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The History of the Oak Creek Overlook
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Aug 12, 2009
I am always thrilled to climb at the Overlook. I have read about the history of the Forks, but I have never read much about the history of the Overlook.

What is the history of the Overlook? Who first climbed there? What year was it begun? How many years before all the routes were put up? Was there a lot of cleaning? What year was climbing banned beyond Red Wagon? Why was it banned? Were there top rope rehearsals for the more difficult climbs?

Paul D. or Larry C. could you fill us in?
Scott M. McNamara
From Tucson, Arizona
Joined Aug 15, 2006
35 points
Aug 12, 2009
We used to have a good time with 3 routes like 5.8-.9 near the Monkey's Cage right after work and had loads of fun teasing the tourists (Are those special shoes? Will you use a rope? Who is going to die). My first real lead was mama bear too right around the corner. Let's hear the stories Larry C, Paul D, what about Scott B (where are ya??) T.T. and LB!
From Flag
Joined Feb 5, 2007
25 points
Aug 14, 2009
Ahh, the Overlook, obviously one of my favorite crags.

Unfortunately, unless we can get Baxter to chime in (I know you're lurking sometimes Scotty!) most of the area's beginning history was lost when "The Book" went missing sometime around the demise of the Alpineer. Similar to the under the counter guide at the Smut Hut (sorry Dave, I know you hate that name), it contained hand written and typed sheets of the early first ascents.

Unlike the area is now, originally the place was a real thrash to get any where if you were trying to bushwhack to get there. To get a flavor for what it used to be like walk over to the Trinities and then keep going west. There are a lot of shorter but good climbs over there and you'll quickly understand the name Haltagota. For my money, the Prow is the best line in that region, classic 5.9 finger crack. While I don't know for sure, I imagine it's a Baxter FA. FWIW, generally no one ever rapped in, you walked with possibly the exception of the Monkey Cages for those late after work/school, quick pitches. Wish I could remember the names of the climbs in that area. As Steve said, there were 3 cherry lines right together. A number of other decent climbs were spread out to the west but the concentration was not as good as the main areas. Dingleberry for a desperate but fierce POS tips climb. Chicken Wings for a "wow, that's a great climb considering what the cliff looks like, The Bears and a couple of other short hard finger tip things.

I don't know who first climbed here or what the first recorded route was but there were three somewhat distinct waves that probably captured 95% or more of the FA. I suppose there might have been even a 0th class of climbers that would have been pre-Baxter but without "The Book" or Scott's or Larry's input that history might be lost.

I suspect there are still some firsts to be had(without iron) if you're willing to climb in the fashion of Sin Ropa. Of course, when you do the obscure things there, you never really know if it's a first. Last time I climbed there I recall seeing a number of possible lines I'd never noticed before. Squeezing them in fur sure.

First Wave: The obvious suspects, Scott Baxter, Lee Dexter, Karl Karlstrom, and Tom Taber were the main drivers with help from others like Mike Kuntzelman and darn I can't remember right now...) And thanks to Mark Hawthorne's reminder, Geoff Parker was very active at the Overlook in bagging a lot of these early classics. Obviously the cream of the obvious routes were picked off by these guys, and never forget, they knew how to climb. Try the classics with Hexes and Kronhoffers (or worse) if you want to find out what old school 5.10 is all about.

Trinities, Isaiah, Mint Jam, Jelly Roll, Mourning's Mourning, Szygy, Alley Oop, Orange Out (and the direct), CrackN-Up, Devil's Deed etc... were picked off by the first wave.

Second Wave: Ross Hardwick, Larry Coats, Dugald Bremner, Jim Haisley, John Fleming, Gordy Douglas, Kim Spence, et moi picked off a lot of the other more obvious classics as well as a bunch of fill in lines: Mint Julip, Sparky the Fire Dog, Answered Prayers, Amputation, Hidden Hollow, Sin Tisa, Gambit, PegLegs, Burger King, Fresh Air, Hard Rain, Morning After, Burger King, Dugald's Route, MicroTome, Cakewalk, etc... Also in this second wave were a number of other locals and the occasional Phoenician who put up routes, did 2nds, etc... but probably were not quite as active as the above. These included (and if I forget a name, oh well, I'm getting old and hopefully Larry, Scott, Tim and Jim and help fill in details) Randy Mettler (certainly on some FAs), Stan Mish (certainly on at least one FAs), Glenn Rink (LB), Jim Waugh and John Ficker.

Rosco (Ross Hardwick) was the bridge between the 1st and 2nd generations. A very talented climber, Ross was a lot of fun to hang with and a solid partner but often unassuming. He once admitted to me, years after the fact, that he'd once third classed Isaih. Ross is a bigger guy so that makes the thin hand section that much more amazing. I don't think third classing every really was much of game at the Overlook. The only solos of signifigance of which I'm aware are Ross's time up Isaih, and my one time up the Prow both of which are in the 9+ range. I did put up Pensativa free solo and found it to be a good climb but I suspect it may have never had a second ascent as it looks somewhat bushy. In that case it was early season and I was looking for easy things to do to get my head back in shape.

Of course the area was seeing use by other locals who were repeating routes and I have no doubt that in some cases, first ascents were claimed that could well have been done previously and in a few cases of local "snoberry", passing climbers claimed firsts that were not recognized by locals because of the style. Notably Dingleberry which was hung all over and possibly yarded on by a visiting Calif climber (at least so the Alpineer gang was told by the guy's belayer). This was a real short but difficult 3 move wonder that we went out and flashed the next day (it was nowhere near as hard as we'd been told but it is a finger sized problem) and in a true pissing contest renamed it to Dingleberry. At the time (and I suspect it still holds true) FAs were not claimed and named until the route was at least Red Pointed in no hang style.

A similar story can be said for Gambit which was led using chalk at a time Flag was chalkless. One of the locals (not me this time) went out and led it and renamed it Gambit and I think it's been known by that ever since. In retrospect, that was probably pushing it a bit too much :-) but young climbers can be quite arrogant, hey now ?

It should come as no surprise that the prevailing ethic here was ground up, no hangs, no chalk, no iron, etc... However, it was considered acceptable form to siege a climb in a group party. I was a master at egging the boys on to get just "one more" higher nut in before they flamed out and lowered off, leaving me gear up to the crux. Amazing how much easier things are when you don't have to hang around and put stuff in. Of course, such snaking bit me in the ass as Tim Coats came of age climbing with Larry, Jim and me. The snaking method of leading culminated in his grabbing the FA of Paradise Lost at the Forks when I lowered off after having done the crux with a hang. The climb was too elegant to bag the first in such a manner and I was sure Tim wouldn't be able to do it so I lowered. Har har, the lad scampered up and over the bulge to school the snake and gain a well deserved first.

All of that said, I don't recall there being many firsts done in siege style at the Overlook. The climbs are generally too short and not that desperate to require such "skilled" tactics.

Two names from this second wave need special mention. Of course it comes as no surprise that one is Steve Grossman. Steve put up a couple of classics like Magumba's Corner but the real contribution was his lead of things like Sneak Preview that really defined Zen and the Art of Leading. I've climbed with SG for years (since being high school debate partners) and while I've seen him do some very amazing leads, Sneak Preview and his TR of the last pitch of the Dong where two leads that at the time I professed would not go free, or in the case of Sneak, was not leadable. I could see it on a TR but it looked gearless. I was wrong. The Dong is about the only route I've ever said is just not free climable. I followed Larry's crafty aid lead so I guess being in stirrups (we didn't have jumars with us) tainted my view but Steve was yelling at me to get out of the stirrups and free climb it. At the top of the pitch I yelled down it would never go free, it was just too blank and steep. Steve proceeded to scamper up it without a fall (he might have popped off it once) and at the top of the pitch kindly helped me to pull my head out of my arse and then extract my foot from my mouth.

Another notable local was Mark Force. A tall, thin and talented face climber, Mark grabbed the FA of Cakewalk (previously known as Coffin Corner) which while being only a two or three move wonder, contains some excellent and difficult classic basalt stemming and other weirdness. The fact that this was done pre Fire rubber makes it all that more impressive. Most of us had worked this at least a few times but Mark developed somewhat of an obsession for this climb which paid off for him around the fall of '78 ? Other than a few things at Elden (and ignoring Sedona), this was probably the hardest technical lead in the area for awhile until "the lines" started getting done. Mark also put up Cloudwalk. It's an excellent 5.9 R that requires a good head and experienced gear placements. I think I was with Mark when he put this up and my recollection (for whatever that's worth) is that he by passed the gear in Crack N Up and just ran it out to the first placements. I think I've always placed the gear off to the side although it's value is marginal.

Red Asphalt at Elden ('77) and Cakewalk ('78) are probably the Northland's entries in the exciting race to be Az's first 5.12.

The Overlook's first 5.11 (possibly the first in Flag) was probably Magical Mystery Tour put up by myself and John Fleming in summer '77. We'd just completed a summer climbing trip to Zion, Boulder, City of Rocks and the Valley and ended up at the Overlook. Larry did the second ascent and was concerned about the safety of the climb. I thought he was all wet but these days, being older, fatter and possibly wiser, there is no way you'd catch me yarding up for all I'm worth on a large dagger shaped flake that shows light behind it and appears to be holding in a major section of cliff. It had a somewhat fearsome reputation for awhile due not so much to the climbing but rather to a wasp nest that inhabited one of the cracks and apparently had terrorized Toula on more than one occasion.

Edit: I guess the wasp nest I planted on this route to prevent a second ascent and thus gain immortality paid off as it sounds like wasps still terrorize the route over 20 years later. (no, I really didn't do that and in my recollections, I don't recall ever having any trouble with any wasps anywhere at the Overlook. Go figure...)

Briefly, the third wave was really just a continuation of the second wave but most of the climbers came along just a bit too late to find much in the way of FAs. Notables in this group were Tim Coats, John Gault, Mark Peterson, Robert Mueller, Tim Toula, Dave Houchin, Dave Dawson and others who I'm sure I'm neglecting.

Three notable climbs come from this time (the early 80s) with the classic "I've Always Been Crazy." If you haven't done this climb, get on it! It's an intimidating pitch that ends up having good holds, it's somewhat similar to Queen Folia at the Forks in that sense. I always kicked myself for having looked at that one and letting it "get away."

The other two obvious climbs were what we had always called the Lines. The two obvious steep corners just right of Magical and Left of Amateur Hour. The left was first led by Steve Grossman with a move of aid and hence it was never officiallynamed except as the left line. The right side was first led by me, but the free variation at the top required a snake out to the right and given it's beautiful direct nature, it too was left unnamed other than the right line. Well, actually, we did refer to the climbs as RedRum and the right corner as the The Shinning. Guess that helps date it, thank you Mr. King. However, given the style and ethics, we didn't record the ascents in the book.

The FFA of these two climbs occurred somewhere around 83-84 and represents a dark day in the history of the Overlook. John Gault and Tim Toula bagged the ascents after working out the two upper sequences on top rope. They renamed the left one Not Fade Away and the right one Jungleland. I believe these leads occurred around the fall that Fires were brought into the states. Locals now apparently call this section of the cliff Jungleland but for years it was known as The Lines. Also, I think it was John and Tim who worked these two but it could have been them in combo with other partners.

BTW - before a flame war starts, I'm kidding about the dark day in history. While I'm pretty sure that it is true that these were the first leads (ever in the history of the world) to be completed with TR rehearsals, given the gear of the time and the current local standard a TR was probably the thing to do. I know I tried the right side a number of times, even going so far as to do that damn right exit a few times, including jumping off from around the corner (that was a rush) only to later discover that there are some hidden secrets that make the climbs doable. Amazing what a little preview can do in some cases. I think it was a good thing that Tim and John were willing to ignore the local lead snobbery and concentrate instead on the moves and bag these climbs before some non-local claimed the FFA.

Some of the other climbs from this later wave were really fill ins of desperate little sequences and difficult moves like Wager Crack.

For my money, the single best climb at the Overlook is the Gridle (not a mispelling.) It's a wonderful tour de force that starts on the east end and climbs across the cliff at 1/2 to 2/3 height. You end up doing a number of crux sections from many of the climbs and every pitch is a challenge for both the leader and follower. In fact, it's often easier to be the leader in a girdle than the second. It's probably not the first climb you want to do either at the Overlook, or with a new partner.

To answer some of Scott's more directed questions:
I'd say that the large majority of routes were done by '80-81.
The climbing ban happened I believe right around '83 or '84 (EDIT, appears like I'm off about 10 years on that estimate) and started first very close to the Monkey Cage and only later was pushed over to Red Wagon. Why the ban ? I don't really know the official explanation as I was in Tucson when they put it in place. I have a theory that I'll write about later.

Enough for now... I'll edit this and fill in as I have time and think of more things to spew about.

Two things occur to me that from a personal side that belong in the history of the Overlook:
Dugald Bremner deserves special mention. Larry and Dugald did a number of FAs here together. Dugald was a real clown (in the good sense) and you always laughed hanging with him. He was also a very talented climber and a natural sportsman. He was certainly the best X-C skier racer of the time and a very studly boatman (first descent of the upper Gila.) He was also one of the first of a number of very talented photographers to make Flagstaff home. He studied under John Running and you can buy some of his work from National Geographic at Dugie was always involved in so many things that he never really devoted his time to climbing quite like some of us. If he had, who knows... Unfortunately, Dugie passed away in a heart wrenching boating accident on the Silver Fork of the American River on June 3rd 1997. Scott Thybony's write up of the accident is at: RIP amigo, RIP.

The other item of personal interest is the first time I got to write in a new route in The Book. I think it was probably Mint Julip and even though I was only belaying John, it felt like a momentous day being able to ask to see the book and write down a First Ascent. Wow, what a feeling of accomplishment came from that. The Alpineer was a real special place for a few of us and hard a well deserved reputation for being the place for climbing. This rep of course was initially due exclusively to Scott Baxter's ownership with Lee Dexter.

All this running at the keyboard suddenly makes me remember the Synidicato Granitica and at the very least, the name deserves a mention here. However, the Syndicato's real exploits were out on the big rocks and while the Overlook was certainly a training ground for Scott, Karl, Dexter, etc... someone else (psssttt Scott, Larry?) needs to write up their exploits. The Syndicato deserves its own thread.
Paul Davidson
Joined Jan 22, 2007
585 points
Aug 15, 2009
Thanks, Paul, Greg and mcarizona!

I think the history of an area is important and should not be lost.

I really like doing a route and thinking about the people who put it up, their gear, their commitment, their technique, their stories. For me, it makes an area come alive.

It seems to me like this area was a "crack climbing training camp" for many superb climbers.

I hope some of the other early crew will post up, too.

Thanks again.
Scott M. McNamara
From Tucson, Arizona
Joined Aug 15, 2006
35 points
Aug 15, 2009
Great history and recollection Paul. Interesting to hear you had to bushwhack down there, I can't imagine it like that.

Thanks for the info, neat stuff.

susan peplow
From Joshua Tree
Joined Jan 24, 2006
2,060 points
Aug 18, 2009
Nice shots of the Bears. I think those might have been the first cracks I ever climbed.

I'm not very clear on the ban. I thought that by the late 80's it was pretty much everything west of the Trinities.

Ficker certainly belongs on any list of notable Az climbers (along with many others.) I didn't know he'd spent much time at the Overlook but locals tended to climb elsewhere on the weekends which I suspect is when many of the out of towners would show up (until the forks came along.)

I would love to see Waugh's show. Jim's in a pretty unique class in terms of his commitment to hard FAs. Some of his leads blow me away and even in my prime I doubt I would ever consider getting on them. The way he did the second of As the Wind Cries still boggles my mind. Of course, not having the Beta and only hearing the pinnacle had been done might have something to do with this line.

Pernell, no doubt that during that era a number of us were also active in the big ditch. Scott has been climbing there for years and was always talking about Sullivans. The SFaces of Zoro, S and W face of Budhha, LB and other Banditos were humping out Angel Wings, Bruce Grubbs was doing a lot of remote stuff, Pegasus was 82/83 but these are really other threads.

Like Scott pointed out, Overlook was a great training ground. Cracks not nearly as continuous as the Forks so you get rests in between and familiarity with Basalt.

I know I've missed a number of names, most of the ones above were active FAers (Randy Mettler was with us I'm sure on a number of FAs) but there were a lot of other Flag and Phnx climbers also just coming up and doing climbs.

Also, I should point that out that by the time we were climbing there in the mid '70s, the bushwhacking was fairly moderate along the main cliff but some of the less travelled regions were nasty, probably about like they are now. But at one point, from the Trinities west to the Prow there was a "reasonable" path. Probably not flops and shorts but passable.
Paul Davidson
Joined Jan 22, 2007
585 points
Aug 19, 2009
The Overlook Ban, Deputy Dawg, and a car jack...

While I doubt the following story really contributed to the ban, you never know, it might be the root cause. It was one of the most heart stopping moments of my climbing career.

One reason I'll tell this story now is because at Grossman's recent wedding, Tim and I were laughing over this misadventure when Tim told me some shocking news (wait for it, wait for it):

It was spring 83 (probably) and Tim Coats and I were down at the Overlook doing some late afternoon climbing. I'm thinking it was probably a Sat/Sunday afternoon because the cages were pretty full of people; which didn't normally happen on a week day.

I was leading the middle trinity and fooling around with some obscure roof exit. One of the "younger" new gen climbers and an attractive woman came around the corner from Isaiah just as I pulled the roof. Tim told them that we'd be off the rock pretty soon and heading out if they wanted to wait but their plan was to do Red Wagon (a stellar short awkward 5.8.)

There used to be (probably still is) a huge boulder at the base of the Trinities and the west side of it forms a sort of alley with the Red Wagon wall. Makes for a slightly protected spot from rock fall, or as it turns out, a life saving bomb shelter.

There's a big ole Alligator Juniper on the top of the Trinities. And it is dug in amongst a large field of huge basalt chunks.
There was one favorite belay spot I had that I must have used 20 times over the years. You tie into the tree, sit on a big slab and put your feet on two other slabs with the rope dropping straight down to the roof area.

Now these slabs were good sized, around 3x6x1 feet. I set the belay and bring Tim up. He of course scampers right up, making fun of my odd choice of exits (I think until he got into the middle of the moves at which point it went quiet.) He pops over the roof and starts up the last broken bit. In the meantime I've been watching the party below us get setup off to the side at the base of Red Wagon. (Did I mention that's a great 5.8... especially just on hexes with blue RRs.)

Tim is 3 ft below and puts a hand on the rock where my right foot is bridged and reaches over to bridge off the left rock by my other foot. I start to stand up and un-weight the left foot to make room for him when the freaking slab starts to tilt. It was one of those moments, is that huge thing moving or am I just trippin? I wasn't hallucinating.

In one of the most bizarre and unbelievable moves, Tim emits a bizarre squeak and blink, he is standing next to me. He literally jumped straight up four feet mantling off nothing but air.

The huge slab in the meantime is still tipping down. I'd initially tried to put a hand on it to stop it but quickly realized it was doing what it wanted and going where it wanted. (However, I'm sure that the 1/10s I delayed it's trip saved Tim's life so he is forever in my debt.)

As the slab started moving, I start screaming rock, rocK, roCK, rOCK, ROCKROCKROCKROCKROCK and looking down I see these two young faces looking up at us with the open mouthed, we're going to die stare. Tim has joined me in screaming out rock and the slab is doing this slow, fluttering spin as it heads right towards the base.

I figure the two below are gonna die. I'm seeing blood and guts and years of therapy when survival instincts kick in and they start diving for cover.

It's one of those compressed time moments. Big slab softly rotating in the breeze, two climbers diving in slow motion, birds chipping, Tim screaming in my ear, me screaming in his and then, just before it hits, everything goes quiet: THWACK, CRACK, BOOM, SMASH (etc...) and the rocks splits a big pine in half, bounces off the deck and 10 ft into the air and raises a huge cloud of dust. Shrapnel is flying everywhere and it's just pandemonium. The slab continues to bounce into the air and crash back down leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. The air is alive with pine needles, leaves, dirt, dust, fear, sweat, branches and most of all, noise. It is incredibly loud and it just keeps going and going and going. After what seems like an eternity, there is a thunderous roar and the slab slams down into Pumphouse wash. Time reverberates, dust settles and slowly the un-worldliness of the event fades and reality starts to come back.

Pumphouse Wash is about 600 vertical feet below the crag and probably a good 1/2 mile away down a steep and thickly wooded hill side and this freaking slab went the distance!

While the slab's journey is underway, we're still yelling rock, staring at each other wide eyed and wondering if we're going to jail for murder.

Pretty soon our yells change to "Are you OK !?" but there's no answer. Nada, nunca, nothing but the sound of a slab warring with gravity. Finally, after what seems like forever, from below, "WHAT THE F ARE YOU MUTHER FERS FING DOING?" (I guess you can't really blame the young blood for yelling at the old guard in such a situation.)

Again we ask, are you ok? And what ensues are a few rounds of "are you ok" met by a stream of invectives. Finally I've had about enough of this and scream at the top of my lungs, "STFU and tell us if you are OK."

Dead silence.... and finally, "Yeah, we're ok. But what the f do you think you're doing?" Now hey, I can't blame anyone for being pissed off if they think someone has just tried to kill them and maybe it's best to let the jerks above think they did the job so they don't try a repeat performance. But in the pretty clear case of rock fall, it's probably a good idea for everyone involved to exchange health info.

We explain what happened, apologize profusely and things settle down, sort of. When you inject that much adrenaline into testosterone laden lads, well, the drugs take awhile to work their way out of your system.

Tim and I are standing there dazed and looking down this trail of
destruction into Pumphouse when we realize that the air is still filled with screaming and it's coming from the Monkey Cages. We look over and it is a freakin ZOO. People are everywhere! It's 6 bodies deep at the cages. They're pointing at us and down the canyon and running around like chicken's without their heads. It is an unreal scene.

It turns out, two large tour buses had just disgorged their loads about 5 minutes before this event so the number of paid admissions made for a pretty full house.

Tim and I decide it's in our best interest to leave now! We start coiling rope and stuffing the packs when this incredible racket starts coming nearer and nearer to us. There's jinging and jangling and stumbling and "oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck" is heading our way. Out of the trees emerges this Deputy Sheriff in full gear. I mean every piece of hardware known to law enforcement and search and rescue, and some probably not, are hanging off this guy and he's got a lasso over his shoulder and he won't stop jumping around and yelling are you ok, is everyone ok, how many are dead? (He really did asked us this.) We keep telling him we're fine, the party below us is fine, no one is hurt much less dead.

"Everything is OK" we keep say but he is just not hearing a word. I was starting to think he was going to pitch off the top with all of his bouncing around when the message finally gets through, EVERYTHING IS OK. The look on his face is hard to describe. It's one of ultimate relief mixed with extreme disappointment. It turns out that not only is he a Deputy Dawg, but he's a newly anointed Coconino County S&R member. He asks at least 5 more times if we're ok, and oddly enough the answer doesn't change. Then he says, "Ok, hang on, I need to go call off the rescue I just called in. But you're sure no one is hurt and no one needs a rescue?"

Seriously, while I've been known to embelish a story now and then, I am not making any of this up. While he heads off towards the parking lot, I lean over and ask again if the young couple is sure they're ok (must have been contagious), which they still are. So, Tim and I grab the gear and head outta dodge before we have to spend a night filling out paperwork. I publicly apologize for that. No doubt if we'd stayed and filled out paperwork, the Overlook ban never would have occurred :-)

Now here's the kicker. All these years I've tried to figure out how one of these big keyed in slabs choose that moment to take the dive. I figured it had to be a freeze thaw, fulcrum based moment in time. Tim was a thin guy, he couldn't of put more than 10 lbs on the corner of that rock, he wasn't yarding of it, he was just using it for balance! And we'd all climbed all over those slabs for years. Heck, just a few minutes before, I'd pulled down hard on the same spot where Tim had only just bridged a hand for balance.

Now, back to this spring and Grossman's wedding. Tim and I were reliving past events and this one comes up. Tim tells me that he ran into.... well, they'll probably want to remain nameless because it's one of those stunts you don't really want to own up to (unless you're Aaron Ralston and want to write a book about what how many moronic moves you've made in your life.) Tim tells me that he'd been telling the story of the Flight of the Slab to another Flag climber (one of the third wavers) when this guy says something like, "So, you mean that rock finally came off? Man, we sure spent some time trying to
trundle that big one at the edge."


It turns out that these guys didn't like the looks of the slabs at the top of the Trinities and decided they should clean up the belay area and trundle some of the bigger stuff. So they spend some time tossing what they can and then, yep, you guessed it. They went out there, took a car jack and tried to lever a couple of the bigger slabs off. They were unsuccessful in persuading anything bigger than a basketball to move. But apparently they worked on these big slabs for quite some time.

Frick, this area at the top of the Trinities is one big jumble of boulders all keyed in. Folks have tromped all over these rocks for years and nothing had ever cut loose. At least nothing had, until man's desire to improve his environment got the better of him and things got all jacked around.

I'm sure it's totally coincidental that the ban started a couple of years later, but you have to wonder...
Paul Davidson
Joined Jan 22, 2007
585 points
Aug 19, 2009
Great story Paul!!!! Thanks for sharing it! And glad to hear that nobody was hurt, too! :) Geir
From Tucson, AZ
Joined Jun 7, 2006
2,505 points
Aug 19, 2009
Always heard bout the boulder trundle down to Pumphouse. But never knew it went down like that. Wow!

I think the ban happened around 93. I first climbed the Overlook in 92 after I moved up to Flag. The first routes I climbed were the ones at the Monkey Cage. Basically tourist caused the ban. Something like too many were falling off the cliffs while trying to get a better look at the climbers and throwing rocks off cliffs while climbers were below.
Chris Greevers
From San Tan Valley, az
Joined Jul 25, 2007
100 points
Aug 20, 2009
Paul thank you for sharing the history of such a fine climbing area. Albert Newman
Joined Aug 20, 2008
0 points
Aug 20, 2009
Greg, Your rock throwing story is frighteningly familiar. I was climbing with a small group in the late '90s. I was about 20' from the top of Mugumba's Corner (the overhanging bit) when I heard a similar ruckus about 50 feet away: rocks flying, climbers yelling, more rocks from the top. I finished as quickly as I could, made a hasty anchor, tied off the rope, and akwardly hobbled in my too-tight climbing shoes toward the family throwing rocks! Yep, two kids - about 8 or 10 years old *and* their dad were throwing the biggest rocks they could find off the cliff. (Mom was just standing there - not throwing, jut not saying a word). I yelled before I got close enough and they all ran for the parking lot. I guess attempted murder is good family bonding? Karl K
From Phoenix, AZ
Joined Nov 20, 2006
500 points
Aug 20, 2009
Dang, fizz out the nose and all over my monitors reading the:
"attempted murder is good family bonding." I wonder if it applies when I want to shoot my son...

Greg: can't you just see it, Eric grabs the little punk's sweatshirt who then tries to pull away, only to have the sleeve rip off and the little bastard goes pitching off the edge. Of course, Eric gets nailed (maybe) but if the kid kills a climber, nothing happens.

It always amazes me how you can scream at folks to stop throwing rocks and sometimes it only encourages them. What !? Some people are born idiots and stay idiots I guess.

Sadly, due to the closeness of the Overlook to Phoenix (couldn't resist Greg), the abundance of rocks and the closeness of the cliff edge, it's not as uncommon as one would wish to have missles come hurtling over your head.
Paul Davidson
Joined Jan 22, 2007
585 points
Aug 20, 2009

unless you have any issue with it, we are using your above posts (with some editing) as part of the history of the Overlook area.

I just cut and pasted. If this was intentional, thanks.

Erik & David
From Bishop, CA
Joined Dec 5, 2007
950 points
Aug 21, 2009
Great stories! For the record I know nothing about nor have ever been to any of the areas discussed in this thread so excuse my ignorance. Is the ban(s) you guys mention still in place?

Doug Lintz
From Kearney, NE
Joined Apr 19, 2004
900 points
Aug 23, 2009
Doug Lintz wrote:
Is the ban(s) you guys mention still in place? d.

Yes still in place. Tourist frequent this vista above Oak Creek. The affected routes are all under this vista area. Even though we lost some of the area we still got a ton of classics to climb there.

Havent been there in the winter in a while but, the park service used to close down the vista for the winter. You can still climb but you have to park outside the gate. On some of the warmer dryer years it is a great place to be because of the lack of tourist and climbers. Been out there and not seen a soul all day.
Chris Greevers
From San Tan Valley, az
Joined Jul 25, 2007
100 points
Aug 24, 2009
I used to live across the street from Geoff Parker and he always complained that he did many 1st ascents at the overlook, but never got credit for them. Any comments on this?

Thanks for the great history, PD. To me the history of a route or area is as important as the type of climb, quality and grade.
Mark Hawthorne
Joined Aug 24, 2009
0 points
Aug 24, 2009
Mark Hawthorne wrote:
Geoff Parker...

Oh Lord, I knew there was one important name I was missing but couldn't recall. It also shows up the fallacy of trying to lump climbing eras into waves. Geoff was leaving Flag about the time I was arriving (mid 70s.) There was some overlap but I never climbed with him, I think I only met him at some early slide shows. So in a way he was the second wave, with Ross Hardwick, because they were climbing a bit after the Baxter/Karlstrom era.

I've editted the upper history to add Geoff's name. Off the top of my head, I don't recall which routes he had put up (for some reason Blunderbuss is popping into my head but...) Like I said, when the book was lost, until Scott chimes in, a lot of that history is gone.

For the record, as a young Freshman at NAU, it was an annual event for the hiking clubb to sponsor a Scott Baxter slideshow. Scott puts on an excelent slideshow. He has a great eye, fantastic pics, keeps it lively and always shows some very impressive routes. What I recall from this very first show was Scott putting up a pic of Geoff (wild curly hair (redish blonde?) and a wild look in his eye) and then he started showing a number of slides of Sedona, really beautiful lines.

Scott then said "Geoff Parker has never really gotten the recognition he deserves but he's really the man responsible for bringing climbing into Sedona or at the very least reintroducing climbing." As I understand/recall it, you had the Calif boys on the Mace and a few other obvious spires (Queen Victoria, Pointed Dome (oh boy.... there's a real testament)) in the late 50s, early 60s and then not much. (Now, there might have been a bit of a time when Scott did some things in Sedona and then he stopped going but I think he neglected the area for awhile.)

In the Late 60s or early 70s (and I urge Mark (did you date Eileen back in the 80s?) to pony up any thing he remembers from Geoff, or better yet, get Geoff to log on here and start spewing out his routes) Geoff started coming into the Alpineer and raving about these awesome climbs he was doing down in Sedona. Now you have to understand that the Alpineer was The Place to Be as a Climber in Flag back then and there was certainly an elitist air in the little shop on occasion (to which I admit contributing my own special brand of obnoxious young cimbing ego.) In other words, you had to prove yourself before anyone would really listen to you.

As a result, Geoff's raving was blown off for awhile with the thought that the rock down there was pure crap and no one in the right mind would climb there (still probaby true though) and hence, Geoff was not in his right mind. The advantage he gained from this was he was able to continue to have free reign to all the unclimb rock in Sedona.

Eventually, Scott started listening to him and went down there and got really turned on (back on?) to the area. Now when Scott gets turned onto something, he goes at it and starts raving about it to others, and when Scott talks, others listen. Even to this day, Scott will always have his eye on some special lines here and there that will eventually lead to some classic climbs. (Rich's Ladder, Peter's Ladder, Earth Angel, to name just a few uber classics...)

So, given that the Overlook is on the way to Sedona, there is no question but that a guy with Geoff's drive did a lot of FAs at the Overlook. But Sedona is where his legacy should really be remembered. The Overlook is great fun but it's a little cragging area where as Sedona is the real deal.

I only recall a few things of Geoff's: Screaming Basengi, Streaker Spire. But I think many of the main spires have his stamp as the first on the top. Grand Orcafus, Oak Creek Spire, Acropolis, Coffee Pot, more Church Bowl stuff, Tisha, Princess, Submarine (maybe...)

I don't recall if Toula's guide lists the firsts or not.

At any rate, hat's off to Geoff. In addition to many of the named summits, there are probably lots and lots of more climbs of his in Sedona that have been forgotten, or done and re-claimed as firsts by others. For example, we think that to the left of Dresdoom a few hundred yards or so he did a route up the broken up white coke face that he named something like, El Gran Guano Blanco (a tribute to the rock quality and Scott's adventure's down at Trono Blanco.) When we told we Scott about Dresdoom, he recalled Geoff talking about something in that area. I meant to repeat that some day, it looks a lot like the second pitch of White Wedding, but never got around to it.

And I just noticed a Ross Hardwick comment on Pointed Dome, so I'm off to lobby him to chime in here !
Paul Davidson
Joined Jan 22, 2007
585 points
Aug 24, 2009
It's kind of a funny story how I found out that Geoff was such a prolific climber around Sedona. Like I said, he lived across the street from me in Tucson. One day I came home from climbing and was unloading the car. He must have seen my rope because he came running over to tell me that he used to climb. We started talking and he started telling me about first ascents that he did. He told me about Sedona and a climb on the ravens that he'd put up. I was a little skeptical because I had never heard of him. So, after our conversation, I got out the Mt. Lemmon guidebook and looked for the climb he was talking about. I looked at the 1st ascent initials next to the climb and saw GP. I didn't even look at the referenced names; I just thought this guy is full of it. There was no Jeff on the 1st ascent. About a year or so later when I found out I'd be moving to Flagstaff, I started looking through Toula's Sedona guide. Right there in the middle of the page was a quote from Geoff Parker. After that I started talking to him a lot about his Sedona routes. Unfortunately, I hadn't climbed up north too much, so I don't remember a lot of the details. I do remember him telling me that he did the 2nd ascent of the Mace thinking it was the first only to find a bolt on the 4th pitch (I think). Screaming Basenji was one of his favorite climbs first done with laryngitis and no voice (I guess a basenji is a dog that does not bark). He told me about a first ascent he did where somebody started shooting at them. He also had a non-vulgar name for BJ rock that was interesting, but I can’t remember what it was. I think there was a Climbing magazine from the mid 80’s that had a pretty good history of Sedona climbing. I haven’t talked to Geoff in several years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he looks at these sites. Mark Hawthorne
Joined Aug 24, 2009
0 points
Aug 24, 2009

By the way, I have seen the two lines right of Magical Mystery Tour and thought they looked good. I have even thought of giving them a try.But, now that I know you and SG put those up, I will definately have to climb them.
Mark Hawthorne
Joined Aug 24, 2009
0 points
Aug 25, 2009
Cool, good additions.

How is Screaming B? I never did it, I'd always heard it was just a third class chimney but then the guy I heard that from was not a reliable source it turned out.

Couple of possible corrections:
While SG and I did lead the Lines, we eithered applied A0/A1 or in the case of the right one, went out right. We didn't really claim the FFA. Those go to Toula and Gault, I think.

Toula's guide also has a number of mistakes in it, no surprise since it's a large area and I'm not sure he ran it by a lot of the active FAers. I'm afraid the newly coming guide will probably perpetuate some of those errors because a few of us didn't get off our butts and provide corrections in a timely manner. My excuse was starting a new job, Steve's was getting married (maybe he gave Erik and Dave info??.)

That said, in an area like Sedona, it's very possible to do a route and think you're doing a first only to later discover it's been done.
It's a bonding moment when someone comes up to you and tells you the story about how they did this or that and were really stoked thinking they'd scored a plumb only to discover a belay piece or something lurking above (ala the Mace and Parker.)

Toula shows Parker as doing Teaser but that was actually Mark Force, Randy Mettler and me. Did we do the first, probably. At least Teaser is our name for the spire (a really good moderate 5.9.) Could Parker have put it up, certainly. It's just behind Firecat. However, there was nothing fixed on top and it's a spire and requires a rappel. But it's possible Parker threw his rope around a bunch of bushes and used that. I doubt though that Toula talked to Parker.

Bottom line, Sedona is adventure climbing. And as I told Houchin once when he got burned on the FA of Sand Castles (3* line if you like off widths, 1st pitch stellar 5.9 fingers), even if you don't bag the actual first in that case, you get all the thrill and enjoyment out of doing a first. No topos, no beta, just pure old fashioned route finding.

Mark's story about Geoff is classic. Geoff was (is?) a very animated character and if you have no idea who he is, most people would probably think him a poser. Like Baxter did for awhile. He's so animated it sometimes sounds like a ton he's trying to feed you.

Erik, I hope you're catching this as Parker really does deserve credit for the rediscovery of Sedona. I mean think about, doing the Mace in (early 70s ?) and thinking it's a first, shows you that there was basically NO climbing going on down there. And I think the Mace is no give away. I know a lot of noobs get dragged up it and the first time I thought it was moderate but these days it seems chalenging enough.
Paul Davidson
Joined Jan 22, 2007
585 points
Aug 25, 2009
Thanks for all the stories, now I really want to climb there! BrianH Pedaler
From Santa Fe NM
Joined Aug 17, 2009
0 points
Aug 26, 2009

Awesome history on the Overlook, One of my most favorite climbing areas in Arizona! On my first experience of the Overlook, my friends and I did Papa Bear and I got a lead on Porridge Face. Porridge face is fun as long as you trust the #0 Metilous cams in the tiny face slits. My friend was next up Papa Bear and I was the belayer. I noticed at my feet that there was a lot of beer cans laying around in the leaves and in the pine needles. Back when I was a kid in Michigan I collected beer cans and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. All of the cans had flat tops, made of tin, and you needed a pointed opener to get the beer out of the can. So most of the cans were 1962 and below, most of the cans turned out to be from the 1940s and 1950s. 1962 was that wonderful year that we finally introduced the "pull Tab" onto cans. The following weekend I drove back up to the Overlook with a few tools and bags with the intention of obtaining beer cans. I brought a rake, poker, shovel, and other items for my archeological dig. I should have brought a helmet since a lot of tourists were throwing rocks off of the overlook especially in the Geology Sign area. Between the bombing from above, I filled three bags worth of cans. I mean these cans were absolutely mint mint condition! The winters somehow preserved the cans over rusting them over the years.
At the time I as moving out of my apartment so when I got home I laid out all of the cans and was totally psyched on what I had. This was pre Ebay where Psyched these days goes further on ebay. Anyways it was a total gold mine of first edition A1 beer, Miller highlife, Lucky with the "X" on the front of the can, and I unfortunately showed my cache to my landlord. He too stood in amazement of what I had found. I left to the grocery store and when I returned home an hour later my landlord said that somebody had broken into my home and took my belongings. Actually the thief somehow unlocked my door with a key, and only took the cans and nothing else, but I was never able to pin the thievery on my landlord that for sure stole the cans.
I never collected cans again at the Overlook but the Overlook quickly became my favorite climbing area in AZ, sans the wasps. I have three FAs' at the Overlook:
5.9 Circus Circus (right of Obediah)
5.11+ Busting out the Jones (Davey Jones Locker area)
5.12b Excalibur (Overlooked area)

I was able to lead the Left line which I still think is 5.12a,
but was never able to figure out the top sequence to the right line.
Waugh said that he stemmed between both routes at the top to get his leads, but I thought that was cheating. Both routes the same finish? The Left Line goes without the stemming but takes one good scream to hold the final hold. The Right Line top sequence I still ponder over. I have climbed every route at the Overlook but have never done the gridle traverse.

Martys favorites:
Amateur Hour 5.9, totally classic route!
Isaiah 5.9, with left 5.10- start variation, total classic.
Devils Deed 5.9, I love the exposure!!
Obediah 5.9, cruiser but super fun!

Looks like I like the 5.9s. Maybe I need to up my game a little!
I believe the Overlook closure happened in 1990-91 then soon after the new outhouse building was constructed. We still snuck in to climb the Bear routes, and Procrastination and Hesitation. I believe the closure was due to the climbers causing curiosity to the tourists. The tourists would jump the fence at the top of the viewpoint to watch the climbers and the rangers were weary that some tourist was gonna fall off of the cliff someday. Also the tourists throwing rocks off of the cliff which were hitting the climbers was not good as well. It became a no win situation.

Thanks again guys for sharing the history of the Overlook.
The Overlook Rocks!

karabin museum
From phoenix. AZ
Joined Aug 5, 2009
0 points
Aug 28, 2009
Well, I think Pablo's history of the Overlook is pretty accurate- some details differ in my memory but who really cares. I do think that Mark Force also put up Magumba's Corner, maybe Grossman did the second ascent?

But perhaps I can add some faces to the stories. Photos come from the combined collections of myself, Jim Haisley, and my bro. First- tough guys Ross Hardwick and Paul Davidson on the rim of the Canyon (going in or coming out from S Face Zoro)

Then the ever-smiling Jimmy Haisley (I'm sure drugs didn't have a thing to do with it) and Randy Mettler.

A forgotten Overlook classic in the closed zone: Deutschland (uber alles) 5.10, Ed Webster leading on the second ascent.

Since he mentioned it, Paul leading the Overlook Prow.

And our long lost friend and hero, Dugald Bremner on the crux of the Mace.

Grossman freeing the last pitch of the Dong as recounted by PD above.

Too many photos of Tim to pick the best one, but one of my favorites is this shot of the summit of Keeler Needle after our 10 hour ascent of our first Grade V in a day.

And me- oh, to have that body again with what I know now...

The one who started it all: Scott Baxter on the "death pitch" of Pointed Dome, Sedona.
Larry Coats
Joined Dec 30, 2006
1,265 points
Aug 29, 2009
Well, I guess I should throw in my two-cents worth. Let my whiskey and time-wracked memory be the disclaimer for what follows.

The first wave (circa early 70's) consisted of just two guys: Eric Karlstrom (Karl's older brother) and Hugh McLean. Dusty Teal (who later owned Maria's Bookstore in Durango) preceded them, but his attempts to aid the Trinity Cracks with homemade wooden wedges failed. Anyway, Eric and Hugh got the ball rolling at the Overlook much the same way Geoff Parker did in Sedona. Their FA's include Mint Jam, Long Walk, Alley-oop, Syzgy, Duck Soup, George's Niche.... Karl and his first partner, Mike Kuntzelman, probably had a hand in these early lines, too.

At the time, I was still fixated on Mt. Elden dacite; I didn't even know what a hand jam was. On an early trip to the Valley I fell off Reed Pinnacle Direct--and broke my leg--while trying to face climb right beside that perfect hand crack! It was obviously time to learn some crack technique, so it was off to the Oak Creek Overlook-- what better nursery than the Trinity Cracks? I eventually led the Left and Middle; Rusty Baillie grabbed the Right. Other nice lines followed: Morning's Mourning, Isaiah, The Prow, Orange Out Direct, Devil's Deed.... Actually, my first first ascent at the Overlook was a free-solo of Everyday 5.3--pretty secure except for the final moves up and left off the Mint Jam pedestal.

In spite of the great climbs at the overlook, I've always been uneasy hanging out at the base of the cliff because one has no control over the rock-tossing tourists overhead. Others have died there in other ways, but it's a miracle that no one's been fatally conked on the head. I rarely climb at the Overlook anymore, but when I do, I always wear my helmet.

p.s. I'm still learning about these new-fangled contraptions called computers. I've got some cool old photos to supplement Larry's once I get the technology down. Watch for them any year now.

p.p.s. Thanks to those who expressed an interest in the history of the Overlook, and thanks to Paul, Larry, et. al. for their contributions. It's an ongoing team effort, all of us sewing together a patchwork quilt.
Scott Baxter
Joined May 23, 2008
5 points
Aug 29, 2009
All right Scotty !
Now if we could get you to contribute to a Syndicato thread, that would be the ticket. Stories of a lot of those exciting FAs would be most welcome.

Had you done that Everyday exit before you third classed it?
I 3rd classed that one time, and only once before deciding it would be too easy to fall off of it. I think I might have gone up Mint Jam, which I did again last fall on a quick trip through and thought was challenging 5.8 Not the old walk up it had been.

How about Crack-N-Up, that's one of yours isn't it.
And it used to be one of my favorite climbs.

And Larry, as always, great pics, Thanks.
I don' think that's Randy in that photo, looks a bit like him but I'm thinking that might be Larry Flurky, remember him ? But maybe he was dark haired. Does Jim know who it is ?
(If Mark did Magumba's, he named it something else. That's an old term of affection SG and I used to use. That's the thing about the Overlook, you just never know, hey ?)

Marty, good to hear from you, especially considering. I hope the recovery is coming along well. And nice history additions! I can see there will be a wave of metal detectors out there soon ;-)

Those are some classic lines in your list. Post up the description of Circus Circus in the Overlook route section. There is a picture of Swedish BritFast Crack that might cover where it is. Download the pic and draw the line in if it's visible. Post the other two also, although I don't think anyone has started those areas yet (go for it.)

Nice to see Larry and Scott showing up. I admit I was a bit concerned that they'd say I had it all wrong....
I'll see if I can't get Karl to chime in if he ever has any free time.
Paul Davidson
Joined Jan 22, 2007
585 points
Aug 30, 2009
Hi Greg. About those pictures. I think the top is the one and only Bill Sewrey. Then left to right Tom Kreuser, Bill again and I think Don Weaver. The guy in the poncho is Tom K again. Hope This is a help. THX TOM Tom Taber
From Phoenix,AZ
Joined Aug 30, 2009
0 points

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