Tahquitz: The Early Years Rick Ridgeway Summit 1976


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Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 6, 2008 - 05:39pm PT
Some excellent early history from Summit June 1976.


Trad climber
My Inner Nut
Dec 6, 2008 - 09:26pm PT
Historic bump.

Great stuff, Steve!

Trad climber
Top of the Mountain Mun
Dec 6, 2008 - 09:36pm PT
That is an awesome article. Thanks for posting, what a cool story.

"Jobs weren't the only thing we rotated", quips John.

Trad climber
Dec 7, 2008 - 12:47am PT

this is priceless
paul roehl

Boulder climber
Dec 7, 2008 - 02:34am PT
Funny, I remember climbing "Goliath" at Suicide in the very early 70s (what a strenuous eefing slog it was) and when I got to the top there was OMG Chuck Wilts the guidebook writer himself with a friend at the finish of another climb and what came out of me was “Jesus H. Keee..Riiist if that thing's (Goliath) 5.7 I’ll kiss your ass.” He seemed embarrassed and hemmed and hawed and said, “Yeah, I think it’s a little harder for the leader.” And I said something like "damned right." I Think there was definitely some sandbagging going on in those earlier guidebooks. But I can't think of a place I loved more. And I'll never forget stopping at the Chart house and having a "Pimms" after climbing all day, a balm to a very dry throat, a moment of heavenly bliss.

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Dec 7, 2008 - 08:27am PT
Great history on the best of the great crags.
Thanks Steve!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 18, 2008 - 12:01pm PT
The interesting thing about Tahquitz ratings is that they earnestly tried to fill in the grades below 5.7. Most areas lump easier routes into 5.6 and 5.4 and don't really discriminate all that much at the low end. The Gunks is the other area that is purposeful about using the entire scale.

By the time you hit a consensus 5.7 at Tahquitz, a lot of thought has gone into its comparative difficulty so the grade is solid.

Paul- I am sure that you were hardly the first to offer to kiss Wilts' ass after a rough time on an "easy" route! LOL

I once headed up on the 5.3 variation to White Maiden's Walkway with a light rack and a flippant attitude. "How bad can it be?!?" Well, I had my hands full in a jiffy trying to broker those nuggets into something enjoyable and reasonably sane! Nothing like inadvertant adventure.......
Bart Fay

Social climber
Redlands, CA
Dec 18, 2008 - 12:35pm PT
We had several summers in which only the very best day was celebretaed at the Chart House,
before its unfortunate demise.

PaulR, You gotta let us know what a "Pimms" is.

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Dec 18, 2008 - 12:48pm PT
"If you want a good adrenalin rush put on a pair of tennis shoes, tie into an old manilla rope and go climkb the Mechanics Route without clipping the bolt on the second pitch (risking a 100 foot fall)."

Mighty proud for 1938!

scuffy b

On the dock in the dark
Dec 18, 2008 - 01:16pm PT
Goliath was one of my earliest leads.
Big Al said a couple Yosemite climbers had been on it a while
before and thought it was 5.8 for sure.

I think an underlying tone was that Big was pleased that the
northern interlopers were not as tough as the real climbers
from Tahquitz.

This was at Suicide, though, and Chuck Wilts was I believe less
involved with its development than he was at Tahquitz.
The guide at that time had a Suicide supplement written by Pat
Callis and Charley Raymond.
There was something in it about the stiffness of ratings at
Suicide, particularly in the 5.8-5.9 range, as I recall.

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Dec 19, 2008 - 09:09pm PT
I remember exactly that guidebook, probably still have my copy buried somewhere (wish I still had my original Tahquitz guide, green cover I think, a way early version). But I digress. There were some heinous sandbags in the Tahquitz ratings too! When I did the Step, with the crummiest imaginable rack of hexes, Moacs, who knows what, it was rated 5.8, and my eyes nearly popped out trying to imagine the moves and stances. Now it's 10a, probably a fair rating. Largo's so right about Mechanics. We did that one with a couple pitons and a 3/8 goldline off a hardware store spool. Damn sure we didn't even dream of falling either on the first pitch or the enormous runouts later. Trying to imagine someone doing the same, in even worse footwear (but no worse ropes or pro), a full 31 years previous, is truly mindboggling.

Jan 7, 2009 - 11:53pm PT
MMMM 1976 was a good year mmm airplane mmm dont trust me .

Big Wall climber
Sedro Woolley, WA
Jan 8, 2009 - 05:30pm PT
I really enjoyed climbing at Tahquitz, I remember always climbing a grade lower there, strange and 5.10 seemed harder there!!??

Thanks Steve, you pulled another jewel out of that vault!!

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 10, 2009 - 01:36pm PT
In the early days Tahquitz more important than Yosemite with respect to developing standards and technique. Those newly developed skills were quickly applied to the larger valley walls once the conceptual and committment barriers were overcome.

Glad you enjoy the earliest pioneers and their exploits!

Los Angeles
Jan 10, 2009 - 02:29pm PT
thanks for posting.

Social climber
So Cal
Jan 10, 2009 - 11:18pm PT
The original RCS bunch was still active when I started climbing there around 69 or 70. We never interacted with them much and the common courtesy at the time was if someone was on a route you went and picked something preferably on another face and out of sight and earshot of the other party.

Of course that bunch had done everything there was to do there and tended to repeat favorite moderate lines. Now having reached about the same degree of archaicness I can appreciate that approach.

There was one guy that did a lot of the leading. He was one of the shortest of the group with a stocky almost apelike build and tired demeanor. He also smoked unfiltered Camels and you always knew if he'd been up a route recently because he had a habit of constructing neat little ash trays at the belays.

Anyone know who of the old RCSers that was?

Boulder climber
Redmond, OR
Jan 10, 2009 - 11:41pm PT

Those photos arouse an ultimate level of nostalgia, Steve. My first climb there involved leading a novice up "Angel's Fright" when I was just twelve.

I recall the old Wilts guide introduced the route, "name is based on a pun by Bob Brinton."

This vexed me privately for months and I now I'm coming clean. What, in the name of St. Peter, does it mean?

Social climber
So Cal
Jan 10, 2009 - 11:42pm PT
It was a pun based on the Angels Flight lift in down town LA.


Boulder climber
Redmond, OR
Jan 11, 2009 - 12:02am PT
And now I can die in peace. Thank you TGT --

Poway was a cow town back then and just going to San Diego was novel. LA was a land unknown, save Disneyland. I owe ya for that great shot you've dug up!


edit: (that Bob is a wild and carrazzy guy!)

Social climber
So Cal
Jan 11, 2009 - 12:06am PT
I've probably done that climb more than any other at Tahquitz. My MO was to take unsuspecting new beginner/potential partners up it for their first "real" climb.

If they came back, they were serious.

Not that many did.

It also is one of the only climbs there that I ever saw any significant changes in.

In 71 or so a chunk fell out of the upper crux leaving a Trator Horn like tooth sticking out and increasing the difficulty significantly. The next year that fell out returning it to its present configuration droping it back down to 5.4 again.
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