
What an awesome picture--those cracks look like waaay too
much fun!
Thanks, Buggs.
This has got to be one of my favorite threads!
Whoo hoo!!!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 5, 2009 - 03:53pm PT
Steve, I'm glad you are enjoying yourself. You've been back quite a few times, thanks.

I think I recall trying to get Buggs to lean further out on that shot and he finally said "Enuff!"

Man, this is really making me want to gather the Banditos for another group ascent!
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Feb 5, 2009 - 03:58pm PT
Survival
It's such an excellent thread.
What can I say. Makes me want to be there. . .
especially when I'm stuck in my cuby on a 60+ degree day
in February in Denver. . .

Just a GREAT thread!!!
Captain...or Skully

climber
in the oil patch...Fricken Bakken, that's where
  Feb 5, 2009 - 04:11pm PT
Awesome pics, awesome posts, just awesome THREAD, anyway ya slice it.
These are the threads the politico whiners miss out on.
Haha. Eff 'em, anyway.
Watkins!!!!
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Feb 5, 2009 - 04:58pm PT
Bump this guy back up front where it belongs!!!!
Buggs

Trad climber
Corrales, New Mexico
  Feb 5, 2009 - 06:23pm PT
Roy, that's my favorite line in the story as well. What an awesome feat. They don't make em like Harding anymore...

Thanks Steve. And thanks for my award. It'll hang proudly on my "I'm so bitchin" wall!! I'll be comin through Denver on my way to New Mexico this summer. Flatirons?

Now get back to yer cubicle and get some work done. LOL
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 5, 2009 - 08:55pm PT
Steve, don't let Buggs push you around man. YOU are in charge of the cubicle!!!

Now, Mr. Bugg-man, git yer *ss back on that scanner!
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Feb 6, 2009 - 08:05am PT

Bump it up again!

Let's go climbing!!!!!
Captain...or Skully

climber
in the oil patch...Fricken Bakken, that's where
  Feb 6, 2009 - 08:51am PT
Really super shots & tales in the Watkins area.
I remember when Dean Potter & Jose Perierra(spelling) went up to fire it in a push.
They hiked up in the dark, found an approach just like the guide said, and began climbing. Then about the time the Sun was rising, Jose said, "Hey, Dean, isn't THAT Watkins?"
It was. They were climbing the WRONG wall! D'oh. I got a pretty good laugh with them about that one.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 6, 2009 - 11:05am PT
Captain, whoa..that IS priceless.
I guess being 5.14 man isn't everything.
At least we found the right wall!
Chiloe

Trad climber
Lee, NH
  Feb 6, 2009 - 11:25am PT
Buggs:
Jug spin nausea refers to space jug.
you 'member...
Wall, Space, Wall, Space, Wall, Space, etc.


Reminds me of the rappel off the Maiden, which is more fun than the climb. You're spinning 360s
all the way down, but there's not much of a "wall" stage -- just a narrow spire some distance
away, taking up only 10% of your pano.
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Feb 6, 2009 - 11:29am PT
Chiloe
I can only imagine that rap in a high wind. . .



aaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!
Chiloe

Trad climber
Lee, NH
  Feb 6, 2009 - 11:39am PT
Using goldline made for extra fun, too.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 6, 2009 - 12:13pm PT
Hi Larry,

"Using goldline made for extra fun too."

Cracked me up. Using goldline to rap off of MonkeyFace at Smith was a very similar experience!
Buggs

Trad climber
Corrales, New Mexico
  Feb 7, 2009 - 02:57am PT
Chiloe,

I can see it clearly in my minds eye. Scary raps, jugs, lower outs...

Makes me want to go right now.

Steve, Are you awake? I'm going to the airport.
Buggs

Trad climber
Corrales, New Mexico
  Feb 7, 2009 - 02:59am PT
Oh yeah, then when I get there my chicken comes out and I turn into the Brave Little Toaster.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 7, 2009 - 04:01am PT
I'll go climbing with the Brave Little Toaster anytime.

SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Feb 9, 2009 - 12:03pm PT
Bump it up again, where it belongs.


STELLAR report!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 9, 2009 - 12:29pm PT
Thanks Steve,

You're my hero, now that the scurvy Captain is jumping ship on us!!
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Feb 25, 2009 - 09:37am PT
Bump for TR Wednesday!
graham

Social climber
Ventura, California
  Feb 25, 2009 - 10:01am PT
Cool Survival, thanks I hadn’t seen this!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 25, 2009 - 11:12am PT
You are most welcome, and thanks to SteveW.

I am still waiting for Buggs to sling another photo or two on here. Does anyone remember a giant fern growing out of the wide pitch above the final pendulum?

I was also thinking about Chief Tenaya not being done with us after we topped out. Hot, Dry, Thirsty, Tired and a much bigger job getting down to Snow Creek than I expected. Just another example of it ain't over til it's over. How many of us have been surprised by the difficulty, route finding, and general gruesomeness of descents?
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Feb 25, 2009 - 12:40pm PT
Bump it back on the first page.
This is something I wanna do!!!!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 25, 2009 - 02:06pm PT
Go get it.

Always remember and never forget: It's SOUTH facing and:
You're on Chief Tenaya's turf.....
drljefe

climber
El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
  Feb 26, 2009 - 12:52am PT
Them crazy rock climbers!
Buggs

Trad climber
Corrales, New Mexico
  Feb 27, 2009 - 06:37pm PT
Survival,

You soooo pushy...

I've only been able to find a few dark, grainy shots but I'll post them anyway cause you soooo pushy.

Buggs

The Prize and the Purgatory in the distance

Buggs

Trad climber
Corrales, New Mexico
  Feb 27, 2009 - 06:40pm PT
"Place your tools down in a safe matter and face the loudspeaker."

Buggs

Trad climber
Corrales, New Mexico
  Feb 27, 2009 - 06:41pm PT
The lovely and spacious Sheraton Watkins

Buggs

Trad climber
Corrales, New Mexico
  Feb 27, 2009 - 06:45pm PT
Mel "Lyndon Baines" Johnston leading the aid pitch off Sheraton Watkins. I was supposed to clean this pitch but since I was about to puke, Bruce did it. Thanks for this and every other bailout in our past Brother Survival.

Buggs

Trad climber
Corrales, New Mexico
  Feb 27, 2009 - 06:47pm PT
Some where higher up. F@#%! By this time I was on Auto Buggy, juggin' and choking on dry halitosis.

Buggs

Trad climber
Corrales, New Mexico
  Feb 27, 2009 - 06:54pm PT
Keith cleaning the last pitch to the right (left?) of the visor. The day is almost over and the dusk and darkness is almost upon us. Bruce talked about Chief Tenaya's revenge. I felt it physically as we hiked off the back side, bushwhacking our way down to (Snow Creek?), only shorts to hide the thighs, the full on manzanita scratch program for knees to top of boots. Revenge indeed.

Zander

climber
  Feb 27, 2009 - 08:06pm PT
Oooo, this thread keeps getting better.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Feb 27, 2009 - 10:55pm PT
Right on brother Buggs!!

I knew you'd scare something else up.
I wish I had your way with words!

"The full on mazanita scratch program for knees to top of boots."

You got me smiling again.....
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Mar 29, 2009 - 07:18pm PT
Bump this guy up top again.
More Climbing.
All of the Time!!!!
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Apr 2, 2009 - 12:57pm PT
Bump this one up again--a great TR
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Apr 2, 2009 - 01:37pm PT
Thanks again SteveW!

Wish I had some more pix from that trip. Maybe someone else can slide some from their trip in?

The electric koolaid bivvy at Snow Creek was something else....
Hoots

climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
  Apr 8, 2009 - 12:11pm PT
Awesome climbing photo BUMP.
Crimpergirl

Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
  Apr 8, 2009 - 12:31pm PT
Survival - no worries if there are no more photos - just start drawing cartoons. We like cartoons too! :)
tom woods

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
  Apr 8, 2009 - 01:34pm PT
Do I have to tell my Watkins story to keep this thread alive?

It's shameful. It's a true bail story, in other words I bailed for no real reason what so ever.


I had made plans to do the regular route in the spring with two friends. Over the winter, I had a heart breaking break up with a girlfriend of seven years, and was really bummed out. I planned to propose, moved up to Portland and everything. Then got shut down.

So spring rolls around and we head up there to do the route, three of us, all climbing well.

We camp in the canyon one night. Then spend the next day hauling our stuff up to the base of the route, which is no small task and takes us longer then planned.

That evening one buddy leads up to the base of the long pendulums. I get the pendulum pitch which sketches me out because the two bolts are rusty quarter inchers sitting in a seep.

I give it a half ass go, and then bail. Nobody else wants to do it, so my other buddy, who's tall leads up the free version bolts.

In my bummed out mind, the whole operation seems stupid, but my partners put up with my mopey ass.

The next morning we get up and haul up two pitches, the thought being that getting off the ground will improve my psyche.

It doesn't and I bail, leaving the other guys to continue on to finish the route two days later.

I bail and hike out on my own. My buddies always try to claim that I had to be somewhere and we were a day behind schedule, but that's not true. I did have a camping trip with the non climbing friends to go to the day we were supposed to be off.

I bailed, because of my head.

I did get to the camping trip on time and got really drunk for three days, and sick for another three days.

As for the girl? I am now happily married to someone else and we have a little boy, so it worked out in the end. The other girl is long gone, but I sure wish I had done the route.

The one consolation was that while walking back down Tenaya, a big ice fall came off the wall near half dome. It headed right toward me so I hid behind a big tree. The ice crossed the creek but didn't reach me. It was pretty cool.







survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Apr 8, 2009 - 01:59pm PT
Tom,

That's a good story! Don't worry brutha, we've all had our LAPBJ in the past. ( Lame Ass Psych Bail Jobs) Mine were usually due to CSWD ( Chicken Sh*t Weather Disorder ) or PVA
( Partner's V*ginal Ache ), but there have even been cases of MOLE ( My Own Lame Excuse )

We've all been there.

Now SACK UP and go do that route!!!
tom woods

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
  Apr 8, 2009 - 05:51pm PT
I've thought about another attempt on the route, but as I get older I'm more bummed I missed out on a great climb with my friends than I am about missing the route.

If those guys wanted to go back up there I would, otherwise I'm game to move on to something else that they haven't done.

I have another buddy in mind though for Watkins.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Apr 8, 2009 - 06:06pm PT
Tom,

Good philosophy.

I'd go back too, if I wasn't so gawdd*mn WEEEEEEAAAAAAK!!!

Ha ha!!!
Miwok

Trad climber
Mi Wuk Village
  Apr 8, 2009 - 06:17pm PT
Great TR! Talk about getting it done. Nice job.
Olihphant

climber
Somewhere over the rainbow
  Apr 26, 2009 - 09:46am PT
From start to first to last that was awesome! More please.

But whats i really wants ta hear bout is more Brave Little Toaster stories.
Frodo wouldn't have gotten far with out his BLT.

You Banditos are cozmic.
Buggs

Trad climber
Corrales, New Mexico
  Apr 26, 2009 - 04:58pm PT
Okay, since I am in some circles known as the Brave Little Toaster(BLT), you will get your wish.

As the nOOb on the Cozmic team, the boys did a good job during the three weeks preceeding the Mt Watkins venture to ensure BLT had at least a functional knowledge of what the hell he was doing up there to keep things in order. You see, BLT grew up in the cornfields of Nebraska and the tallest thing he climbed there was a grain silo.

So we decided a month in the valley would be enough time to expand BLT's mind enough to allow for a big wall ascent at the end of the trip. Cookie Cliff to start, aid practice on Crashline, Central Pillar, and others over the prep period help alot. East Buttress of Middle Cathedral got BLT up high and opened his mind to the "other" significant aspect of climbing,...

Going down! After a long day of climbing, the descent from things can be as challenging as the climb. In fact, it can present itself as the crux of the bizkit. Anyone familiar with the way down from Middle knows what I'm talking about. Anyway, BLT, extremely dry, malnourished, hallucinating, talking to himself, putting one foot in front of the other, in the slick, gutter-like (like hell, those grooves ARE rain gutters)grooves of granite, hoping a slip doesn't lead to gymnastics, plodded his way down from the glorious heights. Coining a phrase that would be used over and over throughout the last 20+ years of climbing with the Banditos, I had to "take it off Autobuggy" to safely get down from the crag.

So after a psychedelic stroll down from Olmstead Point to get a look at the descent from Watkins(as well as weird green lichen, fish that may or may not have been there, and cloud formations building up and disappearing over Cloud's Rest-BLT was actually fearing these clouds at several moments), we figured we were ready as we'd ever be. Taking advantage of BLT's angular state of mind, Keith's former spouse kept goading him.

"You really gonna go up there Buggs?"

Gulp.

"It awfully high and scary."

Cough, cough, gulp.

"I don't know Buggs, you could DIE up there!"

Eeeek. Gulp. Cough. Hurl.

She was right. I didn't belong up there any more than I belonged in the coup. I don't know about this, maybe I should go back to Nebraska and buy a mayonaise farm.

Later that evening at the Mountain Room, as the paranoia faded and the margaritas kicked in, I was back to being the Brave Big Toaster and I didn't care what SHE said, I was going up there with the boys cause that's why we came down here.

Enter the haul pig.

I've carried heavier, helping several parties in Alaska carry moose hindquarters weighing 125 pounds for a mile and a half or so, but they pale compared to the unwieldy, teetering, back jabbing, twin bull whip strap, comfort-challenged, sack of heavy metal and fabric S@#T pile that I hauled for miles up Tenaya Creek to the base. Even the cool bathtub-sized pools on the way up there couldn't relieve my suffering.

Enter the Scruffy Buttress.

For those deciding to go up there, the Scruffy Buttress is a somewhat formidable foe. Not that it bears any malice to the wayward climber, but it is the last challenge before the sandy bivy at the base of the climb where you can rest in comfort, drink margaritas, and prepare for the climb. So it actually seems harder than it is. The Scruffy Buttress has the distiction of nearly taking the BLT's soul.

At one point, there was a boulder to climb up and over which was on a steep incline strewn with boulders of varying sizes. The move required stepping across to the left, traversing the boulder to get a foothold in order to elevate up and over the boulder. As I stepped out to gain this foothold, the pig shifted, and my foot came down on some manzanita leaves.

Manzanita leaves on slick granite underfoot, heavy haul pig, shifting, foot slips, leg follows, haul bag shifting, suddenly airborne, grasp for branches, both legs airborne, flailing, cursing, praying. Thankful that Bruce has one hand on top of the bag, holds my sorry ass to terra firma. Visions of a tumbling, painful death at the final resting place hundreds of feet down the Scruffy Buttress.

Get me off this s#$t.

End Act One.
Olihphant

climber
Somewhere over the rainbow
  Apr 26, 2009 - 05:31pm PT
Bravo BLT keep the goodies coming!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Apr 26, 2009 - 07:05pm PT
Ho Mahn, Buggs, you've done it again.

The Brave Little Toaster has become an integral part of the crew because his attitude and his sense of humor are unmatched!

"Hoping a slip doesn't lead to gymnastics." Classic Buggs.

There have been times when he has had us all doubled over in tears.

"Man, we've got to have this guy along for some sh*t that will really bring out the best in him!"

And indeed it has.

I was hoping he'd tell the tale about Reeds Direct!
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Apr 26, 2009 - 10:24pm PT
Bugs, we kneeed PART II. . . .



Please continue!!!!!!!111111
Mike.

climber
  Apr 26, 2009 - 10:58pm PT
Good stuff!
More, Buggs!
What about the other two CBs?...bet they could reveal more sordid and otherworldly details.
Buggs

Trad climber
Corrales, New Mexico
  Apr 26, 2009 - 11:12pm PT
Hell no Birchell, I have worked years to get that out of my mind...

Okay...

After lowering off the first pitch of Reed's Direct, a climb I detest, despise, and thoroughly disassociate from my love of climbing, not to mention dispell, distaste, disgust, and furthermore deny, I atoned,...

"Guess Grumby ain't sposed to be in the first grade."

There.

The crack can live on through eternity, which it will, without having the grace of Buggs' fingers or hands or forearms, knees, thighs, and complete lower body on it, in it, or around it forever and ever, Amen.

I might try the Cookie Cliff again though given my increased experience. Maybe this time I won't dry heave at the top...
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Apr 26, 2009 - 11:48pm PT
Don't sugarcoat it Buggs.....
Jeez, we were trying to show you a good time.
Feck, you are full of bejuzzy sometimes!!
Buggs

Trad climber
Corrales, New Mexico
  Apr 27, 2009 - 12:34am PT
Mt Watkins Act II

You see, a cartoon story line began back in camp after each grand day of climbing. The two main characters were Hondie(as in “honed”, sharp, chiseled, like when sharpening a knife) and Grumby(as in, well…Grumby, the “unhoned”) There were a few penciled drawings or ink done, but I don’t know where they ended up. The storyline mostly revolved around skinny, snot-nosed nOOb Grumby always getting sandbagged into being belay slave or seconding harder stuff than he was capable of climbing or carrying large or larger loads than the dashing and muscular, Hondie.

“F%$K Grumby, I ain’t climbin’ none of that flat s$%t!!” for example when asked by Grumby if Hondie would climb Glacier Point Apron with him.

The characters depicted in the story were loosely based on Keith (Hondie) and myself (Grumby). Not that I’m in any way skinny and I’ve recently learned to manage the snot problem. Most of the stories were fueled by various sundries; margaritas, beer, and something that vaguely resembled hippie lettuce from a large shoe box inside Lynn Climber Chick’s VW van. Last name has been omitted for lack of literary permission.

Bruce – “Hondie says today we’re going down to climb Hot Line.”
Grumby – “It’s gonna be a cold day in hell.”

However, I digress. Back to Mt. Watkins.

After finally dispensing with the Scruffy Butthole, we arrived at the base of the true climbing. Not sure why I call it “true”, truth is as far as I can tell, it’s ALL climbing. We rolled out the bags and settled in for the night. BLT didn’t sleep so well. Not that the bivy was bad, nary would one find a better bivy anywhere. Flat, sand/gravel, fabulous views; Half Dome from that angle is breathtaking, not to mention Quarter Domes and Clouds Rest.

Sublime.

No, it weren’t the bivy. BLT was contemplating the next day, the start of something completely foreign. Sure, we had been climbing pretty hard. Yes, I did do a 3 + hour aid ascent of the first pitch on Crashline, though not even a full pitch, on a climb that most climbers free. True, we did several multi-pitch climbs to include an all day ascent of Middle Cathedral. This was different. I was about to un-ass the flat and live on the steep for several days. And that scared the crap out of me.

Morning comes early when you don’t sleep. Especially if there’s something waiting for you when you were supposed to be waking up. Turned out the first day was not so scary. I got to watch the leaders swing madly back and forth, pendulum traversing on the low angle slabs of the lower pitches. I got intimately involved with my haul pig on those low angled slabs as well, a process respectfully referred to as “anchor humping.”

Hauling really doesn’t take that long to figure out. And once you got it, you got it forever. Grunt, move, pull, grunt move, pull, ad infinitum. Mostly a lot of work and a long dry day. Sheraton Watkins was to be the first night’s bivy and the name fits perfectly. Wide open ledge, large spacious, with room to walk around, plenty of good fart sack spots. I was ready to REEEEEEEEEEELAAAAX. Problem was it was BLT’s turn to clean the aid pitch that Mel fixed to get us a jump start in the morning. Cepin’ BLT not feeling too good.

“Uh, that pitch traverses out there a bit, uhhh, I’m not feelin’ all that good, you know, first day on a big wall, kinda sketchy about the, well, you know the ….” Yeah we know…

The long and short of it was my sack had shrunk along with my testicles to a place they hadn’t been to since the womb.

So Survival gladly grabbed a hammer and went up and cleaned the pins, stopping to give me a demo of “HOW-YOU-PROP-ER-LY-CLEAN-THE-PINS-OUT-OF-THE-CRACK.”(Hammer swings with each hyphen, leaning out hard on his daisy chain, iron singing to the grunt of his voice.)

I f$%kin’ love that dude.

Time for bed.
Buggs

Trad climber
Corrales, New Mexico
  Apr 27, 2009 - 12:36am PT
Hey Bruce, What's bejuzzy?
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Apr 27, 2009 - 01:59am PT
Beautiful post Buggs!

Bejuzzy is like the nasty snfelch that is soiling your panties after a particularly heinous moment....
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Apr 27, 2009 - 08:33am PT
I love it, Buggs!!!!11111

















ACT III, Puleasssse!!!!!!!1111111
Olihphant

climber
Somewhere over the rainbow
  Apr 27, 2009 - 09:46am PT
Funny, funny stuff Buggs.
You are like a BLT on wry humor toast.

Seems to me that "Nut sack in the womb" would be a good name for a climb.

Please sir may we have some more.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Apr 27, 2009 - 10:32am PT
"So Survival gladly grabbed a hammer and went up and cleaned the pins, stopping to give me a demo of “HOW-YOU-PROP-ER-LY-CLEAN-THE-PINS-OUT-OF-THE-CRACK.”(Hammer swings with each hyphen, leaning out hard on his daisy chain, iron singing to the grunt of his voice.)"

He makes me sound so freekin' cool sometimes!!

Buggs

Trad climber
Corrales, New Mexico
  Apr 28, 2009 - 12:07am PT
Mt Watkins Act III

So Grumby wakes up on this glorious ledge, another sunny day, no threatening clouds, with Half Dome in morning alpenglow. Mel’s socks are right above his head and he’s still sleepin’. Can’t help but wonder if the breeze is wafting the sock odor away or towards him or if he even gives a s*#t. Pack the pigs and jug up, after a meaningless lower out from the hotel, to the fourth class section above. I either lead this section, cleaned it, or maybe just scrubbed out the other Bandito’s jock straps. I want to think I was pivotal on this section and as it probably doesn’t matter to anyone, let’s just say I lead it, but had to hang three of four times.

I can’t remember.

What I can remember at this juncture, is that the climbing began to become a bit more steep, and I was up to bat for the aid lead off the ledge and up towards Good Ledge. Now I inched up, placed a piece of good pro. Well, it was pro. Good is a relative term, and when the Brave Little Toaster’s eyes start spinning around like little tornados in his skull cavity, metal objects that are in the rock are good pro. Then I look up toward the next move, just like Survival taught me. “Look around, relax and shake it out.” After all, I was standing on a 2X2 foot ledge as I remember it. But what got my eyes really spinning was what I saw for the next move.

I was staring at what looked like an old, dried piece of Juicy Fruit, stuck into a hole with an old, bent, rusty wire sticking out of it.

I’d heard about copperheads, bashies, or whatever you want to call the gum-lookin’ motherf@#$ers, but now I was looking at one eye to eye, contemplating whether or not I was gonna vomit right there or wait until the brothers started screaming up at me to hurry up.

Now let me get this straight. I’m supposed to hook my aiders to this wad of gum, then put my foot into the loop, put all my weight on it, and “just step up and hook that bolt.”

Really?

Suddenly, I am no longer in Kansas. This is not 35 feet up on Crashline. The abyss is yawning widely just 2 feet that-away, the TRUE ground is many hundreds of thousands of millions of feet down, and I’m supposed to be bold?

“Not gonna happen, not gonna happen.”

“Uhhh, we might have a slight nad problem up here.”

“WHAAT?” yell the Banditos from below.

“Uhhh, I don’t like the look of this manky(trying to use a term that I read one time or overheard in the bar) copperhead, not sure I can put my weight on it or what…”

“Well get down here so one of us can give it a try.”

Gladly.

Testicles descend slowly to normal anatomical position.

“I’ll just haul the bag for the rest of the climb.”

“Don’t sweat it, Buggs, that ledge is close and if that copperhead was bad, well you know…”

“Yeah, I know.” Believe me, I know.

Jugging continued for BLT up to Good Ledge, site of our next bivy. The name doesn’t describe this spot as accurately as the hotel below, but considering we are now entering headwall territory, the ledge is good for the four of us to sleep in relative comfort as well as sit and eat, drink margaritas, and smoke. The sun is now starting to set and everything turns reddish, then golden, then slowly fades into dusk. Unbelievable stars. Headlamps flashing around in the woods down and up the Scruffy Bastion, then across the base near the sandy flatness. That bivy seems like centuries ago.

Thanks to Survival, I got the best, safest, most secure spot. I still feel bad about the Drunk on a Rock comment I made after Bruce spoke of being a Prince with his brothers looking over the Kingdom. Many times my size ten has lodged itself firmly in my custard hole after a few of the connections have been loosened a bit.

Forgive me again, brother.

Thanks for the sleepin’ spot. And everything else over the years.

Sleep comes easy this night. Must be tired. Too much toast today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZFfaiYU7kU

SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Apr 28, 2009 - 10:10am PT
AWESOME, Mr. Buggs, aka the BLT--NOT!

Anxiously awaiting the next installment.

This just rocks so!!!!!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Apr 28, 2009 - 10:43am PT
Jeez Buggnut,

I didn't know you were such a writer. Almost thirty years later and I'm still learning stuff about him!!

"I’d heard about copperheads, bashies, or whatever you want to call the gum-lookin’ motherf@#$ers, but now I was looking at one eye to eye, contemplating whether or not I was gonna vomit right there or wait until the brothers started screaming up at me to hurry up.

Now let me get this straight. I’m supposed to hook my aiders to this wad of gum, then put my foot into the loop, put all my weight on it, and “just step up and hook that bolt.”

Really?

Suddenly, I am no longer in Kansas. This is not 35 feet up on Crashline. The abyss is yawning widely just 2 feet that-away, the TRUE ground is many hundreds of thousands of millions of feet down, and I’m supposed to be bold?

“Not gonna happen, not gonna happen.”

“Uhhh, we might have a slight nad problem up here.”"

This is so good! If only it could compare to being there in the moment, hearing the guy's rap in person. It's soo PRICELESS!!
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Apr 29, 2009 - 06:06pm PT
Okay, Buggs,

I'm just on the edge o' my chair waiting fer the 'rest of the story'. . .
scuffy b

climber
heading slowly NNW
  Apr 29, 2009 - 06:50pm PT
Man o Man, It's true, that BLT can spin a yarn.

This thread has been taken to a whole other level.
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  May 25, 2009 - 01:50pm PT
With the other thread on Mt. Watkins, I wanted to bring
this back to the forefront, and plead with Mr Buggs to complete his story here!!!!!!111111111














Puleeeeeeeaaaaase!
nutjob

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Oct 13, 2011 - 06:10pm PT
Bump for some Watkins goodness, nice survival reportage, and good stories.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Author's Reply  Jun 5, 2013 - 11:50am PT
BBST
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Mt. Watkins - South Face C2 5.8 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
Photo: Nabeel Atique