John Bragg [Photo] Giulio Malfer

John Kendal Bragg, Jr.

Posted on: September 1, 2003


The best part of climbing is exploration: wandering in the wind and rain of the Patagonian Andes, intimately investigating a small shield of rock beneath the spreading oaks and pines of the Shawangunks, looking for something new, drawn to the unknown. I remember the climbs I couldn't do more vividly than the ones I did: the failures, the fiascos; lines I envisioned, but couldn't climb; routes I was sure would go free, but couldn't pull off; summits I dreamed about, but never reached.

I believe in the inherent uselessness, the Sisyphean pointlessness, of climbing, and yet...and yet .... Albert Camus, writing about the myth of Sisyphus, concluded that, "The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy." It's important to get up each day and set out to do what was imagined, dreamed, the day before.

For many years I was a climber, and then, for many more, a husband, father, businessman. The challenge for me today is combining these sometimes-conflicting passions. Once I dreamed only of the heights; today I dream of the heights and the hearth and struggle toward the joys of both.

John Bragg: curriculum vitae

1970: Practice Face (5.2) and Tarzan (5.8), Crow Hill, Massachusetts, first toprope and first lead.

1971: Northwest Face (VI 5.7 A2), Half Dome, Yosemite Valley, California, ascent.

1972: Salathe Wall (VI 5.9 A3), Yosemite Valley, California, ascent. Naked Edge (III 5.11a), Eldorado Canyon, Colorado, ascent.

1973: Yellow Wall (5.11b) and Kansas City (5.12b), Shawangunks, New York, first free ascents.

1974: Repentance (III WI5), Cathedral Ledge, New Hampshire, first winter ascent. Enema Crack (5.11), Yosemite Valley, first ascent. Grim Reaper (5.11 X), Cathedral Ledge, first ascent.

1975: Mellow Yellow (II 5.11+), Eldorado Canyon, first free ascent. Power of Positive Thinking (III WI5+), Adirondacks, New York, first winter ascent.

1976: Torre Egger, American Route (VI 5.9 A4), Argentine Patagonia, first ascent. To Have or Have Not (5.11+ R), Shawangunks, first ascent.

1977: Cerro Torre, West Face (VI 5.8 WI6), Argentine Patagonia, first alpine-style ascent. Cinch Crack (5.12), Eldorado Canyon, first free ascent.

1978: Astroman (IV 5.11c), Yosemite, early free ascent. Gravity's Rainbow (5.12c) and Iron Cross (5.12d), Shawangunks, first ascents.

1980: Married Barbra Isabel Beal. Pichenibule (IV 5.11), Verdon Gorge, France, ascent.

1982: Hidden Peak, Chinese Karakoram, China, reconnaissance.

1983: Son Tony born.

1999: The Fox-Stennico (IV 5.9), Cima d'Ambiz, Dolomites, Italy, first climb in seventeen years.

2001: Complete Exum Ridge (III 5.8), Grand Teton, Wyoming, first guiding in twenty-five years.

2002: Tony graduates from high school. Cerro Mellizos, Lago O'Higgins, Chile, explorations and attempt.

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