Stories, fables, and photos from Tahquitz Rock


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Mountain climber
13,000 feet
Topic Author's Original Post - Jul 30, 2014 - 01:36am PT
Ok this one is more appropriately named…
have at it!

Mountain climber
13,000 feet
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 30, 2014 - 01:57am PT
The first 5.9 anywhere, was Open Book.
and personal...

laugh at the giant hole in the manzanita on fingertip, i put it there by being overconfident…
i almost decked.

and there was the flash evaporated urine in updraft… hmmm, really bad.

but my favorite, was a lesson….
Gordon, Jeff and I were going to do Whodunnit… but someone was on the route.
so we flew up Sahara terror, i led 5 pitches and they climbed 20 feet apart on my simobelay.
We thought we were reasonable at one hour 23 minutes, well in 79 it was (preflorine) fast.
ok down to finally do what we wanted… not.
I started a boulder rolling in the north gully, i went along. six months later i started climbing again.
but i still walked to the car Gene.
Don't descend faster than is safe.

looking forward to what gets posted here…. need to hear from Willy, about belaying Tobin on the Green Arch..

Social climber
From the Time Before the Rocks Cooled.
Jul 30, 2014 - 11:22am PT
Rumor had it that Robbins had done Humber to Lunch Rock and return in thirty minutes. It used to be standard form to see how fast you could descend to the car from Lunch Rock, and many variations and routes were scoped in the process. I remember one effort where we, at full run, launched over a downed tree and sailed thirty feet on to the sandy, scree slope below. Screaming good fun, until someone breaks a leg!

Social climber
From the Time Before the Rocks Cooled.
Jul 30, 2014 - 02:50pm PT
That's gotta be a fable. I ran down with Tobin several times and, while we were fast, I don't think we were ever that fast! ;-)

Social climber
Desolation Basin, Calif.
Jul 30, 2014 - 03:10pm PT
My first climb at Tahquitz, and my first multipitch climb anywhere, was Fingertip. Still one of my favorites.

Anyhoo, I had led the lieback pitch and was anchored in that bucket just before the traverse. I hear a shout, look over just in time to see a dude taking a huge whipper on El Camino Real. I look back down hoping to catch a glimpse of my partner, when off to the side I see a head pop up over the rock. This guy looks at me, shakily, and says he's off route, and he's 35' above his last piece of pro.

My partner has just arrived, so I threw him a bight of rope and belayed him up.

About this time I'm asking myself, WTF have I gotten myself into?

Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
Jul 30, 2014 - 03:15pm PT
Looking up...

Looking down...

Fun climbing all the way...

The wine & cheese party on the summit... do they still have those?
This one is around '92 or '93 or so.


Boulder climber
Salt Lake, UT
Jul 30, 2014 - 03:28pm PT
First route I did there was Sahara Terror. Didn't seem too bad, just was a little careful around the loose stuff. I assumed it was all like that. Seeing the recent thread on accidents on that climb made me think that maybe us rookies were lucky that we didn't have any issues. Though it was a very hot day and we got a bit turned around on the walk-off and were very hot and dehydrated by the time we got back to the car.

Another climb got interrupted before we even started as a guy in another party broke a leg in a fall about a pitch up. By the time we got him down it was evening. We went looking for the Stokes to carry him out, but it was not where it normally should have been. Ended up carrying/dragging him out on a poncho in the dark. Not much fun.

Jul 30, 2014 - 04:24pm PT
West Lark in the late 60's

Chingadera - forget the year, but we were "front pointing" in RR's - seemed pretty hard at the time


Jul 30, 2014 - 05:09pm PT

as you can see lilly rock is not tahquitz!

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Jul 30, 2014 - 06:09pm PT
Anyone have info on the FFA of Magical Mystery Tour, like mid 70s was it? I heard Matt Cox took a 60 footer onto some small wireds: Matt Cox, the Man and the Myth!!

75,76ish.... I remember Matt and Tobin returned to Humber in the dark after they climb it.... I was cooking and had a Ice chest with ice cold beer. They were both dog tired, had the 1,000 yard stare, but were grinnig from ear to ear, caus "IT GOES FREE."

Anyway they sat there with me and ate some food and they didn't even take off the gear they had with them.

I feel so lucky to have been a climber at that time and place.


Social climber
Desolation Basin, Calif.
Jul 30, 2014 - 07:14pm PT
The wine & cheese party on the summit... do they still have those?


From the wreck:!searchin/rec.climbing/Tahquitz$20News$20Flash/rec.climbing/SuEN2P0-Qus/WRreYiWAVJgJ

Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
Jul 30, 2014 - 07:27pm PT

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
Jul 30, 2014 - 08:54pm PT


Sport climber
mammoth lakes ca
Jul 30, 2014 - 09:08pm PT
I thought Chuck Wilts had the descent record from lunch rock to the parking lot...? I think i did it in 15 mins...? That was getting small air over tiny decroded granite boulders and landing in a parallel turn position..That was 40 pounds and 40 years ago...Sorry for the trail damage..
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Jul 31, 2014 - 09:11am PT
Story by TGT, Social Climber...from TR on FA of the Heart Route.

This story could just as well belong in the Tahquitz thread, but the primary character is Andy.

I only tied in with him for one long day.

But what a day it was.

The adventure started before we even left. As we went thru the exercise of stuffing a rack, rope and other gear into my saddlebags, Andy realized he’d left his wallet and keys in his room. A quick ascent of the drainpipe to the third floor was followed by a long reach and step across to an open lobby window. He quickly appeared at the front door with wallet and keys in hand. I told him I’d been impressed. He demurred that he’d done it often. I wondered what I had myself in to.

We hit the 10 freeway and I was in my own element. The BMW hummed along thru the patchy pre dawn ground fog as if powered by a giant electric motor. By the time we passed the airport, I could tell I was hauling dead weight. Andy was slumped down, sound a sleep. The best part of traveling by motorcycle is that it is about as close to flying in an open cockpit aircraft that you can get without leaving the ground. We flew thru Colton and San Bernardino, and were soon climbing over the pass at Redlands. Then, that pass marked a true demarcation between urban and rural. Not much but open fields as the freeway undulated over several drainages stretching down from the San Bernardino Mountains to the north. Dropping down a reverse slope, pushing for 90 mph. in the dim dawning light I caught a flash of movement to my left and instinctively ducked. The intensity of the slam to the top of my helmet startled me. It took a second or so to realize that a dove had chosen my head for the location of its self-evisceration. There was a smoke ball of feathers rapidly receding, dissipating in the rear view mirror. Then the flash of panic, I was armored with a helmet, Andy only in a balaclava to ward off the chill. A quick glance back and I couldn’t help but grin. He was still sound asleep, unharmed, but his balaclava had been turned into a bizarre primitivist headdress decorated with feathers and bloody flesh.

As we dropped down the last down hill run to the long flat plain that extends from Beaumont to Whitewater, the bike gave a slight shake. The shake amplified into a violent wobble. The final outcome of a speed wobble is often a wrecked bike and a case of road rash at a minimum. The proper response is counter intuitive. Slowly close the throttle. Relax the grip on the handlebars. Keep the body relaxed. And, above all, stay off the brakes. Andy was now wide a wake and wild eyed. As our speed bled down, the oscillations dampened until, we got down to about 35 mph. At that point, the bike reached a new resonance and again began to lurch violently from side to side. We finally coasted to a stop on the shoulder and hoped off, feeling like dismounted bronco riders. The rear tire as flaccid as a drunken man.

Andy reached up to pull of his balaclava and felt something sticky and wet. As the hat slid off his face, his expression was one of confusion and shock. He reached for his head, feeling for a wound that wasn’t there. As I explained the earlier incident with the dove and how he’d slept through it, he relaxed. I got to work on getting the wheel off the bike. Andy began plucking pieces of bird from his hat.

I had the wheel on the ground and began to attack the task of removing the tire. The five-inch long tire irons that came with the toolkit were completely inadequate for the task. As I struggled to remove, the tire there was a reflection of flashing red lights in the high gloss black of the bikes rear fender. A CHP pulled up behind us. The nature of the situation was obvious and Andy had plucked his hat clean returning to his normal civilized appearance. The officer quickly insisted on giving the wheel and me a round trip to the nearest gas station. He opened the trunk, in went the wheel and I slid into the front seat. With the small talk on the ride he told me that he’d recently transferred to Beaumont, then, considered a plumb rural assignment. Close enough to the city for the conveniences, but far enough away to avoid most of the urban law enforcement problems. After a couple of miles, we pulled off the freeway and into the gas station. The officer tapped on the office window and woke the dozing attendant. He was visibly annoyed at being awoken that early, but the presence of the law inspired him to get on with the job. Ten minutes and five dollars later we were off down the freeway to the bike and Andy. On the way, back the cop got a radio call on an accident so it was a quick exit and a wave at the bike and he was off with lights flashing. The tire went back in place, the tools were packed back up, and the whole incident had cost us less than a half hour, still time for breakfast.

The Banning Denny’s was a regular stop. Both my regular climbing partner and I had only motorcycles and a chance to warm up before heading up the hill was always taken. Denny’s was really the only convenient place and was consistent. It didn’t mater what you ordered, no matter the time of day, it always had that tell tale hint of bacon grease. At least the coffee was hot and acceptable to our unrefined pallets. The earlier shot of adrenaline had my appetite up so a big breakfast was in order. Andy just ordered oatmeal and Postum, (weird?) and laid out his plan. He’d received a Rhodes scholarship and would be headed for Oxford in early summer, but had arranged to go for the second ascent of The Heart Route on El Cap during the spring break in a few weeks. Then, the second ascent of a big wall was only slightly less prestigious than a FA. There were only ten routes then that went to the top of El Cap. The gods of Yosemite had put all except The Heart up. Andy planed to get the free leads and wanted to get as much mileage in as possible beforehand. As midterms were still to come, this was going to be his last tune up day, and he wanted to make the most of it. He laid out his list. It was at least three times more climbing than I’d ever done in one day. I answered that I would do my best to keep up and hurried to finish eating. It was going to be a very long day.

We took off into the fog and were soon on our way up route 243. We climbed into the thickest parts of the marine layer and the fog became a light drizzle collecting on the bikes windshield, dripping off the trees by the side of the road. At Poppet Flats, we finally broke out into brilliant morning sunshine, the low clouds spreading to the horizon like a giant bowl of lumpy oatmeal, the wet smell of the fog replaced by the sharp scent of pine. We were late enough that there was no threat of icy spots on the road, so now out of the clouds, it was time to drop it down a peg and roll the left wrist forward.

In less than half an hour, we were pulling into Humber Park. It took a few minutes to reorganize the rack and the rope and store the jackets. I walked across the street and filled my bota bag from the tap fed from the spring. It was left running until late spring to prevent freezing and ran down from a holding tank that was higher up at the end of the road. We took off down the trail. Reaching the white post that marked the Riverside/San Bernardino county line made a left and started the hump up the hill. We soon reached a landmark I always detested on the way up and looked forward to on the way down. A log crossed the path and was recognizable in that both an oak and pine sapling grew directly through a split in its center. It meant you were almost down to the trail. It always seemed to take a long time to get to this point on the way up as it was about here the body warmed up to the effort and altitude. The second wind kicked in. It wasn’t long and we reached a more welcome landmark. We slid over a large slick log and Lunch rock was only yards away. We changed into Klettershuh and Andy quickly racked up. It was only a mater of flipping the gear and slings over the head and shoulders. I grabbed the rope and cinched the bota up tight under an armpit with an overhand knot in the string that passed for a shoulder strap. We headed around the Maiden Buttress to our first objective.

Andy pointed out or route, The Illegitimate. It certainly looked like it lived up to its name. From a large mountain mahogany, a crack that stood out as a green stripe of plant life shot diagonally up for 150 feet into a corner. The corner was caped by a large roof about 80 feet farther up. I couldn’t visualize at all how this obstacle was to be overcome. At this point, I was proceeding on pure faith. We scrambled up to the large tree and tied into the rope. Andy tied into his swami, threw a figure eight on a bight in the rope around the tree, and asked me if I’d like the first lead. Hubris overcame common sense as I enthusiastically answered, wrapped the end of the rope around my waist three times, tied in with a bowline on a coil, and grabbed the gear sling. Andy threw the rope around his hips and called. “On belay”. After about twenty feet, the crack narrowed and contained a large chock stone. A threaded a sling around the rock marked the beginning of the serious climbing. I swung out on to the face to begin the long hand traverse. The crack was filled with ferns, flowers, and moss but there were clean spots conveniently positioned to allow progress in graceful apelike swings. The Flora actually forced graceful efficient technique. The eye level view was of a miniature Tolkienesque landscape tilted to the vertical plane. When exposure brought back reality there was always a convenient foothold and place for a piton. To soon reaching the belay, this was the kind of pitch you wish went on forever, I had a problem. There was a large flake just to my left, the obvious anchor. I didn’t have enough rope to reach it, let alone tie off a big enough loop to sling it. What now? There was still the four-inch bong on the gear sling and I still had a double length sling over my shoulder. Looping the sling through the lightening eyes on the small end of the bong turned it into a four-inch nut. A couple of flips and it jammed behind the flake with a satisfying clack. Just enough slack remained to clip a carabineer through the loops of rope around my waist, not enough for a proper tie in knot. I called out, “off belay.”

Andy grinned when he saw the anchor and thought it ingenious. That made me feel a little better about its efficacy. He collected the rack and started up the crux pitch, a dihedral that led to a rather large overhang. Sixty or so feet and one piton later he was at the overhang driving a pair of Lost Arrows to the hilt. He then down climbed about fifteen or twenty feet and promptly disappeared out of sight around the corner of the dihedral. One more piton, and then the rope began to quickly run out.

Now it was my turn. The first piton protected the crux of the pitch and had been placed from a good stance. It was quickly retrieved. Soon I was at the headwall and the two
Lost Arrows. The stance was bad; both hands could not be free. Both pins were overdriven and the prospect of a fall with the rope now descending twenty or so feet and disappearing around the corner into the unknown, unthinkable. After what seemed like an eternity of crimping with one hand and pounding with the other, the rock released its hold on the last pin. Careful down climbing led to a quick move around the corner and another pin. Now another traverse and smooth friction, still not my forte, and certainly not then with stiff Vibram soled Kletershuh. The whining commenced and after a little encouragement from Andy I was across to easy ground, thankful that, the rope was finally going up and not sideways. The belay was a large comfortable ledge with a tree.

“Have you ever climbed moving in coils”? Andy asked shortly after my arrival. The answer was obvious without speaking just from the puzzled look. My answer was I’d read about it, but never done it. After a short refresher on the procedures, we both coiled about one third of the rope over our shoulders and I put Andy on belay on the abbreviated cord. It soon went taught and he told me to start climbing. He moved fast and occasionally had to pause to allow me to retrieve a sling around a tree or chockstone. There was only a piton or two placed in the next four hundred or so feet. In no time, at all, we were at the final exit moves of The White Maiden and I put him back on belay as he made short work of the last sixty-foot pitch. A quick hit of water from the Bota and we raced down the Friction Route to the next climb.

Didn’t take long and we were standing at the base of The Inominate. A ramp led to a steep dark and dead vertical, if not overhanging dihedral. Andy offered the first pitch, and once again, I accepted. Shortly, I had a good belay set up on a pedestal below the steep dihedral, this time two firmly driven pins. The bong sung as Andy drove it home, a quick couple of moves and he was moving fast over easier ground. One more easy short pitch and we were again headed down the Friction Route.

The south side of Tahquitz is marked by an unusual distinctive feature. Two parallel cracks about eight feet apart curve gracefully through an overhang and down a bucketed face, the appropriately named Ski Tracks. I’d led the left one the summer before. It was the obligatory next step after Angels Fright for the novice leader. The first pitch is dead vertical with the only real difficulty being an initial move to get established on the face that is so featured that it has been described as , “vertical third class”. The crux, at the end of the next pitch is a handhold-less committing step with huge exposure that still belies its lowly rating.

We were headed for the much more difficult Right Ski Track. The first pitch is pretty much the same as the left. The right crack continually thins and steepens until it disappears into the smooth face several yards from a flake that forms a bottomless chimney under the same platform that creates the step across of its easier sibling to the left. Once again, I drew first pitch duty and was off. It went quickly, familiar territory. Andy took off on the next pitch, occasionally swatting in a pin. At the end of the crack, he placed one final pin and with a call of, “watch me here” started the thin traverse across the face to the base of the chimney. Once he was in the chimney, it was clear that it wouldn’t accept any pro without an unreasonable amount of effort. The sounds of shoes rack and body parts dragging on rock mingled with the grunts of great physical effort. Finally, the sounds of a relieved leader gasping for air and the ring of the belay anchor going in. The crack itself was difficult, particularly cleaning the pitons with one hand and avoiding dropping them. The traverse and the chimney went much easier. With the security of the rope, the worst of the chimney could be bypassed with lieback moves. At the belay, we squeezed the little water that remained from the bota. A couple of more easy pitches and we were off down the Friction Route again.

As we rounded the corner under the Traitor Horn and past The Open Book Andy announced that he thought we had time for one more. Just past the start for Fingertrip was an ugly looking crack that slanted off to the left, The Slab. Not a slab climbs at all, but a short excursion up the left side of a slab. He polished it off in short order having done it before several times, the only climb of the day that wasn’t an onsight. A quick rappel and we were at lunch rock just in time to gather our gear and thoughts by the last of the suns’ rays.

We made a stop at The Charthouse for a beer. Well, at least Andy had a beer. I would not be able to buy one legally for another six months or so. The ride home was pleasantly warm for that time of year. Only an appreciated wakening chill when the road would dip through a canyon that funneled the cold air descending from Mt. San Gorgonio across our path.

I never climbed with Andy again. He went off to the valley, got The Heart, and left for Oxford. He became the town doctor and ice guru of Valdez Alaska and ended his own life with a shotgun in a strange effort to engineer his own disappearance. It’s solid city now all the way to Banning and the CHP aren't nearly as friendly. Riding a motorcycle in Southern California is now an equivalent risk to free soloing. Tahquitz has changed also, although not nearly as much as the encroaching city below. I do not remember seeing another party that entire day. It was a weekend, so there must have been others. The experience of having the place to your self is now reserved for those that can make it on a weekday.

There have been physical changes that remind me of the relentless advance of time now every time I’m there. The first pitch of The Illegitimate has been “gardened” to aseptic standards. The flake I slung is now dangerously unstable. The log that was the first landmark slowly disappeared over the years. The pine sapling died and the oak has now reached tree status. The trail now goes under the log we polished going over. You don’t even have to bend over very far to clear it even with a pack on. I doubt it will be there all that much longer.

mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Jul 31, 2014 - 09:36am PT
HAHAHAHA! I beat you to it, TGT. It's a fine story, thanks; and Embick was a good dude; sorry he took the short cut out of here. Had a few conversations in the Valley with him Back When.

Social climber
So Cal
Jul 31, 2014 - 09:38am PT
Deleted the double post.

I've got a pre-stonemaster Sorensen story or two to dig up too.

Trad climber
JTree & Idyllwild
Jul 31, 2014 - 01:08pm PT
It used to be standard form to see how fast you could descend to the car from Lunch Rock

Back in the 90's, I was up at the base of Tahquitz to put up a new route, when I realized I'd fogotten my hammer. So I timed myself on a speed descent back to the parking lot to fetch it; Lunch Rock to Ernie Maxwell Scenic trail in 8 minutes 23 seconds.

Trad climber
Idyllwild, CA
Jul 31, 2014 - 01:25pm PT
Some of us were on a C2C Trough solo kick for a while a couple of years ago. Under an hour was the goal. The known record sits right around 40 minutes C2C! My best was 56:36. Never attempted it again for time after that. I was wrecked.

We broke the event into three parts: up to Lunch Rock, Lunch Rock to the top of the Trough, and from the top down to the car. Each in 20 minutes or less would get you back in 1 hour. I'd guess I was getting from Lunch Rock to the car in about 10 minutes or less.

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Jul 31, 2014 - 04:57pm PT
That's a good story.
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