The Crack Workshop - An SCMA Original
by SCMA Member
This article was inspired by
questions from Steve Cole and Michael Gordon. Gerry's fun stories and
remembrance helped too. But most of all, this article was written for the
great NTC class of 2000 graduates, particularly Greg Tuzinski, Lori
McKenzie, Ellen Nordberg, Sam Pierson, Laurie Carr, Liz Morelli, Shauna
Hermes, Carrie Thau, and David Heenan. I hope to see all of you
climbing with the club, and for you I'm recounting an important means for
developing your strength and technique, homegrown here by the SCMA.
It seems I have been asked
over and over about the SCMA Crack Climbing Workshop-the climbs, the
workshop, and the people who pioneered it as a means to get better at
crack climbing. The workshop was the brainchild of longtime RCS/SCMA
members Jim Erb and Theresa Rutherford. In the early 80ís they worked
hard on developing their crack climbing skills by methodically ascending
series of harder and harder cracks in Joshua Tree. Only the best
cracks were selected for their training. The climbs were divided into four
levels, based not only on rating but also level of commitment, length and
protection possibilities. Jim and Theresa's hunch, that ordinary climbers
could get much better by progressing through more and more difficult
ascents, proved correct. First by toproping, then preplacing pro, and
later cleanly leading the climbs, the workshop graduated 13 climbers and
gave our club its first group of competent leaders at the 5 11 level.
Pat Orris, Jim Mathews, Ben Chapman, and Tom Brogan are among those still
with our club.
These climbers credit Jim
and Theresa with showing them how to get better through discipline, hard
work and the use of progression from toprope to red point. The original
crack workshop list included 48 climbs rated 5.9 to 5.l0d in four
difficulty groups. Having completed the original list, Tom Brogan in
1990 added levels 5 and 6, with 24 climbs up to the 5.11d. Tom's
extensive article dealing with the levels 5 and 6 can be found in Cliff
Notes #40. Additional information can be found in Jim Erb's articles in
the Mugelnoos (Cliff Notes predecessor) #651, 655, 656, 659, 660, 661, and
673. Pat Orris's excellent article on mental and physical
preparation can be found in Mugelnoos #660.
The crack list proved
extremely popular. I know of several club members, who spent years
trying to bag it. It is as valid (and hard) today as it was then.
The trick, discovered by Jim early into the workshop, is that only when
one masters a level cleanly would he/she be allowed to progress to
the next. You were allowed to toprope, preplace protection, and work
a given line, but only after you placed protection on lead and completed
all the climbs without flailing would you go to the next. Sticking
with this rigid structure assured that skills would keep improving. The
1986 workshop was, to this day, one of the most exciting and innovative
ways for our members to progress in climbing. The Commitment was huge
every weekend for several months-and the climbing was unrelenting, but
those who graduated are yet even today some of the best in the club.
By the way, the workshop was
never repeated in its original form, most likely due to its extreme
commitment. I have always felt that the original list should be expanded
downward as well. There are many who may want the structure of
progressively difficult crack climbs, but would appreciate starting at a
more relaxed level. By this I don't want to dilute Jim and Theresa's
philosophy-that serious climbing starts at 5.9. But there are those
who need to acquire crack climbing skills to get to that level first. My
intent here is not to try to improve on the original list, but to
compliment it with some classic J Tree crack climbs at 5.7 and 5.8. I used
several sources for these. I have led or followed all of them. I also
climbed 38 of the 48 original climbs (Miguel Carmona-thanks for the
memories), Roger Linfieldís written evaluations were great, and Randy
Vogel's star ratings helped too. I realize that this Selection is
NOT definitive-there are many great climbs out there-but after you
complete this list, I'll bet you'll agree that these are some of the best
easy crack climbs at J Tree.
So here you have it-the 1986
original list Tom Broganís additions, and my 32 prep climbs.
Combined, they are arguably 104 of the BEST J Tree cracks, ranging
from 5.7 to 5.11d. Do you want to know what it took to go from easy fifth
to 5.11? Would you like to know more about the workshop method?
Ask one of the graduates still with our club. It could change your
climbing life forever.
(page numbers in Randy
Vogelís Climber's Guide to Joshua Tree, 1992).
32 Prep Climbs
PREP CLIMBS A (5.7) Bighorn Hand Crack p. 60, Smooth as Silk p.
95, Double Dog Leg p.98, Classic Corner p. 109, Bush Crack p. 120, White
Lighting p.125, Scrumdillishus p. 131, Frosty Cone p. 131, Mr. Misty Kiss
p.131, Double Cross p. 189, Nereltne p. 223, Lifeís a Bitch and Then You
Marry One p. 279, Mental Physics p.298, Wisest Crack p. 379, Dolphin
p.463, Crackup p. 482, Gargoyle p.483.
PREP CLIMBS B (5.8)
Right Sawdust Crack p.32, Baby Roof p.53, Dinky Doinks p.97, Sail Away
p.157, The Flake p.187, Dog Leg p.189, Hands Off p.197, Tennis Shoe Crack
p.210, Right Peyote Crack p.224, Small World p.394, Music Box p.473, Where
2 Deserts Meet p.477, Crank Queenie p.529, Taken for Granite p.550, At
Your Pleasure p.553.
The Original List
LEVEL 1 (5.8-.9) Cake Walk p. 96, Dummy's Delight p. 178,
Looney Toons p. 223, Middle Peyote Crack p. 224, Pope's Crack p. 245, Room
to Shroom p. 278, Touch and Go p. 241, Nurn's Romp p. 384, Gem p. 445, ,
Colorado Crack p. 445, Continuum p. 459, Invisibility Lessons p. 459.
LEVEL 2 (5.9-.10c)
Right Baskerville Crack p. 35, Tossed Green p. 36, Aftermath p. 52, Left
Mel Crack p. 90, Right Mel Crack p. 90, Sphincter Quits p. 154, North
Overhang p. 187, Orphan p. 189, Watanobe Wall p. 208, Effigy Too (TR) p.
239, Spiderman (TR) p. 445, Bird of Fire p. 463.
LEVEL 3 (5.9-10b)
Tinker Toys p. 97, Friendly Hands p. 111, Tax Man p. 130, Illusion Dweller
p. 169, Lower Ski Track p. 183, Super Roof p. 210, A Woman's Work is Never
Done p. 214, Bruiser (TR) p. 214, Roller Ball p. 219, Halfway to Paradise
(TR) p. 239, Dangling Wo Li Master p. 316, Exorcist p. 384.
LEVEL 4 (5.10b-.10d)
Foreign Legion p. 52, The Importance of Being Ernest p. 127, What's It To
You (TR) p. 154, Clean and Jerk (TR) p. 155, Fisticuffs p. 1 70, Bearded
Cabbage p. 188, O'Kelly's Crack p. 229, Book of Changes p. 316, Caught
Inside on a Big Set p. 316, Morning Thunder p. 316, Perpetual Motion p.
414, Rubicon p. 462.
LEVEL 5 (5.10c-.11c) Butterfly Crack .p 32, Psychokenesis p.
63, The Lemon Slicer p 70, Papaya Creek .p 124, Pat Adams Dihedral p. 131,
Coarse and Buggy p. 136, Left Ski Track p. 183, Jumping Jack Crack p. 212,
Hot Rocks p. 223, Swept Away p. 245, Heart of Darkness p. 373, Grit Root
LEVEL 6 (5.11a-.11d)
Erotic City p. 41, Hyperion p. 73, Scary Monsters p.104, Right Banana
Crack p. 124, Where Eagles Dare p. 168, Hidden Arch p. 178, Spider Line p.
188, Wangerbanger p. 229, More Monkey than Funky p. 257, Zen and the art
of Placement p. 406, Human Sacrifice p. 413, The Woodshed p. 461.
© Copyright, 2001
Southern California Mountaineers Association. All Rights Reserved.