Tunnel Vision with John Bachar


By Dave Yerian - Co Founder of Jam Walls

John Bachar and I were walking down Highway 120 from Yosemite Valley to the first tunnel near Foresta. Once again we were on a mission. Our goal was to tackle a crack that had been discovered but not yet completed. John and I entered the alcove in the tunnel and rappelled down the rock to a big ledge system. We arrived at a 2’- 3’ wide ledge that led toward Ron Kauk’s route “Gates of Power”; a fiendish, flaring over-hanging 5.11+ crack. This was the early 80’s and I thought we were going down to do Gate of Power. As we hiked down John stopped me, “We’re not going to Gates.” 

Instead he led me down and left where we 5th classed down climbing below the ledge which took us to the base of the soon to be, Tunnel Vision. The climb is 500‘ off the ground starting at an exposed little perch. Looking up at the climb I noticed pitons in the crack. This was a delicate, exposed finger crack that had been attempted by Dale Bard and others. I watched John start the tight-fingered crack which would only allow fingers and toes and insecure foot and finger locks. 

Moments later, Bachar encountered the spot where the crack transitioned, becoming both horizontal and overhanging. John cut loose his feet and had to pull his heel and toe into the insecure toe jams. Now John was faced with a multitude of finger sequences, both parallel and shaky as he moved upward, placing scanty pro. A move or two later John fell off and we went home.  This climb had never been done and for an excellent reason. Tunnel Vision would become one of Yosemite’s first solid 5.13s and we were excited to be pushing free climbing to the next level and this new standard. 

Weeks later we came back with Werner Braun for another attempt. This day was different. It was a second attempt and Bachar had trained for it. Werner was with us for support, John knew he could do it and the psych was up! As John led up to the roof, Werner and I belayed in the alcove. John got up to the sideways roof again. This time he didn’t rattle in the finger crack or foot holds. We thought he would fall but he kept going through shaky fingers to the awkward finger crack above. John made it to the top of the crack to finish the first lead of Tunnel Vision. 

Werner went up next, pulling out pitons while trying to do moves, and dogged his way to the finish but couldn’t do it free. These were the days before “Hang dogging” became an acceptable practice.  At that time, hanging to rest in the middle of a climbing sequence was absolutely considered taboo, and you didn’t do it in front of John if you could help it.

I got through the roof and also had to hang dog my way up the last part, hanging to finish the last part of the climb. John pronounced this ferocious finger crack 12d. Werner and I looked at each other with big eyes and we both responded 13a at the same time. We walked away thinking what Bachar had just completed and what it meant in Yosemite’s climbing history. At the time in the late 1970’s, you could count on a couple of fingers all the people in the world that could lead 5.13 clean, and Bachar was one of them.

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