Posts Tagged ‘jtree’

5th Annual JTree Tweetup is Coming Up! (Thank Goodness the Parks Re-Opened)

Monday, October 28th, 2013

jtreetweetup5I can hardly believe it, it’s going to be the FIFTH Annual JTree Tweetup this year!

While the Government shutdown made me miss out on a 7 day trip in Yosemite, I’m so glad we didn’t have to have anyone cancel plane tickets for the JtreeTweetup!

The official dates are November 8-11, 2013 but we have folk arriving as early as November 5th and leaving as late as November 14th. The Jtree Tweetup is a fun event that sprung from an casual conversation on Twitter among #climb members and soon became an annual event with climbers who have come from across the US and even from Canada. You can still sign up on the wiki page here.


In honor of us reaching our 5th year, I can confirm a new sponsor, Goal Zero, makers of excellent solar equipment for the adventurer! They will be providing light and power for base camp via Light-a-Life lights, a solar panel and a battery from which we can charge cell phones, etc. and they have also provided a VIP kit (only 500 of these were made) to be given away at the event! The package contains a Nomad 7, a Switch 8, and a Limited Edition Rock Out 2 speaker!

So, aside from all the fun, climbing and meeting/making old/new friends, that’s another reason to come out to the desert in November, you just might be the lucky winner and win an awesome solar kit!

To keep up to date on more sponsors and trip details, create an account on the climbingtweetup wiki page and add your name to the 5th Annual JtreeTweetup page.

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).

Joshua Tree April Trip – Allergies and Heat? Move Like a Turtle, Eat Like a Winger

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

“I think I took the non-Non Drowsy allergy pills,” I said as my husband and I walked along looking for Future Games Rock in Joshua Tree National Park. The fact that I used a double negative should have alerted me at the time that my guess was correct. However, it wasn’t until I nearly fell asleep putting on my shoes was I really convinced that I had inadvertently sedated myself.

It had started because I had rolled down my window to take a photo of the windmills on the way to JTree. I had done that, got the shot, and then promptly started sneezing. My eyes started tearing up as well before the window had even sealed shut once again.

View near our campsite in Jumbo Rocks

View near our campsite in Jumbo Rocks

My allergies continued to bug me as we drove into the park and met up with Charlie and Diane Winger (authors of the fabulous guidebook, “The Trad Guide to Joshua Tree: 60 Favorite Climbs from 5.5 to 5.9“), met a group of their friends, and found a campsite in Jumbo Rocks. The allergies abated a little bit as the sun set so I did at least get to enjoy a short photo walk and the company of the Wingers and their friends around camp. I had originally “met” Diane when she first posted on the first iteration of the forums, and then soon found ourselves chatting on Twitter as well before meeting and climbing for the first time last year in Joshua Tree.

Friday morning after a pancake breakfast Charlie and Diane cooked for everyone [and I added an allergy pill to my consumables] K and I set off to find climbs the Wingers had recommended called “Continuum” and “Invisibility Lessons”, ones we had not done before, so it was pretty fun to go to a new-to-us formation called Future Games Rock. There was no one around in the parking area when we arrived. It was pretty hot, the high was in the 90’s, and probably felt hotter than usual to K and I since it’d been awhile since we’d been doing any hot weather climbing. The wall we searched for was in the shade though, and turned out to be quite fun until the sun started to shine on it. Once that happened, we just weren’t feeling it so much. K had a tough time with a cam he’d set as part of an anchor he had set up for us to fool around on some other routes on the wall. When I came up to investigate (I got it out with a bit of finessing) I felt the full heat of the sun. I’d already experienced the drowsy putting on of rock shoes, so, when we got back to camp, supposedly just for a late lunch break, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that I ended up dozing off while sitting in a camp chair positioned in the meager shade from the lifted trunk of our car, or that K did the same after his one “lunch” beer.

We feasted on great food

We feasted on great food

I felt like quite the lazy climber when some of the Colorado crowd drove by our site and saw me still dozing in the chair, but I laughed it off. Sometimes you just don’t feel “on”, ya know? That night no one really roughed it though. Friends of the Wingers from California had arrived and apparently had brought a ton of food and generously shared it with everyone. There was salad, beans, garlic bread, and barbeque for all… and carrot cake for desert!

The next day K and I had been urged to find another climb we had not been to but was in the Winger’s book called “New Toy”, we chose it mainly because it would be in the shade, the temperature was even hotter than the other day. Diane and Charlie were going to meet us at the climb since they were striking camp and taking off for home due to a change in plans but wanted to see us before they left. Meanwhile though K and I set off to find the formation in the Stirrup Tanks area, following the directions in the trad book. On the dirt road to the parking area for this climb we spotted a tortoise in the road, which K easily avoided since we’d spotted it in advance. After some discussion, he put the car in reverse to go back to the turtle, which another vehicle had stopped for. Turns out it was a desert tortoise, a rare sighting of a species that used to be on the endangered list (it’s now listed as threatened). The group of guys in the truck took pictures and told us they planned to move him off of the road. I got some shots as well before they moved him. Then we all continued on, the turtle safely off of the road this time.

Desert Tortoise in Joshua Tree National Park

Desert Tortoise in Joshua Tree National Park

Turns out that group of guys was the only other group we saw out climbing that day. Charlie and Diane found us before we got to the base of “New Toy” and helpfully told us how we could throw our rope bag down a crack so we wouldn’t have to climb up to the belay again to retrieve it.

“New Toy” was fun and easy and the view was great. We were still pretty jazzed about seeing the tortoise when we topped out. I reflected that even though I’d been coming to Joshua Tree for many years, there was still something new to see.

Coming back to camp K and I contemplated the prediction we had heard of 120 degree weather for Sunday. K and I at first decided to spend the night and get one more climb in in the morning, but after some loud neighbors moved into the site next us, we decided to go home instead. We had the luxury of being close enough to Jtree to come again some other time.

It was an unusually short and hot Spring trip to Jtree but it still had its highlights. On the way to Josh we had stopped by the FiveTen Underground Outlet and K had gotten his early birthday presents (multiple pairs of climbing shoes); we got to meet up with Charlie and Diane again, and meet their fun friends; we had gotten to check out new-to-us climbing areas and climbs; had gotten to eat well; and, had seen a desert tortoise.

I can’t complain about that. Though, next time I’m making sure I bring the non-drowsy allergy stuff.

Trip Report – 2nd Annual Jtree Tweetup, Joshua Tree National Park

Thursday, November 18th, 2010
Just some of the gang! Thursday morning

Just some of the gang! Thursday morning

Last year I helped organize something I optimistically called the 1st Annual Jtree Tweetup. Climbers from all over the US and Canada came, we had a great time and I’d call it a success. But to really make it earn its name we had to have a 2nd Annual Jtree Tweetup right?


The plan was similar to last year, in fact scheduling worked out that we chose the same Veteran’s Day week / weekend. I was able to convince a local climbing friend of mine [Michael, who is now on Twitter as @ride395] to come out on Tuesday of that week to help me get some campsites. Fortunately a number of folks were arriving Wednesday as well to help hold down the fort.

So how’d it go? Well here’s a smattering of what I learned:

You don’t have to go to Griffith Park to experience Laserium or to a remote telescope station to view stars, nebulas and detailed views of the moon. Thanks for this discovery goes to Rick (@Jetforme) and his wonderful lasers and telescope and to Dave (@dmasten) for his Pink Floyd loaded iPhone and to both of them plus Aleya (@Blueskeyes207) for their space knowledge.

Patrick (@patrickgensel aka Shoeless Joe) has both good and bad luck. He left his climbing shoes in two different places this trip but got them back. He also left his camerabag with his SLR and phone in it in a car he was hitching a ride in (in the park). It was not recovered while we were in the park but we took him to fill out a form with the rangers and he got a call Monday that the park had it.

The Palm Springs airport is kinda nice.

The Thai place Urban Spoon recommends in Palm Springs is not open anymore.

Royal Siam Thai Food in Joshua Tree is not open on Tuesdays. [of note, at last year’s Jtree Tweetup we learned that Crossroads is not open on Wednesdays].

I’m not bad at this guiding thing but a big group with mixed climbing and Joshua Tree experience can tax the planning brain.

As an event organizer, a chart showing names, approximate arrival times and cars is not too nerdy to have.

Climbing the Manure Pile rock formation (the one the campsites in Ryan Campground are situated around) is fun at night. [Thanks Petzl Tikka Plus 2 and CORE system – review to come!]

Clif Shot flavors with “+ Caffeine” work well for fending off migraines.

I can lead Vorpal Sword with style (once the migraine goes away).

Handwarmers are pretty cool things and I don’t know why I didn’t think about bringing them to Jtree before.

Clif Luna bars with giant matches (provided by nice neighbors who left camp early and gave us stuff) make a cute Birthday Cake for Laurel (@mtsquirrel) [we also said Happy Belated to Adrienne (@adrienneknits)].

You can never have enough firewood in Joshua Tree in November.

Empty boxes of stuff sponsors provided can tide over a fire while someone gets more firewood. Thanks Clif Bar, Action Wipes, Boulder Canyon, Coach’s Oats you kept us from freezing! Thanks also goes to Eastern Mountain Sports but don’t worry, we didn’t burn the hats or stickers 😛

Speaking of sponsors, I learned we should also do plugs for Tweetup goers with our own climbing/outdoors related businesses: Me! (casual clothing, gifts, various water bottles, license plate frames, yoga mats, etc). George (Backclip: a climbing information website ). Aleya (cool climbing nut jewelry, website to come?). Bill (Urbanski Farms, website to come?)

Even if your throat hurts, it’s still worth it to join in on a song you know when it’s being played on the ukelele.

When on the “reach challenged” 1st crux of Gunsmoke do not: 1. Make a comment to strangers about your chalk bag being your “spot of color” after they’ve called you a Ninja. 2. Listen to your friends when they are describing your climbing with animal terms and one of them says “giraffe”. Doing either may result in FOTCL (Falling Off The Climb Laughing).

A cold Sigg water bottle placed on the head makes a decent migraine distraction, though not so much a stylish hat.

I should take my own advice and drink more water and wear more sunscreen.

I should check all the pockets and folds in all my bags that I brought in case the Flip MinoHD I thought I forgot… is actually there.

No two Tweetups are the same but they all have something special.

Climbers who are on Twitter are pretty darn interesting.

I think there is a demand for the 3rd Annual JtreeTweetup…

List of climbing areas visited during the 2nd Annual JtreeTweetup:

  • Ryan Campground
  • Real Hidden Valley
  • Hidden Valley Campground
  • Atlantis Wall
  • Lost Horse
  • Barker Dam (Gunsmoke)
  • Echo Cove

Pics from my cameras (mostly taken by me, those with me in them have the photographer noted in the captions).

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.

When is a 5.7 Not a 5.7? – Joshua Tree in January Conclusion

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

“You’ll have too much drag!” Dave shouted up to Luis, who was scouting around a round cap formation near the top of a trad climb on Chimney Rock.

As his belayer, I was standing in a position about 50 feet below and to the left of Luis, unable to see what was going on. I could; however, agree wholeheartedly with Dave. Luis had asked for some rope earlier and I had given him the slack, yet he wasn’t able to feel it at all.

“What about that crack over there?” Dave shouted again.

“It’s nothing, it just flares.”

Eventually it was decided that Luis would just belay me up to a spot on a ledge more in line with the rope than the false crack. We should, Dave said, be able to downclimb a chimney from there to another ledge and be able to go to the back of the formation to some rap rings on the other side.

The original plan had been that I was going to tail and reclip a rope so that others in our party could also follow the climb. That plan was smartly scrapped and I was just going to do a straight clean.

As I waited to make sure I was on belay I contemplated the 5.7 rating at Joshua Tree National Park and recalled a conversation I had had earlier during this trip.

“That one says it’s a 5.7” a climber had asked me.

“5.7 trad climbs here are unpredictable. They vary a lot.”

“Yeah, why is that?”

“I think some of them were rated with old school ratings, when 5.10 was the hardest there could be. That and maybe vet climbers doing a climb, just cruising, thinking a climb wasn’t too hard and shrugging that ‘we’ll just call it a 5.7′”.

I got a smile at that and continued, “There’s a climb in my old guide book that’s rated a 5.7. In the newest guide book it’s a 5.10!”.

“Belay is on!” Luis called. We did the rest of the command exchanges.

I started climbing.

Typical J Tree 5.7The climb I think we were doing according to my old guide book is West Face Overhang, 5.7 1 star. We (Luis, Dave and I) had studied it from the ground, comparing it to their newer guide book (I had left mine at the campsite). It looked like the first part was an easy, lower angle, walk up between two small cracks which then led to a chimney climb topped off with a boulder-like chunk which looked to us to be the crux of the climb to get over and/or around.  The finish of the climb had looked like a crack to the top of the formation set in another large boulder like shape above a ledge. That part is what Luis had called “nothing”.

I was on the lower angle part now – the part we had thought was going to be a “walk up” but at which Luis had already told me, in his accent, “That part is a little bit scary”. I could see how it would be a surprise on lead. The cracks were nice but the rock between them protruded outwards, keeping you a little off balance.

The next part was the chimney, it was a little bit too off width to do text book chimney moves, but it wasn’t too bad. I had noticed that Luis had gone straight up, following a crack rather than going around the roof part but I stepped onto the block instead.

A few more moves and I was at his belay. There was a small ledge which I could walk around the corner. Though I didn’t walk right to it due to rope drag, I could see what Luis had meant about the “crack” we had thought was the final part of the climb. It was not too much more than a scoop out of the rock towards the top, it might make a fun boulder problem if you could stem your way up, but there was no way to place gear at that part, and we were rather high in the air.

From the ledge I looked for the chimney area Dave had mentioned and saw it. It would be an interesting downclimb just get into place for it. As I got a closer look I didn’t necessarily like it. “So, we go down there?”

“Yes,” Luis said. “Or… you could lead up this,” he indicated a crack in the boulder like cap, which started at the ledge I was on and went all the way to the top. It was not tall at all, maybe 15 feet or so? Maybe 20 at the most.

We moved towards the downclimb but before I was about to cross I decided I wanted to lead the crack instead. I told Luis, “I’m like a cat, I like to go up more than I like to go down”.

Unknown CrackThis is true but I’m not sure why I felt so confident I could do this climb as an onsight. The crack looked lovely, hand and fingers, yet I really don’t have too many trad lead climbs under my belt, and even fewer done as an on sight. Climbing had helped me realize something though. I am good in a tight situation, between a rock and a hard place (forgive the pun), or even just an uncomfortable place.

I have been called a “rope gun” only a few times in my life since usually there’s always a better one in my group, but if one was needed, I’d step up. When I know something needs to be done and I can do it, I will. No complaints, no backing down. This situation on Chimney Rock was not dire as, say, my unexpected lead of part of Open Book (5.9 trad in Tahquitz) but it was just more convenient if I were to lead this and… I thought it would be more fun as well.

A few days before this trip my boyfriend told me of this crazy theory he had which basically said that I am like a hobbit. Yeah, a hobbit, from the Lord of the Rings. I didn’t find this flattering but he explained himself. Looking at a hobbit you wouldn’t expect them to be tough, but they came through and could kick butt. So he was saying I am tough and good in tough situations. I thought about The Open Book epic and other climbing situations I’ve been in and decided not to throw something at him. Still, I’d much rather be an elf, than a hobbit, for those keeping track.

I thought about that incident right before I started up the crack. It was fun, not as easy as I had thought, but fun. Luis had put a piece in at the bottom for me, he took it out after I had placed one of my own and passed it up to me to place again. I think I only put one more piece in. Just before the top I found that the crack widened. “I’m a little scared now, the crack widened,” I said to him.

“You are good,” he encouraged.

It was silly to tire myself out just hanging there, “When in doubt, run it out!” right? So I moved up and finished.

There were bolts at the top and rap rings. I happily told Luis.

When he got up I discovered I’d been climbing with my Flip MinoHD in my pocket so I took a quick video.

I gave Luis a high five.

The story of the 5.7 wasn’t over yet though. We rapped down to a ledge of sorts on the other side but not to the ground. I could see rap rings on a rock face through a chimney crack. We ended up going up and through this chimney, at first not knowing if we could reach the rings.  When we made it to the ground I gave him another high five.

This is what I remember about my early trips to Joshua Tree: a 5.7 can take all your strength and then send you on an epic downclimb (though in this case it was easy once we saw there wasn’t a chasm between the chimney and the second rap rings).

So, when is a single pitch 5.7 trad climb not a 5.7? When it’s an old school Joshua Tree 5.7 that’s when. Then it can become a route finding surprise 2 pitch climb with an unknown way to get down. The funny thing is, I know this about the 5.7s, yet I keep trying them anyway, a girl’s gotta have some unexpected fun doesn’t she?

Feel free to add your own “5.7” stories!


You can also read a trip report from theclimbergirl (no relation, though we should be huh?), she posted about a hard 5.7 as well (and was in the park just days after I left from this trip).

Links to my other articles about this particular Joshua Tree trip (January 15 – 19, 2009):

Joshua Tree in January Part 1 – Campsite Conflict

Joshua Tree in January Part 2 – Climbers

Joshua Tree in January – Trip Photos

Joshua Tree in January – Trip Photos

Monday, January 26th, 2009

The above shows an interactive slideshow of select photography chosen more for artistic merit, for the full candid set, view the Rockgrrl Gallery album for the trip.

Joshua Tree in January Part 2 – Climbers & Climbs

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

It was late for winter campsite hours, past 9pm, on Sunday night. Luis, Peter and I were walking the Hidden Valley campground loop trying to find our friends who had taken off to visit a campfire to which we’d all been invited. The directions at the time had been, “We’re at the really big bonfire”.  Problem was that there didn’t seem to be any “really big” bonfires left. Luis and Peter had taken awhile to get back from their errand so we had started off late, we figured the “really big” part might have burned down to “moderate sized”.

Still, we walked along, looking at the stars and checking out campfires. We got to one that two guys were near, their backs partly facing towards us. “Dave and Eric?,” we asked, pretty sure it wasn’t them but feeling like we had to say something since we had obviously been walking towards them.

“Yeah?” One of the guys said, “We’re Dave and Eric.”

“Wha?” Peter said.

I took a step closer to get a better look at their faces, I really didn’t think I was wrong.  The other guy who hadn’t spoken yet said, “Hey we know you, from Thin Wall.”

The first one added, “And we watched you climb Sexy Grandma today!”

I finally got a good look at the guys, It WAS Dave and Eric — just not the Dave and Eric we were looking for.

We all had a good laugh about this, and I thought it was a great example of just how social this particular climbing trip had been.

I love climbers. In the span of 4 days,  between the comings and goings,  I ended up meeting 14 people for the first time, some of whom I shortly there after put my life into their hands and vice versa. And that’s not counting some folks we met at the ranger sponsored “Climber’s Coffee” on Saturday morning or the party of three who we saw on Sail Away.

When taking off for this trip all I knew was that Peter and myself were going with 100% certainty (my boyfriend couldn’t make it because he had to work). I also knew that some climbers who did not lead trad were coming up one of the days and that on Monday Peter wanted to climb with a woman he had met previously. My only expectations were then centered on me following routes, putting up some sport/ top rope climbs and maybe doing repeats of trad leads I had done but Peter hadn’t. I also expected it to be very cold, day and night, for the entire trip.

My weather expectations were a little off, it was cold at night and in the shade but on Saturday it was so warm that the guys took off their shirts and Nicole and I went down to tank top / short sleeves layers.

My climbing expectations were also exceeded. With the addition of Eric to the mix I got to follow a 10c friction climb that I would not normally have done (leading a run out J Tree 10c slab climb just doesn’t appeal to me at this point in my climbing life). I also got to try a 10a friction climb that Dave (from California, not from Arizona) put up and then I got to follow Luis (who I had just met that day) on a 5.7 trad climb which turned out to be much trickier than you’d think… and also turned into a 2 pitch climb in which I led some unknown crack climb to the summit as an onsight.

This was in addition to some of the more expected climbs, for example, Peter got to lead Sail Away for the first time (I’ve led it in the past so opted to second it so we could more quickly get out of shade that day).  That same day I did however,  get to lead a 5.8 crack climb on Thin Wall (which is when we’d met Dave and Eric from Tucson).

Eric making eye contact with his belayer

Eric making eye contact with his belayer

The people were as diverse as the climbs. Dave (the California one) is an architect and an avid mountaineer, he is in training for Mt. Ranier and has been up Mt. Shasta and I’m sure a number of other peaks. Eric was currently on his 8th month of being a climbing bum and had started his trip climbing in Croatia. He also had a neat camera gadget which he used to make some cool climbing videos. Eric from Tucson, did his first 10a trad lead on No Calculator’s Allowed but unfortunately hurt his finger pretty badly the next day, which went along with his partner Dave twisting his ankle. Peter P. (who we met at Echo Cove) is originally from Munich and had a dry sense of humor, his friend Brian from New Jersey is a newlywed and seemed happy to be out enjoying West Coast weather. Risa and her friend James are in the Military. James is an airplane “operator”, he flies unmanned aircraft and told us that therefore they don’t call themselves pilots. Luis came to the US from Spain three years ago and is a math teacher in the LA Unified school district. I liked him immediately when, after doing a section on the 5.7 trad climb which we had all eyeballed from the bottom as being the “easy part”, he said, “That part is a little bit scary”, in his Spanish accent.

To me anyone who is willing to admit they are scared in front of some girl they don’t know is alright by me. I’d rather know what I was getting into then have some guy hiding it because of bravado.

As far as the “usual suspects”, Peter can’t hear from one ear, lives on his boat and is the oldest of our bunch but is in crazy great shape, Matt is, well “Matt”, if you meet him you’ll know what I mean (he and Eric really hit it off well). Michael is a very “zen” climber who is into martial arts and also does movie effects related work. Nicole and Casey are great climbers and a lot of fun, they just aren’t keen on trad so much (yet),  and me well, I’m just a generally laid back climber who is also a bit of a geek and photographer.

Next time you’re out at Josh perhaps faced with limited options due to weather or partners, look around. Try going around yelling, “rockgrrl!” or Dave, Eric, or Peter and maybe you’ll get a holler back.

Me, Luis, Peter, Dave, Nicole, Casey - Saturday Group

Me, Luis, Peter, Dave, Nicole, Casey - Saturday Group