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El Camino Real — Check Your Bolts!

This trip report is months late, but better late than never right? In the Fall of last year, Rabih and I headed out to Idyllwild, CA to tackle El Camino Real (5.10a,) a classic layback line at Tahquitz Rock. The route is fantastic, and Rabih did a great job linking pitches 1 and 2, but something curious happened upon my approach of the top of P2: The hanger of a bolt was dangling on the rope as I approached the middle of pitch. Let me state this in simpler terms: Between Rabih’s lead and my follow, the nut and hanger of a critical piece of protection simply fell off the bolt!

Disconcerting, to say the least. Now I know many of us are accustomed to checking hangers for common signs of weakness. These include rust, poorly drilled holes, spinning hangers, but based on our experience, we have one more thing to check: the nut on the bolt! This is obviously a critical piece of gear that many climbers don’t check. As Rabih passed it, it probably looked normal and the hanger and bolt looked good, so Rabih clipped it, climbed past, and all was fine. But as I followed, the agitation of the rope against the hanger and quickdraw must have rotated the somewhat loose nut, causing the protection system to fail in a bizarre way. As climbers, we must be constantly evaluating our protection system, doubting it in every way possible. This is an uncommon occurance that we must look out for.

After arriving at the P2 belay with the hanger in hand (pics below) I set off on P3, which is an amazing, fun, and if you keep your wits about you, secure layback. Atop P3 we set off to finish on Traitor Horn (5.8,) an airy, fantastic end to a 5.10 classic.

Remember, check your nuts! =D

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Season Opener at Joshua Tree with Rabih…

A few pics of the Josh season opener with Rabih. Routes: Bird on a Wire (5.10a,) Touch and Go (5.9,) and Norwegian Wood (5.9.)

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Tahquitz with Rabih – Whodunit

So I came down with a case of Vitamin D Deficiency last Thursday and was forced to call in sick to work. Looking to remedy this ailment, Rabih and I headed out to Tahquitz Rock to climb a little known (not!) 5.9 called Whodunit. What a good choice! I am feeling much better now. Absent mindedly forgetting my guidebook, we stopped into Nomad Ventures for a brief look at theirs, and much to the good advice of the salesperson there, bought a few micronuts for the first pitch. I’m glad we did. After the brutal approach was behind us, we psyched up for the climb and I cast off on pitch 1. The first 50 or so feet is fairly trivial, but then you find yourself in a very thin layback for about 10 feet until an overlap is encounted. At this point I sunk 2 micronuts, fired through the nontrivial section, and continued up to the Edgehogs anchor. I felt this pitch was the crux of the route, but Rabih didn’t have much of a problem with the moves and thought maybe the upper pitches were the business.

Rabih led pitch 2 like a champ, tackling the layback finger->hand->offwidth dihedral without issue, setting up an anchor just below the chimney on P3. I took off on the chimney, and headed up the narrowing enclosure. At the top of the chimney, pulling out of the crack, I sunk a bomber left hand jam combined with a reasonable right fist jam and pulled out onto the good footholds above. Now supposedly this move is the crux of the route, but it didn’t feel near as hard as some of the thin moves on P1. I continued up the offwidth crack linking part of P4.

Rabih set off linking what we think is P4.5 to the top of P6. I took the final linkup of P7 and P8 to the summit, where we both enjoyed a gorgeous view at sunset with not another living soul visible on Tahquitz. We signed the summit register (first time doing so) and headed out on the long friction descent and hike back to our packs at the base of the Northwest recess.

After the descent, we hit up the Idyllwild Pizza Co for a delicous extra large pizza. We showed up 15 minutes after closing, but the good chaps there took one look at our haggard appearances and took pity on us, allowing us to stuff our faces in peace.

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Updated website coming soon!

I’m currently in the process of upgrading and redesigning OC Climb and it should be ready soon! Expect more blog postings, pictures, some testimonials from past guiding clients, and more! Stay tuned!

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Is it Black Tide or Stitcher Quits?

A few weeks ago, Jane, Dan, Liv, Hils and I went to Josh for the weekend and had a good time climbing. We got a bit of a late start on Saturday, hitting up Stitcher Quits (5.7) as our first route of the day. After leading the route, I set up a TR with a 70m rope, which just barely reaches, and the gang tackled the route admirably. After dispatching this classic line, we headed to 2 lesser known routes nearby, Inhaler (5.8,) and Jughead (5.10a.) These steep, juggy sport climbs are somewhat irregular for Joshua Tree, but were fun nonetheless. As I was leading Jughead, after the 2nd bolt as I was pulling on a large rail, I felt something in my wrist pop loudly and shift. Pain flooded my wrist immediately, but I finished up the route then cleaned both routes with a bit of magic, and we headed off to Ryan Campground. Bummer.

The next day upon waking, I felt a decent amount of pain in my wrist. Since it’s rare that I get out to Josh for a full weekend these days, I decided to tape the shit out of it and climb anyway. We headed back to Echo Rock because Liv wanted to lead Stitcher after her successful top rope the prior day. On the way up to the route, I spied Pope’s Crack devoid of any climbers, and we wandered over to take a peek. The route looked good, albeit hard, and I hopped on it. After bungling the sequence down low and tiring myself out, I crawled up the route in very poor style, taking a deep breath at the top of the crack before the traverse. Liv cursed her way up the route after me, more than a little pissed at the apparently sandbagged route.

With Pope’s behind us, exhausted, we met up with Hils and decided to cut the climbing day short. On the way out of the park, I dispatched Just Another Roadside Attraction (5.9) before we wolfed down some delicious Thai food at Royal Siam. Nice.

Unfortunately, it looks as if I partially tore a ligament in my wrist that Saturday, and I’ve been in a splint for the last 3 weeks. A wrist specialist urged another 3 weeks in the splint, with minimal activity.

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An interesting day at Tahquitz…

Dan has been bugging me for some time now about getting out to Tahquitz. Well, the stars finally aligned and we found ourselves in Humber Park at around 8am this last Saturday. An early start, but with few cars in the parking lot we were excited to go tackle Finger Trip (5.7) and possibly Left Ski Track (5.6.)

After an exhausting hike (for me) up to the base, we found ourselves at the bottom of what I thought was Fingertrip. And that’s when things got interesting. I set off climbing on what was actually The Slab (5.8 R)–a strenuous layback crack with few spots/stances to place good pro. I should I have figured I was on the wrong route when about halfway up I noticed a fixed cam that had obviously been used to bail. Ignoring this, about 3/4 of the way up I found a bail nut with biner still attached, and yet, still didn’t realize I was off route. Shortly after this nut, a guy on a neighboring route sees me struggling a bit and asks “Hey, do you think you’re on Fingertrip? Because you’re not.” “Oh great,” I think, and he explains to me how I can get back on the real Fingertrip. I finished this grueling pitch and we traverse right onto Fingertrip proper. I lead the next half a pitch correctly but somehow mislead us onto what I believe is Fingertrip Traverse (5.3,) following this route up to Lunch Ledge.

On Lunch Ledge we took a breather while two climbers climbed above us. After their leader hit the top, his partner started cleaning the anchor but had seriously overcammed a .75 camalot. After fiddling with it for 5 or so minutes, she asked me if I could take a shot at it. After about 10 minutes of serious wiggling, the bastard popped free and she was quite excited. She asked me what kind of car we had parked in Humber, and promised us a cold beer. “Yeah right” I thought, although it sure sounded good at the time. Thankfully, pitch 4 went down without issue, finishing up on a variation 5.6 finger crack that was fantastic.

Topping out, Dan was exhausted. We hiked down the friction descent, and noticed no one was on Left Ski Track. Dan was tired, but I talked him into giving it a go. I led the first pitch without issue, a fun pitch to be sure, and started bringing Dan up. About halfway up, Dan’s energy finally gave out on him, and he decided he didn’t have another 2.5 pitches in him. I lowered him off, and rapped off the (thankfully) bolted anchor, cleaning my cams on the way down. The rap was a rope stretcher, and I deliberately rapped off the ends of my rope, dropping the remaining 2 feet to the ground.

*Phew* What a day. As we hike down I ask Dan for the booty gear from pitch 1. He looks at me, puzzled, and says “Oh you wanted me to clean that gear too? I thought you just meant the gear you placed.” I roll my eyes, but can’t really fault him for leaving it. The first pitch was brutal, and he was probably unconsciously trying to punish me for misleading onto what was really 5.hard, despite the actual grade.

Arriving at the car around 5pm, we discover a cold Fat Tire and thank you note from our friends on Lunch Ledge, our only booty for the day. Tired, but happy, we roll into town for some pizza and beer before heading home.

Good times.

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Possibilities…

Andy and I stripped the cave yesterday down to just a few of the newer routes, and are going on a setting spree as the walls have been pretty stale for a while now. Possibilities await!

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A few yosemite pics…

Here are a few of the better Yosemite pics before I do a full trip report…

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The aid climbing rant…

From Chris Kalous…funny stuff.

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Joshua Tree with B-rad…

With Brad pulling plastic in France for the last year, and his return stateside, I decided it was time for the two of us to head out to Jtree and get some good mileage in on the sharp rock. We headed out Tuesday morning and arrived around 11 to an empty park. Seriously empty. There were 2 cars at Intersection Rock and none of the classics around Hidden Valley had climbers on them. Amazing.

I’ve been pushing Brad to do his first trad lead for a while now, and he decided this was the day to do it. We hoofed it over to The Bong (5.4), and after a little reassurance and instruction from me, he hopped on. He sewed the thing up big time, placing maybe 10 pieces of pro, and apart from the first trad lead jitters that everyone experiences, did very well. I seconded and cleaned his pro, which was mostly well placed except for 2 tipped out cams and one placed in a flaring pocket. Grats on your first lead Brad! We rapped off and headed over to Mike’s Books (5.6) on Intersection Rock.

Arriving at the base of Mike’s Books, I looked at the direct start which goes a 5.8 and decided it looked fun. After a few false starts, I got up the short sequence which felt quite burly for the grade. The first move is a painful one off of a pinky fingerlock in order to gain a high back step. After gaining the high feet, you get good hand jams to the top, although it’s no gimme. After this short start, I started the route proper and had no trouble gaining the first belay. Brad struggled at the 5.8 variation, almost sending on a couple tries before deciding to do the spicy 5.6 traverse that starts the standard route. His first time back at Josh in some time, he struggled up the route grunting and breathing, but never weighted the rope. Pitch 2 went down much like pitch 1, with no serious problems, although it did feel more sustained than what we had just climbed. Near the top of the route before it turns slab, I built a small 2 piece anchor as I figured it would be my last pro before the usually runout slab climbing at Josh. I climbed up another 5 feet before spying a shiny new bolt in the middle of the face, amazed that it was there. I clipped it and continued to the top, belaying up Brad who had an easier time with this pitch than the one before it. We took a couple pics and rapped off, heading next to The Flue (5.8).

I hopped on The Flue, finding the lower crux to be placing good gear before pulling the actual climbing crux. The route eases off a bit before turning into a very awkward and strenuous topout in a right slanting offwidth crack. Brad walked up the lower portion of the route, finding a hidden undercling that I neglected to use, before huffing and puffing his way up the last 5 feet while I jokingly prodded him at the belay. =)

Next up was Pinched Rib (5.10a). This route is a former nemesis of mine. One hot summer I hopped on it and pitched off 3 times at the crux before backing off in the sweltering heat. I tried to find an elegant sequence through the crux this time, but still couldn’t find one. I burled through the crux pulling hard on a terrible crimp, barely using my feet, to gain the relief jug just above. After building a 2 piece gear anchor at the top, I belayed up Brad who fell at the crux a couple times before finally working through it with a seriously tight belay by me.

We scrambled over to the rap anchors atop The Flue, rather than risk the somewhat shady looking downclimb, and decided to call it a day. A fun trip, good weather, and no crowds. I love Jtree.

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