Tahquitz Rock, Hoodenett Route

By: Andy Gale | Climbers: Andy Gale, Steve Gale |Trip Dates: August 20, 1996

Photo: Gary Clark

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The Hoodenett Race

All summer long I had been saving Hoodenett (5.9, 7 pitches) at Tahquitz to climb with my brother. He had cancelled a visit in May but finally he was here in Southern California and we were going to do Hoodenett. There is nothing I like better in climbing than swinging leads on long multi-pitch climbs with my brother.

Well, he was in Southern California, but he wasn't exactly in San Diego. He was in Yucaipa with his girlfriend, visiting her parents. That was close enough for me. I drove up Monday evening and we discussed what our schedule should be. It turned out we had a considerable time constraint on our hands because we decided to meet Jill and a friend for dinner down in San Diego at 7 PM. So the question was, could we drive from Yucaipa to Idyllwild, hike up to Tahquitz, climb 7 pitches, hike back down, drive down to San Diego and clean up all before meeting Jill for dinner at 7? Well, there was only one way to find out. The race was on!

We left Yucaipa a bit after 7 and arrived at Humber park at about 8:15. We racked up at the car where I discovered my first screw up. I had forgotten to fill my water bottles. So we had only about 2.5 liters of water for the day. We decided not to waste the time going back into town. What the hell, it would just make us lighter. We racked up at the car so we wouldn't have to return to the base of the climb on the way down the mountain and left the car at 8:35. We spent about 25 minutes hiking up the talus field and then another 20 minutes scoping out the route and preparing for the climb.

I went on belay at 9:20 and started up the crux 5.9 first pitch. Steve hadn't done much climbing in the past year so I was designated for the harder set of pitches (besides Steve had never climbed Tahquitz before). The lead went relatively smoothly, although I wasn't too fast since I diddled around for a bit at the thin seams above both overlaps. Steve followed after me and also dithered at the crux above the 2nd overlap but then climbed it clean. We re-racked and Steve took off on the 2nd pitch (5.8).

He led steadily upwards and then set up the belay on the comfortable ledge below the chimney. I followed him fast and was very impressed with the quality of the pitch. Wow, that was a cool pitch! I then led the chimney pitch. That was also a blast! The chimneying was really easy. The crux was pulling out of the top of the chimney. After Steve followed me and we re-racked, it was noon when Steve was ready to take off again.

I was really struck by how peaceful this place was on a weekday. There was not another soul to be seen on the entire mountain (in the course of the day we saw a total of 5 other climbers, including a guy free soloing 'White Maiden Walkway'.) It was a bit windy and cool, mainly because we were in the shade, but the sky was crystal clear.

Steve led the 4th pitch and thought it was a bit stiff for 5.7. He was also not real clear on where to stop and set up a belay. The topo looked like the 4th pitch followed a ramp or something off to the right. I thought it indicated that the climb was leaving the obvious dihedral at that point. I guess I should have asked someone earlier. He did finally set up a belay in a little alcove and I came up. I consulted the topo trying to figure out if we stayed in the dihedral or headed off to the right for a different crack system. I couldn't for the life of me remember what others had said, although I knew of several people who had climbed it recently. Well, anyway, as unbelievable as it may be for such an obvious line, I then proceeded to lead us way off route. For the 5th pitch I continued off to the right looking for another crack continuing up. I didn't find one so I just kept climbing over relatively easy ramps and flakes until I found a good place to stop and set up a belay. At that point I knew we were off route but I still thought that Hoodenett was supposed to be to the right of the big dihedral. In retrospect that was clearly wrong. We should have stayed in the dihedral. Oh well!

I decided the next pitch should go up an obvious vertical crack up and to the left of us. Steve led up to it and thought it looked quite difficult. So we decided that I would lead it rather than spend a lot of time having Steve try to work it out. Anyway, I led the crack and thought it was probably about 5.9. We were both pretty tired by then so it was quite a challenge. Since then though, I have looked more at the photo of that face in the guide and I think it might have been part of the Long Route. That would make it 5.8 probably. It didn't seem to have been climbed much though, so I am not sure. After that I just said ,"Screw the route, I am following the easiest line up". So I continued to the right from the top of that crack up a series of steep flakes to some less steep climbing up rock that had clearly not been climbed regularly. I stopped when I was out a rope length.

It looked like we were within 30 ft of the top. Steve followed me with some difficulty, as he was quite tired. I led the last, easy pitch over the top. We had decided that in order to make dinner in time we would have to top out by 3:00. Steve topped out at 3:05! Yeehah! We were psyched! In spite of my route finding blunders we took 5 hours and 40 minutes and we were on target to make dinner. We walked up to the tip top of Taquitz to high five, polished off the last of our water and took off for the bottom. The descent down the friction slabs was uneventful and we continued down the climbers' trail and made it to the car at 4:05. That made it 7 hours and 30 minutes car to car! No doubt others have done it much faster but I was thrilled!

To top off the evening we hauled ass all the way back to San Diego, stopped off at my place for quick showers and continued down to Horton Plaza to rendezvous with Jill and Rhonda. Precisely at 7 o'clock we arrived at the prearranged meeting place and were waiting for them when they showed up! Steve scored brownie points for being on time and we had a fantastic day of climbing with some adventure thrown in! Who could ask for anything more!

Note: The original name of this climb, The Hoodenett , given to the climb by the first ascent party, Joe Fitschen and Royal Robbins, in 1957 and appearing in Chuck Wilts' "Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks", has been used throughout in place of Randy Vogel's later bastardization of the name to "Whodunit".

This trip report also appears on the web site of "Los Alpinistas", climbing club based in San Diego:$hooden.htm