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Rock Climbing Destinations: Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks


Written by Rick Booth July, 2001 

Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks are located in the town of Idyllwild,
California.  Idyllwild is located at about the 5000 foot level on Mount
San Jacinto on highway 243.  Mount San Jacinto is one of the prominent
peaks in the Los Angeles area and dominates the town of Palm Springs,
California.  For climbers visiting LA for other reasons or for a climbing
destination that is worth the effort for its own sake, a visit to Tahquitz
and Suicide is highly recommended.  While the more popular and well known
area of Joshua Tree National Park is nearby, the effort to get to
Idyllwild is not significantly more difficult than getting to Joshua Tree,
in fact, getting to Idyllwild from the LA basin is easier than getting to
Joshua Tree.

To climb at Tahquitz and Suicide is to connect with those who have come
before us.  Indeed, the Tahqitz route, "The Mechanics Route", was first
put up by Glen Dawson in 1937.  Glen Dawson participated in the more well
known first ascent of the East face of Mount Whitney, a coveted prize of
most Sierra mountaineers.  A climb of the "The Mechanics Route" will
impart an incredible appreciation for the boldness of these early
climbers.  "The Mechanics Route" is rated modern 5.8.  The second pitch is
unrelenting 5.6 pockets without any bolts or other protection.  This route
was done using manila ropes and sneakers! A reading of the first
ascencionists of many of the routes at Tahquitz is a list of the many
Southern California participants in the "Golden Era" of Yosemite rock
climbing: Robins, Herbert, Chouinard, Dawson, Gallwas, and perhaps the
most unknown of the group, Chuck Wilts, Cal Tech professor and inventor of
the knifeblade piton.

While Tahquitz was the learning and proving ground for those who went on
to put up some of the Yosemite big wall classics, Suicide was the proving
ground for the generation to follow, the Stonemasters.  Indeed, the
"entrance exam" for membership in the Stonemasters was merely to climb the
Suicide classic "Valhalla", 5.11a, which was arguably the first 5.11 in
Southern California.  This group consisted of John Long, Tobin Sorenson,
Eric Accomazzo, and others.  These climbers went on to put up some of the
hardest routes in the country, indeed, John Long participated in the
freeing of "Astroman" on Washington Column in Yosemite Valley.  During
this period of time Tony Yaniro put up "The Pirate" on Suicide which is
rated 5.12d.

Climbing at Tahquitz and Suicide is about as convenient as it gets.  The
town of Idyllwild has two campgrounds and many restaurants, some which are
quite reasonable.  There used to be a movie theater in the center of town,
however, I am not sure if it is still there.  The trail to Tahquitz leaves
from the road which ends at a circle at Humber Park and the trail to
Suicide leaves from the road a few hundred yards before the end of the
road.  Access time to Tahquitz is about 45 minutes or so and the access to
Suicide is about half that.  The trail to Tahquitz is steep and sort of
loose.  Bring a penny to pound into the log across the trail near the top. 
You will recognize this log immediately.  This trail ends at Lunch Rock
where packs may be left.  Most people stack their packs in the litter
stashed there in a vain attempt to keep their lunch from falling victim to
the "Tahquitz attack squirrels".  The hike to Suicide leaves the climber
near the base of the Weeping Wall, home of many greasy friction fests!

The rock at both Tahquitz and Suicide is granite and is similar to the
granite found in Yosemite Valley.  The latest guide book is "Tahquitz and
Suicide Rocks" by Randy Vogel and Bob Gaines.  My version is by the
Chockstone Press but Chockstone has been sold to Falcon Publishing. 
Earlier guide books have been written by Randy Vogel and an even earlier
version was written by Chuck Wilts.  Recommended routes at Tahquitz are
"Fingertrip", 5.7, "Traitor Horn", 5.8, "Mechanics Route", 5.8, "Open
Book", 5.9, "Super Pooper", 5.10a (supposedly), and "The Vampire", 5.11a. 
At Suicide the recommended routes are "The Guillotine", 5.8 (run it out
and blow it and you will get the "chop"!), "Flower of High Rank", 5.9,
"Ten Karat Gold", 5.10a, "Sundance", 5.10b, and "Valhalla", 5.11a.  You
won't be disappointed.

Getting to the town of Idyllwild is done from either Hemet, California,
via route 74 or from Banning, California, via route 243.  The nearest
airports are Palm Springs and Ontario if you are flying into the area. 
Camping is available at the state campground and the county campground. 
"Mattress people" (boulderers) may prefer the county campground since
there is decent bouldering on some rocks in or near the campground.  The
state park is Mount San Jacinto State Park and is located right off
highway 243 near downtown Idyllwild.  Information may be obtained at
909-659-2607 and reservations may be made at 800-444-7275.  The county
park is located near the state park but off on a side street.  Information
for Idyllwild County Park may be obtained at 909-659-2656 and reservations
made at 800-234-7275.  There used to be "free" camping up in Humber Park
which was achieved by parking there and sneaking off into the woods. 
Unfortunately, Humber Park falls under the wonderful "Adventure Pass"
program and the last I knew the rangers would occasionally bust people
camping up there.  My friends Jack and Gretchen inform me that they have
been using the same "Adventure Pass" for two years so the enforcement is
apparently not very diligent.

The suggested restaurants in Idyllwild are as follows.  For breakfasts try
Jan's Red Kettle, a climbers hangout forever near the center of town, the
Idyllwild CafÈ on highway 243 heading out towards Hemet, and the Bread
Basket on North Circle Drive heading towards Humber Park.  Dinners are
available at the Bread Basket, the Gastrognome (good but expensive),
Idyllwild Pizza Company near the center of town, and Vercollini's Italian
Restaurant (the best) which is also on highway 243.  There are one or two
Mexican places in town but they seem to change names frequently so you
will have to ask around if that is your preference.  Finally, for
emergency services in Idyllwild, call 911.  Be nice to the paramedics and
say hi to Jack Peckham!

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