Pat and I first met in
1967, just after I had moved to
Fort Collins. This photo of Pat
was taken by me as we bouldered
along the Gem Lake Trail in 1968.
The friendship that resulted from
that first encounter has lasted 36 years.
Although ten years my junior, we had,
in common, the most important thing two
climbers can have in common: remarkably similar
perspectives of our craft.
We were both gymnasts, and Pat, independantly,
had started using chalk in climbing only
a few years after I had introduced it elsewhere.
We both viewed rock climbing as an extension
of gymnastics. What I had in pulling strength,
Pat had in pressing strength. He could do a hollowback
press to handstand from the floor, followed by a number
of handstand push-ups. He once held a one-arm handstand on
the parallel bars for 18 seconds (I don't think I ever went beyond 5). Along
with one-arm mantels on the rock, he could also do
a very slow and controlled muscle-up on the high bar, rotating
both elbows simultaneously – a very difficult feat.
But, most importantly for our friendship, we
were aware of spiritual or mystical dimensions of the
sport. We also thought of our climbing as
an artistic endeavor.
Off the Gem
Lake Trail 1960s
Pat is a significant
artist. He is a prolific writer,
having written literally dozens of
books about various aspects of climbing,
including an original guidebook "High
Over Boulder", that set benchmarks for
precision and accuracy. He is a composer, pianist,
and singer, and his line drawings are superb.
He is also, and fundamentally, a poet.
The balance he has achieved between the physical
realm – including being a black belt Karate
instructor – and the artistic or spiritual realm
, for a few words
about his climbing feats. Besides
setting new bouldering standards at
Flagstaff Mountain, in Boulder,
during the 1960s, he made significant
climbs in Colorado and Yosemite.
Pat's ascent of
in Eldorado Canyon at the age of eighteen
in 1965 established one of the hardest
short climbs in the country. He authored
the first 5.11 in Yosemite - the Center Slack at the base of El Cap
- as well. He is also a true master
of safety in climbing
, having the ability to
place adequate protection in even the most
barren of traditional climbs. Pat was a leading
innovator and experimented with various approaches
to rock climbing during a transitionary era,
fraught with ethical dilemmas, toward the end of
the Golden Age. He raised a few waves because
of this and because of a powerful intellect and
a quiet but forceful attitude, not averse to philosophical
and verbal argument.
Pat's famous Red Wall Problem - Flagstaff Mountain
He has weathered these minor squalls
with determination and resiliency,
and to some extent, I think they
define him. He is a rare renaissance
man in an age of increasing specialization.
The only true poet I know who weaves his
spell upon the rock as well. (2003)
For those of you interested in learning
more about this great old friend of mine, I recommend
Stories of a Young Climber – an Autobiography
. By the
way, Pat Ament has a great new book : Everything
That Matters (2004)