Tahquitz: The Early Years Rick Ridgeway Summit 1976

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Messages 1 - 86 of total 86 in this topic
Steve Grossman

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






MisterE

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

Great stuff, Steve!
Mtnmun

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

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

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

this is priceless
paul roehl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mighty proud for 1938!

JL
scuffy b

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thor
Steve Grossman

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

Glad you enjoy the earliest pioneers and their exploits!
justthemaid

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

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

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

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

Anyone know who of the old RCSers that was?
Brunosafari

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

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

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

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

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

Brunosafari

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

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

-Bruce

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

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


If they came back, they were serious.

Not that many did.

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

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

Boulder climber
Redmond, OR
Jan 11, 2009 - 12:13am PT
I proposed to my wife of thirty years, on Lunch Ledge, while doing Angel's Fright. My own pun--it scared her good, and rightly so!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 11, 2009 - 12:17pm PT
So, which one of you is the angel ......or is it a match made in heaven? ----Dos Angeles!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 29, 2009 - 11:59pm PT
Another classic early Tahquitz article from Summit October 1960.









Brunosafari

Boulder climber
Redmond, OR
Jan 30, 2009 - 12:12am PT
only now just spotted this Steve--only kind of angel I am is the fallen sort, but nice Dos Angeles pun--you been talkin' to Bob Brinton?

$.35!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 30, 2009 - 12:34am PT
Summits were cheaper back then....LOL
BBA

Social climber
West Linn OR
Jan 30, 2009 - 01:50pm PT
Looking at those articles, I pulled out my 1956 "climber's guide to tahquitz rock" by Chuck Wilts and Don Wilson and was doing some reminiscing. I'd climbed Jensen's Jaunt in 1959 and noticed Jensens first name in the Summit Aritcle was Carl. What a coincidence as in the Register for Mt. Starr King the name Carl P. Jensen appears as ascending on August 22, 1937 along with my grandfather, William Kat, who was up there for his fifth time. Next to Jensen's name are the initials SCRCS, obviously Southern California Rock Climbing Section. I'd never made that connection before.
LongAgo

Trad climber
Jan 30, 2009 - 07:39pm PT
Thank you Steve. Interesting how looking back tells the same story about the game as best modern tales and histories of climbing areas: the pleasure of the rock, the achievement of getting up hard bits with the technology and garb of the day, acknowledgement of the cast of clambering characters, all with some wry takes and maybe corny humor, but mixed with praise and wonder for the gift of great stone -- the requisite formula for climbing joy on the day and thereafter.

I dug out my old Summits in a wistful moment and enjoyed a few at lunch today, thanks to you.

Tom Higgins
LongAgo
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 31, 2009 - 12:18am PT
Pretty elemental little game really! And we all have so much fun playing at it.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 2, 2009 - 10:53am PT
Fun with scoops and bumps....

Incidentally- what is your most memorable Tahquitz route or outing, Tom?
LongAgo

Trad climber
Feb 2, 2009 - 07:11pm PT
Steve,

I suppose the most memorable was the first free ascent of the Blanketty Blank because I was very young and impressionable at the time and just learning about climbing from mostly Stoney Point days, with only few 5.9 leads under my belt at Tahquitz. Bob Kamps was my most admired mentor and we were starting to do more than boulder at Stoney and one day at Tahquitz, he said, let's try this free. I knew nothing of the route or probable difficulty, and with much anxiety and desire to do well with Bob, off we went. I remember the beautiful rock and funny old shoes we wore, and the image of Bob already a little weathered and with very short hair, maybe close to military style. He fiddled with the crux on the first pitch trying to protect a move by putting a thin pin under a flake, but the flake popped off. I thought we were done since the next section looked hard and would entail a nasty fall without any protection. But we did have a bolt kit along and he gave me enough slack to get it up to him and he put a bolt in, fell once and then got it.

Following, I was wondering, what the heck if Bob fell what was I going to do? Turned out the move was like a little mantle on Rock 2 at Stoney and up I came to his squinty look and smile and in another moment he said something like, "It's supposed to be hard." It was a fleeting moment but the beginning of a lifelong friendship and many, many wonderful days climbing together, bantering along the way. Of course, I had my share of falls with him and visa versa, at Tahquitz and elsewhere. He held a 50 footer of mine on El Camino Real not too far from the very route we did that day, saving my life as I came to rest bug eyed looking right at him, hanging horizontal, a foot or so above a ledge.

I think the other big memory from Tahquitz was leading the last pitch of Jonah without a key protection bolt because, well, dumb and young, I didn't have a back up plan for what to do when ye old Rawl Drive drills broke (and boy did they ever in early days). I did go back, climb the whole thing again and put a bolt in to make it safe, that time with lots of back up drill stuff. I remember thinking I didn’t like the feel of doing the route again to fix it and started to learn the difference between a fresh creation and a “project.” At any rate, Jonah is a good enough climb and all, but the lesson was there for me – how great if all comes together first time.

Tom Higgins
LongAgo
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 2, 2009 - 10:46pm PT
Thanks for the reply. Amazing how brightly those early adventures shine! Trying to drink from the well of inspiration without falling in and drowning!

When I came back to Tahquitz as a solid face climber, Jonah was the first route that I went after. The perfect onsight is just right but thanks for being thorough and returning to properly bolt such a classic route. I imagined the toeing in of welted boots as I made my on by. Great effort.
DonC

climber
CA
Feb 2, 2009 - 11:44pm PT

Patrick Sawyer

climber
Originally California now Ireland
Feb 3, 2009 - 09:05am PT
I have always wanted to climb at Tahquitz and Suicide and I hope to someday. I remember seeing a photo (I think in Summit but it could have been in Mountain) of Tobin Sorenson leading a sweet looking climb, can't think of the name and I think it was rated around 5.10c.

Bart Fay

Pimm's (wouldn't be a bad name for a climb)

When I was a cocktail barman in London, I use to make Pimm's all the time, it is very popular in England.


Recipe for a Pimm's No.1, from my International Guide To Drinks, compiled by the United Kingdom Bartenders Guild:

Pimm's No.1
The original and best known of the cups marketed as Pimm's has a gin base. Prepare by pouring the Pimm's into an ice-filled highball glass then topping with lemonade, ginger ale or 7-Up. Decorate with slice of lemon or orange and rind of cucumber or mint.


From Wikipedia

Pimm's Cup is a popular cocktail in England. It is based on Pimm's No.1, a gin-based beverage flavored with fruits and spices invented in 1823 as a health drink.


Pimm's is a brand of alcoholic beverages now owned by Diageo. Its most popular product is Pimm's No. 1 Cup, a gin-based beverage that can be served both on ice or in cocktails. It has a dark tea colour with a reddish tint, and tastes subtly of spice and citrus fruit.

Pimm's is most common in Britain, particularly Southern England. It is one of the two staple drinks at Wimbledon, the Henley Royal Regatta and the Glyndebourne opera festival, the other being Champagne. There are five other Pimm's products besides No.1. The essential difference among them is the base alcohol used to produce them:

* Pimm's No. 1 Cup is based on gin. It is 25% alcohol by volume.
* Pimm's No. 2 Cup was based on whisky. Currently phased out.
* Pimm's No. 3 Cup is based on brandy. Phased out, but a version infused with spices and orange peel marketed as Pimm's Winter Cup is now seasonally available.
* Pimm's No. 4 Cup was based on rum. Currently phased out.
* Pimm's No. 5 Cup was based on rye. Currently phased out.
* Pimm's No. 6 Cup is based on vodka. It is still produced, but in small quantities.

Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 3, 2009 - 10:32am PT
Tom Higgins, thanks for such a nice little summary of what we do and why we like it:

Interesting how looking back tells the same story about the game as best modern tales...
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 3, 2009 - 10:43am PT
So interesting to see Chuck Wilts warning about grading climbs from early 1971:


"It is difficult to get an accurate measure of this since individual ratings of a given climb often differ by as much as one decimal point."


A good expression of the developing anguish over ratings, penned when the YDS (which really was the Tahquitz Decimal System) was still an unruly teenager, and Bridwell had not quite published "The Innocent, the Ignorant and the Insecure," introducing the beginning of letter grades.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 3, 2009 - 11:25am PT
I have Leigh Ortenberger's 63 article proposing the NCCS national comparative ratings system but I haven't posted it yet. Life before numbers......
JuanDeFuca

Big Wall climber
Stoney Point
Feb 4, 2009 - 06:44pm PT
bumpit
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 5, 2009 - 10:32am PT
Thanks for the exposition on Pimm's, Patrick! Can't say as I have tried it but it surely will cross my mind on my next parched day at Tahquitz.
wild willy

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Feb 9, 2009 - 05:30pm PT
About Pims cups - The Chart House always served it with a cold section of cucumber. I think that is the authentic way to serve it. If you do order one DON'T accept it if it comes with a wilted celery stick or other sub. A cold cucumber is the only way to go.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 10, 2009 - 11:05pm PT
Here are eight recipes for Pimm's #1 gin. They look tasty!

Luxury recipe

1 1/3 oz gin
2/3 oz Bols® creme de bananes
2/3 oz rosso vermouth
2/3 oz Pimm's® gin
2/3 oz Rose's® lime juice
1 dash Angostura® bitters


Shake, strain into a cocktail glass, and serve.


24% (48 proof)
Serve in: Cocktail Glass
Mandarine Summertime recipe

2 cl Mandarine Napoleon® orange liqueur
2 cl dry gin
orange juice
1 dash grenadine syrup


Pour mandarine napoleon and gin into a highball glass and fill with orange juice. Add a touch of grenadine, two cubes of ice and garnish with a slice of lemon.


Serve in: Highball Glass


North Mymms Mirage recipe

2 shots Pimm's® gin
1/4 pint blackcurrant squash
2 shots gin
1/2 pint lemonade


Mix the blackcurrant and the lemonade together. Add the gin and pimms together stirring well but do not shake. Garnish with fruit pieces. Mix a batch and serve liberally.


8% (16 proof)
Serve in: Red Wine Glass
Pimm's Cup recipe

1 shot Pimm's® gin
7-Up® soda
1 slice cucumber
1 twist lemon peel


Pour pimm's no.1 into a highball glass. Add a twist of lemon and fill with 7-up. Garnish with a slice of cucumber.


Serve in: Highball Glass


Pimm's No. 1 recipe

1 1/4 - 1 3/4 oz Pimm's® gin
5 oz 7-Up® soda
1 twist lemon peel
1 twist cucumber peel


Pour Pimm's over ice cubes in a large highball glass. Fill with 7-up, add twists of lemon and cucumber peel, and serve.


Serve in: Highball Glass
Pimm's Rangoon recipe

1 1/2 oz Pimm's® gin
ginger ale
lemon peel
1 cucumber


Pour pimm's no.1 over ice in a large highball glass. Fill with ginger ale and garnish with a lemon and cucumber peel.


Serve in: Highball Glass


Pimm's Turbo recipe

1 oz Pimm's® gin
1 oz gin
4 oz lemonade


Pour into an ice-filled wine goblet. Garnish with a slice of lemon and a cherry.


10% (20 proof)
Serve in: Wine Goblet
Wimbledon Cup recipe

1 oz Pimm's® gin
1 oz gin
1/2 oz strawberry syrup
1 oz mandarin juice
1 oz double cream


Shake, strain into a champagne saucer, and serve.


14% (28 proof)
Serve in: Champagne Saucer



oldtopangalizard

Social climber
ca
Apr 1, 2009 - 11:17pm PT
Yeah, I remember Goliath in the 70's. In '76 or '77 I led that with only a handful of gear. We did not have friends yet but it looked like no problem. I remember a piece 15 feet up and then running and running and running. All I had was some large hexes and this classic old Simond as big as your fist. I put it in at what seemed like about 60 feet above the last one. It was total psycho pro but it worked for just that. I felt good and kept going, got up but was gassed. I think the fatigue was more mental than physical, well I know it was, I was only 18.
Those days were the best of times.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Apr 1, 2009 - 11:55pm PT
Steve, were you a history major?
Klimmer

Mountain climber
San Diego
Apr 2, 2009 - 12:00am PT
Thanks for this look back. Makes me smile and think about how things were.

It's hope for the future.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 2, 2009 - 12:02am PT
Biochemistry actually. I love the roots and personalities of climbing and would happily take on another subject.
I have certainly been swinging a hammer long enough. Much more to be learned poking around in the past!

A glorious day adventuring at Tahquitz is essentially the same for us all, as LongAgo pointed out earlier!
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Apr 2, 2009 - 12:06am PT
Keep it coming! History is important to me, I have more past than future.
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Apr 2, 2009 - 12:15am PT
Not really history, just an old trip report. 71? maybe 72.

I posted this before on the Heart Route thread but it really belongs in a more Tahquitz centric location.



The adventure started before we even left. As we went thru the exercise of stuffing a rack, rope and other gear into my saddlebags, Andy realized he’d left his wallet and keys in his room. A quick ascent of the drainpipe to the third floor was followed by a long reach and step across to an open lobby window. He quickly appeared at the front door with wallet and keys in hand. I told him I’d been impressed. He demurred that he’d done it often. I wondered what I had myself in to.

We hit the 10 freeway and I was in my own element. The BMW hummed along thru the patchy pre dawn ground fog as if powered by a giant electric motor. By the time we passed the airport, I could tell I was hauling dead weight. Andy was slumped down, sound a sleep. The best part of traveling by motorcycle is that it is about as close to flying in an open cockpit aircraft that you can get without leaving the ground. We flew thru Colton and San Bernardino, and were soon climbing over the pass at Redlands. Then, that pass marked a true demarcation between urban and rural. Not much but open fields as the freeway undulated over several drainages stretching down from the San Bernardino Mountains to the north. Dropping down a reverse slope, pushing for 90 mph. in the dim dawning light I caught a flash of movement to my left and instinctively ducked. The intensity of the slam to the top of my helmet startled me. It took a second or so to realize that a dove had chosen my head for the location of its self-evisceration. There was a smoke ball of feathers rapidly receding, dissipating in the rear view mirror. Then the flash of panic, I was armored with a helmet, Andy only in a balaclava to ward off the chill. A quick glance back and I couldn’t help but grin. He was still sound asleep, unharmed, but his balaclava had been turned into a bizarre primitivist headdress decorated with feathers and bloody flesh.

As we dropped down the last down hill run to the long flat plain that extends from Beaumont to Whitewater, the bike gave a slight shake. The shake amplified into a violent wobble. The final outcome of a speed wobble is often a wrecked bike and a case of road rash at a minimum. The proper response is counter intuitive. Slowly close the throttle. Relax the grip on the handlebars. Keep the body relaxed. And, above all, stay off the brakes. Andy was now wide a wake and wild eyed. As our speed bled down, the oscillations dampened until, we got down to about 35 mph. At that point, the bike reached a new resonance and again began to lurch violently from side to side. We finally coasted to a stop on the shoulder and hoped off, feeling like dismounted bronco riders. The rear tire as flaccid as a drunken man.

Andy reached up to pull of his balaclava and felt something sticky and wet. As the hat slid off his face, his expression was one of confusion and shock. He reached for his head, feeling for a wound that wasn’t there. As I explained the earlier incident with the dove and how he’d slept through it, he relaxed. I got to work on getting the wheel off the bike. Andy began plucking pieces of bird from his hat.

I had the wheel on the ground and began to attack the task of removing the tire. The five-inch long tire irons that came with the toolkit were completely inadequate for the task. As I struggled to remove, the tire there was a reflection of flashing red lights in the high gloss black of the bikes rear fender. A CHP pulled up behind us. The nature of the situation was obvious and Andy had plucked his hat clean returning to his normal civilized appearance. The officer quickly insisted on giving the wheel and me a round trip to the nearest gas station. He opened the trunk, in went the wheel and I slid into the front seat. With the small talk on the ride he told me that he’d recently transferred to Beaumont, then, considered a plumb rural assignment. Close enough to the city for the conveniences, but far enough away to avoid most of the urban law enforcement problems. After a couple of miles, we pulled off the freeway and into the gas station. The officer tapped on the office window and woke the dozing attendant. He was visibly annoyed at being awoken that early, but the presence of the law inspired him to get on with the job. Ten minutes and five dollars later we were off down the freeway to the bike and Andy. On the way, back the cop got a radio call on an accident so it was a quick exit and a wave at the bike and he was off with lights flashing. The tire went back in place, the tools were packed back up, and the whole incident had cost us less than a half hour, still time for breakfast.

The Banning Denny’s was a regular stop. Both my regular climbing partner and I had only motorcycles and a chance to warm up before heading up the hill was always taken. Denny’s was really the only convenient place and was consistent. It didn’t mater what you ordered, no matter the time of day, it always had that tell tale hint of bacon grease. At least the coffee was hot and acceptable to our unrefined pallets. The earlier shot of adrenaline had my appetite up so a big breakfast was in order. Andy just ordered oatmeal and Postum, (weird?) and laid out his plan. He’d received a Rhodes scholarship and would be headed for Oxford in early summer, but had arranged to go for the second ascent of The Heart Route on El Cap during the spring break in a few weeks. Then, the second ascent of a big wall was only slightly less prestigious than a FA. There were only ten routes then that went to the top of El Cap. The gods of Yosemite had put all except The Heart up. Andy was to get the free leads and wanted to get as much mileage in as possible beforehand. As midterms were still to come, this was going to be his last tune up day, and he wanted to make the most of it. He laid out his list. It was at least three times more climbing than I’d ever done in one day. I answered that I would do my best to keep up and hurried to finish eating. It was going to be a very long day.

We took off into the fog and were soon on our way up route 243. We climbed into the thickest parts of the marine layer and the fog became a light drizzle collecting on the bikes windshield, dripping off the trees by the side of the road. At Poppet Flats, we finally broke out into brilliant morning sunshine, the low clouds spreading to the horizon like a giant bowl of Andy’s lumpy oatmeal, the wet smell of the fog replaced by the sharp scent of pine. We were late enough that there was no threat of icy spots on the road, so now out of the clouds, it was time to drop it down a peg and roll the left wrist forward.

In less than half an hour, we were pulling into Humber Park. It took a few minutes to reorganize the rack and the rope and store the jackets. I walked across the street and filled my bota bag from the tap fed from the spring. It was left running until late spring to prevent freezing and ran down from a holding tank that was higher up at the end of the road. We took off down the trail. Reaching the white post that marked the Riverside/San Bernardino county line made a left and started the hump up the hill. We soon reached a landmark I always detested on the way up and looked forward to on the way down. A log crossed the path and was recognizable in that both an oak and pine sapling grew directly through a split in its center. It meant you were almost down to the trail. It always seemed to take a long time to get to this point on the way up as it was about here the body warmed up to the effort and altitude. The second wind kicked in. It wasn’t long and we reached a more welcome landmark. We slid over a large slick log and Lunch rock was only yards away. We changed into Klettershuh and Andy quickly racked up. It was only a mater of flipping the gear and slings over the head and shoulders. I grabbed the rope and cinched the bota up tight under an armpit with an overhand knot in the string that passed for a shoulder strap. We headed around the Maiden Buttress to our first objective.

Andy pointed out or route, The Illegitimate. It certainly looked like it lived up to its name. From a large mountain mahogany, a crack that stood out as a green stripe of plant life shot diagonally up for 150 feet into a corner. The corner was caped by a large roof about 80 feet farther up. I couldn’t visualize at all how this obstacle was to be overcome. At this point, I was proceeding on pure faith. We scrambled up to the large tree and tied into the rope. Andy tied into his swami, threw a figure eight on a bight in the rope around the tree, and asked me if I’d like the first lead. Hubris overcame common sense as I enthusiastically answered, wrapped the end of the rope around my waist three times, tied in with a bowline on a coil, and grabbed the gear sling. Andy threw the rope around his hips and called. “On belay”. After about twenty feet, the crack narrowed and contained a large chock stone. A threaded a sling around the rock marked the beginning of the serious climbing. I swung out on to the face to begin the long hand traverse. The crack was filled with ferns, flowers, and moss but there were clean spots conveniently positioned to allow progress in graceful apelike swings. The Flora actually forced graceful efficient technique. The eye level view was of a miniature Tolkienesque landscape tilted to the vertical plane. When exposure brought back reality there was always a convenient foothold and place for a piton. To soon reaching the belay, this was the kind of pitch you wish went on forever, I had a problem. There was a large flake just to my left, the obvious anchor. I didn’t have enough rope to reach it, let alone tie off a big enough loop to sling it. What now? There was still the four-inch bong on the gear sling and I still had a double length sling over my shoulder. Looping the sling through the lightening eyes on the small end of the bong turned it into a four-inch nut. A couple of flips and it jammed behind the flake with a satisfying clack. Just enough slack remained to clip a carabineer through the loops of rope around my waist, not enough for a proper tie in knot. I called out, “off belay.”


Andy grinned when he saw the anchor and thought it ingenious. That made me feel a little better about its efficacy. He collected the rack and started up the crux pitch, a dihedral that led to a rather large overhang. Sixty or so feet and one piton later he was at the overhang driving a pair of Lost Arrows to the hilt. He then down climbed about fifteen or twenty feet and promptly disappeared out of sight around the corner of the dihedral. One more piton, and then the rope began to quickly run out.

Now it was my turn. The first piton protected the crux of the pitch and had been placed from a good stance. It was quickly retrieved. Soon I was at the headwall and the two
Lost Arrows. The stance was bad; both hands could not be free. Both pins were overdriven and the prospect of a fall with the rope now descending twenty or so feet and disappearing around the corner into the unknown, unthinkable. After what seemed like an eternity of crimping with one hand and pounding with the other, the rock released its hold on the last pin. Careful down climbing led to a quick move around the corner and another pin. Now another traverse and smooth friction, still not my forte, and certainly not then with stiff Vibram soled Kletershuh. The whining commenced and after a little encouragement from Andy I was across to easy ground, thankful that, the rope was finally going up and not sideways. The belay was a large comfortable ledge with a tree.

“Have you ever climbed moving in coils”? Andy asked shortly after my arrival. The answer was obvious without speaking just from the puzzled look. My answer was I’d read about it, but never done it. After a short refresher on the procedures, we both coiled about one third of the rope over our shoulders and I put Andy on belay on the abbreviated cord. It soon went taught and he told me to start climbing. He moved fast and occasionally had to pause to allow me to retrieve a sling around a tree or chockstone. There was only a piton or two placed in the next four hundred or so feet. In no time, at all, we were at the final exit moves of The White Maiden and I put him back on belay as he made short work of the last sixty-foot pitch. A quick hit of water from the Bota and we raced down the Friction Route to the next climb.

Didn’t take long and we were standing at the base of The Inominate. A ramp led to a steep dark and dead vertical, if not overhanging dihedral. Andy offered the first pitch, and once again, I accepted. Shortly, I had a good belay set up on a pedestal below the steep dihedral, this time two firmly driven pins. The bong sung as Andy drove it home, a quick couple of moves and he was moving fast over easier ground. One more easy short pitch and we were again headed down the Friction Route.

The south side of Tahquitz is marked by an unusual distinctive feature. Two parallel cracks about eight feet apart curve gracefully through an overhang and down a bucketed face, the appropriately named Ski Tracks. I’d led the left one the summer before. It was the obligatory next step after Angels Fright for the novice leader. The first pitch is dead vertical with the only real difficulty being an initial move to get established on the face that is so featured that it has been described as , “vertical third class”. The crux, at the end of the next pitch is a handhold-less committing step with huge exposure that still belies its lowly rating.

We were headed for the much more difficult Right Ski Track. The first pitch is pretty much the same as the left. The right crack continually thins and steepens until it disappears into the smooth face several yards from a flake that forms a bottomless chimney under the same platform that creates the step across of its easier sibling to the left. Once again, I drew first pitch duty and was off. It went quickly, familiar territory. Andy took off on the next pitch, occasionally swatting in a pin. At the end of the crack, he placed one final pin and with a call of, “watch me here” started the thin traverse across the face to the base of the chimney. Once he was in the chimney, it was clear that it wouldn’t accept any pro without an unreasonable amount of effort. The sounds of shoes rack and body parts dragging on rock mingled with the grunts of great physical effort. Finally, the sounds of a relieved leader gasping for air and the song of the belay anchor pitons driven in. The crack itself was difficult, particularly cleaning the pitons with one hand and avoiding dropping them. The traverse and the chimney went much easier. With the security of the rope, the worst of the chimney could be bypassed with lieback moves. At the belay, we squeezed the little water that remained from the bota. An easy pitch and we were off down the Friction Route again.

As we rounded the corner under the Traitor Horn and past The Open Book Andy announced that he thought we had time for one more. Just past the start for Fingertrip was an ugly looking crack that slanted off to the left, The Slab. Not a slab climb at all, but a short excursion up the left side of a slab distinguished by runout liebacking between good rest stances. He polished it off in short order having done it before several times, the only climb of the day that wasn’t an onsight. A quick rappel and we were at lunch rock just in time to gather our gear and thoughts by the last of the suns’ rays.

We made a stop at The Charthouse for a beer. Well, at least Andy had a beer. I would not be able to buy one legally for another six months or so. The ride home was pleasantly warm for that time of year. Only an appreciated wakening chill when the road would dip through a canyon that funneled the cold air descending from Mt. San Gorgonio across our path.

I never climbed with Andy again. He went off to the valley, got The Heart, and left for Oxford. He became the town doctor and ice guru of Valdez Alaska and ended his own life with a shotgun in a strange effort to engineer his own disappearance. It’s solid city now all the way to Banning and the CHP isn’t nearly as friendly. Riding a motorcycle in Southern California is now an equivalent risk to free soloing. Tahquitz has changed also, although not nearly as much as the encroaching city below. I do not remember seeing another party that entire day. It was a weekend, so there must have been others. The experience of having the place to your self is now reserved for those that can make it on a weekday. No one has driven pins for decades. I don’t miss anything about them except the music a well driven one made.

There are also physical changes that remind me of the relentless advance of time now every time I’m up there. The water tank and spigot that ran all year are gone, the county line marker stolen so often they gave up on replacing it years ago. The first pitch of The Illegitimate has been “gardened” to aseptic standards. The log that was the first landmark slowly disappeared over the years. The pine sapling died and the oak has now reached tree status. The trail now goes under the log we polished going over. You don’t even have to bend over very far to clear it even with a pack on. I doubt it will be there all that much longer.
PhilG

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Apr 2, 2009 - 12:18am PT
I agree Jim. It seems the older I get the more interesting/important history is.
I have to add that reading these articles that Steve contributes brings back great feelings that that rock would invoke.
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Apr 2, 2009 - 01:03pm PT
Bump another climbing one
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 26, 2009 - 11:03am PT
Glorious Tahquitz bump!!!

How many solid 5.8 routes existed anywhere in 1937!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 26, 2009 - 11:37pm PT
A classic Dolt shot from the Wilts guide.


Gotta love the hat and footwear! Anyone recognize the stylish second?
Largo

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jun 27, 2009 - 01:33am PT
During my first year in grad school my girfriend was Janet Wilts, daughter of Chuck Wilts, author of the Tahquitz and Suicide guidebooks. I used to spend a lot of time over at the Wilts' house and was always prying Chuck for tales about the old days.

In his office at Cal Tech he had a big blow up pic of him topping out on the Lost Arrow after making an early (2nd??) asecnt of the LA Chimney. Janet was a fantastic athlete and got up El Cap a few times. She's now a ranger up at the Tetons I believe.

JL
dogtown

climber
Cheyenne,Wyoming
Jun 27, 2009 - 05:54am PT

Same shot different shoes (circa 80’s ) What a Classic line ! But then again all the lines on the south side are Classic’s. NO?

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 2, 2009 - 03:34pm PT
A couple of weeks ago, DR and I interviewed Glen Dawson. He had several notebooks put together that were rich in biographical and historical information. Doug got very excited when he got to this one and looked at the cover.


Not many folks have seen the original Tahquitz guide but there it was! Just a handful of routes in 1937. Glen probably was the primary author since he was writing the Sierra Club Bulletin at the time.



Patrick Sawyer

climber
Originally California now Ireland
Aug 2, 2009 - 05:37pm PT
Bump for a very good thread
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Aug 2, 2009 - 06:31pm PT
The 1918 talus dump is quite an eyeopener!

You always tend to think of that as an ancient relatively unchanging landscape.

I'm still trying to figure out what route the "Super" corresponds to. It sounds like most of of Fools Rush finishing up on the White Maiden.

When I started climbing there in 70 or so the RCS was still active. We didn't interact with them much and that's something I've grown to regret. There was one of them that seemed to be the ropegun of the group at the time. He was short with a laconic expression and always had a Camel Cigarette going. You could tell if they'd proceeded you up one of the routes as he had a habit of constructing ash trays at each belay. From all the old photos I've never been able to identify who that was.

Anyone Know?


Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 8, 2009 - 01:56pm PT
That would take some digging but the local chapter would have noted the group leaders if they were still keeping climbing outing records.

The level of detail in the Sierra Club Bulletins while Glen Dawson was involved makes research a breeze. The yearly Sierra outings alone could involve more than a hundred participants for a weeks climbing.

I wonder how the information was recorded? I imagine Glen wandering from tent to tent with a clip board in the failing light...LOL
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Aug 8, 2009 - 03:49pm PT
Rick is a good man, and he sent me all that information
and all the other stuff he had gathered and researched,
when I was doing my history of free climbing. He was
one of those great spirits who really stepped up and
helped me in that monumental task. Thanks again, Rick.
Included were various interviews and things that never
showed up in the Summit article... gold...

I'm re-writing the book now, making improvements, if anyone
has any thoughts for things I can make better or that
I left out. Send your thoughts and suggested revisions
to me by email, pat_ament@live.com



Pat
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 8, 2009 - 05:40pm PT
Also from Glen's notebook, the first mention of Tahquitz in the 1938 Sierra Club Bulletin in a James N. Smith article.


Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 16, 2009 - 01:57pm PT
What a Bump!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 7, 2009 - 01:58pm PT
Calling all Barbarians! Bump for the tale of Fitschen's Folly. Still the longest fall at Tahquitz???
Janet Wilts

Trad climber
Moose
Oct 6, 2009 - 03:40pm PT
Ah yes, Fitchen's folly.....he certainly went along way down.....but it ended up making a good climb (going up not down).

I remember when I was around 12 years old someone or something fell near the front of Tahquitz and killed someone. They kept us kids away...but I think it was a large piece of wood that came down and hit someone near lunch rock, not someone actually falling all the way down.

That's my mom's photo earlier in this thread....I remember doing the step around...and being scared to death and I had some sort of climbing shoes not tennis shoes........

Janet Wilts
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 11, 2009 - 11:49pm PT
Thanks for the photo identification, Janet! How often did she climb with the Dolt?

Sorry it took me so long to bump this thread!
mongrel

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Dec 12, 2009 - 12:04am PT
Probably the longest fall that was survived. Several longer ones that weren't.
dogtown

Trad climber
JackAssVille, Wyoming
Dec 12, 2009 - 01:59am PT
The best crag. In the world! What can be better than T and S ?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 29, 2010 - 07:29pm PT
The Finest of Bumps!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 5, 2010 - 03:43pm PT
Might get a Fitschen's Folly story soon enough!
Tony Bird

climber
Northridge, CA
Sep 5, 2010 - 08:10pm PT
can't resist adding some personal notes on the dramatis personae. having joined the RCS in 1981, i crossed paths with that old guard, now getting to be one myself.

glen dawson and his brother muir ran dawson's bookstore in hollywood for years, a family business. glen learned some of the book trade in europe, where he got hooked on climbing. they say the brothers never got along very well, but managed to keep the business going until they retired.

glen gave quite a program to the RCS once on his climbing career, which included taking ansel adams into the high sierra many times when ansel's photographic career was just getting under way.

chuck wilts was the epitome of modesty. i first encountered him while i was climbing great white book and my partner remarked, "that's chuck wilts on the route next to us". i couldn't help asking, "are you the chuck wilts?" his reply was "i'm a chuck wilts".

i interviewed him at his home a few years later in connection with a folkloric study i was trying to put together on climbing onomastics. he got to talking about the old climbers he knew and mentioned that john salathe had retired to a little trailer by the salton sea, one of those communities what move up and down grade depending on the water level. john would send him a christmas card every year, usually rather religious in nature. i guess it made me think that a good dirtbagger will always have an ace in the hole.

wilts published several editions of his tahquitz-suicide guidebook. i'm sure he lived to regret one declaration, that john long's ascent of paisano overhang "will probably never be repeated".

i never got to meet the mendenhalls, although i did have the pleasure of soloing john's historic route on laurel mountain behind convict lake a year ago. that long, beautiful couloir through the amazing geology of its east face was the first known belayed climb in california.

there's an enduring anecdote about john, however, which bears repeating. leroy russ, an RCS member, was probably one of the first african-americans to get involved in climbing out here. we had two in the RCS, leroy and virgil shields, and virgil became a longtime friend and co-conspirator on many an offbeat adventure.

leroy once told me the story of the day he broke the color barrier. he showed up at an RCS meeting and the tension was so thick you could cut it. not sure when that would've been, 60s perhaps, early 70s at the latest, a lot different world back then. no one said a word to leroy, and he felt so frozen out that he was getting up to leave when john mendenhall came over to him and made an obvious display of asking, "so when would you like to go climbing?" that's all it took--he became one of the gang from then on.

"switchbacks--one of the most difficult fifth class climbs on tahquitz" (1960). i second the nomination. one downsloping ledge after another, long runouts, difficult to protect. 5.8 and i don't ever want to do it again.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 17, 2010 - 02:34pm PT
A couple of the local RCS lads, Don Wilson and Frank Hoover, from Summit August 1956!

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 10, 2011 - 01:58pm PT
The early bump gets the worm...
frog-e

Trad climber
Imperial Beach California
May 10, 2011 - 04:09pm PT
Great thread.
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
SoCal
May 11, 2011 - 01:48am PT
BUMPING. This here is why the forum is good.
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Oct 16, 2011 - 09:34pm PT
So then from the Smith 38 Sierra Club article the original name of the Mechanics Route was the "Booksellers Route?

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 8, 2012 - 01:20pm PT
Bump for the bookseller who just hit the century mark!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 5, 2013 - 06:21pm PT
Bump for any stories about the Gorin Brothers who had three legs between them and still climbed all over Tahquitz Rock. You think that you're knackered by the approach! LOL
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 27, 2013 - 10:04pm PT
Celebrated Bump...
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 28, 2013 - 07:35pm PT
Frosty Holiday Bump...
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
May 7, 2015 - 02:12pm PT
Rereading the "super" description that is the White Maiden as generally done now.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
May 7, 2015 - 02:16pm PT
The first time I did the Maiden I took a n00b up. At the top I just
blundered on until an overhang stopped me. My 'partner' didn't like
my 5.9 finish.
johntp

Trad climber
socal
May 7, 2015 - 03:57pm PT
^
You should have pulled harder.

edit: or in respect for screwing the second, left a bigger loop of rope.
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
May 7, 2015 - 05:46pm PT
The first time I did the Maiden I took a n00b up. At the top I just
blundered on until an overhang stopped me. My 'partner' didn't like
my 5.9 finish.

That direct finish has claimed its share of ankles. It goes from easy to "oh shit" in about one move.
Fossil climber

Trad climber
Atlin, B. C.
May 7, 2015 - 08:50pm PT
Tahquitz provided my first multi-pitch climbs, with Jerry Gallwas, Gary Hemming, Barbara Lilley, Wally Kodis and others.

It would have been ’52 or ‘53. Hemming and I decided that whomever climbed a pitch with the smallest rack accumulated virtue accordingly. It went well for a while. Our balls grew as the racks shrunk. Then Jerry and I attacked the Mechanics with - as I recall - a rack of four pins, poorly selected as it turned out. The first moves went fine. Then I got the lead on the pitch with the big solution pockets.

It was a gorgeous day, so quiet I could hear the stitches ripping in the crotch of my surplus mountain pants.I was spread out like a bug on mostly friction holds on one of the pockets when one of my Converse tennies slipped, and I sort of swung sideways like a door opening, then somehow swung back. I looked down at Jerry, who was goggling up at me with eyes like targets, anchored to a single half-driven pin, briefly contemplated what I would have hit if the door had opened entirely, and scrambled up into that pocket with the bolt, like climbing back into the womb. At that point I decided that accumulating virtue might be Hemming’s game, but no longer mine.

Great learning experience.

I admire the FA of that climb immensely.
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
May 8, 2015 - 11:41am PT
Great story, thanks for posting it!

I admire the FA of that climb immensely.


I so agree. Anyone who has done that route must marvel that it was done so long ago and in tennis shoes, like your ascent in the 1950s!

In my recent article in Alpinist 49 about Tobin Sorenson, I recalled a time from the mid seventies when he and I soloed the route on sight, thinking it would be a cruise because it was at least three grades below what we were leading and we had the advantage of state of the art rock shoes,i.e. E.Bs.

We made it through those steep polished scoops you describe, but not before we both had some fraught moments, with ample time to reflect on the unthinkable consequences of a slip, which you describe so well.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 8, 2015 - 01:07pm PT
Largo started a thread about the Master Mechanic Dick Jones.

http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/845546/DIck-Jones-early-free-climbing-master

When Doug Robinson and I interviewed Glen Dawson I read him the last paragraph of the OP article from his monster-sized font monitor. Glen is very modest and understated but the grin on his 95+ year old face and the pride that came with it was astounding and very memorable.

I wish that I had met and talked with all of the early Tahquitz climbers as each one was an indelible character as best I can determine. Lots of historical work to be done here in the storied crucible of California climbing.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 6, 2015 - 01:49pm PT
Tahquitz Bump...
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 24, 2016 - 11:47am PT
SoCal pioneer Bump
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 23, 2018 - 08:40am PT
Bump for the birthplace of the YDS...
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