Randy LeavittRandy Leavitt’s impact on hard first ascents at Joshua Tree is unparalleled. His search for high-quality difficult routes has taken him all over the planet.
photo© Greg Epperson
It’s difficult for regular climbers to understand Randy’s quest for difficult routes. While doing a hard new route, Randy would be disappointed if the route wasn’t difficult enough. He was fanatical about his training and transformed his garage into an amazing climbing gym. This gym cost Randy thousands of dollars, took countless hours of work, and has been called by Randy “the best climbing area in So. California.” Leavitt worked out so hard that he often couldn’t find partners to keep up with him.
Randy would drive from San Diego to Joshua Tree arriving early to hike far into the Wonderland to work on his new projects. Randy often worked on them with little sleep because even though he was a dedicated super athlete, he often drove late into the night to get to his climbs, and stayed up late on the week-ends.
Randy was sometime secretive about his projects and with his secretive nature and early morning rising, many were skeptical and curious about his climbs, tactics and style.
During the 70’s and 80’s, climbing style was usually more important than numbers or difficulty. Sometimes Randy would use modern tactics with his extremely difficult cutting edge futuristic climbs. Even tactics such as top roping, pre-placing gear, rehearsing or hang dogging were considered mortal sins back in the day. Randy’s extreme climbs were truly visionary and years ahead of his time. Randy’s accomplishments at Joshua Tree and elsewhere in the world have molded modern climbing.
Often when one is at the top of one’s field, controversy follows. Randy never bowed down to pressure and continued to push the limits in his normal hyper climbing manner. Controversy did surround Randy’s climbs in an area called the “Snake Pit”. These routes were in a very isolated are deep in the Wonderland and were very difficult. Some claimed that these routes were put up in questionable style using tactics that mainstream climbers of the day didn’t embrace. In the end, the Snake Pit routes were chopped and erased, not a proud moment in JTree's climbing history. Randy’s Ivory Tower routes have attracted climbers from all over the world. Leavitt’s routes aren’t really all that popular, mainly because they are isolated and difficult. Many are considered to be of the highest quality, not surprising coming from such a driven individual.
If you’re up for it, try some of these Leavitt masterpieces:
Randy was also supposedly the first climber to use and electric Bosch drill with Bob Gaines to place anchors for Bearded Cabbage.
Leavitt’s Dihedralthon is one of the few 5.14s on earth that has no bolts. This horrendous climb ascends a steep flared dihedral with fixed pins, copper heads and natural pro.