Two University of California, Riverside, students attempting to scale a difficult climbing route called Fingertrip on Tahquitz Rock in Idyllwild, encountered equipment difficulties and became stranded on a narrow rock ledge halfway up the monolith’s face.
Climbers Brian Wong and David Wilmer began their Sunday, Oct. 21, climb around midday. About seven hours later, as cold fog began to roll in, they used a cell phone to call for assistance. Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit volunteers Les Walker and Donny Goetz, assisted by Lee Arnson and Helene Lohr at Humber Park and Ralph Hoetger at base, began the rescue operation around 8:30 p.m.
Walker and Goetz climbed 300 feet up the rock face to the stranded climbers rather than hike up and rappel down. They made this choice because temperatures were falling and the climbers were stranded without food and water. This was the quickest, but more dangerous rescue tactic required by circumstances, Walker said.
The route the climbers attempted is one of the most difficult on Tahquitz. “We climbed with headlights, it was extremely cold and wind speeds at the top were 30 mph,” Walker said. They reached the climbers around midnight. Walker climbed 200 feet more to the summit and, with Goetz, began raising the climbers and equipment to the top. They then hiked the climbers back to Humber, arriving there around 3 a.m.
“This was one of the most technical and dangerous rescues we have completed,” Walker said.