The Northeast Face route is the most prominent right facing dihedral on the North Side of Tahquitz. It is found at the extreme left end of the Larks Face (East Lark, Hard Lark, West Lark routes).
The dihedral follows the rock almost all the way to the summit so the chances of route finding errors are reduced. The dihedral is clean and steep and presents a good climbing at a sustained 5.6 level. This is not a route that has a lot of fourth class scrambling mixed with a touch of fifth. The Northeast Face has to be climbed. It is most likely one of the three or four best 5.6 climbs on Tahquitz (Fool's Rush, The Error and The Left Ski Track might be the other three).
The route was first climbed in September 1954 by two Tahquitz legends, Don Wilson and Royal Robbins. In the 1963 Tahquitz Guide, the route was called Northeast Face but in the later guidebooks, a variation on this route was shown. This wariation (the East Variation) was climbed by Chuck and Ellen Wilts, the prolific Tahquitz and Sierra climbers of the 1940s, 50s and 60s. I think the WEST variation (the original ascent) is the better one and this page deals with it.
Once every few years, depending on temperatures and precipitation, the North Face of Tahquitz can ice up to offer the most incredible thin ice climbing possibilities. The dihedral of the Northeast Face can offer 80-85 degree, thin (2-4 inches) ice climbing and the summit overhangs, when in shape, can provide about two pitches of almost vertical pillars of ice. The protection possibilities in the ice choked cracks are few, so short (tied off) ice screws, rock pro (stoppers and hexes) and even a few knifeblades are useful. Once you experience ice climbing on Tahquitz, you experienced the best, (and likely) the most uncommon climbing in Southern California.
Owing to El Nino, the winter of 2010 proved to be the best ice climbing season on Tahquitz in about 12 years. Several parties summited routes on the North Face, The Larks and the Through between the first week of February and (at least) a mid March. Fabulous!
There are very few (if any) women, who climbed the NE Face in full winter conditions. Penelope May, who climbed it on March 12, 2010 is one of them.
From the upper parking lot at Humber Park, hike about 100 yards uphill (on the Devils Slide Trail). On your right, you will see a fence. Walk to the end of the fence and while walking beside it, drop down to the Strawberry Creek drainage. Follow the south side of the drainage up, following an indistinct trail. After several hundred yards up, move slightly to you right and follow the first talus field to the base of the North Face. It is possible (if you find it) to follow an old trail through the talus. The talus terminates at the Larks Face (The North Face of Tahquitz Rock).
The Northeast Face Route is the left terminus of the Larks Face, a prominent four to six feet deep, right facing break. There is a large Sugar Pine growing out of the rock on a broad ledge about 30 feet above the talus (see photo ).
Climb the dihedral almost all the way to the summit. Near the top, the dihedral disappears and a minor overhang (the crux) is protected with an old fixed pin. The climbing here is "old school 5.6" for sure. Above, ascend directly to easier terrain and the top.
Little description is needed. Follow the dihedral almost all the way to the top, when the dihedral terminates about a pitch from the top, go straight up through the summit overhangs (a bit strenuous here but protected by a fixed pin) and another pitch gets you to the top.
Please note that the reasonable stances on this route are about 120-140 feet apart, if you climb with 60 or even 70m ropes you will miss most of them.
The route is on mostly very clean and smooth rock and offers some good climbing at the 5.6 (old school) rating. Not to be missed.
You can descend the North Gully to get back to you gear. There are two variations while descending the North Gully. One uses the trail all the way down to the creek(longer and involves hiking back up) but the other skirts the steep rock of the NE Rib, downclimbs an easy fourth class chimney and deposits you close to the El Grandotte route. An easy walk along the base of the rock gets you back to you packs. In the future, Pen and I might try to include some photos of this chimney, it is not easily spotted without previous knowledge of its location.
The longest descent is the regular way down on the south side of the rock to the Lunch Rock and the traverse of the base back to your gear.
Set of SLCDs, set of wires, about 8-10 slings, 50 m rope. The first three pitches have rap stations set up, so if you find the route not to your liking, you can safely retreat.