Wow. Stumbled on this site when I should have been working. It's great to read all of these stories. I absolutely loved Desperate Grace, though Smith's book was more thorough. I would spend hours thumbing through those books, planning ascents.
Here are a few anecdotes for whatever they're worth.
In the summer of 1977, when I was 14, I took Timberline's Basic Rock Climbing class. My parents dropped me off at the mouth of LCC (to this day I still can't believe my mother supported this idea) to meet up with the instructor (Mark Freed?) and other students. A man called over to me from a big blue GMC pickup truck, and asked if I was in the class. It was his first climbing lesson as well and he invited me to wait with him. The inside of the cab was plastered with photos of mountains torn from magazines. The guy had long dark hair, a cowboy's mustache and he literally bounced with enthusiasm as he pointed to the photos and shared his love for the mountains. I immediately liked him and we became belay partners for the day. He was the only student to make it to the top of the hardest problem we toproped that day (@5.
. His energy was incredible, even when he was incorrectly helping coil ropes (elbow to fist like an electrician). What really stood out, besides his natural ability, was his friendliness and positive encouragement to me and everyone else in the class. So it was really no surprise that when I ran into Merrill Bitter a year or so later, he had just on-sited Mind Blow while my brother Dave and I were rejoicing in our ascent of Tingey's Terror. He was still just as friendly and encouraging even though he had become a much better climber than me by light years.
Another time, in 1980 I think, Dave and I were in the process of backing off of Equipment Overhang Right. Les Ellison had led us up this awhile before (with a broken hand from a climb in the Fisher Towers) and we thought we'd have no problem. Apparently we did, and we were going to lose some gear because of it. Along came two guys about our ages who offered to help. They were friendly and funny, and Bret Ruckman, in an almost self-deprecating manner, led the pitch while Gary Olsen belayed, and our two new friends saved the day.
One day, when I was about 16, I was hanging out at the Gate Boulders when this rosy-faced teen approached me and asked if I wanted to climb. He wanted to do Half-a-Finger, which I had never done and wasn't sure he could either. I mean how could he, he was so young! (My age as it turned out). Bryce Thatcher, who went on to a speed ascent record on the Grand Teton, cruised the pitch, placing a Friend just below the crux. Well, I had only seen one Friend before, and that was at Doug Hansen's house in American Fork. I had no idea how they worked and struggled to remove it. Burned out, I flailed on the crux, dangling on the rope while I swear I could hear Bryce losing his patience breath-by-breath.
Those were definitely formative years!