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John Long

A character like no other, publisher, explorer, and original Stone Master, John Long is one of history’s most influential rock climbers. With stories like “Pumping Sandstone” and “Pumping Granite” published in Climbing Magazine, he contributed to shaping free climbing and bouldering as we know it today. Through a period of almost twenty years, from the ‘70s up until the ‘80s, John managed to send along with his climbing mates some of the most inspiring ascents, such as the Paisano Overhang, Astroman, and Yosemite’s iconic El Capitan.

NATIONALITY

United States

Date Of Birth

21/07/1953

Speciality

Trad, Free Solo

Hardest Sport

5.12c/7b+

Hardest Boulder

V5

Hardest Trad

E6

John Long

Ascent Log

John Long has climbed hundreds of routes during his career. Below are his most noteworthy.

ClimbTypeSuggested GradeDate of AscentNotes
Paisano OverhangTradE61973
The NoseTrad5.91975
AstromanTrad5.12c1975

Climbing Career

Learning the Ropes & Early Life

Born in Indio, California, John Long started climbing in the ‘70s with John Bachar, Eric “Ricky” Accomazzo, Richard Harrison, Ron Kauk, and Lynn Hill, along with other Yosemite misfits later known as the Stone Masters.

John Long young in Yosemite with beer in hand

During his teenage years in Upland, California, John, along with Accomazzo and Richard Harrison, traveled around the US, wreaking havoc and looking for the next adventure. This is how they discovered the boulders of Joshua Tree, Tahquitz, and Suicide Rocks.

Looking for quick and challenging climbs, Long turned his bouldering climbs into highballs and, without even knowing it, into free solos.

John Long bouldering in Joshua Tree
John Long bouldering in Joshua Tree

John had an immense impact on the world of bouldering by always searching for new problems to approach, whether in Joshua, Yosemite, or Black Mountain.

Today, we can let ourselves be inspired by his stories published in Climbing Magazine or in the over 40 books that he has published.

John Long and Jim Bridwell in bivvy up Yosemite valley

Notable Ascents

Paisano Overhang

Although he didn’t know it then, in 1973, Long introduced the first off-width moves during his ascent of the Paisano Overhang. Having a massive physique, Long still used two pairs of gloves to stick his hand inside the levitation crack, the crux move of this E6 classic route.

Long making the first ascent of Paisano Overhang
Long making the first ascent of Paisano Overhang

His first ascent of this route marked the beginning of the future hard climbs John was about to establish during his rock climbing career.

As rumors about his “gloved” ascent spread, John returned later to free the route while suffering the sharp rock through the process. The use of padding in hard and painful cracks was not a new thing. John had seen Yosemite climbers using all sorts of alternate ways to make the ascent more “comfortable,” but until the use of tape gloves became a thing, he resorted to this clever way of sparing his skin.

The Nose

In 1975, set to make the impossible possible, John Long, Jim Birdwell, and Billy Westbay ascended the Nose of El Capitan in 17 hours and 45 minutes.

Jim Bridwell and climbers on The Nose
Jim, John, and Billy right after they just speed climbed The Nose

Starting at 5 a.m. using headlamps, the trio cruised through the first four pitches and stumbled in the dark for a few hours, pawing from one bolt to another until they reached the top and setting the baseline for what became one of the most amazing races in climbing history, the Nose In A Day challenge (NIAD).  

Astroman

Along with Ron Kauk and John Bachar, in 1975, Long pulled “the world’s greatest free climb” by sending the East Face of Washington Column, known since then as Astroman.

With Jimi Hendrix’s Astro Man blaring from Bachar’s stereo, John topped the eleven-pitch overhanging face while being hip-belayed by Kauk.

The free ascent of Astroman was exactly what Long was searching for. With El Capitan In a Day, this was the last frontier. Sweating bullets over the Boulder Problem Pitch, racing through the Enduro Corner, staring into the void in the Harding Slot, and shuffling in the Changing Corners pitch, the last fifty feet were to make Astroman the adventure of a lifetime. 

Ron was only seventeen years old when the trio made this historic ascent, but John Long was in his prime, and they all knew he was the one who had to make the climb. Accompanied by Hendrix and the faith the team put in him, Long made the last moves to the top and turned the East Face of Washington Column into Astroman.

Legacy 

It’s hard to talk about John Long only through the prism of rock climbing, as he is much more than that.

He is still up and rocking as we speak, writing, guiding, and introducing people to adventure outside their comfort zone.

John Long in Papua New Guinea
John Long in Papua New Guinea

His books, such as “The Stonemasters: California Rock Climbers in the Seventies” tell us the stories of old-school climbers who smoked dope and free soloed monster pitches. He even got into pop culture with his contribution to realizing the cult movie “Cliffhanger” starring Sylvester Stalone in the ‘90s.

His passion for base jumping took him to lots of great places around the world, from Norway to the granite tepuis in Venezuela, with him also documenting the entire experience through video materials and articles.

Also, as a person who survived the dirt-bag lifestyle in the ‘70s, John has battled addiction and is a dedicated supporter of people struggling with alcoholism.

Video Library

Razvan

Born and raised in Jiu Valley, Romania, I am a true mountain enthusiast, absorbing knowledge from each sport the area offers. Snowboarder in the winter and a hiker and climber in the summer, I love spending my days up in the Carpathians. I have had a passion for writing ever since I laid my hands on my first keyboard, and I always have a curiosity for gear and great stories. I split my time between various jobs and hobbies, including being a full-time psychologist, repairing skis in the winter, and working with kids at my local gym whenever I have time.

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