Saturday, January 1, 2022

Walt and the Mighty Yo

 Lived and worked in upper Western New York State for four years. Quite a few years back, early to mid 90's. Work related transfer from the Baltimore/Washington DC area. Got around to a bit of climbing on the infrequent weekends that we stuck around town - Niagara Gorge, including bouldering at the 'Glen', and elsewhere along the Niagara Escarpment extending from Niagara Falls up into the Burlington-Milton region in Souther Ontario, Canada. Is a pretty nice area. Remember a couple of pretty nice long traditional lines at a place called Mt. Nebo. One had a bit intimidating overlapping roof to pull through to top out. Got to be friends with a guy who worked at Eastern Mountain Sports in Buffalo, NY, who knew quite a bit of ice around the area. Some stuff along Cattaraugus Creek south of Buffalo (around West Valley as recalled) that involved some long slog bushwhacks then rappel to the base of the routes. Some stuff too down along Twenty Mile Creek east of Erie, PA. Never ever saw anyone else nor any tracks. He wound up moving to Colorado. Have always wondered if anyone else has ever been there to this day.

(Internet Images)
A few images we found on-line of Mt. Nebo. Hope the photographer doesn't mind us using them. Thanks none-the-less.

(Internet Image)
Another pilfered internet image. Typical looking ice formation along those creek gorges. That one looks real familiar. Could be a real nightmare accessing those steep bluffs.

Through work became acquainted with another fellow - Walt. Walt wasn't an avid climber, but a climber none-the-less. He knew everything concerning rope work and rigging. He was also a hard guy. Walt was a Vietnam War veteran. Don't know what he did over there but you sensed he spent a lot of time in the jungle. Never discussed the war. Hated tents with a passion ("F*k that - I spent four years in a tent in Vietnam!") and any extended overnight trip involved a motel room on his end. You could tell he had seen some action. Hiking along one day, overheard a conversation he was havin' with a fellow war buddy along for the day, discussing another friend who was killed while walking point during one of their patrols. Sounded like they really got opened up on. Walt was a biker and rode with a group of former Vietnam vets. They liked to harass the cops when pulled over for one violation or another. Walt wore combat boots when in the outdoors, no matter what the activity. Walt was showing' us some photos one day of one of his climbing trips to the Adirondack Mountains of eastern NY State. Damned if there ain't Walt inching his way up Chapel Pond Slab in combat boots. Had to have made the route 2-3 grades harder. Walt chain smoked Lucky Strikes non filter. Walt was pretty intelligent. Walt had no bullsh*t to 'em. Walt was a hell of a guy. You liked to be liked by Walt.

Walt had done some whitewater rafting. The first few weeks of knowing Walt, he, learning that we were from SWPA, spoke once or twice of paddling a whitewater river of the region called the "Yo" (??). I finally asked 'em "Walt, where is this river "Yo" of which you speak?" He said it was in a town named "O-hip-a-lee". Walt had an affable naivety when it came to names of things and places. I put two and two together and commented "Walt - I think you're talking' about the Yough River in Ohiopyle. That's pretty much my backyard - up in the mountains". Walt must have run the Yough at a high water level on that trip. He raved about the size of the rapids, - "Oh, it was mighty". Said he had a hell of a good time. "Walt, anytime you wanna' come down and run the Yo again, just say. Have a boat and gear. I'll get a couple of buddies together and we'll go". We immediately had a trip planned for a near future Saturday.

True to form, Walt declined invitation for tent camping, preferring to stay at a local motel the night before the trip. He brought along three other buddies - recall that one was his son. We met 'em all at the motel early morning and they followed us up to the put-in in "O-hip-a-lee" after first hitting the boaters breakfast at the town community center.

Walt's dressed military issue - matching olive drab t-shirt and fatigue pants, knotted olive drab kerchief. Standard combat boot footwear. The river wasn't runnin' as mighty as described during Walt's first trip, but they still had a heck of a time. Walt's crew manned their own rental craft. Walt was clearly the captain of the ship - his booming commands of "Stroke! Stroke!" echoing throughout the six hundred foot deep river gorge.

"Ya' wanna' make a strong sharp right, paddling hard, upon hitting the channel, and miss that big rock the current's plowing into! If ya' don't and collide with the rock, you're probably gonna' flip your boat!" Watch us!! We'll go first!!!" Just do what we do!!!!" We proceeded to slam right into Dimple Rock, flipping our boat and all getting dumped into the river. Walt's crew made the turn without incident, paddling like hell after witnessing our calamity. "Your boat stood straight up in the air! I just kept sayin' please god, don't let us hit that rock!!" was a later comment from one of Walt's crew.

Typically, Wild Bill, along on the trip, put on a show at Double Hydraulic rapid for the guys. He always had a habit of goin' back up river and swimmin' the "big" rapids of the trip. Personally think that Double Hydraulic rapid is a bit more dicey at moderate water level - higher levels ya' at least get washed out of the large hole. Probably about 2.5ft OPG this day. Bill would drop into the hydraulic and disappear for what seemed like five minutes. Just when he'd have everyone up on their feet ready to scramble crafts and throw ropes for body recovery, he'd pop up a few hundred feet down river. Swimming back to shore then scrambling upstream over the river boulders, he'd return huffing and puffing, proclaiming  "I'm gonna' try it one more time!". Bill was an immediate favorite of Walt and that was a highlight Walt always mentioned when later describing the trip to anyone - "We though he was drowned!!"

Haven't seen nor made contact with Walt since leaving the area way back when. Could be he's no longer with us. Either way, we bet even God likes to be liked by Walt.


Couldn't find any suitable images of the few we currently have of our experiences while in WNY. Did find quite a few work-related. That was a pretty good assignment - we were pretty much left to our own resources, only hearing from corporate management the first of every month at exactly 10am to bitch and moan about the previous month's P&L statement. We took on any project, no matter how large or small. Never f*k'd anything up (well, not too bad):

At the time that was one of two of the largest mobile lattice cranes in the world (per the crane company). Was mobilized up from Texas for major renovation to a nuclear power plant along the southern shore of Lake Ontario. Required 60+ tractor trailers (per the local newspaper) to transport the components and another big Manitowac crane to assist assembling the thing. The bottom photo illustrates the size difference of the two cranes for a sense of scale.

One of our NDE guys magnetic particle testing the welds of the window waster suspension system of the Xerox Tower in Rochester, NY. The bottom photo is view from the top of the tower.

Scaled seismic simulation testing for structural reinforced concrete components at the (time) National Earthquake Research Center (NERC) located at SUNY in Buffalo, NY.

NERC again - testing seismic bridge bearings for a new bridge in Seattle, Washington (or was it NYC - ?)

"Jerry-rigged" shop calibration for a wire cable tensiometer for a guy who dropped it off. Just left it with the secretary and said "Call me when it's done." We're later all lookin' at it sayin' "What the f*k is this thing?!" We figured it out.

Tensile testing small diameter wire strand cable in the shop/lab.

"Hey - We manufacture this sewer pipe and a county engineer isn't letting a contractor install it unless he can prove the elastomeric joints meet (ridiculously low) pressure requirements per the project specification - we never had it tested for that. Can you guys help us out?" We rigged up this simple pressure test using a hand pump and low pressure gauge and solved his problem. The most fun was when guys would have an issue that there was no procedure for and we'd have to come up with some seat-of-your-pants solution. We'd later attempt to get some recognition from the corporate staff for our ingenuity ("Hey, nice work!). Their comment was always "You guys didn't charge enough!". We just figured F*k 'em.

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