Bob Kamps

Ken Yager
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Joined: Nov 20 2008

I would like to learn more about Bob Kamps. Please give us some stories if you have them.

Thanks.

Ken Yager

Bill (not verified)

Ken - Here's a bit of what I remember.  I think some other things of interest were put on Bob's memorial site, although I don't have the URL.  Another source for Kamps' stories would be Joe McKeown as he went to UCLA and did a bit of climbing with Bob.
I first met Bob Kamps at UCLA when I arrived there in 1958.  By then he had been climbing a couple of years, having started about the same time as a friend of mine, Dave Harvey.  Dave was a middling climber, but Bob had really taken off.  Bob's wife, Bonnie, was already a teacher, and they were committed to live their lives with lots of vacations, as Bob once told me.  I believe they lived in the UCLA veterans housing.  Bob had completed his military service, part during the Korean War.  I think he came from somewhere in the mid-west.  I asked Bob once if the idea of living to maximize vacations wasn't somehow against the Platonic ideal of service to state, and he gave me a reply that I recall still, "Bill, I live out of civilization the way some people live out of a suitcase."  Contact among climbers at UCLA was maintained through the Bruin Mountaineers lunch spot near Kirchoff Hall where one could meet with hikers, peak baggers and rock climbers (the very few).
In the semester break of January 1959, Bob organized a trip to wander about the desert to see what could be seen. He was a good organizer as he had a car. There were four of us, Kamps, Dave Harvey, a third whose name eludes me, and me. I was a 17 year old freshman and had been bouldering for about two three months on weekends at Stoney Point.  My equipment consisted of a lot of loaned Bruin Mountaineer items (the UCLA club had very fuzzy white ropes and other curious things one could borrow).
The trip was over a week and is memorable because the climbing was so bad. Chiricahua National Monument had pinnacles all over the place, but they were like those at the Pinnacles National Monument in California – conglomerate that was ready to shed its parts at any time. We also went toward New Mexico, but it started to snow and the roads weren’t good. Cochise Stronghold was granite and pleasant, and it being a cold time of year one had little concern for snakes. Mexico was, to me as a first time visitor, bizarre. Kamps wanted to go there to get some liquor, a gallon per person of which could be brought in tax free so we popped across the border at Mexicali. I was told to "be asleep" when we crossed back so I could be counted as a person for the gallons they purchased.  It was not a hard role to play, and I did it with style.
 
As the vacation began to run out, we headed back toward the Colorado River area as Bob had in mind climbing Monument Peak, a volcanic pinnacle first climbed in 1940 by the Mendenhalls and two others. On one side the pinnacle drops off 1000 feet, but on the other side it is only a 250 foot vertical distance as it is connected by a saddle to another peak. The description by John Mendenhall of the peak is in the 1940 Sierra Club Bulletin: “Precipitous, overhanging here and there, and evilly loose, the Monument had defied at least two attempts as 1939 drew to a close.”
 
We arrived at the peak on February 2, 1959. I don’t recall much about the climb up except that Bob led everything and rocks seemed to be falling around Dave and me lot when Bob was up above, and below us when we climbed. The climbing wasn’t hard, but it was dangerous, "evilly loose", and the actual value of protection was anybody’s guess. On the way down we rappelled with extreme care as the anchors were nothing to shout about and the mere act of going down caused rocks to be dislodged by rope movement, and when they did it themselves, no one hollered “Rock!” Just silent whizzing sounds and little explosions when they hit.
 
One rappel ended on a sloping ledge under a little overhang which was a nice respite from the falling rocks. Bob started to pull the rope down and just at the point where we thought it would come whipping down, it got stuck. On what? We all gave a tug, but no movement. So after many tries Bob took matters into his hands and headed off hand over hand up the rope. Dave and I sat huddled under the overhang wondering what will become of us if Bob loosens the rope by accident and takes the big plunge. Would anyone ever find us? Would it be possible to climb down from where we were? All the while rocks were pinging down outside our overhang. As a new climber I couldn’t imagine doing what Bob did then, but of a sudden, the rocks stopped falling and the rope started moving up. Bob hat gotten up and was re-setting the rappel! He never said what the actual situation was with the point at which the rope was stuck which I took to mean “too scary for words.”
 
I remained at UCLA for a couple of years and spent Sundays at Stoney Point, and many weekends at Tahquitz..  Under Bob's tutelage I was up to leading 5.8 in September 1959 and following 5.9 by October 18, 1959 when he and I and Dave Harvey did the Consolation at Tahquitz, according to a pen and ink note in my 1956 "climber's guide to tahquitz rock".  Bob led it easily and following was not hard with a top belay.  Bob was big on climbing 5th class for, we all know, anyone can step up slings doing direct aid.  I took Bob's opinion and avoided 6th class whenever possible.
 
On occasion I was the odd man out and got stuck sitting around at Lunch Rock.  One time it was just Bonnie and me, and I asked her if she ever climbed with Bob.  She said no, he was against it.  So we chatted and she said she was interested in trying it.  So on May 31, 1959 we did the Swing Traverse (5.1) and on June 12, 1959 theFingertip Traverse (also 5.1).  I could see Bob's point.  I am one of the very few to have climbed with both Bob and Bonnie!
 
I left UCLA for Berkeley in 1960 and did no more climbs with Bob, although I ran into him now and then in Yosemite.
 
The last time I saw Bob was about 1976.  I was in Los Angeles for a work related trip and stopped out to Stoney Point one afternoon to revisit a site of my younger days.  It was deserted except for one person, Bob.  We had a chat and did some bouldering and then we went our separate ways.
 
I remember Bob as a friend who always had a big smile on his face, who enjoyed a bit of verbal jousting, and who was patient with a new climber.
 
Bill Amborn