Sunday, October 11, 2015

Joshua Tree Climbing Adventure , Part 1 - Oct. 10 to Oct. 15

Day 1: Satuday Oct. 10, 2015

Travel Day - North Vancouver to Sacramento, CA 

Washington - Oregon Border

Today Mike and I started our climbing adventure to Joshua Tree National Park. We left home at 5:30am to begin the journey to California. With breakfast on the road and only 2 stops along the way we were in Oregon by 10:30am and in California at 4:30. 


14 hours of driving later we found a hotel just North of Sacramento, CA to rest for the evening before finishing the drive to Palm Springs tomorrow. 

Mt Shasta

Thoughts of the day:

- it's a long drive to California! 11 hours from North Vancouver. 
- the I-5 is fast, but kind of a boring drive. Not much scenery.
- random scene of the day: Two teenage girls, wearing long flowing "hippy" dresses pulled over on the side of the I-5 in Oregon and loading a huge dead raccoon into their car.... Interesting.....

California Cruisin'

Dinner of Champions

Day 2: Sunday Oct. 11, 2015Travel Day - Sacramento to Joshua Tree

LA - Getting Closer!
 A 6am wake up call, grab some coffee and back on the road. We cruised for a couple hours, enjoying the sunrise and stopped for breakfast at a Denny's in a random town along the I-5. We were back on the road by 9:30 am and, after an uneventful drive, we were in LA by 1pm. We headed to Hwy 210, skirted around LA and found an In-N-Out Burger for lunch in Pasadena. Yum! 

In-N-Out Burger. Yum!

We enjoyed our burgers and shakes in the 38 degree Celcius California Sun and were quickly back on the road. From there we hit I-10 to Palm springs and finally Hwy 62, the Twentynine Palms Highway, and arrived in Joshua Tree at around 4pm. Yay! 

We Made it!

We were pleasantly surprised by the house we're staying at. We're very happy with the layout and the perfect location. We spent the evening unpacking, grocery shopping and organizing our gear for some climbing in the morning. Can't Wait! 

Home for the Month

Click here for link to our rental house

Sorting Gear for tomorrow's adventure

Day 3, Monday Oct. 12, 2015 - Climbing at J-Tree National Park- Lost Horse Area

Ready to go! Parked at Lost Horse Crags 

Today was our first day of climbing at J-Tree.  We got up early since the forecast was calling for highs of 36c, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and headed to the park. I had forgotten how spectacular the scenery really is in this park. When you first drive in it's like you've been transported to the pages of a Dr. Seuss Book.  Magical! 

Rocks and J-Trees

The goal for this trip is to try and climb all 60 routes out of the guide book "The Trad Guide to Joshua Tree: 60 favourite climbs 5.5 to 5.9".  We spent the day at the Lost Horse area to tick off the first few routes in the book. On the approach in we stopped by the "Aiguille de Joshua Tree" to check it out. It does look tempting to climb, but it's X-rated and the route description that says "you fall, maybe you die" was a little ominous, so we just took some pictures beside it instead. 

Amber and the Aiguille de Joshua Tree

Mike Hiking to Mt. Grossvogal

Route 1/60: "Roboranger" 5.5,  Mt Grossvogal

The first route of the day was "Roborange" 5.5, on Mt Grossvogal. It was an interesting ramble up the crag with a very stiff move to pull a roof.  I call BS on the 5.5 rating on that move; Mike fell leading the route and I full-on struggled through the moves over the roof following. Other than that it was fairly straight forward 5.5 climbing with nice views from the top. We did the route in 2-pitches to minimize rope drag. The down climb was a bit exciting, we built and anchor and protected the top 15-20ft as we were unsure of the difficulty. From there we got into some boulder hopping that was fairly straight forward to get us back to the ground. It turns out that the top of the down climb is actually graded harder than the route we had come up. nice!

"Roboranger", 5.5, Mt Grossvogal

Amber at the top of "Roboranger"

Mike down-climbing Mt Grossvogal

Route 2/60: "Classic Corner" 5.7, Cockroach Crag

A short, burley but super fun corner crack.  A bit of work to get to and descend with lots of boulder-hopping through talus. The descent is either a 4th class gulley or a fairly long scramble down talus if you're not keen on unprotected 4th class down climbs. 

"Classic Corner", 5.7, Cockroach Crag

On our hike between crags we saw a snake! 

Route 3/60: "Men with Cow's Heads", 5.5, Atlantis Wall

Route 4/60: "Solar Technology", 5.6, Atlantis Wall

The above routes shared a start and were fun cracks with some nice face climbing features mixed in. Fairly casual and fun. And in the shade for a hot afternoon! Easy, 2nd class descent off the back. 

"Men with Cow's Heads" 5.5 and "Solar Technology" 5.6, Atlantis Wall

Down climb from Atlantis Wall

After our day of climbing we walked into town to explore the nearby stores (the climbing gear shop is a 5min walk from our house) and then we spent the evening relaxing and BBQ'ing dinner. 

Day 4, Tuesday Oct. 13, 2015 - Climbing at J-Tree National Park - Real Hidden Valley and Stirrup Tank Areas

Hidden Valley

Another hot day, another early start.  Up at 6am and we were in the park hiking by 7:30am.  We managed to find shady climbs pretty much all day and even though it was 32c, it was reasonably comfortable. 

We started the day at the Real Hidden Valley Area and continued to work on our tick-list. We started off with 3 routes at Thin wall, all of which were fun crack climbs with lots of features to help out with the crack climbing. The descent was a 3rd class down climb but was fairly straightforward.

"Aint Nothing but a JTree Thing" and "Almost Vertical"

Route 5/60: "Ain't Nothing but a J-Tree Thing", 5.6, Thin Wall

Top of "Ain't Nothing but a J-Tree Thing"

Route 6/60: "Almost Vertical", 5.7, Thin Wall

Down climbing off the top of Thin Wall
Route 7/60: "Butterfingers Make Me Horny", 5.8, Thin Wall

"Butter Fingers Make Me Horny"

Next, we headed to the Hidden Tower area in the Hidden Valley, a nice hike along the Hidden Valley nature trail and a short boulder hop brought us to the base of the routes.

Hidden Valley Area, Base of Thin Wall

Route 8/60: "Sail Away", 5.8, Hidden Tower. (no photo)

Sail away was a fun crack climb, a bit more involved than the previous routes of the morning, but with holds where you want them. The climbing was well varied and interesting. One of my favourites so far.

Desert Flowers

To finish the day we headed out to the Stirrup Tank Area.

Route 9/60: "Gargoyle", 5.6, Zippy Rock

We started at Zippy Rock where we climbed "Gargoyle", a splitter 5.6 hand crack. There was no getting around jamming on this one, a splitter crack with smooth slabs on either side. Mike loved the full on jamming session to the top. The route did a good job of reminding me that I am definitely more of a sport climber (or maybe I just need to spend more time practicing jamming). We were pleasantly surprised by the addition of two bolts at the top that meant we wouldn't have to do the 4th class down climb described in the guidebook! yay!

Zippy Rock, "Gargoyle" is the crack on the far left

Route 10/60: " New Toy", 5.6, Stirrup Rock

We finished up our day on "New Toy", which was a really fun combination of face and crack climbing with tons of features to pull on. It took a bit of exploring to figure out that to access the route we had to scramble up a huge boulder and down the back side to the base of the crack, but it was worth the effort. The descent was straightforward with a short scramble across the top of the crag to a rappel station.

"New Toy"

We finished up our climbs just in time to drive out of the park during sunset. A long and rewarding day on the rock! 

Desert Sunset

Day 5, Wednesday Oct. 14, 2015 - Climbing at J-Tree National Park - Lost Horse Area

3rd day with high temps in the forecast so same early start routine. We headed back to the Lost Horse area to try out some different crags.  We started out climbing "Granny Goose" on the Left Hand of Darkness crag, which is conveniently located about 30 seconds from the car. J-Tree approaches are awesome! 

Route 11/60: "Granny Goose", 5.7, Left Hand of Darkness

The route started with a crack climb up to an underclinging traverse across a slab and then back into an upper, crazy off width, crack system. The off width took a bit of trial and error, I think I performed my first every thigh jam to get up it, but it was fun to try some new techniques. Again, the hardest part of the climb was the descent  - a 3rd class scramble off the back side of the crag that took a bit of exploring to sort out. 

Left Hand of Darkness Crag

Granny Goose, 5.7
View from the top of Left Hand of Darkness

Next we headed over to Playhouse Rock to climb two more routes from our list:

View from the top of Playhouse Rock

Route 12/60: "Dress Rehearsal" (aka Practice Rehearsal), 5.7, Playhouse Rock

A combination of crack, slab and arete climbing with lots of features to pull on. Fun climb! and with a bolted station to rappel! 

Dress Rehearsal, 5.7
Mike on top of Playhouse Rock

Route 13/60: "Beck's Bear", 5.7, Playhouse Rock

A stiff 5.7 crack climb with burly moves in a corner system. Eases off at the top to rambling, fun face climbing. A fairly straight forward 3rd class down climb descent. 

Beck's Bear, 5.7
Amber on top of Playhouse Rock

After a lunch break we hiked up to the Dairy Queen Wall to take a look at a couple more climbs, but after a full morning of climbing in the direct sun in 34c temperatures, we were both feeling pretty drained. We decided to call it a day and spend the afternoon relaxing and rehydrating.  Lesson learned - climbing in the direct sun in the desert heat is a bad idea. We need to seek shade when it's so hot out. 

Rock Formations at the base of Dairy Queen Wall

Dairy Queen Wall

Playhouse Rock and Hemingway Buttress

Nissan Frontier "Money Shot" 

Day 6, Thursday Oct. 15, 2015 - Rest Day - Hike to 49 Palms Oasis

Town of Twentynine Palms
We were awoken at 2am last night to a thunder storm that lasted until about 6:30 this morning. With the amount of rain and lightning going on, we decided (we're forced) to take a rest day.  We had a sleep-in and lounged around listening to tunes and enjoying morning coffee before making some plans for the day. 

The rain seemed to have stopped for a bit so we headed out for a short hike to the 49 Palms Oasis.  The hike was pretty low key with nice groomed trails and enough elevation gain to make you work but to not be too taxing in the heat. It was a rest day after all! 

Hiking to the Oasis 

Cresting the hill and approaching the oasis was spectacular with the towering palm trees tucked in among the rocks and sand. We sat in the shade and enjoyed the view for a bit and then headed back to the truck. 

49 Palms Oasis

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the town of Twentynine Palms and relaxing at the house. We managed to finish our hike just in time as another storm rolled in and we had lightning, thunder and crazy rain storms for the rest of the day. It did make for an entertaining afternoon of sitting on the covered porch and watching the rain and lightning. 

49 Palms Oasis

49 Palms Oasis

Sunset at the House

Sunsets and Rainbows

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Click Here for Part 2


  1. Great trip! I'm looking forward to the next report.

    I don't see Dr, Seuss Vogel or False Classic Corner in your description. Did you skip them? I agree with your descent concerns getting down from Mt Grossvogel. We spent 1/2 hour trying to find the class 2 descent mentioned in the guidebook. There is no class 2 descent!

    1. Both are still on the list! :) There absolutely is not a 2nd class descent off Mt Grossvogel. Here is what Mountain Project has to say about the area:

      "Descent: Scramble off down the slabs to the north. WARNING!!! The initial part of this descent is harder than the route you just came up! Place anchors and belay accordingly for safety!!! "