Sunday, October 25, 2015

Joshua Tree Climbing Adventure, Part 3 - Oct. 20 to Oct. 23

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Day 11, Tuesday Oct. 20, 2015 - Climbing at J-Tree National Park - Hall of Horrors  and Split Rocks Areas

We started out today back at the Hall of Horrors Area in hopes that the crowds would be thinner now that it was mid week.  We were rewarded with having the area to ourselves! 

Hiking to "Lazy Day", 5.7, South Horror Rock

27/60: "Lazy Day", 5.7, South Horror Rock

Lazy day was a fun climb, but a bit more challenging than it looks. The start is a bit awkward at the dog leg but fairly straightforward after that. The route ends on a big ledge and there is a rap station to the right for the adjacent route that can be used to descend. There is also a class 3 walk-off if you are so inclined. 

 "Lazy Day", 5.7, South Horror Rock

Top of "Lazy Day", 5.7, South Horror Rock

Rappelling off "Lazy Day", 5.7, South Horror Rock

Next, we drove over to the Split Rock Area and hiked into Future Games Rock.

Split Rock

28/60: "Invisibility Lessons", 5.9, Future Games Rock

This was our first 5.9 of the trip and after the struggles we've had with some of the 5.8's Mike decided to TR this one. There is an easy Class 1 route up to the top of the crag so we set up an anchor and gave the route a go. It was a fun route! One of my favourites so far. A bit strenuous at times with some burley jams and thin holds, but perfectly inline with what I would expect for 5.9 climbing. Fun! And the easy Class 1 walk-off  is an added bonus. 

"Invisibility Lessons" 5.9, Future Games Rock - First 5.9 of the trip!

"Continuum" 5.8+, Future Games Rock - Will come back to climb this one later. 
Future Games Wall - Split Rocks Area

We spent the rest of the day checking out other routes in the surrounding areas. We hiked into Jumbo Rocks Area to check out "Colorado Crack" 5.9 and "Gem" 5.8, in Conan's Corridor on the Corridor Face. Both routes looked tricky and we could not figure out how to access the top of the crag to set up a TR, even though there is supposedly a 3rd class descent route, so we opted to skip them for today. The approach was a fun hike though with lots of rock scrambling and a slot canyon to squeeze through. 

Conan's Corridor 

Conan's Corridor - Not the place to be when it's raining.....

"Gem" 5.8, Conan's Corridor  - Corridor Wall - Recon Hike
After that we went and checked out "Planet X" at the Planet X Boulders. It looks fun, we'll come back another day to try this one for sure! 

"Planet X" 5.8, Planet X Boulders - Recon Hike

Now that we are almost half way through the tick-list with the easier routes complete, things are getting a bit more complicated. A lot of the routes on the list are too hard for warmups, so we'll have to make up another list of warm up routes to do before tackling the remaining trickier routes on our tick-list. It may be a challenge to get all 60 routes done before heading home......

Scrambling Near Conan's Corridor

Day 12, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2015 - Climbing at J-Tree National Park - Lost Horse Area

Today we spent the day back at the Lost Horse Area up at the Rock Garden Valley Main Wall (aka Shorter Wall). The hike in was an adventure in and of itself with about 20-30min of scrambling up boulders to access the wall. 

Shorter Wall Approach - boulder hopping madness!

The location was great though with a little oasis up there and nice views of the surrounding area from the top. It was really windy today though and was kind of cold and uncomfortable. First time I've worn a jacket since we got here! 

Views from the base of the wall

We climbed four routes in this area, two from the tick-list and two other random routes:

29/60: "Double Dog Leg", 5.7, Shorter Wall

A fun climb with a crack for protection but mostly face climbing following a traversing crack up the wall. Rappel descent. 

"Double Dog Leg" - Left hand crack

1b (non-ticklist Route, i.e "b" list routes): "Rock Candy, 5.9, Shorter Wall

This was a thin, crimpy, balancey face climb right beside "Double Dog Leg". It shares an anchor with "Double Dog Leg", so figured, why not give it a go on Top-rope since we were right there?!? It was fun to do some pure face climbing to switch things up, even if it was challenging. Rappel to descend. 

"Rock Candy" - face under the Rope Line

2b: "Rock-A-Lot", 5.7, Shorter Wall

We figured since we hiked all the way up there we should do a few climbs. Mike liked the look of this one so he led it up.  It starts out overhanging, but can be climbed at a reasonable grade by stemming to the wall behind. After that it goes into a few off width moves and then a fun mix of crack and face climbing. Rappel descent.
"Rock-a-lot" - right-trending crack

30/60 (Half Way!!!): "Beck's Bet", 5.8, Shorter Wall

Another pure crack climb, jam your way up the vertical crack to the top with a big ledge part way up for a rest break. Enjoyable climbing with a rappel descent. Felt a bit easier than a lot of the other 5.8's we have done. 

"Beck's Bet" - Right hand crack
To finish off our day we stopped to check out "Just Another Road Side Attraction". Mike was inspired to give it a go, so we did. It lived up to its name, at least 4 cars pulled over to watch and take photos as we climbed it! Mike's first 5.9 lead of the trip! Nice work!

View from the top of Roadside Rock

31/60: "Just Another Roadside Attraction" 5.9, Roadside Rock

This is a great, short route that will get the blood flowing. It starts out easy enough, albeit steep, with solid feet and some reasonable jams and jugs to pull on and then it gets into the overhang crack section and things get interesting. A few burley moves off hand jams and smaller feet get you through to a "fun" exit mantle - or beached whale roll if that is your preference :). Third class walk-off descent. 

"Just Another Roadside Attraction"

View from the top of Roadside Rock

Day 13, Thursday Oct. 22, 2015 - Rest Day - Hiking at J-Tree National Park and relaxing at the Desert Hot Springs Spa

So we went to the Park today and followed the signs that said "Dairy Queen", but when we got there, there were rock climbs with names like "Frosty Cone" and "Mr. Misty Kiss" but no Ice Cream! We were too disappointed to climb, so we went hiking and swimming instead.

Approach to Dairy Queen Wall

Actually, what really happened is we went to the park planning to climb up at Dairy Queen Wall, but Mike's foot was bit sore on the hike in and we hadn't had a real rest day in a week, so we decided to not push our luck and take it easy for the day.

Windmill on Wall Street Mill Hike

We went on a short hike out to the Wall Street Mill, which was about an hour, return, of walking on flat trails. It was a cool hike, worth doing to check out the old mill site, cars, wells, windmills and Uncle Willie's Health Food Store.

Wall Street Mill Hike

Wall Street Mill Hike
Uncle Willie's Store on the Wall Street Mill Hike
Wall Street Mill Hike

After that we drove out to the Desert Hot Springs Spa which is about 30min outside of Joshua Tree, towards Palm Springs. The Spa has a $5 day pass fee which gives you use of their sauna, 8 mineral pools, restaurant, bar and lounge chairs for the full day. It was a great afternoon of relaxing in the sun, reading and swimming.

Reading Pool Side at the Desert Hot Springs Spa

Relaxing in the gardens at the  Desert Hot Springs Spa

Lunch at the Desert Hot Springs Spa

Day 14, Friday Oct. 23, 2015 - Climbing at J-Tree National Park - Wonderland of Rocks and Hidden Valley Campground Areas

Cacti on the Hike to Lenticular Dome
Today we decided to do some adventure climbing.  We spent the morning in the Wonderland of Rocks Area hiking out to the Lenticular Dome to climb "Mental Physics". The hike was about 40min long, each way through washes and over boulders to gain the base of the route. The hike is easy and scenic. Just pay attention to where you're going as it is easy to get lost in the "Wanderland" of Rocks. 

Hike to Lenticular Dome

32/60: "Mental Physics", 5.7+, Lenticular Dome

Mental Physics is a full 30+ meter pitch of face climbing that turns into stellar crack climbing near the top. The line is aesthetic and easy to protect and super fun. Worth the hike! A must-do route. Rappel to descend. NOTE: a 70m rope (or two ropes) are required for the rappel. 

"Mental Physics", 5.7+, Lenticular Dome
View from the top of "Mental Physics"
Sabre Tooth Tiger  Rock on the Hike back from Lenticular Dome
For the afternoon we headed back to the Hidden Valley Campground Area and walked over to Intersection Rock to check out "Overhang ByPass". 

33/60: "Overhang ByPass", 5.7, 2-pitches, Intersection Rock

"Overhang Bypass", 5.7, Intersection Rock
This route was pretty awesome, not necessarily for its stellar climbing, but for its overall exposure and position. The First pitch starts with a chimney/offwidth/handcrack combo, into some rambling terrain and then a stiff hand traverse up into an alcove, below the obvious overhang. Build an anchor here and get ready for the "Money" moves! The second pitch involves a crazy bouldery hand traverse to the right under the roof until you can pull up onto the slab to the right of the alcove. With the exposure, it feels like a boulder problem in the sky!  Craziness! From here clip a bolt and cruise to the anchors on top of the crag. This route felt harder than "Mental Physics" which is graded 5.7+..... Rappel down the opposite face to descend. NOTE: one rope will get you to a big ledge where you can scramble off, or two ropes will get you to the ground. 

Hanging out in the alcove on "Overhang Bypass"

Hanging out in the alcove on "Overhang Bypass"

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Joshua Tree Climbing Adventure, Part 2 - Oct. 16 to Oct. 19

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Day 7, Friday Oct. 16, 2015 - Climbing at J-Tree National Park - Lost Horse, Wonderland of Rocks and Echo Rock Areas

Back to the park for some climbing today. We slept in a bit, up at 7am, to give the rocks time to dry after yesterday's storms.  And with temperatures forecasted to finally be cooling off there is not as much incentive to be up so early.  

Hiking in the Lost Horse Area

We started the day back at the Lost Horse area to climb two routes:

14/60: "Rainy Day Women", 5.7, Mindless Mound

"Rainy Day Women" and "Maggie's Farm"

15/60: "Maggie's Farm, 5.7, Mindless Mound

Both routes were fun crack climbs, with a bit a tricky but manageable gear. Easy Class 2 descent off the back side of the crag. Unfortunately we had to make a donation to the climbing gods on this route and sacrifice our orange Metolious that got stuck beyond retrieval on Maggie's Farm. We worked on it for the better part of an hour before giving up. :( 

Mindless Mound Descent
Next we headed over to the Wonderland of Rocks area to check out the following two routes:

16/60: "Life's a Bitch and then you Marry One" 5.7, Dissolution Rock

"Life's a Bitch and then you Marry One"

Another fun crack climb with good jams and fairly straight forward moves. Great views of the area from the top and a rappel descent. 

View from the Rap Station
view from the rap station

17/60: "Keystone Crack", 5.6, Keystone Block

Another fairly straight forward crack climb with lots of features to help out. A bit of a hunt to find this crag tucked up in a rocky corridor. Nice views of the Wonderland of Rocks from the top and an easy second class descent. 

Keystone Crack
Top of Keystone Block

On our hike back from Keystone Block, we checked out some petroglyphs.


To finish up our day we went to the Echo Rock area to check out one last climb:

Echo Rock Area

18/60: "Eff Eight", 5.8, The Mounds

Hiking to the Mounds

This route looks awesome, a splitter crack up the middle of a giant boulder, but it was deceiving! The climb was fun but super burly! There are lots of jugs at the bottom to fight your way up but they disappear at the crux leaving you with burly jams or thin crimps and offwidth moves until the difficulty eases off at the top. 

"Eff  Eight"

There are bolts at the top and and easy 2nd class descent route, so it is easy to set up a top-rope... I think this route should be re-named "An Effin' Eight?!?" Overall a fun, challenging route worth trying  (if you like sandbagged routes and off width). Felt harder than 5.8.

Top Rope Time!

J-Tree Shadows

Day 8, Saturday Oct. 17, 2015 - Climbing at J-Tree National Park - Belle Campground Area and White Tank Area

The park was busy today being a weekend with a climbing fest, art fest and night sky fest all happening simultaneously so we opted to tick off some of the more obscure routes from our list.

We started out at the Belle Campground Area to try out "Diagnostics" and "Music Box". We had heard both routes were strenuous and possibly sandbagged but it was possible to hike up and rescue gear if necessary, so why not give it a go?!?

Ready to go!

19/60: "Diagnostics", 5.6, Castle Rock

This route is very strenuous for a 5.6. The bottom 15ft were a full on battle. After that it eases off and is fun! There are some bolts at the top to rappel, but the rope drag is horrific when you go to pull the ropes.  The down climb is reasonable at class 3 and may be the easier way to go.

"Diagnostics" 5.6

20/60: "Music Box", 5.8, Castle Rock

We'd heard rumours of this being the hardest 5.8 in the park and that it was completely sandbagged.  The rumours were true! Hardest 5.8 I have ever done in my life! The route description that mentions "Time to face the music", "Try not to show fear as you inch your way up the painful jams" and "enjoyable in a sick sort of way" are all perfectly accurate. I fell a couple times at the crux and was not all that sure I'd actually be able to pull the moves after trying them a few times. Insane for what is supposed to be a 5.8!

Enjoyable in a Sick sort of way is pretty bang on. I'm glad I climbed it, it was a good accomplishment  to fight through the super strenuous jams and off-width moves, but it was hard work and a full on battle at times!

The dreaded "Music Box" 5.8++++++ (It looks so fun!!!!)

The descent is similar to Diagnostics, just walk across the top of the crag until you reach the rap station at Diagnostics, or down climb the Class 3 knobby slab.

Mike on top of Castle Rock

21/60: "Where Two Deserts Meet", 5.8, Bovine Dome

This climb was listed as 5.8+ in our guide book, but was way easier than "Music Box". A fun, straightforward, crack climb with lots of features on the face for feet. A short layback keep things interesting, but still not too hard. Kind of a neat climb since it is located where the Mojave Desert meets the Colorado Desert, hence "Where Two Deserts Meet"

"Where Two Deserts Meet" 5.8

The descent is a bit involved, 3rd class but a little trickier than some of the other 3rd class descents in the park with a bit of a vertical down climb/drop near the bottom. Keep the rock shoes on for this one.

On top of Bovine Dome

We only did the 3 climbs today due to the crowds in the park and longer drives to get out to the more obscure areas, but it was still a fun day. We checked out a few more climbs we want to tackle next week and watched some guys high-lining on the drive back to the house.

Quote of the day:  "J-Tree has more sandbags than Mississippi in flood season!" ~ Mike McMinn

High-lining Madness at Hall of Horrors

Day 9, Sunday Oct. 18, 2015 - Climbing and Hiking at J-Tree National Park - Lost Horse Area and Baker's Dam

Morning Sun

The Park was crazy busy today with the climbing festival groups hanging out at all the moderate routes so we opted to take our rest day a day early. We climbed one route in the Lost Horse Area in the morning:

22/60: "Dr. Seuss Vogel", 5.6, Mt. Grossvogel

"Dr. Seuss Vogel", 5.6

A fun climb with an exciting traverse. Mike took the lower undercling version of the route which is graded slightly harder (maybe 5.6+/5.7?) but is protectable unlike the easier, upper hand traverse. Once the traverse and short vertical crack were done we built and anchor and did the top scrambling section as a second pitch to reduce rope drag. We opted to stay off the summit block and instead contoured around the summit to the moderately easy 3rd class ledges to avoid the low-5th down climb from the summit that we did when we climbed "Roboranger" 

Mt Grossvogel Descent
After the climb we went and scoped out some routes in the Hidden Valley Campground Area, but they were all busy. So we went and hiked out Barker Dam instead of climbing for the afternoon. 

Barker Dam
Barker Dam

Barker Dam

Barker Dam

Barker Dam

Petroglyphs near Barker Dam

We spent the evening relaxing, grocery shopping and checking out "The Martian" and "Everest" at the Smith's Ranch Drive-In Theatre. It was awesome! I'd never been to a drive in Theatre before.

Day 10, Monday Oct. 19, 2015 - Climbing at J-Tree National Park - Hidden Valley Campground Area

Scrambling around at the base of "The Bong"

Today we slept in due to staying up way past our bedtimes to go to the movies last night.  We did a J-Tree alpine start and showed up at the crag at the crack of noon. Luckily it's Monday and it's cooler out so a late start is reasonable. We spent the day in this one are crushing the following routes from our tick-list:

23/60: "The Bong", 5.5, The Blob

A fun casual crack climb up The Blob with a 4th class descent that involves down climbing slabs, blocky vertical terrain and a chimney. The climb itself was fun with good views at the top and minimal difficulties, the descent was exciting but not so bad for 4th class terrain. 

"The Bong", 5.5, The Blob
Entering the Chimney, Descent off "The Bong"

24/60: "Toe Jam", 5.7, The Old Woman

A super fun climb, one of my favourites so far. A fun combo of layback, underclings, jamming and slabs with enough difficulty to keep things interesting. An easy rappel anchor to descend.

"Toe Jam", 5.7, The Old Woman
View from the top of "Toe Jam"

"Toe Jam" rappel

25/60: "Buissonier", 5.7, The Blob

Crawling thru the boulders - Approach to "Buissonier"
A interesting climb up a left traversing crack. Way harder than "Toe Jam" even though it has the same grade. Felt hard for a 5.7.  The route starts on thin slab or chimney moves to gain the traversing crack and then you can walk the crack to the vertical portion where some tricky jams and/or stemming get you to easier ground above.

"Buissonier", 5.7, The Blob

The start is tricky and hard to protect, with potential ground falls into talus below. We protected the start by slinging a horn on a block above the belay and setting up a short top rope scenario until the crack could be reached and the route adequately protected. It is also a bit of work to get off this route.

Protection Shenanigans on "Buissonier", because ground falls onto talus suck!

The 4th class descent looked tricky so we opted to rappel. There is no rap station so we slung a boulder and rappelled down the face to the right of the route. Our rope is 64m long and just reached the ground, a 60m rope would be tight for the rappel. You may be able to get onto some  slabs and down climb from there with a 60m rope or sling the lower boulder to set a rap station(as mentioned in the guidebooks), but it is awkward to get to.

26/60: "Hands Off", 5.8, The Wall

An interesting climb with awkward off-width moves, stemming and steep jams topped off with a mantle exit. A bit of thrashing involved with this one. Felt harder than some of the other routes we've done at the same grade, but easier than "Music Box". Easy 2nd class walk-off descent.

"Hands Off", 5.8, The Wall (Right hand Crack/groove)

A full value day of climbing, didn't get back to the house until after dark! 

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