(nearly) Christmas at Joshua Tree - Date:
Hayley and I met up for a quick four days in Joshua Tree National Park. We met up with our aunt Judy who generously loaned us her car for the trip and our aunt Beck, who drove over to San Diego from her current residence in Arizona: sister’s trip squared, cool!
Hayley and I got driving reasonably early from San Diego toward J Tree. We knew that today would be our best weather day (in a stretch of rather unpleasant climbing weather), so we wanted to take full advantage of it. I had been wanting to climb the two pitch route, Fote Hog, since my last trip out there 3 years ago. Unfortunately, it was in the shade all day long, brrr.. but, with wind and rain on the way, today was the best day for it, it was only 5.6, how bad could it be? We decided to “warm-up” on this one. I should have known/remembered better, at J-Tree 5.6 can mean exciting traverses followed by overhangs and Fote Hog was just that. In the end, this first climb was my favorite of the trip, but we froze our asses off getting it.
Cool jugs for cranking the overhang on Fote Hog:
We did another short 5.7 route at Thin wall nearby before losing all feeling in our hands and calling it a day and heading into town to the JTree Saloon for some warm bar food.
Day 2: Our second day at J Tree brought two more pitches of climbing in the Wonderland area. We “warmed up” on a short 5.7 near the parking area, then hiked about an hour to the base of Mental Physics, a long 5.7+ pitch (it is a rope-stretching 30+ meters of hand crack!). This was Hayley’s favorite climb of the trip, so was well worth the 1.5 hour wait to get on the route. If you are interested in this climb have a few back-up climbs in mind in that area just in case there is a wait (Our 60 favorite climbs guide book only listed this climb in the area and with a 1 hour approach it’s not like we were about to turn around just because it was busy).
By the time we finished the deproach, the wind had hit and it was again too cold to climb. We hiked around a bit in the Hall of Horrors area (hiking was a great way to fill the cold hours of each evening). Afterwards we went Christmas tree picking. We found a lovely short, but bushy Joshua Tree to decorate with a flashlight, cams and 60 seconds on the clock.
Day 3: We were joined by our aunt Beck and her traveling cat while they were on their way back to Arizona. Even though our first two days had not really been filled by stellar long days of climbing, we were motivated because we knew that the weather was getting even worse today! We got an early start and climbed two great 5.7 routes (Beck’s Bear and Practice Rehearsal), then hopped on a 5.5 and 5.6 nearby. It was hailing at this point, but at least the frozen form of precipitation kept the rock dry. Then the rain hit.
I tried the “sun dance” but I must have gotten it wrong because it only got colder and wetter. We did a little more hiking, eventually finding ourselves on Ryan Mountain for an evening snow hike. We finished the evening with another trip to the J Tree Saloon. Good food, beer and pool tables greeted us there.
Day 4: A brief clearing that morning allowed the rock to dry out. We quickly made our way to Dairy Queen Wall. There is a nice concentration of climbs there so that we could get the most out of our sucker-hole. We put up two more 5.7’s. The rain began again. A perfect 5.8 hand crack was just to our right. We squeezed in this last one, increasingly wetter holds are great motivation to climb faster, they sure aren’t getting any better!
Yeah, the blue thing in the upper right is an umbrella!
All in all: We put up 12 pitches in 4 days, far from impressive. But, heck, it’s December and we’ll take whatever we can get!