Tahquitz Tales - Got Any?


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Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 27, 2009 - 03:39pm PT
Ah, Tahquitz!

Last Friday while sitting at this computer, my doorbell rang. I think it rang – my hearing ain’t so good anymore - but I answered it anyway. I opened the front door and there stood an old man. It took almost 10 seconds for me to recognize the form as none other than TM Herbert. Just driving through Bishop on his annual bird watching pilgrimage to the depths of Arizona. He insisted that I come outside in the sunshine.

We stood out on my lawn for over an hour while he went through all the details of why he still hadn’t taken delivery of his new car – car not truck. No more trucks for Herbert! As he droned on, his arms flailing, I was taking notice of his new tinted prescription glasses, the two new hearing aids partially hidden behind his ears, and the thinness and whiteness of what hair remained on his balding pate. I worried about what my neighbors were thinking watching these two old men, standing on the lawn – one throwing his arms wildly this way and that – occasionally kneeling to draw finger diagrams on the grass- all the while the other very old man stood intently staring as if in awe of the spectacle.

You may wonder what all this has to do with Tahquitz. Very little actually. It’s just that I associate Tahquitz with all the good times we used to have at Tahquitz and Herbert came to mind. Hennek, Boche, McLean, Herbert – God we spent a lot of time there.

It’s not like it was a short drive from LA. You had to really love Tahquitz to drive out to Idyllwild after work on a Friday evening , hike up to the base of the Green Arch, lay out your sleeping bag, sleep through the night, get up early so that you could climb the Arch, get back in your car and be home in time to watch the UCLA-USC football game.

Or the Sunday morning that McLean and I, having spent the previous sunny day climbing at Tahquitz, with Michael and Valerie Cohen, crawled out of our sleeping bags to Cohen’s berating of the weather gods. It looked like it would snow any minute – no climbing that day for Cohen! Russ and I, however, decided, “a little snow, a little ize, it eez nussing” (a favorite McLean Hermann Buhl imitation).

So up we went to do the Trough in a blizzard. Half way up the route, with Russ belaying me from Pine Tree Ledge where he was anchored to a huge pillar of granite, Russ yelled up, “Are you in a good place?” I wasn’t. In fact, I was trying to figure out how to get across a ten foot section of verglas in my Kronhofers. I answered back that I was not in a good place. The wind was picking up and communication was difficult. Russ yelled back that I had better find a “good place” quickly. The block to which he was anchored was moving. I cautiously backed down to a sheltered gap between the face and a huge boulder. Just as I fell into the gap I heard the horrible sound of an immense rockfall. It took a full 30 seconds for the noise to subside. Then total silence except for the wind.

Russ are you okay? No answer. Again, Russ are you okay? No reply. Finally a weak voice from below in the gloom, I’m okay.
What happened, Russ? I had not felt a thing on my end of the rope.

Can’t explain now. Got to get back on the rock. Can you belay me?

Yeah, come on up. Several minutes later Russ climbed into view. He was a mess. Blood all over his face, his clothes in shreds, his right arm limply dangling at his side. He had been dragged off the ledge by the huge rock pillar and had fallen, accompanied by tons of rock debris, to the end of the rope. He was temporarily unconscious and when he came to he was dangling in space staring at his belay rope. The sheath in front of his face had parted, and exposed in front of him was the rope’s core. Two of the three internal braids were severed and he was suspended by the one remaining braid. When he was able to get his feet back on the rock, he tied off the exposed portion of the rope and climbed to my location.

Russ was on the verge of going into shock. He had lost some teeth, he had a badly cut arm, and a broken nose. I managed to belay him up the remaining pitches and down the icy slabs, around the Rock and back to Lunch Rock. I took him to the fire station in Idyllwild for first aid. I can still hear the crack when they straightened his nose. After the repair, we headed back to UC Riverside where the Cohen’s were living.

Russ could probably tell the story more accurately, but that’s the way I remember it. He survived, but required some expensive dental work. I have photos of Russ after the fall, but I'll have to drag them out - later.

Tahquitz stories – I have lots of them.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Apr 27, 2009 - 03:45pm PT
who can post after that!
Scared Silly

Trad climber
Apr 27, 2009 - 03:53pm PT
Great story ... a while back there was an excellent thread on the wreckless (sic) driving from Tahquitz to Hemmet.

Social climber
The Past
Apr 27, 2009 - 04:03pm PT
Whoa!!! Now that's what I call a story! You might have set the bar a bit high with that one though.

By all means, if you have more Tahquitz tales post 'em up. We're all ears...

scuffy b

Frigate Matilda
Apr 27, 2009 - 05:01pm PT
Well, this is probably third-hand...the background to Fitchen's
Folly (first descent by Joe Fitschen, in a solo, catastrophic,
uncontrolled freefall)...

He had just climbed Traitor Horn, in the days when the number of
pitons you placed was a point of pride (the fewer the better, of

So he's skipping along the top of the rock, shouting, "I just climbed Traitor Horn, and I only used two pitons!! I just climbed Traitor Horn, and I only used WHOOPS...."
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 27, 2009 - 05:22pm PT
A little snow, a little ize, it eez nuszing!

The Trough route approach

No winter gear for this climb. It was sunny the day before.

Russ just coming into view after the fall.

Russ approaching Lunch Rock almost comatose.

Russ before.

Russ after.

The cure-all
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Latitute 33
Apr 27, 2009 - 05:27pm PT
Good God, not only a great story, but pictures! Thanks.

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Apr 27, 2009 - 05:41pm PT
holy hell in a handbasket!

wow, what a tale!

tough as nails kind of stuff.

keep this one on top of the threads today. whew!

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Apr 27, 2009 - 06:08pm PT
McClinsky, wonderful lad indeed:

One of the side effects of the accident Russ had to deal with was a protruding tongue for years afterwards. Is that sympathy, or a look of disgust on Malinda's face?

But, through drinking copious amounts of salad dressing he was able to control the tongue problem but now had to deal with "stoner eyes".

Finally, after years of therapy and his willing support group of mates, he learn to live comfortably with his new nose, German/Afgan heritage, and lived happily ever after,sort of, I think.



Apr 27, 2009 - 07:18pm PT
Don, I have plenty of Tahquitz, Suicide stories all of which are no match to that one! Good grief Man.

dee ee

Mountain climber
citizen of planet Earth
Apr 27, 2009 - 08:10pm PT
That musta' hurt some, luckily it was cold.

Social climber
Flatland, Ca
Apr 27, 2009 - 10:13pm PT
That is all very impressive!!!!

Love it!!
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 28, 2009 - 01:30am PT
A bump for McLean
ron gomez

Trad climber
Apr 28, 2009 - 02:34am PT
Hey Don, great story and photos, remember this?
bachar and another OLD friend Roger Derryberry
good, old, friends
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Apr 28, 2009 - 02:41am PT
Game, set and match to Mr. Lauria. But I hope others offer Tahquitz Tales.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Apr 28, 2009 - 02:47am PT
McClinsky and General Von Hennek at our place in West LA, loading up for a weekend run the the Valley.

One of many moods of the man. Long, long story behind this photo.

McClinsky and Hennek in a far too serious mood.

And, my good buddy Russ, trying to steal my wife.

Trolling for McClinsky to someday get on ST. We were all part of the Pentex Spotmatic era, and there is a vast wealth of photos if we can ever get Russ, Hennek, Boche and other impious characters to jump on ST. Otherwise it will all be lost in the shoeboxes of history.

Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 28, 2009 - 03:02am PT
Just so you all know who's complaining about Russell's philandering

Here's Guido!
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 28, 2009 - 03:26am PT
Hey, Guido. I just scanned about 35 photos shot with my Leica IIIG or my Olympus OM-1. Should I post them here or start a new thread entitled "Old Climbers & Other Old People"?

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Apr 28, 2009 - 03:39am PT

Other Old People

Sitting here on the boat for the past half an hour, listening to an ongoing Mayday just up the coast near a nasty reef. Boat has sunk, two "OLD" people in the water, dark and they can't find them. They can see the mast sticking out of the water with the masthead light. Just! brought out the Heli from Whangarai with the big lights. Pretty scary if they can't pull off a rescue so close to home. We have had really nasty weather for the past week, 35-45 kts, big seas and it has just today began to settle down. Sh#t happens fast.
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 28, 2009 - 03:47am PT
Be safe, mate. We have rivers to do.
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