Climbing in Joshua Tree

March 23 – 26, 2010.

A day of driving brought us to the desert in Southern California. Joshua Tree is a climber’s paradise; hundreds of routes exist right in the campsite, and hundreds of others are within a driving distance of 5 minutes. Average approach time on foot is between 1 and 5 minutes. I could live here. Most climbs are single pitch. I’ve listed the climbs we did below, sorted by climbing area and grade.

Echo Rock Area (Echo Rock)

Double Dip (5.6): This route follows slab up to a flake and then back to pure slab. There are 4 (?) bolts on the route, 2 of which you can see from the ground. I felt like this was a very heady lead, as the bolts are placed sparingly, as well as by someone several inches taller than me (grrrr…) and they feel like they’re light years away. I protected the flake in a couple of spots with big cams.

Pope’s Crack (5.9): Kevin led this crack/slab traverse combo. I left some blood behind where the rock dug deeply into my jammed fists and hands. Some of the jams were marginal, and it helped to stem on the face as much as possible, although I managed some decent foot jams. Atop the crack there is a slab traverse and another short bit of vertical to reach the belay station. The location of the rap anchors and traverse make it impossible to top-rope so Kevin belayed us up from the anchor he set above the route.

Echo Rock Area (Snickers)

Funny Bone (5.8): Tyler picked another sweet, sporty climb to lead. Lots of fun, varied moves made this an interesting and enjoyable climb. Where else can you pull off a heel hook on a 5.8?

Echo Rock Area (Touch and Go Rock)

Touch and Go (5.9): I followed some random climber’s lead, as his partner was not interested. This felt like a stiff 5.9 to me. It starts with two nice cracks, but soon one peters out, leaving only the left side to follow. Some stemming and face holds vary the route a bit. There is a “convoluted” downclimb, which makes this climb lose a star in my book.

Hidden Valley Campground (The Blob)

Buissonier (5.7): Tyler led this interesting, curving crack. It starts in a cave created by stacked boulders, making a precarious belay station. I seemed to have an easier go at it than Tyler because my smaller size allowed me to walk, delicately, straight up the crack like a ramp. There were some nice finger jams down low, and some big chimney moves up top. I imagine the start is the worst part of the lead, and it improves from there.

Hidden Valley Campground (Chimney Rock)

Howard’s Horror (5.7): Tyler led this beast of a climb. It involves quite a bit of traversing across a slab up to what looked like a nasty offwidth. I did not do this climb, but attempted the 5,10d direct start. It looked tasty, but I was stymied by the bulge, where I tried multiple times to pull up over it on two sketchy thin, flaring finger jams. I couldn’t get enough purchase with my feet to make it happen.

The Flue (5.8): Another fail. I started to lead this climb, but when I couldn’t find protection in the first 10 feet I downclimbed, which was super sketchy. Tyler helped ease me back onto the ground. Neither him nor Kevin wanted to lead it so we moved on.

Hidden Valley Campground (Old Woman)

Toe Jam (5.7): This was my first lead at Josh. Sure, there were one or two good toe jams on this climb, but there was much more to it than that. The crack was at times shallow and/or flaring, so I found the protection lacking. I did manage to place a tricam in the crack and my best piece in the anchor was a tricam.

Double Cross (5.8): Kevin led this hand crack, and I do believe he was in heaven. For me, there were a variety of hand and fist jams, as well as a plethora of choice foot holds on the face.

Orphan (5.9): Sonia was really excited about showing off her chimney prowess, so she led this climb. It begins as a steep crack in a left-facing corner requiring some wide stemming moves, then transitions into a flaring squeeze chimney. Ugh. I slipped once below the chimney, then somehow managed to hack my way up through the chimney, losing much blood and integrity in the process.

Sexy Grandma (5.9): Tyler led this super cool, mixed sport/trad climb. The most awkward move is at the bottom, where I had to high step out of a flaring chimey up on to the face. From there the climb moves out onto an arete, then pulls around a roof and comes back to the arete. There are lots of face holds and some airy exposure. Classic!

Lost Horse (Hemingway Buttress)

Dung Fu (5.7): Kevin led this unusual climb! It follows a hand-to-fist crack up to a big cave. Once inside the cave, you have to move up a narrowing chimney to the top. I hate chimneying!

Feltoneon Physics (5.8): Sonia encouraged me to lead a 5.8, so I took this one on. This was another incredibly varied and interesting climb with face and crack moves on it, as well as some route-finding and problem-solving. The crack at the bottom widens quickly into an unpleasant offwidth, which I tried to ascend multiple times before bailing off onto the face to the left. Some balancey face moves took me back into the crack, then to a series of slab traverses with nice hand ledges. The top of the climb requires a bouldering finish over a bulge with the help of a nice fist jam and poor feet. Very heady, but super fun and rewarding!

White Lightning (5.7): This was a challenging lead for me. It is a long crack with a small cave near the top leading to two options. Not knowing where to go, I started towards the crack on the right. It was a vertical finger crack with lousy protection; after placing one shaky nut I decided to pull it and climb back into the cave. Scary. I then headed left to a wider, blockier crack with a small bulge to pull over. Although the hand jams above were solid it was very mentally challenging to make the moves, not knowing what lies ahead. After some mental wrangling I was able to complete the climb. With so few pieces of pro left it took some time and creativity to build a belay anchor. The ensuing rope drag was horrendous, perhaps due to poor planning on my part. I’d like too do this one in better form next time.

The rest of the photos from this trip are here. Boy it sucks to have to go back to work now…

Approach Notes:
Roll out of tent. Climb. Repeat.

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