Trip Report
Three Days on the Suicide Stairs

by TGT
Sunday November 4, 2012 7:49pm
When Jim proposed starting up the ICA (Idylwild Climbers Alliance)a couple of years ago the decrepit state of the stairs were an immediate topic. fixing them though was a peak to far, a wall to big. So we started off with trail maintenance and establishing an improved trail on the north side. We kept returning to the stairs though, discussed methods, materials, budgets and bureaucracies. The stairs involve the intersection of three agencies, the county, the water company and the Forest Service. Finally a few months ago Andy Smith from the USFS cleared things up and Jim arranged for the Access Fund to loan us their crew for a week. We still had only a paltry budget and with a lack of funds for materials didn't really think we'd get far this year, but Jeff and Justin had another solution.

We'd find our own materials.

Credit: TGT

Credit: TGT

The area below the stairs is an ancient stream bed and almost all the rock was in round form and not suitable for stair building. In a couple of hours we'd collected all the suitable chunks and staged them. These were all remnants of the boulder across the street that the County had blasted smaller years ago, except for two boulders that were flat enough naturally for steps. the rest of the county's remnants were too big so the next step was to break rocks.

Credit: TGT

This first step is brutal!

A grove is worked into the rock with two 8 lb sledges in three passes.

Then holes are drilled about every six inches.

Credit: TGT

Feathers and wedges are inserted and driven home

Credit: TGT

Every block split clean. (the larger holes were from the original blasting holes.)


Then we hauled them to staging at the base of the hill

Credit: TGT

By the end of the first day we had a rather meager stockpile for the task at hand, but none the less impressive given the size of the crew and the tools available. Everyone was sore and dead tired.

Credit: TGT

Not many photos from day two. there were only three of us. Jeff made some calls and then spent some of the Access fund's budget on lumber and got started on the retaining wall up top. Jason and I got the bottom three steps built then split and staged some more pieces as high as we could get them.

I went home, pounded some vitamin I down with a couple of IPAs and collapsed.

Credit: TGT





Day three saw some more help arrive and we started with some tree climbing and rigging.

Credit: TGT

The best way to characterize this kind of work is "precision brute force"

Credit: TGT


Sometimes the biggest problem moving blocks this size is avoiding destroying what you've already accomplished


Credit: TGT


Jeff's retaining wall was making great progress by mid day.

Credit: TGT

Typical male behavior was demonstrated.


Credit: TGT

Rest periods consisted of collecting small rocks for chinking

Credit: TGT

Then right back to brute force.

Credit: TGT

the last big block of the day.

Credit: TGT

By the end of day three it was starting to look like something was happening.

Credit: TGT

The hero shot.

Credit: TGT

Jim was back there today with a crew and Jeff and Justin will be working Monday and possibly Tuesday as well if anyone can give them a hand.

I didn't get everyone's name so send me a PM and let me know which photos you are in. I'm sure Jim will have some more photos from today to add to the mix.

Thanks to everyone that came out, and the Access Fund!

I'm sure there will be more work to be done in the spring. unless the County comes through with a delivery, rock will need to be imported from somewhere to finish the job off.


  Trip Report Views: 2,991
TGT
About the Author
TGT is a social climber from So Cal.

Comments
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karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
  Nov 4, 2012 - 07:51pm PT
love
Zander

climber
  Nov 4, 2012 - 07:51pm PT
Looks like fun work.
Wish I was there.
Zander
briham89

Big Wall climber
san jose and south lake tahoe, ca
  Nov 4, 2012 - 07:52pm PT
Nice work, way to give back
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
  Nov 4, 2012 - 07:52pm PT
Solid service.

Kudo's bigtime.
Dave Kos

Social climber
Temecula
  Nov 4, 2012 - 07:53pm PT
Awesome!

Great job, I'm looking forward to seeing this great work first hand.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
  Nov 4, 2012 - 07:59pm PT
Terrific! It's projects like this, volunteer efforts everywhere, that give one hope that we just might be okay eventually and go down like dodo birds. Thanks ever so much, crew!
johnboy

Trad climber
Can't get here from there
  Nov 4, 2012 - 08:04pm PT
Good work all.

I tip my hat to all the volunteers.
ct

climber
CO
  Nov 4, 2012 - 09:19pm PT
Bump for an awesome project. The AF conservation team works hard, and is a huge asset for our community. Respect.
NA_Kid

Big Wall climber
The Bear State
  Nov 4, 2012 - 09:25pm PT
WOW! Great work. I love the feeling I get when walking on well built trails and you guys sure don't disappoint. Makes me want to go up to Suicide tomorrow. Thanks for your hard work.
apogee

climber
Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
  Nov 4, 2012 - 09:37pm PT
That's a project that has been in waiting for a loooong time. Kudos to all of you for taking the initiative, and your contribution to the community. Truly exceptional.
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
  Nov 5, 2012 - 06:33am PT
Great work, you guys! That was needed when I was going there in the 1970's.

Wonderful for the Access Fund trail crew (sponsored by Jeep) to lend it's expertise and effort. This is exactly what is needed on a big project like this: local activists to lead the effort and the help of the Access Fund, with its knowledge and 20 years of experience, to pull it off. The technique for moving big rocks is something the Access Fund trail guys have perfected and I am told it is very impressive to see.

Big thanks to all who helped to make it happen.

Everybody who uses that trail can give back by simply joining the Access Fund or making a donation.

http://www.accessfund.org/site/c.tmL5KhNWLrH/b.4861253/k.BDBB/Home.htm

Next, Tahquitz? That trail cries out for this sort of effort.

Rick
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Nov 5, 2012 - 06:32am PT
Mad Props to all involved!!!
Tad
johntp

Trad climber
socal
  Nov 5, 2012 - 06:36am PT
CHEERS!
RP3

Big Wall climber
Sonora
  Nov 5, 2012 - 06:50am PT
Heck yeah! Beautiful work. Thanks for all of the effort. Trail building is one of my favorite things I have ever done for work. Ir is so nice to stand back at the end of the day and say "I built that step, and thousands of people are going to enjoy it!"
Studly

Trad climber
WA
  Nov 5, 2012 - 06:52am PT
Nice one. You guys and the Access Fund rock. We have been doing the same thing up here in Washington at Beacon Rock working with the State Park, and the Access Fund has been super supportive.
dirt claud

Social climber
san diego,ca
  Nov 5, 2012 - 07:33am PT
Awesome work guys, thanks. I always see these huge rocks on trails used for stairs and wondered about how much work it must be to do that stuff.
SCseagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  Nov 5, 2012 - 07:43am PT
Holy moldy, what a grind...great work



Susan
The Warbler

climber
the edge of America
  Nov 5, 2012 - 07:48am PT
Since Rick brought it up, I'll suggest that the Tahquitz trail be completely rerouted and built new, with careful surveying and the getting the necessary approval done first.

The original trail is too steep, and evolved with no real planning involved. I haven't climbed there in years, but it's obviously way popular, and likely to get more so. The effort would pay off for, who knows, maybe thousands of years.

A good trail is part of a good climbing day. Thanks for doing a job that will last!
klk

Trad climber
cali
  Nov 5, 2012 - 08:02am PT
awesome
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Nov 5, 2012 - 08:29am PT
Good job, Wendel, but if you need those stairs how ya gonna get up anything at Suicide? ;-)
The Warbler

climber
the edge of America
  Nov 5, 2012 - 08:06am PT
Paul Ryan is going to guide him
gonzo chemist

climber
the east coast, for now.
  Nov 5, 2012 - 08:15am PT
Nice work!

I remember the storm that demolished those stairs.
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
  Nov 5, 2012 - 08:23am PT
Studly mentions that the Access Fund Conservation team and it's Jeep have been in Washington too. These guys have been all over the country working on similar projects. Check out the geoblog.

http://www.accessfund.org/site/c.tmL5KhNWLrH/b.8088493/k.4016/Where_is_the_Conservation_Team.htm
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Nov 5, 2012 - 10:49am PT
Wow, nice work! It's pretty satisfying to be on one of these projects, and I definitely appreciate the work when I'm on the stairs. Thanks!
Tfish

Trad climber
La Crescenta, CA
  Nov 5, 2012 - 11:33am PT
Rad! Good work guys.
toadgas

Social climber
los angeles
  Nov 5, 2012 - 11:38am PT
amazing effort and points for aesthetic rockwork!
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Nov 5, 2012 - 11:55am PT
Great work, you guys! That was needed when I was going there in the 1970's.

+1. Outstanding work and heartening report. Well done!

John
jstan

climber
  Nov 5, 2012 - 02:37pm PT
Looks like you had a griphoist. They are radical. Hard to believe there is anything better.
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
  Nov 5, 2012 - 02:58pm PT
Kevin and the ICA folks-

I think the Tahquitz trail is doable with the right fundraising and volunteer effort. Sounds like ICA has made a good Forest Service contact who could get the red tape cut. And Kevin is right about rerouting it, it needs to be less steep and switchback up at a gentler angle.

Tahquitz has played a big role in the history of climbing in the US and it needs a better trail. I believe there is a lot of Southern California mountain related businesses who would be happy to support the effort, as well as numerous individuals.

I would shoot for the fall of next year and get plenty of momentum and volunteers between now and then. The Access Fund Conservation team will probably be around next year, if Jeep continues its sponsorship into next year.

I would be happy to help the effort and would be happy to contact the AF about it.



Riley Wyna

Trad climber
A crack near you
  Nov 5, 2012 - 03:01pm PT
i would have been very proud to take part in this..
fascinating
mountainlion

Trad climber
California
  Nov 5, 2012 - 03:25pm PT
TGT I gotta say you and your friends kicked some ass!!! I'm sending as many good vibes as I can for you to get the gear stolen from your crew back. Thanks for doing this work.
Dirka

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Nov 5, 2012 - 03:29pm PT
BUMP! Thank you for your service!
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Author's Reply  Nov 5, 2012 - 06:09pm PT
At the end of Saturdays efforts we started eying this mini dome across the street and the exfoliation flake that tops it as a potential answer to the raw material shortage. After all, it was the mother of most of the blocks we'd quarried already.

Credit: TGT

Sunday they got busy dismembering it.

Credit: TGT

Credit: TGT


Credit: TGT

More photos from Saturday

http://grahamcracker.smugmug.com/Category/Trail-Day-at-Suicide-Rock-Nov/26332758_V5TCKH#%21i=2194373631%26k=GLsmrx9



Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Nov 5, 2012 - 07:35pm PT
Thanks for your service!!!
Splater

climber
Grey Matter
  Nov 5, 2012 - 07:42pm PT
Papa's Got a Brand New Staircase.

I can't wait to take one small/giant step.
The Warbler

climber
the edge of America
  Nov 5, 2012 - 07:55pm PT
Rick,

I have built a number of trails in rough, steep terrain around San Diego, not just at climbing areas, but on private properties, and I feel I've learned a lot from the experience. A lot of time needs to go into choosing the exact line first, with all kinds of considerations in mind. A full day could easily be spent on the slopes below with a few experienced people sharing ideas to survey the line out.

The first thing I would consider with the Tahquitz trail is a starting point on the next switchback of the road higher, closer to the Devil's Slide Trail start, I believe it's about 60 ft higher to begin with. Then eliminate the elevation loss of probably 60 ft at the old trail start. Right there, you've already cut 120 vertical feet off the approach.

This general start would traverse up and to the west more underneath the popular North Face routes.

I would be happy to participate if you organize anything...
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Author's Reply  Nov 5, 2012 - 08:13pm PT
To that point I spent about three years and numerous meanderings before finalizing the new north side trail and still find myself second guessing where it ended up.

While a replacement for the Lunch rock trail may be a worthy multi-year future exercise, the next immediate need is to mitigate erosion and rockfall on the upper portion of the north side descent trail.

That's also going to require some ingenious rock work to build something that will withstand an August gully washer.
ng

Trad climber
southwest
  Nov 5, 2012 - 09:50pm PT
Many thanks. Looked like a true labor of love.
Lucke

Trad climber
Claremont, CA
  Nov 5, 2012 - 10:12pm PT
Wendell worked above and beyond the call of duty. The Conservation teams efforts were multiplied by the extra hands and backs of the volunteers.We would have put out a bigger call for volunteers but only about 3 or 4 could work with the team at a time. Two of us on Sunday helped Jason cut nine steps from the slab across the road and then the four of us dragged them to the top of the stairs I'm proud we finally got this done!
dirt claud

Social climber
san diego,ca
  Nov 6, 2012 - 07:34am PT
Just saw this on MP.

http://www.mountainproject.com/v/access-fund-gear-missing-in-idyllwild/107876137

Was this your guys' stuff TGT?
Lucke

Trad climber
Claremont, CA
  Nov 6, 2012 - 09:32pm PT
The Access Fund team spent extra money to do the project right by buying timper and putting in a retaining wall. If you want to show your appreciation you can write a small check, say $10, to the Access Fund, send it to me (Jim Lucke 457 Blaisdell Dr, CLaremont, CA 91711) and I'll forward them to the Access Fund with a cover letter explaining your support.
Lucke

Trad climber
Claremont, CA
  Nov 7, 2012 - 10:29pm PT
Bump.
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Nov 8, 2012 - 12:01am PT
What a bunch of pussies, using tackle to move those small rocks.
phylp

Trad climber
Millbrae, CA
  Nov 10, 2012 - 05:47pm PT
Hey Lucke! This is one of the projects you were talking about at Facelift - looks like a lot of great work was done. Kudos to everyone involved.
Phyl
bluering

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Nov 10, 2012 - 08:41pm PT
Hey, Wendell, I'm with ya in spirit, bro. I got my own battles up here in Nor Cal, but keep rockin'.

Say Hi to Todd for me too, i prolly won't it down this year.

Remember the Woody. He was a right winger who was wise and magnificent. I will never forget him, and like Bachar, I never met the guy.

May God bless their souls...I pray.
crazy horse

Trad climber
fresno, ca
  Nov 15, 2012 - 09:31am PT
way to go folks!!! impressive!!
StahlBro

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
  Nov 15, 2012 - 09:44am PT
Love the rock-based stairs! Great work everyone!
Fletcher

Gym climber
A very quiet place
  Nov 17, 2012 - 03:05pm PT
I'd heard from Jim a lot about this as it was being planned and happening. Impressive! That is work of another dimension. Not your average morning service project! More in the league of Scandinavian Protestant Work Ethic grandparent's homes! Yes, I had one of those! And I know you guys did a ton of work, if the photos are obvious.

Thanks! Much gratitude!

Eric
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Author's Reply  Jan 8, 2013 - 06:28am PT
To the folks at Nomad's for getting my Hole Hawg back to me.

THANKS!
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Jan 8, 2013 - 06:40am PT
Hey, Gang!!! Let's build a Cathedral!!!

Awesome, simply communism in its basest form.

Gold stars and Silver Bullets all around.

And THANK YOU!!!
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