Trip ReportThe Minivan Mountaineers
I don't remember the last time my wife and I did a multi-pitch climb together. Over ten years ago, sometime before we traded in the Subaru for a minivan.
Carseats and cragging gear.
Note the mountain goat sticker. We were determined to have an adventure worthy of the The Greatest Outdoor Ad Ever:
So we choose the White Maiden's Walkway at Tahquitz. I had never done the route before but it seemed like a good choice for adventure.
We'd heard that route finding can be a challenge on the route, but a new copy Bob Gains' new guidebook, we had a all the beta we needed.
We dropped the kids off at Grandma and spent forever waiting for the traffic lights in Hemet. We made it to the crag around 10:30 and started the approach.
There's a point where the talus field seems to go on forever, but eventually we find ourselves at the base.
We found the start of the climb easily enough. After about thirty feet on the first pitch, there are number of possible lines to take. In the second half of the pitch I found myself making much of the upward progress on the twisted branches of a tree. We belayed on a small ledge that probably was not quite on route, but close enough. Another pitch up a corner and we were on a nice ledge.
There was a slow moving party above us - they were yelling back and forth quite a bit and seemed to make every belay command overly complicated: "Off Belay" - "Am I on belay" - "No I said Off Belay" and lots of that sort of thing. So we decided it was a good time for lunch. After the required cleansing with hand sanitizer we snack on some sandwiches.
Up a couple of pitches to the "improbable corner:"
Some more tree climbing and up another nice corner pitch, where we catch up to the party above us. From here the route starts to traverse right. The other party moves on, there's more yelling about a scary traverse but I can't see exactly where they are.
Another pitch, mostly traversing right to a ledge with a tree. This is where the guide shows three alternative exit routes: A 5.1, 5.3, and 5.7 variation. From what I can tell the 5.1 goes mostly straight right from where we are. I can't see the whole pitch from our ledge, but what I can see looks slabby and thinly protected. There's a traverse to a bulge, above which I cannot see the terrain. I check and re-check the guidebook but am not certain of the route.
Some clouds were forming and thunder was rumbling so I decide to go for it - thinking the 5.1 is the easiest and likely fastest way to the top. I start up the ramp and past a couple of bushes when it starts to rain, and then pour. The terrain is not terribly steep, but I was looking at about fifteen feet of soaking wet runout traverse, and I couldn't see beyond that. When the hail started, and it got really cold, I downclimbed back to the belay to wait out the storm.
Our route was now a small stream and looked pretty intimidating, even though it was supposedly 5.1. We put on our jackets watched the clouds move.
The minivan, with its heated seats, far below our cold wet ledge.
Ten minutes later the rain stopped and were were getting little windows of sun through the clouds. We waited for the route to dry, but it continued to look shiny and slick. I made another attempt up the ramp, but it just didn't seem right. Even if I could have managed it, I could not protect it well enough for the second. So we decided to try another path.
We moved the belay about twenty feet left on the ledge to the base of a wide crack. For some reason the rock was much drier over here. The crack was steep but easily bypassed on some slabs to the left. After about fifteen feet of unprotected slab, I moved right to the crack, found a place for gear and worked through a squirmy but easy offwidth. On the right there was a slab under an arching roof on the with a good crack along the base of the roof. After a slightly wet and delicate move onto the slab, I was on a low angle traverse with a nice crack for hands and pro. Thirty feet right and over a small lip took me to the trees on the summit.
Even after studying the guidebook and montainproject, I'm still not sure where I was on the last pitch. I think I was on the 5.3 finish, but perhaps it was the 5.1 finish and my initial line was completely off.
We had the summit to ourselves, for a few minutes until a soloist came along and asked if we got caught in the rain. He had started after the rain, so he must have done his entire climb in the time we were sorting out our last pitch. I don't know what route he did. I don't know who he was (one of you guys perhaps?) but he was definitely familiar with Tahquitz.
We hiked down the friction route. It was wet in a few spots but not enough to cause any difficulties. After the seemingly endless switchbacks on the lunch rock trail we made our way back to minivan.
Back to grandma's house to pick up the kids...
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