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[TR] Joshua Tree for Christmas - many and varied 1/1/2008

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Trip: Joshua Tree for Christmas - many and varied


Date: 1/1/2008


Trip Report:

Austin, James, Brett and I drove down to JT on 12-16 and returned on 1-2. It was sunny every day, very windy one day out of 5, and quite warm maybe 1 day a week. We never stopped climbing due to the cold, though one day we had to find a sunny route out of the wind to be able to climb (the watershute). Speaking just for myself, I’d have to say it was my best road trip in ten years.


The nightlife around the campfires at Hidden Valley was almost as much fun as the climbing. We ran into some very friendly climbers and put together a live blues band. We weren’t the only band either, the guys with the drums were rocking the crowds as well, but more on that later. Thanks to Austin for taking many of the best pictures. He seems to know my camera (Canon Digital Rebel XT) better than I do.



Brett and Austin at Quail Springs picnic area.





Jessica finishing Bat Crack. In the evening at the parties around the campfires, Jessica and I played duets; she on the violin, me on the harmonica. Her playing (all by ear) was flawless and brought tears to my eyes.





Tucker following Bat Crack 5.5 in the twilight.Tucker is a piano tuner and restorer from Portland and plays a mean blues guitar.





If only all climbs ended this way, Tucker and Jessica in the twilight on Intersection rock.





Cars leaving at sunset from Intersection rock.





After rapping off in the dark, we posed for pictures. Jessica, Amy, Tucker and me. Jessica, Amy and Tucker were from Portland, Oregon, and met us when they came looking for our neighbor (Pink, on this board).





Richard (from edgeworksclimbing.com) pointing at something in the morning.





Morning mist over the campground





Intersection rock, North Overhang 5.9, before the whipper.





Brett taking a 15 foot whipper off North Overhang. He hit the deck, or, at least the belay ledge but didn’t get hurt as I caught him right as he decked. Very scary fall on an exposed move 100 feet up.





Sunset on Intersection Rock walk off





Me following Brett up Pinched Rib, Chimney Rock.





Amy following a 5.7 at Quail Springs





Austin on the walk off from Double Dip at echo rock




Austin at Echo Rock




More Austin at Echo.





Me warming up for Bearded Cabbage.





Me facing the harsh reality that I can’t repeat certain climbs that I led 23 years ago...unless I start doing more pull ups. Brett finished this one: Bearded Cabbage, 5.10c





Austin trying Bearded Cabbage.





Brett and Austin in the Iron Door cave. According to the ranger, a retarded son was locked in here back in the 1930’s.





This was a very strong door, and an erie place to hang out, full of bad vibes.








Me on the infamous Watershute route, 5.10b, Intersection Rock. The first 10 inches took 40 minutes of work and involved a double elbow lock and a 30 foot runout…what was I thinking?!




Brett on the gunsmoke traverse.







Brett, Gunsmoke Traverse





A babe at Gunsmoke





Brett leading Dappled Mare, 5.8 at lost horse wall.





Brett and James on a 5.9 at Indian Cove





Me falling off Loose Lady, 5.10b. James had to finish it for me.





James on Loose Lady




Jame on Loose Lady




Austin and Jessica trying out party clothes in town. That night Tucker, Amy, Jessica and I entertained the big crowd in site 16 with our newly formed band. Two guitars, two singers (Tucker and Amy) me on the blues harmonica and Jessica on the violin. We rocked out. During a break we heard there was a ladies only hour in the sweat lodge and our band broke up for a while. I saw Austin step out of the lodge a while later, starkers, turning in the light of the headlamps to show off his tattoo to the crowd.


When I asked him later why he was in the lodge starkers during the ladies lodge hour, he just smiled. The guy has all the luck :moondance:






Tucker had been telling us about the Burning Man festival and Austin got this bright idea to put up our own Joshua Tree Burning Man made from pallet scraps. We had no idea it would become such a spectacle. Amy and Jessica writing down things they want to burn on the “burning man”





Amy writing something (her ex-boyfriends name?) on the burning man





The burning man crowd, Austin’s idea turned into a crowd magnet.






Lighting the Joshua Tree Burning Man. Not sure how I got these double exposures but it may have involved a slow exposure, a flash and a headlamp.




Once word got around that Austin had put up a real burning man, the crowds gathered fast. We even had two drummers ask us to wait so they could drum during the burning.




it burns




I’m not sure at what point this burning thing got crazy, but suddenly the drums were throbbing in our brains and people started dancing around the burning man, whooping and hollering. Hmmm, maybe the chick with the can of psychedelic mushrooms was there…or maybe that was the next night, they all run together. I’ve not been offered so many bowls and bong hits since the Rainbow Family Festival of Life in 1972. Long live the sixties!





It got louder and crazier for a good half an hour until even this old ex hippy was about ready to start dancing. I heard a commotion and suddenly two rangers showed up and busted the party. They said our fire was too big, and no more than 6 people were allowed per site. What, did they think we were going to start a revolution?





This is new years eve, around 11:30. There were 5 drums, a guitarist, a flute and somebody with wooden spoons. I seriously wondered if it was all a big flashback to the sixties. There must have been about 60 climbers, with about 20 of them running and dancing around the fire to the beat of the drums. Several of the girls were trained dancers and making some very fine moves indeed. I wanted to let my hair down as well, but something held me back…maybe memories of my strange hippie days or just missing my wife and kids back home in Tacoma. Anyway it was cool being there and grooving to the drums.




Party down.




Group shot before we started home.









Gear Notes:

standard rack of stoppers and a few hexes. For some of the offwidth body slots I carried my old 10 and 11 hexes. I had two three inch cams, and one blue big bro which fits up to about 6 inches. The big bro worked great.


Approach Notes:

sit in car to belay, slam door if leader yells falling.

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Pink, Amy, awesome to meet you guys as well. Like I said when we left, climbing with the guys was fun, but we felt like a bunch of gold miners stuck up in the Yukon, starved for the sight of a real, live woman. When you, Jessica and Tucker showed up that morning with those big smiles, you brought the love.


And the music, god, thanks so much for reminding me how much I love making live music. I've already dusted off my Martin guitar and started playing again. I think I'll look for a group locally to jam with, it's a part of my life I've ignored for far too long.


I have more pictures but haven't posted them yet, let me know if you want them. I have a bunch of you and Jessica dancing around the campfire.




Presidents day at smith for sure, if not sooner!

Edited by markwebster

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Great trip report and pictures!

It looks like you all had a crazy time!

I'm heading down there next week... I'm so

excited after reading this TR!

Pebble wrestling!!!

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Stewster? Is that you Amy? hahahah you rock! Great pictures. Sounds like a hell of a time.


Go Amy!* Comin' in hot!!


Awesome TR and pictures. Looks to be a very memorable time.



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Sweet TR - the pics are great! Working on talking my wife into taking a trip down there for some climbing - these pics should help.

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especially when she see all the cuties in the pics, you certainly won't be going alone :/

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sweet TR -- sounds like a blast! I haven't been to JTree yet, but I hope when I do I have an experience like this.

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you'll love it and as far as i know you can only get brown bottle fever down there.

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Dude! Surrender the pink! We want a picture of Andrew.


Waterchute is 5.10b now? I remember when it was one of a bevy of "Joshua Tree 5.9's", back when Pinched Rib was called 5.7. One of the solutions to the start of the Waterchute involved a running start and the "flying butt jam."


Swell TR, thanks a bunch.

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We want a picture of Andrew.



Pink is in upper right of picture with long blonde hair.




Pink soloing Little Wing at Beacon


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Oh, I've seen those shots of the Pinkling, I was just angling for something current from Jtree. Basically, I'd like to see a few more shots from Mark's trip.

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waterchute has been upgraded from 5.9 to 10b. I led it on this trip thinking it was still a 9. Either I'm getting to old for this stuff, or it's getting very slick from repeated ascents.


You've seen those gum ball machines where you put in a quarter and a gum ball rolls down the spout into your hand? The watershute is one of those, but you are the gumball, going the wrong way.


I lay there for a long time, my feet flopping in space and getting nowhere. Finally I found an elbow lock (upside down chickenwing) up high that actually still had some rough rock. That allowed me to wriggle my upper torso high enough to get my right hand in play with an awkward mantle.


It probably wasn't worth the 40 minutes of grunting, though the crowd that gathered seemed to enjoy it. It's still another 15 feet to the first bolt. That bolt used to be much lower. I got in a couple tiny cams on the way to the bolt, but they were probably bad. We had a crash pad as well.


There is good pro higher if you have a standard rack of cams, small to large, though they are all flaring placements.


Still and all, it's a fun route, and rarely done. I love those offwidth chimneys. I wouldn't want to try it without knee pads.



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pink is on the right here



Pink is a real gentleman. The rangers kicked us out after 14 days, and Pink lent us his car to drive our car into town so we could stay one more day.


Amy and James on top of intersection after the flake route



They left us a fixed rope and a headlamp so we could rap off faster in the dark.


This trip was simply too much fun. I need to stop spending time on it and get back to work. There is the trip, and then there is the reality of the office and earning money...sigh. Until next year...

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Amy and James on top of intersection after the flake route



They left us a fixed rope and a headlamp so we could rap off faster in the dark.


Hey Mark,

I was guiding some folks in the area the day your friends in the pic climbed the Flake. Had just been up the Flake myself earlier in the day. So I wanted to pass along a couple of points. I am trying not to spray on your TR or be a dick about this issue...here goes:


First, that day (a Sat if I recall correctly) was the most crowded day I've seen in the monument all season. There were mob scenes all around the campground, it was a nice sunny day. Naturally, there were lines for the popular easy routes. Communication with other parties was necessary to figure out who was doing what or waiting for what.


As we were gathering some gear from the base of Intersection to head to another area, we saw your friend above starting up the West Chimney. Now not many people do the W.Chim, but it was crowded and I'd already seen a party go up it that day. Another party was just starting the Flake simulatenously. The bottom of the Flake is the crux, a section of 5.8 squeeze and OW. The leader was solid and moving right along, although wide climbing does tend to be a tad slower than other types. Your pal there proceeds to leave the W.chim at about the 30' level and traverse into the Flake, stepping into the route literally just above the guy leading the actual start to the Flake. The leader on the Flake could have easily reached up and grabbed his ankle as he stepped into the crack.


Now imagine the situation this leaves the other party in...the leader is 30' off the deck, a guy has just merged into his route off an adjacent line and the guy (your pal) isn't climbing quickly. The guy can either hang out until your buddy finishes the route and his second follows (probably an hour at the rate they were moving), he can lower off and wait on the ground, he can keep climbing with another party's rope and pro in the crack creating an even bigger clusterfuck with two ropes and sets of pro.


It would seem that a reasonable party would have at least made the guys on the real start to the route aware that they planned to leave the line they were climbing and merge into the other line. It wasn't as if they were on an alternate start, they were on an independent route.


When I realized what was happening, I was like "WTF?!" Your buddy created a giant clusterfuck. I didn't know either party (your friends or the guys they cut off) so there's no playing favorites in this. I would have been PISSED if I were the guy leading the Flake. Probably would have taken your friend's lead rope, clove hitched it into the first of his pieces I came to, stopping him cold, and climbed by him, or came to blows when he got down.


Now maybe I have this all wrong and the two parties had some communication and agreement beforehand, I didn't talk to either party, I only observed the action but it certainly appeared to be a clueless guy creating easily avoidable issues. At the minimum, your buddy didn't climb the Flake, he climbed some mash up of the W. Chim and the Flake, avoiding the crux.


Sorry to put negative stuff in your TR. Maybe have a talk with your pal and teach him a little common courtesy/crag etiquette. I'm glad you all enjoyed it down here, don't wait so long between trips next time. And don't sweat the Bearded Cabbage, that move is hard, especially if that ghey tick mark is still next to the crack. I did it a few days before you were on it, someone had ticked a ridiculous spot on the crack way above the good jam you really want when making the crux move. If you hit the right spot, it's not bad, wrong spot and it's desperate and forces you into a lieback.


(today was gorgeous).

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That was me leading The Flake, west variation. I'd done the normal start ealier.


I, too, was a bit annoyed that a party followed me up my route right on my ass. I'd been set up at my start for some time before the other party moved in. It did not occur to me at the time to ask them to hold on a bit - In hind sight, they probably thought I was on another route altogether. Once I realized the situation, I protected the rt side, leaving the left for the other party to protect in, then I belayed from the top of the flake and waited for them to clear out.


Nuf said.



Edited by jhamaker

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