Run for the Desert

Joshua Tree NP, CA – Gimme that crack! Jump to  Quick Ref Guide: New to JTree │ Route Beta Photos Having ants in my pants and a promising weather forecast, I dialed up my climbing partner and with little to no convincing we were en route to a world class trad climbing mecca, Joshua Tree NP. My [...]

Joshua Tree NP, CA – Gimme that crack!

Jump to  Quick Ref Guide: New to JTree │ Route Beta Photos

Having ants in my pants and a promising weather forecast, I dialed up my climbing partner and with little to no convincing we were en route to a world class trad climbing mecca, Joshua Tree NP. My climbing partner, being relatively new to climbing, had only been to JTree on two short visits previously so I felt obligated to show him a climber’s JTree. We got a somewhat late departure from home base which landed us in JTree around 8pm. Our preferred campsite, Hidden Valley Campground, was full – no surprise there seeing that it is climbing season in JTree (see below for first time climber advice). We cruised the campground until we found a site with only one car and one tent and kindly asked the two lucky campers if we could stash our tent in an obscure corner of their site and offered up $10 for their troubles. To my surprise they were reluctant but said yes. Usually this type of site sharing is par for the course during climbing season, so I’m not sure why they weren’t gung ho on having someone pay their site fees for the night. Tired from the drive, we knocked out for the night and packed up the next morning in hopes of finding our own site or more friendly people to share with.

Bright eyed and bushy tailed, we found our very own campsite conveniently adjacent to The Old Woman rock formation housing classics such as Toe Jam (5.7), Double Cross (5.7+) and Bearded Cabbage (5.10c). In true JTree fashion, we quickly made friends with our next door neighbors – Megan and Glen, two climbers from Arizona adorned with the cutest handmade chalk bags that were also for sale. Click here to view some of their unique handmade chalk bags.

Megatron and Glen - Amazing chalk bag visionaries

Handmade Chalk Bags For Sale

We spent the day exploring the Hemmingway area and enjoyed warming up our crack skills on Funky Dung (5.8) and White Lightning (5.7). With balmy temps not exceeding mid 40’s and the Hemmingway Buttress in the shade, probably a bad choice on our part, we were ice cold. Back at the campsite, we warmed up our frozen piggies on the Caveman boulder problem within Hidden Valley Campground. We watched a group from Wales crush the V7 problem, with not much luck ourselves. Feeling humbled, we ventured into town for some grassfed beef burgers and $2 drafts at the Joshua Tree Saloon. With full bellies and sleepy eyes we joined Megan and Glen at their campfire and racked their brains for an excellent ticklist of JTree moderates before calling it a night.

Double cross all zipped up

Double cross all zipped up

Enter Double Cross, top of our ticklist for the Hidden Valley Campground. Double Cross, a 5.7+ crack with an unprotectable 20′ entrance fee is one of the most popular routes in the park and gets a bad rap for a high accident rate and is the subject of many a bolt war. It is true that the first 20 feet of this climb is unprotectable; however, the face climbing traverse of sorts is 5.4 at best and if you have problems there you have no business being on a JTree 5.7+ – a place where routes are notoriously sandbagged. Prior to the crux, you have a great place for solid pro (back up that cam with a nut if you’re feeling a little nervous). The rest of the route is a bomber hand to fist crack where pro placement options are plentiful.

Conquering Double Cross and feeling warmed up, we headed to Echo Rock and stepped it up a notch. We shoved ourselves into Pope’s Crack (5.9+), an awesome finger/hand crack in a right facing corner with an exciting 20 foot traverse along a dike on a sloping ledge (read: extend that piece before and after to prevent pulling a dead body up in form of rope drag). Gleaming in the excitement of leading Pope’s Crack, we jaunted over to Touch and Go (5.9), a unique twin crack system start with a thank god for jugs finish. After bagging those two classic 5.9s, we ran out of sunlight and headed back to camp for some sleepy time.

Megatron on Touch and Go (5.9)

Megatron on Touch and Go (5.9)

Touching and Going on Touch and Go

Touching and Going on Touch and Go

Prior to calling it a trip we raced up Intersection Rock via Overhang Bypass (5.7). The second pitch allowed me to throw in a heel hook, probably unnecessary but very exciting, on the airy ledge before turning the corner and friction climbing to the bolted anchor. We played around on our Caveman project before heading back home and are already planning our next trip back. Jtree has a habit of leaving you hungry for so much more.

Alex and Rob Working the Caveman (V7)

Alex and Rob Working the Caveman (V7)

Things to Know for the First Time JTree Climber

Location: Joshua Tree National Park, CA


Access: $15/car entry fee for park, good for seven days or yearly pass options of (1) $30/year for JTree or (2) $80/year Interagency Pass.

Camping: Hidden Valley Campground, $10/night. Preferred walk up campsite for climbers as there are tons of classic climbs within walking distance of the campsites, if not on the campsite itself. If campground is full (100% of the time during winter climbing season), ask to share a campsite and offer to pay for the nights you are staying. There is a 2-car and 3-tent maximum per campsite, so most non-jerks will be down with you sharing a site assuming you aren’t obnoxious.

Recommended Guidebook: Joshua Tree Rock Climbs. Full color, so you can actually differentiate between those monzogranite rock piles.

Water: There is none in the park, bring your own oasis.

Route Beta Photos:

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Ilana is a native of Southern California. She is an accomplished rock and ice climber and is the brains behind Thrillseekers Anonymous. Currently residing in Colorado, she is a Registered Trauma Emergency Department Nurse, who can be found leading her own adventures on days off. Ilana is an athlete ambassador with GoMacro, Arcteryx Denver, and CAMP USA. She is a seasoned presenter and has been featured in various media outlets including the February 2015 issue of ‘Climbing’ magazine, December 2013 issue of ‘Rock and Ice’ magazine, December/January 2013 issue of ‘Gripped Climbing’ magazine, Canyoneering: A Guide to Techniques for Wet and Dry Canyons (How To Climb Series) by Dave Black and Pasadena Magazine as well as a Climbing Expert on MTV’s Parental Control (Season 7 – “Heather”).

Ilana has written 111 articles for Thrillseekers Anonymous.

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