Tahquitz Tales - Got Any?


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Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 28, 2009 - 03:13pm PT
Bump for Joyce

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Apr 28, 2009 - 03:19pm PT
Don--Amazing. . .more please!!!!!
Anxious Melancholy

Mountain climber
Back of beyond
Apr 28, 2009 - 03:48pm PT
went up to the n face in winter once as a kid. we wanted to experience the real deal and took our forrest single point hammocks. buddy had a home made fly, but i wasn't as fortunate. got about half way up before we settled in for the night in some alcove to the right of the Lark routes. buddy, let me tell you, it was cold that night. a few snow flurries didn't help, and as we were squashed against the side of the rock, i got colder and colder. ended up doing repeated sit-ups to try and stay warm. next morning i kinda freaked out ( reason for that's a whole 'nother story!) so we traversed over to the uneventful buttress and made use of the trees to make several raps back down. it was warming up and the biner brakes worked really well, wriging the water out of the ropes and on onto my crotch and down my legs and into my boots.

i'd do it again in a heart beat!

(btw, you can just barely see ice on the rock next to my head)


Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Apr 28, 2009 - 04:31pm PT
The late, great Tobin Sorensen on Paisano Overhang, 1973.


Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Apr 28, 2009 - 05:00pm PT
this isn't so much of a tale as it is a crazy idea, that hanging in hammocks in winter beats out any day. :)

My buddy Matt who I worked with at REI in So Cal at the time got the notion that we should practice our hauling while we did a route. So the numbnuts that we were we got an army duffel hiked up there loaded with water and gear and start hauling it up Sahara or Whodunit, can't remember which at this point. But I do remember feeling really dumb after we get it to the belay and it has this massive rip in it forcing us to lower the bag and unclip it and start over. We topped out, but sheesh what a cluster.

Later, higher on the route, I bumblied with a dropped CMI figure eight onto some folks at the base (i yelled rock fwiw).

The nice thing was someone found the 8 device and left it on top of my pack at the base. Personally, I would have put it somewhere else if I was getting stuff dropped on me.

paul roehl

Boulder climber
Apr 28, 2009 - 05:45pm PT
My first trip to Tahquitz was on February 9th 1971. We were supposed to leave my parents house at 6:00 am and as my friend pulled up in the driveway we had just finished experiencing the worst earthquake I'd ever felt. He didn't feel a thing driving in the car. Something as minor as an earthquake couldn't stop us, and we were on the road a few minutes later. Spent most of the day slogging around in the snow breaking a trail in tennis shoes up to the base. Never felt a single aftershock. No radio in the car so we had no idea how bad the devastation was back in LA, especially out in the valley. When we got back discovered the house next door to my friend's had been completely destroyed. Remarkably weird day.
Russ S.

Seattle, WA
Apr 28, 2009 - 05:46pm PT
In the spirit of the many faceless climbers, who come and go, have their own adventures, but are never known to anyone outside their group...

I moved to San Diego in '77 and fell in with a small group that wanted to get into climbing. I had done some alpine routes (i.e. Exum route on Grand Teton), so was welcomed as an "experiened" climber. Between us we put together a rack of wedges and hex nuts, and started doing easy routes at Mission Gorge. The group already had a ski trip planned for the Tahoe area, so when they left I had the rack, but no one to climb with. Somehow I got this idea to rope soloing a route at Tahquitz. I had never been there, but had just bought the Wilts ('74) guide and had a copy of Robbins "Advanced Rockcraft". Robbin's described how to rig a waist & chest harness with a prussik loop as a self belay.

I stopped by the Sports Chalet in S.D. and outlined my plan to one of the staff and asked for a route suggestion. Immediately he said "Fool's Rush". Ignoring the obvious implications of the suggested route name, after reading the route description I agreed that would be perfect- 5.6, within my comfort zone.

Seeing Tahquitz for the first time was amazing, I was so focused on my goal that I didn't let the magnitude of the rock overwhelm me. But not being bright enough to figure out that since people had been climbing here for years there would be an established trail, I went up the scree field right out of the parking lot. After wasting far more energy than was needed I finally located the climb and rigged up my untested (by me) system. I anchored the rope and started climbing what turned out to be an easy, pleasant pitch. I don't remember if I knew enough to backup my system with a tie off, but if Robbin's didn't state it in his book, I probably wouldn't have known enough to take the precaution...

I quickly dispatched the first pitch, rigged a rappel anchor and went down. Now I had to break down the anchor and reclimb the pitch using the self-belay again. At the top I took off my day pack and set it on the ledge, but didn't think to clip it in. As I was setting up for the next pitch I bump the pack and it went sailing. So I rapped and climbed the pitch for a third time - but I learned to clip in the pack!

The climbing continued to be easy, and somewhere in the next pitch or two the obvious route trended right of the NW buttress. Above me was a short slab with a nice crack and horizonal lip that looked really cool. I knew this was off route, but it looked enticing so I went up anyway. I grabbed the lip with my pro down at feet level, or slightly below, and pulled up. Unfortunately, there wasn't anything to hold onto to pull over, so I was stuck. I remember thinking that I had to make a quick decision so I didn't pump out, so with unfounded faith in my belay system I just let go! I dropped down the slab and was gently caught by the prussik - hey it works! Bouyed by this confidence I tried the lip again, on the left side where I thought I saw some holds. When I regained the lip, I threw my right foot up for a heel hook (didn't know about heel hooks, but it seemed natural). But as I started to put over something blew and I went flying. This time the landing wasn't so gentle since I was laid out sideways, but I wasn't injured. However this shook me up enough that I went back to the real route and stayed on it the rest of the way.

I remember how fun and adventurous it felt, and I loved figuring it out on my own,completing the route and down climb safely. And lo an behold there was this great trail going back down - who would have thunk.

It was great for my blossoming climbing ego when my buddies got back and were gushing about their ski trip. Finally one of them asked what I had done - "oh, I climbed a route on Tahquitz" - silence. "But who with...."
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 28, 2009 - 10:36pm PT
Bump for Kim

Social climber
So Cal
Apr 28, 2009 - 10:46pm PT
There's one over here


Apr 28, 2009 - 11:20pm PT

Base of the south face 77.

I drink your milkshake!
Apr 28, 2009 - 11:46pm PT
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 29, 2009 - 03:10am PT
Come on, we need more Tahquitz Tales!

Apr 29, 2009 - 07:07am PT
Ok Don;
A short tale, I think it was the summer of 83 or 84 my roommate at the time Denny Lake and I had been climbing at Suicide most of the summer and had led some fairly hard stuff Valhalla, New Generation, Iron Cross, Voo Doo ChildÖ I had just led Rebolting Development and we were on are way back down to the base of the rock and Denny said; Hey man we have time for one more short route then we have to spilt early today because I promised my girlfriend I would take her to the lake swimming. Ok, man it's cool what do you want to do? I asked. He goes what about this thing here and points to the rock the route is called ( our's 5.10b ) I said cool. (Two pitches both short first 10b and the second 5.7 but a bit run out.) So we rope up and flipped for the lead. Denny won and started off and couple of minutes later he was at the belay and then I was on and came up. Cool give me the rack and Iíll take off. No way Man I what-a lead both pitches. OK. So we changed over. Look Man it goes up passed these two bolts and a bit right to the corner and the belay, cool and he started off, clips the first bolt and then a few moves later the second, about this time at the base of the rock there is a big commotion and I turned my head to see what was going on. When I looked back a second later Denny is run out about twenty feet and off route to the left! Hey man WTF are you doing way the f*#k over there in no mans land! ( NEVER TAKE YOUR EYES OFF YOUR LEADER)if it is possible to see him NO matter how easy the climbing.The route I said goes a bit right to the corner! Oh sh#t man oh shit! Now Take it easy man just traverse back right and thereís a good hold! So he start to traverse back right. A few moves and the next thing I hear OH SH#T DUDE IíM COMING OFF!!!! Next thing I see is Denny burning down the stone and everything is in slow motion. Think fast I start reeling in rope! I lock it off and he goes flying by me! He stops with head at about my feet. Holy Sh#t dude are you all right? No! Damn man you fell further than anyone I ever seen! I know, he said lower me down. I did, then I raped off. When I got to the ground I saw his hands they looked like ground round hamburger and I threw up! I took off my shirt and wrapped his hands in it and down the trail we went. When we got to the creek and Denny put his hands in the water, the water ran red for what seem to be for ever. Wrapped him back up and it was off to the firehouse and then to the hospital in Hemet. Not a good ending to what was a bitchen day. His season end was that day and a valuable lesson was learned. Ya know he still laughs at me for throwing up!



Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
May 6, 2009 - 12:27am PT
Okay, Don. Iíll offer a tale. This isnít as ďdeath defyingĒ as your story. But then, as I think youíll agree, back in those days we all had times when because of the hubris of youth or due to the lack of experience we were close to dying and didnít even know it. You know, times when the belayer was only able to put in poor anchors. The leader only able to find poor pro, forced to make run out moves. Fortunately the strength of youth kept the leader from falling and testing the ďsafetyĒ system.

Well this adventure started innocently enough. It was early spring or late fall. I donít remember exactly when, but one of those months when that beautiful and noble rock could turn from a fun-in-the-sun playground into a gripping alpine arena. My brother Paul, best friend Keith and I were freshly honed from recent forays at (the almost always warm) Big Rock and ready for a longer, multi-pitch climb. True to being Southern California rock specialist we were dressed in cotton pants and light shirts. For a route we had chosen one of the longer routes on the North East face. Which route I not completely sure, and Iím not completely sure we stayed on the route we had chosen. We started under blue skies and eagerly climbed up warm rock with the enthusiasm of youthful, pent up energy on the loose in the wilds. Sure we had gotten a late start, having driven up from the LA area that morning. But that didnít matter. We were rock climbing. Thatís all we wanted to do in those days.

Moving well for a party of three beginners, we were several pitches off the ground when literally out of no where clouds had covered our blue skies. More worrisome a fog/mist was streaming, racing, flying up the face of the wall. We would learn to pay better attention to the weather factor of climbing! Too soon our teeth were chattering as we became colder and colder. I donít remember discussing retreating. Perhaps due to our lack of experience or fear of rappelling off possibly poor anchors, we continued to climb for the top. As the wind increased and the rock got colder and then wet and slippery, we each in turn took the hardware loop, put it over our shoulder in acceptance of the role and responsibility of being comrades united in a shared struggle. After leading a pitch our hands would turn to blocks of wood, our feet too numb to feel, and our stomachs were sick with the secretions of continuous fear.

We were not that far from the summit when darkness started to creep across the gray rock adding a dismal ambiance to our desperate situation. We only had at most another pitch and a half to go, but none of us wanting to lead that last ďhardĒ pitch. Because of the cold I didnít think I physically could lead it. Keith shivered almost uncontrollably. We stood there on that ledge looking at one another. Finally Paul picked up the hardware loop and climbed up into the gathering darkness. Unable to get in any pro (our piton selection was limited in those early days) he continued to climb until he was invisible in the darkness. Keith and I heard him struggle with a piton, his numb fingers failing to hold it, the piton clanging down the rock into the black void below. Somehow Paul was able to muster the strength, the courage, the spirit to continue. After what seemed like a long time we finally heard the joyous call ďOff Belay.Ē The rope pulled tight, Keith and I in turn were belayed up that slippery pitch. One more easy short pitch and we were on top.

I donít know if the storm just as suddenly stopped, or we were on the lee side of the rock, but the wind had ceased and a nearly full moon played peek-a-boo behind puffy clouds. We were safe. It seemed warm. We laughed in anticipation of the food we would soon be eating in Idyllwild. The world was a beautiful place. The moonlight danced across quartz crystals as we scrambled down the slabs. After all these years I can still clearly picture the awesome beauty of Tahquitz that night.
Russ Walling

Gym climber
Vulva, Wyoming
May 6, 2009 - 02:27am PT
Don, you are a tough act to follow.... My memory of 30 years has my story play out like this:

I never really liked the Tahquitz gig, but since there was "real" rock to be climbed in Yosemite and beyond, I figured I must go there. If it was good enough for Royal, it must be at least passable for me and The Manx. We also decided that a nice cold day would only make us stronger, and Lord knows we could use some extra strength in 1979 or so. Out comes the little blue guide book..... it is decided that we will do The Sham. The Sham is a some sort of 5.10 A2 thingy and sounds just like the stuff we will be floating up when we get to Yosemite. We blasted off on a Friday night and arrived late, just like the other LA folks do.

A fairly grievous bivy in Humber Park underneath the Manx Mobile, a Chevy something or other, confirmed the upcoming chill of the day. The hike took about twice what it would take someone who was remotely interested in hiking, and ended a hateful and sweaty hour or more later. A look at the book made it seem like we were at the base of the route. We dropped our giant packs and rummaged through the total BS we brought, welcoming the delay of sifting through the gear. In said packs we had everything depicted in not only Basic RockCraft, but the Advanced RockCraft too. This was Yosemite training, and we'd heard them Yosemite big wall climbers had so much shiit, they needed to haul it! Since we didn't really know how to haul, some of it would have to stay on the ground. I left something like a SpaceBlanket and a can of sardines. Not sure what the Manx excluded from his load, but it was probably something like a 6" bong and an extra pair of glacier glasses.

Finally, we get frozen EB rubber to stone..... the climbing part as I recall was wandering and cold. Very cold. To this day I am not sure if we were even on the route most of the time. After miles of wandering and many rope tricks not described in either of the RockCraft books I was finally at what was supposed to be the crux aid pitch. A check of the guide book confirmed at least this pitch was in fact "on route" and was waiting to be tamed.

I remember heading up the crack and thinking, "this ain't too bad.... El Cap better watch its asss...". At some point there is an oldish looking bolt and the crack thins to a whisker. I clipped the bolt and stood high in my hand tied aiders. After some fiddling around I manage to get in a #1 Chouinard Stopper.... the stopper that looks like pinky nail from the skinniest kid in the NeoNatal unit. I stand up on the stopper and as I strain for the next placement, I feel, then see, the stopper shift in the placement. Holy shiit!!! I quickly start to move downwards in my aider steps... the stopper body is now fully exposed and only some odd camming force not usually found on earth is keeping it in place. I still have a set of aiders clipped into the bolt and my next move is to try and get back into this secure set. I'm frantically wiggling my foot trying to get a step open when it happens.... POP! The stopper cuts loose just as my foot gets back into the top step of the aiders clipped into the bolt. I think, "how bad can it be?" I'm about 11.4 inches above a bolt. Surely this fall will be a non-event for a budding hardman such as myself. Then things start to speed up in that slowed down kind of way. The sky rotates past me and time slows down. I put a hand over my head to hold on my balaclava, knowing that even during a fall, a nice balaclava is something worth saving. I then start to wonder just why am I going so far? How odd. I hit what I think was the belay stance or ledge with my back, but quickly glanced off and continued my tumble. Even in slow world time this fall is taking way too long. I eventually rocket through a bonsai pine that was happily living on the lip of a small roof and then feel the rope start to catch. Hanging there under the roof I look up toward the belay that is now a fair ways above me. I call up to the Manx, and gurgle something about "man, what a ripper" and let him know I'm uninjured as far as I can tell.

I eventually climbed back up to the belay stance and then got the story and visuals from the Manx. Seems the rope had jumped his back during the fall, a byproduct of shoddy hip belay technique. While I was tumbling down the face, the Manx was holding the rope in front of him with both hands and watching the smoke waft from his palms. Eventually he was able to apply enough coagulant and force to the free running rope to arrest my fall. Needless to say, he was done for the day. I think we lost half of our rack on the multi rap retreat back to our packs. Down the trail we went, made it to the car, and then got the hell out of there. El Cap, and Tahquitz for that matter, were safe for now.

Trad climber
May 6, 2009 - 09:53am PT
"...the stopper that looks like pinky nail from the skinniest kid in the NeoNatal unit."

HA!! That's vivid!

Trad climber
nathrop, colorado
May 6, 2009 - 08:44pm PT
BITD. Gilge,Sam and I were just kids, hiker/backpakers. Then I found a hemp rope stashed in a dead ceder tree,was'nt worth smoking, so we tied in to our leather belts with granny knots and headed up the big stone, no gear, no fear. Half way up the stone we saw other people?and they asked us what route we were on, we looked at each other? and yelled back whats a route? we did make it to the top. We were about 13-15 YRS. old, Thats when we realized that other people cimbed rocks.

Just a funny story:

Trad climber
nathrop, colorado
May 6, 2009 - 08:44pm PT
BITD. Gilge,Sam and I were just kids, hiker/backpakers. Then I found a hemp rope stashed in a dead ceder tree,was'nt worth smoking, so we tied in to our leather belts with granny knots and headed up the big stone, no gear, no fear. Half way up the stone we saw other people?and they asked us what route we were on, we looked at each other? and yelled back whats a route? we did make it to the top. We were about 13-15 YRS. old, Thats when we realized that other people cimbed rocks.

Just a funny story:

Trad climber
May 6, 2009 - 09:33pm PT
I was a junior in high school in the spring of '75, and had just entered the world of rock climbing. My brother John and I had been teaching ourselves how to climb (with the help of the two Robbins books) at Woodson and Mission Gorge, but had not yet been on anything multi-pitch.

Somehow, we got hooked up with a guy named Al Hopp - a local tennis pro in San Diego, who'd done a fair amount of climbing (he had knickers, some pitons, kernmantle rope, and kletterschuhs) - who became our mentor. The three of us, and a friend of Al's named Bill, went up to Tahquitz that spring to do an easy multi-pitch route as a party of four. Al had this cool bright orange Dodge van with a mural of the Valley painted on both sides (missing Half Dome, to his chagrin). It also had (cool at the time) an 8-track player. As we drove up to Idyllwild, he'd cued up Beethoven's 5th so that as we rounded a particular corner it'd do the famous, "Da-da-da-dummmmm!" I've since believed life should have a sound track. It worked, and we were appropriately ominous-ified.

Since it was too late to get on a route that day, we parked across the valley somewhere where we had a clear view of the rock. That night it snowed like nobody's business, and we thought (and I prayed) that our hopes for an ascent were dashed. But dang it if the weather didn't turn perfect, the southeast face burn off whatever snow accumulated, and the way wasn't clear for us to go on up.

Up the Devil's Slide we went until we got to the base of the Left Ski Track (5.4? 5.5?). There are a couple of tiers you have to go up to get to the base of the climb itself, so up we went. Off in the distance we saw more clouds moving in, and wondered if we were in for another storm. Since none of us were meteorologists, we disregarded the threat. Al led off, and set up the belay at the end of the first pitch. Up John, Bill and I went behind him, until we all shared the belay stance together. By the time the four of us were huddled together up there, the storm cut loose on us. Big snow, almost zero visibility, wind, cold, and four numbskulls huddled together on a ledge. We made the calculated decision (as if there were anything to calculate) to rap off.

I'm a little fuzzy on this, but my recollection is that we rapped off with only one rope, leaving 30 feet of downclimbing, or so. Why? Who knows? We were numbskulls (see reference above). Al, John and I successfully downclimbed to the upper tier, leaving Bill to do the same. We were all holding our breath, as Bill was the oldest of the group, and we figured the most likely to break something if he wasn't careful. He came off the end of the rope, gingerly started downclimbing a very slippery, snowy and icy tier, and then lost his footing.

It was amazing how quickly he flew. Everything happened so fast. We watched helplessly as he cartwheeled through the air right past us, hitting rock on his way down. We didn't know when or where he'd stop, until he did--right before plunging off another (roughly) 40 foot drop. We scrambled down to him as quickly as possible, and were pretty aghast to see the sole of his foot literally pointing sideways. His ankle had completely snapped, leaving the foot perpendicular to his leg. He was hurting, big time, and we didn't have a clue as to what to do next.

While Al and John tried to tend to his shock (and the deepening cold), Al told me to go recover the rope from the rappel. I had to climb back up the downclimbed area (where Bill had just done his rapid descent), and try to pull the rope down. Since visibility was so bad, I couldn't see whether or not it was twisted, and if so, how. It was twisted (and I had no idea how). When I told Al that it wouldn't budge, he told me to throw the jumars on it and go up and untwist it. That felt like really bad advice at the time, but he did have knickers, pitons, kletterschuhs, and a kernmantle rope. Who was I to question this approach? I said, as I attached the jugs to the rope, "Couldn't we all kind of yard on it together and see if we can yank it loose?" They consented, and we gave it a go. After a lot of tries, it finally jarred loose, and I was able to retrieve and coil the rope. Phew! My life could flash before my eyes another day--not this one.

Meanwhile, we had to figure out how to get Bill off the ledge, down the Devil's Slide, and to a hospital. The storm wasn't letting up, and the best climber in our group had just suggested that I jug up a single, unanchored line in a snowstorm. What to do...what to do...

As it happens, Mike Graham and Rick Accomazzo (and Richard Harrison?) had been working on doing the FFA of the Green Arch, not far from where we were. They either heard our pathetic calls for help (which I'd really prefer to think we didn't bellow), or their spidey sense told them something was amiss. In either case, they showed up and saved the day. They knew exactly what to do, and before we could say "Stonemasters," they were lowering Bill down to the trail in a litter (one that had been lashed to a nearby tree for such a time as this).

John did a controlled stumble down the Devil's Slide as fast as he could move to alert the rangers that we had a medical situation coming down soon, and Al, Rick, Mike, Richard (?), and I carried Bill down the Devil's Slide, postholing through deep snow all the way.

At the bottom, once we'd gotten everything ready to transport Bill, we asked for the guys' addresses. Their collective address was simply, "General Delivery, Yosemite." "Da-da-da-duuummmmm." We thought that was about as cool as it got.

I only saw Bill one other time after that - at Dean Caldwell's WotEML slide show. He had a cane, and had a terrible limp. His ankle obviously hadn't recovered well from the accident, and I can't imagine that he ever climbed again. My brother John died three years ago following a lung transplant. Al is probably somewhere teaching tennis. And I just got to see Mike and Rick to thank them in person two weeks ago.

May 6, 2009 - 09:59pm PT
If YOU get off route at Suicide you pay. Back then!
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