Tollhouse Epic


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lars johansen

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 2, 2007 - 12:18am PT
WARNING!!: In this time of political correctness this true narrative contains graphic depiction of traditional values.

In the words of John Salathe, “Ehnoof uff zee climbing, on to da drinkink!”

Tollhouse with Troy and Chuck

In Spring, some men’s thoughts turn to that of love or the joyous rebirth of nature’s cycle. Instead I found myself on a trip to Tollhouse Rock, near Fresno, with Chuck Clance and Troy Johnson. Ostensibly we were there for the climbing, but precious little of that was taking place. Instead, a full scale debauch ensued.

I was to meet Chuck and Troy on a fire road that easily accesses the east side of the rock. As I pulled up, rock music wafted out of the bushes where Chuckles had pulled his Olds Bravada into the shade to wait for me. Chuck had already gotten a pretty good start on the beers but Troy wasn’t drinking, yet. The boys were passing back and forth what looked like a small gooey stick that was burning on one end. I surprised them with my arrival, but was greeted with hearty good cheer.

From our meeting place a four-wheel drive road steeply climbs to the top of the rock. I had scouted this track before and knew it required slow sure technique, but it was doable.
It was in our interest to camp at the top of this road as that was where access to the climbs began. If we camped where we were, we would have to hike up this road prior to descending to the base of the rock. Being inherently lazy, this would even further limit our climbing time. We would also gain a modicum of privacy by eliminating casual two wheel drive passers-by. Chuck balked, as usual, at the prospect of “beating” his car, but I chided that, “What was the point in having four wheel drive if you don’t use it?”. I led the way up and soon we were ensconced in a very comfortable camp on granite slabs immediately adjacent to the approach descent.

Setting up camp consisted of pulling the coolers out of our vehicles. I had a few more tasks in that I was the designated camp cook. Once my portable kitchen was established I was set to join the party, which by then was well under way. The sun was a good deal past noon and climbing was out of the question. Like a wagon with no brakes, the party accelerated rapidly. As the afternoon wore on I knew I had to cook dinner before I got too hammered. I tapered off slightly and got a passable plate of quesadias prepared for all of us. Dinner was consumed with gusto by all and after dishes it was back to the serious business of drinking. Chuck was keeping Troy on a short rope beer wise as he had a predisposition for getting belligerent with alcohol. Troy and Chuck did get into a slight row but nothing came of it. For myself, I was bloated from dinner and beer and decided to settle on a cocktail.

I can’t clearly remember whether we had a fire or not, hopefully not. In fact I can’t clearly remember much after the second or third cocktail. Chuck did recount the next day that sometime during the night another four-wheel drive vehicle came up the road and drove over in the direction of our camp. They were greeted by the sight of me, bleary eyed and reeling around in a ten gallon hat wearing lederhosen shorts and waving a long barrel .44 magnum revolver. They apparently took one short look and left immediately. Were they friend or foe? We’ll never know.

Morning found us with pounding hangovers. Somehow Chuck had skinned a sizable patch of bare scalp from the top of his head. As Chuck lay comatose in the back of his vehicle, Troy emerged from a nearby bush looking like Rumplestiltskin. I’m sure I didn’t look much better. The feeling like something was drilling a hole in my forehead didn’t help matters, but I did manage to get coffee together.

As the day slowly emerged one fact became clear to all of us; we couldn’t keep up this pace for long. We had to go climbing to break things up. We consulted the Vermin guide and selected a route I had previously done, Wandering Taoist. The route was five pitches, one of the longer on the cliff, and checked in at honest 5.9, which was being optimistic considering the shape of the party attempting it. Gear got sorted into three piles with the largest and heaviest going to Troy, he being young and strong and we being old and fat. Chuck carefully reminded Troy to make sure that all our personal gear, including harnesses and shoes, were in his pack. Troy was having none of this nanny-like behavior and snapped back that He knew what He was doing. That said we finished packing and set off.

Wandering Taoist sits at the far end of the cliff and as we lumbered forth we questioned the wisdom of choosing such a far flung gem. Lurching down then up through the brush we finally arrived at the base of the climb hot, sweaty, but only slightly out of sorts. Since the first pitch was an ankle breaker if you miss the first clip, and I had done it before, I was elected to lead. We dumped our gear out and began the ritual of sorting. It soon became apparent that all was not well in Camelot. Troy had somehow forgotten to pack my shoes. After all that useless nagging, Chuck glared, I snickered, and Troy mumbled “Sorry”. Naturally Troy was elected to return to the car and retrieve my shoes. This time Chuck sternly reminded him to not only get the shoes but bring extra beer as well, as we would most certainly be running low by then. To his eternal credit Troy shouldered the pack and left immediately for the car. Unfortunately as he set out, Tron lost his bearings and began crashing down through the brush away from the car and heading towards Fresno. Clancy and I frantically screamed directions and finally got Troy turned around. All that yelling left us parched and exhausted. We needed a beer to rekindle the fire, and a beer we both had. An hour later Troy returned with my shoes and the much needed reprovisions. We all refreshed ourselves and prepared to ascend.

The climbing, such as it was, proceeded uneventfully relative to the epic that preceded it. Sunset found us coiling our ropes next to the cap rock with mouths full of cotton and faces like cherry tomatoes. Middling though our efforts were, we still felt the elation that comes with the successful completion of a climb. Grinning and slapping each other on the back, we stumbled back to camp. We now had cause for some serious celebration!

And thus we began…

Russ Walling

Social climber
Out on the sand.... man.....
Aug 2, 2007 - 12:24am PT
Chuck was keeping Troy on a short rope beer wise as he had a predisposition for getting belligerent with alcohol.

Ho-mannnnn!!!!! Clance watching Troy..... I've seen this before..... nothing good has ever come from that!

Great TR!!!

Trad climber
Durango, CO
Aug 10, 2007 - 02:48am PT
And that's why I like climbing trips with you Lars!

(Especially the part about you being the chef.)

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Aug 10, 2007 - 02:58pm PT
Hehe, sounds like my kind of epic. Good times!

Trad climber
Denver, CO
Aug 11, 2007 - 12:04am PT

Fuggin classic.

right here, right now
Jun 13, 2018 - 02:36pm PT
They were greeted by the sight of me, bleary eyed and reeling around in a ten gallon hat wearing lederhosen shorts and waving a long barrel .44 magnum revolver. They apparently took one short look and left immediately. Were they friend or foe? We’ll never know.

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
Jun 13, 2018 - 05:46pm PT
Great story. I love the place and it's stories like these that make it magical.

A recent Tollhouse Top-out at sunrise.
A recent Tollhouse Top-out at sunrise.
Credit: micronut

Trad climber
Jun 13, 2018 - 07:52pm PT
Nice resurrection Tar. Missed this the first time around. Captures the period of those daze.
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