Whodunit, Tahquitz Rock, CA

June 3, 2008 - 5.9, 8p, trad.

We climb "Whodunit" again. We had climbed this route several years ago, during our very first "test" trip with the bus: a two-week vacation in Idyllwild, only a few weeks after we had purchased it.

This time however, I (Lucie) will lead all the pitches. It's a cold day so we don't want to start too early. We start the approach late and get to the base around 10:30AM. It's nice and warm. The base of the route is in the sun, but the main dihedral is still in the shade (good). It's mid-week but a party of two is on the route. They are just finishing the first pitch (to the bolted anchors) when we arrive. We take our time getting ready, trying to give them enough space so that we won't be in each other's way. We eventually start up the route as their leader is well on his way up the third pitch (chimney pitch).

The first pitch (5.9) is one of the best on the route. It warms you up with easy cracks before reaching the thin slabby crux section. Fortunately, the crux is well protected with small nuts. Above that, it gets easier and when you reach the small roof, you traverse back left into the main crack. The leader of the team in front of us is still not done with the third pitch when I clip in the bolted anchors, so I decide to belay Eric from here rather than continuing up to the base of the chimney as we had planned. Note that going in one pitch to the base of the chimney requires a 60m rope and a bit of simul-climbing on easy terrain for the second.

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Whodunit follows the long right facing dihedral system near the left of the cliff in this picture.
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Looking up at the route from the base.
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Pitch 1 (5.9) warms you up with easy cracks...
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...before a thin slabby crux section.
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Eric following pitch 1 (about to traverse left just below the small roof).

I bring Eric up and start the second pitch. There is another 5.9 section just above the belay protected by an old fixed piton that you can easily back up. After that, it's sustained 5.7 to the ledge below the chimney.

I'm a bit concerned about the third pitch. It looks intimidating from below, but it turns out to be really fun and well protected. I use the left crack system to gain the ledge just below the chimney. This section involves sustained thin hand-jamming. It looks like some people use the right hand crack as well but it did appear more difficult.

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Starting pitch 2 (5.9).
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A short pitch to the base of the chimney.
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The third pitch (5.9) is my favorite pitch. A section of sustained thin hand jamming leads to the base of the chimney.
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The chimney looks intimidating from below but...
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... is really fun and does not require any actual chimneying (you can stem and jam the whole way up).

After a short break, I tackle the chimney. Straightforward stemming and jamming all the way. I don't even have to do any actual chimneying. Exiting the chimney is the crux, but a couple of good jams (a bit wide for me though) and you're at the ledge. I'm glad I'm carrying a #4. I place it to protect the exit move. A great pitch. Definitely, my favorite pitch on the route.

Pitch 4 offers more great crack climbing. It starts out with good hand jams but widens to fists. I whine a bit: blue camalots is really a size I dread. I have two #3 but I place them too soon and end up having to run it out a bit. Eric gets impatient and tells me to just climb and not worry so much about the pro. Don't you love it when your belayer does that!

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Exiting the chimney is the crux (good jams; a bite wide).
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Eric following the thin hand section up to the chimney.
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The last jamming section before the belay.
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Starting pitch 4 (5.8).
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The climbing gets a bit easier above pitch 3 but never really lets up.

If the first three pitches are the technical cruxes, the dificulties never really let up and the climbing is rather sustained all the way. The wide section of pitch 5 can easily be bypassed by climbing a thin crack on the left. The traverse back into the main crack system is balancy but not difficult.

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Higher on the pitch.
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Eric following pitch 4.
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The wide section of pitch 5 (5.8) can be avoided by climbing the thin crack on the left...
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...and traversing back into the main crack above the slot.
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Higher on pitch 5.

After more good crack climbing on pitch 6, I belay on a ledge just below the final roof. Turning the roof is the crux of the last pitch (5.7 move). Above the roof, the difficulties are basically over. I follow a left leaning crack system to a small ledge below a small overlap just short of the summit. Not sure I have enough rope left to go to the top (turns out I did), I belay Eric here.

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Views from the belay atop pitch 5.
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More good crack climbing on pitch 6 (5.8).
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Following pitch 6.
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Starting the last pitch (5.8).
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Turning the small roof is this pitch's crux.

Five minutes later, we're standing on the comfy summit, take the usual pics and browse the summit register. We head down the north gully descent.

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The rest of the pitch is easy (5.2). I belay on a ledge just short of the summit.
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Looking back at Eric.
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The last move.
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On the comfy summit.
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Summit shot.

Another great day on perfect California granite!

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Signing the summit register...
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...before starting the north gully descent.