My first trip to Joshua Tree
My chico and his family generously took me under their wing for Thanksgiving and fed me good food and let me drink their booze. I am very thankful for their extreme hospitality and welcoming attitude. Given our wandering nature, Michael and I high tailed it to Joshua Tree National park post Thanksgiving day celebrations to see what the hype about climbing at Joshua Tree was all about.
Shoot, after now living in Cali for 2 and a half years I'm surprised I hadn't been before... maybe slightly even embarrassed. I blame my parents. Just kidding they are entirely unrelated to this, I didn't have a trad rack until this year... and even so, i only have one full rack.
SO! with one full rack of DMM dragon cams (+4 extra Black Diamond Camalot pieces on Michaels end), a set of DMM Walnuts, quickdraws, slings, and the stoke to go climbing we made it to Joshua tree Saturday early afternoon. It was freaking packed! Forget camping in Joshua Tree if you don't get there early (like Friday morning or even Thursday night), so that was out of the question. We ended up informally camping right outside the park in BLM land.
Ok, so we felt kinda nervous about not having a bigger trad rack with us... and everyone scared us thinking all the climbs here were sandbagged (climber speak for: A climb is actually harder than it is rated). We drove to Hidden Valley Campground and began our climbing endeavors at Chimney Rock - East Face primarily because there were hoards of LA'ers on all the other climbs. I poke fun at there being a lot of people from LA because... there were a lot of people from LA.
The first climb we got on was called The Flue (5.8). It was a trad climb, and Michael led it beautifully. If I remember correctly, it was weird to protect at the bottom of the climb (cams in pockets and such), but had more options up top.... IF you owned a bigger trad rack than us... so since we didn't have that dream rack, Michael had to run the top out a bit, but fortunately it wasn't too difficult.
Then, like we often do, we found a climb that we got stuck on the rest of the day climbing it over and over. The climb is called Blind Ambition (5.11a). We used the same anchor from the flue to top rope it. There are actually two variations of this climb. One is probably more like a 5.10b at the hardest move and the other closer to a 5.11a. I found the 5.10b variation on top rope to be really fun! You begin by moving up some really delicate slab moves to a horizontal crack that you can traverse to an arete. Climb the arete for a bit, then traverse back left to finish in line with the route... it sounds confusing but is pretty obvious when your up there. It was just fun, I really liked it. The slab at the beginning was tough though. Michael worked on the 5.11a version, which instead of going up the arete, you remain straight on the climb and follow the bolts. He didn't lead it, but I think next time we go he wants to. He got to practice a lot of the moves on top rope.
We contemplated climbing this crack below called Pinched Rib (5.10b)... but there were still people on it and it was going to get dark soon.
So, despite not doing a high volume of climbs our first day, we really liked the routes we got to touch. Beautiful, just beautiful out there.
I'm not sure what got into us that night but we headed into town and ate at this little hole in the wall Mexican restaurant and had the most amazingly-delicious-high-calorie-horrible-for-you nachos. Pure heaven. Then we drove to BLM land, and camped inside the Subaru for the night.
Next morning was super windy. The first climb that we wanted to do was already taken, and then we thought maybe we'd go do some multipitch but it had a long approach hike and we didn't have much food. We were highly unprepared for our weekend. So we came back to Hidden Valley campground and went to a rock called The Old Woman to climb a route called Sexy Grandma (5.8+) sport.
You might start to see a theme here, we were climbing lots of sport routes or mixed routes because of our limited trad rack. Michael lead this and I followed. I probably should have just lead it, it was well protected, but maybe next time. This route was weird, but in a cool way. Slabby, stemmy, juggy... with the added bonus of getting to hump your body up and onto a bulge into the rock.
While on this climb we made a new friend, Chris, who was traveling and climbing around the states via motorcycle. I think he said he had just driven in from Heuco Tanks, Texas. My home state :) . He was our 3rd climbing partner for about half the day. After we all climbed Sexy Grandma, we used the same anchors to toprope the climb next to it called Band Saw (5.10c R). We toproped this primarily because of the R rating it had. It had really poor protection for leading it.
Band Saw was challenging, but really cool to finish. I spent a lot of time on it working the moves, but was eventually able to send it. It's mainly the beginning slab parts that are the most difficult, the top half is fun and flows real nicely. I'd like to come back to this one some day.
Chris offered to share in his trad rack and we finally got to do a real trad climb! Chris lead and belayed us from the anchors up top. The route was on the East face of the Old Woman and was called Toe Jam (5.7 trad). I think I could lead this one next time. It was pretty cool... a layback crack with one final toe jam to the finish.
The views from up top where you could see all the Joshua Trees.
We split ways with Chris after this climb and we headed over to Cyclops Rock to climb a climb I can't find the name of. It was pretty difficult. Michael lead it, but it had a big bouldering move at the beginning that I found really challenging. Being a bit taller might have helped.
It was getting late and time to head back home... But we stopped at that Mexican place again and had more nachos first. Oops. So much for exercising, I just ruined it with this giant heap of nachos in my belly.
I loved it here. This won't be the last post about Joshua Tree, that I can guarantee you.