Tahquitz Peak - The Trough 5.4 Multipitch Trad
It's been a really long time since I've posted something. It's not because we haven't been out there doing our thing. In May we took our first sailing lessons at Redondo Beach, CA, we went bouldering at a place called Wagon Wheel in California, hiked the Jar trail several times, and went mountain biking at Wind Wolves Preserve. I meant to (and still plan to) write up a post on the Jar Trail and the mountain biking trail at Wind Wolves, but its just been a pretty hectic month (mixed in with a little bit of laziness on the weekdays).
At the end of May however, we were up in LA for one of Michael's family members wedding, which was nice and I ate too much food. Michael's family is great, I feel very welcomed there and happy we got to spend some time with all of them and meet his Aunt's and Grandma from Puerto Rico. We got a late start Sunday (I blame the wine and tequilla), and left LA late afternoon to head to the town of Idyllwild. Our intent: Climb Tahquitz peak.
Since we got to Idyllwild later on Sunday we decided to get our gear together, make camp, cook some good food and chill that evening in preparation for an early start Monday morning. Look at all dem cams. Beautiful sight. Me on the other hand, I'm being creepy for some reason.
Tahquitz Peak is located in the San Jacinto Mountains in southern California. I'm told this is one of the groundbreaking areas where climbing got started. One of its routes, Open Book, is claimed to be the standard for 5.9 graded climbing. We did not climb Open book though, because 5.9 trad wasn't what we were looking for. For our first time up the peak we were looking for something a bit more mellow. We didn't know much about how "stout" the ratings were and figured we ought to start smaller.
It took us a while before we actually reached the base of the peak to begin a climb. Our confusion began at the parking lot area. The Ernie Maxwell Trail is below the looped parking area for the park. Once you find it, you hike along a nice mild trail until you see a sign that says "Climber's Trail" that heads up steep terrain straight towards the peak. Welp, we passed this sign because we thought the sign would say "Lunch Rock Trail" because that's what they call it in the book. After hiking at least another 30 minutes without finding such a trail, we realized our mistake and hiked back to the climbers sign we passed. The sign is very close to the parking lot, so if you've hiked very far, you've probably passed it. This is probably obvious to most people and they wont have this problem. We just took wording in the book too literally. The hike up is steep and a workout, but eventually you make it to Lunch Rock, and can then pick a climb.
We first thought we'd go climb a route called Left Ski Track (5.6), but there were some people just about to get on the climb. We talked to them for a bit and they told us that the routes were harder than they were rated and that this was a pretty stout climb. They also spent a good deal of time warning us about the downclimb and that we probably shouldn't do it unless we are with someone who knows it and they went on how sketchy and scary it was. Finally, they suggested a 5.4 route called The Trough that was supposed to be a fun good intro multipitch climb to this area.
We are still fairly new to the multipitch trad world, so we decided to try the Trough to get introduced to the area. We also decided to take it one step at a time. We'd worry about the downclimb when we got to the top.
We climbed the route in 3 pitches, and I don't think we used the standard belay stations noted on mountainproject. Our first belay was at a ledge up and left of the climb at a tree. It was a shorter pitch with some slab and crack moves up to the tree. Next Michael climbed a second pitch up to another nice ledge where he set an anchor in a nice vertical crack. This second pitch was the most fun. It had some interesting moves, including a knee jam i had to use to get past one particularly wet section (there was some snow runoff still on the route). The last belay he set up at another tree toward the summit. We "scramble-soloed" some easy slab to the summit.
When we reached the summit we took a few pictures and then were like, Ok, now we need to find people to follow down. There were a ton of people climbing when we were out there and we found some people at the summit around the same time as us. A couple of guys did a rapel (2 ropes needed) down one route, but we only had one rope. Thankfully, there was another group who let us follow them down the descent route, commonly referred to as "friction slab descent". It was not straight forward finding the route, and the path down could get confusing if you aren't careful, but as far as it being scary... I didn't think it was that bad. Yes, you want to be careful (you could end up on some sketchy slab if you make a wrong turn, like with any alpine ascent or descent, but it wasn't so bad. I didn't really take any picture of the descent, so looking up a description online would probably be the best bet. From our climb we went up to a bigger boulder and the top of the down climb is marked with karen stones. Then you go down some stuff and veer left as you go down till eventually you hit the side of the mountain and just follow it all the way around back to where you started.
I loved Tahquitz. We only had time to do one route since we needed to drive back home that day too, but it was really fun. This is the stuff I'm looking forward to doing more of. Its an amazing feeling being scared of the exposure, but then realizing how awesome it is up there. You can't beat the views. We had perfect weather. It was awesome.
The photos above are Michael's because I was using my go-pro to get some film. There's not a lot of footage on the actual climb, but its a little bit of our weekend in Idyllwild. Home movie style.
Go check out Tahquitz if you haven't been. I'm hoping we will get to go back soon. :)