Fitschen’s Folly East

First, taking care of business. Although there are those who believe that Democrats are Satanists, I am not one of them. Sometimes I am a satirist and for a while, when young, was a satyr.

Then, if you click the “Buy Now” button to get Going Up, you are not committed to using PayPal to pay. The site you are sent to also allows the use of a credit card, although that requires filling in more information.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled program.

In Yosemite Valley, The Salathé and Muir Walls reside on El Capitan. Further up the valley “Coonyard Pinnacle” sits on the Glacier Point Apron. “Kamp for Terror” looms behind Camp 4. At Tahquitz one can find the “Gallwas Gallop” and “Royal’s Arches” as well as [Harry] “Daley’s Direct” and “Dave’s [Rearick] Deviation.” But my name begins with “F”.

On the plus side, I know of no other climber who has two climbs named after him (I didn’t have a role in naming either climb) even though Fitschen’s Folly West comes with its own ignominy (described in Chapter 4 of Going Up). So here is the true story of Fitschen’s Folly East.

In the spring following our El Capitan climb, I hitched from Southern California to Manhattan. Art Gran and a few of his friends gave me a couch to sleep on in their apartment near Columbia University, and on weekends, while I was waiting for a boat to England, we would drive up to the Gunks (no expressway in those days, and many of the roads around the Gunks were dirt). On the last weekend before I sailed, I spent a rainy night in an abandoned house with a lovely young woman, so on Sunday I was feeling good. In the afternoon several climbers and I were having lunch at the Uberfall  when one mentioned that the face to the right of “Boston” had been top-roped once but never led. “Would someone give me a belay?” I asked. Art Gran and I had previously put up a new route, “Transcontinental Nailway”, but it was an aid climb (since freed), and I thought a new free route would be fun.

From the base I could see that there wouldn’t be much opportunity for protection, but I figured I would just go up, and if I felt too uncomfortable I could back off if need be. It is a short climb, so I was soon at the crux, 5.8 they say. I found that I could surpass it by mantling, a technique not much practiced in the Gunks but often used in California and one that I was especially good at. I liked it because it usually seemed a very secure move, at least until the problem of getting the foot up to where the mantling hand was and then stepping on up.  If the wall was steep and there was a paucity of holds to keep you in balance the last move could be delicate. Sometimes, as on the Folly as I recall, you just had to balance up very carefully. A little higher I came to some cracks and thought I could get a piton in. The cracks were formed by loose blocks, however, which have since become part of the talus. I did manage to place a pin, thinking that if something happened the piton might be good enough to slow me down. Wishful thinking is not a good habit in climbing, but sometimes there isn’t a lot you can do about it. Getting past the loose blocks was a little tricky, no longer a problem for the modern climber. In any case, it wasn’t too hard from the piton up to the tree at the top of the climb, and my “protection” seemed superfluous. I anchored and then asked who wanted to follow. The answer was no one. So I guess it was a solo ascent. I rapped off, removing the pin on the way down. I was right. It would have slowed me down if I fell on it. A little. If you really want to take the measure of the climb you should climb it in Kronhoffers, except that they aren’t available lo these many years. Tennis shoes anyone?

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