Rescue on tahquitz 5-12


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Social climber
Topic Author's Original Post - May 13, 2012 - 12:30am PT
Heard a party of three was injured by rockfall, confirm/deny? On the trough? Hope they are ok. I was just on that route a few days ago... Always rolling the dice in the mountains it seems...

Trad climber
Yachats, OR
May 13, 2012 - 12:46am PT
My partner Agina and I were on White Maiden. We heard the rock fall but could not see it. Ran into the Fire Dept hiking down from lunch rock after the helicopter left. They told us 2 people were hurt. One was hit in the head but had on a helmet. I believe they got her to an ambulance for transport. The other male I believe was hit in the chest and was flown out. The firemen told us the largest rocks were about microwave oven sized. Hope everyone comes out OK.
Dos XX

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
May 13, 2012 - 12:56am PT
Just did the Trough last weekend, it was our very first trip to Tahquitz. I was impressed by the overall rock quality and can't say I saw anything in the way of obviously loose rock on the route. Hope those who were injured recover quickly.

Sport climber
la ca
May 13, 2012 - 01:29am PT
So we were doing "Piton Pooper" with Valerie and I was on a slab belaying her as she was following me on the last pitch. The anchor was below a small roof right below the top out. It shares the first few pitches with "The Trough" which is very popular. Suddenly I hear sand particles falling on my helmet. Next thing I know, this 3 feet long, 1 feet wide block crashes right next to my legs and splits into three as it cuts halfway through our rope and keeps on falling. There is Valerie and 3 more parties below me. Valerie gets lucky as all the chunks miss her. But one guy and one girl got hit in the chest and in the head. I learned all this later from Valerie, at the time all I could hear was "F*#k! Somebody call 911! You have to stop the bleeding first!" For a few minutes I also couldn't hear from Valerie and thought she got hit too. Then she said that she was ok and started climbing.

In the mean time I was yelling her to stop until I could take care of the damaged rope but she couldn't understand/hear me. Finally she understood that I was yelling "WAIT" and stopped climbing. I loosened my Münter hitch and lowered myself until I could reach below the damaged part of the rope and tied it off. I didn't tell her that the rope was damaged as I didn't want to freak her out (she thanked me for that later) Then Valerie climbed to the top and we walked off.

EMT's showed up within minutes with a helicopter. Luckily the guy and the girl were evacuated within two hours. Both were conscious and able to walk. I hope they are okay.

As we were climbing the last bit, I saw the scar from which the rock came off. It was like 10 feet above me a little to the left. Apparently it just broke off on it's own. So it was just waiting for the right time of the day.

I just hope the people who got hit are okay. They were conscious and alert as they were being evacuated.

And thanks to the rescue team who did a really good job in getting them out very quickly.

Photos by Valerie

Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
May 13, 2012 - 01:38am PT
Scary! Hope everyone's relatively OK.

To be clear...this happened at the very end of PP, on the headwall finish?

The rockfall was off to the left of this...completely spontaneous?


Got it. Thanks for the clarification.

Early season can be kinda dicey in the mountains...things move during the winter...

Sport climber
la ca
May 13, 2012 - 01:46am PT
You can see it in the figure below.

It was completely spontaneous as nobody can reach it from the top or from below.

Basically it was a flake that was hanging vertically.


Trad climber
Idyllwild, CA
May 13, 2012 - 02:14am PT
I was given some climbing gear to hold from a friend of mine who assisted in the in initial rescue of the injured climbers. My friend's name is Graham and he told me that he was going to leave the gear at Nomad Ventures but they were closed.

I will hold the gear indefinitely until claimed for the two people to whom it belongs. It was unclear to me who left the gear and whether it belongs to the injured parties or other climbers helping with the rescue.

I live in Idyllwild and will be calling Nomad Ventures in the morning when they open. I will leave my contact information with them. Message me if this equipment is yours and I can return it promptly. If you know whose gear it is, please direct them to Nomad Ventures or Supertopo.

Good luck to the injured climbers! I frequent Tahquitz and Suicide and often forget this sort of thing can happen. An unfortunate reality check.
Jon Beck

Trad climber
May 13, 2012 - 02:51am PT
Glad everyone seems to be relatively okay. Scary, I will never forget dodging rockfall. It was Taquitz, climber induced.

Social climber
May 13, 2012 - 03:58am PT
hey there say.... maratumba... thanks for sharing the map... and your pics/share etc...

and gear, kept safe, for the folks, by the other climber, shared by his posts as well--thankful that nothing worse happened...
hope the after affects for these climbers, will not be bad....

god bless tonight...


Jim Henson's Basement
May 13, 2012 - 09:40am PT
Yikes- I'm really relieved everyone is OK.

Seems like every spring they get some rock fall there. Ice and water get behind things in the winter and lever them loose, then, when it warms up stuff starts coming off.

I was just joking with a friend last week about avoiding Tahquitz until summer, so that this year's crop of loose rock has time to fall off. Not so funny now in light of this near miss.
Johnny K.

May 13, 2012 - 10:45am PT

Much respect and appreciation to everyone in the rescue/helping out.This type of situation could have happened to anyone at anytime.Hope and prayers that the injured parties make quick recoveries.


Social climber
So Cal
May 13, 2012 - 11:54am PT
That's largely an optical illusion that's a result of the way the lens and CCD sensor interact.

They do flex quite a bit though.

In 40+ years of climbing there though this is only the second or third incident I've ever heard of that involved spontaneous rock fall.

Lots of climber induced projectiles though.

Glad it turned out as well as it seems to have.


Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
May 13, 2012 - 12:23pm PT
The fact that a big ass chunk of rock could spontaneously just slough off like that is unsettling. Very lucky folks were not killed. Hope they are okay? Any updates?


May 13, 2012 - 12:28pm PT
Glad you guys are ok, and best wishes for the injured parties. That rope got seriously messed up!

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
May 13, 2012 - 12:34pm PT
In my experience there is a seasonal component to these spontaneous rockfall events on Tahquitz. I've seen this happen up there several times during the first hot days of the season.

A couple of years ago, right about this time of the spring we were doing that "Sh*t for brains" slab when some microwave size block cut loose up around the top of Jensen's Jaunt (no one was climbing up there.) A party on El Camino beat a hasty retreat, and a young couple on Fingertrip were lucky not to be killed. Our party was okay since no one was actually on the rock at that moment so we ducked behind the big trees there.

On another occasion Chelsea G and I were hanging out at the base of Fred waiting for it to cool off, again one of the first hot days of the summer, when the rock somewhere above us went "BANG!!" and big chunks came crashing down. No one was up there climbing then either.

Best wishes to the injured. Thanks to the rescuers!


Trad climber
Yachats, OR
May 13, 2012 - 01:24pm PT
Great accounting of what happened maratumba. Glad you 2 made it off safely.
First 2 shots are from 5th pitch belay on White Maiden. We walk down with the FD and made sure they new how much they were appreciated. Once again I hope everyone comes out of this with no serious injuries.

Trad climber
May 13, 2012 - 01:33pm PT
@Ron - I'm the one who climbed with maratumba. It was hard hearing him before all this happened. Piton Pooper is pretty much 80 feet dead vertical, followed by somewhat lower angle slab-ish for a while until the belay spot. Anything the belayer yells from above just floats out into open space, not down the slab and over the edge straight down the route.

When the rockfall occurred, there was much yelling, then a motorcycle started at Humber Park, then sirens from the approaching fire trucks - there was a lot of commotion. Sound definitely traveled upward much better. Earlier I had noticed how I could hear a leaf blower in someone's backyard many hundred/thousand feet away. Sometimes that's just the way it is.

Glad things turned out as minor as they did, and thanks much to maratumba for keeping his calm and getting us off the rock safely. Thanks also to everyone who helped with the rescue. Best wishes for a speedy recovery!
Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
May 13, 2012 - 01:53pm PT
Hoping for a full and speedy recovery for those hurt.

Really glad everyone else is ok and will take away only a good story of a close call. Great appreciation for the rescue team.

Johnny-spontaneous rockfall at a place that has been a popular climbing area for decades is sobering, indeed. I'm going to be out there next weekend, maybe I'll throw the almost never used helmet in the suitcase. Just can't get used to that thing. I know, it's stupid.

Nice shots of the rescue. Helicopters never cease to amaze me; a giant machine like that, able to just hang in the sky, is nearly miraculous.


Trad climber
May 13, 2012 - 02:06pm PT
Nice report. I hope the injured parties a speedy healing.

Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
May 13, 2012 - 02:15pm PT
That looked like a CalFire response, not the Idy FD. That's interesting.

Anyone have info on how/why the response agency was chosen? (CalFire vs. Idy FD vs. RMRU, etc.) Or what agency was contacted in the initial notification? (911 vs. Sheriff vs. USFS contact, etc)
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