Traitor Horn (5.8; four pitches) Tahquitz Rock, Idyllwild, California


Alpine dreaming in So Cal’s San Jacinto Mountains

In 1941, Roy Gorin and William Shand made the FFA of Traitor Horn, which zigs up the west face of the sweeping, 800-foot Tahquitz Rock. Gorin had only one leg, having lost the other at age 6 — remember that as you fight to straddle the slick horn on pitch three, your quads quivering with fatigue.

Tahquitz and Suicide rocks (just across the valley) perch above the touristy, Alps- style hamlet of Idyllwild, less than 100 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Still popular to this day, these venerable stones have hosted generations of visionaries — Bob Kamps, Randy Leavitt, John Long, Royal Robbins, Tobin Sorenson, and dozens more have left their vertical stamp on the area’s epic climbs (Open Book, Paisano Overhang, The Vampire, Valhalla, etc.). The routes themselves are infamous for old-school grades, sparse gear, and runout slabs, all of which can render atremble usually confident leaders. For its part, Traitor Horn sees surprisingly few ascents, likely due to its reputation as a high-commitment route for the relatively mild grade.

A lung-busting 45-minute approach leads to the base of Traitor Horn, which shares P1 and P2 with the 5.6 Jensen’s Jaunt. Begin on fractured blocks and slick seams through quartz dikes, to a natural-gear belay at 110 feet. Pitch two follows a lower-angled wide crack to a stretchy traverse, either over the top of or just below the so-called “traitor horn” (traitor, as in, “Don’t let this horn lull you into thinking you’ve finished the business”). The lower path offers less rope drag and allows for a belay in a dihedral.

Pitch three traverses to the “true horn.” Two museum-quality pins — the route’s only fixed gear — protect the moves to the horn/arête. Straddle this and gaze 300 vertigo-inducing feet down between your legs, to the steep hillside; now grope the arête, aiming for a ledge 80 feet distant. Pitch four is a sporty 5.2 slab up and over the top. The easiest way off is to follow the Friction Route (class 4) to the trail along the south face, and then drop down along Tahquitz to your packs.

The Beta

Guidebook: Rock Climbing: Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks, Third Edition, by Randy Vogel and Bob Gaines (

Guide Service: Vertical Adventures — (800) 514-8785,

Equipment Shop (Idyllwild): Nomad Ventures — (951) 659-4853

Season: Late spring and autumn. Summer can be good, though hot in the sun.

Rack: Doubles up to 3.5”; six shoulder-length slings Camping: Idyllwild County Park, spring through autumn — (800) 234-7275

Bonus Betaby Bennett Barthelemy

Must Do Routes at Tahquitz:Vampire (5.11a) stout!Super Pooper (5.10a)Open Book (5.9)Whodunnit (5.9)Fingertrip (5.7)Angels Fright (5.5)

Good Breakfasts:Bread Basket (across the street and up from Nomad Ventures gear shop)

Good bouldering in Idyllwild:Idyllwild County Park, in and around campsites and up above on the nature trail. (Mushroom Boulder at the far end has some problems!) South Ridge, where the trailhead to Tahqhuitz peak begins, on the hillsideopposite the trailhead.

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