Left Ski Track, Tahquitz Rock, CA

May 29, 2008 / 5.6, 3p, trad.

Today is really cold so we decide to go climb on the sunny South Face. Left Ski Track is very different from other climbs at Tahquitz. It is steep and juggy, as it follows a sea of huge huecos between two wide, parallel cracks.

Even in the sun, it is still cold when we reach the base of the route around 11AM. We decide to take our time and give the rock a chance to warm up before heading up.

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Left Ski Track follows the obvious parallel cracks to the nose-like feature.
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Starting the first pitch (5.6).
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Climbing the slabby ramp to gain the right hand crack.
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Once in the crack, pro abounds.
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Higher on pitch 1, just below the belay pod.

The route starts on a slabby ramp just below the right hand crack. Some pro is available but not tons of it. I get pretty tense on the short runout section before joining the right hand crack. I climb the right hand crack some distance, then move to the left one. In most places, it is easier to climb the steep and juggy huecos up the face between the two cracks. The pro though, is only in the cracks, so I tend to stay really close to the left one except for a couple of moves here and there.

Instead of traversing left to the bolted anchor, I belay in a pod in the crack at the same level. Good pro placements are available... I'm not sure why you would go to the trouble of traversing to the anchor, unless you're rapping down or setting up a toprope. Reaching the anchor does not look trivial; it is probably best to climb the crack past the anchor, then downclimb diagonally left on small edges.

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Eric following pitch 1 (on the slabby ramp before gaining the crack).
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Climbing the steep jugs below the belay.
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The second pitch follows a good right-leaning crack...
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...before steping across just above a feature which looks like a small nose.
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Peeking around the corner before committing to the step-across.

Pitch 2 is the famous step across pitch, also rated 5.6 and much easier than it looks. From the belay, I follow the crack up to the small nose with two fixed pins. The upper pin protects the step across nicely (there is a good ledge for the feet, a finger lock for your left hand and a pinch for your right). I place a piece in the crack just past the step across and continue right to a very good ledge with another crack system. I set up an anchor and belay Eric from there.

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Traversing to the good ledge to set up a belay.
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Eric following pitch 2.
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On the step-across move.
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Starting pitch 3.
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Racking up at the top of the route.

The last pitch climbs the crack just above the ledge (i.e, the second crack climber's right of the step-across). The crack is pretty wide. It can be protected with a #3 and a #4 Camalot (I would recommend taking a number #4 for this reason). After the crack ends, a couple of slab moves (protected with one bolt) lead to a good ledge. I get a bit tense before committing to the slab moves; it's such a mental change from the crack climbing and the steep face below. Once you reach the ledge, the climb turns into a 4th class scramble, following the ledge leftward to the low angle slab that leads to the top of the South Face.

We follow the usual friction descent and get back to the packs where we have a quick lunch. After that, we still have time to do the first pitch of Fingertrip before calling it a day. We'll come back a few days later to climb the entire route.