Lily Rock and Suicide Rock

General Palm Springs area.

Lily Rock and Suicide Rock

Postby tekewin » Wed Jul 17, 2019 6:59 pm

I've wanted to climb Lily Rock (aka Tahquitz Rock) since looking down on it from Marion Mountain. From Humber Park at 6:45 AM on Sunday, I descended to the Ernie Maxwell trail and took it to the ascent gully about a half mile down trail. I stayed left above the gully and hiked through a lot of dead trees. The slope was very steep and loose. I might have done better in the gully. I reached the right side of the saddle between Lily and Tahquitz Peak and did a short down climb to get to the base of the summit looming 160' above. I explored left then right, blazing a route through a dead tree and up a curved block with a 2' crack. Next was a very exposed move across the crack to a big slab, then the summit. I found a cement marker on top reading "HI 10" (?) and great views all around, but no register. I could hear climbers yelling to each other on the vertical face below, but didn't see anyone. I looked for an easier way down and followed a low class 3 gully which would have been on the left side going up. It was much better, with only a single exposed 4' ledge past a bush. The 4' ledge was slightly angled down and there was a down climb there if you prefer not to cross it. I learned later this was the main route. I returned across the saddle and started plunge stepping down. While it was 2 steps forward, 1 back going up, it was 2 steps down then slide another step going down. At around 7500', I took a big step directly over a curled rattlesnake. It was thankfully still cool out and I was under full shade. The snake moved slowly and evenly uphill toward a tree, not bothering to rattle a warning. It was a juvenile probably waiting for the sun to break through the pines. The rest of the descent was low drama and I returned to the truck to reset for a trip to Suicide Rock.

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ascent gully

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Lily Rock from the saddle

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Tahquitz from the saddle

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I took the yellow route up, blue down

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The rock with the 2' crack

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Looking down on Suicide from Lily

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My snake friend at 7500'

The official trail to Suicide Rock is about 7 miles long, but I had read about a short climbers trail that drops off the side of the road not far below Humber Park. I took a break at the truck then followed the paved road down by three green water tanks. I found a small "climber trail" sign and dropped down the trail to cross the creek. It emerged onto a private paved road (with hike through granted), then turned into a dirt road and finally a single track below Suicide Rock. The trail is unmaintained and several other use trails splinter off. I just continued up. As you approach the tall granite slabs, the trail has sections of class 2. Here the trail goes right and follows below the slabs. I passed multiple parties climbing various routes. As the slabs end, you reach the ridge and intersect the main trail. I took the main trail to the look out point with fantastic views. Then, I followed a use trail to the less impressive summit with small boulders, surrounded by trees. I returned down the climbers trail. Love this area.

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Some climbers on Suicide

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Unimpressive summit of Suicide

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tekewin
 
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Re: Lily Rock and Suicide Rock

Postby guest » Thu Jul 18, 2019 8:04 am

Great post & pics Tekewin,
I really like that area as well. One time I left Humber & headed mostly east to reach the PCT, then over to the fire lookout.
Humber still wins the award for the Worst smelling restrooms anyway in SoCal!! Myself & a couple gals from Canada did Devils Slide to PCT, Strawberry Jct. & down Deer Springs about a month ago, they were bad then, probably worst now that is warming up & lots more use. Our Adv. (parking) Pass should pay for that!

Consider yourself fairly lucky, as that appears to be a Southern Pacific rattler, who are known to not rattle much, and seem to be developing a very toxic, (hemo & nero) venom. I'm sure being cool & shady helped.
Great way to explore that amazing "mini Yosemite valley", (although you probably get some flax, as I do, for doing challenging, off-trail adventures solo).
scott
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Re: Lily Rock and Suicide Rock

Postby Ed » Thu Jul 18, 2019 8:38 am

Great trip report, tekewin.

When I was climbing at Tahquitz in the 1970's, that 4' exposed ledge on the descent route bothered me more than the low-5th class climbs (now mid-5th class, thanks to rating-inflation). Don't remember being able to down-climb it, I always simply stepped across without looking down. In his autobiography, Royal Robbins mentions a friend who fell there. He survived, was hospitalized for weeks, and made a good recovery.

You are always about to step on the rattlesnake when you first notice it, aren't you? That is certainly my experience. It was probably 'dormant'. I was hiking in the Laguna Mountains once with my tri-color basset, when she ran up to a huge rattlesnake lying across the trail, and sniffed it. Fortunately the tail end. It very slowly slithered away after being prodded with a trekking pole. Since Chloe had rattlesnake-aversion training, I contacted the trainers, and asked them what was going on. They claimed that the snake was in the 'dormant' state, in which it does not give off the usual odors. They also said that when a rattlesnake is in the dormant state, it is much less likely to bite, but its bite is just as deadly.

I had one of the scariest days of my life on Suicide Rock. A friend and I were climbing on a spring week day, nobody else around. We did a couple of easy climbs, then decided to do a third, in the guidebook and also easy. But went up some 'route' which I've never been able to find since in a guidebook. I ended up in a situation where I had to cross a granite chute with water flowing over it, because downclimbing was out of the question. I am sure water had been flowing down that chute every spring for the last 10,000 years, there was moss rippling underneath the surface of the water. One of those situations so scary you want to believe it is not real. I was leading and fortunately did not fall. If I had, I would have slid about 80' feet down the chute to a boulder field, and ended up dead, or wishing I was. In order to complete the climb, Sam had to come up and make the same traverse. He did fall, but I had him on a bombproof belay. Some blood flowing, but no serious injury. Afterwards, we were having lunch at the base of the rock when a load of rocks came rumbling down. We instantly jumped behind the trees. Not our day.
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Re: Lily Rock and Suicide Rock

Postby tekewin » Thu Jul 18, 2019 7:54 pm

guest wrote:Great post & pics Tekewin,
I really like that area as well. One time I left Humber & headed mostly east to reach the PCT, then over to the fire lookout.
Humber still wins the award for the Worst smelling restrooms anyway in SoCal!! Myself & a couple gals from Canada did Devils Slide to PCT, Strawberry Jct. & down Deer Springs about a month ago, they were bad then, probably worst now that is warming up & lots more use. Our Adv. (parking) Pass should pay for that!

Consider yourself fairly lucky, as that appears to be a Southern Pacific rattler, who are known to not rattle much, and seem to be developing a very toxic, (hemo & nero) venom. I'm sure being cool & shady helped.
Great way to explore that amazing "mini Yosemite valley", (although you probably get some flax, as I do, for doing challenging, off-trail adventures solo).
scott


When I arrived around 6:30 AM, the bathrooms were locked. In between hikes, I did visit it and yes, smelled like death and swarming with flies. A ranger was also checking passes for the Devils Slide trail. I do feel lucky to have passed the snake while it was sluggish. I did read a recent article about the snakes around Idyllwild having paralyzing venom. Bad news. I've had several close calls with rattlers, but this one was the scariest. My wife used to protest the off trail solo trips, but I think she's just gotten used to the idea.
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Re: Lily Rock and Suicide Rock

Postby tekewin » Thu Jul 18, 2019 8:03 pm

Ed wrote:Great trip report, tekewin.

When I was climbing at Tahquitz in the 1970's, that 4' exposed ledge on the descent route bothered me more than the low-5th class climbs (now mid-5th class, thanks to rating-inflation). Don't remember being able to down-climb it, I always simply stepped across without looking down. In his autobiography, Royal Robbins mentions a friend who fell there. He survived, was hospitalized for weeks, and made a good recovery.


That's really interesting. I need to read that autobiography. The HPS write up Lily Rock kind of makes light of the scramble, but there's some exposure no matter which way you go.

Ed wrote:I had one of the scariest days of my life on Suicide Rock. A friend and I were climbing on a spring week day, nobody else around. We did a couple of easy climbs, then decided to do a third, in the guidebook and also easy. But went up some 'route' which I've never been able to find since in a guidebook. I ended up in a situation where I had to cross a granite chute with water flowing over it, because downclimbing was out of the question. I am sure water had been flowing down that chute every spring for the last 10,000 years, there was moss rippling underneath the surface of the water. One of those situations so scary you want to believe it is not real. I was leading and fortunately did not fall. If I had, I would have slid about 80' feet down the chute to a boulder field, and ended up dead, or wishing I was. In order to complete the climb, Sam had to come up and make the same traverse. He did fall, but I had him on a bombproof belay. Some blood flowing, but no serious injury. Afterwards, we were having lunch at the base of the rock when a load of rocks came rumbling down. We instantly jumped behind the trees. Not our day.


That sounds like a climbing nightmare. I hope I never get myself in a situation like that, but I guess it happens. I've only done a couple proper climbing routes, but I understand the intensity of focus that comes with it. I'm on the fence about whether I like that feeling or not, haha. I was talking with a climber buddy yesterday, and he did a 4-pitch route on Lily the same day I was there, but we didn't see each other. He took a 20' fall and scraped his leg pretty bad. Has to change the bandages every day. Thanks for all the info.
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Re: Lily Rock and Suicide Rock

Postby Ed » Fri Jul 19, 2019 9:25 am

tekewin,

There is a longer and less exposed descent route to the left. Perhaps a little less obvious. But the one with the ledge is the main one.

Can't remember whether the incident I mentioned is in Volume 1 or 2 of the Robbins autobiography. I found them to be fascinating. Burgled houses in LA with a friend when he was a teenager. The cops sat them down and gave them a talk that straightened Robbins out, but not his friend. Climbed the Snow Creek route in June with his Scout troop, on the second attempt. Some Scout troop! Fell while descending the U-Notch Couloir on North Palisade, fortunately roped up. I found that comforting. I went up and down the U-Notch Couloir twice unroped, estimating the chances of a successful self-arrest at about 50%. There are pictures of Barbara Lilley, when she was quite a 'babe', an ancient and now offensive term. I knew Barbara well about 25 years later. Also pictures of John Mendenhall, who mentored Robbins. When I took the Sierra Club Rock Climbing Section (RCS) course, I was on two climbs that John Mendenhall led, one on Suicide and one on Tahquitz. He was an old man who was slow and careful, even a bit shaky. But I knew who he was, and being on the same rope as him gave me the same sense of awe you have visiting a cathedral. His wife Ruth, suffering badly from arthritis, simply walked around quietly. Ruth was on the first ascent of the Swiss Arete on Mt. Sill in 1938, when she was Ruth Dyer. The Swiss Arete was rated 5.4 when I climbed it, which I thought was a fair rating, now it is rated 5.7. (I've done a little 5.7-5.8 with an upper belay, but never considered myself a rock climber at that level.) When Ruth climbed it, there was no rating. The system we now call the Yosemite Decimal System was invented in the 1950's at Tahquitz by an RCS committee of three, including Robbins, which is covered in his autobiography. Ruth also has an autobiographical book.

The climbing these people did does not meet today's standards. But they were weekend climbers with full-time jobs, making first ascents with equipment which would be considered primitive and unsafe today, and there was no SAR. I am still in awe of them.
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Re: Lily Rock and Suicide Rock

Postby Ellen » Fri Jul 19, 2019 12:01 pm

Howdy Tekewin and Ed :)

:shock: :shock: :shock:

I love reading these trip reports and am in awe. Thanks for sharing.

Miles of smiles,
Ellen
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Re: Lily Rock and Suicide Rock

Postby Wildhorse » Fri Jul 19, 2019 4:15 pm

I went up Lily Rock about ten years ago. I must have taken the main route that you described. Overall, that route was not hard except for the exposure at the ledge you described. I came down a gully to the Ernie Maxwell trail from the saddle area. Fortunately, no snakes that day. The saddle area is wild and beautiful, and the gully was dark and offered exceptional solitude for such a busy area.
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Re: Lily Rock and Suicide Rock

Postby tekewin » Fri Jul 19, 2019 7:56 pm

Ed, I just bought the first Royal Robbins book "To Be Brave". Looking forward to it. You've certainly had some brushes with greatness.

Ellen, thanks. I am in awe of the frequent big trips you do. Please keep it up.

Wildhorse, yeah, when I left the trail, there was no one by me. The climbers all leave the trail before the gully. I've read the traverse to Tahquitz from the saddle is tricky with a lot of class 3/4.
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Re: Lily Rock and Suicide Rock

Postby Wildhorse » Sat Jul 20, 2019 8:08 am

Before the fires, I loved exploring the quiet places in the San Jacintos. I intended to return to the saddle area to see more of what is there. I also intended to explore more gullies and the slope generally between Ernie Maxwell and Southridge. The exploration I was able to do confirmed my impressions that one can usually find routes no steeper than class 2 in those mountains. The Suicide Rock area, above and below it was also interesting to explore, looking for non technical routes up the slopes.

The San Jacintos are great mountains.
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