In the Beginning

In 1971, four teenage climbers from Bozeman, Montana, decided to form a climbing club. These four were Brian Gary, Brian Leo, Doug McCarty and Dave Vaughan. Inspired by stories of the Wool Sox Club of the 1960’s this contingent of young Montana mountaineers named their tiny organization The Dirty Sox Club on the suggestion of Lindalee Kanzler. The Wool Sox Club had consisted of Jim Kanzler, Jerry Kanzler, Clare Pogreba, Ray Martin, Barry Frost, Bill Antonioli and Pat Callis.

In 1969, the worst mountaineering catastrophe in the U.S. up to that time occurred on Mt. Cleveland in Glacier National Park. An avalanche swept down the peak killing five climbers who were attempting to ascend the mountain just after Christmas. Among the victims were Clare, Jerry and Ray. After this tragedy, the Wool Sox Club disbanded. The Dirty Sox Club thought it could revive the spirit of the previous club and began enrolling members.

All of these young upstarts, being grateful apprentices of the newly transplanted California and Washington rock-climbing master Pat Callis, quickly elected Pat as their first invited member and gave him a membership card (The Beneficent and Esteemed Order of El Rauncho Feeto).

The only Club rules were 1. Have fun (at any expense). 2. Discuss climbing. 3. Go climbing. Simple.

The Dirty Sox Club grows

At the time, only a handful of climbers existed in Montana and they all pretty much knew each other and often climbed together. As membership grew, it claimed most of the active climbers in the state as members. Among the earliest victims of this dubious distinction were Chad Chadwick and Wally Hunter of Billings, and Gray Thompson of Missoula as well as nearly all the Bozeman climbers at that time.

The club quickly grew to over a dozen members and before long impromptu Club meetings were being held across the state. Usually they involved a day or two of climbing and horribly wild and debaucherous parties. Some gatherings were small, others large. Some were for “official” members only. Others consisted of a few actual members and as many spontaneously recruited temporary members as were required to get enough money for a keg or two. More than a few new climbers were born during such events as climbing lessons were given for the price of cheap beer.

In the 70’s, club members were graced with an official T-Shirt (designed by the club’s first female member PJ White). The design was simple – a photo of her future husband’s Rauncho Feeto wearing his dirty sox.

The notorious meetings

Often the meetings were simply slide shows at someone’s house (looking at someone climbing was a substitute for actually doing a climb when need be). One meeting was as dignified as dinner and slide show at a restaurant/bar, but it deteriorated rapidly (as all meetings did) into an insane affair with bizarre behaviors and numerous casualties.

Another meeting saw scenes of two roaring drunk members skiing down the stairs (and missing the turn) at an overcrowded house party where dozens of people took turns smoking a hookah in the bath tub and drinking cases of pilfered champagne. A later meeting featured a motorcycle ridden up the stairs.

One meeting ran completely awry degenerating into a road trip in the Club’s official “bus,” an enormous GMC Suburban named Tar Baby (with seating for eleven), to the rodeo in Dillon. Two of the unruly group spent most of their time in jail for disturbing the peace, a remarkable feat considering the bawdy nature of the rodeo. Road trips were a common Club activity.

At one of the larger assemblies, which could grow to sixty or more people when families attended, it is rumored that an escaped pig was shot and stabbed to death after a wild chase in front of amused club members and their stunned families. (It was later roasted and consumed.) Once, a poorly-cooked pig was served at a huge meeting and the ensuing sickness was likened to Jim Jones’ mass cyanide poisoning of more than 900 of his followers in Guyana.

In order to avoid the expense and dangers a pig roast entailed, the next meeting was to feature roasted dogs gotten at little or no expense from the Bozeman Animal Pound.

Gayle Callis single-handedly ended this clever plan. The failure of two members to successfully rustle a cow after a seemingly endless chase with piton hammers squelched another of the now-famous Bar-B-Ques which frequently occurred in the Humbug Spires near Divide at a cabin owned by Dorothy Lloyd and her family of Butte.

The Humbug Cabin

The Humbug cabin was the official Dirty Sox clubhouse and was a Mecca for climbers. Club members kept it in good repair and respected the property and its owners greatly. After the old Monarch cook stove was stolen, certain members dynamited the road and a bridge to keep the uninvited away and the cabin secure. But eventually, alas, the cabin was burned down by hunters in the late 1970’s.

The first ascents on rock and ice

Not surprisingly, the early members of the club were as ferocious on rock climbs as they were at having what was then considered a meeting. A review of any climbs done in the 1970’s and 1980’s in Montana will almost invariably give names of the early Dirty Sox Club devotees as first ascent parties – Antonioli, Callis, Chadwick, Dailey, Emerson, Gary, Harder, Hart, Hunter, Jackson, Kanzler, Kennedy, Leo, Mackin, McCarty, McFeters, Ochenski, Shulak, Skaar, Tackle, Thompson, Vaughan, White, Zaspel. These original club members are today considered the pioneers of rock climbing and mountaineering in Montana. They were also the first to climb frozen waterfalls, using the primitive wooden-handled ice-axes, ice-hammers, and crampons of the era.

Today’s Dirty Sox Club

The Club claims many initiates across the country these days, but the core group of the first few years of the Club’s existence is still around and nearly all of them still climb, ski, and/or hike. Some of the senior members (including Fred Beckey, Pat Callis and Gray Thompson) are probably the best climbers in their respective age groups anywhere in the world. Most are as colorful as they were over thirty years ago – though a new color has been added in many cases, that being gray. All but the toughest or dumbest have stopped going to “meetings,” though some attend different meetings now (psychological support, AA, etc.).

However, an exception is the now infamous two-day meeting held near Bozeman in the fall of 2007 where nearly 100 members (see them on the Members page) met for the largest and best meeting in the Club’s entire history. Members from all around the country ranging in age from 8 to over 80 converged on the home of Davy Vaughan (Julio Garbonzo) for an event none will likely ever forget. Two huge pigs, 10 kegs of beer, countless bottles of wine and whiskey, and five world-class live bands playing from morning to night seemed to anesthetize the now mostly decrepit geezers sufficiently to prevent any major law enforcement action. And the tepees, house and 12 acres the party was held on weren’t even burned to the ground or completely trashed as would have been expected at earlier meetings. Some stragglers (including Fred) were still there even five days later. The party was so epic as to be sited in Rock & Ice and Climbing and Ascent magazines, the local newspaper (twice), a couple weekly sports magazines, a monthly state-wide periodical, and numerous climbing websites and blogs.

Future meetings are being planned.

Viva la Beneficent Order of El Roncho Feeto – now even bigger and stronger than ever!

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: