John Long has climbed hundreds of routes during his career. Below are his most noteworthy.
|Date of Ascent
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.