TNB: Slander Slabs
Jul 20th 2011
As you read this, Ammon McNeely and Kait Barber have just completed the second ascent of Wings of Steel on El Cap, an early 1980s era line by Mark Smith and Richard Jensen. Besides being El Cap’s longest-standing unrepeated big-wall aid route, Wings of Steel may prove to be its technically hardest, but when it was first climbed it wasn’t lauded as being difficult or bold, rather it was derided as a contrived line riddled with bolts up an endless slab. In the 29 years since it was put up, Wings of Steel—and Smith and Jensen—have been the butt of jokes and the subject of slander and threats, a slagging rivaled only by the scorn heaped on another bolted line, the 1980 route Hall of Mirrors, a Grade VI free climb on Yosemite’s Glacier Point Apron, established by Bruce Morris, Chris Cantwell, Dave Austin and Scott Burke.
Unless you were around in the early 1980s, it may be difficult for you to comprehend the utter and total mocking of Hall of Mirrors, although you very likely can understand why it was loathed: It’s a slab, and as Jim Bridwell once noted, “Climb on Glacier Point Apron too much and you’ll grow breasts.”