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TR: Nostalgia on Nadia's Nine
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cowpoke


Oct 26, 2005, 5:35 PM
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TR: Nostalgia on Nadia's Nine
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While I slotted my left hand and pulled, I jumped my left foot up into the crack, grabbed the two-knuckle scoop with my right hand and looked up. Although a beautiful pitch, this one had added value. Joe Herbst and Larry Hamilton were watching me lead Joe’s route Nadia’s Nine at Red Rocks.

******

“He knows the climbers who did the stunts in Cliff Hanger.” With this endorsement, my dissertation advisor introduced me to the sociologist and statistician, Lawrence Hamilton. Across my five years of graduate school, Larry helped center me on the important things in life and provided weekly trips to Cathedral, Whitehorse, and Rumney as well as occasional excursions west to the desert. I spent much of the traveling time quizzing him on his first ascents that spread across the deserts of Nevada and Utah, up the canyons and high country of Colorado, and throughout the wooded crags of New Hampshire.

On this trip, the plan was relatively straightforward: (1) climb Epinephrine and (2) hang out with Joe Herbst. While Larry and I perused guidebooks on the flight from New Hampshire to Vegas, however, anxiety set in. Scared less of chimneys and contrived walk-offs (in part, because Larry was going to lead every chimney pitch and I just had to manage the face pitches), my nervous system was firing in anticipation of being in the company of Larry and Joe, together again.

As they began their regular jaunts from the valley to Vegas in the early 70’s, Red Rocks might as well have been Mars, except that most other climbers had heard of Mars. By the time Larry finished graduate school and moved to New Hampshire, he and Joe had pioneered several classics including Triassic Sands, the Aeolian Wall, the Original Route of Rainbow Wall, and Solar Slab (with Tom Kaufman). Joe stayed in Vegas and there are now only a select few pages in Red Rocks guide books that don’t repeat the mantra “FA: Herbst et al.” If you would like to follow the timing and locales of Larry’s academic career, flip through climbing guides for Eldo, RMNP, and, in turn, the White Mountains of New Hampshire (and a few other areas such as Canyonlands that were within driving distance of Boulder and, in turn, Durham, NH).

On the plane to Vegas, I became certain that once Larry and Joe were in the same room, Larry would realize the error in his wasting time with me; Joe, well, I didn’t know what Joe would do. I’d read in a climbing magazine that he was a recluse who had disappeared from climbing.

As for Epinephrine, Larry has already provided most of the details (http://pubpages.unh.edu/~lch/climb_05.htm). The event he left out? After finishing the chimneys on top-rope, I scrambled up my first lead of the day only to carelessly knock off a loose block that cut Larry’s brand new rope nearly in two, oops (you know, Larry, I never did pay you back as promised, double-oops!). Thoroughly embarrassed, I wondered if that would be the story that Joe and Larry would roast me over the next day. “…and then, Joe, after I dragged his sorry ass up the crux pitches, the little twerp nearly killed me!”

In a slow drizzle the next day, I learned two things: (1) Joe had not disappeared and (2) he was not the rough recluse I’d imagined. Instead, he has simply moved on to other adventures such as competitive skydiving and exploring the desert on horseback, and he is a warm, gregarious man. Over beers and meals (and Joe’s guitar playing), Larry and Joe relived tales of exploring untouched stone. I listened. Fortunately, the rope-cutting incident never came up.

For our last morning in Vegas before returning to work and school, Joe recommended we try the relatively unknown Nadia’s Nine (9+). Joe explained that when he completed the first ascent, both the climbing world and the Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci were ready for a new grade, 10. With Joe hiking out to the route to watch us, Larry took on the more difficult first pitch. The first 20 feet of the climb is varnished and the climbing is devious, but Larry was soon at the belay and pulling up rope. On a whim, I asked Joe if he’d like to borrow my harness and give the route a go. He said yes.

After more than a decade off, Joe smeared up the pitch in his sneakers and I snapped pictures with Larry’s camera. I couldn’t see Joe and Larry at the belay, but I imagined handshakes and smiles as I listened to their laughter bouncing off the rocks and back towards the loop road. Later, I learned it was laughter over Joe’s exhaustion.

Joe was lowered and I took my turn. Once at the belay, Larry pointed up toward a terrible looking choss pile as my lead. Fortunately, this wasn’t the correct pitch and Joe redirected us towards one of the more aesthetic lines I’ve climbed in Red Rocks. About 30 feet up the pitch, pausing to look up, my nerves were now firing over the impending climbing and not the company.

The crack curved out over my head, forming a “no way that’s 5.9” overhang. I jammed and edged my way up (as usual, placing enough gear to challenge records for the amount of pro placed in a single pitch). Palms up, I slid my hands along the lip of the crack that was now near horizontal. Liebacking with several positive footholds on the left face, I high-stepped around the lip of the overhang, pulled onto the belay ledge, and exhaled with a yelp. Then, I knew what the Olympic judges knew: Nadia was perfect.

Thanks, Larry (and Joe).


rocamosca


Oct 26, 2005, 5:57 PM
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Re: TR: Nostalgia on Nadia's Nine [In reply to]
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Good Read.
I enjoyed it.


guanoboy


Oct 28, 2005, 11:00 AM
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great story. Good to hear from the guys who put these routes up.


vegastradguy


Oct 28, 2005, 11:28 AM
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trophy for you! great read.

on a side note, that picture of Joe is what inspired me to tackle Nadia's Nine this past spring.

That first pitch is a bear and the top-out up on the second looks insane and then it turns out to be moderate! You just have to love Red Rock!


cowpoke


Oct 28, 2005, 1:44 PM
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That first pitch is a bear and the top-out up on the second looks insane and then it turns out to be moderate!

I completely agree. The first pitch is slippery and technical...I was glad Larry led it.

In reply to:
You just have to love Red Rock!

The first time I wrote this up, that was (word-for-word) the first line. Looks like I'll be back at Red Rock this winter (with my wife, who has never been) - totally psyched!!


ambler


Oct 31, 2005, 8:05 AM
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Sounds like fun!

Nadia's Nine was described vaguely in Swain's guidebook, and had a history of being hard to find. ClimbingRedRocks.com seems to have nicely solved that problem.
http://www.climbingredrocks.com/...th/nadia_s_nine.html

 

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