Sunday, April 10, 2016

SHIPROCK 1961

Shiprock 1961



Shiprock, March 1961 or 62
Shiprock, March 1961 or 62
Credit: AKTrad
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Spring break, March 26, 1961, my friends Milt Hokanson,Dave Wood and I loaded my little Jeep and drove from Salt Lake City to Shiprock, NM. I had read Jack Kerouac's "On the Road", and road trips were in my blood. We checked in with the Navajo Tribal Police in Shiprock and left our names and contact information. They were kind and helpful, wished us well, and we headed to the base of the rock in the dark. A few hundred yards short of the campsite I dropped the Jeep into a steep ditch onto its side. With the gas leaking out, we three lifted it back upright and continued on. I don't know how we did it, but I remember it was a super pain, with lots of digging and lots of pushing. I must have been stronger then; and we had Wood, nicknamed "The Logger" with us.



My first lead off the ground in the cave at the base of the rock.
My first lead off the ground in the cave at the base of the rock.
Credit: AKTrad
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Early the next morning we climbed up in the dark and surmounted the initial overhang in the cave at the start of the climb. I did much of the leading, and I remember being appalled by the quality of the rock after the great quartzite and granite at home. We had the description on a postcard and made good time.




Climbing up the black chossy rock on the west side to a notch.
Climbing up the black chossy rock on the west side to a notch.
Credit: AKTrad
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Climbing into the notch in the early hours of the morning. I have on a...
Climbing into the notch in the early hours of the morning. I have on a red nylon anorak I bought through the mail from REI. Rappelling back down this face in the dark with no headlamps was a trip.
Credit: AKTrad
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The climbing was fairly vertical, but blocky, so there were a lot of holds and the climbing was fast. We climbed over a notch and found a type of rhyolite, rather than the basalt-like choss we had been climbing



Dave Wood leading the traverse out onto the SW side of the mountain. I...
Dave Wood leading the traverse out onto the SW side of the mountain. I scanned the slide poorly, so the border shows!
Credit: AKTrad
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We carried an extra Goldline rope to fix the two 80' rappels; we left it hanging so we could climbing the overhanging water gully on the return trip. This left us two more ropes between the three of us for the summit.



Dave steps up in a home-made etrier.  Cool socks!
Dave steps up in a home-made etrier. Cool socks!
Credit: AKTrad
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After rappelling down Dave led across the traverse out of the gullies which had a couple of 1/4" bolts for protection. It was winter, but here in the east bowl, the sun warmed us, so we had lunch.



Milt Hokanson belays me as I lead the Horn Pitch
Milt Hokanson belays me as I lead the Horn Pitch
Credit: AKTrad
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Milt was as strong as an ox, and he did a lot of the belaying. I'm glad I got a photo of him; it may be the only one I have of the hundreds of climbs we did together as kids.




Yours Truly starting the Horn Pitch.  Cool nickers!
Yours Truly starting the Horn Pitch. Cool nickers!
Credit: AKTrad
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Steve Roper had climbed the peak the previous fall, and we knew he had done the Horn Pitch free. I remember leading the Horn Pitch to the summit in a strong wind as the sun was sinking.




Nearing the horn
Nearing the horn
Credit: AKTrad
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I clamber over the horn.
I clamber over the horn.
Credit: AKTrad
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At the summit there was a little register, we saw the first ascent party's names: David Brower, Raffi Bedayn, John Dyer, and Bestor Robinson. Fred Becky had been bolting a direct route the previous year. We knew Becky from his trips through Salt Lake, but I'm sure we hadn't asked him anything about the climb. He was an old guy then...maybe 38 years old. We were 18 or 19.




Yours Truly rappelling off the summit.  The sun set soon afterwards.
Yours Truly rappelling off the summit. The sun set soon afterwards.
Credit: AKTrad
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During the descent we had to climb up the hanging ropes; I led hand-over-hand, because we didn't have much to tie a prussik with. I remember using parachute cord around little horns for rappel anchors; we knew it would hold 550 lbs, so it should be good. We rappelled most of the climb in the dark, completing the climb in under 18 hours or so. The little white jeep eaded back to Salt Lake in the morning. It was awesome! Dave wood went to medical school and became a psychiatrist, but unfortunately passed away many years ago. Milt Hokanson, the guy I started my climbing career with at age 14 lives in St. George. I count him as one of the most influential people in my life, and likely among the toughest sons of bitches I've ever known. Together we explored the West, floated the Glen Canyon in tiny rafts in 1956, learned to climb and made our first ascent of Lone Peak in 1957, and made our first ascent of the Grand Teton in 1959. It is sheer luck we are still alive.

2 comments:

Tony Tingey said...

This is awesome Ralph. I was five years old, but I remember when you did this.

jtingey said...

Great story and description Ralph. I'm glad you posted this. I drive by Shiprock multiple times a year and always think about your climb. Also, the Fred Beckey, Eric Bjornstadt photo I saw in Mexican Hat has new meaning.