This was an outstanding climb altogether, combining a few sections of excellent moderate crack climbing with a few bits of moderate and hard slab climbing. Courtney got through the crux of the direct start to Dave's Deviations without much difficulty, but she struggled a little on the finger crack. I have to admit, that finger crack can be pretty painful on the toes, especially without the right shoes for it. The next three pitches were much easier, and a lot of fun for both of us, I think. Courtney had forgotten her sweatshirt in the car, and was really cold, so we cuddled at the belays a little to keep her warm. Eventually the sun hit us, and I gave her my long-sleeved Capilene to wear for the rest of the day.
Upper Royal's Arch was an outstanding pitch, and more than a little bit spicy! Though I didn't stay right in the arch the whole way (which is apparently a 5.10 variation), I also may not have done it the easiest way, if the picture in the guidebook is accurate. The picture indicates that you face climb left, then go up all the way back to the arch, and traverse left directly under it for a ways, before pulling through it at a left-facing flake. I went left on the face, and continued going left and up until I was directly under that flake, at which point I had to pull a few sketchy slab moves (which felt about .10a) to get straight up to it. At that point my last piece of pro was a small stopper placed behind a very thin flake, about 2 meters below my feet. Suffice it to say I was glad to get a nice solid alien up under that arch. Pulling through the arch was totally fun, and easier than it looked, because I could get two really solid hand jams under the left-facing flake. The obvious line above that went straight up to the apex of two large roofs, which looked really hard. It turned out to be quite easy and fun. I later spoke to a few other people who had climbed it by staying in the arch the whole way, and they said it was good that way, although for part of the way, the pro was apparently tricky. One guy said there was a 20- or 30-foot runout in the middle. The other guy said it wasn't runout at all, but the pro included a #1 and #3 BD stopper! Perhaps I'll try it that way next time.
The other thing that was awesome about this pitch was the exposure! The small stance from which we started the pitch (which also isn't exactly the one marked in the guidebook) was probably the most exposed belay I've ever found at Tahquitz, and the initial traverse leftward onto the face was definitely one of the coolest, most scarily exposed sections I've done there. It was technically very easy, but definitely heady. Unfortunately, Courtney did not like all this exposure very much. And even more unfortunately, I couldn't see her and could barely hear her during the first part of this pitch. She apparently got stuck for quite a while trying to figure out how to move left, and was totally freaking out about the prospect of taking a swinging sideways fall, with all that exposure, and ending up on a featureless face much steeper than the one she was on. Many curses were uttered, a few tears were shed, but she eventually pulled it together and got through it all without falling. She even appeared to cruise through the hard slab moves right before the arch with little difficulty. She also found a way to pull through the arch without jamming behind the flake, simply by pinching the edge of it. After she reached my belay at the summit, we rested for a bit, then headed up to the true summit of Tahquitz for a late lunch. The rest of the afternoon and evening were sublime.