The First Ascent of Barney’s Crack

By Tim Kuss, 11/15

This a story about the curious, mangled bolts, on the awesome route, Barney's Crack. Some have been replaced with shiny steel by now. So, at risk of sounding like the old codger, here's the beta, as I remember it.

This is my old Bosch Bulldog. It was the first power drill used for climbing in Durango
This is my old Bosch Bulldog. It was the first power drill used for climbing in Durango

It was maybe 30 years or more ago when I did this route- probly the second half of the 1980's. Sorry, but I can't remember who was climbing with me. Sometimes I would get my little sister to hike up there and belay. She's the one who named the nearby route, Stoneage Struggle, which I hand drilled with her and others belaying. I had been developing the Bedrock sector, where there is some of the best rock at East A. Usually, I would install a route on lead, then rap down and add or replace bolts to make the line more user friendly. Perhaps these routes still need some fixing- the route Betty (also hand drilled on lead) is still sporting 3/8" split shaft bolts with some decent runouts!

I think Barney's might have been the first route I drilled with my new Bosch. I was psyched to drill on lead, but I hadn't bolted too many routes at that point, so that's why I drilled that first bolt in the wrong spot. I may have been holding on to that crimper while drilling (when you clip the bolt, the quickdraw lays on a little edge forcing the climber to crimp while the QD lays on the back of your hand). Bolting on lead doesn't always produce the best routes, I was just trying to get the bolt as high as possible.

I can't really see why some think that the start is heady, or why the bolt would be moved down. People might be doing those first moves wrong or something. Anyway, the bolt could be moved left or right a few inches. I used a good climbing bolt for the first one because that's the crux of the whole route- my thinking was that if you could get past there, you shouldn't fall on the easier terrain above.

Another reason I used those $0.29 pieces of crap from Kroegers is that a guy can set them in the hole with one hand whilst hanging on to the rock with the other (you need two hands to get a Rawl 5 piece started). Plus they were cheap. At the time, I thought those bolts were totally adequate- I didn't even bother placing them to full depth. Previously, I had been using quarter inch split shaft little things that I got for free, from a surplus. The route, Crime and Punishment used to be equipped with, like, 5 of those- it was basically a free solo back then. Terrifying to lead. Anyway, the climbing world was at an awkward stage of evolution at that time. And Durango in a bubble, as always.

I guess the reason they got so beat up too, is just the lead bolting. At the first bolt, I was able to let go with both hands to place that one. I did it entirely from stances (no hooks or anything) most of the time, I was just barely able to swing the hammer effectively, or accurately, and I just beat the crap out of them. Plus, they're made out of shite steel that is easily mangled.

What can I say? I was like 18 or 19. I did't know nothin' about construction. There wasn't no sport climbing yet. Ya didn't need pro until you got into injury territory and risk was cool. Now everybody wants shining paths of sport glory.

Oh, and there's this quirk: I remember getting the bolts in and going for the crack at the top. It got hard enough toward the top, where I couldn't stop to get any gear or even lean over and see into the crack, so I tried that scary mantle at the top with a big runout. I planned on going back with a Tricam, or some nonsense, but in the mean time, my friend Joel rapped down and placed that last bolt. I was like, ok we'll just clip that.

Def one of the coolest routes at East A

In fact, I think the anchor is a couple of those old threaded split shaft 1/4" x 2" bolts and one 3/8" Rawl. Totally bomber!

Leave a Reply