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Tahquitz accidents: common?
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May 30, 2013
While most of my experience is from my time in NorCal and Washington, I'm newish to Tahquitz and have climbed three times in the last two years since moving here and it's an amazing crag. I've learned to respect the ratings and am starting with the LOW grades.

I've also been watching this SoCal forum and have seen three accidents there in the last two seasons:

1) ?? a head injury due to spontaneous rockfall.
2) ?? April 27, 2013: a fall on Fingergrip
3) ?? May 17, 2013: a fatal accident that involved rappelling Vampire with "giant blocks" coming down with the victim.

There seem to be a few common themes here and for you Tahquitz regulars do think these accidents are unrelated anomalies, or is there a trend that should be from learned here? Are accidents frequent at Tahquitz or are these uncommon occurrences?

If at all possible I'd like to avoid being part of the next accident report...
From SoCal
Joined Aug 24, 2012
0 points
May 31, 2013

I don't think these 3 accidents are related to a common trend. I've climbed many years at Tahquitz and Suicide, and spontaneous rock fall is uncommon, but hey, it happens.

Climbing behind other parties always puts you at risk from falling gear or rocks dislodged by folks above.

There are some loose blocks on some routes, got to be careful. Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks seem more crowded, esp. on the trade routes these days.

As climbing becomes more popular, with more climbers out there, accidents are bound to happen.

Last weekend, I shared a belay with another party on one of the Lark climbs--the leader had established a belay with one sling on a questionable block (I thought it sounded hollow and would have never trusted a belay on a single anchor, no matter how good, just too much to go wrong out there). The funny thing was that there were 2 bomber stopper placements near the block, but that leader missed them, or thought the block was good enough. These are judgement errors that can lead to bad things happening.

Got to keep your wits about you, place good pro, even on easy terrain to avoid the long fall, be the first on the route to reduce chances of climber-induced rockfall! Be extra careful on raps! Double-check everything. I personally try to avoid repelling if I can walk off.

Be safe out there.
From Claremont, CA
Joined Apr 1, 2013
13 points
May 31, 2013
What that guy said ^^

Also try to think of Tahquitz as an alpine climbing area that just happens to have incredibly easy access. It's a big rock in a geologically active area that sees a wild array of temperatures with thousands of climbers ascending it each year.

As somebody who has lived in Idyllwild for a few years, believe me that the vast majority of accidents are USER ERROR. Not placing pro, bad pro, rappelling accidents, etc. Rockfall is somewhat common, but rarely hurts anybody because the rock is so big.

Edit: Tahquitz is big and the likelihood of getting struck by a rockfall is slim.

Don't let reported accidents or the lack thereof affect how you assess you safety at a climbing area. Use good judgement always, accidents happen when you least expect it.
Ryan Strickland
From Idyllwild, CA
Joined Oct 30, 2010
123 points
May 31, 2013
I climbed and guided there a number of years. I wouldn't worry too much about the recent accidents being recurring events. Though accidents happen. As someone posted operator error in many cases

One of my "rules" was not to follow parties on the longer trade routes. If the route had parties on it...go find another line
Thomas Beck
From Las Vegas, Nevada
Joined Feb 5, 2006
660 points
May 31, 2013
I think its a number of things. The following is completely unrelated to the above mentioned accidents as I think they were all very different in their own right and don't necessarily apply to my theory.

However; due to its close proximity to two large major cities, I think it attracts a plethora of new/inexperienced people. There is nothing wrong with this, and there are several routes on both rocks that suit a fledgling climber trying to cut their teeth on multipitch trad routes.

With that being said, I also think there has been a lack of respect with the process. I've seen it first hand, several times. 5.11/12 sport climber buys first rack, usually inadequate for a new leader on a multipitch climb. Scopes fingertrip, sees that it's rated 5.7, multi-star, and turns a nice day into an epic. I've also heard numerous times with folks at Lunch Ledge talking about how hard the lieback on Fingertip Traverse(5.3) is, or how hard the first pitch on Angel's Fright felt. And this once came from a couple of climbers who frequent the Gunks.

The other theory I have, is that people don't take Tahquitz/Suicide for what they are. Just because Idyllwild is two hours from San Diego or Los Angeles, has relatively temperate weather most of the year. It is considered, and should be treated as an alpine area. Complete with constantly changing routes, spontaneous rock fall, fast approaching storms, etc.

Given the innumerable variables that are present at all times with climbing in Idyllwild, coupled with the large amount of traffic it sees. Increasingly so recently as the 'sport' grows. The rate at which accidents occur has and will continue to rise.
From San Diego, CA
Joined Jun 12, 2010
115 points
Jun 1, 2013
Thanks all.
You might have caught the hint of "freaked out" in my original post that mostly comes from not knowing the long term history of the area. I was looking for some perspective (sounds like something from Ratatouille)

Not following other parties, and treating it like an alpine climb seem like some good guidelines.
From SoCal
Joined Aug 24, 2012
0 points
Jun 2, 2013
I have been climbing in Socal for 25 years and it seems that Tahquitz has always had a reputation for rockfall. I recall being a beginner and hearing horror stories of peeps getting chopped in half by rockfall there. RTM
Joined Oct 1, 2002
375 points
Jun 2, 2013
There's elements of all the already mentioned points. Newb's are tempted by multi-pitch routes at very moderate ratings (where else can you find a 7 pitch 5.1 that is actually considered a classic?). But, the main reason (IMHO) is the proximity to major living centers. The climbing is incredible and it is relatively close to civilization, so it gets frequented by lots of climbers. I have seen days there where every route with three stars had lines on them. You could look up into the NW recess and see parties everywhere. The more climbers, the more opportunity for accidents.
Yosemite National Park has tons of accidents every Summer. Just look at the number of visitors. It's bound to happen. When a population increases, the number of negative events (of all types) will rise as well.
Don't let it deter you though. Tahquitz is incredible!!! Most of my favorite days have been while just wandering around on the North face linking whatever looked interesting regardless of actual route. Enjoy it for what it is.
Many of the legends of our sport learned their craft here. They have trekked the same trail, bent pennies on the same tree, sunk fingers into the same pin scars as you. Even without the history, you can usually wander around a corner and find total solitude in one of the greatest climbing spots in the world.
Christian "crisco" Burrell
From PG, Utah
Joined May 18, 2007
1,530 points
Jun 2, 2013
We climbed Tahquitz/Suicide for 10 consecutive seasons early 80s through early 90s and I'm only aware of 1 fatality during that period: leader induced rockfall on Sahara Terror, 1983. Climbers didn't have access to internet websites like MP & ST where accidents are frequently reported within hours, so undoubtedly there were many non-fatal injuries and climber-assisted rescues that I wasn't privy to via the community grape vine.

We relied on the forensic analysis provided in the annual publication of "Accidents in North American Mountaineering," I highly recommend it.

As others have suggested here, always anticipate the unexpected, especially on multi-pitch terrain and early season Northern aspects.
From Northern NM
Joined Jan 25, 2010
325 points
Jul 15, 2014
A tragic fatal accident at Tahquitz, the second in 14 months:

4) Tahquitz Death July 12, 2014. a fatal accident caused by a loose block on Sahara Terror
From SoCal
Joined Aug 24, 2012
0 points
Jul 15, 2014
First and only time at Tahquitz: got on Sahara Terror 3 yrs ago. My wife leading the pitch with the wide crack (p.3?) - stepped on and dislodged a suitcase size piece of granite that missed me by inches.

It would have certainly been lethal if it had impacted me.

Next day did 'Long Rt' - I was amazed by the amount of looseness at top of last pitch.

Be extra extra careful there.
Joined Mar 24, 2010
5 points
Jul 15, 2014
Brent, Ryan, Thomas, Alley......

Your replys are spot on...

Been climbing at T&S for 41 years. It has always been popular and busy compaired to other places one can go climb.

I see a lot of climbers who are not aware of things like rockfall.....

Look for the signs of it... trees with impact marks, no trees and a scree field going down hill. Look at the stone around your feet, see impact marks?

I have watched climbers sit down and start eating lunch at the base of "garbage gulch" while people were climbing above them. Don't get me started on the whole Northside of Taquitz.... EVERYTHING LEFT OF THE WHITE MADEN HAS A TON OF LOOSE STUFF UP HI.... right where a rope can snag a block and send it.

This stuff has happened in the past and will continue to be part of our sport.

Its the price we pay, be safe.

Guy Keesee
From Moorpark, CA
Joined Mar 1, 2008
105 points
Jul 16, 2014
Does anyone have info on the helicopter rescue that took place this last Sunday the 13th? Hope everyone was okay. Very concerning to hear of the death on the 12th after arriving Sunday morning and then the sirens began to ring while on route. Lou Cerutti
From Carlsbad, California
Joined Jan 1, 2014
124 points
Jul 16, 2014
LCerutti wrote:
Does anyone have info on the helicopter rescue that took place this last Sunday the 13th? Hope everyone was okay. Very concerning to hear of the death on the 12th after arriving Sunday morning and then the sirens began to ring while on route.
From Atascadero, CA
Joined Nov 19, 2009
15 points
Jul 16, 2014
Thank you Frank..... Guy Keesee
From Moorpark, CA
Joined Mar 1, 2008
105 points
Jul 16, 2014
I thought the accident would be discussed more thorougly on the forum section vs the actual route description page. I didn't see anything come up on the site until I actually looked at the comments underneath the route description. So for those that haven't looked there or seen this.

Dmitry Lyumkis
"Rapped down with a DEAD 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. "

This is a huge tragedy to his family and the climbing community. I just hope people can learn and understand the dangers from this sport and especially a route that has claimed a few lives already within the past decades.
Jan Tarculas
From Riverside, Ca
Joined Mar 6, 2010
453 points

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