El Monte (10b, p1-2), Edgehogs (10a, p1), and Farewell Horizontal (10c), Tahquitz Rock, CA

May 20, 2008

We wanted to sample some of the less popular routes on the North side of Tahquitz Rock. We use the North Face approach this time. Good trail most of the way, until you finally go up and across the boulder fields. There are still many left-over snow banks at the base.

El Monte (5.10b, p1 & 2):

First objective: "El Monte" (5.10b, 4p). Doesn't look like much of a line from below. Just weaves up the slabs, connecting occasional flakes and cracks… we'll see. A snow bank bars access to the cl3 ledges to the base, so we add a pitch (~5.7, 100ft) up flakes and cracks from directly below the large tree. Good climbing actually.

Now at the base of the official route. Looks runout… I zigzag from one flake/crack to another, each time placing pro as high as possible before traversing again. Eventually, you have to commit to the slab (2 bolts: decent looking 3/8" bolts). Hard move to get back into another flake with a sweet finger crack. More tricky transitions above, before a balancy move (questionable pro; black and green aliens in horizontal flare under a thin flake; double ropes a must) to the anchor.

Looking up the next pitch is disconcerting. No pro whatsoever up steep slab and a diagonal seam, up to a partially driven KB a good 30ft above and left of the belay. Likely nothing more after that to the next belay on a bushy ledge 100ft up… There are rap rings on this anchor… tempting. But I give it a go. Only to find the climbing pretty insecure, no pro as expected, and an obvious, more protectable route just to the right, into a right-facing system that shoots straight up to the same ledge. Much safer option. Now looking at the documented pitch from above, we confirm the total lack of pro above the piton. Why is this not rated R?

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We do a short easy pitch (~5.7) to gain the good ledge with the tree where the official route starts.
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The first pitch is 5.10 with mixed pro, including two decent-looking 3/8" bolts.
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Lucie getting to the belay.
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Looking at Suicide Rock across the valley.
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The second pitch is 5.8R.

We're looking now at the third pitch; things don't look any better: very thin moves up very steep slab right off the ledge to reach a sorry looking bolt about 20' up. There are rings and slings on that bolt… bad sign. The bolt itself is a ¼" with SMC hanger and looks severely rusted, though we cannot quite see the nut from here. After debating again, I give it a shot. Totally desperate moves with decking potential until I grab the slings hanging from the bolt and A0 the final move. I now get a good look at the bolt. Not reassuring. The bolt and nut are deeply rusted. The rest of this pitch has 5.10b moves and 4 more bolts. If those bolts look anything like this one, I want no part in it. There appears to be no protection above this bolt, at least until one reaches a small crack up and to the right about another 20'. Who knows if the crack will take good pro.. cannot quite see it from here. A fall from above this bolt would be a bad idea: you'd swing right back into the belay ledge and the corner below. If the bolt doesn't break, that is. Bailing! Lucie lowers me off the bolt, using the in-situ ring. We rig a rap anchor with a cordelette around the two bushes on the ledge (bomber) and abseil down. We then downclimb our initial pitch back to the ground. Bummer.

The first (our second) pitch is good, though a bit risky, but I definitely would not recommend going any higher. Should've taken the clue from the rap rings at the first anchor! Our other objective for the day was "Grace Slick", another slab route just to the right, and also put up in the seventies. Cannot see the bolts, but we're guessing they might be of the same quality… no thanks!

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Following pitch 2.
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The great looking bolt protecting the 10b moves 20 feet above the belay! No thanks! The bail ring was already in place...

Edgehogs (5.10a, p1 only):

We walk around to the NW recess (where Whodunit is located). The three climbers we met at the county campground are having a hard time getting up the second pitch of that route. We want to try "Farewell Horizontal", a 5.10c at the right end of the inset. That route was bolted in 1998, wo we're guessing the bolts should be good (they are). Unfortunately, a team is just above on "The Long Climb" and we are concerned about rockfall.

We decide to try "Edgehogs" (5.10d slab/arete). The first pitch is 5.10a and leads to a bolted rap anchor (shared with Whodunit). Sweet pitch on very good rock. From the belay stance, we have a look at the crux pitch above. This pitch is supposed to be reasonably bolted (10 bolts) but the first bolt we see is about 40 feet above the belay. What gives? Disappointed, we give up on this too.

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Eric leading the first pitch of "Edgehogs" (10a). Whodunit follows the very good looking crack on the right.
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Lucie following this great pitch.

Farewell Horizontal (5.10c, 1p):

We rap back down, then wait for some time for the team on "The Long Climb" to top out, before giving "Fairwell Horizontal" a try. Good climbing, but extremely sustained. Hard moves to get to the first bolt (which can fortunately be clipped first by going up a ramp to the right). The pro on this route is OK, but there are some cruxy moves getting to one of the bolts, well above your last alien in an overlap below. Exciting. Above this, the last third of the pitch is unrelenting thin slab (10c) with good bolted protection. Our feet hurt like hell. I come very close to falling at least three times on this pitch, but make it clean. A solid rap anchor gets you down.

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On "Farewell Horizontal" (10c).
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Lucie following the pitch.

Lucie wants to do the first pitch of "Wong Climb", a good-looking straight crack just to the right (and directly below the anchor) but we didn't bring enough large gear (2ea #3 Camalot + 1ea #4 Camalot looks like a minimum). Enough for today. We're tired. We stop by the store in town on the way down for some milk and OJ, and get back to the bus by dark.