Share 'John Bachar – Party of One' on Facebook Share 'John Bachar – Party of One' on Twitter

John Bachar – Party of One

Posted on: July 7th, 2009 by guest

John Bachar locked in on Butterballs (5.11c) during his historic solo ascent of the three-pitch Nabisco Wall               (c) Mark Chapman

John Bachar locked in on Butterballs (5.11c) during his historic solo ascent of the three-pitch Nabisco Wall (c) Mark Chapman

As we all know by now, another beloved member of the climbing community – this time John Bachar – has died in a climbing accident.  John died at the Dike Wall near his home in Mammoth Lakes, CA, on July 5th.  In his memory, I wanted to share what I wrote about John in my book, Fifty Favorite Climbs, in 2001.  Based on the time I spent with him, I was convinced that he had elevated solo climbing to a sustainable art form.  I reflected this point of view in the profile I wrote about John in Fifty Favorite Climbs.  I  wish it were still 100% accurate, particularly the last three words.

John Bachar – Party of One

People who don’t climb – the great majority of the populace, that is – think John Bachar is crazy: When they see pictures of him climbing steep rock faces without a rope, with the strength of his chalk-dusted hands as his only measure of security, they quickly realize the obvious: If he falls, he dies. Yet, after more than twenty years of solo climbing, John Bachar has never fallen.  He is very much alive.

His success has very little to do with luck and almost everything to do with his systematic approach.  Before Bachar came along, unroped solo climbing was something climbers got away with a few times, then promised never to do again.  It was a phase, usually inspired by hubris, a surge of testosterone, or maybe a failed relationship.  Bachar saw it differently.  Soloing wasn’t about being a daredevil or a stuntman.  It was about fluid, precise movement—ballet on rock.  Says Bachar, “I thought if I did it all the time, I might be able to bring it to an art form where I was in complete control.”  And he did.

Bachar stunned the climbing world in the mid-‘70s when he soloed New Dimensions, the first 5.11 route in Yosemite. That he did it was one thing.  That he considered it rationale was another. And that was just the beginning.

For more than two decades, Bachar has been showing us a different way, making our palms sweat, teaching by example.  Those paying close attention have learned plenty, like the importance of being brutally honest with themselves.  One season in Tuolumne Meadows, the supremely confident Bachar decided he wouldn’t tie into a rope for an entire summer. Then he posted a note offering $10,000 to anyone who could follow him for a day.

He never parted with his money. Or his life.

Mark Kroese

Comments are closed.