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

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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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