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About ACW

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  • Birthday 11/26/2017
  1. Another Mt Hood accident

    Man, that really sucks. I met Mark in 1977 at Smith and climbed with him more times than I can remember. He was attending OSU back then, going to Smith a lot with Mike Smelsar. The two of them became good friends with those of us going to U of O at the time (Chris Jones, Bill Ramsey, Alan Lester, and myself). Sometimes they'd drive into Eugene and the six of us would slink around campus after dark, taking turns on Jones' buildering problems. The two of us drove together to Yosemite right after school ended in 1979. He drove halfway there, and I took over for the rest of the trip. I hadn't told him I'd never driven a stick shift until I was on the entrance ramp onto I-5 in Redding, grinding the gears of his slick new Volkswagen Rabbit. He did all the shifting from the passenger seat as I drove the rest of the way, telling me when to push in the clutch. We spent three days climbing the NW Face of Half Dome together on that trip. I think at least half that time was spent getting the haul bag unstuck. We climbed a bunch at Smith for the next couple years. Probably the last time I shared a rope with him was in the mid-80s at Broughton's Bluff. He had put up a short route called Face Not Friction. I tried it a couple weeks before and got shut down on the final jams. I wasn't used to failing on cracks back then, so I went back with Mark to finish it off, only to have my ego knocked down to size once again. Never did make it up that thing. Seems hard to believe that it was more than 25 years ago that we last climbed together,and even harder to believe that he's gone. I've run into him a few times over the years - as I grew older and fatter he seemed to defy the years only getting fitter and faster. A big loss for Oregon climbing. My condolences to his family.
  2. Dean Fry

    If you get a chance to chat with Jeff Thomas, he has many great stories to tell about Dean. He even wrote a wonderful personal tribute to Dean that he let me read a couple years back. Obviously, 5.11 would have arrived on Smith tuff much earlier, and probably higher grades as well if Dean hadn't died. I understand he was very focused, which makes sense given how much he accomplished in such a short time. He died 18 months before I first climbed at Smith. I've always thought that Methuselah's Column was one of the most visionary leads at Smith, done on lead with bad rock and 1/4" bolts. But I'm most curious about Cat Fight Cracks. I've never done it, nor have I talked to anyone who has. Jeff told me once that the second pitch Dean led was almost completely unprotected, with ground fall potential from 150 feet up! It's possible modern gear might make it far safer, but who knows?
  3. Watts Talks

    Okay, you've convinced me. So here it goes, "I assume responsibility for where rock climbing has gone in the last 25 years." Glad to get that off my chest. Seriously, thanks to everyone for the words of support on this website. I won't contribute often, but I'll check in every now and then. Everyone has their opinion, and after all these decades it doesn't really bother me when people want to view sport climbing as the downfall of the sport. Same as it ever was. But I have to admit, I just don't have the spirit for the argument that I once did. It's one thing sitting down and spending hours talking with climbers like Kauk and Bachar back in 1986 about the pros and cons of what would later be called sport climbing. Those guys are/were class acts who lived what they argued every single day at the crag. We had some great discussions about the pros and cons of the new branch of climbing. It's quite another thing 25 years later debating modern-day traditionalists whose main contribution to climbing is arguing their views on cascadeclimbers.com. It's funny, but if I ever had a chance to share a beer with guys like Pope and Raindawg, I'm guessing that we'd find more common ground than differences.
  4. New Smith Guide printed!

    Thanks for the comments. I really appreciate hearing from everyone about the book. Whether positive or negative, every comment will only make future editions better. Whether right or wrong, I decided to completely rewrite the book. Apart from a short section on Smith geology, I used almost nothing from my first guide. Every picture, map, and topo was redone as well. There was much I liked about the old guide, but a lot I never liked at all (for instance, the maps, many of the topos, and literally hundreds of mistakes that made me cringe every time I saw them). I, too, had some favorite descriptions from the old guide, but they've been out there for 17 years. It seemed stale to just repeat the same jokes. Perhaps I forgot that the new edition would expose an entirely new generation to Smith climbing who would be reading these comments for the first time. But I figured that anyone with an insatiable appetite for Smith trivia could always just buy the old book as well - I suspect it will continue to be available online at Amazon for decades to come. I'm hoping that anyone who appreciated the humor in the old book will, after reading the entire new edition, find that it's only been shifted around in describing some of the newer routes. There was a tremendous challenge in getting the most out of 499 pages. In a perfect world the book would have been 650 pages and I could have had free rein, but the price would have shot into the stratosphere. I always lived in fear of the phone call I'd get from the editor saying the book was too long and that I'd have to make massive cuts. But to my great surprise, that phone call never came. Anyone wanting much more information on Smith Rock might appreciate my website, www.smithclimbing.com. When it goes live next month, I'll be able to say more about the routes without having to count every single word.
  5. Watts Talks

    Hey Rudy, It's been a long time - haven't seen you since the EP days. Glad to hear that you, like me, are a family man. Not sure where you're living these days. If you're still around Bend, I'll be doing signings and presentations. Or you could just send a message and I could meet you somewhere. I'll also be doing some presentations around the Northwest for the release of my book. If you can't track me down, you could always buy a signed copy directly from me at www.smithclimbing.com. I'm creating this website to support my book (so it won't slip out-of-date so quickly). It'll also include a lot of history that wouldn't fit into the guide. It won't be live until the end of this month. Alan
  6. Watts Talks

    Curt, Nice to hear from you. I can't say I remember back to the Skinner's Butte days too well, but your name is familiar to me. I assume that you are the same person who did the first ascent of Scorpio way back in 1977? If so, I'm sure you have a good story to tell about that day. I'd love to hear it. Alan
  7. Watts Talks

    I should have known better than to get sucked into it last night. But my new Smith guide had just shipped, and I wanted to post something about that on cascadeclimbers.com. As I was figuring out how to make a post, I saw the thread about my interview, and - despite my better judgment - I clicked on it. I thought that by providing an interview to an Italian online magazine I wouldn't stir up any dust back home, but I forgot that it truly is a world wide web. As I read the posts, it was like I was suddenly transported 25 years back in time. I knew the best thing was to just shut my laptop and go to bed, but somehow I couldn't resist. And before I knew it, for the 10,000th time (and first time in the last decade), I was defending my approach to Smith Rock climbing! For just a few minutes, I felt like I was 25 all over again. In all seriousness, I was surprised that the sport-climbing-is-the-root-of-all evil crowd still exists. I've been out of the scene for so long, I just assumed that people were getting along a little better these days. Old grudges die slowly, I guess.
  8. New Smith Guide printed!

    I just got the word from Falcon that the book has already shipped. The "official" release date is now January 6, 2010, but it should be available well before that - hopefully just in time for Christmas. There will be a lot of history on the website, including anything Falcon didn't include (plus a whole lot more).
  9. New Smith Guide printed!

    Falcon wasn't my first choice when I did the new Smith guide. But I had signed a contract 15 years ago with Chockstone Press, and once Falcon acquired Chockstone, they owned me as well. I've never been impressed with Falcon Guides in the past, and I was more than a little nervous about the end result. A reason this guide took such a long time to do is that I did EVERY SINGLE THING - every topo, photo, map, and word. And 99% of the content is totally redone. I personally drew every line, and marked every bolt. I repeated all the routes I could still haul my fat ass up and I rappelled down dozens of others to get bolt counts correct. I worked directly with the person who did the first ascent to get the details right. Falcon proofread everything and did the layout and created the index. I did everything else. As it turns out, Falcon was a pleasure to work with and they did a very good job. Unexpectedly, they did the whole book in color, which I didn't expect. There is a massive amount of information crammed into 500 pages, so several of the photos and topos are smaller than I would have preferred. But they didn't cut a single word, cliff photo, topo, or map. I wish they would have found room for more of the dozens of historical, action, and scenic shots I had assembled, and they could be a little more creative from a layout standpoint. But all and all, I really can't complain. When it comes to accuracy, I'll admit to being anal retentive. I submitted the book a year ago, thinking that it met my standards for accuracy. Over the months that followed, I had three opportunities to go over it with a fine toothed comb in different stages of production. All told, I made roughly 600 corrections (mostly extremely minor). Falcon patiently made ever single change I suggested. And they discovered another 100 or so numbering problems along the way. My guess is that there are 50,000 facts in this book that are either right or wrong. This doesn't even include subjective issues like grades and quality ratings. A bolt is either there or it isn't. Even if I achieved 99.9% accuracy (which is a little unlikely) there would still be 50 errors I never caught. I trust that the users of the book will let me know when they spot something. So far, I've discovered exactly one mistake. Eighteen years was a long time to wait, but rest assured the reason this took so long is that I refused to compromise quality and accuracy, no matter how many people were squawking at me. At one point, I even sent my entire advance payment back to Falcon so they'd have less leverage. I did a lot of trespassing on private property to get some of the photos, including the days I spent on the opposite side of the river on the west side. I'm no photographer but I eventually figured out that taking the picture at the right time of day was 90% of the battle. There are few shots that somehow came out a little overexposed in the printing process, but overall they are pretty good. There are 1809 routes, 734 more than in the original guide. Anyone who thinks that all the new routes have already made it into print one way or another are in for a big surprise. At least 200 of the new routes have never been published before, and everything is current through August of 2009. There isn't a single person who is familiar with everything new that's in the book now matter how much time they've spent at Smith. Not one. Yes, $40 is a lot for a guide. But on a per page basis, it costs less than the old guide and and only a third as much as the Wolverine Select Guide. And you can always just order it from Amazon for $27. That's about as much as two tickets to a movie and a bucket of popcorn. I'm creating a website to support the new book. It's not an online guide, but instead just a place to assemble all the changes/additions/corrections that will accumulate over time. I'll add a few other items of interest, beyond the scope of the book, that should make it worth visiting from time to time. It'll also have a bulletin board so you can send your feedback directly to the source.
  10. Watts Talks

    Very entertaining posts. I stumbled across this site tonight, and I registered just to get a chance to respond. I did nothing to diminish traditional climbing. I was fortunate to grow up in an area that was isolated so I could be creative with my approach to climbing. I never intended to start any sort of movement - I just saw these routes at Smith Rock that simply had to be done, and I climbed them in a style that made the most sense to me. I never expected anyone to follow my style. I never expected anyone to even notice what I was doing. Nothing surprised me more than when all of a sudden the world came to Smith Rock. The fact that I inspired any change in the sport was an unintended consequence of following my passion. It wasn't a case of "a nice guy making a bad choice." I just never felt compelled to follow the herd. But it bothers me when I read a post by someone like Pope, whom I've ever met, sitting behind the comfort of his keyboard, preaching about how much I messed up the sport. If anything, I helped broaden rock climbing. I don't see how I took a single thing away from it. Traditional climbing still exists (in fact, it's as big today as it ever was). Now there's just another discipline called sport climbing. I'm really not that full of myself, Pete. When I say in my interview that I had a strong impact on Smith Rock climbing, or that I did some hard routes, I'm just stating the truth. But I recognize that in a broader sense, I made only a minor contribution (whether positive or negative) to a small niche of our sport a long, long time ago. That's all I did. There were always more talented climbers. But I worked very hard, and I consider myself lucky that my passion for climbing merged with opportunity, at just the right place, at just the right time. When my years as a leading climber came to an end I quietly left the sport behind to raise my family. The fact that anyone in climbing still remembers my name continues to surprise me. I'm a few months away from 50 years old, and today I get gripped when I'm leading 5.8. I started as a novice, got good for a few years, and now I've come full circle. I feel like a novice once again when I go out to Smith, nervously clipping bolts on Five Gallon Buckets (wishing there were more). That's fine with me. I had my time on the rock, and I'm thankful for all the experiences I had - even if I did unintentionally ruffle some feathers along the way. Alan Watts