Tahquitz Tales - Got Any?


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Trad climber
Feb 17, 2011 - 09:57am PT
Not sure if this has been posted before
Paisano Overhang vid:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fu7gp-aKsbo&feature=player_embedded
Tony Bird

Northridge, CA
Feb 17, 2011 - 10:22am PT
tahquitz can deliver some unpleasant surprises, although it had been climbed for quite awhile before the first fatality. russ's mishap reminds me of the one on sahara terror in the early 80s, a supposedly reliable block similarly coming off, shearing the girlfriend/belayer's arm off and she bled to death on the spot. i had climbed that route with my girlfriend just a couple weeks before.

generally, the demon tahquitz seems to have a benificent disposition, however. i'm the only old RCSer i know of posting on here, but the story about dick derusha was well known. topping out on left ski track, i suppose in glee similar to the two-piton fellow, he soon bottomed out. the snow bank was quite deep.

otherwise my best epic, i'm sure repeated many times on tahquitz, was when the thunderstorm came long when we were four pitches up. roger miller:

"thunder rolling, lightning flashing,
"right through the middle of it
"i go dashing ..."

we rapped with the couple next to us--two ropes that way, theoretically faster. a real exercise in patience. a fellow was killed by lake hemet from a lightning strike from the same storm.

derusha had a cabin in idyllwild and came to our group site once and said that if everyone would chip in about 5 bucks he could rent a hot-tub-on-a-truck. never saw a campsite clear out so fast. great party, five boys for every girl.

Where the past and future meet
Feb 17, 2011 - 02:27pm PT
I was going up to solo the Trough and had just arrived at the base when two guys fell. They were off route and wanted to be on Angels Fright but started above the tree with the chockstone on the ledge leading out to the Trough. The leader fell and ripped the one nut he had placed. His belayer kept him locked off and they both tumbled about 50ft down some fourth class with ten feet of rope between them. The belayer was in bad shape having taken a shot to the forehead just under his helmet which was bleeding very badly. The leader had a “classic pneumothorax” according to the medic when he got on scene but we didn't know that at the time. I just yelled at him to sit down and shut up so I could try and help his buddy with the head trauma.

Two other climbers rapped down to help. One was and EMT (with gloves!) and the other called 911 and started down to guide the fire guys in. We got the litter from lunch rock, did our patient assessment and packaged the belayer up as best we could with what we had.
Credit: cupton

It wasn't long before the captain from Idyllwild fire comes blasting up the talus, commanding respect with his short shorts and huge boots. Without even looking at the patients, Captain Idyllwild has two Riverside SO rescue birds en route. Sweet.

The helicopters arrived close to the same time the rest of Captain Idyllwild's crew. They arrived staggering, sweating and cursing at the base of the talus. They were not nearly as stoked on hiking as their fearless leader. One chopper dropped a medic while the second circled San Jacinto like a hungry vulture.
Credit: cupton

The medic clipped the litter in with a steel bridle and glanced at our improvised cut up climbing rope patient tie in moments before the litter swung upwards into the sky. My heart was in my mouth, nervous with the trust placed in my knot tying ability by total strangers until the litter was pulled safely inside the chopper. The second helicopter swooped in, dropped a screamer suit and took the leader away in a matter of minutes.
Credit: cupton

Suddenly there was quiet. The fire crew headed down the hill while I hung around for a few minutes chatting with Captain Idyllwild. One of the helicopters comes back, drops a skid next to Lunch Rock for a properly awesome exit for Captain Idyllwild. And then I was alone. Nothing else to do so I went back up, collected my balls and soloed the Trough for one of the headiest climbs of my life.
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Latitute 33
Feb 17, 2011 - 03:57pm PT
Lots of tales over the years.

Safety in Numbers

During the late 70s, mass assaults on various routes became in vogue. 4,5 or 6 (sometimes more) climbers would tie in at intervals into a single rope. The leader would head up with the standard (meaning minimal) rack of hexes and stoppers. The followers would begin climbing when the rope ran out of slack. The last person cleaned.

The leader either made it to the top in one "pitch" or when down to the last nut or two stopped and belayed. If more than one pitch were involved, the last person just kept going with the gear collected on the way and the conga line ran in reverse.

About the same time at Josh we named a route on The Blob after this phenomenon. After a couple bolts were placed, it too was climbed in a similar style by the gathered crew.


Trad climber
under the sea
Feb 17, 2011 - 04:39pm PT
Last time I went out there was in the fall. I had a partner lined up but he couldn't make it last min so I decided to go solo. Now, I'd only been to tahquitz twice before, and had only done a few routes (lark, sahara terror, ski track, open book, fingergrip).

I roll up to find the lot full of cars, but all for a trail work crew. Walk up to the base and get set to solo something easy. Having only done fingergrip in this area I took my guide with me to onsight fingertip and to find the top of the trough so I could downclimb that.

It was a great day, the temp was perfect for shorts and long sleeves and the was a layer of clouds below. I owned the place. It was just me, the rock, the sky and my thoughts. I started out easy because I was onsighting. up fingertip, down trough. I was feeling a little more comfortable now so I left the guide at the base and just figured I could downclimb if things got too tough, and I would just go exploring a bit. If it looked easy I'd give it a shot. So I continued soloing up fingertrip, down trough, up angles fright, down fingertip, up jensens, down trough.

Then I went up coffin nail. Being steeper and more committing that the others, I was forced to really focus on the moves and not let my doubts creep in. Coffin nail was fun and secure 5.8 so I figured I'll finish on traitor horn. The wind picked up and the clouds rose higher consuming the base of the cliff. I started the traverse across traitor horn. Looking down for my footholds was a bit dizzying. The clouds were moving steadily between my feet with an occasional hole opening to show the ground. It was a surreal position. I felt so alone and totally out there. The insecure traverse and racing clouds below me didn't inspire confidence. I pictured myself slipping off that traverse, bouncing off the edge and landing crumpled at the base without anyone around. I knew the route was only 5.8, but never having done it before I was having my doubts. I must have started that traverse four or five times, but never felt good letting my left hand leave the traitor horn, so I finally just finished up the easy way on jensens.

After that I was a little scared and kept to easy routes the rest of the day. I think I went down the trough, up angles fright, down fingertip, up fingergrip, down the trough up angles again and finally down fingertip one last time.

It was a magical day that will stay with me forever. I think I went bottom to top seven times, down climbing each time. That works out to a huge amount of easy climbing. I left at 2 that afternoon recognizing that I was getting tired and should stop before I made a mistake. Cheers to Tahqutz!

El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
Feb 2, 2013 - 08:04pm PT
Bumping a great thread!
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
Panorama City, California & living in Seattle
Feb 2, 2013 - 09:26pm PT
For the life of me I can't quite remeber the other 3 climbers I was with, but I'm pretty sure at least one of them was over 16 years old. It was the late 60s and we were climbing one of those North Face routes that had long lie-backs. We were all at a good size belay ledge belaying the leader of the pitch above, a long lie-back. He was cruising right along. I can't remember if I was the actual belayer or what, but I remember great surprise when I saw the end of the leader's goldline rope going up the rock! It seems like we had to yell up and tell whoever it was to downclimb a little or at least to STOP for a second - that we had a problem. The ropes had been in a giant cluster F+++ but we got things straightened out and somebody tied into that rope!

A similar thing happened the first time I climbed at Tahquitz. I was with 2 others on the Fingertip Traverse, and the leader had just gone across the arch of the Fingertip traverse and was at the ledge on the other side. For some reason he ending up untied from the rope and needed rescuing! I think that was when I first met Larry Reynolds. He and his partner found us there not knowing which way was up. He went on up with his partner and hooked our friend up. I don't think I got to do the climb that Day.
Sam R

Mammoth Lakes, CA
Feb 2, 2013 - 11:00pm PT
The first time I climbed there was with John Mendenhall on the Maiden. Dave Field and Gail Wilts (Chuck's daughter) were climbing above us, and another party was on another route using pitons. John said to "remember the sound of the pitons being driven in because you won't hear that out here anymore". When we got to the top Dave was telling the guy he really should be using stoppers and hexes. The age of the Whole Natural Art of Protection had arrived!
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 2, 2013 - 11:07pm PT
The mention of “mass assaults” zapped one of my abused brain cells and I remembered what, back in the old days (circa 1974), we called a mass assault. Another Tahquitz tale.

The Switchbacks is a 5.8 climb at Tahquitz that I had done at least seven times before Mark Powell suggested that I do the 5.7 variation of the first pitch. The pitch goes straight up to the belay ledge at the end of the first pitch of the regular route. The variation was(is?) protected by a Ľ” Rawl bolt – about half way up the pitch.

I got so used to doing the variation that I often soloed it – trailing a rope so that I could rappel back down. The belay ledge at the end of the pitch used to have a small tree growing up from a crack at the back of the ledge. It was my rappel anchor. The tree had long since died, but I was able to jam it into the crack so that it remained a trustworthy anchor.

One wonderful warm summer evening after a warm wonderful day of climbing, a bunch of us gathered at Lunch Rock. Someone exposed two 4 liter bottles of wine and suggested that we might join him in a sip of wine. For what reason I’m not sure, I suggested that we imbibe on the Switchbacks belay ledge. Great idea! There were five of us. As I recall we were: Me, Dave Huntsman, Hooman Aprin, Conrad Willett, and Tom Limp.

Well, I led the pitch and began belaying the rest of the group. Did I mention that this ledge was small – so small that it could barely contain a group of five – something that never crossed our minds as began to occupy the ledge. The first person up brought the wine. While belaying the next two ascendants, the ledge occupiers, including the belayer, began imbibing. By the time the last ascendant, Dave Huntsman, began his ascent, we on the ledge were feeling the effects of wine on a warm summer evening after a warm summer day’s worth of climbing. Tom Limp decided that Huntsman was climbing way too fast and with not enough respect for the difficulty of the pitch. So he poured a cupful of wine down the upper portion of the pitch. This slowed Huntsman for but a brief moment – just long enough to allow him to release a paragraph of obscenities. With all five on the ledge, two had to stand for lack of room. This had little or no effect on our ability to pass the bottles.

By the time we finished the wine it was very late and very dark. Time to think about rappelling and getting back to Idyllwild. Tom limp went first. Hooman was next, but one problem. Our dear friend, Hooman Aprin, was so inebriated that we did not dare allow him to rappel unbelayed. It was an unforgettable sight – Hooman being belayed as he wobbled down the near vertical pitch into the arms of Tom. That was the easy part.

With everyone down, now we had to get Hooman down the trail. With me on one arm and Huntsman on the other, we escorted Hooman down. No easy task as Hooman was unable to stand without support. Conrad and Limp would take over when Huntsman and I would tire. Thus our relay team was able to get Aprin back to our car.

Last time I saw Hooman was in the Tetons in 1995 where he was guiding for Exum. I hadn’t seen him for over 20 years. He had lost most of his hair, but not his memories of a warm summer evening after a warm summer day of climbing at Tahquitz.


Social climber
Feb 3, 2013 - 12:10am PT
hey there say, don, and all...

oh i loveeeeee these history, and or, stories of back-in-the-day...
well--i love the new stories, as well...

these are precious, however, as they are part of what
'made you who you are' as folks 'learn and grow'...

thanks don, and all that chip in here...
this is what makes supertopo precious and
what drew me here, as well as seeing chappy's name...

campfire stuff is good, too, to get to know folks,
but this the solid foundation of the real comaradarie...

working together,and learning, growing, and helping when a
buddy is down...


and, at times, being by his/her side, as they recover...
Tony Puppo

Feb 3, 2013 - 12:52am PT
Sure miss my good friend Dave Field.

Trad climber
Chatsworth, California
Feb 3, 2013 - 01:18pm PT

Here is a funny Video...maybe not a story....but a good one with Guy ,Jan and Larry at Tahquitz.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Feb 3, 2013 - 01:23pm PT
to post a video from YouTube... e.g.


you need only enter the bits between the "watch?=" and the next ampersand "&", e.g. from the above: tTiSW9ET39k

the video's ID

not all of the URL...


Trad climber
Chatsworth, California
Feb 3, 2013 - 01:53pm PT
Thanks Ed.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Feb 3, 2013 - 01:59pm PT
Fond memories.....no tales worth repeating. The Open Book was my first 5.9 lead and Diddly my first 5.10. I think that an obscure crack (Jammit) that i did with Bud Couch was my first FA.
Josh Higgins

Trad climber
San Diego
Feb 3, 2013 - 03:18pm PT
I've had a lot of memorable days at Tahquitz: learned multi-pitch, first solo, many amazing days with friends, but one definitely stands out. The late Ben Horne and I punched out 61 pitches in under 17 hours last year, and it was fantastic!

Trip report for 61 pitches in a day at pullharder.org


Trad climber
Feb 3, 2013 - 04:48pm PT
I fell asleep in the wee hours this morning trying to keep my eyes open because I wanted to keep reading...such great stories...I hope y'all will keep contributing because not only are the stories great, but they also impart some excellent knowledge through experience.

I haven't been around long enough to know whether this has been posted previously, but wanted to share. Mike and Natalie Sherrick sent this to me earlier today and it made me smile.

Lunch rock @ the base of Tahquitz Rock from the Chuck & Ellen Wilts co...
Lunch rock @ the base of Tahquitz Rock from the Chuck & Ellen Wilts collection. L to R: Harry Daley, Mike Sherrick, Yvon Chouinard, Arkel Erb, Bill "Dolt" Feuerer, Tom Frost
Credit: Chuck & Ellen Wilts collection
Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Feb 3, 2013 - 07:59pm PT
Wow, Josh. That trip report is impressive and quite poignant in light of your friend's death.

Life is short. It is a gift just to still be around reminiscing about good times on the rock.

And Audrey, you must plan a trip to climb to Tahquitz, your father's home crag.


Trad climber
San Diego, CA
Feb 3, 2013 - 11:45pm PT
In the late 90's I reunited with my good friend Eric, who, having been off the rock for a while, agreed to let me guide him up Whodunit, 5.9, on the north face. I, having done the route a few times, was up for the challenge of leading all pitches if need be. The offer of letting Eric lead on some of the easier pitches was discussed over the phone a few days prior, and it was agreed that he would take the sharp end if he felt up to it.

We met realatively late at the McDonalds in Rancho Penasquitos and, as the ritual dictated, had breakfast prior to the two hour drive which began by heading north on I-15. Turning northeast on CA-79 into Winchester, one gets his first glimpse of the incredible monolith of Tahquitz Rock in the distance! Continuing east into Hemet then up the scenic grade of CA-243, we passed by the Mountain Center junction which, for me, always brings butterflies to my stomach, knowing that another incredible alpine day awaits!

The crux is experienced on the first pitch of Whodunit by stepping left through a sequence of face moves to the first belay station (a controversial headwall, mid-route, is now listed as 5.10). From here, the right facing book system is followed for nearly seven pitches to the top of the route with every pitch at 5.8 and below. Eric is following, albeit slow, without event up to the awkward slot on the fifth pitch. As he reaches my belay I sense by his body language that something is wrong. With his head hanging low, he reluctantly raises it up, and I realize that he's in tears and explains to me, "Dude, I'm really having problems at home right now with my wife, and it's just been hard!" Granted that squeeze slot below was less than enjoyable but to say I was taken by surprise by his confession would be an understatement at five hundred feet off the ground! I can't say that I had been put in this position before while climbing, or since for that matter, lol!

It was already about 153O and knowing that we should have topped out by then, time was of the essence. I had to pick up the pace, finish the last two pitches, and get off the mountain, distraught partner or not. Still using a 150' rope, I came up short once over the last small roof near the summit, and had to set up belay in the crack system above. Even though awkward, a photo opportunity presented itself and I had to squeeze in one more of Eric, even though he wasn't too receptive about the idea when I told him to smile as his head popped over the roof! We finished up the summit slabs, and after a summit photo, I was glad it was over.

Josh Higgins

Trad climber
San Diego
Feb 4, 2013 - 12:18am PT

You're absolutely right that our time here is special. That day with Ben was one of my best days on the rock in over 10 years of much climbing, he said the same as well. I feel privileged to have shared such an amazing day with such a unique individual. His positivity knew no bounds. He is missed, but his friends still celebrate his life regularly.

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