We love to explore new areas…Pretty much any rotting heap is worthy of our excitement. We climbed places any wholesome climber would find repugnant – and had a good time. It’s all about the company when you haul your ass a hundred miles for some questionable choss-pile someone on Mountain Project has labeled “Climbing Area”.
But then there are those places that no-one even bothers to mention the objective hazards. Whether that be from the overwhelming singular hazard or the multitudinous elements, not a word is whispered – not even a “beware”. Left to blind exploration, yours is an oft-told story - your misery used as an example, whispered over beers during trip-planning.
Such was our trip to Vexation Creek. Some call it Frustration Creek, but it is only slightly mis-labeled by our interpretation. We'd heard tell that some climbs easier than 5.13 had finally been installed, so we decided to check it out.
After a two-hour drive, we “think” we have found the place as we thrash our way up the poison-oak filled creek-bed. A car, plastered in climber-stickers parked in the wrong turnout, evidently was left as a decoy to lure 1st timers like us into a yucca and uroshoil-laden trap . I'm a flip-flop hiker and managed to impale a toe on a yucca in short order. Finally realizing our error, we drive another ½ mile past the “obvious hairpin” corner where the crag is marked in the Mayr guide. Meh. Shiny bolts and fixed ropes clearly visible from the road . (Doh!).
Walking in, our excitement is tempered by the trail being blocked by the following: two “friendly” dogs barking their brains out at us, and a whole family with a multitude of rug-rats and a giant parasol completely covering the access trail. We clamber through the steel I-beam “fence” and finally get to the crag.
Entrance to Frustration Creek
X Evidently marks the spot.
Upon arriving at the Lower Tier, we have to share space with thousands of bees that are feeding on the last trickle that was Frustration Creek some weeks ago. Hoping they are not Africanized, we set up the belay for “Soul Slab” ( a new climb) and away we go. The cleaning of the pitch above “Soul Slab” left a ton of dirt so there is not a single hold that is not plastered in grime. Mr E seemed to be enjoying the climb until he encountered a ledge half way up… where there is a mantel... covered in poison oak. Spring has apparently been good for the re-growth, as it is sprouting back in force after the cleaning. Evidently we missed the gear-beta memo to bring a haz-mat suit and Round-Up up this climb.
PO growing on both sides AND on the ledge (out of sight in photo).
Don't let that rope sag even for a second.
Routing the rope to avoid the bushes becomes the next challenge, requiring a long runner and skipping a poorly-placed bolt (risking a fall into the PO) to keep the rope clear of the plants. Good times. The seconding required freaked-noob rope tension to avoid the bushes, and even with our best effort, pulling the rope becomes a PO drag at the end. For the rest of the day, we have to tie up the “oiled” end of the rope to avoid touching it. Shenanigans ensued ... un-clipping and re-clipping for the follower since we had to climb on the same end of the rope for the rest of the day.
Warning we left for the next sucker.
Tail end of our rope tied up in a tarp for the rest of the day after it dragged through the PO on the pull
Frustration Creek is a major drainage, and we had read that a large amount of rock and mud had been deposited into the canyon from a flood. Some of the climbs were buried in as much as 10 feet of debris shortening them and destroying bolts in the process.
Exploration of the Lower Tier revealed PO sprouting out of every nook and cranny as well as some impressive 30-foot vines staking out their turf on the climbing walls. The locals must be genetically resistant or just plain evil. Further uninspired by red-tags and 3-bolt climbs (drastically shortened by the flood), we decide to move on to the Upper Tier in search of longer and less itchy options. The guide says “5th class” climbing to the next tier. First, however, we have to cross the bee-infested creek of course.
The Great Wall Of Itchy. Someone's project running between the two giant vining PO plants. Are these people nuts?
One thing we have noticed is that there are fixed ropes EVERYWHERE! ... everywhere except the “5th class” scramble. Mr.E solos up to a sloping stance right next to another “puddle o’stingy” and belays me up (since I'm a big fat chicken). Looking up, we see fixed gear on every other section BUT the section we just climbed – maybe meant to discourage noobs. It almost worked.
E standing next to the pond-o-stingy. 10,000 bees not visible in photo.
The flood did a number on the Upper Level. We find bolt-holes at knee-level, and even ankle-level. We also find a gallon of PO round-UP. The locals have done a great job cleaning it up and adjusting the height of the (new) first bolts BTW.
We climbed several of the moderates on the left side, and found the rock to be better. Gnats keep us doing a “belayer’s jig”. There is little poison oak up but plenty of nettles...just to keep you on your toes. We enjoyed the Upper Tier quite a lot, which worked to assuage our butt-hurt over the first climb and the stupid approach.
Would have been nice to do some second pitches, but we were unwilling to release the end of the rope that was coated in rash-potential so it was access-denied. There's some loose rock and choss about, but the familiarity of creaking holds and few pebbles whizzing down works to sooth our rattled senses.
Damn this is a hard clip. I almost dropped my soda.
Mr E leading the fun dihedral
Nettle-y belay stance
Here thar' be muppets
This place could grow on you.
Something pretty that doesn't sting or itch.
So, in summation:
Frustration Creek is a great place to climb if you bring the following gear:
PO spray found on the Upper Tier.
12 draws including a set of long runners
3 spare ropes
Steel toed boots
A torch to burn your Mayr guide
12 draws including a set of long runners
3 spare ropes
Steel toed boots
a torch to burn your Mayr guide
LOL! Packing the car right now. What could be more fun?
@ Weege: We definitely want to do another Leap trip this year. Looking forward to seeing you and the family again.
@ Ghost..I'm not used to vegetation issues mid climb either. Southern California is definitely blessed with mostly plant-free rock. Insidious foliage growing mid route? Maybe a cactus if you're lucky but it's rare. I was having an Alabama flashback having to watch out for that crap growing on vertical surfaces 40 feet off the ground.
What a dreamy area. I do miss Cali for the P.O. The poison ivy that grows here in AZ just doesn't measure up.
I'm so sensitive to that stuff, that I can get it simply by being downwind of a patch. In fact, I'm getting itchy after reading your post.
Thanks a lot!
HA! Brilliant TR! Roundup? Me thinks something more like a good Napalm hit would be more effective.
I remember climbing there once back in the mid 90's, pre-flood and landslide era, and I do remember it being a bit of a "jungle" even then. But I do NOT remember any poison oak, and believe me, I'd know! That sh#t just seems to jump on me! That being said, I never did go back after that first taste of Frustration.
Thanks for the entertaining TR.
p.s. Baby wipes work wonders for breaking down the PO oils. But ya gotta have em with you to clean up right after exposure. Better add that to the gear list...
I'm involuntarily scratching just reading that report Skip! LOL
BTW, Hardman Knott says that Mean Green handcleaner is like a dirt cheap Poison oak/ivy scrubber. Tecnu Extreme sort of works too. I was out walking the dog Monday and 2 chipmunks ran right in front of us. I had one of those long leashes and there was enough slack for the pup to make it into the poison oak right by the trail......haven't started itching ...yet. Good luck!
Yup.. I thought about adding napalm to my list, but it had already been quoted.
Well, a little in defense of poor Frustration Creek.. the upper area still has taller walls in spite of the flood and decent rock quality. They've fleshed out some climbable grades for us mortals. I had never climbed here before because it previously was all 5.12 or harder.
We climbed most of the moderate first pitches in the 5.7-5.9+ range and enjoyed them. There are some second pitches in the 5.10s that we didn't get to because of the rope being compromised, so I'd like to do another trip to climb them. There's also a long bolted multi-pitch (7 pitches?) they've put up on the Lower Tier. The last 4 pitches are a traverse.
Edit @ Peter: When we got home everything ... and I mean everything went into the washer.
If you don't have Tecnu,
it's made from deodorized mineral spirits, water, propylene glycol, octylphenoxy-polythoxethanol, mixed fatty acid soap, and fragrance.
The cleanser was invented by former Mead Johnson executive and chemist Dr. Robert Smith during the early 1960s. Tecnu, for "Technically New," was intended to remove radioactive fallout dust from skin. Several years later, his wife discovered another use for the cleanser. After an exposure to poison oak, she washed with Tecnu and did not get urushiol-induced contact dermatitis.
In 1977 the company began to market Tecnu to foresters, firefighters, surveyors, and utility crews. Tecnu's effectiveness for postexposure treatment has been confirmed in a nonrandomized study. In this study, the authors concluded "Our study showed 70%, 61.8%, and 56.4% protection with Tecnu, Goop, and Dial, respectively, when compared to the positive control, or to the possible maximum response, with a cost per ounce (in a local drug and automotive store) of $1.25, $0.07, and $0.07, respectively, for a decrease in protection that is nonsignificant." A survey article is also available.
I'm sure that you have already decontaminated all your equipment. REminded me of an ugly rescue through a poison oak scree slope, requiring us to beg for technu at the extraction and garbage bags to isolate the equipment until decontaminated. Fabulous! I'm int.
Great TR. It is always fun to visit new climbing spots.
Have been to FC twice many moons ago, just prior to the catastrophic flood that hit the upper crag. A few OK routes, but one of those spots where the drive and limited fare didn't really warrant repeat visits.
Yeah- it's a shame the flood filled in the canyon with so much debris. Some of those climbs on the Lower Tier are just highball boulder problems at this point. Reducing.. er...not a lot of climbs into even less worth doing. A plus for this place is that it has a wide window of shade in the summer. From 1:00 on it was shady. We won't be rushing out there every weekend, but it's a nice summer option for at least half a day's climbing when it gets super hot.
great TR.... sounds like a candidate for a "black hole" rating a la Toula....
just looked at the Google Earth image... two cars at the pullout... oh my!
recall reading John McPhee who pointed out that the San Gabriels were the fastest growing mountain range, and the fastest eroding mountain range... it seems to balance out and helps rearrange the furniture in those canyons...
...remembering the winterly remake San Antonio Creek above my home in Claremont CA back in the day...
Poison Oak removal was the staple of Boy Scout "community service" requirements for rank advancement... spent many a summer day "eradicating" if from various nature trails (particularly remember it in San Dimas at some nature center that is probably long gone)..
Looks like you got to put it all together into a memorable outing!
Holy lordy. . . if I saw that much poison oak and didn't faint, I'd be running the other direction. A few thoughts:
1) To really kick PO's butt---farm & ranch supply stores sell "Crossbow."
2) Good for you to stick with it----brave.
3) Nettles too?!? Yer crazy.
Sounds like a real adventure. Fun to read. I keep packets of TECNU PRE -CONTACT moist towlettes in my pack and swab/wipe all my exposed skin when I know PO will be unavoidable. Works for me so far.
Regular Tecnu and alcohol wipes keep post contact to a minimum but minimum is relative. Get some Pre Contact Tecnu.
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