Missing Climber

May 30, 2023
Tahquitz Rock, Idyllwild

Written by: Donny Goetz

We received a call mid-morning about an overdue solo climber attempting a route on the north face of Tahquitz rock. Our rescue helicopter was first on scene to search the north face area. One of the deputies aboard Rescue 9 was in contact with me asking about specifics of the route and where they should focus their efforts.

The dispatch report mentioned the climber was on the “Lars Route” route. I knew of three routes with a similar name on the north side (East Lark, West Lark, and Hard Lark) and that the report was referring to one of these. I sent images from the guidebook detailing the location of the routes to the deputies on the helicopter so they could refine their search pattern.

Searching the base of Tahquitz Rock

Meanwhile, I was in contact with Richard, another member on the hill, and we worked out a hasty plan presuming that we would be asked to join the effort shortly. We were officially requested approximately 20 minutes later, and several members began the journey to the trailhead. Richard and I (team 1) were first on scene and organized our packs for a hasty search of the north face approach trail to the base of the intended climbing route. The helicopter had not seen our subject, so we knew we needed to start searching the base for clues (signs of travel, dropped gear, ETC). Five other members were on their way when we began our approach to the rock.

James being lower out of Rescue-9

We recommended they deploy as two teams via the helicopter near the summit of the rock with each team then descending one of the two primary descent routes. We were hopeful our subject had finished the climb and was somewhere near the summit or on one of these routes.

RMRU member ready to be lower

Richard and I made it to the base of the north face in good time while trying to be thorough in our hasty search of the approach talus field. Once at the base, we scanned the wall with binoculars but found no sign of our subject. We continued along the base of the wall and around to the White Maiden buttress finding signs of other climbing parties but not our subject. The other two teams had been inserted near the summit and were beginning their search assignments down each descent route. Soon, team 2 found our subject just beginning his descent via the North Gulley. He was uninjured and had overestimated the time it would take to climb his route.

James with the Subject

In the end, he had climbed through the night without sleep and had spent approximately 21 hours ascending the route as a roped soloist. Team 3 retraced their steps up the south side to the summit notch to rendezvous with team 2 and our subject. Both teams continued descending the North Gulley rendezvousing with team 1 below the Y-Crack buttress. All teams completed the hike back to Humber Park together.

RMRU members and Subject at Base

RMRU Members Involved: (Eirc Easterday, James Eckhardt, Glenn Henderson, Donny Goetz, Joshua Gould, Tobias Moyneur, Vinay Rao, Ray Weden, and Richard Yocum)

Other Units Involved: (Riverside County Sheriff’s (SERT, Aviation Rescue 9)