Trip Report
Very Big, Very Small, Very Scary, and Very FAIL.
Thursday September 20, 2012 2:04pm
This is the worst trip report you'll read all year. But it's free, and it's climbing content.

El Capitan is pretty big. I jugged up the right side. I walked around on top. Found the route topout (thanks for the pics Clint, perfect). I did not, however, find my ropes. So borrowing a stashed rope, rapped in and found a party starting the next to last pitch on the Salathe. Plans of working pitches o a minitrax in disarray, and with temps 85F and rising, I jug back out, walk back to the E ledges and rap down. The Very Big. FAIL.

At least I didn't get Gugglielmucci'd.

The Camp4 and Cathedral Boulders are pretty small (by comparison). So after my ElCap misadventure, I went to visit these old favorites. And floated them easier than I ever have. Things I used to struggle to do on a good day, went down in teribble conditions, first go. It was 92 degrees. Bachar Cracker for a warmup, Ament Arete, Kor Face, Battle of the Bulge, Cocaine Corner, The King, The Octagon. Now sufficiently warmed up, on to the main event. Thriller. Which soundly kicks my ass. What am I thinking, hard bouldering at 87 degrees. The very small, yet very beautiful. FAIL.

At least I ran into an old friend and climbing partner who is now on YOSAR in the boulders. Hadn't seen him in about 10 years or more. Really is the Center of the Universe.

A week later...

The Flakes at Tahquitz is supposed to be one of the best routes there. I aimed to find out, despite not having lead a pitch since about March (a theme of my TRs is off the couch style adventures). So I remember how to tie in and set off leading the first pitch...we don't need no stinking warmups.

Halfway up the pitch, the biggest pieces of gear I've got in are a little brass offset and a #3 peanut. The feature is a seam in a right facing thick flake of sorts, but it's mostly face climbing on edges. I look at that peanut, and punch it a couple body lengths to the next pumpy stance. Fish in a bad nut, look at the fall. My only thought is "I'm gonna get f*#ked up on that ramp and break legs at a minimum if I don't get a piece in here". Can't see the placement. Yank on the nut, it pops out. Sh#t, Place another, lean over to look at it...marginal but probably the best I'm going to get. Clip it. Lean over a little further to look at the placement...and suddenly I'm flying. Leaned too far as it turns out. 10' later I'm dangling. It held. I return to the highpoint and remember that I've got a blue/black alien hybrid on my harness (I rarely carry them free climbing), I place it 4" higher than the stopper. It's bomber.

Busting a groin-wrecking stem, I start across the overlap and 8' from the end of the pitch finally get my first confidence inspiring gear, a 00 TCU, under the roof. The roof proves trivial - a long pull off a big edge and now we get a respite, a moderate pitch along another flake. It's pretty cool, and not difficult but this is real deal old-school 5.8, small holds along the flake edge and spaced gear, in a great position. Now, the crux.

I've gotten some vague beta...the crux is a reach problem, super easy for tall people, desperate boulder problem if you're under 6'. "Look for a heel hook" a friend says. So I set off, finding the initial section leading to the crux bulge quite a bit more difficult than I expected. Tips and fingers in a little corner system up this pointy pedestal. And then...WTF? There is a bolt up there, replacing what was originally a fixed pin, that will protect the crux moves. But standing up on this pillar is sketchy. The bulge is pushing you off backwards, and the last gear is a tiny stopper placement in the side of the pedestal a little ways below your feet. A fall would be rattler down the pedestal don't fall there. Which brings to mind a Largo/Powell exchange, paraphrased:

"If you fell from there..."
"You don't fall there"
"But what if you did?"
"You don't."
"Yeah, but if you did.."
"Hoh man! You don't @%$&ing fall there!"

Some yoga-worthy contortions have me in an almost hand-foot match position, leaning backwards, somehow managing to clip this bolt at the limit of my reach.

Then the puzzling starts. Heel hook? Really? Where? There is a great, full hand sidepull at chest level, some really bad sloping crimps and pinches, and basically nothing for feet. I throw a heel hook way out left on a sloping shelf, grab a tiny sidepull in the pinscar and try to rock up. I'm so spread out I can't even raise my body 4". Then try to use a sloping pinch and a minute crystal for a foot and just crank straight on...and I'm off. All the sloping crimp sequences get tried. I settle on a method that will be hard, but it will go. 5.11+ my ass, the sequence I've committed to is around V7. On the fourth attempt, I finally hang the jug at the end and continue to the belay. My partner gets to the move, grabs a few of the holds I used, declares them all jingus, does a heel hook to hand match on the big left sidepull, rocks up and pops to the jug. "V3 or V4" he declares. Well, at least one of us is smart enough to figure out the best method.

He takes off leading the Price of Fear finish. Rated 10c with a slab crux, and with a name like that, I'm kind of glad he's leading it. My nerves are a little ragged at this point. He cruises, and as I follow what is a spectacular pitch - a very nice 1" crack to a few bolts of slab perched on the arching arete at the margin of the west face bulge - I can't help but think this pitch is badly misnamed. For an Idyllwild slab pitch, this is pretty soft and the bolts are reasonably close together and right where you need them. I guess you can also do this pitch as a finish to SuperPooper, so don't miss it if you're up there for that route. It's really a nice finish.

A week later...

Valhalla onsight attempt. We get up at 5:30am and are out of Riverside at 6am to try to beat the heat. Drop the kids off at the Humber Park pool, cross the street, up the trail, and start climbing. Damn it's hot. Hmm, that first bolt seems a little high, hope I don't crater on this ledge. Hey bro, stand left of that tree, maybe if I blow it I can push off and miss the ledge and the rope will wrap the tree. It's 75F and rising, quickly. Perfect temps for thin slab....WTF am I thinking? Cursing the SOB who drill the first bolt, and wondering how in the hell Jacobs manages to clip this thing, I streeeeettttccchhhhh and make the first clip. I get to the crux and can't decide left or right. Three falls later, I'm at the belay atop p1.

Partner can't manage the p1 crux, but pulls through on a draw and somehow manages to reach back and unclip it. By now, it's about 80 degrees, and fully in the sun. WTF am I thinking. "Well, we're up here, I'm going to at least go see what the p2 crux (crux of the route)is all about". So I traverse out, clip the crux bolt and try to decipher the sequence. There isn't a speck of chalk on the entire route...because you know, most people aren't dumb enough to climb Suicide slab in summer conditions. I whip. Try a different sequence. Whip again, but that'll work. Get a move higher than the last attempt, and whip again. The falls are getting progressively worse with a pendulum that is spinning me around in pirouettes as I try to spot and avoid the sloping, ankle breaker ramp waiting below. Fourth time's the charm and I'm through the crux, standing on a nice stance. Grab the next black lichen covered sloper, stand up, grab the next one...the holds are 900 degrees. This is not fun. I look down. I look up. F*#k this. Despite the hard climbing being below me, even the easy moves feel desperate in this heat and sun. I downclimb a couple moves and jump off. Stonemaster entrance exam? FAIL.

But we go to the NE buttress and N Face and have an enjoyable day climbing in the know, where we should have been in the first place. Etude, Johnny Quest, Peer Pressure, etc. And BTW, Etude is sporting only one fixed pin these days, the very bottom one, so take some small tcus (like green c3) and be ready to use them.

I'll be back, on both of them...but I think I'll make my partner lead the start of the Flakes, my excitement quota is full up.

Don't miss any of these routes, they really are fantastic. The Vampire is still the best route on Tahquitz, but the Flakes is engaging, with great position. Take a good selection of micronuts/brass/peanuts/rps etc for p1, you don't get any cams until well over halfway up the pitch. A blue/black hybrid alien is very useful. The gear is sufficient, if technical. Price of Fear is great, safe, and easily doable for the 10- leader. Valhalla is all there, fun techy sequential climbing, just wait for a cool day.

Have fun out there.

  Trip Report Views: 3,311
About the Author
Elcapinyoazz is a social climber from Joshua Tree.

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Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Sep 20, 2012 - 02:20pm PT
Well, a collection of non-ascents is a lot better way to spend your time than sitting on the couch watching re-runs!

Trad climber
los angeles
  Sep 20, 2012 - 02:21pm PT
Nice TR Elcap! Lots of cool routes mentioned that I've always wanted to get on. My buddy sprayed me down after he did the Flakes and his sentiments were much like yours, along with the Price of Fear being totally rad. Bummer about the heat on Valhalla but good on you for giving it some serious effort in crappy conditions. Man Etude is so cool huh? I've only TR'ed it but it has always stuck out in my mind as being really fun. I remember I slipped off once on my "TRonsight" attempt, only to have my gf run up and totally kill it first try. That was the beginning of the end and now I just assume she's going to do that to me!

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Sep 20, 2012 - 02:52pm PT
Well, a collection of non-ascents is a lot better way to spend your time than sitting on the couch watching re-runs!

Hear, hear! I'd rather read a TR of failures than a non-TR of speculation (yes, I know I'm more guilty than most).

Thanks for the post, El Cap.


Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Sep 20, 2012 - 03:33pm PT
Oh yeah, gettin' after it!

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Sep 20, 2012 - 03:33pm PT
nice, thx for posting that.

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Author's Reply  Sep 20, 2012 - 03:35pm PT
Peer Pressure? I was GRIPPED dude. At least Valhalla had holds. Granted it was way hot for friction climbing, but looks so innocent, so low angle, it's only 10a - how bad can it be? I got it done, but my partner was wondering what the hell was going on up there since it took me so long to commit to the crux.

That thing is all about confidence in your rubber. Feels very much like Josh style bump-surfing but on fine grained rock.

Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
  Sep 20, 2012 - 03:57pm PT

what's this episode?

Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
  Sep 20, 2012 - 04:05pm PT

right here, right now
  Sep 20, 2012 - 04:17pm PT
And Very Fun read too!
Sometimes it IS all about the journey and not the destination, even in storytelling.

Trad climber
Mountain View
  Sep 20, 2012 - 04:40pm PT
Agreed on the thin gear on P1 of the flakes. I fell on that 00 TCU under the roof. Good thing it's bomber. I did get in a 000 C3 (YIKES) lower down and a bunch of nuts. It's pretty funny how different the crux on the higher pitch can be if you have a little height.

Stairway to Heaven, just to the right, is pretty rad with some hard pulling and sweet movement.

Bummer about the ropes on El Cap. Did you see a blue rope stashed up there? I wonder if your ropes got relocated. Where they in a bag? What Color? There used to be a few watertight bags scattered around with ropes... SealLine brand?

Next time after you get some sending temps on Vahalla you should go over and try Disco Jesus. Crazy thin edging with some rad moves.


Social climber
Portland, Oregon
  Sep 20, 2012 - 04:42pm PT
Nice. Yeah Suicide slabs in the sun, not so ideal. Many years ago I made the mistake of going up on Rebolting Development on a hot day. Fell on the first pitch at the rooflet and ripped three flappers. Finished the route but left a bit of blood here and there. Never had the gumption to try The Flakes.

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Author's Reply  Sep 20, 2012 - 05:47pm PT
Hey Luke,

My ropes are still up there. There were just hidden really well. Got a bead on them now.

Funny thing was, I probably found EVERY other gear stash up there except mine while looking for them. Also found and packed out a bunch of trash and stashed some more big trash in a location I could easily find again to haul out later....the big stuff was two sets of snowshoes and a old frame-style backpack frame. Snowshoes were/are mint other than being dirty and looking like they'd been buried in snowpack for a season or two. WTF they were doing up there is a mystery. I thought SAR cache at first, but the location and scattering of them (took a while to find the fourth one) said no chance, they were buried deep in some random manzanita and weren't stacked or together even...spread over about a 10 yard radius.

If anybody is up there and looking for a facelift type project and wants to haul them out, they're now sitting at the base of the biggest tree on the entire'll know it when you see it, about halfway between the top of the Nose and top of Salathe, 50 yards or so back from the edge. I'll be up there in a couple weeks, so they're coming down sooner or later.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Sep 20, 2012 - 06:50pm PT


Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
  Sep 20, 2012 - 06:53pm PT
Great stuff!

And this totally cracked me up:

At least I didn't get Gugglielmucci'd.
Johnny K.

  Sep 20, 2012 - 07:13pm PT
Great reading!Thanks for writing it up.

For what its worth,more beta on Etude.The remaining pin is bomber.... bomber enough to possibly leverage and break the biner attached to the pin,especially if the biner is tapered. I highly recommend using an oval or even better, tying the pin off short with a sling.Green and red c3's are primo in the pin section and back up everything nice.Awesome route,as well as every route you mentioned in this tr.


Jim Henson's Basement
  Sep 20, 2012 - 07:26pm PT
Bump for sketch!

Trad climber
Somewhere South Of Heaven
  Sep 20, 2012 - 08:18pm PT
Great write up. I love reading about Tahq/Suicide. Spent a couple summers in the early/mid seventies climbing there. And ya definitely need to be slective in regards to where and when you climb face routes. Recall leading etude with just a rack of nuts & the edging & small roof on the 1st pitch RD that someone mentioned. Stonemasters were freeing something new about every other day. Recall watching from Suicide while Largo & Acomazzo freed Le Toit Roof over on Tahquitz one afternoon. And Vahalla only permits passage to dirtbags wearing eb's on certain days. You were there, passed through its gate, but something was lacking. Approach it with humble reverance, awe and respect. Then burn a phat one in remembrance of all the greats whose path through the gates onto sacred ground you will be repeating. Humility is a virtue, you have been crowned and passage will be granted (just don't ferget the eb's next time).

Thanks for sharing!

Trad climber
Upland, CA
  Sep 20, 2012 - 07:55pm PT
Climbing content! What a novelty! Thanks...

Trad climber
going big air to fakie
  Sep 20, 2012 - 07:57pm PT
Very cool-love the Tahquitz... been a while... the cliche of learning the most through failure has been very true in my life, at least this is FUN failure (well, except jugging all the way up el cap and not finding the stash-that would've been a bit heartbreaking)... still, not even failure, great adventure either way you look at it.

Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
  Sep 20, 2012 - 08:11pm PT
for a second there i thought
i'd have to think.

though now my good buddy mucci's
name has been cleared,
im going dumb again.

your efforts are bad asse by the way,
mr el cap in your a*#e.

Gym climber
Small Town with a Big Back Yard
  Sep 20, 2012 - 09:19pm PT
Nice, Will - good to see you getting after the goods! Fail is a state of mind not a state of being, my friend. Love that you used Skip's new climbing term!

Hope to see you this fall/winter at The Tree.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Sep 21, 2012 - 11:03pm PT
Sounds like every one of my climbing days,
Thanks for sharing....:)

Trad climber
Mountain View
  Dec 5, 2012 - 01:41pm PT
Bump for climbing in the valley. Hoping for a dry weekend!
Dick Erb

June Lake, CA
  Dec 5, 2012 - 02:17pm PT
Real climbing. Real writing. Love it!!

Trad climber
  Dec 5, 2012 - 03:25pm PT
most people aren't dumb enough to climb Suicide slab in summer conditions.

heh. sadly, i've only done valhalla in high summer. prolly why i never cared for most suicide slab climbs.

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Dec 5, 2012 - 03:32pm PT
Supercool Failfest. Tis better to fail and bail than to stay on the couch. Any day. Thanks for the story!

Social climber
  Dec 5, 2012 - 06:15pm PT
hey there say, elcapinyoazz, wow, thanks for sharing... oh my, i had not seen this...

could not see the pics, but you did a neat job :)
title works, too, ;)

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