Oh boy. How am I gonna start this?
Well first I’ll say, “We pulled it off!” We got 20+ folks in Joshua Tree National Park, many who had never been to it before and we didn’t lose, injure or maim anyone. Some may have left with an indelible impression but that can’t be helped.
Setting up the event was interesting, at first what seemed like a small group that might consist of perhaps 4 more climbers just joining in with my usual climber crowd, soon ballooned into an interstate affair and then an international one. I was obviously going to do a little bit more campsite wrangling than on my usual trips.
At some point during the Tweetup I also decided that I’d try to get some sponsors. If folks were going to spend hours on planes and in cars to go to an unknown campground and spend time with strangers, I thought every little convenience would help and that it would be a unique opportunity for companies to reach climbers from all over. In the end Clif Bar sent us a big box with a variety of their products, from Clif Shot Bloks and Luna goodies, to their newest product, Clif Shot Roks. Martha of Action Wipes was also generous, sending a bunch of individually packaged (and reuseable) wipes. Lastly, and out of the blue, Matthew Walker of Inner Passage contacted me to send along Joshua Tree Products (and also Mountain Khaki deal cards which I surprised everyone with at the big campfire).
As far as Twitter attendance goes it went nearly exactly as folks had RSVPd. We had folks from Southern, Central and Northern California; from the Seattle, Washington area; from Philadelphia, PA; and from Vancouver, Canada and Montreal, Canada. Most of us had never met before in person but we each had at least a small sense of the others in the group due to our interactions on Twitter and because of blog posts.
Still, even though I “knew” each of the attendees (though not their Significant Others or friends they were bringing) I was still nervous. I wanted everyone to have a good time and to hopefully show Joshua Tree in a good light to the newcomers.
My reward in the end was seeing people’s reactions to Joshua Tree and the Tweetup itself… and still seeing them reeling from the experience. To me my first Joshua Tree trip was what cemented climbing as part of my life. I’m glad to have shared a little bit of it with new found friends.
Wednesday, November 11th – 1st Full Day of Climbing. Showed the early birds “Sail Away” and “Wild Wind” and also took them to Thin Wall to get them used to Joshua Tree rock without having to do Old School grades. Two of my regular climbing group friends also joined us at both of these spots. Afterwards I needed to update the JTreeTweetup Hotline I’d set up so we all went into town where we tried to go to Crossroads but learned that they close on Wednesdays. We ended up at Sam’s Pizza AND Indian food, much to the amusement of many. A grocery run happened shortly afterwards.
Thursday, November 12th – Day 2. After being woken up by a two coyote chorus alarm, I took the now bigger group to Headstone Rock since we were all camped at Ryan Campground. Then folks split into groups but, quite remarkably, I was still able to see each of our parties due to a unique vantage point. I could see folks on “The Bong”, people on “Hobbit Roof”, and also folks on “Super Roof” even though they were in Steve’s Canyon. We climbed into the darkness that night. Afterwards everyone went to Crossroads where we got the patio (and a heater) to ourselves.
Friday, November 13th – Day 3. Hemingway Wall with the group, some led or followed, others bouldered near enough to the wall that we all erupted in cheers when we saw someone send a problem. I took two car loads of folks to Chimney Rock and showed them how to get into the “Space Station” via a chimney climb and a short friction down climb.
Saturday, November 14th – Day 4. The group went to the Barker Dam area, some climbing near Echo and others elsewhere. “Stitcher Quits”, “Double Dip”, “Touch and Go”, “Pope’s Crack”, some unknown 10b, “Heart and Sole”, “Face of Tammy Faye” and more were climbed. Some took a short trip to Gunsmoke. We had the big bonfire at night with much sharing of various treats. Since the Seattle and Vancouver crew had to leave for a very early flight Sunday morning, this was the last time we’d all be together as a group in JTree. I said a few words and thanked our sponsors (and this is when I passed out the discount cards) and then I brought out the s’more supplies [I got the “surprise s’mores” idea from Kim Reynolds at Chicks Rock, thanks Kim!]. I also tried to herd the cats once more for a group picture. Results were mixed 😉 (see video)
Sunday, November 15th – Day 5. Early group bouldering at Gunsmoke then on to Atlantis Wall for some and an unknown climb in Hidden Valley campground for others. While at Gunsmoke we ran into a climbing ranger who had posted on the JTreeTweetup wiki page. She and another ranger were impressed with our group and we weren’t even all at Gunsmoke right then. After climbing, everyone had various run-ins with each other at Crossroads as this was the default food stop before folks got on the road (and for the Philly crew who were staying one more night, this was their dinner spot). I even saw some friends of mine there who had invited me out to Indian Creek this week, they had done a few routes there but retreated to Joshua Tree after getting snowed on.
I don’t feel right yet writing a true “wrap up”. I don’t feel like I’m quite “back” from the trip yet. In fact, on Tuesday I climbed with David, our Quebec, Canada representative. He was still in Southern California visiting his sister so we met up at Malibu Creek State Park and did a few routes there (it was much warmer than at Joshua Tree).
And so I look at my pictures and the videos I shot and/or edited and feel I haven’t quite digested it all yet. I am a veteran now of meeting folks I’ve only known through online interactions, but I still rejoice that it can be done. And this wasn’t just a lunch or a cozy hotel convention, but camping out in a place with no water or food. Not only did these “strangers” spend their own time and money to fly and/or drive many hours to meet but they put their trust in someone who didn’t have a group campsite for them at first [I checked months ago but all group sites were booked up, by the way]. I had a plan, but really, if you haven’t been to JTree before how can you know things will work out?
So again to all who attended, I say, “Thank you for coming!”. And to Nina, Katie, Liz, and Kelly I say thank you for all your help with the event and site management! And additional thanks to Katie and Melinda (@unredacted) for getting the conversation going in the first place and pulling me in. Thanks as well to Luke and Lizzy for the great climbing beta (and thanks Luke for printing out my flyer design when my printer ran out of ink). To those of you in the Twitter #climb community who didn’t make it this time, rest assured you were spoken of fondly and we all hope you can make the next one!
List of JTreeTweetup Attendees, Roughly in Order of Appearance
- Nina @nsmonkeygirl
- Eileen @rockgrrl
- Kelly @voden
- Darren @dloo
- Randy @malcolm777b
- Tiffany @tiffanymroyal
- Jeremy @jeremyshapiro
- George @sudarkoff
- Katie @katiebeth
- Rick @rikray
- Nina @daisie981
- Katie @adventuregrrl
- Chad @chadcat
- Luke @lstefurak
- Lizzy @lizzy_t
- David @davidlutzy
- Liz @eleddy
- Teri @dubid0
I’ll do a separate post with more photos and videos.