Tom Frost

Last updated
Tom Frost
Tom Frost.jpg
Tom Frost during the second ascent of The Nose route on El Capitan in 1961.
Personal information
Nationality American
Born(1936-06-30)June 30, 1936
Newport, California
DiedAugust 24, 2018(2018-08-24) (aged 82)
Oakdale, California
Climbing career
Type of climber rock climbing, big wall climbing
Known forfirst ascents in Yosemite Valley

Thomas "Tom" M. Frost (June 30, 1936[ citation needed ] – August 24, 2018 [1] ) was an American rock climber known for big wall climbing first ascents in Yosemite Valley. He was also a photographer and climbing equipment manufacturer. Frost was born in Hollywood, California, and died in Oakdale, California. [2]

Contents

Rock climbing and mountaineering

Frost grew up in Newport, California and was a sailing champion as a teenager, winning the Snipe National Championship in 1953 and 1954. [3] [4]

In 1958, he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, where he was a member of the Stanford Alpine Club. [5]

Frost began making first ascents in Yosemite in 1958. In 1960, he made the second ascent of The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, a route pioneered by Warren Harding in 1958. He climbed with Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt and Joe Fitschen.

John Harlin II, Tom Frost, Gary Hemming, and Stewart Fulton at the L'Envers des Aiguille Hut in 1963. 1963 aiguille du fou.jpg
John Harlin II, Tom Frost, Gary Hemming, and Stewart Fulton at the L’Envers des Aiguille Hut in 1963.

In 1961, Frost and Yvon Chouinard visited the Tetons, and made the first ascent of the northeast face of Disappointment Peak, its difficulty rated IV, 5.9, A3, according to the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS). [6]

The southwest face of El Capitan from Yosemite Valley. Salathe Wall takes a line up the central part of the face. Yosemite El Capitan.jpg
The southwest face of El Capitan from Yosemite Valley. Salathé Wall takes a line up the central part of the face.

On September 12, 1961, Frost, along with Robbins, began the first ascent of the Salathé Wall on El Capitan, named for pioneer Yosemite climber John Salathé. The pair spent two days establishing the first 600 feet of the route, and then retreated to the valley floor, where they met up with Chuck Pratt, with whom they spent several more days pushing the route to 1,000 feet above the valley floor. Once again, the climbers descended and resupplied. On September 19, they resumed the climb, and after days of intense vertical aid climbing they reached the Roof, a 15-foot overhang. Using pitons, Frost led this key section of the climb, and on September 24, the trio reached the summit. It had taken them a total of 11 days and 36 pitches of vertical climbing to finish the route, which is rated YDS VI, 5.10, A3. [7]

In 1963, he visited the Himalaya with Edmund Hillary, making the first ascent of Kangtega, and helping with the construction of a school and a hospital for the Sherpas.

Frost, Robbins, Pratt and Chouinard at the completion of the first ascent of the North America Wall on El Capitan in 1964. Photo by Tom Frost. North America Wall team by Tom Frost.jpg
Frost, Robbins, Pratt and Chouinard at the completion of the first ascent of the North America Wall on El Capitan in 1964. Photo by Tom Frost.

From October 22–31, 1964, with Robbins, Pratt and Chouinard, Frost made the first ascent of the North America Wall on El Capitan, YDS VI, 5.8, A5. Robbins described this climb in the 1965 American Alpine Journal: "The nine-day first ascent of the North America Wall in 1964 not only was the first one-push first ascent of an El Capitan climb, but a major breakthrough in other ways. We learned that our minds and bodies never stopped adjusting to the situation. We were able to live and work and sleep in comparative comfort in a vertical environment." [8] Of this climb, Chris Jones wrote, "For the first time in the history of the sport, Americans lead the world." [9]

In 1968, Frost visited the Cirque of the Unclimbables in the Northwest Territories of Canada. From August 10 to August 13, along with Jim McCarthy and Sandy Bill, he made the first ascent of the vertical southeast face of the 2,200-foot granite pillar named the Lotus Flower Tower, YDS V, 5.8, A2. [10]

In 1970, he participated in the 1970 Annapurna South Face expedition, reaching 25,000 feet.

In 1979, he reached the summit of Ama Dablam on a filming expedition.

Tom Frost in Eldorado Canyon, Colorado, in the late 1980s Tom Frost in Eldorado Canyon, Colorado.jpg
Tom Frost in Eldorado Canyon, Colorado, in the late 1980s

In 1986, he returned to Kangtega and climbed a new route with Jeff Lowe.

From 1997 to 2001, he returned to Yosemite big wall climbing with his son Ryan, repeating the Nose, the North America Wall and finally, the Salathé Wall on the 40th anniversary of his first ascent.

Notable first ascents

Photography

Frost photographed many of his first ascents. Glen Denny, also a mountaineering photographer and author of the book Yosemite in the Sixties, wrote of Frost's photographic achievements: "Most of the climbing photos you see now are prearranged setups for the camera on much-traveled routes. The impressive thing about Frost is that his classic images were seen, and photographed, during major first ascents. In those awesome situations he led, cleaned, hauled, day after day and – somehow – used his camera with the acuity of a Cartier-Bresson strolling about a piazza. Extremes of heat and cold, storm and high altitude, fear and exhaustion ... it didn't matter. He didn't seem to feel the pressure." [5]

Several of Frost's photos were published in Royal Robbins' book, Advanced Rockcraft, in 1973. [13] Frost was also an ice climber, and contributed dozens of photographs to Yvon Chouinard's book Climbing Ice. [14] Nine of his photographs appeared in the book Fifty Classic Climbs of North America . [15] Many of his photos appeared in Pat Ament's Royal Robbins: Spirit of the Age. [16]

In 1979, he co-founded Chimera Photographic Lighting with Gary Regester. The company, based in Boulder, Colorado, manufactures lighting products for photography and filming. [17]

Climbing philosophy and activism

Frost was a longtime advocate of environmental ethics in climbing, using natural protection whenever possible, guided by respect for tradition and a desire to "leave no trace". He articulated his climbing philosophy in an address to an international congress called "The Future of Mountain Sports", held in Innsbruck, Austria in September, 2002. He opposed what he believed to be excessive use of bolts by sport climbers, especially the altering of traditional climbing routes previously completed without such aids. He criticized such practices as the result of a desire by some climbers for "instant gratification with little or no accountability". He opposed five attitudes as the culprits of modern climbing: "selfishness – entitlement – lack of self management – mis-education – and disrespect." [18]

Starting in 1997, Frost played a critical role in the fight to stop the National Park Service from constructing employee dormitories near Camp 4, a historic rockclimber's campsite in Yosemite Valley, arguing that the buildings would disturb the camp's natural setting. [19] With the support of other activists, Frost initiated a lawsuit against the Park Service, which was joined by the American Alpine Club. [19] As part of their attempt to stop the construction project, Frost and his attorney Dick Duane also filed an application to have Camp 4 listed on the National Register of Historic Places. [19] The park officials ultimately agreed to stop the development plans and to support the NRHP application, which was granted in 2003, based on the camp's "significant association with the growth and development of rock climbing in the Yosemite Valley during the 'golden years' of pioneer mountaineering". [20] [21]

In 2002, Royal Robbins offered the following description of Frost: "Tom is the kindest and gentlest and most generous person I have ever met, with never an ill word to say of anyone. He is also a man of courage and leadership, as witness his recent vanguard role in the effort to save Camp 4 in Yosemite. And he continues to possess the true spirit of climbing." [22]

Climbing equipment

While working on the first ascent of Kat Pinnacle with Chouinard in 1959, the pair designed and fabricated the Realized Ultimate Reality Piton or RURP, a tiny device that allowed them to finish the most difficult aid climb then completed in North America. [23] This led to a lengthy partnership between Frost and Chouinard in climbing equipment companies such as the Great Pacific Iron Works and Chouinard, Ltd. Frost described his profession as "piton engineer".

In the late 1960s, Frost and Chouinard turned their attention to ice climbing and its specialized equipment. They developed an alpine hammer with a drooping pick. Although Austrian climbers had improvised rigid crampons decades before by welding a bar across the hinge of conventional crampons, such devices were not commercially available until 1967. That year, Chouinard and Frost began marketing adjustable rigid crampons made of chrome-molybdenum steel. [24]

Frost and Chouinard invented the climbing protection device called the Hexentric. They applied for a United States patent in 1974 and it was granted on April 6, 1976. [25] These are[ when? ] still manufactured by Black Diamond Equipment, a successor to earlier companies owned by Frost and Chouinard.

Since 1997, Frost owned a business manufacturing rock climbing equipment called Frostworks. [26]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Half Dome</span> Granitic dome in Yosemite National Park, California

Half Dome is a quartz monzonite batholith at the eastern end of Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park, California. It is a well-known rock formation in the park, named for its distinct shape. One side is a sheer face while the other three sides are smooth and round, making it appear like a dome cut in half. It stands at nearly 8,800 feet above sea level and is composed of quartz monzonite, an igneous rock that solidified several thousand feet within the Earth. At its core are the remains of a magma chamber that cooled slowly and crystallized beneath the Earth's surface. The solidified magma chamber was then exposed and cut in half by erosion, therefore leading to the geographic name Half Dome.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mount Edith Cavell</span> Mountain in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Mount Edith Cavell is a mountain in the Athabasca River and Astoria River valleys of Jasper National Park, and the most prominent peak entirely within Alberta.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">El Capitan</span> Vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park

El Capitan is a vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park, 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 world-famous location for big wall climbing, including the disciplines of aid climbing, free climbing, and more recently for free solo climbing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aid climbing</span> Type of climbing

Aid climbing is a form of rock climbing that uses mechanical devices and equipment, such as aiders, for upward momentum. Aid climbing is the opposite of free climbing, which only uses mechanical equipment for protection, but not to assist in upward momentum. "Traditional aid climbing" involves hammering in permanently fixed pitons and bolts, into which aiders are clipped, whereas "clean aid climbing" avoids hammering, and only uses removable placements.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Piton</span> Metal tool used in rock climbing

A piton in big wall climbing and in aid climbing is a metal spike that is driven into a crack or seam in the climbing surface using a climbing hammer, and which acts as an anchor for protecting the climber against the consequences of falling or to assist progress in aid climbing. Pitons are equipped with an eye hole or a ring to which a carabiner is attached; the carabiner can then be directly or indirectly connected to a climbing rope.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yvon Chouinard</span> American mountain climber (born 1938)

Yvon Chouinard is an American rock climber, environmentalist, philanthropist and outdoor industry businessman. His company, Patagonia, is known for its commitment to protecting the environment. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2023.

Steve Roper is a noted climber and historian of the Sierra Nevada in the United States. He along with Allen Steck are the founding editors of the Sierra Club journal Ascent.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Royal Robbins</span> American rock climber (1935–2017)

Royal Robbins was one of the pioneers of American rock climbing. After learning to climb at Tahquitz Rock, 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Warren Harding (climber)</span> American rock climber (1924–2002)

Warren Harding was one of the most accomplished and influential American big wall climbers and aid climbers of the 1950s to 1970s. He was the leader of the first team to climb El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, in 1958. The route they climbed, known as The Nose, ascends 2,900 feet (880 m) up the central buttress of what is one of the largest granite monoliths in the world. Harding made many first ascents in Yosemite, some 28 in all, including The Wall of Early Morning Life.

<i>Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome</i> Multi-pitch climbing route in Yosemite, US

The Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome was the first Grade VI big wall climbing route in the United States. It was first climbed in 1957 by a team consisting of Royal Robbins, Mike Sherrick, and Jerry Gallwas. Its current aid climbing rating is VI 5.9 A1 or 5.12 for the free climbing variation. It is recognized in the historic climbing text Fifty Classic Climbs of North America and considered a classic around the world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Salathé</span> Swiss-born American pioneering rock climber, blacksmith and inventor

John Salathé was a Swiss-born American pioneering rock climber, blacksmith, and the inventor of the modern steel piton. In his later years he promoted Christian spiritualism and vegetarianism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bob Kamps</span>

Bob Kamps was an American rock climber whose climbing career spanned five decades. Born in Wisconsin, he began climbing in California in 1955, and was a member of that cadre of Yosemite pioneers who first ascended many of its great walls in the 1950s and 1960s. He was particularly adept on steep rock faces, and was among the first to shift attention from aid climbing to free climbing. Over the years he made more than 3,100 climbs. Many were first ascents or first free ascents.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of rock climbing</span> Key chronological milestones

In the history of rock climbing, the three main sub-disciplines—bouldering, single-pitch climbing, and big wall climbing—can trace their origins to late 19th-century Europe. Bouldering started in Fontainebleau, and was advanced by Pierre Allain in the 1930s, and John Gill in the 1950s. Big wall climbing started in the Dolomites, and was spread across the Alps in the 1930s by climbers such as Emilio Comici and Riccardo Cassin, and in the 1950s by Walter Bonatti, before reaching Yosemite where it was led in the 1950s to 1970s by climbers such as Royal Robbins. Single-pitch climbing started pre-1900 in both the Lake District and in Saxony, and by the late-1970s had spread widely with climbers such as Ron Fawcett (Britain), Bernd Arnold (Germany), Patrick Berhault (France), Ron Kauk and John Bachar (USA).

<i>Fifty Classic Climbs of North America</i> 1979 non-fiction book

Fifty Classic Climbs of North America is a climbing guidebook and history written by Steve Roper and Allen Steck. It is considered a classic piece of climbing literature, known to many climbers as simply "The Book", and has served as an inspiration for more recent climbing books, such as Mark Kroese's Fifty Favorite Climbs. Though much of the book's contents are now out of date, it is still recognized as a definitive text which goes beyond the traditional guidebook.

<i>The Nose</i> (El Capitan) Multi-pitch climbing route in Yosemite, US

The Nose is a big wall climbing route up El Capitan. Once considered impossible to climb, El Capitan is now the standard for big-wall climbing. It is recognized in the historic climbing text Fifty Classic Climbs of North America and considered a classic around the world.

<i>Salathé Wall</i> Technical climbing route up El Capitan

The Salathé Wall is one of the original big wall climbing routes up El Capitan, a 3,000-foot (900 m) high granite monolith in Yosemite National Park. The Salathé Wall was named by Yvon Chouinard in honor of John Salathé, a pioneer of rock climbing in Yosemite. The route is recognized in the historic climbing text Fifty Classic Climbs of North America and is considered a classic around the world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lost Arrow Spire</span> Detached pillar in Yosemite

Lost Arrow Spire is a detached pillar in Yosemite National Park, in Yosemite Valley, California, located immediately adjacent to Upper Yosemite Falls. The structure includes the Lost Arrow Spire Chimney route which is recognized in the historic climbing text Fifty Classic Climbs of North America. The spire is the location for a dramatic Tyrolean traverse, which has since become an iconic slackline.

Allen Parker Steck was an American mountaineer and rock climber.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chuck Pratt</span> American rock climber (1939–2000)

Charles Marshall Pratt was an American rock climber known for big wall climbing first ascents in Yosemite Valley. He was also a long-time climbing instructor and mountain guide with Exum Mountain Guides in the Grand Tetons.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jerry Gallwas</span> American rock climber (born 1936)

Jerry Gallwas is an American rock climber active in the 1950s during the dawn of the Golden Age of Yosemite Rock Climbing. He achieved a number of pioneering first ascents including sandstone spires in the American Southwest, and the first ascent of the Northwest Face of Half Dome with Royal Robbins and Mike Sherrick in 1957. Gallwas made his own heat-treated chrome-molybdenum steel alloy pitons, which contributed to the success of the climb.

References

  1. Hobley, Nicholas (2018-08-25). "Tom Frost, farewell to Yosemite Golden Age climbing legend" . Retrieved 2018-08-25.
  2. "Climber Tom Frost Dies". 24 August 2018. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  3. Roemer, John (2018-11-27). "Mountaineer and Engineer. Tom Frost, '58". stanfordmag.org. Retrieved 2022-07-07.
  4. Len, Bose. "On The Harbor: The Newport Beach Sailing Hall of Fame". Stu News Newport. Retrieved 2022-07-07.
  5. 1 2 "No Guts, No Glory: A History of the Stanford Alpine Club" . Retrieved 2022-07-07.
  6. 1 2 Jones, Chris (1976). Climbing in North America. Berkeley, California, USA: University of California Press. pp.  311. ISBN   978-0-520-02976-7.
  7. Roper, Steve; Steck, Allen (1979). Fifty Classic Climbs of North America . San Francisco: Sierra Club Books. pp. 269–275. ISBN   0-87156-292-8.
  8. Robbins, Royal (1973). "The North America Wall". In Galen Rowell (ed.). The Vertical World of Yosemite. Berkeley, California: Wilderness Press. pp. 115–136. ISBN   978-0-911824-87-2. (republished 1995)
  9. Jones, Chris (1976). Climbing in North America. Berkeley, California, USA: University of California Press. pp.  360. ISBN   978-0-520-02976-7.
  10. Roper, pp. 98–103
  11. Reid, Don (1993). Yosemite Climbs: Big Walls. Evergreen, Colorado: Chockstone Press Press. ISBN   978-0-934641-54-8.
  12. Jones, Chris (1976). Climbing in North America. pp.  315–316. ISBN   978-0-520-02976-7.
  13. Robbins, Royal (1973). Advanced Rockcraft. Glendale, CA: La Siesta Press. ISBN   978-0910856560.
  14. Chouinard, Yvon (1978). Climbing Ice. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books and the American Alpine Club. ISBN   978-0-87156-207-4.
  15. Roper, Steve; Steck, Allen (1979). Fifty Classic Climbs of North America . San Francisco: Sierra Club Books. ISBN   0-87156-292-8.
  16. Ament, Pat (1992). Royal Robbins: Spirit of the Age. Boulder, Colorado: Two Lights. ISBN   978-1-881663-02-7.
  17. "About – Chimera Lighting" . Retrieved 2018-08-25.
  18. "Frostworks – Environmental Commentaries – Innsbruck 2002" . Retrieved October 10, 2009.
  19. 1 2 3 Muhlfeld, Teige (2009-09-17). "Rock and Ice Magazine: Coffee's Free at Camp 4". Archived from the original on 2011-07-15.
  20. "Camp 4 Listed With National Register of Historic Place" (Press release). National Park Service. 2006-02-27. Archived from the original on 2006-06-16. Retrieved 2006-07-10.
  21. Bailey, Eric (2003-02-28). "Yosemite's Camp 4 Placed on Historic Registry". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2022-07-07.
  22. "Frostworks – Environmental Commentaries – Standing on the Shoulders: A Tribute to my Heroes By Royal Robbins" . Retrieved October 10, 2009.
  23. Jones, Chris (1976). Climbing in North America. Berkeley: American Alpine Club and University of California Press. p.  274. ISBN   978-0-520-02976-7.
  24. Chouinard, Yvon (1978). Climbing Ice. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books and American Alpine Club. pp.  18, 28. ISBN   978-0-87156-207-4.
  25. US Patent No. 3948485 Irregular, polygonal mountaineering chock
  26. "About Tom Frost & Frostworks" . Retrieved October 10, 2009.