Fingertrip, Tahquitz Rock, CA

May 31, 2008 / 5.7, 4p, trad.

Today is Saturday and we're hoping to get on "Fingertrip", one of the most popular climbs at the cliff... We start the approach pretty late, hoping that the crowds would have dissipated by the time we reach the base. Not so... It's already noon, but there is still a party of three getting ready to start and two parties higher up on the climb. We change our plans. We'll start with "On the Road" and come back later today if there is still time.

Eric makes quick work of On The Road, which we end up linking with "Traitor Horn". We come down quickly, hoping to have enough time left for Fingertrip. I look at my watch. Ouch, it's 4PM and it's no earlier than two days ago when we had only done the first pitch for lack of time. I hesitate for a while but eventually decide to go for it. We should have enough daylight left and can do the descent in the dark if need be. The only issue is the water: we only have 2 quarts left. We eat our sandwiches, drink some, and go.

The first pitch goes smoothly, but with a bit more hesitation than two days ago. It's always harder when you know where the hard spots are going to be. It is just a very nice pitch. Besides a tricky section down low, protected by an old pin which can easily be backed up, the crux comes at the end, when one tries to exit the lay-back and the crack gets really thin (a good ledge on the arete on the right saves the day…). Before committing to the lieback, I stem between the corner and the crack shooting left and place two bomber nuts in the corner. Then, I just go for it. I set up an anchor at the tree and belay Eric up. Note that there is a convenient bolted anchor to the left of the tree; you can traverse to that anchor and rap down if you want to do the first pitch only.

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Lucie starting the best pitch of Fingertrip (p1, 5.7).
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Higher on the first pitch.
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Eric following pitch 1.
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Just below the crux (pic taken from the bolted anchor at climber's left of the tree, the first time we climbed the pitch).
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Traversing left to gain the arch on pitch 2 (5.6).

The second pitch (5.6) follows cracks and flakes above the belay tree (I pick the rightmost one, not the wider one) to an obvious traverse to the left. I place a high piece before traversing on a good ledge. No pro on the traverse proper, but you can place a good piece right at the end, and it is easy (probably <5.4). Above the traverse, the route follows the arch to a semi-hanging belay just below and right of the apex.

Pitch 3 is 5.7 again. Another good pitch. I face climb left of the belay on good orange-colored ledges, then go over the apex. An alternative is to follow the upper crack in the arch, but this looks balancy and more difficult. The crux is turning the overlap just below a small bush. Looks like there are several ways to do this. I stay right of the bush and am able to protect the crux move by placing a piece high before committing to the move. From there, the climbing gets much easier and follows a crack system, then a ramp to Lunch Ledge.

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Eric entering the arch (pitch 2).
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Unknown climber on the signature pitch of El Camino Real.
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Starting pitch 3 (5.7), just above the apex.
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Climbing the upper arch.
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Just below the small overlap (crux).

The last pitch (p4) is pretty indescript. Heading left, I follow crack sytems to a small bush below a section of slab protected by a single bolt. I can really feel the weight of the ropes on the slab moves! The runout on the slab -only 5.4- is pretty entertaining. Anyway, I'm there and the only way out is up...

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Starting the last pitch (just above Lunch Ledge).
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Climber following the runout slab on p3 (photo taken from high on The Vampire a few days later).
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Racking up at the top of the South Face with the Upper Bulge in profile in the background.
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On the standard descent route.
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Hiking down the steep trail back to the car.

We reach the top with plenty of sunshine left but we are completely out of water.

Long descent, first back to the packs at the base of the route. The party of 3 that was starting up Fingertrip when we first got here this morning is just finished packing their stuff at the base… good thing we changed our plans! We reach the car with daylight to spare. A great, long day.