Don Lauria

DOLT by Don Lauria

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DOLT by Don Lauria

Over six years a friendship had developed between Dolt and me. A friendship whose depth became apparent through tragedy and perhaps was never apparent to Dolt, Dolt may never have believed that he was loved by anyone.

I first met William Andrew Feuerer in Yosemite's Camp 4 the day in 1966 that he began touting his latest innovation, the nylon hammer holster. He accosted me after determining that I owned part of a mountain shop and I might be interested in selling his holster. In the months that followed, Dolt began to frequent our shop, always bringing in his latest ideas for discussion. He became a fixture. He made daily phone calls and nightly visits. He was always anxious to determine the needs of the contemporary climber. Did we think nuts were going to catch on in the United States? Should he make some? Was Chouinard's cliff hanger practical? Should he make a better one? He was constantly questioning, questioning.

From 1967 through 1969, Bill created an industrial dynasty on paper - Doltco, The Dolt Companies, Bill Dolt, and TDH (The Dolt Hut) Manufacturing company. He did it with long hours, 500 square feet of metal shop, a post office box, and a penchant for advertising. He employed a workforce of one, Bill "Dolt" Feuerer and work he did.

Act-III My Life in Spire Repair Third Ascent of the Leaning Tower – with Layton Kor

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Act-III My Life in Spire Repair

Third Ascent of the Leaning Tower – with Layton Kor

Layton Kor was probably the largest bundle of energy to ever climb a rock. Everyone is probably aware of his height – I wonder how many know how tightly wound he was. This guy was intense. Don’t get me wrong. His behavior off the rock was not abnormal – except when he was behind the wheel of his automobile.

It was early 1965. I was in my tenth year as an aerodynamic engineer at North American Aviation in El Segundo. My climbing experience was initiated in 1961 and was limited to Stoney Point, Tahquitz Rock, and three trips to Yosemite. My first and only Yosemite climb in 1962 was Higher Cathedral Spire. I returned to the Valley in 1963 for one weekend to climb the Higher Spire again. In 1964, another Higher Spire ascent with Swan Slab and Patio PInnacle thrown in. That’s it – my entire Yosemite experience over a three year period amounted to five short ascents. Then I met Layton Kor and the curtain went up on Act-III of My Life in Spire Repair.

One of Many Harding Remembrances

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One of Many Harding Remembrances

Harding was in the Mountain Room late one evening, as was his custom, and he was in his usual state of inebriation. When the Room closed he and a few friends staggered out and moved sinuously toward Camp 4.

The group broke up as they headed for their respective tents. Harding, being considerably more drunk than the others, was staggering in the general direction of his tent, but lost his balance, stumbled, and crashed headlong onto a small two-man tent. He fell across it and totally collapsed it as the occupants within began screaming and swearing. The male half of the occupancy came scrambling and cursing out of the tent, “You drunken son-of-a-bitch, what the f**k are you doing? I’m going to kill you, you bastard!”

Harding, taken somewhat aback, blinked, stumbled a little bit backward, stood straight up, sucked in a chest full of air, and replied, “You can’t kill me, you as#@&%e, I’m famous!”

Needless to say, he lived through it.

An Art Gran Story

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An Art Gran Story

Yes, Art Gran took his share of kidding about his famous descriptions of “hard” moves on his latest climbs. Always with animation – and total re-enactment , sans rock.

I first met Art at Stoney Point in Southern California - a bright Sunday afternoon with a large Sierra Club contingent in attendance. I was there with Jack Hansen (the “original Vulgarian”) and Yvon Chouinard.

We were bouldering at Boulder #2 and Gran and I had just climbed a steep route on the south side. We dropped the rope to Yvon and he tied in. For whatever reason (it was a very nice day), Yvon was wearing a full length heavy wool overcoat – a thrift store bargain. It was buttoned closed from bottom to top. When he signaled that he was ready to climb, Gran whispered to me, “Grab the rope. Let’s pull him up.” So, the second Yvon yelled, “Climbing”, the two of us hauled. In a matter of seconds Chouinard was on top gasping for breath and laughing nervously. He literally had not used any of his extremities in the ascent. His overcoat had spared his body from abrasion, but in the dynamic contact with the sandstone the coat had lost all of its buttons.

King’s Highway

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King’s Highway

We didn’t show up on the summit by mid-afternoon. We had not returned to Bishop by late evening. We were still not back by the following morning. Debbie wondered whether she should notify the Sheriffs Department. No. Come to think of it, the Sheriffs were out of the question, I had told her many times that if I ever went missing in the Sierra the first place for her to go was Wilson’s Eastside Sports. Give them the details. Let them decide what to do next. I didn’t want the Inyo Search and Rescue Team out looking for me prematurely. I’d never live it down.

Where did they go? When did they leave? What route were they contemplating? How were they equipped? All these questions were asked within seconds of Debbie’s disclosure to the crew at Wilson’s.

The answer she gave: They left Bishop at 11:00 AM to do the north buttress of Mount Goode and …. She was immediately interrupted. No wonder they didn’t get back. The Wilson people were adamant. There’s no way they could do the north buttress of Goode if they left Bishop at 11:00 AM. They’re lucky if they even got on the route by 1:00 PM! Those guys have as much experience in the mountains as anybody around here. They are fine. They probably bivouacked on the summit. Go ahead, head up the trail. You’ll probably meet them coming down.

It was 10:30 in the morning of July 12, 1985, when Dave King phoned me to ask if I was up for the north buttress of Goode.

“Hell yes! When?”

“ Now!”

“ Now?”

Rob Knobs

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Rob Knobs

I was at the Stoney Point gathering on March 10th, 2005 and was nudged by TM into saying a few words about Bob Kamps. I mentioned that I had met him when I began climbing in 1961. He was pointed out to me by the three high school seniors that had become my climbing buddies (Dennis Hennek, Ken Boche, and Russ McLean). They referred to him as “that old guy”. I also referred to him that way until, years later, he mentioned his age to me and I found that he was only one year my senior.

I bouldered with Bob throughout the 60s and early 70s at Stoney and spent one summer in the Needles of South Dakota with him, Bonnie, Mark & Beverly Powell, and Dave Rearick. Bob, Mark, Dave, and I did a first ascent of the Phallus, where I – being the least experienced - was the last man up and – being the least experienced - was chosen to be the backup to a questionable rappel bolt … and thus – being the least experienced – was the last man down sans backup (the old “if it holds the three of us, it’ll hold you” story).

More memorable that summer of ’65 in the Needles was Bob’s excitement about our “5 pinnacle day”. The weather had been intermittently wet and Bob had problems getting anyone to spend long days out on the rocks. Late one day in August we scurried back to camp with Bob waving and exclaiming to Bonnie, “We did 5 pinnacles today … 5 pinnacles. Do you believe it? A five pinnacle day!” Only later that evening around the campfire with friends and a few bottles of wine did the excitement wane.

The Original Vulgarian John Hansen 1937-2005

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The Original Vulgarian
John Hansen
1937-2005

By Don Lauria

I met John Hansen in the fall of 1961. We were both working as engineers at North American Aviation in El Segundo, California. I had just returned from vacation and my first excursion to the summit of a Sierra peak. The traditional routine was to pass around any photos from one’s trip for all to see. One of my colleagues, upon returning my box of slides, mentioned he knew a guy in the Computer Department who was an avid mountaineer and asked if he could show the slides to him. I said okay and a little later he returned with John Hansen.

Hansen was not too tall, maybe 5’ 9”, but very wide, very fit, built like an ape. He had a New York accent, a cauliflower ear, a mischievous laugh, and a great gift of gab. He immediately needed to know of my entire personal mountaineering history (which at that moment involved a single non-technical Sierra peak). He asked if I was interested in learning to climb. I asked if he meant with ropes and stuff. He answered that, of course, ropes, pitons, ice axes, crampons - all that stuff! I replied that he must be kidding – I was definitely not interested. He insisted I go with him to Stoney Point and do some bouldering. Bouldering? I politely said no. He insisted. I said no again. He questioned my sense of adventure and suggested the coming weekend would be ideal for my introduction to rock climbing. For more than 15 minutes he parried my refusals. His persistence won out. That weekend would change my life.

The Tower by Ken McNutt May 1970

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The Tower by Ken McNutt
May 1970

The hanging, hissing lantern cast gigantic shadows as four men racked hardware, recoiled new Perlon, and gulped down mouthfuls of cereal, milk, and blueberry pie at 4 AM in a cold, quiet Yosemite Camp 12. We had just arrived from L.A. at midnight and were only half awake after about three hours of fitful sleep. It was two days before Easter and snow on the Valley rim made sure down jackets and foot sacks were packed first in the haul bags, for two bivouacs were possible. All gear was loaded into the VW bus and the too brief ride to the Bridalveil Falls parking lot finally convinced me that apparently nothing was going to save me from my robot madness and I was indeed committed to a "no retreat" climb on what Roper’s red book called, "the most spectacular overhanging wall in the world," THE LEANING TOWER.

Breathing Lessons

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Breathing Lessons

The sound is familiar and startling like a diving swallow, but louder, maybe a falling rock. I have heard the sound many times, the sound of the diving swallow, the violet-green swallow, those that nest on El Cap. They spend their lives diving, making that sound, the whirring that their stubby wings make as they careen around invisible sky corners in pursuit of prey. But the sound of a falling rock is more ominous and a frightening sound. My first impulse is to duck, arms over the head, then inevitably to look up–-nothing–-then straight out from our perch on El Cap Tower, 1500 vertical feet above El Capitan’s base, I see them—two human bodies plummeting toward the valley floor. My breathing stopped.

Moments earlier on this cool evening in the spring of 1993, Allan and I had comfortably bivouacked half way up El Cap’s southwest buttress in Yosemite Valley. Why were we here? That thought had begun to dominate the somnolent reverie brought on by the extreme heat of this very long day and the inert boredom of belaying.

To the casual observer, El Cap Tower is barely visible on the face of El Capitan—the awesome granite presence that greets visitors to Califor¬nia’s most famous national park. El Cap Tower is merely a ledge named by the first climbers to reach it back in the fifties. To Allan and me, the Tower is commodious. Ledges of this size are rare on this three-thousand foot high, one-mile long cliff. To the unaccustomed, however, just its location might add one more insanity to the idea of being here. Why were we here?

How Peaks Get Named – Don’t Ask

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How Peaks Get Named – Don’t Ask


If you know where to look, and if you really care, what was to be named BHOS Dome is visible from the Mirror Lake parking area (circa 1971). In the spring of 1971, Dennis Hennek, TM Herbert, Doug Scott, and I did the first ascent of the south face – the Mugwump Wall as Scott labeled it.

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