Climbing, Idyllwild, California
August 10, 2007
Author and Climber: Larry
I had a quick work
trip to Los Angeles and Friday was my day off so why not try a new
climbing area. No partner. Call a guide service. Vertical Adventures
is run by Bob Gaines. The new Falcon guide to Tahquitz and Suicide
Rocks was written by Randy Vogel and Bob Gaines. I got a guide named
Tony Grice who was great. He says he has climbed every climb at
Tahquitz 10b and under more than 30 times each. Tahquitz was the
birth place of modern US climbing well before Yosemite so it is a
must visit. Tahquitz has nice granite and like Yosemite granite but
no glacier polish. It is much better quality than Cochise Stronghold
granite. Tahquitz is big. The climbs range from 3 to 8 pitches.
There are more than 200 of the main routes. The early history of
Tahquitz is a must read for any climber. Idyllwild is a cool
mountain town at 7000 feet with lots of hotels, camping and food. I
came into town on a quiet Thursday night. Idyllwild is close to Palm
Springs and Joshua Tree. It looks close to LA on the map but LA now
goes all the way to Palm Springs. I left my work meeting in Torrance
at 3:30pm. I thought I might miss rush hour by just a little. Wrong.
It is like 100 miles all on freeways so when it took 4 hours; I
started to hate Tahquitz before I got there. Yes that is an average
of 25 mph on freeways. I did miss most of the rush hour. There was
at one time 7 lanes going east and all stopped. Really. There wasnít
an accident or anything. I had the radio tuned in to traffic
reports. That was a good night for commuting. Riverside still had
five lanes going 30 mph. WOW. I got a great room at the Idyllwild
Inn. Very nice. They have cabins and rooms.
Looking down Coffin
Nail from the belay.
Friday morning was
perfect weather. I met Tony and we drove up to Humber Park and
parked the car. There is a hike up to the rock. It was a good trail
and took 30 minutes all uphill. We went for the West Face to climb
in the shade. The weather said a high of 85 degrees in Idyllwild.
There are so many classics that it is hard to decide. Tony suggested
a four pitch link up of Coffin Nail (5.8) and Traitor Horn (5.8).
This turned out to be the best 5.8 climb I have ever done on a
multipitch trad route. Pitch one can be done several ways and is
just a nice warmup. The Coffin Nail pitch is awesome hand jamming
with some slight complications like a short chimney, an off balance
crack with no feet, followed by a small roof with finger locks and
finishing with some jams and flakes. All this on perfect granite.
Every move is 5.8. I was paying attention all the way. The roof
looks tough until you get a perfect finger lock. It would be a very
tough lead for the 5.8 leader. Coffin Nail does have great gear
placements all the way. Not really any good nut placements but take
double 0.75, 1 and 2 inch cams. When you get to the belay you see
the Traitor Horn. This is so cool. There are lots of photos at
Mountain Project and rockclimbing.com. There are two horns. The
first is the traitor horn and the second is the real horn.
Crux of Traitor Horn.
Traitor Horn will
test you even if you feel good at 5.10 trad. There is the traverse,
the old pitons, the traverse, the roof mantle with the BEST EXPOSURE
anywhere guaranteed. There is no pro for the roof mantle and yes a
third unprotected short traverse above the worlds greatest EXPOSURE.
YES THAT IS THE BEST EXPOSURE I HAVE SEEN. When you stand on the
horn you are 300 feet directly above nothing. The tip of the horn
where you stand is three feet long and one foot wide narrowing down
to four inches. The horn is part of a formation that sticks out 30
feet from the wall with a huge overhang falling away. The EXPOSURE
is actually far better than Indecent Exposre at Hueco Tanks. Really.
The horn sticks out above the two super classic climbs Open Book
(5.9) and The Edge (11a). Tobin Sorenson lead The Edge in 1975.
After two 40 runouts on 11a he stood and drilled a bolt. The story
goes that after standing there for ever his drill broke before he
finished. He somehow got the bolt in and lived. The view down from
the horn lets you see The Edge and the thought of leading that 11a
with no pro is unbelievable. The fourth pitch is rated 5.0 for 200
feet in the guidebook. Actually the climb isnít over yet. The first
100 feet is super runout 5.6 friction slab climbing. There are two
bad gear placements in the first 100 feet. The second 100 feet is
5.0 with lots of gear. If you fell 50 feet above the belay on the
few 5.6 friction moves you might actually fall over the overhang 50
feet below. Maybe. I thought about it. It is a Tres Piedras 5.6. Yes
the climb is still not over. To get back down you must do the
Friction Route descent. It is fourth class and it is tricky to find
the best way the first time. Tony said there have been a few deaths
when people got off route.
Mounting the horn.
Tony gave me
several options to do more climbs. I was tired so I chose the single
pitch called Human Fright (10a). It looked great. There are not too
many short climbs and I didnít want to do another four pitches and
descent. Human Fright is great. It is 80% hard 5.9 with a few 10a
moves. That is Tahquitz 10a which is like a Yosemite 10a. The climb
follows a right facing corner with great hand jams and laybacks. The
face to the right is mostly blank with a few slopey foot holds. The
left foot is jammed into the crack for your life. The 10a sections
have right foot smears. It is very sustained. Great pro all the way.
No nuts. The cracks donít seem to pinch off ever. Bring cams with
doubles in 0.75, 1 and 2 inch sizes.
Heading back to
Idyllwild my side going west is fine. Well the rule must be only go
to Idyllwild on a weekday. It was a sight to be seen. I did live in
southern CA for a few years a long time ago. The traffic was way
beyond my comprehension. We have it good climbing in NM. Go to
Tahquitz on a weekday and have a blast. Call Tony Grice for guide
service at Vertical Adventures 800-514-8785. Tony has guided up to
11a at Tahquitz. He also guides in Joshua Tree. Tony is AMGA
Certified and warns there are a lot of poor guides at Joshua Tree so
checkout who you hire.
Now its time to go.
It is Friday night. As I leave hundreds of cars are pouring into
Idyllwild for the weekend. It was scarier than Traitor Horn. When I
reach I-10 I see an even scarier sight. As I make my way to Ontario
Airport I pass 40 miles of bumper to bumper traffic in all four
lanes going toward Palm Springs.