Posts Tagged ‘joshua tree national park’

Government Shutdown – What it Means for Our National Parks – Yosemite, etc

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

The Government shutdown in regards to our National Parks will take place in 2 phases. Part of phase one includes instructing all day use visitors to leave the park immediately.

Effective immediately upon a lapse in appropriations, the National Park Service will take all necessary steps to close and secure national park facilities and groundsin order to suspend all activities except for those that are essential to respond to emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property. Day use visitors will be instructed to leave the park immediately as part of Phase 1 closures. Visitors utilizing overnight concession accommodations and campgrounds will be notified to make alternate arrangements and depart the park as part of Phase 2. Wherever possible, park roads will be closed and access will be denied. National and regional offices and support centers will be closed and secured, except where they are needed to support excepted personnel. These steps will be enacted as quickly as possible while still ensuring visitor and employee safety as well as the integrity of park resources.

The shutdown process will take place in two phases. Phase 1 includes all activities to notify the public of the closure, secure government records and property, and begin winding down operations to essential activities only. Phase 1 will take place over a day and a half. Phase 2 will be initiated by the Director and includes the complete shutdown of all concession facilities and commercial visitor services. Overnight visitors will be given two days to make alternate arrangements and depart the parks. At the end of Phase 2 operations are expected to be at the minimum levels defined below. The entire closure process – both phases – will be completed within four days.

Read the full National Park Contingency plan here.

Joshua Tree Freedom – 9 Days Climbing in the Park

Monday, March 18th, 2013

I came back from Joshua Tree National Park on Wednesday, March 6th. I didn’t know it was March 6th, in fact I didn’t even realize it was Wednesday until a few days later. This is the kind of freedom going camping and climbing to a place you know well (and having a flexible schedule) can give you. It was awesome and while luck is often the product of creating the circumstances that favor it, “lucky” is the word that came to mind that first day in Joshua Tree when I felt no pressure at all to jump on any “classics” or “must dos”. I only had one loose plan for the trip: to spend at least 5 days in Joshua Tree National Park and to not have to cook on my birthday.

Right from day one, which was Tuesday, February 26th, I knew the trip was going to be different. One reason was that K and I left early in the morning and arrived early enough to not only get a Hidden Valley Campground campsite, but to also hike around and just wander in nature.


Pinhead Boulder

K on Pinhead Boulder

Pretty close to the campground we found a woman bouldering on a rock we discovered was named Pinhead Boulder. We gave her a spot while she did the crack route on it, then we went back for our crash pad since she had moved on. Climbing around on this boulder was enough to get reacquainted with the rough, sharp rock that characterizes Joshua Tree, and the boulder even had a crack route in it, marked with pin scars, to help us get back into crack climbing as well.

I think the spirit of that day continued into the next. Seeking out climbs in the sun we decided to try Mike’s Books, a two pitch climb on Intersection Rock we had never done before. Once we got to the base of the climb I recognized its start as something I had seen done. I recall watching the a leader on it and thinking it probably qualified as one of those “the first 15 feet don’t count” kind of climbs where a bouldery start marks the beginning of the route. The rating I think is easy if you go around the bouldery start but either 5.7+ or 5.8 if you don’t.

It was our first trad climb in Jtree in a long time (first trip for the season) so it was fun to do this climb. The start was as described and I felt was the hardest part of the route, but that may be because I felt alright with the slightly wide cracks which comprised the next parts so the start seemed harder in comparison. Most of the 1st pitch, besides the start, is wide enough to be a bit strenuous, but as K mentioned, I did the top part completely different than he did. I did a bit of chimney technique to get over the hump, K thought I did it less strenuously than he had. But of course he was on lead and I wasn’t.

As we got down from Mike’s Books our friend Cliff joined us, from there it was on to Double Cross. It’s a bit of  a how-are-we-feeling-in-Jtree test piece for us. I’ll have to say it didn’t feel as good as it had in the past, but I guess that’s what taking a long time off of crack climbing will do for ya. It was still fun though, well deserving of its Classic status.

By now the sun was setting fast and Cliff’s girlfriend, Vina had joined us, so it was off to camp.

The following days we all kept up a fun flow of climbing and discovering.

On one of the early days we went to an area called Hot Tub. This was new to me. We did a climb there called Dharma Bums and we also got a rope up to the left and right of it. We had the spot to ourselves, though we could occasionally hear other climbers somewhere else in the Hidden Valley campground area.

During the trip we did two routes in which we just walked up and did them, no idea of the name of the route or formation. Unfortunately when I say “we” did one of the routes I only mean two of us did, because when Cliff got to the top, he discovered no anchors. That news, plus the fast setting sun meant only his belayer for the climb, K, went up after him. They ended up finding some webbing and leaving a nut to descend.

Me on Illusion Dweller

Me on Illusion Dweller

My birthday fell on the second Saturday of the trip.  We had a leisurely morning and then we climbed the awesome, five star, classic crack climb, Illusion Dweller (aka Kandy Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamlined Baby). Since my one birthday request was that I not have to cook for my birthday, for dinner I had proposed going into town to Pie for the People (a great New York style pizza place K and I had discovered the week it had opened) but was persuaded to try the new Crossroads instead. It turned out to be a good choice. I had a great Reuben sandwich with a small side  of spinach salad which was bigger than I had expected it would be. For dessert we all shared a piece of carrot cake (no candle on it, as I was afraid if they told the staff it was my birthday they might do the whole singing thing and I was feeling a bit shy in the as yet uncrowded restaurant).

Cliff and Vina had to leave on Sunday after that but K and I had committed to staying until Monday… which stretched up till Wednesday (which probably led to my confusion of not knowing what day it was when we actually got home).

Monday K and I had a bit of a rest day, both of us feeling a bit worked and I was feeling tired from little sleep due to a windy night. I took a nap in the car when K went searching for his hat which he thought he’d left in one of the two formations we’d gone to in Real Hidden Valley. By the time he came back (empty handed) we both felt up to having a go at Clean and Jerk, a hard climb on Sports Challenge Rock. K set up a top rope but I couldn’t make any progress with the boulder start (yes, another one of those!). K eventually got past that with a little help from cams and gear and then finished the rest of the route normally.

Owning Hemingway Due to a Car Commercial

On Tuesday I felt rejuvenated and wanted to get on multiple long routes so K and I headed out for Hemingway, which we knew would get morning sun (the weather was still cold enough that we wanted to climb in the sun when we could).

Right after the intersection for Real Hidden Valley a police car and cop blocked the way. Turns out there was some filming going on on the road after. We talked a bit to the cop, explaining that we were going to be busy climbing and wouldn’t be in the way of filming. He talked to some people on the radio and we were let through. At the parking lot for Hemingway we saw a lone guy with a walkie talkie. He asked us what we’d be doing. He had a German accent. We pointed at the middle section of Hemingway. “We’ll be up there” I said.

“You’re going to climb that?” he said, “Respect!”

While still putting our things together, a car pulled up in the lot and another man came out of it, and we basically had the same conversation except that he asked us, “You won’t be going on the road right?”

We answered negatively.

“So, what’s this top secret car, you guys are filming?” K asked him.

“It’s not just top secret… it’s top speed!” He said (also in a German accent). “But we would appreciate it if you didn’t take any pictures.”

The guy went off in his car, leaving the other guy behind.

K and I hiked out to Hemingway, we had the whole area to ourselves. It felt rather novel since Hemingway is a very popular wall.

As we set up at the base, we heard a loud rumbling, two sports cars appeared on the road, with another car rigged with a camera following them. It looked like they were Porches, probably just next year’s models, but they were indeed going fast.

K and I ended up having a great time on the long routes on Hemingway. We did White Lightning and then K lead OverSeer for the first time. It’s an awesome route with fun variety to it. We had an audience for some of the time we were climbing because after our lunch break (and it seems the film crew’s too) we saw the police set up a road block right after the Hemingway parking lot, blocking traffic traveling towards Hidden Valley. This created a line of cars which had to wait long enough that I could see folks getting out of their cars. Eventually the road block was removed and the only other climbing party we saw all day arrived. It was a trio of guys from Washington. They started with White Lightning. K and I had decided to do Feltonian Physics, simply because neither of us had tried it before. We had a great time sharing Hemingway with the newcomers who had some interesting stories to tell. They had all been climbing since they were kids, and I didn’t get the ages of all of them but one of them said he was 62. They had no problem with White Lightning.

Last Hurrah

The last day K and I were there we decided to get on Bird on a Wire, we’d done it before with a party of three and K wanted to try it with just the two of us. Though we had not seen many climbers around since the weekend, we found one party in the parking area, and one party on the rock already in the Lost Horse area. The weather was sunny enough that as I belayed the first pitch, I was glad for a little bit of shade a boulder near me provided. But, once I was on the route, I could feel the chill in the breeze and was glad I had not left my Windstopper jacket at the base. While we were climbing, the party we had seen on the wall already, had moved onto our route so we had to wait a bit to do the second pitch. Turns out they had done a combination of Dappled Mare and Bird on a Wire, unknowingly of course, they were new to the wall.

Bird on a Wire was a great end to the trip. All in all I had gotten on a lot of new to me things and also done three classics. I also pink pointed a 3 star climb called Leap Year Flake and flashed the Pinscar problem on Pinhead Boulder. I don’t have a photo of me on it because given the choice of pics or another spotter, I chose a spotter… what can I say? I’m a scaredy cat boulderer who gets nervous topping out on anything even a little taller than me!. Finding some adventurous, no one around climbs was also great during the trip, even though one tree shaded route had the added bonus of also harboring a lot of ants. Seeing a lot of great wildlife: coyotes, road runners, quail, baby bunny rabbits, etc was also a highlight.

This trip was another great reminder that adventure and the feeling of being “out there” can always be found, even in places you have been to before and especially if you are open to it. You have to love a place that makes you feel lucky to be alive.

A slideshow of photos from the trip is embedded below. Click on any photo to see bigger size options (highly recommended). You can also see the set here).

Trip Report – 4th Annual Jtree Tweetup, Joshua Tree National Park

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

The Fourth Annual Jtree Tweetup, which officially took place from November 9-11, 2012 (though many came early and some stayed later) was a lot of fun as usual. This year it was cold and windy, though thankfully not as windy as the forecasts had originally said it would be (one day had predicted gusts of 50 miles per hour, but I’d guess we only experienced 30 mph gusts at most). The hearty Twitter climbers braved it all to camp, meet and climb. One of the things I love about JTree Tweetups is seeing my Twitter friends in person and how a bunch of strangers can become friends. Sometimes a little adversity can bring folks together.

Luke climbing at the 4th Jtree Tweetup with a peanut gallery shadow crew watching

Luke climbing at the 4th Jtree Tweetup with a peanut gallery shadow crew watching

As usual, we had a great mix of #climb folks attending, including Tweetup veterans but also eight newcomers. Veteran Tweetup goers, Bill Urbanski, Patrick Gensel and two of their friends won the Traveled Furthest title since they came out from Pennsylvania (no Canadians this year). Another far traveling #climb Tweetup goer was first timer,  Kat coming from Oregon. A Tweetup First was having not one but 3 kids in attendance, with two of them under 2 years of age and the youngest being 9 months old! Start them young right?

Climbing was a quest for sun and wind protection so we ended up at Thin Wall (yeah not much sun there, but a good wall for folks to get acquainted with/ reacquainted with Joshua Tree National Park Rock), Headstone, Echo Cove, Hidden Tower, Little Rock Candy Mountain, Old Woman, and Brown Wall. Small groups also climbed on The Blob and on extra scrambles, and bouldering areas.

We were fortunate this year to have great sponsors, including ClifBarAction WipesClimbOn! (who was a Firewood Sponsor), and Mountain Mama (who was also a Firewood Sponsor and literally brought a bunch of firewood). Eastern Mountain Sports sent products for giveaway / review which we randomly distributed (watch for reviews on them). Chaco (who sponsors me as part of their Ambassador Team) also stepped up as a sponsor for the Jtree Tweetup this year by providing a $60 gift certificate to giveaway as part of the 10 Year Anniversary events.

Personally I had a great time, this year a number of folks showed up before the official weekend so I had help with campsite wrangling and an easier time of figuring out where to climb since we could hit popular routes on the weekday. Thanks go to Michael, Terri, and K for helping me with the early site wrangling and to Luke and Lizzy for suggesting some climbing areas and putting up ropes.

On this trip I also got to mix business and pleasure, squeezing in a photo shoot for Teresa of Mountain Mama and her family at Ryan Campground and at Gunsmoke before we joined more Tweetup goers at Hidden Tower.

Climbing wise I got to on sight a 5.7 trad climb in the Little Rock Candy Mountain area and to climb new to me routes there — including a strange face route I somehow turned into a “5.8, my a**” climb instead. It was also great seeing others challenge themselves, Terri on sighted an unusual route on Hidden Tower and Nina got her groove back after a break from climbing, leading Wild Wind (5.9).

Having fun at Brown Wall

Narinda having fun at Brown Wall on Captain Chronos

At the end of the trip there was talk about how next year will be the 5th Annual Jtree Tweetup, we even tried to get the group campsite before I had left the park… but it was booked. That’s ok, we’ll still be doing it, so keep an eye out folks, we will be doing it again!

My Twitter list of Tweetup goers (minus friends who did not have accounts set up):

Slideshow of photos from the 4th Annual Joshua Tree Tweetup (you can see the photos in non slideshow format here):

Interview with Randy Vogel – On Joshua Tree Rock Climbing Guidebooks, Ratings and More

Thursday, March 24th, 2011
Randy Vogel leading Bighorn Dihedral (photo by Holden Harris)

Randy Vogel leading Bighorn Dihedral (photo by Holden Harris)

If you’ve been climbing in Joshua Tree National Park, you’ve probably seen Randy Vogel’s work, for decades his Joshua Tree Guides have been the number one source for route beta for climbers there. His first guide, Joshua Tree Rock Climbing Guide printed in 1986 was a hefty tome, and its Second Edition printed in 1992 contained 616 pages of information and went on to have an update and reprint in 2000 which is probably the most widely used park wide guide book in Jtree today. In 2006 Randy published the first of a comprehensive series of Joshua Tree guides, Rock Climbing Joshua Tree West: Quail Springs to Hidden Valley Campground, which included first ascent information as well as a more comprehensive look at the history of climbing in the park. He has currently released Classic Joshua Tree Routes – 1st Edition which came out earlier this year.

Randy’s first ascents in Joshua Tree include: Swept Away (1977), Poodles are People Too (1978), Importance of Being Ernest (1982), Scary Poodles (1982), I Can’t Believe it’s a Girdle, Figures on a Landscape (1978), Last Unicorn (1980), Spirited Away (1992).

It was my pleasure to interview him for

Q. Where did you grow up and how and when did you get into climbing?

A. The then small Southern California suburb of Tustin was where I spent my youth. A friend in High School had done some climbing and took me out to Mt. Rubidoux (near Riverside, CA) and later to Tahquitz. Frankly, climbing wasn’t something that came naturally at all. In fact, at first I wasn’t sure that I even liked it. A trip to Joshua Tree changed my mind, the place really resonated with me and the climbing was fun.

A year or so later, I started hanging out at a local climbing store and was lucky to meet some more experienced climbers, like Matt Cox and Dave Evans, who were willing to let me climb with them. Perhaps it helped that I had a car. After this, I began to climb several times a week and would spend every weekend at Joshua Tree or Tahquitz & Suicide.

Q. What made you decide to write a guide book? The first time… the second time.

A. When we first started climbing at Josh, the old paperback John Wolfe guide was really the only information available. It contained less than 100 routes — the hardest being 5.9 with most 5.7 or lower. There were lots of aid climbs listed. And, by 1974 it was totally out of date. People were doing new routes every weekend, there were lots of 5.10s and even a couple 5.11s, and almost every aid route listed had been freed.

Matt Cox, who lived and breathed climbing, began keeping notes on what was new and who did it. Rather than have to consult his notes, I began keeping my own notebook of information Matt had gathered and then updated it constantly. Pretty much everyone stayed in Hidden Valley and knew each other. The campfire scene was a perfect source for gathering information.

This notebook became known as The Toads’ Guide (The Toads were a non-climbing club of some friends). It was copied by several people and passed around. When John Wolfe and Bob Dominick were working on a new edition in 1976, I offered my help and gave them much of the information about new route activity. By 1978, so much new stuff had been done that another edition was planned, to which I also contributed.

John Wolfe and I were from very different generations of climbers and I felt the need to do my own type of guide. In 1980 I did a Topo guide to Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks and then various Selected and New Route Guides to Joshua Tree. After a lot of help from others, in 1986 my first complete guide to Joshua Tree was published. Since then, there have been a variety of Selected Routes guides, sport guides, and comprehensive guides.

Q. What is/was your “day job” at the time?

A. In the late 1970s I was in college, then worked as a rock climbing guide for a few years. While lots of fun, at that time, it wasn’t a particularly profitable profession. So I went to law school and graduated in 1983. Since then I have been a lawyer, specializing in Business Transactions and Litigation.

Q. Did you ever think you’d become a climbing historian?

A. Its funny that you say this since I remember that John Wolfe felt I didn’t appreciate climbing history. In truth, I always liked history, but when you are young you don’t really consider what is going on around you as history.

There has been a strong oral tradition in climbing, but rock climbing never seemed to be “historical” on the same scale as Mountaineering. Certainly the Old-Boy Mountaineering network viewed rock climbing as a lesser activity. As the 1960s and 1970s generation of rock climbers have aged (and in some cases their exploits become lore), there has been a huge increase in interest in climbing history.

But rather than just writing about the history of climbing in Josh, I thought it would be much more interesting to have the climbers write about their own experiences. Classic Joshua Tree Routes and Bouldering has over 130 of these First Ascent stories, Histories and Historical notes throughout the book.

Q. Any surprises while doing your research?

A. The early climbing history of Josh had always been shrouded in mystery. With the help of several people (most notably John Ripley who located some critical early Sierra Club reports), it turned out that the conventional wisdom that not much happened in Joshua Tree until the mid to late 1960s just wasn’t the case. Considerable evidence was unearthed that a lot of fairly high standard climbing had taken place in Josh throughout the 1950s and early 60s.

Q. It sounds like folks were pretty competitive in getting First Ascents in the park, were you Switzerland in any of the feuds?

A. I don’t think anyone mistakes me for Switzerland. While some climbers definitely got their noses out of joint when someone snagged a route they had their eye on, most climbers didn’t get that upset or just found another new line to do. After you read a number of the First Ascent histories in Classic Joshua Tree, it is interesting to see how competitive, yet mostly friendly this was.

Q. What was the biggest change in grade from Book 1?

A. Pinched Rib is a good example of a route that has changed grade over the years. I think it was originally rated 5.7. It climbs a vertical dike, but over the years large chunks have fallen off and the route is now generally considered 5.10a.

Q.  It has been a pet theory of mine that some of the old school climbs in Jtree have stout ratings simply because the rating system used to not go higher than 5.10 so FA’s may have been reluctant to grade a climb at the top of the scale. I’m thinking of climbs rated 5.7 or 5.9. Do you think that theory holds water?

A. Because most of Joshua Tree’s new route development was done in the 1970s and 1980s, many of the old school rated climbs you mention were done well after 5.11 or even 5.12 was established. Rating standards for routes in the 5.1 to 5.9 range  (which were devised at Tahquitz in the early 1950s), have evolved over time. But, at one point of time, there was a noticeable difference in the difficulty of even routes in the 5.1 to 5.5 range. Nowdays, many of these “easy grades” are considered trivial. Thus, when a modern climber gets on an “easy” old-school rated route, it sometimes seems harder than it should. This is true throughout the grades and ratings have suffered grade inflation to meet current expectations.

Ultimately, it is my belief that what matters is if ratings are consistent in a particular climbing area, not whether they are consistent with some other climbing area.

Until the last 30 years or so, climbers did not travel as extensively as they do now, so you often found areas where ratings were developed with little feedback from other climbers. Also, locals (at any area) get used to the peculiarities of their home crag and develop techniques that visiting climbers may initially lack. This too can lead to routes seeming harder from one area to the other.

Q. Why was British Airways named that?

A. It may have been the day after we established this route, we wanted some positive feedback and coaxed Jonny Woodward into climbing it. Jonny was still somewhat new to Josh slab climbing, but a tremendous climber. We expected him to romp up it (though we hoped he would struggle at least a bit). Maria Cranor was belaying Jonny while simultaneously holding forth an animated conversation with the rest of us. As Jonny neared the top, and Maria’s attention wandered a bit, a large amount of slack had formed. Suddenly, Jonny was off. And, as the slack was drawn upward, he kept falling. It was a clean, but spectacular fall of some 40 feet. The name for the route seem obvious to us.

Q. What’s your favorite route name?

A. There are so many great route names at Josh, perhaps more so than any climbing area, that it is hard to pick one. Also, a lot of names evoke memories associated with the route. But, if forced to pick one, it would be Poodles Are People Too. It bred a spat of “Poodle” named routes, many of which still bring a laugh.

2nd Edition (1992)

My copy, 2nd Edition (1992)

Q. What’s your next book coming out and when will it be available?

A. Central Joshua Tree is the next guide to come out. After being delayed due to a change in publishers, it is expected out December 2011. It will be like Joshua Tree West, but be full color. It will cover Echo, Barker Dam, Comic Book, Southern Wonderland, all Ryan Valley areas (Love Nest, Cap Rock, Ryn CG, Saddle Rock, Hall of Horrors, to Sheep Pass CG.

Joshua Tree East will cover Queen Mt, and everything east of Ryan Mt. including Indian Cove and Rattlesnake Canyon.

Q. Did the rise of climbing websites influence you to change any information in your books? Ratings, names, credit for First Ascents etc?

A. Climbing websites have been a great source of information and help in compiling a guidebook. The most significant information I have found has been the development of better consensus ratings. When you have a lot of people, who you may never otherwise have a chance to talk with, climb a route and rate it, ratings tend to reach a better consensus.

Even so, there is always a certain amount of “static” and inconsistency that arises when you have a user generated database and commentary. So, you still have to do your own research and climb routes and figure out descents.

Q. What did you think when the first online web resources came out? Did your opinion of them change over the years? do you see them as competition for hard copy guide books?

A. On line sources are, at least at this point in time, not competitive with a written guidebook. However, at some point, digital devices will advance enough that digital versions of guidebooks will become predominant. While we are creating phone aps for the new guides, it will be a few years before the hardware and technology really makes digital versions of a rock climbing guide a practical substitute.

Q. Before writing the Jtree guidebook, did you have any writing experience?

A. It has been a learn as you go venture and certainly there were some significant mis-steps along the way.

Q. How has writing the guidebooks changed your life?

A. It has solidified my love of climbing and forced me to get out and explore and climb routes and areas that I might otherwise have been too complacent to enjoy.

Randy Vogel leading Leave It To Beaver (photo by Andy Blair)

Randy Vogel leading Leave It To Beaver (photo by Andy Blair)

2nd Annual JTreeTweetup – Dates are Set, Are You?

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010
2nd Annual JTreeTweetup

2nd Annual JTreeTweetup

The consensus has come in, the 2nd Annual JTreeTweetup will be held November 12-14, 2010 (with some participants arriving earlier in the week).

If you missed last year’s event here’s the short story: a tweetup is a gathering of folks who use Twitter. The JTreeTweeup is a climbing/camping gathering of climbers who use Twitter and is held at Joshua Tree National Park, California. This is a free event and everyone is responsible for their own transportation, lodging, climbing gear and safety etc. However, in the spirit of the sharing and caring #climb community, last year I went out early to Joshua Tree and with the help of a few other Twitter folks rounded up some camp sites (Joshua Tree campsites are first come first served for most of the park). Also, many folks carpooled and road tripped it to the event, saving money and the environment at the same time. If you’d like to attend,  show your interest in coming by creating an account and adding your name to the wiki page.

This year I’m happy to say that sponsors have already stepped up to the plate for the 2nd Annual JTreeTweetup!  So far we have BoulderCanyon sponsoring us with snacks like gluten free chips and all natural munchies. And Climb On! Products is also sending goodies which I’m sure will be helpful for multiple days of climbing on Joshua Tree’s sharp quartzite monzonite rock.

boulder-logo-400Climb On! Products

Joshua Tree Weekends

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

This spring I’ve been heading out to Joshua Tree for more weekend only trips than ever before. So far it’s turned out great and we’ve been able to climb with different groups of friends (and crash their campsites).

I’m not caught up in terms of posting pics but here’s a video I made of the weekend just passed. It was K and my 1st Anniversary. We were going to climb locally and then go out to the restaurant where we got married but opted for a Joshua Tree trip instead. After all for a climber, the 1st Anniversary isn’t paper, it’s Quartzite Monzonite right?

We’re still going to the restaurant but doing that this weekend 😉

Best viewed in full screen:

Atlantis Wall & Bird on a Wire from rockgrrl on Vimeo.

Climbing at Atlantis Wall and doing Bird on a Wire 5.10a, weekend of April 10th and 11th.

Climbers: Audrey, Peter, Kelly, Eileen
Bird on a Wire Leaders: Pitch 1: Eileen, Pitch 2: Peter, Pitch 3: Kelly. Guest appearances by some unknown climbers near our route and following up 1st pitch of Bird on a Wire (but then they branched off onto another route).

Still and Motion Photographer: Eileen of

Music: Cavern of Time by Butterfly Tea

Special thanks to Rhesa for belaying and Carlos and Kevin for letting Eileen clean their route on Atlantis Wall.

Link to still photos:

Climber’s Guide to Joshua Tree Camping – Part 2

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

A campsite and Chimney Rock in Joshua Tree National Park, CaliforniaIn Part 1 of my Climber’s Guide to Joshua Tree Camping I shared a map I created, I’ve since updated it with a free wifi access coffee shop,  a convenient gas station and a place to rent camping equipment so be sure to check it out again.

Now I’ll get to the Packing Question. What to bring?

I’ve been camping in Joshua Tree in Fall, Winter, Spring, and yes, even the Summer. What I brought depended a lot on the weather. “But it’s the desert,” a voice from the back cries, “That means it’s hot!”

Au contraire mon ami. Joshua Tree is in the High Desert. That means it can be hot in the daytime and cold at night (like most deserts) but also that it’s generally cooler than other desert areas relatively close by (like Palm Springs for example). That also means that in the Winter it can get darn cold, even cold enough to snow (rare, since snow needs not only cold but moisture as well, but it HAS happened).

So first off here’s a site I check for the weather: Weather Underground for Joshua Tree, California. When I look at the forecast I keep a few things in mind: 1. this is for the town of Joshua Tree, not the entire National Park, elevations within the park vary and so can the temperatures, generally it will be a tiny bit cooler than the town temperatures, maybe 2 or 3 degrees cooler but sometimes more. This will of course vary if you are in the shade or not 2. I look not only at the predicted highs and lows but also for any wind. The wind can get tent-tossing-fierce in Joshua Tree. I’ve experienced it more than once and had a tent blown away and have also had climbing plans change due to crazy winds.

Once I’ve got the weather checked I usually pack for either of two situations: one, it’s going to be mainly cold or two, it’s mainly going to be hot. The cold or not bit just determines how many short vs long pants I bring & if I bring my down jacket or not.

Otherwise Joshua Tree is both cold and hot, you can, on the same day, bake while doing a climb in the sun and get chilled by belaying in the shade. Breezes also almost always kick up in the afternoon. Think layers.

I’ll be making a comprehensive list you can check off and copy and modify as your own but I’ll highlight a few items in this post first.


  1. A windproof jacket you can climb in – with my wardrobe that means I bring my favorite jacket, a stretch Windstopper jacket that even has zip vents. This type of jacket comes with me on every Jtree trip due to the hot in the sun but cold in the shade Jtree factor.
  2. A long sleeve shirt – If I’ve determined it’s a “mainly hot” trip then I’ll bring a shirt geared mainly for sun protection. If it’s a “mainly cold” trip then I’ll select one for warmth and I’ll bring more than one.
  3. A fleece hat – You’ll always use this on a trip. It might be just used at night or the in the morning but you’ll use it.
  4. Sunglasses & A hat with a brim – It’s a bright sunshiney day in Joshua Tree pretty much year round.


  1. Sunscreen – Hey, I’ve got genetics helping me but the first time in my entire life that I ever got sunburned was at Joshua Tree (sadly I’ve seen been sunburned a fair amount of times since then).
  2. Lip balm – I get chapped lips in any season in Jtree. It’s that dry air.

Food / Critters
Joshua Tree camping is basically “car camping” so you can bring whatever you’d usually pack in that situation. I’ll instead highlight a few do’s and don’ts:

  1. No need to bring a bear canister – there aren’t any bears here. The largest predators you might see are coyotes and though they might skirt close to a campsite or two, they’ve never bothered any hardcase cooler I’ve left in camp (latched closed of course).
  2. Soft sided coolers – There are small rodents and lagomorphs around so if you have a soft sided cooler you might want to stack it on the hard one to keep it out of nibbling animal reach. I’ve had a cooler nibbled right into and my oatmeal and trail mix completely eaten.
  3. Food storage – You CAN keep food in your car, however keep in mind that the inside of your car is bound to get very, very hot. Most campers try to stow coolers in the shade of a boulder instead.
  4. Trash – each campsite has trash and recycling dumpsters within walking distance of campsites so it’s pretty easy to just dump trash each night.
  5. Other critters – I’ve seen one rattlesnake in Jtree in all the years I’ve gone. It rattled & we warned off some tourists who were about to come across it (it was on a trail in Hidden Valley). Tarantulas – I’ve seen a few of them. They are not venomous, though their bite can hurt. First one I saw I just brushed to the side before laying down egg foam crate to sleep on the rock face it had been exploring. Scorpions – Haven’t seen ’em, and I don’t worry about them (though I habitually check my camp shoes before putting them on anyway).
  6. Water / Food – I already highlighted this in Part 1 but I just want to make sure you pay attention. You must bring in Water and Food into the Park. Bring lots of water. Remember it’s for drinking, cooking, and washing.

Climbing Gear

  1. Long webbing, cordelette or static rope – If you have any of these consider bringing them if you want to set up anchors for top rope. JTree rock is very sharp so you can save your climbing rope a lot of wear and tear by extending your anchor so it has less rock to rub on.
  2. A back up pair of climbing shoes – As I mentioned in Part 1, the rock  can chew up your shoes.
  3. Climbing Tape – Yes, I know there are some who decry tape usage under any circumstance but if you plan on spending a few days in JTree and want to climb for more than two of them, I suggest bringing tape and making tape gloves.
  4. Guide books – There are so many climbs in the park that it can fill three books worth and then some. Here’s a link to the Rockgrrl Book shop, California Guide Book section, I recommend you get the 1st and 3rd in the list or the 1st and 4th (and then the other two in that set when the updated versions come out). Having a guide book will help you narrow down where you want to climb, if you’re short on time you might want to seek out starred climbs rather than just any one you see. Guide books also come with handy area maps which will help you when hiking around.
  5. Nut tool – Jtree has many gear swallowing cracks. A nut tool can help you get them out [that reminds me, I wanted to make a post about how to use a nut tool effectively, someone nudge me about that sometime after the trip?].

More Climbing Tips in General

  1. Decents – The number one question I ask of a climb (even before it’s rating most times) is, “What’s the descent like?” I’ve had my share of “epic downclimbs” in this park let me tell you. Many wouldn’t have been so bad if I had known what to expect though.
  2. Beware of 5.7 and 5.9 ratings – Read my blog post entitled, “When is a 5.7 not a 5.7?” Basically think “Old School” or “sandbagged” or “They’re kidding, right!?!” and you’ll get the idea.
  3. Beware of R, X and Starred climbs – R and X are self explanatory. Starred climbs can be trusted to be memorable, though you can take that as you will.
  4. Bolted routes – Many old bolted routes are by today’s standards, very run out (even though they may not be marked that way). If you have a route that you think you might be able to place gear, go ahead and bring a few pieces in case you want to make it a mixed route.

Well this is a long post, looks like I’ll have to make a Part 3 of my guide. I’ll also make the promised detailed, checkable, modifiable packing list. Hang in there folks, soon you’ll be a happy camper / climber in Joshua Tree National Park!

Climber’s Guide to Joshua Tree Camping – Part 1

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Now that the JTreeTweetup is just around the corner I’ve been getting a few questions about Joshua Tree and what camping there will be like.

I thought I’d do a series of posts on this.

While you can find a lot of information online about Joshua Tree National Park, my posts will highlight a few key things as well as be tailored specifically for climbers.

Top Most Important Things to Know About Joshua Tree in General:

  1. You must bring your own water.
  2. You must bring your own food.
  3. You must bring your own firewood/fuel.

Joshua Tree is a National Park, fuel gathering or collecting items to remove from the park is prohibited.

And though Joshua Tree is a National Park, it’s a bit of a newer one so there are no souvenir / food stores in the park itself and at the major campgrounds there aren’t even restrooms with running water. There are, however, pit toilets with toilet paper. These are much nicer than the PortaPotties that used to be there (trust me).

Now say you’re flying in to Joshua Tree (like a bunch are for the JTreeTweetup!) and you don’t want to pack a bunch of stuff. Don’t worry, just one or two towns over from West Gate (the recommended entrance into the park from most destinations) you can find restaurants, grocery and drugstores, and even camping and climbing equipment stores.

Top Things Climbers Should Know About Joshua Tree:

  1. Joshua Tree generally has Old School ratings.
  2. Joshua Tree has many more trad climbs than sport or top rope climbs (but there are thousands of climbs total so there are still a lot of all three types of climbs).
  3. Bouldering can be found all over the park.
  4. Quartzite Monzonite (the rock of JTree) is SHARP stuff. You will stick to it like crazy but it can chew up your skin and shoes.


The majority of campground space within the park itself is First Come, First Serve.

For most all-climber groups the number one preferred campground is Hidden Valley Campground. This is in large part due to its proximity to classic climbs and boulder problems (many are within walking distance, a few end or start in campsites themselves, and many others are a short drive and approach hike away). Hidden Valley is also preferred for social reasons as well, you can find pick up partners or just chat with other climbers and there’s even the Climber’s Coffee sponsored by the Rangers and Friends of Joshua Tree which is held on weekend mornings during peak climbing season.

My Map

“Now hang on!” you say, “You’re throwing too much at me! Where is all this stuff?”

Well funny you should ask. I just spent a few hours making a highly detailed Google Map with my notes about road turn offs, campgrounds, stores, and even a rough cell phone signal marker.

Here it is for your enjoyment!

View Climber’s Guide to Joshua Tree Camping in a larger map

Click the link to the bigger version to get a better overview of the area, especially since I’ve included several spots outside of the Park itself. It’s best for most of the notes if you zoom as close as possible and use satellite view (for the main park this gets you closer than Terrain view does).

I’ll be adding more information to the map as I see fit so be sure to bookmark this post!

In Part 2 of my Guide I’ll include information about the weather, what to pack and critters to watch out for.