Tahquitz Tales - Got Any?


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Trad climber
nathrop, colorado
May 6, 2009 - 05:44pm 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 - 06:33pm 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 - 06:59pm PT
If YOU get off route at Suicide you pay. Back then!

Trad climber
Golden, CO
May 6, 2009 - 07:02pm PT
Sheesh. I've only read the first and last post and perused some of the pictures and I'm thinking this is already a top 10 of all time thread. Looking forward to reading it all the way through. Fantastic old pictures. Thanks, Don (I'm not worthy). As a Tahquitz climber of the early '70s. Lauria, Kamps, Powell...these guys were my (pre-Stone Masters) heroes.

Great story Mooser. Sorry for your loss.

Trad climber
May 6, 2009 - 07:56pm PT
Story to follow,


Trad climber
May 6, 2009 - 09:49pm PT
Thanks, eeyonkee. I remember being up on some route back in the 70s, and you and Dave Rightmer crossed paths with us. You were finishing your pitch in your socks (for real...I don't know if you remember that, or not). I thought, "Man, that Cameron can climb! A .10-something, in his socks!" I doubt you'd one the crux in them, but still...

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
May 6, 2009 - 10:22pm PT
F10, post up. A schlitz! hahaha

Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
May 6, 2009 - 11:59pm PT

Here's a few;

NE Farce;...climbed in the fog;....only could see maybe 40'....got to the summit, and was above the cloud in the sunlight;....quite beautiful.

Y Crack.....Almost dropped Pat Brennan when he fell while I was giving him a hip belay;....I flipped around backwards, shreaded my hand on the rocks, but somehow held on.....

NE Face East;....First climb on Tahquitz, with Tim Heatherington in June of 1976

East Lark ....Simul-climbed this whole climb with Rich Sims in about 45 min. in June of 1981.

West Lark ....Did this climb with my boss from work;...it was his first climb;....he was scared shitless.....

Edgehogs.....Did FA of pitches 3 and 4 with Bob Gaines and Bob Austin.

Larks Climbed 8 pitches of ice one winter up the Larks;.....the whole N. Face was covered in about 3 to 5 feet of hard snow or waterice over rock.......best conditions I've ever seen up there.....late 70's or early 80's....

Hog Var. to Whodunit FA with Gaines in July, 97

White Maidens....got off route on this climb with a girl I knew from college...it was her first climb, and I got on some very run out 5.8.......I was whining, and she was saying;...."If it's too difficult for you, I'll never make it up......to which I replied.....Watch my ass carefully...."....

The 5.7 Arete.....FA with Evans, Cole and Floyd, 1986

Vampire......One of my top 10 favorite climbs on earth.

Chin Strap Crack.....climbed this with the late Psycho Kenny and The Troll in July of 83.

The Rack Climbed this with John Long in 1981;...it was a climb both of us had not done, so we roped up for the tick...

Angel's Fright. Climbed this with a Swiss climber who spoke no english. Climbed it another time with the lovely teen girl who worked at the bakery in Idyllwild;...her first climb.

Human Fright....found an ancient wooden piton on this climb;...donated to the museum in Yosemite.

Bedrock FA with Gaines, and Charlie Peterson in Aug. of 1997

Traitor Horn .... climbed with my baby brother when he was 16 years old.

The Edge ... Climbed with face master Hensel and Evan/Floyd, July 1985.

Zig Zag.....found a 1 1/2 friend on this climb ....it was Kevin Powell's...I returned it to him....

Flying Circus....did controversial 2nd ascent of this with Hensel, Evans, Floyd and Fry.....

I love Tahquitz;.....I have been quite frightened a number of times on climbs here....but kept coming back for more...I sort of grew up climbing in Idyllwild and sleeping in my car in Humber Park...It was my home away from home......It's one of the best crags on the planet. I still try to go there each year for a climb or so.....still new stuff going down on N. Face areas..Have yet to take a leader fall on Tahquitz...(knock on wood....now Suicide; different story....)........Tahquitz RULES!

Trad climber
May 7, 2009 - 01:37pm PT

Trad climber
May 7, 2009 - 05:35pm PT
One of many "Tahquitz Tales"

Three of us head up for the day from San Diego when about 45 minutes out we do the equipment check list. No rope. Turn around grab a rope and the VW bug is headed north again.

We pull in to Humber Park around 11:30, we decide to have some lunch before heading up to the rock. After all it is June and the days long with plenty daylight. Lunch consists of some hops and herb, with a short nap. Paul is ready to go and so am I, however the third person won't wake up, toast for the day!

Paul and I decide to let him continue his nap in the parking area after all it is a nice summer day. So it's off to the rock for a great afternoon of climbing.

We head up the climbers trail, but the only thing we have are the EB's on our feet. That's right after going back and getting the rope we forgot, we decide to go sans rope, gear, approach shoes and our minds.

We had a blast cruising up the White Maiden and soaking up some socal sun and rock. The trail up and down didn't even seem that bad in the EB's.

Back at the car our friend was up and wondering the F#*k happened and why we "ditched" him? Just another one of those wonderful days spent getting seasoned at Tahquitz and Suicide

May 7, 2009 - 06:12pm PT
Hey Don and Guido and the rest of you.

Let's all go back to the 60's.

Fuk all this modern bullsh'it .......

May 7, 2009 - 06:59pm PT
And 70's
curt wohlgemuth

Social climber
Bay Area, California
May 7, 2009 - 07:26pm PT
It was summer of 1980; I'd been climbing with a "mentor" for 9 months, and this was the first time I was going with somebody new (to me). A girl. A really cute girl from work. What to do?

The Long Climb, naturally. Carrying the pack, so we don't need to go back to the base of the climb afterwards. I'm gonna lead everything, and I'm psyched -- having learned to lead a month or two before.

Naturally, she gets stuck in the first chimney pitch for a bit, with the pack, but she's game and a good climber to boot. But on the second pitch, the Mummy Crack... I'm shouting from above, she's screaming from below. How can it take anybody THAT LONG to climb a single stupid pitch like this ?!? What was I thinking taking this girl out?!?

Of course, I had no idea how hard it would have been with a pack; I just had a small rack of stoppers and hexes, right? And she more than redeemed herself on the Weeping Wall across the valley on Sunday.

I guess she forgave me. We've been married for 26 years now.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jun 26, 2009 - 09:32pm PT
One February day back in 1955, Mark Powell, Don Wilson and Frank Hoover were poking around Suicide Rock looking for something to do. Wandering up the southeast face to what is now called Paisano Ledge, the trio spotted a clean, steep hand and fist crack leading up sixty feet to a virgin summit. They had no pitons anywhere near wide enough to provide protection but there was a small patch of snow at the base and they had a secret weapon, a gallon jug of Paisano wine!
The team began to boulder out the bottom of the crack, reasoning that the snow would cushion their landing, jumping off from progressively farther up the crack. The reward for the leap of faith was a sip from the jug!
To quote Mark,"the more Paisano I drank, the higher I got" until the difficulties eased off and the summit was theirs. Up came his companions and they finished off the gallon leaving the empty jug on the summit.

The Wilts guide had this description of what was aptly named Paisano Pinnacle.


Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Jun 26, 2009 - 10:19pm PT
So I'm up at Tahquitz with Hooman Aprin, an Iranian climber who would later manage West Ridge in West LA. But back then, at Tahquitz we didn't know what the f*#k we were doing - I think I was a junior in high school. I somehow managed to lead the Piton Pooper (bulging 5.7, several pitches up the wall) with several hangs and it scared the crap out Hooman and me.

On our way down we saw some guy way up on Open Book, which hardly anyone climbed in those days. The guy was jamming out under the roof on pitch 3 and he yelled down to his partner, "No worries. It's only about 5.7 here."

I'd just frigged my way up a 5.7 and it felt like death and this guy was making it look like cheese cake. I almost wept on Hooman's shoulder.

Couple years later, Tobin, Rick and I all free soloed the Open Book, one on top of the other. In '91, Hooman, my partner on Piton Pooper, summited Mount Everest. That's no sh#t.


Jun 27, 2009 - 03:12am PT
You dudes RULE and alway's have!


Trad climber
Jun 27, 2009 - 06:05am PT
It was around 1971, and I had just done the Nose with George Myers. He suggested we drive down to Tahquitz. For some strange reason, we decided to smoke a bunch of pot before roping up to climb the Open Book which I guess was a local classic. I remember getting alot of strange looks from the locals, as we started up. I had never climbed stoned before, ( or since). I do remember having a blast on it!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jun 27, 2009 - 09:30am PT
Largo- Did your signature Hooo Man start with him?!?

Trad climber
the end of the world as we know it, & I feel fine.
Jun 27, 2009 - 10:40am PT
Wow, this has made for a pleasant Saturday morning of reading... definitely a top ten thread. Thanks for all the great stories.

Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Jun 27, 2009 - 11:32am PT

The question is whether it is really a solo ascent if you do it as a group of three! I had purposefully put off doing this ultra-classic because I wanted to wait until I was good enough for the onsight solo. When I suggested it one day at the base of the South Face, Tobin and John were all over it. So we had a mass, solo ascent. I think it was psychologically much easier to be up there accompanied by friends. Paraphrasing Winnie the Pooh, soloing is much friendlier with two, (or three).

John was in the front and I remember that each of us engaged in some whistling past the graveyard, encouraging each other about how solid it seemed. At one point, I asked John,

“How’s it going up there?”

John shot back,

“Hoh, man, completely casual!”

Tobin and I were still buzzing after that, so we went right back up to solo, also on-sight, the Mechanics Route. Even though it’s rated at an easier grade, it turned out to be the more exciting of the two because it is a face climb rather than a crack climb. I remember looking down at Tobin from above the crux and he hesitated a long time before committing to the move. This was very rare for Tobin.

Messages 41 - 60 of total 93 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
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