Glass Menagerie History

compiled by Mike Reardon

Aid Attempts: The first pitch was a Brad Shaver, Bob Mitchell, Will Fulton aid project

called Rubber Ducky. Circa 1977, two teams freed Rubber Ducky; Jeep Gaskin with

Don Hunley and Bob Rotert with Randy Mann, and a new name sprouted;

Contemporary Insanity. It was a milestone in its day considering the Glass had only

seen a few routes to push into the 5.11 territory. Rotert recalled freeing this first pitch

shortly after “Hot” Henry Barber freed Cornflake Crack, showing once again how

influential Hot Henry’s ascent was. In 1980, Jeep Gaskin spent a number of days

pushing the route higher via aid until completing it with John Borstelman. The route

inspired many other area aid lines to punch through the North Face.

Free Attempts: In 1991, Jeff Burton, Whitney Heuermann, Keith Robinson, Monty

Regan, Jeep Gaskin and Kris Kline made progress freeing the “White Book” pitch.

Gaskin and Kline put a number of days into freeing the pitch, pulling all of the major

cruxes but never all in one go. Fast forward to 1993, and Kris Kline partnered with some

other talented locals. Arno Ilgner recalls “In 1995, Kris Kline, Pascal Robert and I made

several visits. We’d replaced some old bolts with new ones after getting permission

from the FA party. We were ready to get some air. On the day we did our free team

ascent we were intending to just work the crux pitches so we could come back to do a

complete free ascent. But, it soon changed into a ‘let’s free it today’ effort. Kris did a

phenomenal job of redpointing the third dihedral pitch at 5.12c, and after his success

we decided we could push the rest free. On the fifth roof pitch Pascal got it on his first

effort. An incredible performance! The roof involves intricate sequences on thin moves

going diagonally left through a 10-foot roof. It ended with a very devious featureless

bulge. Kris attempted to follow but couldn’t and I did follow it free. At the time we rated

it 5.12d but Pascal and I climbed it again several weeks later thinking it to be harder.

Consensus is now 13a. After the roof and bulge the “roof” pitch continues with the aid

line trending left. It was pretty smooth so we did a variation going straight up for about

20 feet. So, with the roof pitch below us we only had a few pitches of moderate free

climbing to the top. We had done the first free team ascent of the Menagerie.”

The Controversy: A few weeks prior to the first free ascent, Pascal and Arno placed

two bolts on rappel to protect the final free variation. Several weeks after their free

team ascent, the pair returned to complete the climb again. As they were climbing,

Pascal let in on the displeasure of a few climbers about the bolts that were put in on

rappel. Pascal, who hated confrontation and hated bolt bickering, seemed to think that

he needed to take the bolts out. As Pascal and Arno were completing the route, a party

to the left shouted “If you don’t take those bolts out, I will”. In true Pascal style, he

climbed up past the roof crux to the first bolt above the roof that was previously

placed on rappel. Instead of grabbing a quick draw and clipping his rope in to protect

the 11+ mantel move, he grabbed his wrench, quietly unscrewed the bolt, put it in his

chalk bag, and climbed on. At the second bolt, he did the same.

The Solution: For nearly a decade, the free pitch sat without the two protection bolts,

and almost certainly without a repeated ascent. In the early 2000’s, Harrison Shull

decided to give it a go. Teaming with Biff Farrell, he worked over the roof crux, got

established above the roof on the steep face and found the former location of the

removed first bolt. The face was covered in lichen but the stances were decent so he

continued on. He pushed past the 5.11 sequence to the location of the removed second

bolt, at an easy stance within spitting distance of the anchors. But then something

happened. Harrison recalls; “I just couldn’t get myself to make that nasty, lichen coated

5.11 mantel with all that boltless air under me. I told Biff to work in some rope as I

started down climbing. Cleaning all the lichen on the way up had coated the holds

below with ball bearings and a few moves down a foot blew, and the longest fall of my

climbing career ensued. Before I knew it, I was dangling in the void below Biff’s stance

under the roof and thirty feet out from the wall.” Super excited from the recon mission,

Harrison called Pascal that night to lobby for the replacement of the two removed bolts.

Pascal agreed and took it a step further and offered a gift; the two original bolts that

had once protected the crux pitch. Harrison returned and replaced those two exact

bolts into their original holes where they still stand today. If you are attempting the free

variation, take a moment to imagine this scenario; instead of clipping those key

protection bolts, you grab a wrench, remove them, put them in your chalk bag, and

keep moving.

Heather Phillips