Henry Barber in Australia in 2007
|Born||1953 (age 65–66)|
|Type of climber||first ascenscionist and free soloist|
|Updated on 25 February 2016.|
Henry Barber (born 1953 in Boston, Massachusetts) is a leading American rock climber and ice climber in the 1970s. Known by the nickname "Hot Henry", Barber was an advocate of clean climbing, a prolific first ascenscionist and free soloist. He was one of the first American rock climbers to travel widely to climb in different countries. Barber was one of the first "professional" American rock climbers, supporting himself as a sales representative for outdoor equipment companies including Chouinard Equipment and Patagonia, and by giving lectures and slide shows. He was an integral member of the "Front Four" quartet of the 1970s: "Hot Henry", John Stannard, Steve Wunsch, and John Bragg.
At age 17, Barber started climbing with the Boston chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club. Although initially not athletically gifted, he became obsessed with the sport, and persevered, climbing as much as possible. By his own account, Henry climbed approximately 270 days in 1972, and 325 in 1973.
In 1973, Henry did the second ascent of Foops, a 5.11 climbing route in the Gunks; this was five years after John Stannard had done the pioneering first ascent. In rock climbing, especially at popular crags like the Gunks, a second ascent is normally done soon after the first, usually in a matter of days or weeks.
Barber was known for climbing in trademark white golfer's cap and white painter's pants, as well as his abrasive and arrogant demeanor. He was one of the few climbers of his era to actively seek and use media attention. His repertoire of moves, creativity, and problem-solving abilities, and his tremendous self-confidence and mental control, set him apart from his contemporaries.
Henry Barber was an early advocate of clean climbing, climbing with only nuts for protection. One of Barber's specialties was doing the first free ascent of established aid climbs.
Barber was a prolific soloist, specializing in on-sight solo ascents. In 1973, Barber soloed the Steck-Salathé Route on Sentinel Rock in Yosemite National Park. The solo ascent, done on-sight in 2½ hours, first brought Barber to prominence as a leading rock climber.
In 1976 Henry (with Steve Wunsch and Fritz Wiessner) traveled to Dresden, East Germany as the first American climbing visitors. Wiessner had learned rock climbing around Dresden early in the century. Tradition (and soft, fragile sandstone) demanded that rock climbers use no metal for protection, relying instead only on knotted nylon slings jammed into cracks to hold a leader's fall. Climbers were expected to climb barefoot, and to abstain from the use of gymnasts' chalk. Barber was impressed with the rigours and difficulty of climbing around Dresden; the Dresden climbers were impressed with Henry's ability, although they also thought him too reckless, especially in the area of free soloing.
Barber was well-traveled at a time when rock climbers generally did not stray far from their home crags. His style was to show up at an area and greatly exceed local standards. In one trip he single-handedly jumped technical standards in Australia by more than a number grade. Other accomplishments include first ascent of the often-tried Butterballs in Yosemite; blazing a trail of desperate first ascents in the Gunks; and on-sight free-soloing dozens of routes on many different rock types in many different countries, up to hard 5.10, at a time when the 5.11 grade was only starting to solidify. Barber climbed at Mount Arapiles in Australia; Dresden; Great Britain; Scotland; Russia; Mexico; as well as climbing all over the United States, from the crags of New England to Yosemite in California, and (seemingly) most crags in between.
In 1977, Barber travelled with Rob Taylor to Scotland and Norway to climb waterfalls. They did the (likely) first ascent of the Vettisfossen near Ardal, Norway (300m, WI5), among other climbs.
In early 1978, Henry and partner Rob Taylor attempted the first ascent of the Breach Wall on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Taylor fell while leading steep ice, and broke his ankle very badly. The details of what happened following the accident vary depending on which of the two parties is telling the story. Barber's party says that Barber helped Taylor descend; got him to a hospital; and then left to fly back to the United States to keep a speaking commitment. Taylor's party says that Barber abandoned him on the mountain, forcing him to climb down alone with his leg mangled. He somehow reached the rainforest at the base of the mountain and was rescued by local tribesman. Taylor nearly lost his leg at the hospital, and felt abandoned by his partner. After he recovered, Taylor wrote articles and a book (The Breach, Putnam, 1981) painting Barber in a very unflattering light.
This incident effectively ended Taylor's career as a top climber. Barber continued to climb at a very high level after the Taylor incident, for example making the first free ascent of Women in Love (5.12), Cathedral Ledge, New Hampshire. Barber continues to travel worldwide, climbing in his own style and learning other's styles. He eschews modern camming devices and harnesses, preferring the simpler, more rigorous style of nuts and swami belt.
Barber currently lives near North Conway, New Hampshire. He still climbs, and presents climbing slide shows and lectures.
Mount Waddington, once known as Mystery Mountain, is the highest peak in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, Canada. Although it is lower than Mount Fairweather and Mount Quincy Adams, which straddle the United States border between Alaska and British Columbia, Mount Waddington is the highest peak that lies entirely within British Columbia. It and the subrange which surround it, known as the Waddington Range, stands at the heart of the Pacific Ranges, a remote and extremely difficult set of mountains and river valleys.
Carolynn Marie "Lynn" Hill is a U.S. rock climber. Widely regarded as one of the leading competitive sport climbers in the world during the late 1980s and early 1990s, she is famous for making the first free ascent of the difficult sheer rock face of The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, and for repeating it the next year in less than 24 hours. She has been described as both one of the best female climbers in the world and one of the best climbers of all time. One of the first successful women in the sport, Hill shaped rock climbing for women and became a public spokesperson, helping it gain wider popularity and arguing for sex equality. Hill has publicized climbing by appearing on television shows and documentaries and writing an autobiography, Climbing Free: My Life in the Vertical World.
Free climbing is a form of rock climbing in which the climber may use climbing equipment such as ropes and other means of climbing protection, but only to protect against injury during falls and not to assist progress. The climber makes progress by using physical ability to move over the rock via handholds and footholds. Free climbing more specifically may include traditional climbing, sport climbing, bouldering and most forms of solo climbing. Free climbing a multi-pitch route means free-climbing each of its pitches in a single session. At the end of each pitch, climbers are allowed to anchor themselves to belay stations and rest. If they fail climbing a pitch, they are allowed to use the rope to return to the beginning of that pitch and try it again.
El Capitan, also known as El Cap, is a vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park, located on the north side of Yosemite Valley, near its western end. The granite monolith is about 3,000 feet (914 m) from base to summit along its tallest face, and is a popular objective for rock climbers.
Frog Buttress is a cliff on the north-west side of Mount French, in the Moogerah Peaks National Park near the town of Boonah in Queensland, Australia. It became famous when local rock climbers Rick White and Chris Meadows discovered it in 1968. Since then, 400 routes have been established by climbers including Henry Barber, Kim Carrigan and Tobin Sorenson.
The Shawangunk Ridge, also known as the Shawangunk Mountains or The Gunks, is a ridge of bedrock in Ulster County, Sullivan County and Orange County in the state of New York, extending from the northernmost point of New Jersey to the Catskill Mountains. Shawangunk Ridge is the continuation of the long, easternmost ridge of the Appalachian Mountains; the ridge is known as Kittatinny Mountain in New Jersey, and as Blue Mountain as it continues through Pennsylvania. This ridge constitutes the western border of the Great Appalachian Valley.
Tommy Caldwell is an American rock climber accomplished in sport climbing, hard traditional climbing, big-wall speed climbing, and big-wall free climbing. Caldwell made the first free ascents of several El Capitan routes in Yosemite National Park.
Royal Robbins was one of the pioneers of American rock climbing. After learning to climb at Tahquitz he went on to make first ascents of many big wall routes in Yosemite. As an early proponent of boltless, pitonless clean climbing, he, along with Yvon Chouinard, was instrumental in changing the climbing culture of the late 1960s and early 1970s by encouraging the use and preservation of the natural features of the rock. He went on to become a well-known kayaker.
Free solo climbing or free soloing, is a form of technical ice or rock climbing where the climbers climb alone without ropes, harnesses or other protective equipment, forcing them to rely entirely on their own individual strength and skill. Free soloing is the most dangerous form of climbing, and unlike bouldering, free soloists climb above safe heights, where a fall would result in serious injury or death. Though many climbers have attempted free soloing, it is considered "a niche of a niche" reserved for the sport's elite, which has led many practitioners to stardom within both the media and the sport of rock climbing. "Free solo" was originally a term of climber slang, but after the popularity of the Oscar-winning film Free Solo, Merriam-Webster officially added the word to the English dictionary in September 2019.
Fritz Wiessner was a German American pioneer of free climbing. Born in Dresden, Germany, he immigrated to New York City in 1929 and became a U.S. citizen in 1935. In 1939, he made one of the earliest attempts to climb K2, one of the most difficult mountains in the world to climb.
The Needles of the Black Hills of South Dakota are a region of eroded granite pillars, towers, and spires within Custer State Park. Popular with rock climbers and tourists alike, the Needles are accessed from the Needles Highway, which is a part of Sylvan Lake Road. The Cathedral Spires and Limber Pine Natural Area, a 637-acre portion of the Needles containing six ridges of pillars as well as a disjunct stand of limber pine, was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1976.
Ron Kauk is an American rock climber. Kauk is associated with Camp 4 in Yosemite Valley, where he lived for decades, now a resident of El Portal, California.
Although the practice of rock climbing was an important component of Victorian mountaineering in the Alps, it is generally thought that the sport of rock climbing began in the last quarter of the 19th century in at least three areas: Elbe Sandstone Mountains in Saxony near Dresden, the north of England including the Peak district and Lake District, and the Dolomites in Italy. Rock climbing evolved gradually from an alpine necessity to an athletic sport in its own right, making it imprudent to cite a primogenitor of the latter in each of these three locales. Nevertheless, there is some general agreement on the following:
Thomas John Higgins was an American rock climber with many first and first free ascents primarily in the western United States. He was noted for pushing standards using a purist, free climbing style.
Jules Marquard Eichorn was an American mountaineer, environmentalist, and music teacher.
Alexander Honnold is an American rock climber best known for his free solo ascents of big walls.
Miroslav Šmíd, Ing. was a Czech rock climber, solo climber, mountaineer, mountain cinematographer and photographer. He also organized climbing and cultural events. In 1981 he founded The International Festival of Mountaineering Films in Teplice nad Metují. He also wrote several books.
Geoff Weigand is an Australia rock climber and road cyclist.
Brad Gobright was an American climber known for free solo climbing.