Suicide Rock

 

After climbing The Trough on Tahquitz, a local recommended White Maiden’s Walkaway as a good follow-up.  Greater exposure, slightly more difficult climbing, and more complex route-finding, I was told.  WMW is an 800 foot route that leads straight up the center of the Maiden Buttress of Tahquitz.  From the ground, it looks vertical and intimidating.  And even though it’s rated 5.4, a route-finding mistake has the potential to send a party onto much more difficult terrain.

Joey and I talked about the route for a couple of weeks, and we met up for some multi-pitch anchor practice beforehand.  We wanted to swing leads and make a fun day of it.  We left San Diego at 4 am and pulled into Humber Park just as the sun was coming up.  I was feeling excited, but nervous about the project we were about to take on.  This would be a much more committing climb than anything I have done, and I was the guy with the multi-pitch experience.

Tahquitz Rock as pictured in the Gaines/Vogel Guide

I was standing in the parking lot and looking up at the rock, when there began a series of very sharp and thunderous cracking noises.  It lasted for 5-6 seconds and I just stood there, frozen in place.  Holy crap, that was a big rockfall. Joey came out of the pit toilet and I asked him if he had heard it; he said that he thought someone was slamming their car door.  I looked over at a couple of other climbers nearby, and they both had a spooked look on their faces.  Not a good sign, especially considering the recent rockfall accident on The Trough a couple of weeks earlier, where two climbers were seriously injured and to be evacuated by helicopter.

We were already feeling nervous, and the sound of the rockfall convinced us to hold off White Maidens for another day.  I don’t know if Tahquitz is sloughing off more rock than normal, but the whole thing left a sick feeling in my stomach.

So, we decided to hike over to Suicide Rock, instead.  A fun day of cragging would suffice!

Joey on The Plague (5.8)

We started on The Plague, a fun little climb that Ryan and I did on our guided day a few months ago.  Joey agreed to lead and he made good progress up the crack you see pictured above.  When he got to the roof, though, things got tricky.  The placements were only so-so and negotiating the roof onto the slab above involves some insecure friction moves.  After much inspection, he ultimately decided to lower off and we hiked to the top to set up a top-rope.  A fall at the crux of this climb would almost certainly lead to a ground fall, should the nut under the roof blow.

I think that Joey was feeling disappointed in himself, since he had backed off his last two leads.  I will remind our readers (which is to say, I will remind myself) that he backed off Crack of Dust (5.8) at Mission Gorge, which I ultimately finished (with shaky hands).  So, he was searching for some redemption and I believe he found it in an unknown rift in the rock at the Buttress of Cracks area of Suicide.  We couldn’t see where or how it topped out, but a giant pine tree was poking out from over a sloping ledge, and it looked very doable.  I will state for the record that there was simply no way in hell I would have cast off on this particular climb, because we had no idea what it was rated or how it would protect.  From the ground, it looked manageable, but higher up we could see an awkward chute that looked pretty iffy.  Joey tied in and started up.

The Hernia (5.8)

Later, we found out that this route is called The Hernia, and it’s a 10a.  Fortunately, there’s an alternate finish that goes at 5.8, leading off right to some bolts atop a nearby climb.  The crux of the climb is well-protected, but very exposed and committing; you pull a little roof and then lieback a mini-arete into the chute above.  I was on top-rope and I still felt nervous in this section, so I give him a lot of credit for taking this one down.

Joey at the top of The Hernia

We rapped 100′ off the two-bolt anchor, the ends of our rope just barely reaching the ground with some rope stretch.  The winds were howling; gusting to 40 mph at times.  Looking over at Tahquitz across the valley, we felt glad that we didn’t attempt to tackle WMW on this day.

Joey with 80’s-style shoulder pads, courtesy of the strong winds

Anchor practice at the base of The Plague

 
 
 

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