Hyperbola in 1977

by Grover Cable

The way I remember it, Dave Black and I were the first to free climb the entire route at

the end of July 1977. It was a typical hot, muggy, thundershower-interrupted

Transylvania County summer afternoon when Dave, his fiance, Kathy, and I arrived at

the parking turnout for the Nose. As usual, we got there mid-afternoon and had to wait

out a rain shower or two. I think we intended to do Odyssey but ended up on

Hyperbola. The tribe of copperhead snakes that used to sun themselves all over the

slab below the starting ledge had mysteriously disappeared after the unusually cold

winter of ‘76/’77. Dave wore an ancient pair of Kronhoffer “climbing shoes” (a cross

between blue Royal Robbins boots,Chuck Taylor high tops, and gray Hush Puppies) and

I wore a cruel pair of EBs. We farted around on the first pitch, swapping leads. Dave

made it on his last try to surmount the left-leaning flake. Suddenly we were committed

to go to the top despite the lateness of the afternoon and Kathy doomed to waiting

alone for us in the woods or at the car. “Drastic Dave” was (and is) a superb climber.

Dave was very athletic, intelligent, stubborn. He was both gifted and handicapped by

incredible will. After pitch one, he spent an hour wandering around the featureless

section at the start of the second pitch, working up and right (not the standard route

nowadays). He was on the edge of falling every second for 30 minutes. As I understand

it, days later, Bob Rotert took the route more logically straight up from the top of the

first pitch and placed a bolt several feet above belay. It was justifiable as the first part

of the second pitch is intimidatingly featureless; a long fall both likely and unhealthy.

Drastic Dave didn’t place any bolts, or cams, in fact he wouldn’t have brought one

anyway: he religiously stuck to his 1960s rack of hexes and a few wired stoppers; fine

for Tahquitz, useless for most of the Glass. Thank god he didn’t place protection out

right in the middle of nowhere so that I would have had to go that way to retrieve it. I

went straight up. It was nearly dark when I arrived at the upper ledge with Dave

belaying me up. We 3rd classed to the top and coiled our ropes in the dark. We yelled

down to Kathy that we were at the top and on our way down and wouldn’t take long.

We were on some trail for about 100 feet then lost it for the rest of the night. The next

four hours involved an epic bushwhack off the top of the Glass in pitch black darkness,

crashing through cat briers, rhododendron hells, falling off boulders, and nearly

stepping off into the black void once or twice. We stumbled out of the Stephen King

National Forest and onto the dirt road not far from the fish hatchery around 3 AM. All

along we thought we were descending the north side somehow. Some saint gave us a

ride back to our cars to meet a frantic Kathy around 4 AM. No doubt Bob Rotert and

Tom Kimbrall’s second ascent several days later was

done in better style.

Heather Phillips