Count Dracula’s Climbing Legacy

Tahquitz - Idyllwild, CA. A Friend's Canceled Flight leads to a day climbing the Vampire. Volunteering to take a climber to the airport is always risky.  The flight might get delayed, and then, of course, an impromptu climbing mission may be in order.  This was exactly what happened yesterday when a friend's flight to Germany [...]

Tahquitz – Idyllwild, CA. A Friend’s Canceled Flight leads to a day climbing the Vampire.

Volunteering to take a climber to the airport is always risky.  The flight might get delayed, and then, of course, an impromptu climbing mission may be in order.  This was exactly what happened yesterday when a friend’s flight to Germany got moved from Tuesday to Saturday.

Taquitz seemed the best place to get to from LA for some stellar trad on short notice.  My partner had a double set of cams, and I had my old 60 meter sport climbing rope in the car (which I was taking to get recycled), so we were set to go.  My partner had always wanted to climb the Flakes and knew notionally where it was so voila! we had a plan.  A leisurely 10am departure from LA found us at the base of the Taquitz’s West Face around 1 o’clock, and the adventure begins.

The Vampire on Taquitz’s West Face Bulge as viewed from the start of the approach ledges

My Taquitz experience is a bit limited, 2 days, the first I  climbed the Mechanic’s Route while waiting for Open Book, then Open Book, and finally the Left Ski Track.  The second trip we wanted to climb Who Dunnit but our leisurely start time lead us to climb the far less trafficked Consolation Route (super fun).  Anyways looking up at the steep face in front of me there was what looked like a brilliant splitter going up the lower half of the face and I soon learned the awesome line I wanted to climb was the infamous Vampire.  My partner had climbed it before so knew the route and with minimal coercing on my part, and the super friendly group ahead of us offering to let us jump them the climb for the day had officially changed.

The bat crack, the Vampire’s first pitch, looks a lot lot easier from the ground, but maybe my perspective had warped because the “4th class” approach according to my partner seemed a bit more like 5.6 or 5.7 to me.  (Note: as it turns out most sane climbers agree, and I would recommend roping up the first time you do the ledges approach.)  The first pitch begins with a few awkward moves to establish yourself on top some blocks and at the start of a brilliant, deceptively overhanging finger to off hands crack.  There is a sweet rest where the “standard start” links in.  Don’t cheat yourself with this “standard start” though, you would be eliminating some brilliant climbing.  The crack backs off in angle to vertical or maybe slightly less here and leans up and rightward before leading to some tricky crack and face warm up mantle moves and then the real business to the anchors.  At which point you might find yourself shaking like a martini you would prefer stirred or straight up having gained what might be the most exposure possible anywhere from one 140 foot pitch.  I found myself having to mentally yell at my legs to behave in order to pull the final mantle.

Pitch 2 might be my favorite.  The reach around move to start (protected using the leftmost of the anchor bolts) leads to awesome lie-backing in amazing (potential huge understatement here) positioning completely hidden from the belay.  The start makes you look around, down, out and there I was yelling at my legs again.  Choose gear locations behind those flakes carefully, or hang on tight when a bat flies out at your face right at the infamous bologna slicer.  The batwalk makes for an exciting way to end this pitch and leaves you looking up at the mental crux of the climb.

Looking up Pitch 2 of the Vampire at Taquitz

Pitch 3 seemed like the business, you know, when you have to pull a move above your gear.  I recommend getting here while its in the shade because in the baking sun at 3 or 4 in the afternoon I think the boulder problem becomes a bit harder.  Technical note a metolious zero (purple) in the bottom of the pocket after the crux places well for those of us seeking mental  security.  Anyways a little bit of trickery, don’t want to give to much away, and you find yourself wandering up seams and cracks to a gear belay, or maybe with a 70m you can gun it and pull the summit roofs to belay on top.

We made it.  I smiled.  I smiled some more.  I found I could not stop smiling.  I wondered why I went to the climbing gym yesterday, or why I ever went there.  In the fading light we began the friction descent and made it back to the car just in time to go grab pizza and beer at the Idywilld Pizza Company and began reminiscing about what might be the most fun you can jam into 3 pitches.

Fading lights over Taquitz

Location: Tahquitz Rock – Idyllwild, Ca

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Ilana is a native of Southern California. She is an accomplished rock and ice climber and is the brains behind Thrillseekers Anonymous. Currently residing in Colorado, she is a Registered Surgical/Trauma Nurse, who can be found leading her own adventures on days off. Ilana is a sponsored athlete with GoMacro, WoolX, and an Arcteryx Denver ambassador. She has been featured in various media outlets including the February 2015 issue of ‘Climbing’ magazine, December 2013 issue of ‘Rock and Ice’ magazine, December/January 2013 issue of ‘Gripped Climbing’ magazine, Canyoneering: A Guide to Techniques for Wet and Dry Canyons (How To Climb Series) by Dave Black and Pasadena Magazine as well as a Climbing Expert on MTV’s Parental Control (Season 7 – “Heather”).

Ilana has written 111 articles for Thrillseekers Anonymous.

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