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Sahara Terror 

YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b

Type:  Trad, 6 pitches, 700'
Original:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b [details]
FA: W. Shand, Roy Gorin, P. Flinchbaugh, 1942
Season: spring-fall
Page Views: 14,917
Submitted By: Jordan K on Oct 8, 2006

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (76)
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BETA PHOTO: Sahara Terror, 5.7.


A great moderate climb. An easy pitch leads to a belay beneath a series of overlaps. Follow the crack through the overhangs and belay at the base of a deep crack that dogleggs sharply to the right. Take the dogleg crack to the left-facing corner and follow this crack system until progress is blocked by overhangs. Traverse 10 ft left, then up through the overhang; continue diagonally up and left for about 50 ft in the crack system, then up and right across a face to the base of an obvious chute, then up a deep chimney. A 4th class crack diagonals up and left to the top.


Begin 45 feet right of the Error and 15 ft left of an obvious crack/corner system.


Standard Rack to 3". No fixed anchors. Walk down descent by Friction Route or North Gully.

Photos of Sahara Terror Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Start of P5 the crux pitch, start 10 feet to left ...
Start of P5 the crux pitch, start 10 feet to left ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Kerry leading P6 which has a 5.9 variation to the ...
BETA PHOTO: Kerry leading P6 which has a 5.9 variation to the ...
Rock Climbing Photo: belay station 3 best to set up lower where rope is...
belay station 3 best to set up lower where rope is...
Rock Climbing Photo: Eric at belay station 2, start of P3
Eric at belay station 2, start of P3
Rock Climbing Photo: Eric belaying Kerry on P1 perhaps 100 foot from ba...
BETA PHOTO: Eric belaying Kerry on P1 perhaps 100 foot from ba...
Rock Climbing Photo: Base of P1, Sahara Terror
BETA PHOTO: Base of P1, Sahara Terror
Rock Climbing Photo: leading the second or third pitch, really cant rec...
leading the second or third pitch, really cant rec...
Rock Climbing Photo: up, up, up the chimney!
up, up, up the chimney!
Rock Climbing Photo: Belay station 5 on a sunny day
Belay station 5 on a sunny day
Rock Climbing Photo: Me leading pitch two I think.
Me leading pitch two I think.
Rock Climbing Photo: Tamara on a variation of pitch 4.
Tamara on a variation of pitch 4.

Comments on Sahara Terror Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated May 23, 2016
By Bill Olszewski
From: Colorado Springs, CO
Mar 10, 2007

This is a fun climb but study the guide carefully and get as much beta from other climbers as you can. This seems to be the most likely of all climbs at Tahquitz to get off-route. And every season there are a lot of loose blocks along the way. Most of the problems lie along the 4th - 6th pitches. Wear your helmet and be mindful of other climbing parties above and below you. Be sure to bring your headlamp in case you epic.
By Mark L
Jun 2, 2007

Definitely find the right set of overhangs to start under - use the bushes as a guide. I started the next roof to the left from where I should have and 80' higher handn't found a way to break right that looked less than 5.7 slab with kinda bad pro.

One of the middle pitches (maybe the third) goes from a comfortable belay at a the top of a gully/wide crack up to the first slight overhang then immediately left 10-15' to the next slight overhang and up and over that. This could be a heady lead - the pro on this pitch didn't seem great or always available and there were some pumpier edge pulls with poor feet rather than the pretty good feet most of the rest of the climb has. The last 2 pitches (getting to the final gully up and left and following it up to a chimney up and right, onto easy 5th to the top) were fine - really its the middle pitch of the climb that is the most physical and mental work.
By Brian Hench
From: Costa Mesa, CA
Jul 14, 2008
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13

We took a direct looking start to the route which goes up a left-facing corner through a patch of distinctive yellowish rock. If you go this way, it's low fifth class.

The route description mentions going right across a face on the fifth pitch. This is incorrect. The route goes straight up past a bolt and then a piton and loose block. The crux moves is in the middle of this pitch- a balancy move above your protection and if you fall, a slab awaits your ankles.

I give the route a PG-13 because of all the loose blocks and the poor protection on the crux move.
By Mar' Himmerich
From: Santa Fe, NM
Aug 25, 2008

Loose. I saw someone die on it. Found body parts next day. Found stashed duffle with her fleece years later.
By Chris Owen
From: Big Bear Lake
Jan 13, 2010
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b R

Blocky roof section and Dogleg pitch are classic. IMHO the crux is quite a long way up the climb, past the guidebook crux (where you traverse left and go over some overlaps). Up past this section, close to where a ring piton (if still there) and the bolt is you have to step right underneath a vee-groove, and pull into this, that's a tricky move. In the topo photo the groove is right underneath the second "5.6" from the top. Or maybe I've been off route all the times I've climbed it.
By The Gray Tradster
Jan 14, 2010

You were on route,

The topo is drawn incorrectly there

The route jogs right and goes up the Vee groove directly below the second 5.6 from the top. (beta photo)
The move isn't bad but the only piece that works to protect it hasn't been available for about 40 years. (smallest Peck Cracker)

If you go straight up from the belay the way the topo is drawn it's more like 5.9 thin

I've always considered the move around the "ominous downward jutting block" (obvious directly above the last 5.6 on the beta photo) the hardest move on the climb, but many traverse off or avoid it and don't finish the whole route.
By Christian "crisco" Burrell
From: PG, Utah
Jun 17, 2010

One of my favorites for relaxed climbing.
By Sean
From: Oak Park, CA
Aug 7, 2010

Did it in 6 long pitches, shortest around 150' and longest at approx 190' with one 60 m rope. Went past the piton with rusty decrepit O-ring (still there but placed own gear just below instead) and encountered the single bolt that Chris Owen mentioned. Regarding the V-groove above, pulling the tricky move didn't feel too bad with tiny but solid gear around chest level. Very enjoyable route. Full value, and then some.
By David M.H.
From: los Angeles, ca
Jun 27, 2011

Just did this route. It definitely seemed loose! Easy climbing mostly, almost too easy, with sparse but really cool moves here and there. Did it from the ground in 5 very long pitches on 60m. Last pitch was bad on may part that I ran it so long because I could not hear my follower at all. I dont think route finding was really that bad... I used both the photo topo on MP and the first edition of the Vogel topo's for this climb and didnt really have trouble. The route is not obvious however and I had to keep checking both topos while climbing...
By nealg
Jun 19, 2012

Did Pitches 1-5 of route on 6/18/12...thought for sure we were off route. Bailed.

At top of Pitch 4, our leader stepped up and triggered the release of a suitcase size piece of the climb (just by stepping up with body weight); it glanced away from the belayer, which it certainly could have killed. Very scary.
By Rob Donnelly
From: Riverside, CA
Sep 16, 2013

WARNING There is a very scary looking torso sized block at the end of the 3rd pitch (climbing out of the gully after the dog leg right before you gain the ledge and traverse left). It doesn't look like it would take much to dislodge. I don't remember this block being as scary looking last year. We were very careful to avoid it. Be careful!

My partner took the 5.9ish variation (slight left after bolt). The start is thin. Pro is ok to good. Good rests between short sustain sections. Recommended if you want more adventure.
By Kristian Solem
From: Monrovia, CA
Jul 14, 2014

So yesterday this route claims another with major rockfall.

I have an idea. If you are looking for death defying stunts on loose rock with a track record of killing and maiming people, go to the Canadian Rockies, or the Devil's Crags in the Sierra; someplace where you know what the game is and you take your chances with your eyes wide open.

All this talk about Sahara Terror being such a great route is hogwash. A climb like this at a local crag should be avoided like poison.

By Dmitry Lyumkis
From: San Diego
Jul 14, 2014

Rapped down with a DECEASED climber who was hit by a piano-sized block dislodged from above, Saturday July 12 2014, on Sahara Terror - NOT worth it people! Clearly not the first time someone died on this route either, based on previous comments. Read below for details.

We were right below the chimney on the neighboring whodunit, when we heard giant rockfall nearby. When my partner exited the chimney, he heard someone screaming for help. We traversed and rapped down to the climber, who was holding his leader on belay. The leader had taken what, under normal circumstances, looked like "merely" a 30 foot whipper onto and then just under a smallish ledge. But his partner mentioned that a giant rock had hit him. Probably it was dislodged from above. By the time we got to him (maybe 30-45 minutes after the rockfall?), the climber was dead. Probably he was killed on impact, either from the rock itself or from the fall, but no one really knows.

A bit later, get a call from one of the Mountain Rescue crew saying he will come up to us. Over the course of talking to him, we decide that we will help lower the body down. The three of us rapped down a couple pitches with the body. Then we were met by Mountain Rescue, who helped lower him the rest of the way. Thanks to Les and the crew for doing what they could to assist. These guys are real heroes.

I realize this is a "classic", but please THINK TWICE BEFORE CLIMBING THIS ROUTE! ... There are so many better routes at this grade on the other side of the mountain and/or Suicide Rock and WITHOUT loose rock.
By Jim Dover
From: Idyllwild, CA
Jul 14, 2014
rating: 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b PG13

DO NOT criticize the rescue effort unless you know all the details. From what I know, rescuers are first and foremost supposed to only do things they are trained to do and to do them safely. If it takes time to get the right people in place so that there are no further accidents, that's the way it has to be. I know the rescuers are thankful for the help you two provided.
By Dmitry Lyumkis
From: San Diego
Jul 14, 2014

this is an addendum to my previous post. I had no intention of criticizing anyone, and I have removed any unnecessary and subjective parts of the post, except for my personal opinion about climbing this route (but everyone should decide this for themselves!). The only intention here is to warn people of the dangers of this route.
By Sanjeev Ranade
Jul 14, 2014

Dmitry and I were the two climbers on whodunnit, above the injured party. I was above the chimney section when we heard climbers below us asking for assistance. We climbed down and traversed left to setup a rap on the bolt anchors (of edgehogs?). Dmitry rapped first and was able to get to the belayer. This was critical as he needed our assistance. He was not injured but he still had the lead climber on belay. I rapped second and went to the injured lead climber. By the time I got to him, he was gone. There were two climbers on a route below us and one of them has written comments on supertopo:

First and foremost, I want to express my condolences to the family of the deceased climber. I am so sorry for your loss.

Also, I want to follow up on Jim's point. Dmitry and I both appreciate the rescue efforts that everyone gave. We are both grateful that we were able to assist in some way.

Lastly, I want to also express my opinion on the climb. Please use your best judgement on this route. In my opinion, it's not worth it. There are better and safer climbs.

Again, my condolences to the family...
By Jordyn
Jul 14, 2014

I can confirm the names Dimitry and Sanjeev as the names of climbers responding to the incident. I arrived via approach about the time the first helicopter began trying to locate the accident and overheard the relay dialogue to the firefighter at the base of the route.

From what I witnessed (arriving after the fact) I agree that the officials arriving on scene handled things appropriately given the circumstances. Sure to anyone who had not directly been involved in a rope rescue/recovery I would say the operation would have looked pretty unprofessional. Communication was difficult for climbers talking to the base of the route having to relay messages over the constant helicopter rotor noise as well as the responders trying to use their VHF/UHF radios in the mountains to communicate the exact location for the mountain rescue rappel team.

There was overwhelming support from the ground as other climbers began setting lines from the bottom. Ultimately though the firefighters discouraged action in an effort to mitigate further incident (per their jobs), in light of the fact that a professional rope team was en route.
By Deno3
Jul 17, 2014

Here are the details of a previous accident being mentioned:

Falling Rock — California, Tahquitz Rock

Accident Reports


California, Tahquitz Rock

In May of 1984, Kimberly Eittreim (23) was killed when a rock weighing in excess of 240 kilograms, which was accidentally dislodged by the lead climber on Sahara Terror, fell a distance of ten meters and landed on her right shoulder and arm, pulling it from its socket and amputating her right hand. It was obvious that she had bled to death in seconds. (Source: RMRU Newsletter, Volume XX, Issue V, May 1984)


For some reason there had been a large amount of rock fall in this area all day, according to climbers who were on the rock or in Humber Park. The small ledge on which the victim was standing when struck—less than a meter in width—offered little protection from rockfall. In addition, the victim proably had no time to react when the large rock was dislodged. (Source: RMRU Newsletter, Volume XX, Issue V, May 1984)

By Michael Duarte
Aug 7, 2015
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

Really fun climb! This was my first trad climb and I ended up leading all but one pitch. Felt very safe on the entire route and it turned out to be a classic for me! I used a lot of micro pro and felt confident in all my placements. Be careful though because on several pitches there were loose rocks the size of bowling balls and larger. All around a fun and safe climb!
By Tradiban
May 23, 2016
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

My coveted DLFA chalk bag fell off me while on Edgehogs, probably wound up on this route somewhere. PM me if you find it please!

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