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Tahquitz Rock Climbing Notes

Important Note!

South Face

OPEN BOOK 5.9

Open Book

The OPEN BOOK is a major feature of Tahquitz Rock and can be easily distinguished from Highway 74, coming up the hill from Hemet. Since the climb faces southwest and is in a deep book, it's a good choice for a chilly day.

The initial overhang can be a bit intimidating. It involves some bouldering type moves on fairly large holds that lead up and left into the main crack. The climbing in the dihedral is excellent, and becomes progressively more difficult as you approach the "Ear," a large and obvious flake. The crux at the Ear can be climbed several ways, some quite a bit more strenuous than others. Above the Ear easier climbing leads to a belay in a irregular open chimney that precedes the second pitch.

The route changes character on the second pitch. The angle eases slightly, but the walls of the dihedral become smoother and more massive. In the heat of a summer's day the white granite forms a very effective solar oven, with the leader at its focus.

This pitch was my first "real" lead at Tahquitz. After struggling with the first pitch, I had my doubts when Conrad Willet suggested "it's not too bad, just kind of strenuous." He also commented, " save the three inch bong for the top of the pitch!"

Bongs-a-clanging, I set off to do the pitch. My crack climbing technique was limited to say the least. I could not hand jam effectively, and in several places resorted to trying to pry the crack open with my hands. From time to time I would manage to get in a piece of pro, relax for a moment and marvel at the gleaming white granite and the unusual beauty of the new environment. Climbing this pitch was the first time I experienced being "mineralized;" a heightened state where the senses and mind became so engrossed in climbing that there is a total focus on a single move, a sequence, a pitch, or (rarely) an entire climb.

Near the top of the second pitch the angle steepens and the climbing becomes more difficult. When I climb this section today I just set a good hand jam and with one hand, whip out a friend, quickly place it, and clip in. But I will always remember being 15 feet out, wasted, on my first lead, not being able to hand jam, having to hammer in large bong, and then finish the moves to the belay. Somehow, I managed not to fall.

The pitch ends at the "cave with no bottom," where Conrad had admonished me to be very careful not to let the rope fall into the bottomless crack, lest it get caught and we find ourselves spending the evening with hungry bats.

The exit from the cave is straightforward if all features are carefully scrutinized. The balance of the climb ascends a wide corridor that eventually narrows and becomes a deep chimney/slot, blocked by a chockstone. You won't reach the summit on the 3rd pitch with a 165' rope!

I enjoy this climb and have repeated it many times.

ZIGZAG 5.10b

This is a very interesting climb. The first pitch starts at the same place as the OPEN BOOK. Traditionally, the overhang is climbed as in the OPEN BOOK and then upon reaching the corner you diagonal up and right to an old bolt. This bolt should probably be replaced, especially considering the next pro is 15-20' above. It is also possible to climb directly over the overhang to the bolt, but this is more difficult and not as well protected.

The left facing flake/lieback crack is fun. The face of the flake is well populated with solution pockets, and if you like to face climb much of the liebacking can be avoided. (Although pro will probably be harder to place.) At the top of this flake/crack is a nice belay.

Two options are available here. (Also, the MECHANICS route leads up and right on large solution pockets.) Directly above the belay is a left leaning hand crack. In '92 a fixed pin was in place in this crack, but pro should not be issue whether the pin is there or not. The alternative is an interesting overhanging horn and thin crack just to the left of the hand crack. These two options converge a short distance above.

The thin crack above the overhanging horn is the most interesting and challenging, but is difficult to protect. The placement of wired nuts becomes progressively more difficult, with the thin crack eventually deteriorating to a seam. The options for pro at this point are scanty: hard to place small wires and/or a (tied off?) small angle. The difficulty of the climbing here depends on how closely the seam is followed, but is at least 5.10.

Either route leads to the base of another, very aesthetic, thin crack. Pro is easier to place in this crack, but it also thins and becomes more difficult to climb and to protect. Near the top a 5.10 move on small holds right of the crack can be used to gain access to larger holds and the belay. It appeared that if the crack was followed (closely) to its end the climbing would have been considerably more difficult.

Above, relatively easy climbing leads to the summit.

MECHANICS 5.8 R

This climb now has an "R" rating because a large ring eye bolt placed on the fifth or sixth ascent and used by climbers for more than 50 years has broken off. Now we can all have the experience of doing the second pitch in the style in which it was originally done in 1937. Well, except for our anatomically fitted sticky shoes, chalk, energy absorbing ropes, comfortable harnesses, cams, wires, and stuff.

My notes from February 1972 describe the first pitch traverse as "quite delicate."

CHAUVINIST 5.8

Originally rated 5.7, this is another demanding Mark Powell face climb.

SLING SWING TRAVERSE 5.9

THE OFFSHOOT 5.9

An interesting diversion for that time on the South Face when you want something unusual do, the SLING SWING TRAVERSE (5.9) crosses the South Face from the vicinity of the end of the first pitch of the LEFT SKI TRACK to a belay in the area above the UNCHASTE.

We climbed it from right to left, then back left to right and then climbed the OFFSHOOT.

The traverse is more difficult when doing it from left to right because the climber feels compelled to clip the bolt while standing in the middle of the crux. It might actually be easier to ignore the bolt, complete the traverse, and then clip the bolt, but I didn't do it that way.

The OFFSHOOT (5.9) starts from a large flake/ledge a few feet to the right of the SLING SWING TRAVERSE bolt. It is incorrectly diagrammed in topos I have seen.

The route diagonals up and left to an obvious crack. When I did it, two VERY corroded bolts protected the moves.

LEFT SKI TRACK 5.6

Great fun. You would think that such a distinct line would have an obvious beginning and end, but as novice climbers we had some doubts about the "correct" way to start this route and were certainly confused by the numerous variations at its end.

As for the start, there was little debate; we tried several alternatives and could only do it one way.

The climbing on the first pitch is remarkable. Several editions of the guidebook have described it as "3rd class climbing on a vertical face." Huge, water sculpted solution pockets provide a myriad of holds in virtually every shape and configuration. (But don't be complacent, there have been several very long falls on this route.)

RIGHT SKI TRACK 5.9

Ski Tracks

Is this climb still rated 5.8? It's 5.8+ or 5.9 in my mind. I've done this climb at least three times, and if there is a 5.8 solution I still haven't done it.

This is a good route that will test several of your climbing skills. You will stem. You will hand jam. You will finger jam. You will climb thin face. You will climb an offwidth crack. Somewhere in there you can probably do an undercling and a lieback.

Getting from the end of the ski track to the squeeze chimney is an interesting problem. And once you figure that out, your reward is to get in a little offwidth climbing work. I've really struggled on this in the past, but in recent years I've learned to "savor" the difficulties of off-widths, rather than curse their bleeping existence, so maybe I'll try it again.

CHINGADERA 5.11a

A classic climb with an excellent line and a technically difficult crux.

I have to be honest, I had a lot of trouble with the crux of this route. No excuses. I was in good shape physically and mentally. The type of climbing was my strong suite. There was not a problem with pro. I just couldn't figure it out.

Part of the problem is that there are (at least) three distinct, feasible appearing sequences for doing the crux. As I would start to commit to a particular sequence and then back off I would mutter something about Bob Kamps doing it in 1967 in Pivetta Cortina hiking boots.

Bob is a remarkable and very humble climber. Just last week several of us were climbing the "Prow" on Beethoven's Wall at Stoney Point. Bob remarked that he "felt like a novice" as he flashed the 5.11a crux.

Cortina's were a popular choice for a climbing shoe. They were lightweight, with a short shank and a very narrow "welt," so with a tight fit it was possible to edge relatively small features. The refined lug sole and short heel were not as annoying as you might think. A little epoxy on the toe and heel and you were ready to go!

INNOMINATE 5.9

When I first started climbing this route had a reputation for being strenuous and awkward. Being impressionable, I avoided it for many years. But one year I finally decided to give it a go. It was a little awkward, and a bit strenuous, but hey! that's what makes a climb. It's a good route, with interesting climbing.

Perhaps 15 years ago a climbing friend of mine, who is an otherwise sound and stable individual, decided that the INNOMINATE would be an enjoyable route to free solo. He was mistaken. He did not fall, but thought he did.

PAS DE DEUX 5.10b

Pas De Deux

PAS DE DEUX is one of those climbs that is hard to figure out from the ground. Sometimes you look at and it doesn't look too bad, other times, like when you're trying to do the move to get on the easy looking ledge at the beginning of the route, it can be pretty intimidating.

The line on PAS DE DEUX is excellent. A steep, rounded corner leads to a small roof and relatively large water sculpted holds that gradually diminish into classic small hold face climbing.

Early on, I had done the "variation" of PAS DE DEUX that traverses from DALEY'S DIRECT to the last bolt of the route, but this just lets you gawk down at the face you really wanted to climb.

The topo shows a bolt that you can clip (maybe with a move) from the first ledge. That bolt belongs in the X-Files because sometimes its there and sometimes its not. Every time we descended along the South Face, we would try to see that bolt. No bolt. I know my vision is not the best but even my eagle-eyed climbing partners couldn't see it.

Not being able to see the bolt from the ground, we decided that we should try to "not see it" from the climb itself. This we did. On two occasions we backed off the climb.

Then, one day, the bolt appeared. At least I talked myself into believing I saw it. This had always been one of those "if you can see it you can lead it!" situations, so I got to lead the pitch.

The moves onto the ledge were dicey. I was very happy to place a couple of small Metolius cams in the thin crack behind (or somehow associated with) the ledge. These, of course, ended up at my feet as I ever so carefully stood up. Then, there it was, shining in all of its glory, THE bolt. But I don't think I could clip it from the ledge. I'm pretty sure I had to do a move or two and then clip THE bolt. Finally.

From there the climbing was more straightforward. Nice moves to the small roof and then climbing over it. Solution pocket type holds at the overhang, with excellent climbing.

The Guidebook mentions that a hanger is missing from one of the bolts above the overhang. I don't recall any stark terror above the roof, just typical Tahquitz/Suicide face climbing. Either the hanger was not missing at the time, or it didn't matter.

DALEY'S DIRECT 5.6 R

Well, there we were, novice climbers starting out on the "easy" climbs on the South Face. I remember wandering up and down the sloping ramp on the second pitch, trying to commit to the move at its end. This was the first, but certainly not the last time I would be in such a situation. I've learned not to "just go for it" when facing an iffy move that's runout. Somehow you just know when it's right and when it's not.

Current topos show a 5.6 move at a bolt, some face climbing, and then a sloping ramp with a 5.5 move at the end.

ORANGE PEEL 5.5

BABY'S BUTT 5.6 R

CLIMB WITH NO BEGINNING 5.5

DIDDLY 5.10a

The first ascent of DIDDLY in January 1967 by Mark Powell and Bob Kamps must have been a "warm up" for the ascent of CHINGADERA in February of the same year.

DIDDLY is a short climb that you can grab on your way down from something else. If there was ever a route that benefits from sticky rubber, this is it. Don't be misled, there are still a couple of pretty good moves in there, even with the latest and greatest stuff on your feet.

LIZARD'S LEAP 5.9

Along with FITSCHEN'S FOLLY and the OPEN BOOK, this was one of my first climbs at Tahquitz. At the time I didn't have a clue regarding the importance of good footwork in climbing. I figured if I could get my hands on a hold or two, then I could climb anything. Not so! Several skids, and several millimeters of toe rubber later I managed to do the move, but not without realizing that maybe there was a little bit more to this climbing stuff than I originally thought!


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