Episode 152: Mark Hudon and Max Jones – As Free as Can Be.

Clockwise from top left: The Nose 1976, Jones on the FFA of Enduro Corner, Salathe 1979, Devils Tower 1979.

On Episode 152 of the Enormocast, I realize a stated dream by sitting down in the Oasis Camper Trailer with Mark Hudon and Max Jones. Max and Mark quietly pushed the boundaries of free climbing in the late 70s in Yosemite. Operating under the shadows of the likes of Kauk and Bachar, Jones and Hudon were every bit as visionary on big routes as those superstars. They had a tremendous 5 year run in the Valley and beyond before Max Jones turned his talents to the budding sport of Mountain Biking, and Mark Hudon started searching for something new – eventually ending up with a coffee business in Hood River and then retiring to become a climbing bum again. But several years ago, the buddy movie that was their time together in Yosemite in the 70s got a reboot and they’ve been climbing walls as a team again to this day.

Mark on El Cap Bridge

Mark and Max on South Seas 2012


7 Replies to “Episode 152: Mark Hudon and Max Jones – As Free as Can Be.”

  1. Brilliant! I listened to this episode maybe a couple of years ago – having just encountered The Enormocast – in the course of an initial ‘run-through’ of what looked like the ‘best bits’. I subsequently discovered that some of the later bits are even better. But this one remains up there, head and shoulders, with the best.

    Am I being overly romantic in imagining that, with a 60 or 70 metre rope – back in the Spring of 1979 – Max Jones could have lowered back to the belay, pulled the rope, and sent the 2nd Headwall pitch on the Salathé? I’m guessing he had the ability.

    I sat up when Hudon recalled that they actually did all those other routes in the Fall of 1979. I was there then, and recalled that he was also engaged on Tangerine Trip in October; I think that he was in a team of three, and had rapped – in a storm – from the belay atop pitch 5. [I assume that this was the belay halfway up pitch 5, which is the old 5 and 6 linked.] The ropes – three tied together – hung miles out away from the wall and were tied in a tree. I recall Mark very enthusiastically describing to my climbing partner – in the Camp 4 lot – this system that he’d devised for getting back up the ropes. As I recall it was basically a caver’s system – way better in a free-hanging situation when your feet weren’t against rock – but pretty new among climbers. I was completely spooked when leading pitch 1 of The Trip with those ropes hanging way out behind me and, in those pre-portaledge days on something so steep, decided that it wasn’t for me. My climbing partner Alex – a young chap from Montana who went on to much greater heights – was entirely understanding when I explained this; he simply pounced on an available replacement – Rick Bradshaw, of Hooker fame [Mount Hooker, that is] and got the job done.

    1. Max seemed to think he might have been able to free that headwall back then, too. It just wasn’t part of the game at the time to do such a thing. Great TT story.

      1. Hah yes! Wouldn’t that have been great? What they actually did was already exceptional/inspirational/ off the scale; that would have been mind-blowing!

        I never gathered whether Mark got The Trip done on that occasion; I think the weather was pretty iffy, but Alex and Rick simply went for it and topped out ok. Several decades on it’s an illustration of how much of a psychological prop a portaledge can be. At the time, with nothing flat to sleep on for a week – apparently – it seemed a pretty big deal. Too big for me, certainly. Twenty years later, with a ‘ledge’, it was pretty casual!

  2. If you didn’t know it, Max Jones’ voice sounds EXACTLY like Owen Wilson (the actor).

    Great informative interview!!


  3. One of the top three episodes for sure, imho. Those dudes were/are as rad as it got/gets.

Comments are closed.