Tuesday, October 20, 2015

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

Click Here for Part 1

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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  1. So there is an easier way off Mt Grosvogel.

    I agree with Two Deserts being out of sync with the rest of the 5.8 grades in the park. Of course that was a pleasant surprise for us.

    Too bad about losing the cam. You should check out Totem Cams. We have a full set and really like them. They rarely get stuck.

    1. There is an easier way off, but only if you avoid the summit.

      We were also pleasantly surprised by "Where Two Deserts Meet" It was a fun, enjoyable climb.