Climbing the West Face of Monkey Face

This post and story is part two of a three part story: Thinking about the Lost Arrow Spire (part one), preparing for the climb (this post), and doing the climb. Stay tuned for part three. The images posted here were shot with an Olympus XA (film) camera on cheap movie reversal film. A number of years ago I realized that the slides were in bad shape, so I had them professionally scanned. The original images weren’t great and years of dust and rough handling did them no good. But, they do help tell these stories so I use them without much cleanup. Doing a search on Flickr for “monkey face smith rock” or a Google image search will give you many more modern and clearer images although of course, not of our time there in the 1970’s.

When Faye and I returned to Oregon from our 1977 Yosemite trip we had our sights set on a climb at Smith Rock, a climbing area on the other side of the Cascades in the high desert of central Oregon. We lived in Eugene, a good half day drive away (more if the VW bus was acting up). Smith was popular back then but it became a lot more popular after our friend and fellow climber, Allan Watts brought sport climbing techniques to the area (rappelling and placing bolts to allow harder free climbing without having to place protection). Many new difficult free routes were opened up and people started arriving from all over the world to do them. In the mid 1970’s Smith might have had only a few dozen climbers in the park on a weekend. In the 1990s and later things got a lot more crowded.

Because we were trying to prepare for a steep aid climb on the Lost Arrow Spire, we figured we needed a steep aid climb that would help us get faster at rope handling, placing marginal protection, hanging belays, and doing aid on an overhang. Both of us had done the Pioneer Route and West Face Variation on Monkey Face so we were familiar with the tower but the West Face Route was longer, involved at least one hanging belay and at that point in time was done almost completely by aid climbing. It had been put up (climbed first) in 1962 by Dean Caldwell, Byron Babcock, and Bill Lentsch. They followed the initial crack and put the expansion bolts in on pitch two and in the back of the monkey’s head to the top.

Neither of us had done the route before and the route traversed the back of the monkey’s head which is a large cave with a relatively flat floor so we decided to plan a bivouac there to add to the fun.

Here are some recent shots of Monkey Face at Smith Rock by a variety of Flickr photographers:

smith rock

A nice Smith Rock landscape taken by Flickr member scott zarnegar from the Crooked River looking north showing a line of cliffs and Monkey Face in the back. The west face is on the left skyline.

Monkey Face 2

A nice shot showing the entire Monkey Face Tower and the entire west face route by Flickr member Jeff Johnson.

monkey face

Three climbers on the west face route on Monkey Face (the route we did). They’ve just finished pitch one and are starting on two. This image was taken by Flickr member scott zarnegar.

Monkey Face, Smith Rock, Oregon - May 2015

Flickr member Thomas Shahan shot this unusual view of Monkey Face, looking south. The west face route goes up the right skyline (note the overhang on the top half). You can see the Crooked River below and the Oregon Cascades in the distance. This is a brilliant shot.

The 1979 Climb
We didn’t actually get to climb the West Face of Monkey Face until May of 1979.

Faye and I drove over to Smith Rock Park and spent night one in one of our VW campers in the parking lot. Then we assembled our gear and hiked over Asterisk Pass and north on the Crooked River to the base of Monkey Face.

Pile of gear at the base of the west face of Monkey Face

We unloaded and sorted out our gear before the climb. Note the two packs (mine eaten by marmots in Yosemite), foam pads to sleep on in the cave, rack of hexagonal nuts (small protection underneath), slings, a load of carabiners (long aid pitches and sling belays require a lot of them) two ropes, and stiff climbing shoes to make standing in aid stirrups less painful. We had no sleeping bags, we slept in our clothes on the pads.

Faye sorting gear

Faye sorting gear at the base of Monkey Face.

After we got all the gear sorted and me set up to lead the first pitch, we found a place for Faye to anchor to belay me. We also tied the two packs together and I hauled them when I got to the first ledge as one would a larger pack on a bigger multi-day wall climb in Yosemite (or elsewhere). Remember, we were rehearsing for our future Lost Arrow Tip climb as well as learning and practicing big wall techniques for other longer climbs we planned to do in the future.

Faye putting on knee pads

Faye putting on knee pads.

We experimented with knee pads on this climb because aid climbing involves resting with a knee against the rock and the rock at Smith is volcanic “welded tuff” which rips up pants and skin. In the end, we didn’t continue to use the pads as they got in the way on mixed free and aid routes but this route was all aid so we figured they’d be useful. If memory serves, they were.

West face of Monkey Face

Looking up at the west face route from the ground.

I realize that as I write this in 2018 the west face route on Monkey Face is free climbed (5.12b) but the free route does not follow the original aid route. At least at this point, it would be impossible to free the overhanging bolt line on pitch two (the top of the image above). The free route goes to the left (north) a bit and follows the corner.

Notice on the image above that the first pitch is mostly a thin crack which can be protected with small stoppers and nuts. There are a few bolts on it but it’s mostly a thin crack. Pitch one ends where the red rock changes to tan. There’s a small ledge there.

Richard (me) on the first pitch, west face of Monkey Face

Richard (me) aid climbing pitch one on the west face of Monkey Face. Note: the blue rope is the lead climbing rope, the red rope is the haul rope and will be used to haul up the packs.

The protection on pitch one was not hard to place as I remember. It’s a great place to get into the rhythm of leading an aid climb:

  1. Place a piece of protection.
  2. Put a carabiner or two or a sling and another carabiner on it for the rope to run through
  3. Clip the lead climbing rope through to protect yourself and not lose the protection as you test it
  4. Clip an aid sling (webbing ladder) onto the carabiner and gently test the protection by shifting weight to it
  5. Put all your weight on it and reach down and unclip your other aid sling from the lower protection
  6. If you need to rest, clip the second sling next to the first, put your foot in it, clip a short sling from your harness to the carabiner and lean back and rest
  7. Climb to the top stirrup in one of your slings reaching as high as you can
  8. Place the next piece of protection
  9. Repeat.

More on this here: aid climbing.

Richard (me) on the first pitch, west face of Monkey Face

Richard (me) approaching the first belay on the west face of Monkey Face.

Because Faye and I were doing this climb in “big wall style” when I reached the small ledge belay at the top of pitch one, I tied off the lead climbing rope (blue) which tied me into the anchor point and also secured the rope so Faye could ascend it with mechanical ascenders and clean the protection out of the pitch without an active belay by me. This allowed me to use the red rope and my two ascenders and a pulley I was carrying to haul the packs up to my ledge.

In fact this is how big walls are climbed and this technique, developed by Royal Robbins and others in Yosemite Valley in the 1950’s is still in use today. Most of the individual tools have been modernized but the technique remains the same: leader leads on a belay from follower, ties off rope, hauls bag while follower ascends and cleans pitch. Switch places, repeat x times up the wall. When a route is shorter and involves more free climbing (less aid) and less stuff to haul the leader might belay the follower up a pitch so he/she can climb it free. For more on this see Big Wall Climbing.

Looking down on the first pitch on the west face of Monkey Face

Looking down pitch one from the small belay stance.

Faye cleaning the first pitch on the west face of Monkey Face

Faye using ascenders to climb and clean pitch one. Notice that the red rope and packs have already been hauled up.

Faye cleaning the first pitch on the west face of Monkey Face

Faye continuing up pitch one.

Faye cleaning the first pitch on the west face of Monkey Face

Faye almost done with pitch one. Note: using ascenders like she’s doing here is strenuous although like leading aid, one gets into a rhythm and that involves short rests.

Faye at the first belay, west face of Monkey Face

Faye finished with pitch one resting at the belay.

Notice Fay’s harness in the image above. The style in those days was to wrap a thick, tubular piece of 2″ webbing around your waist 3-4 times and tie it with a water knot (an overhand follow through). Then either take a long sling and make a figure 8 out of it and step through it for leg loops and secure them to the waist webbing with carabiners, or, buy sewn leg loops. We had an industrial sewing machine and made our own leg loops which you can see in later images. They worked well and we used this setup for many more years until pre-made harnesses got more popular and we had more money to buy them.

The bolt ladder on pitch 2, west face of Monkey Face

Looking up at the bolt ladder at the start of pitch 2.

When there isn’t a crack to bang a piton or slip a nut into, bolts are used to climb blank walls.

What you have to remember is that the guys who did the first ascent of this stood here and used a hand drill to drill 1/4″ or 3/8″ holes in the rock. These drills were a drill tool that looks like a screwdriver handle with a drill bit on the end and a hardened other end for hitting with a hammer. Place the drill on the rock, hit, twist, hit, twist, hit… repeat dozens of times to make a hole deep enough to put a bolt in. Later with the invention of better batteries folks carried electric drills and extra batteries up walls like this to drill holes for bolts.

Once the hole is drilled and cleaned out there are a few different types of bolts that can be put in, depending on the strength of the surrounding rock and what the climber has in his or her pocket.

The easiest to place is an expansion stud: a short rod, 1/4″ which with a bulge in the middle and threads on the outer end. You pound it into the hole and the bulge collapses making it tight with the walls of the hole. Alternatively, a sleeve is pounded in with threads on the inside of it and the threaded stud is screwed into it.

Each of these techniques leaves a threaded stud sticking out of the rock. Onto this stud one places a bent piece of sheet metal called a “hanger” which has a hole on one face for placing on the stud and a larger hole on the other face for clipping a carabiner to. Once the hanger is in place a nut is threaded onto the stud. Some folks used to put epoxy on both the top of the nut and around the hole to prevent water and ice from getting inside.

For more on this, see Hand Drills vs. Power Drills and anchor bolt.

So, the idea that the first ascent party put in this ladder of bolts going up (not hanging on a rope coming down which was later popularized in sport climbing here) is amazing. Then think about some of the other big wall climbs with hundreds of bolts on them and you get a bit tired in the arms, back, and neck.

I’ve put one bolt in on a climb in my entire life and that was more than enough.

Climbing a bolt ladder, as long as the first ascenders weren’t too much taller than you isn’t all that hard and as memory serves I was able to climb pitch 2 relatively easily although I’m only 5′ 6″ so no doubt some of the reaches were long for me.

The cave at the back of the monkey's head, west face of Monkey Face

The cave at the back of the monkey’s head at the top of pitch 2 on the west face route.

After finishing pitch 2 I entered the cave at the back of the monkey’s head. I anchored the lead rope so Faye could clean the pitch and I hauled our bags up. The last bit was tough as I remember as it was over a rough edge.

Faye setting up the bivouac in the cave on the west face of Monkey Face

Faye assembling rocks for our campsite in the cave. Note the long shadows as the sun goes down and it gets colder.

Faye and I had been on top of Monkey Face numerous times on other climbs but we’d never been in this cave and we weren’t sure what we’d find there. Maybe mice, bats, or some other beast was living there and we were prepared to keep going and sleep on top if we had to but in fact, the cave, while rough, wasn’t too bad and we were able to find enough loose rock to build a wind break.

We just had some extra clothes and foam pads so it was going to be a less than fully comfortable night but hey, when you’re young you can do stuff like that.

Morning view looking west from the cave on the west face of Monkey Face

Looking west out of the cave toward the Cascades. Three Sisters (mountains) on horizon.

Faye getting ready to lead the last pitch on the west face of Monkey Face

Faye getting ready to lead the last pitch on the west face of Monkey Face

Faye geared up to lead the last pitch out of the cave and around the back top of the head.

Note: Faye was a very strong climber. I was the one who got us into climbing in the first place and mostly drove our interest in it, but she could do most anything I could do, including leading the toughest pitches we did at the time. We didn’t compete with one another, if I didn’t want to lead something she almost always did it which is exactly the kind of climbing partner you want to have. We got along much better as climbing partners than we did as a couple.

Faye leading the last pitch out of the cave, west face of Monkey Face

Faye leading out of the cave at the back of the monkey’s face, pitch three.

Even though the last pitch was mostly bolted, it started out on an extreme overhang and the roof was tall enough so that as I remember it, we had to pile some rocks up for Faye to reach the first one.

In the image above you can see her wearing our home-made leg loops, she’s got her two blue ascenders on a sling and her left knee pad is earning its keep on the rough rock. Behind her is 380 feet of air to the ground. She’s reaching up to clip into the next bolt.

Faye leading the last pitch out of the cave, west face of Monkey Face

Faye leading out of the cave at the back of the monkey’s face, pitch three. Note the hang of the ropes and overhang. My image is not very level, the overhang is more severe than it looks here.

Faye leading the last pitch out of the cave, west face of Monkey Face

Faye leading out of the cave at the back of the monkey’s face, pitch three. Note the hang of the ropes and overhang. She’s putting extra slings on the protection because the rope drag over the back of the head is horrendous.

Faye leading the last pitch out of the cave, west face of Monkey Face

Faye leading out of the cave at the back of the monkey’s face, pitch three. She’s resting, clipped into the anchor and catching her breath. The overhang makes this pitch tough. Good thing it’s not all that long.

The image above is the last one of us on this climb.

Needless to say, we got to the top and did the notorious free rappel off the monkey’s nose.

Monkey Face, Smith Rock State Park, Oregon

Here’s a more recent shot of that free rappel by Flickr member Dan I. This is looking at the east face of the tower (the west face climb is on the other side). The rappel ends in the notch between Monkey Face and the main wall. Note: the east face of Monkey face has been free climbed. Amazing. I did the north face (right in this image) of Monkey Face a few years later with another climbing partner.

After finishing the rappel we packed up our gear and hiked back out to our VW van for the trip home.

It was a great climb, well within our abilities and while the Lost Arrow Tip in Yosemite was going to be tougher in many respects, we both felt like this climb helped prepare us for it. Rope handling (fast and safe technique with the gear) on climbs like these is almost as important as climbing ability and both of us felt we learned a lot on this climb.

We weren’t going to return to Yosemite until the following summer so we had plenty of time to continue practicing which we did, both at Smith Rock and at other Oregon climbing areas.

Next installment, climbing the Lost Arrow Spire in Yosemite Valley.

Thinking about the Lost Arrow Spire

This post and story is part of a three part story: getting the idea for a climb, preparing for the climb, and doing the climb. Stay tuned for parts two and three. The images posted here were shot with an Olympus XA (film) camera on cheap movie reversal film. A number of years ago I realized that the slides were in bad shape, so I had them professionally scanned. The original images weren’t great and years of dust and rough handling did them no good. But, they do help tell these stories so I use them without much cleanup. Doing a search on Flickr for “lost arrow spire” or a Google image search will give you many more modern and clearer images although of course, not of our time there in the 1970’s.

Just to whet your appetite and give you a sense of what this is about, here’s a small piece of a youTube video shot with a drone above the Lost Arrow Spire in 2017. This is a modern day look at the same formation this post is about. The images in this post were shot in 1977, 45 years earlier.


In the summer of 1977 my then girlfriend Faye and I were in Yosemite valley on a climbing trip. We were what would have been called, solid 5.8 climbers (not beginners, but not hotshots). Occasionally we did harder stuff, but we were both leading moderate climbs like The Nutcracker, Royal Arches (the rotten log was still in place) and a variety of great climbs on the Glacier Point apron.

We both had Volkswagen buses which had camper interiors and we travelled and stayed in one or the other on these trips. It made it possible to get some sleep and avoid the all-night Camp 4 climber parties.

Faye in her VW Bus


Faye in her VW bus in Yosemite Valley, 1977

Both of us had done easy aid routes back at Smith Rock in central Oregon (the Pioneer route on Monkey Face) and had practiced aid climbing at our local climbing spot in Eugene, the Columns, but we hadn’t done a big wall or a route in Yosemite with a lot of exposure.

From almost anywhere in the central part of Yosemite Valley (the “village” as it’s called), you can see Higher Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Point. If you know what you’re looking for, between the falls and the point is a detached pinnacle called The Lost Arrow Spire. It’s like a thumb sticking out from the cliff face, about 200 feet tall from where it detaches.

The Lost Arrow Spire from Yosemite Valley


This is the scouting picture I took from the valley floor in 1977. The falls (dry here) is behind the tree, Yosemite Point is the high point and the Lost Arrow is between.


The complete Lost Arrow (from the ground to the tip) was one of the first big walls climbed in Yosemite using modern methods: pitons, ropes, carabiners, webbing stirrups (aiders), a leader and a belayer. It was done in 1947 in a five day push by John Salathe and Anton Nelson. They went up the chimney on the west side (left in the image above) of the arrow from the ground to the top. When they got to the notch, where the pinnacle becomes detached from the wall, they camped out there and spiraled around to the east side, making their way up two ledges and then precariously, up the last 150 feet to the top.

Since then the popularity of the complete climb, from base to tip has diminished as the lower climbing isn’t all that aesthetic. The tip has remained a bit more popular although during the 1970’s, an era of extreme free climbing, this particular climb was not done often, maybe ten times a summer, if that.

To do the tip by itself, climbers hike up the Falls trail to the rim of the valley, just west of Yosemite Point. There they set up a rappel into the notch and climb the arrow tip. That climb is documented in the 1971 edition of the Climber’s Guide to Yosemite Valley, by Steve Roper. No doubt later editions of the Roper book and other newer guidebooks have updated route information but below is the route information that Faye and I had as we contemplated this climb.

Lost Arrow Tip

From the 1971 edition of Climber’s Guide to Yosemite Valley by Steve Roper

Grade III, 5.5, A3. First ascent in September 1946 by Fritz Lippmann, Jack Arnold, Anton Nelson and Robin Hansen. This party gained the summit after engineering a Tyrollean traverse. The first climbing ascent was masterminded by John Salathe who, with Nelson, climbed the pinnacle on the fifth day of their route from the base. From trees 300 feet west of the railing at Yosemite Point, rappel 130 feet to a large flake. Next, rappel 115 feet into the notch. Both these ropes must be left in place for the return; the lower end of the lower rope should be secured in the notch to prevent its swinging out of reach.

From the sinister notch walk out a narrow ledge on the east face. Nail and free climb 35 feet to a good belay ledge. Climb left around a rotten corner, then nail 20 feet to Salathe Ledge, an excellent, relaxing belay site. The 3rd pitch is the crux: traverse left a few feet, nail for about 20 feet, then move left and nail up to a sling belay at the base of the “flint-hard and flawless Arrow tip.” On the last pitch, use bolts and 2 pitons for aid. Two rappels (125 feet and 70 feet) lead (back) to the notch.

The nailing on this magnificent route is continually changing and challenging. Nelson, speaking of his 1946 ascent, has written: “as we further diminish the crack’s possibilities, it becomes doubtful that many others will ever climb the Lost Arrow.” By 1970 the pinnacle had been climbed over 200 times and the cracks were still getting worse. What were horizontal piton cracks in 1960 are now inch-angle cracks. The rating remains the same, but the hardware changes. A 1971 selection should include about 15 pitons: one- third horizontals and the rest angles to 2″.

Notes from this description

The grade (in this case III) is the length the overall severity of the climb. Very few three or four pitch climbs are rated grade III and the fact that this one is is because of it’s location: 2000 feet above the valley floor. That means that while the climb itself is challenging, the exposure from doing the climb at that height is part of the challenge. Given that Faye and I had not done climbs with similar exposure, this certainly gave us pause. We had done the Royal Arches Route, another grade III but that climb, while over 1000 feet long is low angle and has little exposure (except for what was the rotten log pitch which was terrifying).

The free climbing rating, 5.5 was well within each of our abilities to lead although doing anything like that with exposure certainly adds to the difficulty. Free climbing ratings work like this:

3rd class: no rope, not too dangerous but don’t fall.
4th class: leader has a rope, no protection used. Follower is belayed up.
5th class: leader has a rope, is belayed, uses protection in case of a fall.

Because most climbing is 5th class that class has been divided into a decimal system to describe the difficulty of the climb. 5.0 is very easy, initially 5.10 was the toughest, but as climbing has advanced, the decimal system has expanded to 5.10 a, b, c, and 5.11, etc.

For those reading this who don’t know, free climbing works like this:

The leader and belayer tie into each end of a rope. The belayer anchors himself to the rock such that if a leader falls from above won’t pull him up or off the rock. The leader climbs up, say, 20 feet and puts in a piece of protection (piton, chock, clips into a bolt, etc.) and attaches a carabiner and most likely a sling and another carabiner to it, then clips the rope into the end carabiner. If the leader then climbs up another 5 feet and falls, the belayer holds the rope and the leader will fall a bit over 10 feet: double the distance to the last piece of protection plus some rope stretch and slack and the length of the sling. When the leader gets to the top of the pitch (a bit less than a rope length or a convenient stopping point) he anchors himself and brings (belays) the belayer up with the belayer taking out all the protection). This is how all roped climbing works. With free climbing, the leader just uses the protection as protection, he doesn’t hang onto it to advance. With aid climbing, the climbing is hard enough so it can’t be free climbed and so, protection is also used to hang onto to advance. Of course, over many years, what was aid climbed now might be free climbed, as free climbing standards have pushed on.

Many pitches have mixed free and aid on them: a few free moves, hang on a bolt, a few more free moves, stand on a piece of protection, etc. This is all determined by the skill of the climber and how good the protection is in case of a fall. Bad protection means less risky moves.

The aid rating, A3 is what gave me pause. Given the description and the rating I wasn’t sure we had the equipment or the skill to do aid climbing at this level.

Aid climbing can be as simple as climbing a bolt ladder: clipping into a series of expansion bolts, each about 5 feet apart (placed by earlier parties). Clip into one, attach a nylon ladder or aid stirrup to it, climb up as high as possible, clip into the next and repeat. Or, if there are no bolts, aid climbing can involve inserting various things into a crack to hang off of. Pitons, chocks, hooks, mashies, bashies, copperheads (some of these are soft pieces of metal on a swedge wire that are hammered in) or “rurps” (“realized ultimate reality pitons”). These last gadgets are precarious and many placements of these will hold body weight but won’t hold a fall. This means if you place two or more of these in a row to advance and the top one pulls, you’re looking at what is called a “zipper” where a whole line of them will pull out and you’ll fall further.

Given the Roper description of the crack on the Lost Arrow becoming messed up through years of piton use, I wasn’t sure what shape it would be in when we found it and what gear to bring. Most importantly, I wasn’t sure if either of us had the skill or guts to place the gear to get to the top. Once you’re in the middle of an A3 pitch, turning around is difficult so I didn’t want to do this climb if we weren’t prepared. Also, at this time, 1977 climbing was going through a transition from the use of pitons (dirty, destroys cracks) to the use of stoppers and hexes (clean, leaves cracks un-harmed). Later expandable protection would be invented but we didn’t have it at this point and most people carried a mix of pitons/hammer and chocks for a climb like this.

So, all of this gave us pause but it’s great to have dreams and we decided to do a scouting trip up to the Arrow itself to check it out.

Checking it out

We packed water and lunch and hiked up the Yosemite Falls Trail, crossed the stream that forms the falls and hiked over to Yosemite point. To our amazement and luck there was a party of three doing the climb so we were able to watch how they set it all up.

Remember, there was no internet in those days so looking up pictures or videos online wasn’t possible. All we had to go on was the Roper guide. There was an early version of George Meyer’s Yosemite Climbs topo guide out but we didn’t have it and we didn’t know anyone who had done the climb. This made it quite a bit more “adventurous.”

The climbers had helpers who were staying behind on the valley rim. We later learned why: they were going to toss a rope to the climbers once they reached the top of the Arrow so that the climbers would do a Tyrollean traverse to get off the tip. This seems like a scary proposition but in fact, while very strenuous it’s not as scary as it seems. Still, Faye and I decided we’d try to do it the traditional way by doing the climb and then depending the outside of the spire back to the notch and leaving two ropes in place to climb with ascenders. This is what the Roper guide recommended and it seemed doable to us.

It was tough to find a good vantage point to watch the three climbers from but we found one just west of the rappel point.

Rapelling into the Lost Arrow Spire notch


Rappelling into the notch

Here you can see the first climber rappelling down. The rope he’s descending is hard to see but its there. The ledge he’s going to stop on is just below him. Note that he’s got another rope over his shoulder. He’ll anchor that rope to some bolts above the ledge and drop that rope into the notch below. Then he’ll rappel into the notch and the other two climbers will rappel down. Traditionally these ropes are left in place to ascend out of the notch when the climb is done. These folks got off the Arrow tip via Tyrollean traverse (below). You can see a small piece of the Arrow in the lower right of this image.

Aside: The ledge he’s going to is almost exactly level with the arrow tip and slack liners set up a slack line between that ledge the arrow tip and walk it. That wasn’t done in 1977 but it’s been done for the last 25 years or so. Search around on Google and youTube, you’ll see many images and some videos of folks walking the line here.

The first two pitches of this climb were out of our sight; they’re on the east and southeast face of the spire. The next time we caught sight of these climbers they were at the second (last) belay ledge in the lower right of the next frame. Because of foreshortening it looks like they’re close to the ground but in fact, the boulders under them are about 2000 feet below.

Climbers on the Lost Arrow Spire

Climbers on Salathe ledge

The long aid pitch above Salathe ledge is the crux of the climb and it took the leader many hours to climb it. In the Roper guide its recommended to stop before the top and clip into two bolts and do a sling or hanging belay to bring the second climber up. It was essential to do this on early climbs because climbing ropes were 150 feet long, not the later 165 feet. That extra fifteen feet makes it possible to do this crux pitch in a single push but it also makes the rope drag at the top tough.

The next image is the leader doing the last bit of free climbing up the arrow tip. Given the length of the pitch below him and the amount of protection he had to put in, the rope drag (the friction he’s got to work against) is horrendous as he makes that move. It’s easy climbing but between lack of protection (the last bolt is ten feet below him), rope drag, and exposure, it’s tough although when I took this picture I had no idea and if memory serves, he made it look easy.

You can see a red nylon sling to his left near the tip, that’s the belay point and there are at least two bolts there. He’ll tie into that and belay the others up.

Leader topping out on the Lost Arrow Spire

Leader doing the tip of the arrow

In this next shot the leader is on top, not doing much (not belaying) because the rope is tied off and the second climber is ascending the rope with devices called ascenders. You can see the second climber on the right edge of the arrow. Ascenders are metal handles with enclosed cams that allow a climber to slide one up the rope but the cam will pinch the rope and not allow the handle to slide down. Attach stirrups to each of the ascenders and you can easily climb a rope. This is how big walls are done and in this case, the second climber is cleaning the protection from the pitch and the leader doesn’t have to hold the rope for him.

Climbers on the Lost Arrow Spire

Follower cleaning the pitch

The next image shows two of the tree climbers on top and the Tyrollean traverse is all set up. The folks on the cliff side have already tossed a rope over and pulled ropes back and the “clothesline” is all anchored and ready. The third climber has already crossed and two climbers are getting ready.

Tyrolean traverse off the Lost Arrow Spire


Tyrollean traverse set up

This last image shows the leader crossing the Tyrollean traverse. He’s using his ascenders and pulling himself across. As he gets closer to the other side it gets steeper and tougher. The last person will go across and then they can retrieve the ropes by pulling them through the anchor.

Tyrolean traverse off the Lost Arrow Spire


Leader on the Tyrollean traverse

We stayed until the end and talked with them. I made notes on the gear they’d used on the crux pitch although if we did the climb a year from now that might change if the climb was done a lot. No way to know for sure.

The next step was to get back to Eugene and find someplace to practice. I had an idea and Faye agreed: The west face of Monkey Face at Smith Rock. A three pitch aid route with exposure and we’d haul a bag and camp out in the back of the monkey’s head.

Stay tuned.

Climbing the West Face of Monkey Face

Remembering Fred Beckey

The above trailer is for a documentary: Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey.

Fred Beckey died on Monday, he was 94. Beckey was one of the greatest mountaineers of all time and he was also quite a character.

Robert McFadden at The New York Times does a great job of summarizing Beckey’s amazing life in climbing: Fred Beckey, Conqueror and Chronicler of North American Peaks, Dies at 94.

In the late 1970’s I went to a presentation/slide show that Beckey gave at REI in Seattle. It was amazing, less for the number of first ascents he’d done at that point (and since then he’s done a lot more), more for his lifestyle which was the epitome of the climbing bum, known among climbers as a “dirtbag” lifestyle.

At that point Yvon Chouinard and Royal Robbins, two other pioneers from Fred’s era had already moved away from climbing into business startups (Patagonia and Royal Robbins clothing). But, Fred was all about climbing. He wasn’t a people person either, he was rather gruff during the Q&A after the slide show I went to.

These days climbing is a totally different sport than the sport Fred Beckey took part in: he didn’t compete, he had no sponsors, and he didn’t really care if he was well known beyond the world of serious climbers. He definitely was well known in the world of serious climbers who know the history of their sport and he will be sorely missed.

Here’s Fred Beckey’s Wikipedia entry.

Update: I heard from my friend Chris Jones who shared a Beckey story:

I once got one of Beckey’s famous I-need-a-climbing-partner calls, while he was on his way from Seattle to Smith Rock. This was one of his things – he’d head off somewhere with a climb in mind and go through his call list on the way, and by the time he was there he’d have at least one (sometimes several, just in case) partners lined up. I somehow ended up on his call list for Smith Rock, and he wanted to climb Monkey Face by the Pioneer Route (he would have been 82, though at the time I thought he was closer to 70).

I met him at Smith, but it started to snow. As it started to snow, he asked “What do ya think about the weather?” This was exactly one of the lines he was famous for, heard by many climbing partners through the years. I had read about his penchant for this particular line, and recognized it as he said it. But oblivious that I might have this recognition, he was just asking (for real), what I thought about the weather. We decided the weather was too poor (I pretended this wasn’t completely obvious), so we didn’t do the climb. Right about then a second potential climbing partner showed up, so he had arranged a backup in case I didn’t work out (or maybe I was the backup and I just got there first).

So, I didn’t actually get to climb with Fred, nor did Fred get to climb Monkey Face that day, but I did get to hear him say “What do ya think about the weather?”. And that was better than doing the climb.

I have a message for you

I Have a Message for You

I tried to embed the video, didn’t work so the link.

This is an incredible story. In 1944 Klara Prowisor was on a prison train from Belgium to the Auschwitz concentration camp with her husband and father, who was sick. She and her husband decided to jump the train but they couldn’t take her sick father. She survived and felt terrible about this her entire life until…


Ivan Orkin

My friend Edward told me about an episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix about Ivan Orkin, a ramen cook with a fascinating life story. The food aspect of the documentary is great but his story is even better. Nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn becomes most famous ramen chef in Tokyo, Japan by putting a little schmaltz (Yiddish: chicken fat) in his traditional Japanese cookery. Brilliant.

If you stream Netflix give it a go:

Chef’s Table, Season 3, Episode 4: Ivan Orkin

Anne and I plan to eat in one of Ivan’s two restaurants the next time we’re in New York.

Ivan Ramen

He’s also got a book out that includes his story and the complete recipe for his shio ramen dish, including his ramen noodles with rye flour.

Ivan Ramen on iBooks

Ivan Ramen on Amazon

Of course, pictures of Ivan and his food are all over Flickr.

Loose Tacoma shift knob, what to do?

I just had my truck washed at a “typical” car wash: drop it off at one end, they vacuum it, it runs through the car wash on a conveyor and they finish drying it at the end. People drive it at each end although just for a moment.

I’ve been using this car wash for years and it’s under new ownership and they’re doing a great job. The owner is right in there doing all the various jobs so everyone’s paying close attention.

I drove away and noticed that the shift knob was loose. Odd, this is a 2016 Toyota Tacoma pickup and it’s never been loose before. Oh dear. Wondered if the guy who vacuumed it and got it started on the conveyor struggled with it. It’s an automatic, nothing to really struggle with.

What to do?

Bring it back and complain? Maybe but not sure what that would accomplish.

Make an appointment with Toyota to have it fixed? Can’t imagine the fix would be too tough.

Or, search the internet to see if others have had this issue and what they’ve done.

I typed the following into Safari (defaulting to Google search):

“2016 Toyota Tacoma loose shift knob”

The first hit was this one:

Tacoma World: Automatic Shift Knob loose!

I read through it, found this:

“If you push down on the plastic ring at the top of the leather skirt it’ll pop off, then see if you can screw the knob on tighter and snap the skirt back on.”

I went back outside to the truck, did exactly as the commenter said, and fixed it.

I’m not boasting or attempting to pat myself on the back for having fixed this minor issue, I’m pointing out that the web coupled with an intelligent search query can provide amazing support very quickly.

Underlying this is Google and the fact that it does an amazing job of indexing all the various pieces of text information on the web. In fact, this post will no doubt be part of future search results for loose Tacoma shift knobs.

MacPaint print

MacPaint print

I had one of the first 128K Macintosh computers in Eugene, Oregon and while I did a lot of writing with MacWrite, I also did a lot of “drawing” with MacPaint.

MacPaint was written by Bill Atkinson (one of the core members of the original Macintosh team at Apple) who added lots of fun touches to all of his early software. MacPaint had various distortions and to be honest, I can’t remember which one was responsible for this image (maybe “invert” and/or “trace edges”). I didn’t draw this; instead I drew some random shapes and chose what would now be called a “filter” and this was the result. It delighted me to no end and I made hundreds of these which I printed on my ImageWriter dot matrix printer.

I’m posting this now because I’m cleaning our basement and found boxes and boxes of old Macintosh related keepsakes, including some of my old writing and drawing done on my first Mac (not my first computer but close).

I had to run upstairs and pop an antihistamine; between dust and mold it was like an archeological dig.

Discussing the birth of the iPhone

John Markoff interviews former iPhone engineering team members Hugo Fiennes, Nitin Ganatra and Scott Herz, followed by a second interview with Scott Forstall.

This is a two hour interview, Forstall starts about 1:07 but both hours are well worth listening to. Understand that the technology that these people built changed the world and Forstall had an inkling of the importance of what they were doing but really, none of them had any idea that the iPhone would turn out to be the success it has been.

This isn’t just for Apple fan-people or iPhone geeks, this will be interesting for anyone who wants a behind the scenes look at how these people’s careers took shape and how they ended up on the original iPhone team. The personal anecdotes are fascinating.

I was involved with Apple in the early years of the Macintosh and this felt very much like early interviews with Bill Atkinson, Andy Hertzfeld, and others on the first Macintosh team. Historic.

This event took place at The Computer Museum and regrettably, the sound and video aren’t great, but it is extremely worthwhile.

Note: Scott Forstall left Apple (was let go) in 2012. Wouldn’t it be ironic (and interesting) if Forstall, like Jobs, came back to Apple later as CEO (or in some other capacity) after going through a personal transformation outside of Apple. Sometimes distance makes for a clearer head.