Process

Remembering Royal Robbins

One of the fathers of modern rock climbing, Royal Robbins died on March 14, 2017. Somehow this news escaped me and that fact has been bothering me for the past few weeks since learning about it.

I haven’t climbed in over thirty years but I can say without a doubt that Royal Robbins influenced my climbing more than anyone. Actually, he influenced more than my climbing, he influenced my life.

Basic and Advanced Rockcraft

Robbins wrote two small but extremely influential books that remained the instruction manuals for climbing for many years (they’re dated now although collectors items): Basic Rockcraft and Advanced Rockcraft.

What these books have in common is an emphasis on process: getting to the top is less important than how one gets there, clean climbing (at the time we were moving away from pitons), spare equipment to save weight and keep things simple, and, most importantly for route pioneers, finding routes that follow crack systems and have an aesthetic sense about them (as opposed to bolting straight up a face). Robbins’ nemesis, Warren Harding played the wild, bad guy to Robbins’ good guy. Truth be told, they both pioneered great routes in Yosemite although in very different styles.

Another thing these books have in common is that they are illustrated with great humor by Sheridan Anderson (best known for The Curtis Creek Manifesto one of the best fly-fishing books ever written). Without Anderson’s illustrations the books would have fallen flat, very much like the collaboration of John Muir (writer) and Peter Aschwanden (illustrator) in How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Complete Idiot (also called “the Idiot Book”).

I’ve used Anderson’s drawings of Robbins to illustrate this post. Note that Robbins routinely wore a white flat cap and Anderson’s illustrations usually have him in glasses and said cap.

Yosemite Method

Robbins used Yosemite Valley as his climbing laboratory because it has stable weather, and large, glacier-carved cliffs of incredible exfoliated granite with crack systems that make building spectacular routes possible. He climbed all over the world but Yosemite remained his home base for much of his climbing career and his particular methods and style are aimed at the type of rock climbing found there.

I got into and almost out of climbing before Steve Jobs and Apple came out with the Macintosh but Jobs and Robbins had something in common besides both being from California: they both worshipped process. As an undergraduate at the University of Oregon Fine Arts department I used to hear: “the process is the product” which is another way of saying what Steve Jobs said about building the Macintosh: “the journey is the reward” which is another way of saying what Robbins said: how you get to the top is more important than getting to the top.

This meme has been a running idea in my life since first encountering it in the early 1970’s.

Nutcracker

Robbins “put up” (made the first ascent) on hundreds (thousands?) of climbs but what marked and marks his climbs is that they, for the most part, have become classics: people want to repeat them because they’re beautiful, fun, and interesting.

The one Robbins climb that most aspiring rock climbers have to do is called Nutcracker. It’s on a cliff known as Manure Pile Buttress (seriously) and while it’s not as epic as something like The Northwest Face of Half Dome (another Robbins first ascent), it’s a great climb of moderate difficulty.

Robbins and his wife Liz first climbed Nutcracker in 1967 and it was the first climb of any significance that was done without pitons: Robbins only used wedges of aluminum on slings called nuts stuffed into cracks to protect the climb, thus the name (a first ascender gets to name the route and Robbins was known for having fun with route names).

In the history of climbing without pitons, the thought is that British climbers approaching cliffs beside railroad tracks picked up steel hex nuts, passed pieces of rope through them and used these like chockstones to protect climbs. When Yvon Chouinard (another Yosemite pioneer and founder of Patagonia) heard about this he decided to make irregular hexagonal shapes out of aluminum which in my day, we called “hexes” for climbers to stuff into cracks instead of pitons. These days there are still stoppers, wedges, and hex nuts although they’ve been all but replaced by expandable protection.

The fact that Robbins and his wife did this climb without pitons in 1967 was significant and it led to a push in Yosemite Valley to do away with pitons all together, even on longer big wall routes.

I first climbed Nutcracker in 1975 with my friend Rod Orlando (image on the left with me leading) and climbed it numerous times in later years with a variety of partners. I loved that route and even as I started climbing longer and more serious routes, I almost always came back to Nutcracker. It was like paying my respects to Royal Robbins, a pioneering climber who was one of my role models.

For more on how Robbins fits into the history of climbing in Yosemite, I highly recommend the movie: Valley Uprising. Valley Uprising on Netflix. Valley Uprising on Amazon.


Other writing about Royal Robbins

There is overlap in the obituaries but they’re all worth looking at as they each have a slightly different take on Robbins’ life. If you’ve got a great source, please post it in comments, I’ll add it here. Thanks.

Base Camp Magazine: Royal Robbins Dies at 82 (this is where I first learned of Robbins’ passing)

Outside Magazine: Catching Up with Royal Robbins

Climbing: Royal Robbins

Climbing: Royal Robbins: A Timeline and a Bibliography

Royal Robbins, Conscience of Rock Climbers, Dies at 82

NPR, All Things Considered: Royal Robbins, Pioneer Of American Rock Climbing, Dies At 82

The Washington Post: Royal Robbins, celebrated rock climber who left no trace of his ascents, dies at 82

Outside Magazine: Obituary: Royal Robbins (1935–2017)

Modesto Bee: Rock climbing pioneer, Modesto’s Royal Robbins, dies at 82

Alpinist: 1935-2017: Big-wall pioneer and world explorer Royal Robbins remembered

Adventure Journal: Climbing Pioneer Royal Robbins Dies at Age 82

Hear and Now (NPR): How Rock Climbing Legend Royal Robbins Influenced The Sport

Climbing reference: Nutcracker, Manure Pile Buttress 5.8

Nutcracker Guide

Summit Post: Nutcracker topo

Flickr (photos): Climbing Nutcracker in Yosemite

Joy Brown on Broadway

Figures on a flatbed

Figures on a flatbed

Broadway, New York City.

My good friend Joy Brown has been making large bronze castings of her ceramic sculpture and is having a show of them in New York City. Joy has been traveling to China to work with a foundry there for many years and these finished pieces were shipped to the US in a large container by ship and arrived a few weeks ago. There will be a sister show in China opening in a few months.

Forklift on Broadway

Forklift on Broadway

Thinker in crosswalk

We pulled an all-nighter last night helping with the installation which was done by a great outfit out of Bethel, Connecticut: Mariano Brothers.

We started at 10:00 pm and finished at 3:00 am. There were two flatbed trucks, ours with four pieces starting at 72nd St. and working north, the other starting at 168th St. and working south.

Mother and child at 72nd St.

Mother and child at 72nd St.

Many of Joy’s friends came from all over the country and they were joined by a crowd of curious and supportive New Yorkers. It was quite a scene although after midnight as we moved up town only the core group remained.

Tomorrow, Wednesday May 17th there will be a formal “opening” at 11:00 am at the 72nd St and Broadway installation. The show will be up for at least six months, maybe longer. Each setting has a map showing the location of each of the sculptures. It’s a bit of a hike to walk the whole thing but there’s a subway line running under Broadway and the pieces are near enough to stops so they can be easily gotten to.

I’m pooped!

#joybrownonbroadway

John Oliver on Net Neutrality (again)

Another brilliant commentary by John Oliver on net neutrality

John Oliver first commented on net neutrality in 2014 here and it was one of the first really popular youTube posts he made.

If you’re confused about what Net neutrality is, browse this: Net neutrality on wikipedia.

The Trump administration has appointed a new chairman for the FCC, Ajit Pai, who is considering changing the rules put in place during the Obama administration to prevent unfair competition on the internet.

Here’s the link John talked about to make logging into the FCC to comment on this easier: http://gofccyourself.com.

[via Steve Splonskowski]

Primitive Technology: Water powered hammer

Various techniques used to build a water-powered hammer or “monjolo”.

I like the technique he uses to bore the hole in the log and make the trough: hot coal, blow pipe to make it hot, clay to protect the edges and direct the burning.

The key is finding out where the balance point of a log is (might not be the center, logs taper) after gouging out the water-catching trough on the back side.

As the trough fills with water it tips the log and spills the water all at once and the log’s other end falls.

Many different technologies and ideas involved in this brilliant machine. No doubt it took quite a bit of trial and error to get it right.

I’ve seen similar pieces of technology in Japanese gardens (in Japan and in Los Angeles) called Shishi-odoshi.

There are many more of these great videos at the Primitive Technology site and for those who prefer, he has a Primitive Technology YouTube Channel.

[via The Kid Should See This]

Primitive Technology: termite clay kiln & pottery

Digging clay out of a termite mound, using straw to reinforce it, and making a crude but very effective kiln to fire clay pieces to be used as roof tiles, a water jug, a blower and more. Brilliant.

There are many more of these great videos at the Primitive Technology site and for those who prefer, he has a Primitive Technology YouTube Channel.

[via The Kid Should See This]

SuperPaint

SuperPaint (front of box)

I was cleaning out a box of old boxes (I love boxes) and found this product box from 1986.

Those of us who started with MacPaint eventually graduated to other tools. I was a MacDraw fanatic (object-oriented graphics) but still needed a bit-mapped painting program (this was pre-Photoshop). SuperPaint was what many of us used and it was like MacPaint on steroids.

If you remember, “FatBits” was MacPaint’s zoomed mode, “LaserBits” was something similar with SuperPaint (as memory serves). SuperPaint had all sorts of creative touches that were great fun for those of us who enjoyed MacPaint.

I’m posting two images, one of the front of the box, one of the back. If this history interests you, read the back to see more about what graphics programs looked like pre-Photoshop.

SuperPaint (back of box)

Adding weather to Calendar in Mac or iOS

Weather in your iOS and macOS Calendars

I use Apple’s native Calendar application in Mac OS on my MacBook Pro as well as in iOS on my iPhone 6s and iPad Air II. I’ve used other calendars but there’s something about the simplicity and integration of Apple’s native apps that appeals to me.

I think the reason I didn’t think to attempt to include a weather forecast in my calendar on my Mac before was that I was used to using both the weather widget and a third party widget called Radar in Motion in Mac OS’ Dashboard.

Radar in Motion stopped working a while back and while I have weather set up in my Mac Notification Center (off the right side of the screen), I thought it would be more useful to attempt to integrate a weather forecast into Calendar so I could see both events and weather in the same place.

A few minutes of searching and I found Chris Short’s post above which covers adding a Weather Underground ICS calendar subscription file to almost any calendar, including Mac OS’s Calendar. Note, I’ve not tried this directly on an iPhone or iPad but it should work.

I copied this sample URL into my browser:

https://ical.wunderground.com/auto/ical/NY/NYC.ics

and changed the state and city:

https://ical.wunderground.com/auto/ical/CT/WARREN.ics

Note, before you go and do this, please read the following:

I’ve made numerous categories (calendars) in my Calendar: Home, To Do, Event, Hiking and I’m subscribed to Holidays. I color code each of these calendars and it helps me quickly look at my Calendar and see what’s what. I’ve been doing this for many years, since iCal first appeared.

If you don’t make a new category/calendar called something like Warren Weather” and you go too fast through pasting the URL in your browser, downloading the ICS file and adding it to your Calendar, you may accidentally add the weather subscription to one of your existing categories. I did this by mistake and could not, for the life of me, figure out how to undo it. Couple that with the fact that my Calendar is connected to iCloud and immediately synced with my iPhone and iPad and you have a potential issue if you make a mistake.

I recommend creating a new category/calendar called “Weather” or better, “Warren Weather” (substitute your town/city) and when you download the ICS file add it to that category/calendar and give it a unique color.

calendar detail

The last thing to consider is that this ICS file is for a particular place and it will not change if you travel from, for example, Warren, Connecticut to Chicago, Illinois. If you can figure out how to modify the ICS file to make it GPS aware, please let me know. But, short of that, if you find yourself in another city, make a new weather category/calendar for that city and click the X off in front of your home city to hide it temporarily.

calendar

Looks like we’re going to have some snow on Tuesday and I’ve got an appointment I might have to move. Brilliant.