Reed Pinnacle – My Last Climb in Yosemite Valley, Spring, 1966


In the Spring of 1966, I was re-enrolled at UC-Berkeley, and went up to the Valley to get in some climbing. I joined up with Jim Bridwell and Kim Schmitz, to do the regular route on  Reed Pinnacle, a down valley climb that stood above the road to Tuolomne. It was my first climb of the season, and I told them that I didn’t want to lead anything hard.

The third pitch of this climb is unlike anything else in the Valley. It requires tunneling behind the entirety of the huge slab that is Reed Pinnacle, which slab leans against the cliff face with a gap behind it. It’s a pretty tight squeeze, and one must use chimney technique to move horizontally from one side of the pinnacle to the other. At the time, this horizontal passage was not protected except from one end or the other. This being so, a fall by any member of the party would lead to a nasty pendulum. This pitch is rated as 5.8 in difficulty.

The tunnel pitch (www.mountainproject.com)

The tunnel pitch (www.mountainproject.com). The protection seen here was not yet placed in 1966.

After assembling on the ledge at the far side of the pitch, Jim and Kim said they wanted to try a variation of the route, which they called the “Charlie Brown Crack”. As I recall, it was a steep off-width crack a little ways to the right of the regular route (which went up an open-book of sorts). They worked on it and worked on it, and never made it, at which point they announced that they were punched-out, and I had to lead the 4th pitch, which was 5.8 or harder.

The pitch I fell off of (www. supertop, photo credit Joe Simo)

The pitch I fell off of (www. supertopo, photo credit Joe Simo)

They left me little choice, and I started up. I placed one piton and continued to where I started to place a bong. Bridwell yelled up to me not to hit it anymore, because it would be too hard to remove … I should have hit it some more! I came off on a hard mantle move somewhere above it, and it popped as I fell to below it. The lower pin held, and I landed on the ledge where I had started on my right foot, hard enough to break the ankle. Then the stretch in the rope rebounded my face into the wall, breaking the right malar bone (that forms the lower part of the orbit). End of climb.

It was considered impractical or impossible to rappel to the ground from that side of the pinnacle, so we had to reverse the tunnel pitch. I got to do it with a throbbing cheek, throbbing right ankle and one good foot. Then I was belayed for two or three rappels down into the trees, and, further, as I skidded on my butt through the oak leaves, down to the road, which was directly below.

Next stop was the University Hospital, at Berkeley, where they cast my ankle and did some plastic surgery to reposition the malar bone. Not long after that, I married Karen Holdaway, in Berkeley. Eric Beck, a climbing friend, was our witness at the court house. At the end of the semester, Karen and I drove to Jackson, WY, where we were married in the Mormon Church (we hadn’t told her folks about our first marriage). We then left for our honeymoon in the Wind Rivers, in conjunction with me working a NOLS course. After that course, we traveled to Marble, CO, where I got a job with the Colorado Outward Bound School for the balance of the summer. I don’t recall climbing again in the Valley. Here is a link to the next post.

https://believesteve.org/2016/02/11/national-outdoor-leadership-school-summer-fall-1966/

 

 

About believesteve

I am a photographer and have published a book of photography and accompanying text on running the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The first (print) edition is out of print, but a second edition is available as an iBook (eBook) through the iTunes bookstore. All Grand Canyon, river and nature lovers will enjoy my book: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-grand/id672492447?ls=1
This entry was posted in 1960s, Outward Bound and similar, Personal history, Rock climbing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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