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 only other time I experienced a really excited Bob Kamps was in 1966 when we did the 6th ascent of the South Face of the Column in Yosemite. We were attempting the 5th and first “clean” ascent unaware that we had been preceded a few days prior. I was belaying Bob across a short aid traverse when he noticed that I had momentarily removed my brake hand from the rope. These were the days of body belays - before belaying devices. Excitedly and with obvious anger he berated me for my negligence. The excitement subsided, but the anger lingered as I endured a six pitch lecture on the seriousness of my transgression.
Upon reaching the summit, Bob immediately began collecting wood for a fire. “Hey, Bob, I can get down this thing in my sleep – let’s go.” “No way! We’re bivouacking” was his very adamant reply. I learned two lessons in safe climbing that day.
Rob Knobs you will be missed.