I’ve noticed that certain routes are named after the first-ascent team. There’s the Bachar/Yerian, the Steck-Salathé and, further afield in the Alps, the Bonaiti
Pillar and the Gervasutti Pillar. I think it would be cool to name a route after myself ... a way of achieving immortality. What is the protocol for getting my name up there in bright lights?
—Lee Byrd, Chicago, Illinois
You can always follow Giusto Gervasutti’s lead and fall and die on
the route. But that can backfire if the name doesn’t take. Gervasutti, aka “The Hardest,” got his namesake by being one of the finest alpinists of
his day, revered in life and death. A route attempted and expired on by a nobody like you would go down as This is Where the Idiot Rapped Off His Rope or something less flattering.
The smoothest approach is to establish your route, then sit back. Don’t name it. Let someone else deify you. The Bachar/Yerian is a good example
of this technique’s success. Technically, Bachar didn’t name the B/Y after himself and his partner Dave Yerian. He put up the line, then waited
for people to ask him what it was called.
“Ah man, don’t really have a name,” Bachar said, blond hair flowing magnificently in Tuolumne’s heady air. “Haven’t given it much thought ...”
After enough of that, people just referred to the most righteous dojo this side of Dresden as the Bachar/Yerian. You should note that Bachar possessed
a Vulcan-like mind meld, capable of planting nuggets of thought into people’s fertile upper pastures. He was also an iconic climber of his day, his
name rolling easily off the tongue, while I’ve already forgotten who you are.
I actually tried the B/Y technique once up at Smith Rock. About 25 years ago, I cleaned and bolted a sweet new line, then booked it home
without telling anyone a name. A few years later when the guidebook came out, I eagerly thumbed to my route. Instead of strumming my lips in awe
at Gear Guy (5.12c), I was assailed by Choss in America.
To put it nicely, a loser like you can forget about naming a route after yourself. If your aim is immortality, there is hope. Scientists are busily developing
digital immortality, where they copy and store all your memories and personality in a durable medium such as a computer. After your physical container
dies, the computer takes over and you are again cognizant, able to chat and Tweet on the Internet for time eternal.
Frankly, I’d rather die. Gear Guy has spoken!
This article originally appeared in Rock and Ice issue 212 (September 2013).