Wasatch History

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GOlsen
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Wasatch History

Postby GOlsen » Fri Jun 03, 2005 10:22 pm

Hi,
as a former wasatch climber and sometimes visitor I thought I would try and get this started to share some experiences. I was asked about some routes I did in Ferguson's many moons ago so I will start there. Bsmoot, how about sharing? Others?Les Ellison had some of the best stories if you can chain him to a keyboard....

Back in the early 80’s Ferguson was an up and coming place and I think it was Les who seemed to be the biggest instigator of new routes. I had on-sited Goldenfingers and was doing quite a bit of slab climbing. The rounded corner to the east of Goldenfingers seemed like a likely candidate for a climb. But it also was not very tall, kind of a high ball. That is the route that caught my eye. It was before sport climbing was accepted and I never considered rapping and drilling for a moment. Soloing was something that seemed to be the ultimate in style and that was important to me then. In 1983 I was driving home from the U where I went to school and it was one of those days where I had to climb. I was pissed off about something too. I actually did the ultimate in stupidity and fired a couple beers. Sometimes in those days I just wanted to be alone. I walked up Fergusons all fired up with my shoes and chalkbag. I climbed Goldbagger, the route to the left of Goldenfingers and it was very anticlimactic (I gave it about 5.9-, be aware of routes that are graded that I think they are all sandbags!).

It was not enough to feed whatever demon I had inside. I then went up the gulley to the east of that buttress and soloed a couple other things that were not any big deal and not worth doing. At that point I had not even considered Stone they Rejected, but I also knew that I was not done yet. I hiked down by Goldenfingers and thought that I would boulder it out a bit. There are times when I climb and it seems like my brainwaves are flatlined. There is no conscious thought about what foot goes where or what you are doing. The holds appear and in a split second you find yourself pulling, edging and smearing your way up the route. This is usually when I climb my best and also I think the Zen spot, where the only thing important is that moment in time, right then. No worries about what might be or what was. This climb went that way for me and I remember a pretty difficult part about halfway up the lower face and I just climbed through. I didn’t stop until there is kind of a fracture with a small bulge. It was at this point that I knew I could be done and traverse right to get off but I made a conscious decision to keep going straight up the wall, I think that is where the fourth bolt is now located. For me that was the hardest and scariest part because I was way off the deck then and had decided my fate. I pulled those moves off and on top I remember sitting down and shaking for a long time. At that time the hardest on-site I had done was probably 11ish, so to onsite solo 10c was too far out there. The demons were fed.

In those days, there appeared to be a culture of not talking about your feats. Bret Ruckman was my closest climbing partner and so I told him about the route but didn’t tell anyone else. At the time it did not seem right to spray about soloing the thing because soloing is a deeply personal thing. Those routes were later bolted by others who had no idea that they had been climbed. I think it was either Doug H. or Conrad A. who bolted them. A few years later when Bret was starting to work on the guide and got the routes reported to him he let me know that they had been bolted. I hiked up and looked at them, and while I soloed Goldbagger quite a few times (once with Bret even) I didn’t want to do Stone They Rejected again (some semblance of sanity there). I realized that the guys who bolted them had no idea and I also realized that nobody in their right mind was going to do them the way I had done them. I just could not justify pulling the bolts or making an issue of it. I got what I wanted that day and it is actually kind of cool that someone bolted them so others can climb them too. Its easy to do it the way I did, just don’t clip the bolts (but beer in this case may have been aid…)

I would highly suggest: don’t drink and climb, and don’t free solo anything that close to your limit as it was for me. One of the more impressive free solo’s I saw first hand was Drew Bedford on Rockcapades 5.11a, back in the mid 80’s. That dude sure could climb and he still does right?

I will have to tell you about a typical day with Merril Bitter....

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Postby joe » Fri Jun 03, 2005 10:46 pm

THANK YOU GOlsen! there's so little written about the history of climbing in the wasatch that it's great to hear these tales.

more stories please!

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Postby carpe diem » Sat Jun 04, 2005 12:56 am

I saw Drew pulling hard just the other day. Let's hear the Merril story please.

GOlsen
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Postby GOlsen » Sat Jun 04, 2005 4:19 am

OK. I will work on something. Someday, I hope somebody else puts something in here otherwise the thread will be garys book of lies. Although, for Merrill I won't have to lie about anything that deals with climbing and athletic ability. He is a hell of a guy and if anyone sees him tell him I said hello....

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WHEELS on Fire

Postby GOlsen » Mon Jun 06, 2005 12:48 am

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.

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Brian in SLC
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Re: WHEELS on Fire

Postby Brian in SLC » Mon Jun 06, 2005 9:29 am

GOlsen wrote: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.


Don't say that...I carry my nut tool on one still (my first biners!)....

Wheels routes are still up there. I think he even managed to put hangers on those bolts.


Wow. Awesome, Gary. Whew.

Didn't Lynn and Mugs do a route in Zion together?

Great stuff, thanks.

Brian in SLC
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Postby GOlsen » Mon Jun 06, 2005 1:59 pm

Thanks Brian. I do think Wheels and Mugs did a route in Zion. I have all of my old climbing mags in storage or I could sift through and see if it was reported there. I must add to this thread that my historical perspective of the Wasatch is only from the late 70's to late 80's, about a decade where the biggest thing that came into being was Sport climbing. There are many other people out there who know a lot more than I do. When I started climbing the guide Wasatch Granite by Dave Smith had just some out. The other book that was out was Desperate Grace by Dennis Turville. Les Ellison was the most prolific new route sender and he and Brian wrote Wasatch Rock Climbs, that covered the new routes on the granite. The first two books had used the old F-rating scheme.

Here is an excerpt from the Smith guide:
Dont use Aid on Free Routes
The majority of the routes covered in this guide are free. There are very few aid routes on the Granite. The use of aid on a free route indicates the climber is not personally able to meet the challenge of the climb....If you can't do a free route without aid, you don't belong on it.


Interesting. We as climbers pretend that there are no rules and it would seem that there should be more rules today thatn there were then; however, I do believe that we had more strict ethics back then. But what the hell am I saying, it was my generation that started rapp bolting. Sorry, there is already an ethics conversation going, not to diverge, but I think that the guide books present a certain flavor for the area and the 1977 guide was really down on aid and pins.

Of particluar note in the Smith guide was getting down on folks who pounded on the Green A. Apparently this was a popular route to pound pins on and it took quite a bit of cajoling in those days to avoid pounding pins. Smith indicates that he put a fixed pin on the green A because most parties placed their own. In those days they had small straight sided stoppers and not the advacned micro nuts of today.

The other thing that is taken for granted is the use of chalk. I remember bouldering at the Gate in the 70's and Dennis Turville walking by afterr climbing. I of course had chalk alll over me...Turville to his buddies, "See, you can't even boulder anymore without chalk!"

Anyway, I am working on some other stuff from that era. Somebody else ought to take a break and stretch their fingers byt ponying up....

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Postby Brian in SLC » Mon Jun 06, 2005 2:37 pm

GOlsen wrote:The other book that was out was Desperate Grace by Dennis Turville


How 'bout this quote (not sure if I have it exactly right)...from the above...

"The rock, like the best of women, can only take the occasional pounding".

Classic.

You were the cover boy on the old Big Cottonwood guide, eh? Nice.

Also, pic of you on Standing Rock in the Wiggens book I seem to recall.

'Preciate the history stuff.
boissal wrote:Somebooody's smart balls need to be kicked all the way up the roof of his not so smart mouth.

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Postby trashman » Mon Jun 06, 2005 2:44 pm

GOlsen wrote:Dont use Aid on Free Routes


i think this is still one of the more hotly debated topics, thanks for the frame of reference. at least it doesn't seem like a new issue anymore

GOlsen
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Postby GOlsen » Mon Jun 06, 2005 4:01 pm

Brian in SLC wrote:
GOlsen wrote:The other book that was out was Desperate Grace by Dennis Turville


How 'bout this quote (not sure if I have it exactly right)...from the above...

"The rock, like the best of women, can only take the occasional pounding".

Classic.

You were the cover boy on the old Big Cottonwood guide, eh? Nice.

Also, pic of you on Standing Rock in the Wiggens book I seem to recall.

'Preciate the history stuff.


LMAO I was never a cover boy. That is a good one though. I was shown scared to death in Wiggens Book on an early ascent of the Titan. funny you remember that stuff you must be old too!

Basically, I was just a climber in the 80's with no exceptional talents. These forums just offer a chance to share those old war stories, and spary about the old days...

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Wasatch History

Postby beagan » Mon Jun 06, 2005 4:19 pm

Gary, Just a quick Thanks for all the routes you and the boys put up over the years. I was never good enough to do your harder routes, but my partner and i had been following you guys around for years climbing freshly bolted routes. I remember hiking up to the s-curve every morning in anticipation of finding a new route to do, and the Millstone , and other crags - too many to name. We must have spent months on TR trying to figure out Big In Japan - and though you wouldn't know me by name - you have always been quick with a Hello and new beta for us - all throught the late 80's and 90's. You guys must have spent thousands of dollars - Stu and Brett, Smoot and the crew - Doug Heinrich and Conrad gave a U of U class in 88 - we went to Snow Creek Canyon - Doug still had his cast on from taking the big dive off of Half a Finger. (we were to stoned to climb much and it was 100+ there at the time). Once while bouldering in Little Cottonwood in 86 I climbed with a big muscley guy for a while, and I remember thinking he was not really very good - - and he asked me if I wanted to buy any gear - sure says I - and I still own about ten of Mugs Stumps old stoppers. Set Shaw was always a big help in giving beta - watched him on Prowser once while we were on Bong Eater - he comes over and ties into our cord and takes a quick (2minute) ride up in his flip flops. I remember training the car headlights on the freshly built wall at the old IME shop so we could catch a late night burn there - and then the Body shop opened and boom - everybody except me could climb hard 12 immediatly. Oh well. Thanks for the routes - you guys made the Wasatch one of the best places to live in America. I tried my hand at route development on a piece of crap - I called it the Sport Utility crag on Wastach blvd - after years of driving by that piece of crap I finally broke down and borrowed Cordell Warrs Hilti - and after three routes and $50 bucks - I was done with bolting forever - what a workout. Sooo anyway - Thanks and we'll see ya up there again.

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Postby joe » Mon Jun 06, 2005 5:36 pm

mugs and lynn did the first free ascent of freezer burn on east temple, across from the tunnel switchbacks (according to bjornsadt's guide).

awesome gary, can't wait for more.

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Postby GOlsen » Mon Jun 06, 2005 6:20 pm

beagan,
thanks man. Just to set the record straight though, I really was not anywhere close to putting up any of the test pieces of the time, I just managed to climb in those obscure places that other climbers had overlooked. The style of the time and because we wanted to climb like our peers meant that some of them were very bold though and demanded some real heart to get after. There were a lot of talented climbers then as I am sure that there are now. Anyone who has climbed in the Wasatch and been on lead has enjoyed and tasted the flavour of those that went before. It was interesting that I was looking at all the guides I have for the Wasatch and the newer the guide, the less history and more route info is packed into it. I think that is kind of the norm these days. I like to hear some of the old stories about some of the routes so I guess that is what I am doing here.
Gary

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Postby beagan » Mon Jun 06, 2005 8:18 pm

Gary, Some of the early routes you and the Ruckmans did were absolutely great. I had gotten to the U of U in 1986 - could climb a little, and hit Big and Little every day after class. We used to run down to the old REI at Brickyard to see what scraps of new route beta Merrill had put together. I remember his first topo of the Wave wall - and how all kinds of climbers would congregate there - somebody even put a green Gumby doll on a bolt I think. My first hard mixed and trad leads were yours though. I remember quaking hard - elvis leg real bad as I got further from my stopper on Jailbait. Then two weeks later scaring myself sick on Minimum Security - but I survived - only to have the greatest epic I'd had up till then - my second couldn't go up or down as he cleaned my lead on Margin For Air - one of my favorites of yours. I remember I was so pumped that after I turned right and headed up to the belay from the crack traverse - I didn't put a piece in at all - like 15 or 20 feet isn't it - till you can wiggle in to the bealy and relax. I was wrecked. Then he starts up gets halfway through the traverse, my rope is jammed hard at the turn - and we proceed to swear and curse back and forth at each other over the wind for 20 minutes. So gary, what is the story behind the FA of Margin - smooth sailing - or mini epic - what happened - was it a cruise for you guys - your lead? Just as scary seconding in my partners opinion. Great climb though - and legal now I think - we were hiding from the man back then climbing up there.

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Postby GOlsen » Mon Jun 06, 2005 10:58 pm

beagan,
that is a hell of a way to get introduced to trad, man. I was pretty scared on Minimum Security too. It is all there, even the pro, but it does test the small wired placement abilities, huh? I think the same shitty bolt is there, I thought it sucked 20 years ago when I placed it on lead. Someone needs to replace that thing. Jailbait is a fine climb, that rock is awesome. My guess is that if you cut your teeth on those that there are not too many routes that would scare you at a similar grade. Is that true?

On MFA Bret led the crux, it was pretty burly for a 5.10- or so. I vaguely remember leading a second pitch to get off the top. We didnt epic on that one, it actually went pretty well, but we had been climbing a fair amount in BCC when we did that one. I never ran into the MAN up there, I think Bret did though. Sometimes when we did those routes we never thought anyone would repeat them. It is cool to find out that you repeated them so soon after the FA. Kind of adventurous when there are'nt bolts to clip...Thanks for sharing.


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