Sunday, 13 November 2011

Road Trip 2011 Joshua Tree

Road Trip October 2011 – Joshua Tree
Drove in from Bakersfield and got into J Tree early afternoon.  The best place to stay for climbers is hidden valley campground however it is usually full.  I was lucky and there was plenty of spots available and picked one and got set up.  As luck would have it my next door neighbors wandered over and they were a great English couple, Gareth and Julia, I had met in Yosemite.  Went over with some firewood and had beers and a campfire with them and their friends from the UK, Joe and Anna.  Game on, up in the morning and got after some climbing with them.  Joshua Tree is very different from Yosemite in that there aren’t any big walls, you are essentially climbing a bunch of large boulders stacked in odd formations.  Most climbs are a single pitch, however there are a couple of short two pitch routes.  The rock is what makes it fun, I don’t know what it is however it sure has grip (and finger shredding power). 

The first day we got after a 5.7 Buissonier on the Blob which was a bit balancy, and a 5.8 The Flue on Chimney Rock which  Julia lead however it was in the shade and wind so was definitely cold.  We decided all climbs from then on needed to be in the sun.  Retired for a huge brunch of eggs, refried beans, tomatoes, cheese, peanut butter (the one thing I supplied) and pita bread.  Great feast, the day started out cool however was warming up to T shirt weather.  After brunch we headed over to the Lost Horse area, a 5 minute drive and short hike.  Managed to get up a couple of fantastic 5.9’s – Cakewalk and No One Walks in LA.  Gareth lead the first and Julia the second.  Gareth lead an 11a and I managed to follow the upper bit but struggled on the crux (no kidding!).   Great, great day with sore fingers and a big smile.  The highs were getting towards 20 however still had my toque on most of the day as it was much cooler in the shade.

The next day we all went as a group over to Dairy Queen wall and did the three starred 5.7’s.  I lead Scrumdillyishus (which afterwards I recognized as the same climb I lead with Darcy a year and a half earlier).  Gareth lead Mr Misty Kiss which felt a bit harder and Julia lead Frosty Cone.  The walk off on these consisted of a couple of funky moves on chipped holds with loads of air beneath you and then some shinnying down a chimney, probably harder than the climbing.  We then wandered around the corner to the IRS wall and Gareth lead Tax Man a 5.10a.  I don’t know if I was just tired or what but struggled a lot on the lower bit.  The upper was loads of fun as I started to get the hang of liebacking one way and then the other on a steep crack.  I then lowered off, said goodbye and jumped in the car to meet Robert and Judy at their new digs in Palm Desert.  Got there close to 5 and changed out of my climbing duds in their driveway (I wonder if the neighbors complained) and headed to an excellent Mexican place for eats and drinks.  They are in the midst of some big time renovations, however the place is full of 1950’s and 1960’s museum pieces all in perfect working order.  A wealthy lady owned it however didn’t live there and rarely visited with the result being that everything was new in 1970 however not used.  Look forward to seeing their place when it’s done.

The next day was cool with some rain so I hung out a bit, headed to a McDonalds to avail myself of the wifi, bought groceries and managed to get back to camp just as the rain was picking up.  Got lazy and ate cold stuff and jumped in the tent at 6:30 pm to read and bit and drift off to sleep.  Next morning was kind of funny as I took my time over breakfast figuring out what to do.  It was a glorious day and my plan was to go bouldering and then go for a run.  Went around the corner to throw my garbage in the can and here was my buddy Marc camped right beside the garbage.  So jumped in with him and his friend Sheila and went climbing.  We wandered through Real Hidden Valley, got lost and ended up in front of Lloyd Rock.  Decided to stay and Marc lead a tricky 5.9 with a funky corner move into a hand crack and then top roped the 5.10c arête and a fantastic 5.9 that went up a steep lieback into a corner with two splitter cracks.  I tried making a tape glove while waiting as my hands were starting to get torn up, just had time to make a right hand one and did a pretty crappy job of it.  Having said that it still made a difference, hand jams stuck better and my skin was allowed to live a little longer. 

Later on we had some comedy as Sheila had some friends who hauled a BBQ and Keg up intersection rock for a party a pitch and a half above the ground.  We were planning on heading up for the sundown party however when we arrived intersection rock was a total zoo.  There are probably 12 routes on it and every route had people either climbing or rappelling off.  It looked like a comic strip.  We elected to climb Dog Leg across on a bit of rock called Old Woman.  It was a fantastic route and I just finished it up as it got dark.  Unfortunately, it was cold enough that Sheila (being a SoCal girl) elected not to climb.  A fantastic climb with a balancy start and some hard work up steep hand cracks in a corner before an interesting finish.  All this while looking over at the party on intersection rock and hearing the rangers on the loud speaker threatening rather ineffectively.  Rapped down in the dark on the other side, it was great to look down at the campground with folks starting fires and headlamps bobbing as rapping.  I had to check the belay device by feel as it was so dark however it ended well and the ropes did touch the ground.  The day ended in an odd way, Sheila dropped me off at my site and my hands were full so I left my bag beside her SUV.  She then backed up and ran over it, resulting in pretty cool tire marks on the bag, unscathed sunglasses but a broken camera. 

The next day looked a little dreary, didn’t get warmer than 8 above and rained in the afternoon so I went for a 10 km run through the desert over to a real neat old mine site called Wall Street.  Afterwards headed into town for shower, laundry and wifi at Rockin Ronnies.  Joshua Tree the town has a real odd feel to it, one of those places that people have married their cousins one to many times.  After screwing around for awhile I couldn’t get McDonalds wifi to work and while I was sitting there a young guy sits next to me to lament the fact he can’t find a job.  I humored him for awhile until God entered into the discussion and then went back to typing.  As I’m punching the key board I notice one of the McDonald’s employees stealing food out the kitchen door (I’m assuming if you are covering food under your coat leaving the kitchen the goods haven’t been paid for) to take to the play area for his kids.  Then this old guy shows up, walks by the young kid and myself and says don’t go away.  Hits the can and comes back with a computer problem, he can’t get his game to load correctly.  I take a brief stab at it, then notice he’s left us the computer and went back to his table to drink coffee with his friends.  I decide I’ve tried enough and leave the computer with the young guy and hit the road.  I wonder if he ran with it.

Monday drove through the desert to Las Vegas up the direct back way, 3 more hours of absolutely nothing but salt flats, desert and mountains.  A really neat trip, this time without the country music.

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