Life On The Wide Side

Our fifth day in Red Rock was the first without a recurring fight for the shared belay jacket. I'd brought two pairs of shorts and one pair of pants on the trip. Pride, if not prudence, demanded I implement the unusued 2/3 of my wardrobe. But what was worn as a great choice for the morning's two-hour hike becomes a recipe for disaster.

Photo: Garrett Grove. Don't Steal

I'm on deck to lead the last pitch of Adventure Punks (5.10d, 600'). The route's crux looms overhead. And it's knee-scrapingly, ankle-gougingly wide. I'm always nervous about the ".d" grades, especially on routes like this one. The 'Adventure Punks' were a loose-knit cadre of 1980s hardmen who eschewed bolts in favor of a traditional ground-up style. This attitude contradicted the era's prevailing 'route construction' philosophy, but also lead to some of the park's best and hardest climbs. And as I rack up to lead, I recall how it was the crux offwdith on the group's signature route which nearly put an end to the Adventure Punks.

Richard Harrison had sent the the route's finale with a hip belay from partner Nick Nordblom, one #4 friend, and an apparently more-than-adequate set of brass nuts. Sixty feet of serious 5.10 separated Harrison's stance atop the route from his #4. And when following the pitch, the swami-clad Nick Nordblom violated one of the Adventure Punks' rules. He fell. With no other gear in the pitch, Nordblom pendulumed across wall. The shouts from both climbers filled Pine Creek Canyon and were joined by the metallic "PING" of metal coming undone. Harrison was pulled onto a piton the piton was pulled from the anchor, and both climbers were suddenly dangling from a single 1/4" Rawl which the bolt-shy Harrison had begrudgingly placed.

With courage derived from the presence of cams unavailable to the Adventure Punks, I squirm, squeeze, and chimney my way upwards and into the slot. Moving my chalkbag and #6 out onto my left hip, I walk up my #5 camalot and imagine the scene 27 years prior. Harrison, facing the same squeeze, adjusts his swami until his knot is to the side, places his #4 friend, and begins his epic and unknown runout. I place my big cams, clip the 2 retro-bolts, and finish off the lead. I'm able to claim success, if not exactly style. But hey, Harrison’s rack was a whole lot lighter than mine was. And he was probably wearing pants too.


  1. hey blake, sorry this happens to be unrelated, but i was wondering if you could help me with some info on getting a job in stehekin. my goal is to live and climb out of the valley this summer, and figured you would probably know better than most. thanks man, keep getting after it, love your blog!


  2. Hey Tad, send me an email. BlakeHerrington@gmail.com

    Glad you like reading this stuff!

  3. i love the alpine stuff you were putting up in the Cascades man, really cool lines.