John Sherman

John Sherman

John Sherman is the Godfather of American bouldering. Without his broad shoulders to stand on, Daniel Woods would be toproping 5.7 right now.

Stone Master

When in Aroma


The defining characteristic of my homemade Lucky 13 Bean Chili is the unique flatulence it inspires.  Each bean carries its own digestive half-life.  After the pintos punch you in the nose, the butterbeans bomb your olfactory's, followed by the black-eyed peas, then the dark red kidneys and so forth.  So what does this have to do with climbing?  I’m glad you asked.


Somehow I got talked into climbing The Nose again.  I’ve been up it three times, but not since the mid-90s.  But even back then, the joke was it was called The Nose because that’s the body part it most works.  Not the toes torqued in The Stovelegs, or knuckles bloating into grapes, or harness rash, sunburn or any of the rest – your nose took the real beating.  And that was before The Nose was declared the “world’s greatest rock climb” and the extra traffic that engendered. (For historical perspective, back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, the Salathé Wall claimed to be the greater climb, due to the fact that it was first ascended by the worthy, nay saintly, Royal Robbins [in white hat no less] as opposed to the Nose, whose virginity was befouled by that unkempt partying scoundrel Warren Harding.  This was before quality of the climbing was a consideration in bestowing such titles.)  So back to the miasmic misery the Nose dealt back in the day.


My first Nose ascent was in 1980.  Rufus and I were moving fast, but not quite fast enough to make Camp IV the first day.  We ended up bivied on the shitty ledges just below Camp IV, and I mean shitty.  These ledges were a popular “dropping off” spot for climbers bivying on Camp IV. Early the next morning we bid a doo, uh adieu, to our perch and blasted to the summit.  Unfortunately, not quite fast enough to catch the French party who had bivied at Camp V that night.  The one’s who would throw all their trash down on all the parties below, including severed can lids that whizzed by like throwing stars.  The same ones who couldn’t be bothered to lean their precious derrières out a couple feet to the side and instead crapped right on one of the world’s great bivy ledges, because, “hey, that’s how we do it in the Alps.”  Do I detect a whiff of snail?


Fast forward a dozen or so years and I’m taking a 4-day leisure cruise up The Nose.  What can you say about Dolt Tower and Camp IV?  If they had urinals in the third world, this is what they’d smell like.  But when it comes to did-I-just-barf-or-was-that-you putridness, no ledge on The Big Stone holds a candle to Camp VI (important safety note to Nose newbies – do not light a candle on Camp VI).  On my first trip up the route I was grossed out by how the foot-wide gaping maw behind this queen-sized ledge was filling up with a slurry of old water bottles, candy wrappers, cans, feces and shitwipe.  The crack reached down maybe a pitch worth and was just 20-feet shy of being filled to the brim.  Now, in the early 90s it was overflowing, forming a handy bolster at the head of the bed. 


A couple years later, I climbed The Nose the easy way, in a day.  None of that silly hauling nonsense.  Now there’s a lot of hype over Nose In A Day (NIAD) ascents – it’s an ultimate goal for many climbers.  But I think the more desirable goal should be NIZD ascents – Nose In Zero Defecations.  NIZD ascents would attest to more than one’s speed at easy wall climbing, but also to their mastery of self and sphincter.  I don’t care if you send the route in under five hours – if that Starbucks Double Shot you chugged at the base comes knocking before the top, in the annals of NIZD climbing, you ain’t shit.


Since my Nose ascents, dumping in a paper lunch bag and hucking it off has been rightfully disavowed as an El Cap tactic and poop tube use has become mandatory.  I’m anxious to see (and smell) how this has worked out.  Will the route be squeaky clean and rosy fresh?  More likely it will be caked in a season’s worth of baked on urine, if not half a century’s worth.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if quite a few NIAD teams, racing to the top sans “waste case” find out they don’t have what it takes for a NIZD ascent.  Add in the dipshits who figure the poop tube is for everyone else but them and I reckon The Nose will be just as fragrant as ever.  Nevertheless, in a few months I’ll be heading back for more.  In the meantime my partner and I will be training hard – time for another bowl of Lucky 13. 


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