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Traitor Horn

5.8, Trad, 400 ft, 4 pitches,  Avg: 3.5 from 316 votes
FA: Jim Smith, Auther Johnson and M. Holton August 1938
California > Tahquitz & Suic… > Tahquitz Rock > (g) W Face > W Face - Right Side


Traitor Horn is an area classic, and has a great exposed crux when you pull on to the 'True Horn'!

P1 & 2 - Climb the first 2 pitches of Jensen's Jaunt (5.6) until you can head right just below the headwall to a protruding horn of rock. This is the 'Traitor Horn'. Traverse up and right to a small niche and belay. Try to protect this traverse well for your second, as the traversing moves can be delicate.

P3 - Climb up and over to the right. There will be 2 pitons just before the move onto the 'True Horn' (crux). The crack directly above with the pitons is a different route, and instead move to the right onto the horn. Then up, up, and over to a good belay spot with a tree growing out of a crack. If your second is not strong or is scared to move to the horn, make sure the rope is in the crack and not out away from it. I know this sounds wrong, but if your 2nd falls they will be hanging in air and will be hard to get them back onto the rock.

P4 is long up a low angle slab to the top.

You can also start the climb with Coffin Nail (5.8) or On the Road (5.10c). Also El Camino Real (5.10a) is another do way to go.


Thin to 2.5 inches

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Hanging out on the Traitor Horn. Photo by Jessica Olson
[Hide Photo] Hanging out on the Traitor Horn. Photo by Jessica Olson
everyone has their version of true horn photo. here's mine.
[Hide Photo] everyone has their version of true horn photo. here's mine.
Chris Owen posing on the Traitor Horn (c) Mark Goss 1989
[Hide Photo] Chris Owen posing on the Traitor Horn (c) Mark Goss 1989
Met this little guy at the top of the route. his party took a different route, but he was super chill & happy to be out & about.
[Hide Photo] Met this little guy at the top of the route. his party took a different route, but he was super chill & happy to be out & about.
[Hide Photo] HANG DOG!
Tony Tennessee on the True Horn at the crux. (c) Chris Owen 1989.
[Hide Photo] Tony Tennessee on the True Horn at the crux. (c) Chris Owen 1989.
Sorry Chris M.
[Hide Photo] Sorry Chris M.
X marks the spot for loose.block on T Horn.
[Hide Photo] X marks the spot for loose.block on T Horn.
Traitor Horn; the true horn seen in the background.
[Hide Photo] Traitor Horn; the true horn seen in the background.
Pulling the horn.
[Hide Photo] Pulling the horn.
You don't see this every day!
[Hide Photo] You don't see this every day!

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
[Hide Comment] Name is a pun on the 1931 movie "Trader Horn". Mar 12, 2006
Ron Olsen
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] One of the wildest, most exposed 5.8's I've ever done. The traverse onto the horn and standing up on the horn were exciting and memorable. The crux move off the horn had me sweating too.

My partner was too scared to traverse onto the horn, so she climbed straight up the crack in the back of the alcove. Harder, but a lot more secure! Mar 12, 2006
[Hide Comment] Followed this route yesterday with my friend Tom who turns sixty on Wednesday. Fell making the move onto the horn the first time, fell twice making the move off the horn. What a kick! Hats off to the fellows who first did this route along time ago! Sep 29, 2006
Joe Keyser
Scottsdale, AZ
[Hide Comment] This is pretty "airy" for it's grade. I was gripped. Awesome! Mar 9, 2007
Bill Olszewski
Colorado Springs, CO
[Hide Comment] Finally got up the nerve to lead this one. Passed the P2/3 niche belay and anchored higher up so my partner could anchor in the niche for my run at the crux. Both traverses are delicate and have very few options for pro. Clipped the lost arrow just so I could be on something, anything while I set a cam higher up because the overhanging dihedral really spits you out! The crux was no issue but the exposure!!! I think the true crux is just protecting the horn. And standing up on the horn - my legs were weak! This is a must do for anyone who loves Tahquitz. Traitor Horn is an awesome climb! Jun 12, 2007
[Hide Comment] Fantastic! A must do. Nice introduction to exposed climbing. Test your self on this route if you want to know how well you will react to exposure. The exposed moves are amazing and quickly over. Aug 14, 2007
Ryan Kelly
[Hide Comment] The exposure is awesome, the moves onto and off of the horn are fun, and it makes for a great photo op... that said, I was a bit disappointed given the four-star rating and hype. There’s only about 20 feet of climbing on the route, albeit a really fun 20 feet, a bit of a traverse before, and 4th class afterwards. Definitely worth doing, but not four-star compared to other routes at Tahquitz. Aug 4, 2008
[Hide Comment] This climb often produces epic events for the second. (have seen this happen often over the years much to the entertainment of those below) The leader needs to make sure the rope management takes care of the second.

Make sure the rope runs on the horn side of the crack and can't slide back into it. Belaying shortly after the horn is a good idea.

If it runs in the crack or to climbers left of it a fall by the second will result in either a slam into the corner or a big air swing, lowering, reclimbing and much whining.

Yeah, it's a one move wonder, but premier among them. Do the Coffin Nail approach for full value. Sep 27, 2008
Jesse Davidson
san diego, ca
[Hide Comment] coffin nail approach is nice, but the route itself is nothing special. the horn is cool, sure, but then its over. Mar 17, 2009
[Hide Comment] Great "pucker" factor for the grade. One of my first leads and still memorable. Mar 21, 2009
ventura, ca
[Hide Comment] Had a blast on this climb. Just remember to place your pro well so your second doesn't have some crazy swinging fall if he takes one. If exposure doesn't bother you then this is a lot of fun. Didn't think that any of the moves onto or off the horn were too bad. Kind of bouldery type moves. Fun stuff! Oct 10, 2009
  5.8 PG13
[Hide Comment] It's a little tricky to make the moves right and onto the horn. Biffing it might be ugly. Linking from Coffin Nail is classic. Jan 14, 2012
Oceanside CA
[Hide Comment] Bring an extra pair of pants... Even following it I felt like I'd shit mine. May 5, 2013
Nate M
San Diego, CA
Golden, Co
[Hide Comment] Was able to slot a small nut above the 2nd piton and a small cam above the 1st, put a sliding X on both and i think protected well. Sep 2, 2014
San Diego, Ca
[Hide Comment] Glad to have finally done this. Linked from Coffin Nail and it was a truly great experience.

We belayed ABOVE the short easy chimney for Coffin Nail and easily made the niche belay past the false horn with a 60m rope. Drag was not bad with good management at the angles: into CN dihedral, over CN roof, Traverse under horn.

I thought the moves through the niche and establishing on the lower part of the horn were stiffer than they appeared, but the the moves off the horn were no sweat. The exposure was great!

If you've got the cojones to solo P1 of Coffin Nail and the short, easy chimney before the CN crack, you can do the whole linkup in two pitches, really, and "get r done" fast! May 25, 2015
Miguel D
[Hide Comment] Climbed on June 18th. First time here. Finished the route late and had to come down after sundown. Managed to forget my headlamp at the base so we had to descend with only my partner's. Going down with just one hesdlamp wasn't too bad, but the darkeness caused us to get lost on the friction route descent and got to a spot where we couldn't continue to downclimb. We opted for leaving a sling and a wiregate biner tied to a tree so we could rap down. That got us almost all the way down and had to scramble a bit further down to reach the gully. I wish I could specify where exactly, but I don't know how to specify it's location. But I think it's somewhere on the friction route, though we could've gone off route in the darkeness

Moral of the story, if this is your first time here, allow plenty of time to find and descend the friction route Jun 23, 2015
Anouk Erni
Portland, OR
[Hide Comment] We linked Coffin Nail to Traitor Horn, then did the last pitch on Jensen's Jaunt, which is more entertaining. The money pitch on Traitor Horn is awesome, and while the crux is in the tight corner before moving up on the horn, it never felt harder than a slightly awkward 5.7. Great moves, great protection, love this climb! Sep 8, 2015
San Diego, CA
[Hide Comment] Did Jensen's Jaunt, and belayed from the JJ crack where the traverse starts, rather than between the horns like we saw other parties doing. Rope drag isn't an issue, if you place and extend thoughtfully. However, the rope was wedging itself in the crack after the lip, so I had to belay pretty low on the slab.

The beginning of Jensen's is really a scramble, so we did the whole thing as 3 roped pitches. Apr 4, 2016
Matt Himmelstein
Orange, California
[Hide Comment] Had a group of 4 do Jensen's to Traitor Horn. I was the only one willing to lead the Horn. We had 2 70M ropes so split into pairs for the first long pitch to the start of Traitor Horn, then I did 30-35M pitch to a nice flat spot above the horns. We pig tailed the second on my rope and then the third was able to tie in and trail the second rope for the last climber. Then we split into pairs again to top out.

I think we could have done it in two pitches with a 70M if I set up a belay between the horns. Jul 6, 2016
Jan Tarculas
Riverside, Ca
[Hide Comment] Jensen's jaunt to Traitor Horn in 3 pitches

Solo/scramble most of the 1st pitch of Jensen's jaunt. Belay when it starts to get pretty vertical. I set up 1st pitch anchors immediately left of the false horn. Guide book states to climb below the false horn in between the flakes, which my partner did. It seemed like a reachy move and a bad swing potential for follower. I ended up climbing over the horn, which seemed a lot easier to prevent the swing. Partner built a belay 15 ft above the crux horn. Since the rope was in that crack, I didn't feel comfortable hopping on the horn and just climbed the crack. Felt like 10a there. From there you can reach the top. Apr 20, 2017
[Hide Comment] Meh. The true horn part is kind of weird and contrived. Climbing leading up to it on Coffin Nail is fantastic though. May 16, 2017
[Hide Comment] Left a red size #2, DMM Torque Nut at the top of pitch 2, right next to the horn. Please contact me if you were able to free the lodged piece, I'll pay you in beer. Location: Los Angeles. Thanks! Jul 10, 2017
[Hide Comment] Climbed today with another party, Amy and Scott I think. We got some pics of you day! Mar 31, 2018
jt newgard
San Diego, CA
[Hide Comment] The Joshua Tree version of the True Horn has got to be "Geronimo"

I found both routes to be pretty gosh darn exciting but have to say the True Horn really takes it to the next level. I think I got my first "flash pump" pulling the horn due to the extreme exhilaration and neglected to put a little cam in that crack that splits the horn. So I looked down at my last piece (a double sling on one of the pitons) and then I truly almost pooped my pants. Needless to say I took about 10 minutes to raise the requisite gumption before moving off the horn!!! Aug 1, 2018
William Nicolas
[Hide Comment] I got confused by the description and went up the crack on the left of the second horn. Didn't realize I could of gone around the second horn! Oct 21, 2018
[Hide Comment] Fun for a good 20 feet but blown out of proportion. Dec 29, 2018
  5.8 PG13
[Hide Comment] LOOSE BLOCK! Occasionally, people pass under the "traitor" horn or go over the traitor horn, then step down for a belay in the corner. There's a block that is ready to roll at the base of the left corner. It would smash right into Jensens. Best way to avoid it is to go OVER the traitor horn, step into the corner and belay there.

Pic with x marks the spot in photo section. Apr 20, 2019
  5.8 PG13
[Hide Comment] The guidebooks and the route description here tell you to climb under the Traitor Horn. The OG book says to go over it. Do NOT go under the Traitor Horn (the first horn) as this put you on a loose block. Apr 20, 2019