Dons Grovel Report....
or how a would-be sponsored
climber goes down in flames.

A little background on this report. Don is a likable enough fellow and has on occasion had some good ideas. He is big, boistrous, and full of life, with the odd skill of being able to take life, silently and in less than one second... I think he was a trainer for trained killers in the Military. Anyway, we, that would be me, outfitted him for what sounded like a great photo op, a good adventure, and some gear testing. Their plan was to do a bunch of walls, get tons of great pics, and give me some feedback on the gear I was going to supply. Sounds reasonable and this was a good opportunity to test some new designs on our Double Whammy portaledge and some Haul Bags. A custom ledge was made and along with a few haul bags and other items I sent the team out on their way to do us proud. Read along to see what happened to these grand plans. Slightly edited for content and clarity.Russ Walling
Ps: hey me sometime huh? Gratsi!

Subj:  grovel report
Date:  Sun, Feb 11, 1996 3:12 PM PST
From:  asurf19@<<snip>>.com
X-From: asurf19@<<snip>>.com (Don)

Dear Russ,

I hope business is going well.  When I was at the ski demo for the Trade
Show I saw a girl with a Fish snowboard bag.  I yelled to her,"hey, Fish
rules", she gave me the thumbs up.

So, I bet you are wondering what happened in the Valley.  

Day 1:  Well, Mark and I arrived in the Valley to fantastic blue skies.  
We went to the meadow and saw a team on the Zodiac, they looked to be having a 
great time.
After watching them we went to the Mountain Shop to get the weather forecast. In
the time it took to get to the mountain shop it began to rain.  We huddled
in my van for a half an hour waiting for the rain to stop so that we could
just get  into the shop.  Now I would like to clarify the level of rain that
was it was: not a Seattle Drizzle or some Bay fog,  this was rain like I
have seen in the tropics.  Anyway we got the weather report and headed to
the bar,  you can tell we cut to the chase on what we should do after
getting the weather report.  

Day 2:  A friend of mine and his intern arrived to help us hump loads to the
base.  (note:  I think the route they wanted to do was Dantes Inferno. Russ) 
They also got rain and more rain.  We humped some stuff to the end of
the traverse and came down,  all the while getting crushed by the rain.  We
spent the evening in the mountain room bar next to the fire.  This would
become a nightly ritual, since we would get wet during the day and then
could go to the bar to get drunk and dry.  

Day 3: We awoke to semi-cloudy and somewhat dry conditions. We loaded up our
packs with almost all the remaining gear and headed to the base.  We enjoyed
a great day of sun and fun.  This would be that last day of good weather I
would see for the rest of the trip.  We finally got our stuff to the base
and brought up the gear we had stashed at the end of the traverse. 

Day 4:  Rain and ice was everywhere.  I continued the seamgrip ritual.
Head full of fumes and very little cortex thinking.  With most of our stuff
at the base we hung out in my van and wasted the day away until it was time
for our sherpas to bail.  It was so cool that the sole reason that they had
come was to hump our gear to the base.  I hated to see them go.

Day 5: Today it is snowing.  So we go snow boarding at Badger Pass.  Knee
high powder, AWESOME!

Day 6:  Darin (my partner) should be arriving in the early morning.  I am not worried
because it is still raining with snow in the evening hours.  We meet in the
bar.  The night is an early one.

Day 7: It is cold and snowing , thank God we have propane heaters in our
vans.  Darin and I spend 3 hours packing the food and mark spends 4 hours
just on his camera gear.  I asked Mark how may roles of film he plans on
bring up with him and he says 30 rolls of 36.  My mouth drops with

Day 8:  Darin and Mark head up to fix the first few pitches of the route.  I
head to El Cap meadow to find some sun and to finish seamsealing the rain fly. 
I meet Mark and Darin in the parking lot near the fire station.
Darin comes up pissed as hell and Mark is sporting a puffy lip and blood all
over his face.  They start to go at it and I am ready for a war, only to find out
that they staged to the whole thing.  They recounted their story.  The
cracks were full of ice and with that Darin was using his hammer to break off the
ice to be able to get to the holds.  Besides this, there is ice
constantly falling on them,  from the size of peas to soft balls up to a
briefcase.  Well  in the process Mark got hit with a huge block of ice in
the face.  He immediately thought that his teeth were knocked out. After
checking them he found this to be untrue and they proceeded to come down
during a lite snow fall.  The verdict was that we would not be able to do
the route because of ice and the inability to get up the first pitches.   We
decided to do the route called Rainbow to the right of the Lost Arrow.  That
night we warmed at the fire in the bar.  I was starting to feel the weight
of the situation.  The route that we came to do was not safe to climb and
the weather did not look all that promising.  

Day 9: We packed the remainder of the gear in the haul bags and started up
the trail to the base, it was overcast but nice.  By the time we got to the
start of the slabs it was snowing and by the time we got to base it was a
full on storm.  Things were getting ugly fast. Going down in these
conditions was suicide and climbing was insane, so I looked to the wall for
some answers.  There was already knee to thigh high snow and the temp was
falling fast.  I found the most vertical rock I could and drilled some
machine bolt rivets and hung our ledges from them.  The angle of the rock
was such that when you put up the fly the edge of the fly hit the outside
edge of the ledge.  by the time we got in your ledges and the tent poles
deployed  half a foot of snow had falling.  So there we were, 6 inches off
the ground and trapped in our ledges.  

Day 10:  Woke up to a foot and a half of new snow and crushed shoulders.  I
didn't sleep all that well last night, ice fell on the fly all night, it
sounded like people were shooting at us with about 100 sling shots with golf
balls.  To top it off  I was sleeping on the inside and because of the angle
of the rock I was getting crushed by the fin and the wall.  
During a  brief period of no snow I got out of the ledge to survey  our
situation.  I was glad to have put all of our stuff under our ledges, if I
hadn't it would have been buried by  snow and I wouldn't have been able to
find any of it.  We spent the remainder of the day doing nothing and talking
about everything.  Near the end of the day I sank into a deep depression.
Here I am with two of my closest friends and we are sitting 6 inches from
the ground doing nothing.  Darin had spent 7 of his holiday days off to do
this crazy project,  and all we could do was sit in our sleeping bags.  Mark
had invested his time a lot of his money to be here.  I could only say
that I was sorry that I had dragged them up this crazy thing.  And then I
thought of all the people that had given the team gear in hopes of getting
some of there gear in great photos.  All of that was in the past, now we
were waiting for the weather to break so we could get the hell out of there

Day 11:  At night  Darin and I had switched sleeping spots so that I could
get some rest.  During the night avalanches struck us every 10 to 20 min.
If you are not familiar to what it is like to be buried in snow I shall tell
you.  The sound of the snow coming then your head being crushed. you push
the snow and weight to go back to sleep only to have it happen again. So you
sleep get buried push the snow, sleep ,buried, push. Sleep, buried, push,
sleep, buried, push.  So come on down to no-sleep central!

Day 12: We pack up with a sense of urgency and commenced what was the most
stressful portion of this 6 inch climbing journey.  In the 3 days that we
have been up here 2 feet of fresh snow has falling and the trail down is
totally obliterated.  I use the memory of the vegetation and a little luck
to get us to the start of the tall trees. The snow is so deep some times it
is up to my waist.  I wear the Grade 5 haulbag while Mark and Darin drag/ride
theirs down the thick snow.  After 5 hours we make it to the start of the
traverse.  The level of fatigue from our descent has taken its toll and I decide
to leave the haul bags at the traverse.  From here we will take the portaledges and
Grade 5 haulbag down.  This would prove to be a very good decision.  On the
traverse down we are constantly watching our step.  There are quite a few
points on the traverse that put you very close to the edge, one bad move
could send you on a one way ticket to the ground.  We finally make it down to the
ground.  After good a meal and some showers we head to the warmth of our
bags and sleep.  

Day 13: We head up to the base to retrieve our haul bags and the rest of the
climbing gear still at the base of the Lost Arrow.  Mark shuttles 2 loads
from the traverse while Darin and I get the gear.  When Darin and I find the
gear it is buried in 2 feet of snow.  We then do a climb to get the ropes
that had been left at the start of the route.  Later Darin and I meet Mark
at the parking lot.  

Day 14:  Darin leaves the Valley and we soon follow.  Before we leave we
meet with a guy named Chris, who is a Park Ranger in the valley. He is
planning on doing the eco-challange so I give him the low down on some prep
work he can do to get ready. When we left the valley it was raining.

Prolog:  Mark and I have a tentative time of Easter to do a photo shoot of
some gear in action.  (note:  never happened.  In fact, I never really heard from Don again, 
but a rumor says he quit wall climbing and became an exotic dancer.  We got a few snapshots 
over time, and I recently found out he had sold the Double Ledge we loaned him to some 
big wall hopeful.  Not sure where the haul bags went, but I think they too were sold off. 
  Is  it just me, or is that bad form?  Russ)

Gear Report: The Portaledges worked great in the extreme winter conditions
and the porthole at the top of the ledge controlled the vapor relatively
well.  Having white clip in loops on the ledge is great. The colors of the ledge overall
 were pretty nice. I never got cabin fever and the tent pole rules.  We brought a 
Candle Lantern and it made it so nice and warm in the fly.   The Haul Bags shed this 
clear coating on the toboggan like decent.  Thank god for the rivets you sent!!! 

I could go on and on about the gear but I think I will wait until another
time, there is plenty to read at this point.

Thanks a lot for everything

NEWS FLASH! I got a mysterious letter packet a while back with no return was from Don and his sidekick Darren. Inside was a slide sheet with...well let me look right now. Hey, these are some pretty darn good pics! Not sure where they are taken, but it says New Years Day, 1998. Any ideas where these were taken?

Take a peek....