Big Rock - a little history


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Social climber
So Cal
May 4, 2007 - 04:39pm PT
Naasz broke his foot the year before on the Lost Arrow and Andy Embick soloed out of the notch and ran down the trail to fetch a rescue. I did the Arrow in 72 and the big, at that time almost new eye bolts were reputedly placed to get Naasz off Salathe Ledge.


Trad climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
May 4, 2007 - 04:40pm PT
I remember going to Big Rock with Largo, Mike Graham, and Tobin. The guard wouldn't let us through until we showed him our climbing gear. Largo had clipped a cooking spatula to our rack beforehand - we didn't know why. He proceeded to show the guard our climbing gear. The guard saw the spatula with webbing attached and asked what it was. Largo answered him like he was an ignoramus who didn't know anything about modern climbing gear - "Ho man, it's an 'inverted phoon detector' obviously", he said. Me, Mike and Tobin were cringing - for sure he was going to get pissed off and boot us. Just then the guard said, "Oh, of course!" and let us through the gate. We laughed our asses off!

Mountain climber
May 4, 2007 - 05:23pm PT
Seems like I always heard Big Rock slamed by most, yet it looms somewhat fondly in our memories. I remember Keith Lehman, the Gleasons and many others. Roy Naasz, there's ablast from the past. He does indeed go by a different name now. And he WAS a character! My first 5.10 lead was Cheap Thrills.
I also remember you, Don C, if you are the same Don I'm thinking of. At some point you were dating a gal, RM, that I worked with for a while. If you are, send me an e-mail, I'd like to chat with you sometime.
I too have never pulled EHG. No suprise there. I always thought one of the best lines was Raw Deal. Some one replaced the upsidedown pin with a bolt at the small overhange making the move over it abit less concerting.
Lots of history, non of it earth shaking, but a bookmark in all our climbing careers.

Social climber
the Time Before the Rocks Cooled.
May 4, 2007 - 05:37pm PT
Yeah. Once the place was legally open again after the construction of the dam, you had to check-in with the "ranger" in order to climb at Big Rock.

The first time we checked in, the Climbing Ranger came out to our rig to check our gear so that we could get approved. When it was clear that we weren't using Mom's old clothes line, he actually made us tie a "climber" knot. The guy had us tie a square knot, fer Christ's sake!

Thank gawd those yokels didn't do rescues!

May 4, 2007 - 05:46pm PT
Bachar, that story of largo with the spatula is so funny.

And speaking of knots.....

We were on that rock in the middle of the river and we threw the rope to the tourist on shore to tie to the tree so we could get across.

Remember John?

Then you asked what kind of knot he's tying? Since we couldn't tell you told me to go first.

Of course the guy had tied a perfect bowline when I reached the other side.
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Latitute 33
May 4, 2007 - 05:59pm PT
If anyone has a current phone or other contact for Roy Naasz (aka DS), email me and let me know (or let him know). I've been trying to track him down about early Josh climbing history and would very much like to to talk to him.

Randy Vogel

Boulder climber
Back in the mix
May 4, 2007 - 06:18pm PT
Phil Gleason lurks this board and posts occasionally as Phil G. He's still wild looking and climbing hard, although it seems tests aren't what he's best at passing lately.

Lehman lives in Western Washington, Tacoma maybe and comes climbing in EWash somewhat frequently. Builds sets for a theatre or some artsy fartsy sh#t that sounded like a sweet job.

Couple of really cool guys.

Trad climber
Lee, NH
May 4, 2007 - 06:33pm PT
Naasz broke his foot the year before on the Lost Arrow and Andy Embick soloed out of the notch and ran down the trail to fetch a rescue. I did the Arrow in 72 and the big, at that time almost new eye bolts were reputedly placed to get Naasz off Salathe Ledge.

It's wild how this forum can connect things that flowed down seemingly unrelated streams a long time ago. If anybody recalls a 1969 photo of Andy Embick on a Tahquitz winter ascent that I posted a few threads back ... Roy Naasz was belaying Andy at the time.

Joe Herbst and I did the LA Direct in October 1971, I think that was a pretty early ascent. Can't recall whether Roy's mishap occurred before or after our climb, but the big bolts don't sound familiar.

right here, right now
May 4, 2007 - 06:36pm PT
Fun thread which flushes out some memories to be sure.

In the mid/late '70's for those of us in the LA area, Big Rock was part of the mid-week circuit, along with Stony Point, Rubidoux, Baldy Boulders, and Corona.

I have a very clear memory of the feeling of my tight EB's biting into positive holds of Edger Sanction and the sound they made, squeeking onto the edges as pressure was applied just so.

Climbed at Big Rock probably no more than a handfull of times, with Lynn Hill & Kevin Powell on one occasion, ED Kaufer on another and a few others folks on days long lost to the memory banks. I used The Trough as an introductory route for a girl who I dated.

My buddy and I, Doug Munoz, met Don O'Kelley in Joshua Tree and climbed, of all things, O'Kelley Crack with him.

Thanks for taking the time to pen the Story Don C; I very much enjoyed the read.



Trad climber
Varied locales along the time and space continuum
May 4, 2007 - 06:42pm PT
Funny these connections... I also climbed Serpentine with Roy. rmuir, brutus... I'm following in the footsteps of giants. I'm still a midget though!

Randy, I will send you what info I have on Roy.


right here, right now
May 4, 2007 - 06:45pm PT
Oh, Ya,
Better chime in on the "Couldn't do English Hanging Gardens" list.
-But Lynnie could, duh.

Social climber
So Cal
May 4, 2007 - 06:46pm PT
You couldn't have missed the bolts. They were about 1" forged lifting eyes and there were three of them. October would have been before.

My first partner was in the valley then. I guess the accident happened on what was a Claremont climbing club Easter trip. The Gov., (think it was Regan) showed up via chopper for a conference. He thought the crowd was there to see him, but they were all intently looking in the other direction, watching the rescue.

I've got a TR from the wayback machine about the only day I spent climbing with Andy, (Tahquitz).

Once I clean up the flow some I'll post it. It was quite a day.

Trad climber
Lee, NH
May 4, 2007 - 06:57pm PT
I guess the accident happened on what was a Claremont climbing club trip.

Andy was an undergrad at Pomona, one of the Claremont Colleges. Not sure if Roy was too? I kinda think his accident happened after our 10/71 ascent, because I don't recall fretting about it at the time. We did have some excitement on Harding's bathook leads, because we didn't have actual bathooks -- just a couple of Leeper/Logan hooks that were not too secure.

Funny too, the climb appealed to us in part because of its big ledges (our Robbins hammocks were a poor way to sleep!). I didn't think of them as possible dangers.

Andy, Roy and other Pomona friends climbed at Big Rock in those days, but I never got down there until decades later. My home crag at the time was Gibralter Rock.

Social climber
May 4, 2007 - 11:09pm PT
Hi All
Smalltime poster, big time lurker. I thought the you guys would get a kick out of this old guide to Big Rock. according to this, EHG is only 5.10. Hold must have broke off? Hah, hah! I found this last year. I had forgotten I even had it.
I was a frequenter of the Backpacker in Santa Ana in the mid '70's. If I remember, there was a massage parlor next door, maybe that was later. I don't even remember going to Big Rock in the days this guide was created.


Boulder climber
Gilbert, AZ
May 5, 2007 - 12:24am PT
When I lived in Joshua Tree full-time (1982-1986) I made several trips out to Big Rock with some of my climbing partners from the "inland empire." I did EHG each time I visited. IMO, it's by far the best route there. Naturally, a boulderer would think that, for obvious reasons.


Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
May 6, 2007 - 08:36am PT
I have been reading with interest and enjoyment this thread on Big Rock. I too share many memories of that small area and would like too add to remembering its history. Just the mention of the name Big Rock and my fingertips begin to burn and my calf muscles tighten. I can feel the excitement that we used feel when driving up and first seeing its “huge” bald face. I can recall the wonderful, sweet-sage, desert-rock smell after a rain storm.
Perhaps for most of us climbers we hold a special memory bank for that area where we first practiced our craft. A place where we not only developed climbing skills, but also first tasted the addicting intoxicants of adventure, and first felt the warmth and support of climber camaraderie.
Because we started there, I think we somehow feel the place gave us the strength we quickly developed. Wandering around the place in a happy little band, “finding” boulder problems, working on them until first one and then the rest of the group unlocked the mystery not only added to arm and leg muscle, but also gave us the belief that effort is always rewarded.
Of my many memories, I agree with DonC that memories of watching Keith Leaman climb are among my favorite. Talented and gifted in many activities, Keith was a true “balance” climber, rarely used brute strength and would seemingly float up the rock.
Watching and belaying my brother Paul comes vividly to mind. I can still see him lead out from underneath “the roof” when he freed the Virgin. This, I believe, was among the early Southern Californian 5.10s. Paul also bouldered with a passion for the pain that I have rarely (if ever) seen equaled. Big Rock was where I developed a lasting friendship with John Gosling, another amazing climber. John showed us that climbing is not about bulging biceps, but about mental control. Gosling, by the way, did the first free ascent of The English Hanging Garden.
Phil Haney, Jack Snear, Jim Barker, I guess the names could go on and on. Perhaps because we were such a small group of climbers we were all famous to each other. In those days thrills were cheap, laughter came easily, and pleasure was as simple as the sun coming over that dome of rock and warming the chilled belayer.
Paul and I returned to Big Rock in the late 90’s. The Nose was virtually gone. The Ring climb was destroyed. The cliff that used to sport the wonderful little climb No Exit was in ruble. Sitting on the ledge at the top of the Trough, looking out across the man made lake, I felt that sad melancholy one feels when visiting places remembered that have changed. Although I know I can not replace those things lost by time, I take pleasure in knowing some young 14 year old is approaching Big Rock with sweaty palms, fearing yet wanting his first lead.

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
May 6, 2007 - 11:01am PT
Hey, Phil, whatever happened to John Gosling and Phil Haney??

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
May 6, 2007 - 12:04pm PT
Cool history thread! Thanks for starting it DonC. Not many Big Rock shots in the old slide box butt this shot of Jim Haisley does show the rock quality nicely. Really fun place to slab around.


Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
May 6, 2007 - 12:19pm PT
Phil Haney: I don't know about. I think he might of gone to Alaska with John Svenson, but I'm not sure. I'd love to run into him!
John Gosling I see on a regular bases. He's still climbing very well. We have plans of going to Static Point (wonderful slab climbing) in the near future.

Trad climber
Hell A
May 6, 2007 - 01:54pm PT
I cut my teeth at Big Rock, and Stony Pt. back in the early eighties. Probably saw some of you out there. Basically learned to lead at BR.
lots of fun routes at BR; haven't been back for years though.
Re: Roy Naasz. last time I saw him was probably five years ago. lived in Riverside. picked him up at went to Josh with him where he promptly went into Nomads and bought some hand jammies.
he was on disability, and wasn't doing to well.
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