Yosemite, Camp 4

Posted by: Jimshaw

Yosemite, Camp 4 - 02/13/10 02:13 PM

I've been re-reading Camp 4 by Steve Roper, about the early days of Yosemite climbing up until about 1967, the year I graduated from high school. I guess my Yosemite climbing years were 81, 82 and 83. We had modern sticky rubber shoes, cams for protection and good ropes. What struck me was the vast improvement in skills. These guys who were the big climbers during the 60s, the Golden Era in Yosemite were hard men, the best, yet I climbed routes set up by the best of them and never took a fall. I could out friction climb most of them, and my crack technique wasn't bad either. By the 80s we were climbing the cracks using lay-backs and edging the cracks with our boots, rather than getting inside them. One of my most enlightening climbs was an alternate start on the Royal Arches, one that had been a nailup, complete artificial climb for a very long time. I slipped my finger tips into piton scars, laid back and edging by shoes against lower piton scars, I easily climbed the scars. A ways up, I slipped a cam into a wide point. Of Course back then the smallest cam was a 1/2" rigid body friend, nothing like today's tiny cams with cables. It made me think about decades of people in aid slings doing the same route.

I've climbed the Nut-Cracker, a Robbins route, the first that was ever done completely with nuts, no pitons. I climbed it with cams, I've never actually set a nut while climbing, only in practice.

My first real climb was the Great White Book in Tuolumne Meadows, actually above Lake Tenaya. At the top of the climb I looked around and said "where's the peak?" My buddy who was teaching me said "Oh over there some where, why? Did you want to go there?" I was amazed, here we had climbed this really tough climb and we weren't at the peak. He said "we're rock climbers not peak baggers, anyone can walk up to the peak, what does that prove?"

An aside about snake dike. It was first done by Bridwell, Beck and Fredericks, arguably some of the finest climbers of the day were trying to escape the fourth of July crowds and discovered the Snake Dike route on Half Dome. They romped up the mostly 5.6 rock and only set a few bolts at "belay knobs". Only after finishing did they realise that it would make a great beginners route, except for the lack of protection. They gave Steve Roper permission to go up and put in a 4 more bolts in critical spots so the 5.6 climbers of the future would be safer. This was the first time in Yosemite history that a route had bolts added with the permission of the FA's. I have climbed on the old 1/4 button bolts of the old days. Now I understand that with the parks permission, many of these old sign hanging bolts have been replaced with 1/2" stainless steel modern bolts and they were allowed to use Bosch electric hammer drills to do it. But I haven't climbed in the valley recently enough to hook into any of them.
Posted by: Dryer

Re: Yosemite, Camp 4 - 02/14/10 08:37 AM

Coincidence...I was in a hospital waiting room a couple nights ago and someone had left a stack of old National Geographics.
I graduated HS in 1974 and there was a past issue for that year, so I picked it up. The cover article was about three guys climbing the face of Half Dome! They had the sticky shoes and very modern looking gear.
Posted by: Jimshaw

Re: Yosemite, Camp 4 - 02/14/10 11:51 AM

re: that National geographic. My sister got that addition, ya know, back when it came out, and called me and said the climber looked like me, was it me and I told her no. Then a niece called, "Mom says you're on the cover of National Geo climbing half dome," and I told her "no". Well every time I've denied things in general people then believe I'm lying. So now my whole family believes and tell stories about their Uncle Jim who was the first person to climb Half Dome. It wasn't me.
Posted by: hikerduane

Re: Yosemite, Camp 4 - 02/14/10 12:27 PM

Thank you for the old tale Jim. Enjoyed reading your old account, I don't know the terminology or the gear, but it was still interesting.
Posted by: Jimshaw

Re: Yosemite, Camp 4 - 02/14/10 02:07 PM

I used climbing jargon because I posted in the climbing forum.
Piton = pointed, tapered pieces of chrome moly steel with eyes to clip carabiners into that are hammered into cracks too narrow to climb. Pitons can be hammered into cracks 1/8" One problem is that they damage the rock and after a while you have to use a wider piton. Piton scars are about 2 feet apart. People would hook a ladder to a piton, climb up it and hammer in another one 2 feet up and do it until they got to the top. This is called a "nail-up" or artificial climbing because you don't really climb, you instead go up a ladder.

Free climbing = climbing by holding onto rock features with your fingers and feet on the rock.

Bolt = actual bolts put into small holes drilled into the rock. The original bolts were about half an inch long and 1/4" in diameter and were originally used for hanging signs, not people. Modern bolts are 2" long and 1/2" in diameter.

Pro or Protection = anything you can attach to the rock for safety, now days we use spring loaded
that slide into cracks and expand by mechanical means and have triggers to collapse them so the can be removed and do no damage to the rock.

Nuts = we originally actual threaded nuts with ropes through them, they were wedged into cracks for protection.

Friction climbing = climbing on steep totally smooth rock with no hand holds at all, merely by pressing your palms and balls of your feet against the rock and standing as erect as possible - legs straight up like walking down a sidewalk.

Aid slings - the same as standing on a ladder attached to a piton for artificial climbing. El Capitan was originally climbed with pitons and bolts, but now it "has gone free" mean climbed by "fair" means - no pitons.

Shoes = the modern climbing shoes are smooth and made of sticky rubber designed for the maximum friction on rock, but they only stick if the feet in them know how.

Belay knobs = a ope is 50 meters long, 165 feet. At the end of a rope length there has to a solid place to attach a rope and a belayer.

Belayer - the person who holds the rope tied to the leader. The leader places pro in cracks as he climbs and clips his rope through a carabiner on the PRO. If he falls, his rope is caught by the last pro. The rope in the belayers hands jerks as the load hits him. The rope is held by the belayer though, rather the belayer is tied to the anchor and the rope goes through a "brake tool" and he tightens his hands on the rope, but the brake actually "brakes" the fall.

Layback = hooking your fingers into a crack and laying backwards so that your arms are straight but your body is at an angle and your toes (in climbing shoes) are poked into the crack. You climb on the outside of the crack. Obviously if your lose a finger hold you are in a bad position and you fall, but the "belay rope" is there to catch you after you fall past your last "PRO". In the old days they climbed in front of a crack and reached into it to find a hold and twisted their feet to "lock" the into place to hold you so you could reach up for the next hold with your hands.
Posted by: Dryer

Re: Yosemite, Camp 4 - 02/14/10 02:27 PM

And the thought crossed my mind when I picked it up..."Wonder if Jim's in here??" Seriously! grin
Posted by: hikerduane

Re: Yosemite, Camp 4 - 02/14/10 02:59 PM

Thank you Jim, some of it I could figure out, but not sure. Your explanation helps a lot.
Posted by: Swimswithtrout

Re: Yosemite, Camp 4 - 02/19/10 04:20 PM

I have many a fond memory of living in Camp 4 and climbing the Valley during the Golden Years of the early/mid 70's.

This is one of my favorite shots of me and my partner taken in '76 near Lower Yosemite Falls and Sunnyside Bench. Cams hadn't been invented yet so all we had were hexs's.

Posted by: Jimshaw

Re: Yosemite, Camp 4 - 02/19/10 06:56 PM

Great photo dude...
are you the guy with the beard? smile
I have one hex - never have used it.
Posted by: idahosteve

Re: Yosemite, Camp 4 - 03/24/10 11:49 AM

I spent a summer in Camp 4 during the early 80's. What a treat! It was a crazy time. Great climbing, great people from all over the world, and great partying. I will never forget those times wandering around the park, just taking it one day at a time, climbing and enjoying the sunshine. Yosemite is truly an incredible place.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Yosemite, Camp 4 - 04/07/10 09:12 PM

When I was at U of Washington a bunch of us from the outing club piled into a station wagon and drove to Yosemite Valley for Spring break 1969. Being the smallest person, I was assigned to ride on top of the gear, with only a few inches for head room. We drank a lot of wine and climbed stuff - I really do not remember what!

I hitch-hiked from Lander Wyoming to Camp 4 in early April in 1971. I was supposed to meet a friend of my brothers to climb with. He never showed up. I found plenty of people to hang out with and climb with. The weather was horrid. We climbed Nut Cracker during one break in the weather. On one poor weather day a few guys asked me if I wanted to do the easy route on Half Dome- they did not tell me how long the "approach" was. Well, we did the cable route, sans cable, in a snowstorm, with ice on the rock. I had no idea it was a 16-mile round trip! I did not even bring a lunch. I also remember that a climber who was belaying me on "After 6" was stoned, and I slipped and he bascially dropped me all the way to the bottom. I did not have climbing shoes - just the old "klettershue" and 5-pound mountaineering boots. I hitched back to San Francisco to catch a bus to Spokane (my folks were worried and sent me bus fare). Sitting in the bus station holding my ice-axe for a weapon was scarier than hitching all the miles! Yes, those were the crazy days. We are lucky to have survived.