/ NEWS: Big Wall Pioneer Royal Robbins dies aged 82

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UKC News - on 15 Mar 2017
Royal Robbins, 3 kbCalifornian big-walling pioneer Royal Robbins has passed away aged 82, according to reports in the US climbing media. Active during Yosemite's 'Golden Age', Royal was a proponent of 'clean climbing'; using the natural features of rock for protection, instead of placing bolts or pitons.Read more
Doug on 15 Mar 2017
In reply to UKC News:

See https://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?n=660176 - & especially the links from there to threads on Supertopo
John2 - on 15 Mar 2017
In reply to UKC News:

One of the great pioneers. I'm not sure it's completely true to say that he was a proponent of 'clean climbing' - the Salathé Wall, for instance, was originally climbed with aid.
12
Lemony - on 15 Mar 2017
In reply to John2:
> the Salathé Wall, for instance, was originally climbed with **fixed** aid.

At a time when that was the overwhelmingly dominant ethic, the fact that dominance has largely ended was in no small part down to Robbins' advocacy.
Post edited at 12:47
John2 - on 15 Mar 2017
In reply to Lemony:

Definitely so, it just seems slightly unfortunately phrased for a man with such a great reputation as an aid climber.
3
JJ Krammerhead III - on 15 Mar 2017
In reply to UKC News:

RIP Royal Robbins. We watched a documentary (on netflix I think) on Yosemite climbing 'valley uprising' Well worth a watch for anyone interested in that era in particular. Eye popping stuff throughout!
Ian Parsons - on 15 Mar 2017
In reply to John2:

> I'm not sure it's completely true to say that he was a proponent of 'clean climbing' - the Salathé Wall, for instance, was originally climbed with aid. >

I know that when we talk about climbing something "clean" we tend to mean free, but in fact "clean" climbing and "free" climbing are not the same thing in this US/Yosemite context - wherein clean climbing refers to the practice of ascending a route, free or aid, without use of a hammer; hence the term "clean aid", and the use of C1, C2, C3 etc to grade it. In an area where pitons had been pretty much the standard and ubiquitous gear, this was quite a departure - and one which Robbins was prominent in promoting.
John2 - on 15 Mar 2017
In reply to Ian Parsons:

OK, I stand corrected.
rgold - on 15 Mar 2017
In reply to UKC News:

After a visit to the UK in 1965 or 1966, Robbins brought back the idea of nuts for protection to the US, where the concept was utterly foreign. He published an article entitled "Nuts to You" in Summit Magazine around 1967. You sent $15 to Joe Brown's store and got back a package of nuts and tape, and that's how the clean climbing (meaning pitonless climbing) started in the US, where chromemolly pitons were already starting to damage cracks nationwide. (This was ironic, because the idea behind chromemolly was that pitons could be removed and reused, so that climbs would be left in their "pristine" condition for subsequent ascents, rather than becoming clip-ups as had happened in Europe with soft-iron pitons.)

Robbins certainly started and championed the clean climbing movement in the US, but it probably would not have gone far if Chouinard, risking his piton business, hadn't jumped on the bandwagon of environmental protection, developed a full range of nuts suitable for Yosemite cracks, and then used an essay by Doug Robinson in the popular Chouinard catalog to promote climbing without pitons. The movement progressed enormously when John Stannard in the East and Steve Wunsch in Colorado simply put their pitons away one day and started doing standard-breaking climbs with just nuts.

But the introduction of clean climbing to the US was only one of Robbins' achievements. He advanced both free-climbing and big-wall climbing standards and, perhaps more than anyone else at the time, advocated that the style of the ascent mattered as much, if not more, than the outcome. This focus on style and "fair means" is starting look rather quaint if not entirely anachonistic, and something heroic in American climbing now follows Robbins to his final resting place.
Rick Graham on 15 Mar 2017
In reply to John2:

> Definitely so, it just seems slightly unfortunately phrased for a man with such a great reputation as an aid climber.

Lets not forget he was good on aid but also free climbing and style.

Far less bolts on the Salathe than the Nose and climbed in better style.
He also did the first continuous ascent of the Nose.

His exploits also extended to hard routes in the French Alps which left the locals gobsmacked.
I think he was also prominent on US alpine routes.
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keith-ratcliffe on 15 Mar 2017
In reply to UKC News:
Of the original foursome - Robbins, Chouinard, Pratt & Frost who did Salathe & North America Walls - Chouinard & Frost are still very alive.
Post edited at 20:11
rgold - on 15 Mar 2017
In reply to UKC News:

Well, he made the NY Times, though the obit leaves quite a lot to be desired.

https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/03/15/us/ap-us-obit-royal-robbins-.html?_r=1

Hardonicus - on 16 Mar 2017
In reply to Rick Graham:

I never realised until now he was involved in the first ascent of the American Direct.
muppetfilter - on 16 Mar 2017
Hardonicus - on 16 Mar 2017
muppetfilter - on 16 Mar 2017
In reply to Hardonicus:

To not detract from a thread about a true climbing legend i believe they are two seperate routes. Hemming and Royal climbing the American Direct and Harlin and Royal climbing the direct route on the west face.
rgold - on 16 Mar 2017
In reply to UKC News:

Here's a fairly complete list of Robbins' notable Yosemite climbs:

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=2956648&msg=2957252#msg2957252

Hardonicus - on 16 Mar 2017
In reply to muppetfilter:

Got it!
theterrorwheel - on 16 Mar 2017
In reply to UKC News:

Doesn't Royal Robbins & Ben Moon look similar!
rgold - on 16 Mar 2017
In reply to UKC News:

There's an interesting video interview with Robbins conducted in 2007 by his local newspaper, the Modesto Bee, where it is mentioned for the first time I know of that Robbins died of a rare brain condition, progressive supranuclear palsy. The video is contained in the Bee's obituary for him.

http://www.modbee.com/news/article138622228.html

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Sean Kelly - on 17 Mar 2017
In reply to UKC News:

His ascents were ground-braking at the time. Big walls just did not get any traffic until Robbins and friends started pioneering their way up the huge walls of Yosemite, and then transferred these skills to the Alps. Every so often someone comes along and makes a leap into the unknown and climbing moves up another notch. I can still recall seeing some of these photos(see link) when they first appeared in mountain magazine, Issue 4 or 5 I think!
Many are called a legend but Royal Robbins really deserved that accolade. I can also remember him climbing Dream at Gogarth in the early 70's and he left some tape slings behind at the belay ledge. At such a young age (us) he seemed one of the gods. Perhaps he was!
rgold - on 18 Mar 2017
In reply to UKC News:

Here, from Alpinist, is what I think will prove to be the definitive obituary.

http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web17w/newswire-royal-robbins-obituary

Christheclimber on 18 Mar 2017
In reply to rgold:
> Here, from Alpinist, is what I think will prove to be the definitive obituary.http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web17w/newswire-royal-robbins-obituary

Thanks for the link, an excellent article/obituary. A true legend. "That fu**ing Robbins, no matter what you do he's always one step ahead."
Post edited at 12:09
Colin Wells - on 25 Apr 2017
In reply to UKC News:

In case anyone hasn't seen it, BBC News has a nice little video tribute to RR uploaded now:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-39697638

- some classic pithy Yvonne Chouinard quotes in there - good to see age doesn't seem to be changing him much!

(Apologies if someone has already posted this somewhere else already - I don't get out much, interwebbly speaking)

Col
johncook - on 25 Apr 2017
In reply to John2:

I thought he became a proponent of clean/hammerless climbing after a trip to the UK in the mid/late 60's where he discovered the versatility of 'nuts'.
jon on 25 Apr 2017
In reply to Colin Wells:

Excellent, thank you. Clearly Chouinard is now the man!
Gordon Stainforth - on 25 Apr 2017
In reply to UKC News:

What a lovely tribute by Chouinard.

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