Notes from the top

Gripped - - REVIEWS - …Con­tin­ued from p.72 Moun­tain The Myth of Sisy­phus Amer­i­can Chris Van Leu­ven is an ac­com­plished writer and climber.This is his first of three pieces for ‘Notes from the Top.’

ac­tive free soloist. No­table as­cents in­clude third-class­ing Ahab at the base of El Cap, a 50- me­tre 5.10b that nar­rows from chim­ney to of­fwidth. To de­scend, he down-soloed Moby Dick Cen­ter, a f ist crack start­ing with a hard fin­ger crack. He free soloed Sen­tinel Rock i n 1977, af­ter climb­ing it four times, via the 500- me­tre Steck-Salathé 5.10b route. In ’ 78, he on­sight free soloed the Lost Ar­row Chim­ney 5.10a 400 m on the Up­per Yosemite Falls Wall while car­ry­ing Al­bert Ca­mus’ down his pant leg so he had some­thing to read while killing time. The route doesn’t top out, so he knew he’d have to wait for his buddies to drop lines down the fi­nal 60- me­tre of the wall for him to prus­sic out on. His as­cent of Pipe­line came one year later.

“I only re­ally soloed for a few-year pe­riod. Af­ter those big three there was one more,” he says as he fin­ishes a cold brew and I hand him one more. While third class­ing the 300- me­tre North­east But­tress of Higher Cathe­dral Rock 5.9 in Yosemite, “which was go­ing swim­mingly,” he reached the crux move 10 pitches up, one rope length from the sum­mit. The route is no­table for its de­vi­ous route find­ing, wide cracks and sus­tained steep jam­ming.

The sin­gle move stopped him cold. He climbed up a few moves to the crux, then back down, then he con­sid­ered the se­ri­ous­ness of his sit­u­a­tion. “My girl­friend would be in Yosemite the very next day,” he says. “I didn’t want her to find out that I died solo­ing.” So he down climbed the route and gave up long solo­ing right then.

To­day Grug has t wo daugh­ters, aged 22 and 27. He is a soft­ware de­vel­oper and likes to climb on the week­ends in the Black Canyon when­ever pos­si­ble.

“I’ve never lost my sense for ad­ven­ture climb­ing. That’s what turns me on. Boul­der­ing doesn’t turn me on. Go­ing to the gym doesn’t turn me on. But the Black Canyon turns me on,” he says. “I like to climb like a Fris­bee dog likes to run af­ter and catch a Fris­bee.”

Look­ing back, Grug says his as­cent of Lost Ar­row Chim­ney got a blurb i n

magazine but that Pipe­line re­ceived zero press. “I knew that good climbers knew about it and that was good enough for me.” Ru­mour has it that route was re­cently soloed.

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