Well, the story about MB is not done yet. I agree that the History of LCC is not documented too well and all of those campfire stories end up with the wind. I kind of think of this as an electronic campfire. Throughout climbing I have had the chance to climb with some great people and some of the stories I am writing here are in tribute to them. Here is one about a guy who did several FA's in LCC....
If you climbed in LCC in the late 70’s to early 80’s you may have run into a quiet guy with long, curly, bright red hair and wired rim glasses. I first met Lynn Wheeler in the late 70’s. My first impression was that there was something wrong with the guy because he was so quiet. When I got to know Lynn better and after I climbed with him a few times I realized that there was this very intelligent, guy inside, perhaps one of those people who are born with huge skills and intelligence in some areas but has a hard time communicating at other levels.
The first time I climbed with Lynn I went up to the Gate Boulders looking for a partner. I ran into Lynn on a fine Saturday and I was psyched. The week before I had followed MB up Equipment Overhang Left without any falls. It was my first 5.11a. I think this was 1980. Lynn was also looking for a partner so we headed up to the dihedrals. I was pretty well excited and going for it. My friends told me that if I could follow something that I should be able to lead it (I listened to that for many years before I finally figured out they were BSing me….)
That is an awesome climb and everything was going well right up to the crux. I was absolutely terrible at remembering moves and for me, the crux of that climb is very sequential. The bolt at the crux had a bail sling of 1” tubular webbing hanging from it so I clipped directly into it with a RR Salewa Hollow Aluminum ‘biner. These were RR’s attempts at making an ultralight (I think they were all recalled later for safety reasons). I had the rope clipped into the biner, but the gate got hung up so that the webbing was forcing the biner open and the sling was halfway onto the gate of the biner. That is not a good place to hang around and we were not smart enough in those days to have draws, that is just how we did things…I was pumped out and I knew I was coming off that sucker. I fell on the biner that way and was surprised that it held. Not a long fall only about 8 feet or so. I climbed up again and found that the biner was now bent open and it was not going to work. After fiddling with another one and getting clipped in I was toast. I felt kind of shitty, my first time climbing with the guy and I am falling all over the place. I lowered down and Lynn was smiling. I apologized for thrashing so bad and he kind of chuckled at me.
I asked him if he wanted to give it a go and all of a sudden he got serious. A man of few words, he was up for it. Lynn pretty well fired the thing up to that last hairy lie-back at the top. He just couldn’t get himself to go for it, even though he had done the crux. He lowered down. My turn, this was what they would later call yoyo – ing. I called it thrashing up the route to get your gear. I was able to get up the thing and perform those last hairy lie-back moves to the anchors. Lynn followed the thing with absolutely no problems. We were pretty happy just to have gotten up the thing and our relationship now had something to go on besides struggling on the boulders.
“Wheels on Fire” up the Green A is named after Lynn. He did some other good routes in LCC. One of them is State of Confusion, a 5.11 slab climb on the Gate. I ran into Wheels and went up to do what was maybe the second ascent of State of Confusion. The Spanish climbing shoes with the sticky rubber, Fire’s were out and Lynn had done the climb in those. They were made by Boreal had sticky rubber but the edge wore off them pretty fast and they stretched out since they were unlined leather. After we climbed the approach pitches we arrived at the ledge below the climb. Lynn proceeded to take his shoes off and switch feet. WTF? “Lynn what are you doing?”
“The edges on the outside are a whole lot better than the inside edges, you are going to want good edges for this climb.”
Alright, well I left mine on the right feet. He tells me the approximate number of bolts and says it is all bolted and you don’t need any other pro. But then he hands me some wireds. “Lynn, why do I need these?” Well, I didn’t have enough hangers, so some of the bolts only have nuts on them, just loop these small wireds over the bolt and snug it up.”
Damn, this is getting interesting. I had been climbing lots of slab and feeling pretty good about it, but 5.11 slab should never be taken lightly, especially in LCC. And here I was headed up one of Lynn’s routes with no bolt hangers? Lynn was excited to have someone climb his route. LCC slabs play with your head anyway, but sticking those wireds over the bolts added to the effect. Because of the nature of the rock and it being a new route there were a lot of micro edges that were very friable but I managed to make it up the thing. Lynn cheerily followed the route without falls, with his shoes on the wrong feet and switched them over at the top.
I didn’t stay in touch with Lynn when I moved away from SLC. I heard he worked at BD in the early 90’s and most unfortunately, I heard that he took his own life. If you have ever been at a friends service, it all comes back to you, all the times you have shared, the times that you should have shared. All of the dead persons friends say nice things about the guy. These are things that you should have said when they were alive. I didn’t make it to Lynn’s service and I know I am many years late, “Wheels, I didn’t get to climb with you much buddy, but I enjoyed the times I did have, and you were a hell of a climber. I just wish I could have been a better friend.” Wheels routes are still up there. I think he even managed to put hangers on those bolts.