Who Did The First Ascents At Big Rock- A Historical Survey

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Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Original Post - Jan 12, 2012 - 12:34am PT
Since this seems to be a matter of mystery, who established the routes at Big Rock? Most are bolted and likely pretty memorable so unless somebody already has this information recorded chime in.

This miniguide might be a good place to start. I am unsure of the date on this one too.

An early G.Cobb guide to Big Rock with typography by J.Leisher no year listed.







So we have as of 3/18/1012:

E) English Hanging Gardens FA John Gosling no date
N) Vigin FA Lee Herrell as party aid climb no date
FFA Phil Gleason
M) Crater Maker FA Darrell Hensel no date

Not shown in topo is:

The Nose FFA John Long and Tim Powell 1973
Sickle 5.11+ FA Phil Gleason and Keith Leaman 1968



Only one aid route left when this guide came out. Hopefully, the author might have some of the historical background and weigh in. Anyone know G.Cobb?

Cheers
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 12, 2012 - 12:43am PT
It has been a VERY long time but I liked the place and memory waits for no one...A dedicated thread is easy to update since edit access to the OP isn't limited by posting date. Easy to put a list together with the resources on this forum if it doesn't already exist.

THE BIG LIST---Who's On It?????
ß Î Ø T Ç H

Boulder climber
bouldering
Jan 12, 2012 - 02:53am PT
Big Rock recent history http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/764974/Locker-and-Cosmic-does-PARIS-On-Topic
neversummer

Trad climber
30 mins. from suicide USA
Jan 12, 2012 - 10:10am PT
Bump...
marty(r)

climber
beneath the valley of ultravegans
Jan 12, 2012 - 10:36am PT
I think Jerry Lillegard, whose dad owned Pack and Piton, may have done something out there. Pat Merril, I think made bolt hangers in home ec and did African Flake. The Brothers Gleason may have had a hand in things as well. Robs Muir posts on here and may know more.
henny

Social climber
The Past
Jan 12, 2012 - 10:49am PT
Crater Maker, 5.7: Darrell Hensel, Bob Kessinger. around '74. Not the name we gave it, not sure how it ended up Crater Maker but that's OK.

I always liked Mind Bender, the hole is a cool feature.
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Jan 12, 2012 - 11:15am PT
Steve:
I think Keith Leaman might be the best source for Big Rock info. The ones I know for sure is: John Gosling did the FA of English Hanging Gardens. Paul Gleason did the FFA of the Virgin. Lee Herrell (sp?) had done the Virgin first as an aid route (RURP practice).
Lee, Pat Calis, and Charlie Raymond were quite active at Big Rock in the early 60's and most likely did many of the easy routes along with the Riverside Mountain Rescue Team. This early SAR team used Big Rock for a practice/training area. It was "common" knowledge when we started climbing there that the Trough was put up by the Air Force who also used the area for training.

Credit: PhilG

Kieth's photo of the Virgins FFA
neversummer

Trad climber
30 mins. from suicide USA
Jan 12, 2012 - 11:20am PT
Henny...what was the O.G name of "crater maker" ?
EdBannister

Mountain climber
13,000 feet
Jan 12, 2012 - 11:27am PT
What about No Hope without rope?
(traverse touching the first bolt of each climb...

was that Royce Carlson?
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Jan 12, 2012 - 11:55am PT
I believe the diagram in the later guide was almost identical to the two page copy that was available in the very early 70's and perhaps even earlier.
Elcapinyoazz

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Jan 12, 2012 - 12:27pm PT
Place is literally right down the road from me and I've never climbed there. Last spring and summer I was in there lot, riding my road bike out the door I would be inside the gate in about 5min. Just can't get psyched for a bunch of easy slab paddling. Nice place to ride though.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 12, 2012 - 12:31pm PT
When do folks think that the miniguide in the OP came out?
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Latitute 33
Jan 12, 2012 - 01:18pm PT
A variety of Big Rock guides, Topo Maps were "published" over the years.

The progenitor of these was likely a one page mimeo created by Pat Merrill in the early 1960s (8.5 x 14).

Mike Wise came out with a reprint version of Merrill's guide in about 1965. It too was on a 8.5 x 14 sheet.

In 1973, Steve Mackey, through the Backpacker Shop, came out with a two sided sheet that was an somewhat updated redo of the Merrill/Wise map. (8.5 x 14) It was a freeby handed out at the store's 3 locations.

The tradition of Outdoor Shop free topo guides was continued in 1976 (though the size was reduced to 8.5 x 11) by FarWest Wilderness Recreation in San Bernardino. Printed in brown ink, it had some minor updates.

G(ary?) Cobb's guide was the first "commercially" produced guide (1981). It utilized the format and information of prior guides with some updated or changed information. It was printed on a single 8.5 x 11 sheet of light grey heavy paper stock, that was folded to a 5.5 x 8.5 size. Not sure of the price ($2?).

In 1986 another Big Rock Climbing Area sheet was produced (8.5 x 11) which directly used the cliff diagram of the Cobb guide. Not sure who produced this one.

Since that time, Big Rock has been included in various regional guidebooks and I am unaware of any Big Rock specific guides/sheets produced -- though I could very well be wrong about this.

neversummer

Trad climber
30 mins. from suicide USA
Jan 12, 2012 - 01:25pm PT
I know the so. cal. spurt climbing guide has a couple of pages on BR including the spurt boulder on the eastside of the hill...
marty(r)

climber
beneath the valley of ultravegans
Jan 12, 2012 - 02:03pm PT
Cross clip here; rope drag optional.
henny

Social climber
The Past
Jan 12, 2012 - 09:53pm PT
Dark Side of the Moon. Kind of a long name and given relative to the era, Crater Maker works for me.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 16, 2012 - 12:33am PT
Survey of the Bump...close to the road!
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Jan 16, 2012 - 10:51am PT
Agree, Steve. I'll give Keith a call and see if he can add some names.
Keith Leaman

Trad climber
Seattle
Jan 16, 2012 - 12:42pm PT
Most of my photos from those days were taken with a box Brownie camera stuffed inside a coffee can on a sling, and haven't survived. I did this drawing of Paul Gleason from one of those photos about 1968 on a FA of a route we did there called the Sickle. It was to the right of the Nose, and involved a bit of a runnout start to a RURP which we first aided, placed one bolt, then Paul later freed past. I was unable to free it, and thought it harder than English Hanging Garden. Note the worn Kronhofers, wool knickers, and cap. We adopted the use of army fatigue sleeveless shirts with many pockets to hold the Marlboros etc... while doing FAs at Granite Mtns near Amboy.
Paul Gleason on FA of "Sickle".  Big Rock ca. 1968
Paul Gleason on FA of "Sickle". Big Rock ca. 1968
Credit: drawing by KL
The route went up the curving flake on the right.
Keith - Big Rock on the "Nose" 1966.  The "Sickle" went up the dark st...
Keith - Big Rock on the "Nose" 1966. The "Sickle" went up the dark streak on the right, undercling right and up the face above 5.11+R.
Credit: Keith Leaman
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 16, 2012 - 01:11pm PT
Welcome fellow Drizzletowner! How's the frozen shizzle where you are this morning?

Any idea when the guide in the OP came out?

Thanks for posting!
Keith Leaman

Trad climber
Seattle
Jan 16, 2012 - 01:26pm PT
Hey Steve,
We're pleasantly frozen in just enough to not have to drive to work today. Minnesotan, Okanagan and Alaskan buddies would scoff and jeer. Just sent you an email.
adventurous one

Trad climber
Truckee Ca.
Feb 27, 2012 - 03:43pm PT
Got a chance to climb here last week for the first time, for a day before heading to JT for the week. Fun paddling around on a cool slab. (Though English Hanging Garden is certainly not "slab paddling". My hats off to anyone with the poise and skill to clip that first bolt) A great place to teach begginers the art of slab climbing, and bolts spaced far enough apart to keep things "interesting".

Looked like there would be plenty of additional climbing on some crags high on the hillside above the main slab. Anything up there or nearby? Would like an excuse to explore there a bit more next time we are passing through.
TYeary

Social climber
State of decay
Feb 27, 2012 - 04:04pm PT
That was Gary Lilligard, son of the owner of Pack and Piton. I'm not sure if Gary ever put anything up there. I know Don C.(Chambers) put up a few routes.Gary, Rick Graham and I climbed there a lot in the 70's. I agree Keith would prolly know best (nice to see you post up here Keith). I replaced a boat load of bolts over the years. A lot of folks cut their teeth here.
TY
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Mar 18, 2012 - 12:32pm PT
I used to go there a lot early on because I grew up in Upland and knew all the guys at Pack and Piton (where I bought my gear) and later at the Backpacker Shop, where I worked when I was in college nearby. Rick Accomazzo, Richard Harrison and I must have done all those routes 1,000 times. Ricky could float English Hanging Gardens but I never fit into the moves and it always felt horrendous. And some of those other hard slab routes were quite hard in the old PAs and RDs (pre-EBs).

But the most memorable time I had out there was on The Nose. We were told that it had never been climbed all free (by Paul Gleason, I think). That there was one or two aid bolts yada yada. Anyhow, this was probably around 1973, after the dam was in full construction and the Nose area was off limits.

So one weekday Tim Powell and I snuck over there and managed to free climb the whole thing. The bolts were uber mank and I remember thinking that something might rip if I pitched off big time - and the pro up top was crap. Not much on the bottom, either. Tim got way up there on the lead and came down because the bolt protecting the crux was hanging half way out. I was impressed with the run out Tim did getting to the first pro. Tim was very active BITD (with bro, Kevin, Big D Hensil, and Bobby) at Rubidoux and could crank on those dimes like all get out.

Those old quarter inch bolts were all rusty and sh#t and the climbing was heinous crimping on a fantastic convex prow. If that route was near the main area it would be a mega-classic. Last time I looked the bottom of it was underwater. I remember thinking the moves were very close to 5.12, which was an unheard of rating back then.

Interesting to hear the history of that route because it was probably one of the hardest face climbs in the country at the time and if it went free pre-1970, The Nose would be very historical achievement, IMO. MUCH harder then Valhalla, which got all the press.

JL
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 18, 2012 - 05:13pm PT
John- Great story!

When you look at that list in the OP did you or anyone you recall put up those lines?



So we have:

E) English Hanging Gardens FA John Gosling no date
N) Vigin FA Lee Herrell as party aid climb no date
FFA Phil Gleason
M) Crater Maker FA Darrell Hensel no date

Not shown in topo is:

The Nose FFA John Long and Tim Powell 1973
Sickle 5.11+ FA Phil Gleason and Keith Leaman 1968

You must have drilled or belayed somebody working on a route. A half dozen bolts on stance takes some doing.

Phil G- Where is the supersecret topo from the vault?!?

Proud climbing you guys were pulling off at this secluded spot. Love to hear whatever you can recall about the scene there.

What was your fist visit like?
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Mar 18, 2012 - 06:32pm PT
great thread! So many of us so cal'rs got our early slab on there. Back when I used knotted 1" webbing for a "quick draw".

I don't remember if it was someone I met out there or someone that worked at the Mountain Shop on Tustin ave @Katella in the early 80s, but we talked about getting strong on "dimes" at Rubidoux and that for endurance one should go to Big Rock and send as many climbs as possible in a day. But if you didn't have a partner you could traverse damn near the entire base of that rock. Good to know it has a name. :)
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Mar 18, 2012 - 06:53pm PT
I think it's either going to be Keith Leaman or Phil Gleason who is going to know the low-down about FAs out there. I could possibly get hold of Charlie Reymond who was active out there in the early 1960s, that was a full decade before we started going out there.

We used to hear stories about routes like "Trapese" that supposedly were quarried for the dam, classics, reduced to dust.

Somebody must have old photos of those days.

JL
locker

Social climber
CO
Mar 18, 2012 - 06:55pm PT


Credit: locker
...


Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 18, 2012 - 06:57pm PT
Catch anything?!?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 24, 2012 - 04:03pm PT
Oh,that's right! Yer pole's in Colorado!
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Mar 26, 2012 - 12:29pm PT
Steve:
Sorry, no "supersecret topo from the vault" that I know of. Perhaps I have one of Pat Merrill's topos, but it's hidden in a rather disorganized collection of books, magazines and papers. I called Pat to see if he still had a copy and sadly he didn't.

Two corrections with your list: it was Paul who did the first free ascent of The Virgin and The Sickle and not me.
Paul and Keith were the "leading" climbers in those days. Paul with his incredible strength and Keith with his unbelievable balance. To watch Keith float up a face climb was to watch pure climbing art

Credit: PhilG
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Mar 27, 2012 - 10:44am PT
Steve:
"What was your first visit like?"
Big Rock was such an impressive, "big" place when we first visited. After going to Yosemite and coming back I couldn't believe how "small" it was.

In the 60's Keith and I spent a week out there camping, bouldering and climbing. We were still learning how to tie knots in those days and we scored each other for good leads or well placed pitons and gave minus points if we fell or backed off leads.

I remember sleeping in the back of my pick-up truck waking up with frost covered sleeping bags each morning. Also remember seeing a satellite going across the night sky for the first time.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 27, 2012 - 10:57am PT
Thanks Phil!

I'll email Pat and see if he would be willing to join in here.

I bet that he can recall a couple of adventures...
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Mar 27, 2012 - 11:34am PT
Here's a picture of a climb as John said "quarried for the dam, classics, reduced to dust."

Credit: PhilG
neversummer

Trad climber
30 mins. from suicide USA
Apr 9, 2012 - 01:56pm PT
Bump.
DonC

climber
CA
Apr 9, 2012 - 03:46pm PT
Cheap Thrills - If I recall correctly, Don O'Kelly did the first ascent of Cheap Thrills as an aid climb on the lower portion with bat hooks. Shortly after, Phil Haney put bolts in a few of the holes and did the FFA.

Let it Bleed - myself and Doug Tilleskjor, around 1969.
Keith Leaman

Trad climber
Seattle
Apr 9, 2012 - 06:36pm PT
Does anyone remember the abandoned two story building (house?) and eucalyptus trees situated in a hollow near the base of Big Rock? There was once a slight uphill approach to the face from that building BITD. When we first climbed there (early '60s), we rode in Paul's old pre-VW Corvair across the dirt road that went through large potato fields which are now underwater.

Once, while half way up a climb on the main face, Paul and I heard gunfire and saw bullets ricocheting off the rock beside us. After descending and confronting the shooters, they said "Oh, we weren't trying to hit you, just seeing how close we could get"!

I recently wrote to the Perris family for any information/photos they might have, but waiting for a response. Here's a slightly more concise list for the original question re: FAs. As far as I know, almost all the climbs were done in the early to late '60s up to early '70s.

Lower Face:

A,B We used to top-rope the faces around the Rat Crack, don't know about Edger Sanction bolts.
C Lee Harrell early '60s
D ?
E FA? FFA John Gosling 1970
F Lee Harrell mid '60s
G Sierra Club late '50s-early '60s
H I thought Paul and Phil G did this one ?
I Lee Harrell mid '60s
J ?
K Pat Merrill?
L Pat Merrill?
M Darrell Hensel, Bob Kessinger '74
N FA Lee Harrell-aid, FFA Paul, Phil G, Keith L. 1969
O Air Force
P Pat Merrill
Q ?
R Pat Merrill?
S Pat Merrill?
T ?
U Sierra Club
V ?
W ?

Upper Routes:

A, B Top roped for a long time
C Sierra Club
D Sierra Club
E Don Chambers, Doug Tilleskjor '69
F Sierra Club
G ?
H FA Don O'Kelly-aid, FFA Phil Haney '68
I Sierra Club

The Nose (remarkably still visible on Google Earth-I think those climbs are still there) formation had four distinct routes. From east to west they were:

A a 5.7 route that Phil G just posted a photo of above. FA?
B "Roman Nose" 5.11? FA Lee Harrell-aid, FFA John Long, Tim Powell '73. I lead past the crux in the '60s, but Paul and I never completed the thing ground-up
C "Runny Nose" 5.9 FA Lee Harrell
D "Sickle" 5.11+ Paul Gleason, Keith Leaman 'late '60s

That's all I know, feel free to chime in with corrections/additions.
photo not found
Missing photo ID#243878

Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Apr 9, 2012 - 06:59pm PT
What would be really fun would be to see some more old shots from those days. I never took any that I can remember because we always figured we were must practicing at Big Rock, but English Hanging Gardens, Giant Step, Let it Bleed, Roman Nose and a couple others were quite challenging for us in the old red PAs.

I think I'll start another thread on Rubidoux. That's where a lot of us really got started and most of us are totally in the dark as to when most of the classic lines were first done and by who. We climbed a lot out there in the early 70s with my mentor, Paul Gleason, but we never talked about who did what and were always focusing on what the new stuff was. I'm sure there are people on his list who have great info on the place.

JL
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 9, 2012 - 07:53pm PT
Outstanding Keith!

Thanks for putting that list together.

I just sent Pat Callis an email so hopefully he can contribute.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 15, 2012 - 07:29pm PT
Pat said that he didn't do much here but put me in touch with Lee Harrell who will hopefully join in.
Batrock

Trad climber
Burbank
Apr 15, 2012 - 09:16pm PT
My son's first trip to Big Rock. I am getting him ready to do Snake Dike next month.
Credit: Batrock
Credit: Batrock
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 16, 2012 - 10:43am PT
Great place to learn!
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Apr 16, 2012 - 11:13am PT
That would be way cool to hear from Lee Harrell!
Keith Leaman

Trad climber
Seattle
Apr 16, 2012 - 11:46am PT
True that, Phil!
I can still feel the weight of that pack rat running down my pant leg when we erroneously thought the Rat Crack was rated an easy climb back in '64, and ended up free soloing it on our first climbing trip.

Looks like you got a "Tiger" there Batrock!

Mountain Project shows 4 additional distinct lines on the upper "Sundeck" near Mickey Mantel (not shown on Cobb's guide) ranging from .9 to .11a.

Soon after the aforementioned building was razed, I took this photo of what was left of the foundation ca'65
Before the dam, what's left of the foundation to a structure that once...
Before the dam, what's left of the foundation to a structure that once stood at the base of Big Rock. ca '65


We took a group of Dalton Hot Shots out for a day of climbing ca '66. This is just before the crux on the Runny Nose. 5.9
photo not found
Missing photo ID#244819

A view of the top of the Nose. The 5.7 (Phil's colorful pic above) went up to the isolated flake and up; the Roman Nose (5.11?) straight up the blankest section between light and shadow. Not much pro (if any) for quite a while. And the Runny Nose 5.9 went over the small roof. The Sickle 5.11+ was off to the right
photo not found
Missing photo ID#244820

Paul Gleason taking a breather while trying to free the Roman Nose ca'66
Paul Gleason Big Rock ca. 1966 "Roman Nose" 5.11
Paul Gleason Big Rock ca. 1966 "Roman Nose" 5.11
Credit: Keith Leaman



PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Apr 16, 2012 - 12:18pm PT
Oct 2011
Oct 2011
Credit: PhilG
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 16, 2012 - 12:21pm PT
Lee just wrote me and is in the middle of a move right now and will join in as soon as the dust settles.

Sounds like a lot of these routes are his doing so this should be fantastic historically!
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Apr 16, 2012 - 12:25pm PT
Strong work, Steve!
Really looking forward to his input.
ATS

climber
Mountain Project
Apr 16, 2012 - 09:09pm PT
Roman Nose

John,

Is that the 11- to the left of Giant Step?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2012 - 12:40pm PT
Big Ole Bump...
bryceman

Boulder climber
Joshua Tree, California
May 18, 2012 - 01:06am PT
What about the first para-glider routs off Big Rock? I was there @1990 to see one.

FAIL... Blood everywhere.
StahlBro

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
May 18, 2012 - 01:09am PT
Mona Stahl
Mona Stahl
Credit: StahlBro

My mom on the sharp end early 70's

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 18, 2012 - 10:00am PT
Ah, yer mother wears climbing boots...

Nice shot!
neversummer

Trad climber
30 mins. from suicide USA
May 18, 2012 - 11:21am PT
Bump for history.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 26, 2012 - 11:13pm PT
Harrell soon bump...
johntp

Trad climber
socal
Jun 27, 2012 - 02:26am PT
Good stuff! Like others I always felt Big Rock was just exercise and a day having fun until we could get to Tahquitz.

Tried the hanging gardens a few times but could not even boulder the start. The first bolt was shite spinner. Then one day I'm out there and see some guy float it.

F-U Moffat! :>

Edit: As a BITD weekend warrior, it always amazes me the way the really skilled people move on the rock. The way Moffat moved was so smooth and effortless. I've seen other climbers do it, but seeing Moffat glide that day was the first time I'd seen that level of elegance.
neversummer

Trad climber
30 mins. from suicide USA
Aug 8, 2012 - 04:26pm PT
BUMP
T Hocking

Social climber
Riverside/Redding, Ca
Aug 8, 2012 - 07:42pm PT
Interesting thread,
spent some time there in the mid-70's.
What year was the dam built?
I seem to remember that the climbing area was closed while the dam was being built.
Think i have some old pics of the place, will post if i can find them.
Tad

T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Dec 11, 2012 - 07:30pm PT
Some pics of me and some buds on African Flake? 74/75ish
Tad
Big Rock mid 70's
Big Rock mid 70's
Credit: T Hocking
Big Rock mid 70's
Big Rock mid 70's
Credit: T Hocking
Big Rock mid 70's
Big Rock mid 70's
Credit: T Hocking
Big Rock early 70's
Big Rock early 70's
Credit: T Hocking
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Dec 12, 2012 - 08:30am PT
Stellar pictures, T.Hocking.
Love the ole hip belay. Hard to believe that was 40 years ago!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 26, 2013 - 12:23pm PT
Big Ole Bump...

I just emailed Lee Harrell so hopefully he will be trying to fill in some of the FA history with a little help from his partners BITD.
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Jul 28, 2013 - 12:32pm PT
Following this thread with interest, Steve.
By-the-way, I came across a copy of Pat Merrill's topo. I could scan it, if anyone is interested.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 28, 2013 - 09:49pm PT
Post that topo up Phil!

And raid your slide box for any Big Rock shots.

Lee showed up when there were only two routes so this should be really fun filling in the blanks.
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Jul 28, 2013 - 11:27pm PT
I bet The Trough is real greezy now days,
was slick in the early 70's.
Hope the old bolts have been upgraded as well.
Thanks for the memory bump Steve!
Tad
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Jul 28, 2013 - 11:36pm PT
'like' thread bump
Lee Harrell

Social climber
Santa Fe, NM
Sep 5, 2013 - 03:42pm PT
Since I am inclined to be less than proficient with "threads" i will give Steve Grossman a call and he can pick and choose what he wants to put in. Suffice it to say I guess I was one of the first people to actually climb at Big Rock. The SAR folks from Riverside used to play there but it consisted almost entirely of lowering people down the face in a stokes--I never saw one of them doing anything from the ground up except the central "gully." I learned about the place when I went over to Riverside to buy something at a climbing store--I believe it was "Highland Outfitters." There were a couple of young fellas who I talked with and they told me about these horrific walls which were very difficult or maybe impossible--obviously I had to see such things. I went there one time with them and I guess they had enough of it so I had to find other folks to climb with. When I first went there much of the rock had a good covering of moss on it--clearly no one had been up it and when it rained it good pretty snotty. I know the first climb I did, after going up the obvious gully and a flake to the left of it--which I did solo--no one to go with and pretty easy anyway, was the route which went up to the arching roof about 100 or so feet left of the gully. I put in a bolt to belay from or to protect the roof part--the moves were reasonably hard but what made it tricky was the damn moss. I actually backed off the first time since there was water running down it and I saw no reason to be silly. In addition my wife was belaying me from the ground and there was no way she could get up it . We only went there during the winter between trips to the desert. There were moderate boulders around and we used those to keep our skills up. About this time I ran into Phil Gleason who was on a "Hot Shot" fire crew and who was interested in climbing--he brought along his brother Phil, Keith Leamon, Jim Barker and others. I was the "old man" and somehow we all clicked, our house in Claremont kinda became the central place. I will try to get info to Steve G. and see if I have any photos to send along.
Keith Leaman

Trad climber
Sep 5, 2013 - 06:11pm PT
Thanks for posting, Lee! Remember the "Ring Climb"? Such an excellent boulder problem, now underground~Three slightly indented ring shapes, one above the other becoming progressively more perfectly circular. The mantle into the last red-orange ring - being about 16" in diameter - and a little higher off the ground than many would like. Here's Phil on the steep polished slab back in 1965.

On a recent trip there I believe I spotted the top foot or so sticking up above grade. I still recall many evenings at your place in Claremont. Pat's dinners and your classical guitar. Good times!

Hey Phil...scan Merrill's topo.
Phil Gleason gripping the second of three rings on the 'Ring Climb' ca...
Phil Gleason gripping the second of three rings on the 'Ring Climb' ca 1965.
Credit: KL
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Sep 5, 2013 - 06:40pm PT
Thanks Lee!
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Sep 5, 2013 - 11:13pm PT
Yes, thanks Lee for posting! Your story brought back recollections of the feel and smell of that noble rock back then.

Keith: I have some days off coming up, I'll try to get that topo scanned.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Sep 6, 2013 - 12:28am PT
Credit: edit:Peter Haan
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Sep 6, 2013 - 12:43am PT
Credit: edit; Peter Haan
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Sep 6, 2013 - 12:52am PT
Credit: edit; Peter Haan
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Sep 6, 2013 - 12:57am PT
Credit: edit; Peter Haan
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Sep 6, 2013 - 09:01am PT
Peter,
Thanks for cleaning up those relic photos!
Nice work,
Tad
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 6, 2013 - 10:59am PT
Welcome Lee!

Thanks for pulling up a chair here at the ST campfire. A rare treat to go all the way back to the beginning of route development here and see what comes of the discussion.

Don't edit your writing on my account. LOL The ST is far more reliable than my memory so consider this thread a journal and fill er up!

How many of the routes on the topo in the OP are yours do you think?

Hopefully Phil will provide some more grist with that old topo.
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Sep 11, 2013 - 02:49pm PT
Keith, Steve, Lee and anyone else interested: below is the scanned Topo. It was a large piece of paper so I scanned it in two images. As it mentions in the text, it not an "original" but a copy of an original. I'm not sure I agree with all of the ratings!
Phil

Credit: PhilG

Credit: PhilG
neversummer

climber
30 mins. from suicide USA
Sep 11, 2013 - 03:12pm PT
Bump!
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Sep 13, 2013 - 10:33am PT
Historical bump.
DonC

climber
CA
Sep 13, 2013 - 10:49am PT
Phil - I remember that Topo. English Hanging Gardens at 5.9?? I recall the Giant Step moves to be pretty tricky also for 5.10. Left Flake at 5.8 seems high, a few others done't seem right either.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 13, 2013 - 11:18am PT
Nice topo Phil!

Is this the first one that anyone put out?

What is Pat Merrill's story?

DonC- How many routes existed at Big Rock when you first visited to climb there?
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Sep 13, 2013 - 01:14pm PT
Steve,
As far as I can recollect, this was the first Topo. There might have been a route list compiled prior to Pat's topo. Lee might have a better idea. As he said, his house was the climbing center for the group. If anyone had a different, earlier guide, he would have seen it.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Sep 13, 2013 - 01:33pm PT
I'm just getting down with a big project co-written with Peter Croft called the Trad Climber's Bible. I included a short chapter about our early, high school visits to Big Rock. Here is what I included in the book.

Haunted House

Big Rock was a longtime practice climbing area frequented by the local military base, the Sierra Club, and the Riverside Mountain Rescue Team, comprised of a few big-ass Jeeps and several dozen mountaineers dispatched to find lost hikers and cars that had driven “off the edge.” Legend has it that Big Rock saw its first activity in the late 1940s, when soldiers from the local Air Force sieged the water-trough running up the middle of the 150-foot high face. In the ensuing years, several generations of Los Angeles and San Diego-based climbers filled the gaps, mostly via bolt protected face climbs on the smooth diorite slab. When we finally showed up, the innovative work had been done. The place was largely abandoned and felt like a lost wing of the Smithsonian, the forty something routes so many relics of the pioneers who used Big Rock as a testing ground for evolving face climbing techniques.

We were still in high school, anxious to follow the chalk marks of the cast of knights who had dominated Southern California climbing for over a decade - then largely and suddenly vanished. We’d heard all about these guys and yet rarely saw or had met one. Naturally they became mythical figures in our young minds.

Their numbers included Paul and Phil Gleason, Pat Callis and Charlie Raymond, who developed Suicide Rock when both were grad students at CalTech, the preternatural Phil Haney, who cranked V10 boulder problems in the late 1960s, Keith Leaman, John Gosling, the ebullient, chain-smoking Don O’Kelly, and a few others (many were members of an ambitions Eagle Scout group, we later learned). On the gritty Big Rock slabs this gang had established a score of difficult, and in a few cases, desperate face climbs, right into the 5.12a grade, including the improbable English Hanging Gardens. Then they moved on and apparently never returned or looked back. Where were they now? What had gone on here?

Photo by Doug White
Photo by Doug White
Credit: Largo

Problem was, by the time my generation started climbing, the public was locked out of Big Rock while county workers built the Perris Lake Recreation Area. That never stopped us. We’d park out on the road and sneak in. We were well out of the way of the derricks and skip loaders so by the time a foreman was bothered to chase us off, we usually had ticked a handful of routes and were good to go. When the same cranky boss kept catching us, we worked out an arrangement of leaving a half pint of Old Forrester (in a brown paper bag, of course) on the boulder near the base of the slab. Then we were free to climb all day – no questions asked. These were simpler times.

Several of the more notorious formations, such as the Trapease, had been destroyed, the rock used for dam ballast. But the majority of the routes were still en tact. Giant Step and Let it Bleed – to mention a few - felt like stiff 5.11 in the lug-soled Kronhoffers and Robbins boots fashionable in the 1960s, were a touch easier in smooth soled Varappe boots that appeared around 1970, got easier still with the EBs of the mid 1970s, and ultimately were moderate 5.10 in the modern sticky rubber shoes of today. It was always an ego boost to return to Big Rock once every couple seasons, with the stylish new slippers, sticky as a chameleon’s tongue, and waltz up routes that spanked us silly in the hard-soled articles. Man, we were sure were getting better . . .

Credit: Largo

Above: Early 1980s, when you could drive your car to the base of the wall, tape deck blaring.

But the glorious days out at Big Rock were when we first visited the place and seemed to have it all to ourselves, knowing we were using the very footholds of the climbers who established the spectacular climbs up at Suicide and Tahquitz, where we came of age as adults and as climbers. We might have known next to nothing of these shadow figures, but we came to know their handiwork. Their names were lavishly strew across the guidebook pages of all the local venues, but they were gone now and there was nothing but rusty quarter inch Rawl Drive contraction bolts, widely spaced, to suggest that here at Big Rock they had smoked their Marlboros and told lies and took huge skidding falls, if the rumors are true, taking pictures of each other with Keith Leaman’s Kodak Brownie stuffed in a gym sock inside a Folgers Coffee can as they mastered small hold and friction climbing and learned how to engineer face climbs. Back in the day.

I had visited Big Rock perhaps a dozen times over several years before I was made aware (by former Big Rock regular Don O’Kelly) of another formation called The Nose, a 120 foot high, glass smooth arête with several extreme lines including the supposed “last great prize” (the Roman Nose, which followed the very arête) leftover from the previous generation. Located some quarter mile from the main slab, the lake nearly lapped the lower wall. Of course we had gazed across at this impressive prow many times while belaying from slings on the main face. I was unsure we could ever get onto the rock without a row boat. Turns out we could, and Tim Powell and I snuck over to The Nose one afternoon and managed the first free ascent of the Roman article - by the skin of our teeth.

Such was our crowning achievement at Big Rock, and it knitted us into the continuum with the heroes we silently grew up with. Climbing their routes at Big Rock was another rite of passage and by finishing the work they had started on the Roman Nose, we finally connected with the others whose shadows we’d chased, up all of those slabs, for all of those years.

Of course Big Rock was but a brief aside of the larger drama we all eventually found in Yosemite and beyond. Its charms are mostly lost on outsiders but were dear to us owing to its regional legacy, which read like the college diary of the home team. One’s early history always exerts a special hold on us; and to every successive generation, Big Rock will feel like a wall of phantoms, when the past meets the present where the rubber meets the rock. It’s an unremarkable place but it still feels enchanted, as for a moment in time we had it to ourselves, when the dam was forming up and the entrance fee was a short dog of cheap bourbon.

Credit: Largo

At an old abandoned crag the anxious silence reaches back to the long lost who worked out a way before them on the rock. Decades later at the juncture of back then and not yet, we rope up for a route and climb it right now. Riding old routes into the future. Following the line of phantoms whose bones might well be dust. We are the same ghosts following the same holds. Made real at the short span between our fingertips and a razor edge. We dangle side by side at the belay, paying out the memories. The collected astonishment, engrained in the rock, murmurs to those still on their way. Every route is an enchantment. Every crag is a haunted house.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 13, 2013 - 01:56pm PT
Superb offering John!

You do need to include Lee Harrell in your list of pioneers. He was really the first to open this place up and I will happily put you in touch with him if you like.

We are still working through the early routes.


Now, my hair gets longer as the beat gets stronger
Wanna tell Chuck Berry my news
I get my kicks outta guitar licks
And I've sold my steel toed shoes

Now I got this friend and he's a spider west sider
You know, he's hung up on a protection rejection thing
But I have made him see the light

He just wanna dance to
Honaloochie boogie, yeah
I get in time, don't worry 'bout the shirt shine
Honaloochie boogie, yeah
You sure started somethin'

Thanks for sharing!
Keith Leaman

Trad climber
Sep 13, 2013 - 02:40pm PT
Largo, You are indeed a gifted writer! Nice tribute to the place. Here is a cleaned-up version of the photo on our FFA of the 'Virgin'.
Paul, Phil Gleason and I did the FFA of 'Virgin' 5.10 ca 1967
Paul, Phil Gleason and I did the FFA of 'Virgin' 5.10 ca 1967
Credit: KL
And this pre-dam bouldering photo of the 'Butcher' reminds me that one of the hot topics of the day was the advent of 'dynamic' as opposed to static moves, and whether such shenanigans were "real" climbing since they violated the three-holds-while-shifting-the-forth corollary to the-leader- must-not-fall axiom. HA HA!
photo not found
Missing photo ID#321107

I remember standing in the hot sun at the base of "White Delight", an aesthetic 1-2 pitch formation which was later completely destroyed, with Merrill and Phil as Pat showed us his first topo. Earth movers were moving in. Jack Schnurr and I attended several meetings with the construction company and various other factions, in an effort to dissuade any destruction of the major formations.

We were assured that none of the rocks would be damaged. But as the shoreline of the proposed reservoir continued to expand on the drawing board, we knew these were hollow promises. Jack had begun his journey toward becoming an Osteopath, I was headed for Anthropology studies in the jungles of central Mexico, Phil headed to Yosemite and Paul was chasing math problems and wildfires as a career.

Since we know the dam was built in '71, my estimate is that Pat's topo must have been printed around '70.
DonC

climber
CA
Sep 13, 2013 - 03:24pm PT
Keith - I was there the day you guys did the Virgin - great entertainment. The Butcher was a great problem along with the Fin, the Rings and many other problems. I remember Big Rick being a great bouldering area and spent lots of time with Don Okelly, Haney, Schnurr, Jim Barker and others.
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Latitute 33
Sep 13, 2013 - 05:43pm PT
John, Thanks for the nice historical review of Big Rock. As with you, many of us cut our teeth there.

My first trip was in the company of DE, Matt Cox and Jim Angione. They all sported EBs, while I only had a worn pair of red PAs (my first shoes). The thin slab moves on Cheap Thrills seem near impossible to me. A few months later, after I purchased my first pair of EBs, on a return visit the moves seemed almost easy in comparison. I can only imagine how difficult these routes must have been in the early lug-soled boots used by our predecessors.

It is fair to say that I spent an inordinate amount of time at Big Rock over the years. And though it later became fashionable to denigrate the area, these early memories have a fond place in my heart.
henny

Social climber
The Past
Mar 13, 2014 - 10:57am PT
Revisited this thread after following some links. Can't believe I didn't post this earlier:

Edger Sanction - FA Tom Polk, not sure who seconded, or the year but likely around 74/75.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind - FA Matt Cox, again not sure who with but I think it was a group ascent, probably 74/75. I don't seem to see this route on the topos in this thread, but maybe I overlooked it. It is a right trending ascending traverse starting on the far left. My memory of the start is a little fuzzy as I haven't been to BR in years, but it starts either on Edger Sanction or Rat Crack, then goes hard right, hits the flake on EHG, eventually to the ledge at the flakes/Let It Bleed, then diagonals up right through Mad Dogs and Cheap Thrills ending at the top of the trough.

It was enjoyable re-reading Largo's post on doing the Nose with Tim. I went to the Nose with Tim a couple weeks later to do a repeat. Stealth operation, wait for the personnel to leave the area, then sneak over, haul ass to get up the route, and hustle back out. Good times.

Interesting, but one of my most vivid memories of Big Rock is not of climbing but of a giant rattlesnake. By far the biggest one I've ever seen, at least 50' long and thick as a tree. OK, slight exaggeration, but it truly was a monster. They can grow 'em big out there.

I had a friend that had a snake encounter on The Trough. Half way up the route he was startled to hear a rattle as he started to grab a shelf. A snake had somehow fallen (?) down the face and was apparently stuck there. It must have fallen vs. ascending. Right above it the rock got even lower angle. If it could have pulled the moves to get that high it could have topped out for sure.

Ah yes, some good memories of Big Rock.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 10, 2014 - 06:20pm PT
Hey folks,

I am going to engage in a detailed discussion with Lee Harrell about Big Rock history pretty soon and he asked me if I had any good shots of the various formations or an aerial shot so that he can touch on doing some of the more obscure satellite routes here as best he can remember them.

If anyone has aerial photos or good perspective shots please post them up or let me know where to find them to make our discussion as productive as possible.

Thanks for the help. This should be really fun and I will report the findings right here so that we can see what comes of it.

Cheers!
Dave Kos

Social climber
Temecula
Apr 10, 2014 - 06:37pm PT
You can use google maps to get some nice perspectives:

http://www.google.com/maps/place/Lake+Perris/@33.8377834,-117.1768998,495a,35y,90h,39.23t/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x80dca0965cf839b5:0xcf4e4ec105e77400
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Apr 10, 2014 - 07:39pm PT
Sorry Steve, no aerial shots.
Thanks for all your work getting this historical stuff recorded.
Pat Merrill

climber
Idaho
May 6, 2014 - 05:14pm PT
I did the topo sometime in the late '60's from a 35mm slide that I projected on a large sheet of paper. I drew in the existing routes, but I didn't rate them. Barry Briggs stuck it up on the back wall at Highland Outfitters in Riverside.

The only route I'm responsible for (guilty of) was Cheap Thrills, an excuse to try out Warren Harding's bat hooks. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
May 6, 2014 - 05:43pm PT
Pat Merrill!!
No way dude! When did you get clued into Super Topo?
Good to see your off the farm enough to find your computer.
Hope you didn't mind me making your topo available.

Credit: PhilG
The kid in action!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 6, 2014 - 05:43pm PT
Welcome Pat and nice job on the topo!

Since we are trying to put names with as many of these routes as possible, who was your partner?

Do you remember personnel on any of the routes that went up while you were climbing here?

I will post a route list in the OP and we will see how many routes are accounted for thus far.
johntp

Trad climber
socal
May 6, 2014 - 09:51pm PT
Where is/was the nose? Spent a lot of time playing at Big Rock in the early-mid 80s but don't recall this route. Was it taken out for the dam construction?
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
May 7, 2014 - 10:55am PT
Yes, johntp, it was blasted into dust when they built the damn.

Credit: PhilG

This is Keith's picture of the Nose
Keith Leaman

Trad climber
May 7, 2014 - 11:57am PT
Phil, that's me on the 5.9 "Runny Nose". The 5.11 "Roman Nose" was slightly left, and the 5.11X "Sickle" went up the dark streak to the right.

It's clear from Dave Kos' link above, and from personal observation, that most of the "Nose" formation is still there. Here's an aerial view from that link. It was the "White Delight" formation that got blasted to smithereens.
Big Rock aerial view
Big Rock aerial view
Credit: KL-Google

The water level appears to cover the base at times, though. I went back there last summer and could see the thing from the fence. Note, I did not go through the hole in the fence which leads directly to the top of the "Nose", nor did I go to a formation which looks a lot like the old "Trapeze" boulder. :^)
Nose formation routes
Nose formation routes
Credit: KL-Google

VVVV Phil, don't you have a photo of the "White Delight"? It had that pure white rhomboid shape at the belay. Good to see your post Pat!!
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
May 7, 2014 - 12:12pm PT
Interesting. I was sure the Nose was destroyed.
I stand corrected.
neversummer

climber
30 mins. from suicide USA
May 7, 2014 - 04:15pm PT
Mr. Grossman,
I live really close to B.R if you need any photos snapped i'd be willing to get a few for ya....pm me here if you're interested.

Jimmy
Pat Merrill

climber
Idaho
May 7, 2014 - 07:15pm PT
It may have been Kent Rose, also from Claremont, who was with me on Cheap Thrills. But I'm not positive.

Hi Sarge! That's quite the picture: blue knicker socks to match the blue suede shoes. And look, he's got hair! Wow, Big Rock is so much steeper than I remember.

I remember one day a bunch of us were in Jack Schnurr's van drinking beer and listening to his 8 track tape when somebody thought it would be a good idea to climb up to the ledge. So we're all crowded on the ledge hooting and hollering like fools, and this older guy belaying his wife on the Trough asked us to lower the volume. Jack started to give this guy a bunch of crap, and the guy responded, when I recognized him as Tom Frost. It took a moment for this new information to penetrate Jack's beer soaked head; a few seconds of shocked silence, and then the back peddling and apologies from all of us as we sheepishly vacated our perch.
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
May 7, 2014 - 09:46pm PT
I started climbing in 69 or 70 and got into it because a friend since elementary school who was then attending Harvey Mudd' had been conned into Andy Embick's "climbing club" that was really a way to con wheels to Tahquitz.

The main road to Hemet at the time had just been detoured from it's original course directly up the valley that would become the lake and there were no fences yet, just a couple of standard barricades across the closed road.

We both had motorcycles, He a Kawasaki 350 and I a Yamaha 350 two stroke.

The closed road became our drag strip. His Kawi had the power to weight ratio and would always out accelerate me off the line, but I always beat him to the crag as his shorter coupled bike would get scarey squirrely at about 120mph.

The only other people I ever remember seeing there included a guy that was starting up leading the trough with his swami tied around a plaster body cast. Other than that we always had the place to ourselves and were only interrupted once.

I was about half way up one of the problems on the Trappeze boulder when the CHP showed up.

He demanded that I, "get down from there"

My reply was that the only way down was up.

He was fortunately ok with that and we got off with just a stern warning not to come back.



PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
May 8, 2014 - 11:46am PT
Great story Pat.
Big Rock was a great place to act wild, and Jack sure was a wild dude in those days.
By-the-way that picture is on Sentinel. Grandmothers' in tennis shoes free solo that route these days.
Pat Merrill

climber
Idaho
May 8, 2014 - 12:12pm PT
Yeah, that's what I thought, the knickers disappeared after that 1st summer. The hair lasted a bit longer.

Hi Keith, it's really interesting to find out what directions you all took after the Big Rock days.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 8, 2014 - 10:25pm PT
Thanks for the offer Jimmy.

I will see what works for Lee when I chat with him in a couple of days.
Keith Leaman

Trad climber
May 9, 2014 - 10:36am PT
Steve~ All our best to Lee if you see him.

Pat~ Hope Idaho is treating you well. On page 2 of this thread I listed my best recollection of who did what at BR. Do you remember who did:

K- Boogaloo
L- Wedunett
P- Pudnurtle
R- Mind Bender
S- African Flake

I always wondered what the route looked like that Haney and Barker did high on the hillside north of the road, ca 1970. They may have placed one bolt? I heard it was 5.9 and run out friction and edging. Thanks to Kos' link I cut a screen shot of the crag's west buttress. Anyone else hear about this route?
Lake Perris Haney-Barker Crag
Lake Perris Haney-Barker Crag
Credit: KL/Google

Here's another overview of the area.
Big Rock overview
Big Rock overview
Credit: KL/Google

In the seven years that we climbed there (1964-1970) we found myriad boulder problems on every aspect of the hillsides, like the ones perched on the upper slabs.
Big Rock upper slabs, boulders
Big Rock upper slabs, boulders
Credit: KL/Google

Looking back fifty years, as Lee commented recently, who would have thought that Big Rock would become so popular. But that's what we thought about other places like Holcomb, Lake Arrowhead Pinnacles, Rubidoux, Horse Flats etc...

rmuir

Social climber
From the Time Before the Rocks Cooled.
May 10, 2014 - 10:50am PT
Ours is a small and incestuous circle of climbers, Pat. Kent Rose did my taxes for twenty-five years or more here in Claremont and, though I knew that he had done some climbing BITD, he never spent much time talking of it.

My first trip to Big Rock was within a few weeks of my arrival in Riverside to attend UCR in September, 1970. I learned of Big Rock from Paul Gleason at Highland Outfitters, and I was keen to check out the area. Back before the dam, the dirt road headed smack-dab through the center of the eventual lake. An obvious right turn took us up to a nice clustering of pepper trees below the face, and there was a much more substantial hike up to the base of the climbing. (Well, 'substantial' is a relative term…)

Do I accurately remember tables scattered among the trees? Cars and trucks were casually parked among the trees, picnic lunches were laid out, and there were some pretty cool boulders down there including the excellent Rings boulder. Now, only the very top of that boulder is down at your ankles—and if you know where to look, you can just see the upper bit of the upper ring.

The drive from Riverside was pretty casual, and it was common to head out there in the afternoons and climb until the the sun set into the much too thick smog. It was a place to go if you wanted some roped climbing when bouldering at Rubidoux wasn't enough and Tahquitz was too much of a day. Lots of challenging slab routes could be found that eventually were transformed into crazy and casual third class hikes. I do recall, early on, watching (in amazement) as a wild-haired Phil Gleason—just back from forty days in the desert wilderness out near Amboy—was soloing everything in sight. Rat Crack and Edger Sanction became warm-up boulder problems before the flaking of the ropes…

During the construct of the dam, the area was closed, but we continued to trespass our way in there. I recall hitting Big Rock several times on the way home from Idyllwild; the approach trail was pretty well-established by then, though the snakes were worthy of attention.

When entrance to the area was once again permitted, the Powers That Be instituted some lame-ass system of checking for climbing competence before we could tie in. One of the better stories was when a few Stonemasters arrived for an official inspection, and out poured we scruffians from a panel truck chockablock with climbing crap. Someone pulled a spatula from the van and hung in from the rack, convincing the most uncertain of officers that it was, indeed, a serious essential for the climber's craft. A few expert knots were tied to show that we knew our stuff, and we were on our way.
Pat Merrill

climber
Idaho
May 10, 2014 - 10:55am PT
Keith, it seems to me that I named the route "Boogaloo" for the topo, but that it was already there. That doesn't help with the FA, just one more bit of historical trivia.
Pat Merrill

climber
Idaho
May 10, 2014 - 11:10am PT
Robs, I met Kent through my wife, as they were friends in high school. He came to the Valley in the spring of '70; the climbers were in Camp 11 (?) across the river from the family camp. He had a monster bag of institutional pancake mix, and gallons of syrup. It was horrible stuff, but we ate it for weeks.

A small world indeed: Marty Roberts is my nephew, and a better climber than I ever dreamed of being.
mooser

Trad climber
seattle
May 10, 2014 - 11:37am PT
Pat - in all the years I climbed at Big Rock (roughly '75-'85), Cheap Thrills was one of my faves.

Keith - loving all the photos, and the big picture perspectives they offer!
gunsmoke

Mountain climber
Clackamas, Oregon
May 10, 2014 - 07:22pm PT
Great stuff on this thread. I had no idea of the extent of the climbing history at Big Rock, that two different eras of noteworthy pioneers had climbed there. Eventually I moved to about 15 miles away, so I probably went there a hundred times over the years. Randy is right that the place was denigrated. Just too close to Tahquitz/Suicide and JT, I suppose.

Too many memories to recount. Lots of rattlers. Red Diamonds crawl all over that area. Large, pretty, and quite passive as far as rattlers go. Once the gate and fee system went into place, we usually parked just past the gate to the east. Was a favorite auto break-in location. Perpetual auto glass on both sides of the road. In the 90's the park rangers staked the place out. Burglars showed up on cue and, in the confrontation, a ranger shot and killed one of the suspects. First shooting fatality by a uniformed Cali park ranger in state history. Jensen soloed Let It Bleed back in the 70's. Pretty burly for the day. He also did a ground-up route down and left of The Virgin in perhaps the late 80's. Don't remember the name. About 11a. The guides shown above don't include several short climbs on a tier up and left of the main wall. I seen to recall the harder of those climbs is named Never Surrender and might be 11-. Maybe someone has more info on that. Didn't take long to play the place out. Just not enough routes. Would try to do them all in a day. Once access was stopped at the parking lot, would try to round trip the rock as fast as possible. I think we were at something under 10 min car-to-car. English Hanging Gardens was rated 5.9? Speculation floated that something had broken off. In my time there you simply never saw anyone actually do it. About the climb Mad Dogs (not sure the name was plural), when put up the climb consisted of four split-shaft rawl drive bolts with the now infamous SMC hangers which suffered from hydrogen embrittlement. Two bolts for a hanging belay anchor, one bolt about 15' up and the fourth bolt about 10' above it. We had lots of fun climbing this, leading it roped solo many times and at least once in K-Mart Trax. One day I lead it and was bringing up a second who slipped while at shoulder height to the top bolt. He hadn't unclipped yet, so he grabbed the biner with a small amount of force. The hanger snapped. So I got to thinking. What if the leader fell from the 5.10 above that bolt? Clearly it wouldn't have done anything more than getting the rope tight. That would lead to another 20' drop onto the only other protection bolt, hitting with a fall factor of at least 1.0. You would pray that that SMC hanger (which no doubt came from the same batch) made it as, if not, the next impact would be 2.0 fall factor on the two remaining SMC hangers. And you would hope it wasn't a rope-solo ascent so that there could be a belayer to absorb some force as he was jerked from his stance.

G Cobb is indeed Gary Cobb. He also explored bouldering accessible from the road along the east shore. He made notes of bouldering routes and named many himself. In perhaps the mid-80's he wrote an article about Big Rock that was turned down by Climbing. Their rejection letter said something to the effect that Big Rock just wasn't important enough to deserve an article. If anyone can find him, maybe he could post an electronic copy.

For any who climb there, if you get bored of all the standard routes, try leading Right Flake without using the flake other than for pro. A final note: Mark Smith and Richard Jensen first met at Big Rock. The rest is history.
johntp

Trad climber
socal
May 10, 2014 - 07:50pm PT
Thanks smoke. This is pretty fascinating. We only climbed on the main face. Had no idea there were long climbs to the west. Looked over there but it looked like 3rd class choss.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
May 10, 2014 - 07:54pm PT
Went there once in about 1970, i think with Phil Gleason. Like they say...location, location, location.
rmuir

Social climber
From the Time Before the Rocks Cooled.
May 11, 2014 - 10:47pm PT
English Hanging Gardens was rated 5.9?

Remember, there was a time when 5.9 was as hard as it got. The numbers didn't go higher. Climbers with a math education were rightfully dubious of creating 5.10 and screwing with the decimal system…

EHG was always tricky, but there was a trick. It was certainly a sandbag rating, though. I, too, remember hearing of some missing hold but I couldn't be a witness.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 15, 2014 - 03:44pm PT
I will be talking with Lee this evening if anyone has questions for him.

I will be taking notes and reporting back with the content of the conversation.
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
May 15, 2014 - 04:04pm PT
Steve, I'll be standing by for your update and report. Tell Lee that Keith and I would love to meet up with him.

Your right, Jim. I believe it was 1970. I think it was that Spring I was hanging out with you at Tahquitz. We went down for some supplies and to do some warm rock climbing.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 15, 2014 - 08:08pm PT
This should be fun!

It won't be very long until we have an Oakdale Festival devoted to Tahquitz and Suicide Rock history. Since Lee along with Pat Callis and others were among the first to take a drill and head on up into the blankness at Suicide, I would make sure that he comes out to speak so that you guys can run into him at that point if not sooner.
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
May 15, 2014 - 08:14pm PT
SWEET!
Steve, thanks for your efforts!
Tad
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