Solid Fears – Joshua Tree NP, CA
From Tahquitz it’s not a particularly long distance to Joshua Tree National Park (J-Tree), Southern California’s winter climbing mecca. Not feeling like doing the fitness responsible approach hike required at Taquitz two days in a row, we opted for some more car side venues ala J-Tree.
J-Tree climbing is unique. The bouldering can be quite fun but this trip was a strictly roped venture. J-Tree sport climbing definitely makes a strong attempt to keep the sport in sporty; in a will that loose spinner actually holds a fall, and anyone have an idea where the next bolt is or why this one was chopped? My general rule of thumb is to add the letter R to any sport climb and with rare exceptions I typically try to stick to trad lines. Grades in J-Tree also seem a bit stiff until one gets used to the rock. Rock reminiscent of the Buttermilks that will eat your skin alive for the first few days back.
Our first day in J-Tree was somewhat of a late start. We attempted to use the old Vogel guide, and the park has changed substantially since its publication. Needless to say we ended up at the wrong trailhead and cactus-wacked through the desert for quite a ways before finally reaching our climbing destination – the Astro Domes. In the fading light we decided not to attempt our originally planned multi-pitch adventure and settled on a quick single pitch classic in the fading light, Solid Gold (10a). As we hiked out in the dark a concrete decision was made to visit the local climbing store, Nomad Ventures, and pick up a copy of the excellent new Wolverine climbing guide, Joshua Tree Rock Climbs.
Our numbers grew by one for the second day, with a good friend driving out from LA who I had promised to introduce to trad climbing. As a party of three we decided to stick to single pitch lines and as we scarfed down breakfast in the Country Kitchen double-wide we decided to head towards The White Cliffs of Dover.
We headed out in the scorching heat and easily got sidetracked at the first shady formation we passed, Hound Rock. We decided to warm up on some exciting looking climbs and utilized our third for unique photo opportunities on An Eye to the West (5.9), Tossed Green (5.10a), and Crescent Wrench (5.10d).
Warmed up and ready for more we munched on some snacks and finish the hike to the White Cliffs of Dover. The classic line, Popular Mechanics (5.9) was taken but we were recommended some less traveled routes a bit down the left of the cliff, highly recommend Make or Break Flake (10b) and Quest for Fire (11b).
The sun was starting to sit low, but the line we had started out to climb was finally free, “Popular Mechanics” (5.9). Having practiced hiking out of the sharp plant/weapon filled desert in the dark the previous day, we decided to take a quick run at this perfect dihedral. We finished up just in time to crack open a beer at the base of the cliff and watch the final rays of the sun fade away before, looking at eachother and asking who brought the headlight. Whoops…
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, CA