Trip Report
The Incredible Phil Bircheff, 65 years young, on the Above-Average Hulk
Monday July 7, 2014 9:07pm
Knowing that many of Phil's friends lurk here on ST, I can't keep these photos to myself. Forgive me for sharing, Philippe.

Phil and I have hung out a handful of times in Joshua Tree and the Alabama Hills over the last few years, but had never roped up together. Last week, we hiked into the famous and northernmost of the Sierra big-walls, the Incredible Hulk. We were virgins to this beautiful area, but Phil had a familial connection to the Hulk - his older brother, Dave, put up a route with Rick Wheeler in 1976 - the Macedonian Route V 5.9 A4. This old-school wall route has all but been lost amongst the numerous new-age free climbs on the face. Our intentions were a little bit easier - the Red Dihedral IV 5.10 1,500'.

After hiking up in midday heat and securing the most bitchin' bivy cave for a few nights stay, we sorted our gear and scoped the line for the next day's attempt. Always eager to learn from my elders, I checked out Phil's kit to see what the seasoned climbing veteran had brought along:

 1 pair cut-off jean short-shorts
 1 pair fuzzy, inside-out sweatpants
 1 knit cap, replete with weight-reduction holes
 no jacket
 no water bottle
 1 post-modern-retro-classic 1980's 30L alpine pack
 3 cans smoked Herring
 1 large bag Fritos
 8 PayDay candybars
 3 packs Bugler rolling tobacco
 cowboy coffee and lots of hot cocoa
 figure 8 belay device

We wake up casually, have breakfast, and hike up to the base of the route. Phil and I swap leads up this beautiful chunk of stone, and he makes it look easy like he's been doing it for 51 years. We are halted only by a slower party ahead, but it's not a big deal, as we are in no rush and are enjoying the scenery. 5-10 minute delays at each belay also allow for much-needed smoke breaks for Phil. No less than 10 cigarettes were consumed before attaining the 11,280' summit. "Oxygen is for pussies". High-fives are exchanged and we begin descending the nasty talus gully back to camp. We hike over the hill to check out the nearby Maltby Lake and enjoy some cheddarwurst sausages and 1.5 liters of deliciously cheap Livingstone Cellars white wine back at camp (carried in by none other than Ms Amy Ness). A fine way to celebrate the 4th of July. Of the route, Phil said it was in his "Top 10." Quite the statement from a guy with a resume like his!

Some photos:
Credit: rfshore
Credit: rfshore
Credit: rfshore
Credit: rfshore
Credit: rfshore
Credit: rfshore
Credit: rfshore
Credit: rfshore
Credit: rfshore
Credit: rfshore
Credit: rfshore
Credit: rfshore
Credit: rfshore
Credit: rfshore

  Trip Report Views: 2,611
rfshore
About the Author
Richard Shore is a trad climber from Santa Barbara, CA.

Comments
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donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Jul 7, 2014 - 09:10pm PT
Thanks for the great tr. Way to go Phil!
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Jul 7, 2014 - 09:10pm PT
great TR
I'm envious!!

way to get after it
mpmoody

Mountain climber
Alamo, CA
  Jul 7, 2014 - 09:12pm PT
Thanks for posting - nice TR and inspiring for us older climbers
rfshore

Trad climber
Santa Barbara, CA
Author's Reply  Jul 7, 2014 - 09:20pm PT
Also - for the art collectors out there - Phil's latest sculpture is now for sale and sitting on the table at the Whitney Portal Store. A marvelous life-size bust of a bearded John Muir, carved out of beautiful black stone. Go check it out!
jstn

Trad climber
monrovia, ca
  Jul 7, 2014 - 09:29pm PT
Cool post, Rich. Thanks for sharing!
Ed H

Trad climber
Santa Rosa, CA
  Jul 7, 2014 - 09:39pm PT
Wow - great story and beautiful location. TFPU. Hope to check it out someday

moosedrool

climber
lost, far away from Poland
  Jul 7, 2014 - 09:42pm PT
Good. I have 5 more years to get ready ;)

Most excellent, gentlemen!

Andrzej
mcd

Trad climber
  Jul 7, 2014 - 09:52pm PT
yeah buddy!
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Jul 7, 2014 - 10:21pm PT
A real man cave for a couple of real men. TFPU
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jul 7, 2014 - 10:50pm PT
Going to push for that degree of badass!
W.L.

climber
Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
  Jul 7, 2014 - 11:08pm PT
Thanks for posting! I gotta get to the Hulk ASAP!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jul 8, 2014 - 03:26am PT
Looks like a blast, way to go Phil!!!
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Jul 8, 2014 - 04:21am PT
Historically symmetrical, adventure, an aesthetic objective, good times!

Nice! Thank
You!
Jebus H Bomz

climber
Peavine Basecamp
  Jul 8, 2014 - 04:29am PT
Hulk is looking good! Man, been wanting to hit the bivvy caves but there's always some other scruffs manning the bastion. We will see in September!
nopantsben

climber
  Jul 8, 2014 - 04:50am PT
this hulk thing, it has to be said, looks rather premium.
thanks for the tr.
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Jul 8, 2014 - 05:35am PT
Sweet!
TFPU
Tad
Stewart Johnson

climber
lake forest
  Jul 8, 2014 - 05:40am PT
Exellent!
Banquo

climber
Amerricka
  Jul 8, 2014 - 07:43am PT
Thanks for that.

In 1980 I saw a Dave Bircheff slideshow of his climb Macedonian Route. I wish he would post those photos. I was interested in climbing at the time but I think his photos convinced me it was what I wanted to do.
locker

climber
STFU n00b!!!
  Jul 8, 2014 - 07:47am PT



Right on!!!...


Good to read and see...


micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Jul 8, 2014 - 08:00am PT
Those guys are the real deal. Names from our history still pressing into the futre. Reports like this make these ephemeral names of old seem very present. Thanks for a great write up and classy "old school" photos.

That gear list was a riot and I wouldn't expect anything else from one of the old masters.
guyman

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
  Jul 8, 2014 - 08:24am PT
Way to go.....

thanks
Mark Force

Trad climber
Cave Creek, AZ
  Jul 8, 2014 - 09:18am PT
At 58 and returning to climbing, Phil Bircheff is my hero!
two-shoes

Trad climber
Auberry, CA
  Jul 8, 2014 - 09:45am PT
Hey Mr Shore,

I don't think there is mention of his footwear? I heard through the grapevine that he still climbs in resoled E.B.s. Is that true?

I see you let him lead some of that "wide" on the last pitch! He probably said, " Better let me handle this son."

Thank you for excellent TR!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Jul 8, 2014 - 11:46am PT
In 1980 I saw a Dave Bircheff slideshow of his climb Macedonian Route. I wish he would post those photos.
photos of Rick Wheeler on p8, FA of the Macedonian Route


p10 (bivvied near here)

http://www.supertopo.com/tr/Bircheff-Climbing-Pics-Yosemite-70s/t162n.html
http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/669703/Bircheff-Climbing-pic-captions
ydpl8s

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
  Jul 8, 2014 - 11:40am PT
I love the pic above where he is sticking the RR into the loop, wearing his patched painters. I also like the "figure 10" loop behind him with what looks like some old ascenders hanging there (or is that an old Friend, what is that thing?).
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Jul 8, 2014 - 11:47am PT
I love watching my (barely) elders still going at it. Well done!

I also like the "figure 10" loop behind him with what looks like some old ascenders hanging there (or is that an old Friend, what is that thing?).
I'm not sure, either. When I first looked at it, it looked like a pair of Jumars (which, incidentally, I still use). When I looked again, though, it lloked like a very large, rigid-stem Friend. Given the date, however, I think they would be Jumars.

John
ydpl8s

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
  Jul 8, 2014 - 11:54am PT
Yeah, a rigid Friend with a film canister duck taped to it....for ???? :-)
rfshore

Trad climber
Santa Barbara, CA
Author's Reply  Jul 8, 2014 - 12:09pm PT
Wow, Clint! Thanks for the awesome bump with photos. The thread comes full-circle.

As for the EB's, no. Phil was rocking some older MadRock(?) shoes which appeared to have been resoled MANY times, and were in desperate need of another.
Jingy

climber
Somewhere out there
  Jul 8, 2014 - 02:18pm PT
3 packs Bugler rolling tobacco

 definitely not going for taste.... Bugler was made for the war.. the world war I...
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
  Jul 8, 2014 - 02:23pm PT
those are Jumars, and he has a pulley on a biner as well cmon now,,it aint THAT OLD!


Thumbs up on this thread by the way!!!
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Jul 8, 2014 - 02:26pm PT
definitely not going for taste.... Bugler was made for the war.. the world war I...

I was thinking the same think,Jingy, but for a different reason. When I was in prison, inmates had only Bugler available to them, and the administration went out of its way to give us the worst of everything.

John
Myles Moser

climber
Lone Pine, Ca
  Jul 8, 2014 - 04:43pm PT
Bircheff is an animal! Humbled by tasteless jokes, loud farts and cheap wine! A true member of Nothing more than The Low Sierra Eating, Drinking and Farcing Society. Haphazard with a diamond blade cut off and a horrendous sculptor of grotesque imagination. A builder of belay anchors that would leave any rookie shacking his or her head, forcing the AMGA to nationally enforce a sanctimonious institution for all possible mountaineering ( oh-wait!). A flat footed individual whom belongs in a Hover-Around than rather on the trail. His pace of speed is similar to painting the Golden Gate Bridge as well as his age. If he could carry his Mazda on his back into the backcountry, he probably would, just for the bivy. A man that seems to never hit the head of a piton, yet finds his finger, too thin of hands to know how to use in real cracks.... He might as well retire before his hair falls out completely or before the whole in his beanie gets any larger!

He would be the first to hit you and steal your horse,

A true Banditoooooooooo!





SC seagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, or In What Time Zone Am I?
  Jul 8, 2014 - 04:49pm PT
Very nice and exciting TR.
Rocking it!

Susan
ron gomez

Trad climber
fallbrook,ca
  Jul 8, 2014 - 05:04pm PT
Locker( blue butt plug), Phil bircheff
Locker( blue butt plug), Phil bircheff
Credit: ron gomez
Phil and Jim
Phil and Jim
Credit: ron gomez
Peace
Gorgeous George

Trad climber
Los Angeles, California
  Jul 8, 2014 - 05:13pm PT
Bitchin.

But I think you give Phil too much credit by implying the holes in his hat were deliberately inserted. Me thinks they found their way on their own.

BTW, can you post a picture of the bust? Might be interesado.

jg
Amy Ness

climber
ND
  Jul 8, 2014 - 05:49pm PT
Phil is my hero!! Not only does he have the energy to climb like a bad-*ss, with some pretty knarly approaches, but he has the wisdom of someone who has been living life to it's fullest all of his life. He was over yesterday, giving me words of wisdom, and he told me that the night before he had calculated how many days he has been alive...over 24,000! When I asked him how many were good days, he said almost all of them. He must be doing something right!
We love you BANDITO!
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
  Jul 8, 2014 - 06:04pm PT
Awesome but you see that he is slowing down, way too much food and only 3 cans of smoked herring?
F10

Trad climber
Bishop
  Jul 8, 2014 - 06:27pm PT
Awesome
Myles Moser

climber
Lone Pine, Ca
  Jul 8, 2014 - 06:27pm PT
His skin is like a dried, beached seal.

His wisdom might be found, like loose change in the backseat of a Mazda.

mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Jul 8, 2014 - 08:04pm PT
NOT The Marlborough Man.
NOT The Marlborough Man.
Credit: Ron Gee Gomez

Phil Bircheff has always tended to be cosmic. That said, I've known him only since ah, let's see, I was in the Navy that time...1868! True, it seems like just yesterday...

He and brother David had this weird routine of meditating each morning and had these intensely weird eyes, nawmean? I think they picked that up from Schmitz and the cosmic sh#t came from Jim, of course.

Phil turned these characteristics into his trademark hipness. He is the Anti-macho, as well.

Obvious to the most casual observer, Phil is the tougher of the two, as he's still gettin' with it, climbing.

The Moser folks know him well. I wish them all well! Hiya, Miles!

Dave always made references to Phil's "enduro-climbs," so this has always been his style.

You do have to watch these Bohemian types: Scarfing is an acient survival art and Phil IS an artist.

"He is also a Flame," he added modestly.--Book of the Dun Crow
rfshore

Trad climber
Santa Barbara, CA
Author's Reply  Jul 8, 2014 - 08:47pm PT
Myles, you had me in near-tears laughter there.

For the art collectors - Phil's latest work, available at the Whitney Portal Store
Credit: rfshore

Around New Years in Joshua Tree - Phil telling an animated story after some midday white wine, with an entranced Doug Robinson listening intently.
Credit: rfshore
Credit: rfshore
BooDawg

Social climber
Butterfly Town
  Jul 8, 2014 - 09:14pm PT
A most Excellent TR; Way to get keep on keeping on!
drljefe

climber
El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
  Jul 8, 2014 - 10:38pm PT
Killer!!!!!!!11111

So rad, so funny, and downright beautiful!!!
That Phil is one Krispy Kritter!!!!!!!!!
Go Phil!

Thanks for this share!
Roxy

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Jul 9, 2014 - 07:38am PT

NICE!!

art, Hulk granite and a Sierra summit!

this TR is rich!!
and leaves me wanting a Payday
dickcilley

Social climber
Wisteria Ln.
  Jul 9, 2014 - 09:45am PT
Here's to Phil,Amy and Myles.Cheers
cultureshock

Trad climber
Mountain View
  Jul 9, 2014 - 04:54pm PT
Great TR!

Good to meet you and Amy on your way down from PV. You guys were all smiles and having a blast!

-Luke

PS, those photos of the Macedonia route are great! More people might recognize the route as The Venturi Effect.


Here is that 8th pitch splitter.



Vs the FA:

rfshore

Trad climber
Santa Barbara, CA
Author's Reply  Aug 13, 2014 - 06:39am PT
Too much sadness and bullshit on the front page. BUMP for climbing!
Blakey

Trad climber
Sierra Vista
  Aug 13, 2014 - 08:22am PT
Great stuff, just great!

Steve
climber007

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
  Aug 13, 2014 - 10:48am PT
Richard,

Was great meeting you out there at the Hulk... Glad you guys had such a good trip.

Thanks again for the sweet pics you got of me while you guys were rapping down after PV. We got a super late start, but still topped out and got to watch an amazing sunset from the summit. Good times... ;-)

Dustin
Fuzzywuzzy

climber
suspendedhappynation
  Aug 14, 2014 - 10:17am PT
Phil and Dave took me up my first long route in the Valley in 1972. Those two are true originals!!!
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