Sunday, February 06, 2011

Joshua Tree National Park

[by Shelley]
We left snowy Silver City, New Mexico (-11c !) and drove all the way across Arizona to try to find some sun and warmth in Southern California - and to check out the climbing area of Joshua Tree.

We entered the park on the south side, stopped at the visitors center and purchased a climbing guide book Since it was already noon and most of the climbing is on the north side, we decided to do the hike into Lost Palms Oasis. It took us about 3 hours round trip (~ 8 miles / 13 km) along a relatively flat trail. There were a surprising number of people trail running. At the end of the trail the reward was a wonderful little valley full of huge palm trees. It was still a little cool but good for hiking.

Joshua Tree has the largest number of climbing routes of any area in North America. It's also notorious for sandbagged routes (i.e. the routes are actually much harder than the grade would indicate). And we learned that for people climbing here for the first time, trying to find the route you want to be on can be equally as daunting! (Even to a climber, one rock looks much like another!)

Our first climbing day we started at Johnson Canyon near the Indian Cove campground. We first decided to stay away from the campground because "ownership" rules apply. If there's someone staying in the campsite where the route you want to do starts or finishes, you have to ask permission.

Little did we know that the Canyon presented its own challenges! Things always look so nice on a benign map without any elevation markings. Just go and meander your way up and find something to climb. Yeah, right! Meander up and over, around and under boulders of various sizes up to car and small house sized! We managed to find the first sport climb we were looking for as it was on "split boulder" which really was a boulder split in half. We then hiked further up the canyon trying to find a couple more routes but it was near impossible to figure out what was what. They were supposed to be trad routes and we did find a couple bolted routes which didn't look too bad from the bottom so Andrew started up one but quickly decided this was out of our range.

We headed back down to the campground and found an area away from the campsites which had a few doable routes and we spent a very pleasant rest of the day there. As one local climber said to us, at Joshua Tree you just have to forget your pride and climb routes that are a couple grades easier than you would anywhere else.

The second day saw us over at Atlantis Wall at Last Horse Canyon, leading and top roping several fun climbs until it was time to head out. We drove back to Red Rocks via scenic back roads through the Mojave Desert arriving in Las Vegas to a beautiful sunset.
2011-02 Joshua Tree

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