Posts Tagged ‘trad’

Indian Creek Climbing Road Trip March, April 2013

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
Indian Creek, Utah

Indian Creek, Utah

I couldn’t believe it, I was going back to Indian Creek. After my first trip there in 2010, I had said I wanted to go back right away. It took me three years, but it was happening!

The first step is to fly to Sacramento, California. Not exactly the direct route, but it’s my ticket to crashing an already planned road trip to Indian Creek that my friends Terri and Leo had planned. Initially there had been talk of 4 climbers going out on a road trip, with a possible group up point in Las Vegas. It was to be a mini Tweetup of sorts since all of the folks involved are on Twitter and had attended a Jtree Tweetup before. But plans changed and I caught a cheap flight to Sacramento, where Terri and Leo live, to drive with them to Indian Creek.

Tuesday, March 26

Get picked up at 4:30am. At the airport I luck out and get an earlier flight than scheduled. I arrive in Sacramento without incident and Terri picks me up and sets me loose on downtown Sacramento. I  explore and take photos of the Capitol building. Terri gets off work and we go to Trader Joe’s for food. I meet Terri’s family at her house that evening. Terri and I pack her brand new Subaru Outback with gear. We are able to go sans Thule.

Wednesday, March 27

We leave Terri’s and pick up Leo at 6:30am. The start of 16 hours of driving commences. Terri has the wheel. I get a tour of ski areas (with snow on them) I also see Donner Pass and we go through Reno. We stop to get gas and eat at a small sub sandwich place. My turn at the wheel. We drive into Utah and through Salt Lake City. Unfortunately we realize that we didn’t factor in the time change when we thought about where to stop for dinner. We hit rush hour traffic. Eventually we stop for gas and on a whim try out a run down looking “drive in” right next to the gas station called Little Acorn Drive In. They have sandwiches made with home made bread which taste surprisingly good. Leo takes the wheel. Thinking ahead to arriving at a darkened Indian Creek camping area, I sit shotgun since I’m the only one in the group who has been there before.

Moab looks bigger than last time I was there, also things look open even though it’s late. After avoiding animals on the road, we arrive at Creek Pasture campground. The moon is bright enough that we can see pretty well. We spot Luke’s blue truck but continue on, hoping to get a campsite. Even though Luke sent me an earlier text message mentioning bathrooms I am still surprised to see that there are vault toilets in the campground and that every campsite seems to be differentiated with picnic tables and fire pits. This is very different than three years ago. This is a good surprise. Eventually we circle back to Luke’s group. “Go talk to him,” Terri urges. I get out of the car, Luke preemptively calls out through his truck’s window, he’s awake and guessed it was us who passed earlier. He tells us to just park with the other cars in the “space” and set up tents “back there”. We do this. It’s around 11pm.

Thursday, March 28

View from Bunny Slope

View from Bunny Slope

In the morning I realize that our campsite is right next to the one I was at three years ago. Aside from the picnic table and fire pit, it looks pretty much the same. I also realize that Luke is with a big group of people who mainly seem to be associated with UC Berkeley. They have been camping for awhile. One of the group, a gal named Alix, asks if I know Lea from LA. “Yes I do”, I say, “in fact the last time I was in Indian Creek I was climbing and camping with her”.

“She’s coming here tomorrow!” Alix says. Small world.

Leo, Terri and I had a climb picked out for our first day, a 5.9+ called “Bunny Slope” on Critic’s Wall. Everyone else parts for their own objectives. Terri, Leo and I drive out to Critic’s Wall, stopping to leave a note for Hayley at the bulletin board near the vault toilet (which used to be the only vault toilet I had seen in the area when I was first in Indian Creek). Soon Terri’s brand new car is on it’s first off road drive. We pass some folks camping near the dirt road and then get to the parking spot. One car is there but its owner soon returns with a dog and takes off. We have the wall to ourselves. “Bunny Slope” features sustained 5.9+ climbing for 130 feet. It takes two 70 m ropes to top rope it safely, though Leo was able to be lowered after his lead to a ledge which he then downclimbed. Belaying from that ledge wasn’t a good idea though, so that’s why we had to use two ropes. We drive out to Donnelly Canyon and head up towards “Chocolate Corner”.

Me pink pointing Chocolate Corner

Me pink pointing Chocolate Corner

Leo leads this and then I decide to pink point it. It’s funny because I top roped this route during my first trip to Indian Creek in 2010 but I don’t remember any of the moves so my past experience doesn’t help. It feels really good to lead it though. I later find out that though the book calls this a 5.9, Mountain Project gives it a 5.9+ (sadly many times when I look up something I’ve led on that website, it seems folks have downgraded it). Leo puts up “Elephant Man”, 5.10, 80 feet, which turns out to be a fun, slightly meandering crack with “weird hands”. I’m not kidding, the book even calls it “weird hands”.

Recognizing that we need ice for the cooler, our trio votes to go into Moab to get ice and eat dinner. We end up at Pasta Joe’s and are able to text another Twitter friend, Haley, with whom we are expecting to join up on the weekend. The food is good and the vibe is good. I reflect that so far this Indian Creek trip – with bathrooms, paved parking lots and pizza – feels extravagantly decadent compared to my first trip. We dodge animals on the drive back to camp and get in around 11pm (again).

Friday, March 29

In the morning I get to catch up with Lea, who is going to meet up with Russ, one of the other people I climbed with last time I was in Indian Creek. It’s fun and a little bit surreal to be back. I am bashfully proud to tell Lea I pink pointed “Chocolate Corner” since my first trip to the Creek my crack technique was not at its best. Lea is going to wait for Russ to show up so the trio of Terri, Leo and I take off again. Our objective this time is to get to “Super Crack”, the most famous climb in Indian Creek, and one I didn’t get to climb the last time I was here. Unfortunately Luke also tells me that it will be a grunt fest for me (my hands are too small for it). Our trio heads up Super Crack Buttress and first goes to “Incredible Hand Crack”. It’s taller than I remember. It’s possible it is also a tiny bit wider. I have fun but am happy not to have led it. On to “Super Crack”. I see why this is so popular a route. The first part is a little odd but for me is not too bad. What’s bad is the crack after it. It is sustained and, for me, wide. I use mostly a cupped right hand and a gaston with my left. It is very very tiring. I get to a spot right below the small roof, clip into Leo’s blue cam and rest. I don’t have to do this since I’m on top rope but it gives me a sense of accomplishment to do so. If I had been pink pointing it I would have at least made it this far. I continue on after the break, I get one fist jam in but the rest is all grunt. I tell myself it’s good practice since this is the size of crack most of my partners will like, plus it is a very attractive and classic line.

After “Super Crack”  we move to “Twin Cracks”, a 5.9 which is a lot more fun. “No Name Crack” at 5.10 is next, also fun though it also has wide parts. I’m feeling a little tired from “Super Crack” though. At night, Haley, her friend Matt, and his dog Gauge join our group. Since this is the first night our trio is in camp before everyone has gone to sleep, it’s a particularly social campfire that night.

Saturday, March 30

Me on sighting Hands Solo. Photo by Terrell Barry.

Me on sighting Hands Solo. Photo by Terrell Barry.

Seeking shade and to get away from crowds our expanded group heads to Selfish Wall. Haley had done a climb here called Hands Solo and shared a photo which captured both Terri’s and my imagination. The approach hike lead us straight to the climb. After eyeing it, I asked if I could try an onsight. I racked up with 4 yellow BDs and 3 red BD’s (technically 2 red BD’s and one equivalent Chouinard). Though the route is relatively short, my arms feel very tired towards the top, I’m not recovered yet from Friday! I get right up near the anchors (which are to the left of the crack). I pull a yellow BD from my gear loop and call down to Matt, “I know I don’t really need this here, and I’ll remove it when I get lowered but I’m tired so I’m putting it here, anyway!”  I place that sucker, clip in and then move a foot up farther to set up the anchor. True to my word I remove the last piece as I’m being lowered (better for rope drag). I  get to the bottom and Terri gives me a high five for my first Indian Creek onsight. I’m tired but feel good. My jams all the way up had felt good too.

I belay Terri and then get on my next climb which is “The Duo” 5.11- this is fun! When I get down I have to spend time in the shade. I get an allergy attack and start sneezing and my eyes get crazy watery. This normally doesn’t happen to me, I usually just get a runny nose. It gets bad enough I have to wait to do my next climb. When it passes I get on “A Breakfast Social” 5.10. This is another fun climb. Lastly, we find a climb with shade near by. In fact there is a breeze around the corner and Leo jokingly says it has air conditioning. This is great as today feels like the hottest day since we’ve arrived (which is to say it’s still pretty nice, but the direct sun is a little draining). Leo leads up “Solo East” a tall 5.11. I watch as others get on it and with some trepidation, get on it with the goal of  cleaning the anchors. The start is slightly wide, and getting over a hump proves to be more difficult than I expect because the crack widens there. Eventually though the crack is small enough that I do some ring locks. I almost make it all the way up but have to hang. When I get to the top I am happy though, I sometimes call myself “The Cleaner” I think it gives me extra incentive to “have to” clean all the gear. Sometimes I even clean “stuck” gear that others have left behind.

We get back to camp early enough to cook dinner and have social time. Our group is thinking about doing South Six Shooter and ask me about it since I’m the only one who has done it before. I think it’d be fun to do. However I then realize that 1. Haley and Matt need to be back in camp by 4pm, and 2. We would be two parties and one of the parties would have to be a party of three. That would mean the endeavor would take longer than when K and I did it in 2010. Leo and Terri bring up doing an Alpine start but I’m a bit worried about finding the four wheel drive route to the base in the dark. I remember it was not the easiest to find in the daylight and plus there were some parts where our car was right next to a deep crevice in the rock. I resolve to ask Lea what she thinks about this. When she arrives she says, “That’s an all day thing!” I agree.  Terri opens a bottle of wine seeing as how the alpine start is probably not going to happen. Then, while we’re still enjoying the campfire, a sudden gust blows up, knocking things off the tables. A rain squall happens immediately afterwards. We all notice the darkened sky and recall that there’s a chance of rain tomorrow. The tower plan is postponed and we all scramble to get inside our tents. It was still a fun night at least.

Sunday, March 31

Sunday morning no one in our group gets up early. There isn’t a cloud in the sky now. After some discusison our group heads for Way Rambo wall. Leo has three climbs in mind. We get to the parking area and see cars at the base. We get out and as we start up on the steepest part of the approach we find ourselves in a race of sorts with another group. Leo realizes he has forgotten something back at the car. After one wrong turn the group gets in front of us. In the end we get to the cliff base and find that a fairly large group (made bigger by the folks who passed us on the way up) is on all three of the routes we were thinking of doing, there is a little bit of confusion on how many are left to do each one. Eventually a route frees itself and Leo leads up “Rochambeau” 5.9 it is an interesting crack climb with many small overhanging parts to it. I get on it and find that though it is not an easy climb, the overhanging parts at least have rests before them.

Leo leading Fuzz. A 115 feet tall route.

Leo leading Fuzz. A 115 feet tall route.

The last climb of the trip for me is a cleaning mission on “Fuzz” a 5.10 route of 115 feet. I’ve watched a few climbers at the bottom of it, which is a wide flare and it doesn’t look easy. And then it gets steep and overhanging! As I step up for my turn I face straight into the crack and find that I have wedged my shoulders in and am staying in by flexing my back/shoulder muscles. Leo says I need to face to the right. I somehow squirm around and find a high handhold which allows me to unweight and get me feet over. Once out of that awkward start I find the small crack up the ramp to be easier than I thought. I do it quickly because I know a rest is coming up and then things will get much harder. I get to the rest and shake it out a bit. I take a deep breath and launch up the vertical part. The crack is wider now. I resort to a few layback moves. I am tired. I get to another rest. I take another deep breath and look up at the overhanging part I have coming up, and at how the crack arches off to my right. There’s nothing left for it but to go for it. I start up, I use my cupping / gaston moves again. My left wrist is hurting a little bit, my breathing is very loud. I aim to get to Leo’s next piece. I get to it and have to hang. This is one tall climb! I shake out my arms, take more breaths then continue. The crack juts off to the right and I do a bit of hanging on my jams, with my feet on the wall. Finally I get to the anchors. I clip in and smile. I am tired but happy.

Some of our group starts hiking back to the car before I am down since we are trying to get back to the camp by 4 so Haley and Matt can catch their ride and Terri, Leo and I can pack up and head out to Arches National Park. By the time I get to the car, Leo has started it up. I stick out my thumb for a ride.

Back at camp we grab a few pics and say our goodbyes. Leo, Terri and I take off for Arches National Park. We race the sun. We get inside the park and start up into the interior but the sun is fading fast. We get out at the first big arch we see and I race out with camera and tripod. I get one photo of the arch before darkness sets in. In the opposite direction of the arch though are some rain clouds in the distance… and lightning. What follows then is a quick explanation of how to shoot lightning and excited jumping up and down as we see each strike. After I miss some nice ones, both Leo and Terri insist that I not show them the previews but “just keep shooting!” A really nice forked lightning burst happens and I jump up and down like a little kid. I think we are all a little punch drunk.

We get back in the car and start on our way out of the park. Terri has generously said that she’d spring for a motel room for the night so we don’t have to find a campground in the dark. First though, we stop at a picnic area to make and eat turkey sandwiches for dinner. It is pretty dark. I see a flash of light on a tree nearby and point it out. This spooks Terri. We start talking about how no one knows we’re out here. “I told Lisa we were camping in Basin,” Leo says. Terri starts packing up the cooler. I start laughing. “No one is going to kill us!” And yet, I consider that it does seem like a horror movie, complete with a lightning back drop. Leo and Terri have packed up so fast that I still have my half eaten sandwich in my hand when I jump into the car.

It’s late when we pull up to the motel Terri found using Yelp. It seems nice and I note that they have a free continental breakfast in the morning that starts at 6am. I get the first turn for the shower. It feels great! Action Wipes have been awesome for the trip so far but it’s really nice to have a hot shower.

Monday, April 1

Highway 50. The Loneliest Road in America

Highway 50. The Loneliest Road in America

We get up and happily find that the continental breakfast includes waffles. We sketch out the driving plan for the day. Our objective is to get to Basin National Park – a park I had never even heard of before this trip. We will then take a scenic way back to Sacramento. We set off. We have a bit of trouble with navigation but are soon driving through terrain that is surprisingly mountainous. We see a good bit of snow on mountain peaks and sometimes right by the sides of the road. It’s very pretty country. We get to Basin National Park’s visitor center and get out only to find that it is closed. We can see snow covered mountains close by. We pick up a park brochure and Leo and I are interested to find out that the park includes caves, a lake and generally mountainous features. We had both expected a desert environment. Terri had known about the caves and had been looking forward to seeing more of the park and getting her National Park passport stamped. There is another visitor center but it is only accessible through a farther entrance. We decide to move on. The drive back to California takes us through Utah and Nevada. We travel on Highway 50 which is labeled “The Loneliest Road in America” it certainly has very little traffic and the towns we pass through seem to be have a lot of run down homes. Mostly we see great open land and various mountain passes and summits. Terri keeps thinking the next range we see is the Sierra Nevada but after a few false alarms we realize we are just in an area with a lot of mountain ranges. We stop at a fast food place in a small town when we got too hungry. It’s the biggest town we’ve seen in a long time. As we get closer to Reno we start seeing more Casinos and other signs of bigger Nevada cities.

We make it to Sacramento in time to drop off Leo and then have dinner with Terri’s family.

Tuesday, April 2

Terri gives me a ride to her work and lets me use her personal laptop. In the afternoon it’s time to go to the airport again (I can’t believe how quick it is to get to the Sacramento airport from downtown – in contrast to getting to LAX from downtown LA). I fly home and meet my friend in the long term parking garage. We drive home taking the Pacific Coast Highway part of the way. It’s beautiful but my body still feels like it should be in the desert.

Epilogue

According to Luke our trio arrived in Indian Creek right after some very cold weather. After we left the weather turned rainy and cold again. I think we had the perfect weather window there even though we did get a bit hot over the weekend when climbing in direct sun. I had a great time and I even enjoyed the road trip part of the trip, though it’s too bad we didn’t get to spend a little more time in the National Parks. On a photography front I feel like I produced some nice work but I still wanted to do more. One thing missing was star trail shots, we had a bright moon for the first few nights and then overcast conditions (and the sudden squall). I guess I’ll just have to come back some other time…

Slideshow of a selection of my photos below. Click on any photo to view it in a larger size (highly recommended). Link to the full set of photos featured in the slideshow. You can also see a larger set of photos 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 Rockgrrl.com 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): https://twitter.com/rockgrrl/jtreetweetup4/members

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

Yosemite Valley Trip: 7 Days of Awesome – Part I Day 1. – The Nutcrackers

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

A Trip Report: Yosemite National Park. May 2012 with Flashbacks to April 2011

This was the best Yosemite Valley trip ever. K, Michael and I all agreed when we finally said our goodbyes back home. Seven days in Yosemite are bound to have wonderful moments but even the little mistakes made turned out well, and sometimes made the trip better. I’m going to present the trip to you as a Drama in Three Parts (or roughly around that length, I’ll be covering seven days of Yosemite awesomeness but plan to condense a few of the days).

Part I. Day 1. – The Nutcrackers.

I’ve been on some part of “Nutcracker” five times now, the first four times happened back in April of 2011. This day I couldn’t keep thinking about all of them.

K, Michael and I arrived at the nearly empty Manure Pile Buttress parking area early in the morning of May 4th. Our plan was to do the popular classic, 5 pitch trad route, “Nutcracker” which had a few variations for its first pitch. As a party of three we couldn’t be picky on which one we started, we just needed to start as fast as we could and try to stay out of the way of other parties. Since K and I had done every start of “Nutcracker” in our guide book [Note: we have since discovered more], we figured we could handle whichever start had no one on it. Since there were only a few cars in the parking lot, we hoped that meant at least one of the starts was free.

The first time I got on “Nutcracker” was in April of 2011 during the Yosemite Tweetup and the 5.9 start variation had water dripping down on it. Fortunately the ribbon of wet was mostly not on the route and our friends had already gone up on this grey day without incident. K led it and I followed with a little bit of difficulty around the wet part, then I proceeded to lead the second pitch. The second pitch is much wider so it was easier to avoid wet spots and I had no problem with it.

We got as far as me cleaning the middle of the 3rd pitch before hail started bouncing off of my helmet. We ended up at the belay for the 4th pitch when we decided to single rope rappel down to the party a pitch below us who we had asked to wait for us. We all bailed down from there in the rain.

Michael asked if we were going to rack up at the car. We were, we still hadn’t seen any other climbers. Luck seemed to be with us so far. K and I had expected to find Manure Pile Buttress busy. Hopefully not as busy though as the third time we had tried Nutcracker…

“Which way did you go?” I asked K, eyeing the expanse between the 5.6 dihedral we had climbed up as the first pitch of “Nutcracker” and the ledge where the various second pitches of “Nutcracker” all met. It looked pretty thin. “I went higher,” K said. I examined that way. “If I fall from there it’d be a nasty pendulum swing into that rock.”

“Yeah it’s more dangerous for the follower.” I decided to stay low, it would still be a pendulum, but I liked the look of the end of the traverse better. After a few moves I managed to get my right hand on my goal, the crack which led to the top of the lieback start variation. K was just above that.

I took the second pitch, it was short and easy, it angled up the ramp that the 2nd pitch after the 5.9 variation eventually led to. What I found on the top of the 2nd pitch though was a crowded ledge. I built my anchor on the ramp a few feet above the large ledge, where 4 people were waiting. We hadn’t seen them from the base of the cliff.

Eventually there was a line of 9 climbers, with a party of two barely 8 feet above the ledge, stuck in the middle of the 3rd pitch. When a party of 3 wearing psychedelic colors came up but then bailed after the stuck party of 2 came down, they started a chain reaction of rappelling down. We must have been waiting for an hour or more on that ledge.

Michael, K and I hiked to the base of Nutcracker and found all of the starts free. K started up the 5.9, it wasn’t wet this time but quite dry though a pretty flower on the ledge below the crack stood as testimony that water had been there recently. I heard voices from the direction of the approach path. Ah, the anticipated line was going to start now, or maybe they’d take the other starts? But no, the party didn’t even look our way but seemed to be going straight to “After Six”. Which, coincidentally had been my very first trad lead ever in Yosemite Valley.

The start of the 5.9 variation for “Nutcracker” is a friction/small edges climb up to a small ledge before starting the meat of the pitch, a small diagonal finger/hand crack with slippery placements for the feet. K went up and Michael seconded, I was slated as third.

By the time I was starting the climb, a party of two had claimed their spot in line after us (after I overheard them discussing how the 5.8 start would be bad for a recovering shoulder). I was a little nervous since I was being watched, and was also cognizant that it’d be better for everyone if I climbed quickly. There is a trick to the crux of the crack start, you have to put your right foot out on a lighter colored ribbon on the rock of the right of the crack, it’s just a smear (and the rock is polished) but it gets you up. The rest of the moves must be done quickly (or at the very least as quick as you can when cleaning gear). By the time I was at the tree which marked the belay station for Pitch 2, I was breathing hard.

Pitch 2 was my pitch. I saw that the party behind us had already started up, so I took off with the rack. Since this was my third time leading it I knew what to expect. It’s a lovely slanting wide crack with parts of it turning into a dihedral interrupted by some rocks and trees. At times I was walking in the crack, other times I was stemming it or liebacking. I used the trees for pro. The crux is the top of the climb where the right side of the dihedral juts out, creating a small roof of sorts. I went up and over and proceeded to the wide ledge to make an anchor in an ideal spot for Pitch 3. There was no on on the ledge this time. However, I was belaying Michael up when the leader of the party behind us topped out instead. He had essentially soloed a lot of the route and said something about how our rope should be fine because his placements weren’t in the way. When his second came up, I think I heard him say something about how the leader had only placed 3 pieces.

We let that party pass us of course.

K leading the 3rd pitch of NutcrackerPitch 3 starts off with a step across to a crack. I once led this part and about 15 feet above it before I backed off, my lead head lost after having to wait while on the route for some climbers ahead of us. This time it was K on the sharp end and we had waited long enough for the party that passed us to be free from the belay station. K went up the zigzagging route, then Michael, then myself. As I cleaned the route I thought about how I had backed off before, the part I had backed away from (one which required liebacking) was not very hard, but it did require a moment of commitment, at least for me anyway, and back then it had been wet. I thought I could have handled it on this day, but it was good to be fast anyway in case of unexpected weather. K and I still had memories of our second attempt at “Nutcracker”…

“That was pretty tiring!” I said to K as I finished up cleaning the 5.8 lieback start. He agreed. We moved up the ramp to attain the large ledge which was the bottle neck of all the start variations. This was when we felt the first rain drops. It wasn’t supposed to rain today. The forecast called for rain every single day of our trip, but not today.

A party of two women joined us on the ledge, they had done the 5.6 start and had had trouble on the traverse. We conferred about the rain. “Well, we can wait a bit and see if it stops,” one of them said. We had a bite to eat while exchanging introductions. Then the rain started to dump harder. K and I were having flash backs to two days prior. We jointly decided to combine our two ropes and rappel down. When we all got to the ground we talked about trying again and said our goodbyes.

The rain didn’t stop all that day. All we heard in the Curry Village common room was, “It wasn’t supposed to rain!” Turns out folks had bailed off El Cap and many other routes that day. So much for the weather forecast.

The belay for the 4th pitch is a bit small for two people to stay at. K took this pitch, I was on belay, and Michael had to literally hang out. Pitch 4 has a lot of friction and the leader disappears from view very quickly since the first moves take you around and over a small overhung area. As K went out of view I could only watch the rope for clues to his progress. By now, we spotted a party of two, no three, no four? below us. It seemed to me to be a while before K stopped climbing, when I followed him up I figured out why. The pitch has some fairly run out sections and then leads to a fist sized crack which goes up a small roof. A cam was stuck in there. K had warned me about it but I gave it one shot trying to clean it anyway. But, mindful that there was a party behind us, I moved on. After the roof there was still a bit more climbing to be done, involving some small cracks, edges and friction. I was fighting tremendous drag, it must have been what slowed K down. We should have extended the piece below the roof. I had clipped my tailing rope to it, not thinking I needed to extend it either. Eventually I got to the belay with a small ledge. K said he could’ve stopped a few feet below where we were but wanted to leave it for the other party in case they needed it.

Michael soon came up and then K was off again to do the famous mantle pitch. I can’t quite figure out how I would lead this within my comfort zone. Now the party behind us (turns out they were two parties of two) was right on our heels. The leader ending up building an anchor in the area K had passed up. Fortunately this was the last pitch. K did the mantle with no problem. I followed, ending up using a small crimper on the left of the dihedral to the mantle to get me high enough to make the mantle move. When Michael went through this section he said he just reached the hold for the mantle itself, but he’s a bit taller than I am.

Our party at the top of the NutcrackerWe topped out to a beautiful sunlit view which included Half Dome in the distance and seasonal waterfalls on the walls opposite ours. After a break on top for a high five from Michael, photos, a few friendly words with the first party behind us who were topping out, and a bit of a walk around, we headed down. We were pretty excited because we had finished in good time and felt we could check on our friends’ campsite to figure out where they were climbing today and hopefully meet up with them.

At the car K asked me, “You got the car key?”

“No,” I said with a smile in my voice; he’s tried this joke before.

But it wasn’t a joke. He didn’t have the key and I didn’t have my clicker. We were locked out.

Stay tuned for Part 2

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 Rockgrrl.com 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.

Joshua Tree Climbing Trip Report April 1-6 – Multi-Pitch, Gordon Party, More

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Multi-Pitch Trad in Joshua Tree – April 4th, 2011

“I can do this,” I said out loud. There was no one who could hear me. Perhaps the two flies buzzing around me heard, but if they did, their only reaction was to buzz me again. I idly swatted at them, while simultaneously thinking that I shouldn’t let them bother me, and more importantly that I should ignore them and concentrate on keeping my feet smeared on the rock.

My left foot slipped a little. This was the second time it had done that. I looked down and to my right at the runner I had clipped into the one bolt on the route. It looked far away. It would be an unpleasant fall if I came off. I wanted to go back down to recompose myself, but down climbing might be just as hard if not harder than moving up.

One thing was certain, the longer I stayed where I was, the greater the chance I’d come off.

“I can do this,” I said again, “I can do this.” I looked to my left to make sure I hadn’t gone on another, harder route that had bolts. I saw multiple bolts there which matched up to the harder route description, I was definitely on the right route.

I needed to move. I pressed my chalked right hand on an indention on the rock face and stepped up. My breathing was not even, but I was still breathing. I made another move and then another. Nothing was solid yet. My feet and hands were on holds that had a bit of chalk on them, I wondered if I had succeeded in greasing them with my half-hearted hand hold attempts from earlier. I moved up again, and again. The rock felt more like Yosemite granite than the famed grit of Joshua Tree. Finally I attained my goal for my right hand, a slope with a small seam in it. The seam was not big enough for my fingers, but it was more than a dimple smear at least. I still needed to step up though. I maneuvered so I  could leverage my left foot up.

I made the move for my left foot and then performed a balanced standing move to get my right up. I was on the ledge of sorts, there was finally a crack starting up again, about chest high to my 5′ 4″ frame. I got a two finger jam in it. It was the most solid hold I had felt since before the small run out section prior to the bolt. I said to myself, “I’m not done yet.” Then I placed a cam in the crack near my hand hold and clipped it.

A sigh of relief. A shake of the arms and a bit of mental chalk applied. I moved upwards again. The crack was back though, it was my friend. After another move I placed a piece, extended it and clipped in then moved up. I was focused on finding the belay bolts, but there was a slight slope on the top of this crack, and I didn’t see any bolts.

“There better be bolts there,” I said out loud again, the rock seemed unperturbed by my threat. My nerves were pretty tired and I didn’t have much gear left if I had to make my own anchor.

Fortunately the bolts were there. I clipped in and made an anchor with an unnecessary back  up.

Thus ended the first pitch of “Right On”, the longest climb in Joshua Tree according to Randy Vogel’s latest Joshua Tree guide. It used to be called a 5.5, the newer book puts it at 5.6. with the 5.6 portion being on the first pitch. Comments on Mountain Project mention 5.7 R for the whole route and I noticed a notable climber posted about slipping before the bolt. I call the pitch, Class 2 fun and definitely not 5.6, at least not that day.

K and I were doing “Right On” on our 4th consecutive day of Joshua Tree climbing. We didn’t know much about it except what it said in the guide book Randy had given me just two days ago at Flander’s Fundraising party. We had picked it partly because it was near Ryan campground and partly because we thought it might be a nice relaxing, easy multipitch and looked like an aesthetic line with a great view.

One thing about Jtree, is that scale is sometimes hard to make out from a distance. Sure we have funky flora like Joshua Trees, but they don’t register as things that loom very tall in the way that pines do. When I’d said I’d take the first pitch of the climb I had known that it would probably be a little run out to the one bolt on the climb, but I figured, well it’s “5.6” it’s probably got big holds on the run out, and it doesn’t look that far.

I should’ve closely examined a picture I had taken of Saddle Rock the day before this. There are two climbers at the base of the climb in it; climbers who I’m guessing are taller than me. Maybe then I would’ve guessed that the distance was farther than it looked, maybe I might’ve seen that the rock wasn’t as featured as I had hoped.  Maybe, but maybe not.

Saddle Rock

K and I had already planned that he would combine pitches 2 and 3 (it was suggested in the guide that two of the pitches in the four pitch climb be combined) but after he came up to me on that belay station, he congratulated me on the lead, told me he had been scared for me while doing it, and then that he wasn’t decided yet on if he would combine the next pitches or not.

The belay station was slightly under the route of the 2nd pitch which went up and over a bulge before settling into a crack. I belayed for a bit, hearing breathing sounds and clinking of gear, eventually I heard K call out that he’d string the pitches together but also something about watching him. There was more breathing and less clinking of gear, and very shortly I couldn’t hear him at all anymore. Eventually I heard him call out an “off belay”.

The second and third pitch were very interesting. After getting out from the belay area, the crack slanted up and away in a book like formation which I climbed using part crack climbing technique, part chimney, part layback, and part over hanging technique. I guess a shorter way to say that would be proclaiming it was closer to off width technique than anything else. It took a lot of energy. I got to a certain point where I was secure and K took a picture of me before I had to stem over a chasm to reach the belay station. I was a little nervous because my legs seemed like they might be a tiny bit too short to wedge me securely but I got through it. Apparently K had used some of the face to my left to climb this pitch, which made it a bit run out for him and I’m sure much scarier.

K took the last pitch as well, it looked pretty easy, though he had a small bit of route finding and both of our nerves were a little frazzled due to the surprise difficulties on our pitches. I followed up no problem and then we were treated to a fantastic view of the park. We were already starting to forget the Fun Class 2 portions of the climb, but were not quite ready to proclaim that we’d to it all over again. It was enough to enjoy the view before attempting the down climb to find some rappel anchors that were supposed to be around.

How’s the saying go? At the summit, you’re only half way done? Fortunately the down climb was easier than it looked, and once I was off belay I found the anchor bolts right away. We rappelled one 60m rope length down then had a bit more scrambling to do before getting to the level of where the first pitch started.

By the time we got back to the car, we were already talking about how great the climb was.

Arriving in Joshua Tree – April 1, 2011

K and I arrived on Friday, two of our friends had already gotten a site in Ryan Campground after having had to spend the night in a motel Thursday night, it was a “zoo” they had said, not even Jumbo Rocks campground had had spots. We told them it was Spring Break and that with over 140 people RSVP’d for Flanders (Doug Nidever) Fundraiser party at Todd Gordon’s house, perhaps a lot of folks were out for the weekend for that too.

After K and I unloading some things we all went over towards Headstone rock, where our friend had said he’d seen some interesting cracks on the shady side. Shade was key, it felt pretty warm in the sun, temps were high 70s,  low 80s. Sure enough, there were some fun looking cracks. Our friend took one, and I decided I’d like to give another an on sight go. It looked like a fist jam sized crack with a sloping crack a definite ledge to rest on and then a crack finishing off with a gentle slope. As I started up it, I realized it was pretty gritty, probably not one that was climbed a lot. I got to a part that was on the slope which turned out to be slightly harder than I had predicted, mainly because of the body positioning it put me in with my arms forward and my feet a bit back. After that it was back to a crack.

Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my right hand, “Ow!” I said, “Ow, Owww!” I jerked my hand out of the crack, examining it, “Something stung me!” I said, suspecting that perhaps one of the bees that were buzzing around the bushes as the base of the climb had somehow flown up to get me. I stayed on the climb though.  The pain faded and I finished.

K laughed, “Eileen is the only one I know who says, ‘Ow!’ when she gets stung, anyone else,” he said, “would be cursing.” I smiled, I suppose it might be true, and it wasn’t that I didn’t curse, but well, sudden pain I guess just makes me say what I mean… “Ow!”

Down on the ground after a short down climb, I took an allergy pill, I always carry at least one with me because I am hyper sensitive to all insect bites (and stings). I was already suspecting that I wasn’t really stung though because I didn’t see a tell tale bump or stinger. I thought maybe it was a spider bite or maybe even a stinging nettle type plant that had fallen in the crack. At any rate, I was happy my hand wasn’t turning baseball mitt sized (which is what happened the first time I was stung by a bee).

I ended up trying two other routes on the formation, both fun and worth doing. We didn’t know the names of the climbs, but there was supposedly some 5.8s, 5.9s and one 5.10 on this side of the formation. It was fun to just do them and climb in the shade. We tried to find a site in Hidden Valley, but weren’t successful.

Todd Gordon’s Party / Flanders Fundraiser – April 2, 2011

One of the reasons I’d been excited to go to Joshua  Tree during this time period was because Todd was having one of his famous parties. Mutual friends of ours had attended these in the past (and we’d been invited) but timing had never quite meshed. Now ironically two of our mutual friends were both out of town so we’d be going on our own. A bonus though was that Randy Vogel would be there and he had a book for me since I’d just interviewed him. I recognized a few other names of folks on the RSVP list but one had called asking us for a ride which we unfortunately couldn’t provide so I wasn’t sure if he was going to make it either. Anyway, we were all still game to go, and I even had a shirt to donate to the cause, so we made it part of our Saturday plan.

First we wanted to get some climbing in. We went out to Hall of Horrors and all four of us did “Nurn’s Romp” and then when 3 of us rappelled down to “Exorcist”, I stayed up with the rap rope and rigged it so I could take photos of leaders on the route. “Exorcist” is a great line, a 5.10 crack that ends with a small blank area (it has one bolt here) and then a jug before finally finishing with another, bigger crack to the top. Even though I’ve  climbed this  cleanly, I have not led it yet, as I still need to figure out the bolt area to my satisfaction (only other climbers I’ve seen lead it can all reach the jug before I can). Today was picture day though so I literally hung out and jugged up and down my rope using a Gri Gri and a Tibloc. I did get one top rope run on “Exorcist” at the end.

After climbing and a short scouting hike to see if we could squeeze one more climb in, we parted ways so my friends could resupply before the party and K and I could see if we could get a better campsite. By the time we made it to the party it was 7pm. We parked a bit away from the house after a line of cars but could still hear the band playing. Fortunately I was still able to include my shirt donation for the table and we found Randy right away. The party was a lot of fun, we saw two live bands and a slideshow and bumped into more folks we knew than we thought would be there. We also made new friends and chatted with some true old school climbers. We wished we had arrived earlier so we would have had more time to chat, it was pretty inspiring to hear the BITD (Back in the Day) stories and to see these guys still partying. It was comforting because I’ve recently come to realize that I  might actually need “real rest” days on multi-day trips which made me feel “old” – but here were folks older than me and still going!

April 3, 2011

Our friends had to leave earlier than they expected. K and I packed some of our stuff up, thinking we might relocate to Hidden Valley campground. As we did we saw some of our friends who had been at the party drive by, one rolled down his window and invited us to join them on the back side of Snickers. We said we would after we cruised over to Hidden Valley to check for sites (and to see if Diane and Charlie Winger – climbers and authors of The Trad Guide to Joshua Tree –  had arrived). K and I went to HV and left a note for the Wingers then we headed to Snickers. Unfortunately we overshot the parking lot and ended up parking at Barker Dam. However this turned out to be a kind of happy accident as we ended up talking to a guy who had just pulled into the space next to us and was looking for rock climbers to photograph just for the day. Now, since I’m usually the one with the camera, I thought it’d be fun to actually be in some pictures this time so we said he could come along with us as we were looking to join more climbers.

By the time we got to Snickers we didn’t see our friends, however we did see a climb I thought I recognized called “Funny Bone”, which also had another climb right next to it that I hadn’t done before. As we eyed it some guys came up with the Trad guide book and we were able to verify that it was indeed “Funny Bone”. We offered the climb to the guys who had shown up since we weren’t on it yet, but they said they were a party of three and didn’t mind waiting. So K and I went up, no problem. I didn’t lead it after K had done as I was conscious of the guys waiting for it and thought I’d just lead it after they had finished. However we did set up a top rope for the 5.10 something climb near it so we could do that.

Well it turns out the guys had also gone to the party but had left early so we hadn’t met them. K did recognize one of them from SuperTopo though, and oddly enough, one of them recognized that I was on Twitter because “Steph Davis retweets you”. I found it funny that we were connected to these old school climbers due to internet message boards and Twitter. Who says technology divides the old and young or even outdoor and indoor people?

Back at Ryan Campground, K and I decided to do a quick run up Headstone to watch the sun set. Headstone, famous for its exposure, can still get the blood pumping even if you’ve done it before. The top of it is not a bad place for sunset watching, not at all.

April 4, 2011

This is the day K and I did “Right On” which is the story with which I started this article.

Prior to leaving for the climb, K and I had found a site in Hidden Valley campground, went back to Ryan to pack up and then headed to the climb. After getting back to the new campsite at HV, we started unpacking. Two figures came out of the darkness. It was Charlie and Diane. It was fun to meet them. I’d interacted with Diane on the Rockgrrl forums (as far back as the first incarnation of the forums even) and also on Twitter. This was further proof that technology doesn’t have to be something that outdoor enthusiasts curse but something that can bring us together instead.

April 5, 2011

K and I were thinking around this time that we hadn’t really had a rest day as we had planned. We had prepared for staying in Jtree for about 9 days like our previous trip but wanted to have a real rest day because we both felt we paid for it when we didn’t have one on that trip. However, we wanted to climb with Charlie and Diane so were game to go where they wanted. Some in their group wanted to go to Hemingway but Charlie and Diane wanted to head to Rock Garden Valley, which is where the four of us ended up heading. As we climbed and scrambled higher towards the walls, I couldn’t help but note that Charlie was like a mountain goat, he had no problem with the boulders and quickly did the route finding up the approach. K told me later than he figured out Charlie is 75 years old. He is one spry old goat if so! And talk about multi-day trips, he had come to Jtree from Death Valley and was going off again from Jtree to go to Red Rocks!

I really had a great time at Rock Garden Valley, the climbs were really nice. I led “Double Dog Leg” (not technically an on sight because I took a few pics while Charlie led it) and at one point on it, I had to adjust my thinking because it wasn’t a climb where you had to use the crack the whole time. We also climbed “Young Lust” though there was some debate as to which climb that was as Randy’s book looked like it conflicted with the Wingers’ book and memory. K and I ended up doing 4 routes each, with an added pitch for K on top rope. I want to go back and lead more in this area. While we were up there, we met two climbers from San Diego, one did his very first trad lead, which was “Double Dog Leg”, and his 2nd trad lead on a crack we were guessing was a 5.8. Here we were again at the intersection of new and old. From Charlie’s umpteenth trad lead to another’s very first. All while the rocks look on, for the most part, frozen in time.

April 6, 2011

It started to rain early in the morning. It was a light rain, but the dark clouds above us did not seem to be in any hurry to leave. We had heard rumors around the campground that the weather for Saturday was going to be a high of 50. We didn’t know if that meant this rain was going to stick around till then or if strong winds were on the way to accompany such a drop in temperature. K and I at first tried waiting it out, finally taking that rest day we had talked about. The Wingers, we figured were also figuring things out. Finally we saw them drive by, they told us they were headed into town for food, showers, the internet to check the weather and maybe a movie. K and I stuck around a bit longer. The rain started to come down in heavier squalls. Our immediate neighbor had left for town and had come back, his news wasn’t that cheerful, he confirmed the 50 degree high and added that wind was coming, he and his dog were leaving. K and I decided to pack up and then decide in town, we needed to buy groceries anyway. After we packed up though we decided to hike around to try to find some Joshua Tree climbers’ points of interest.

On our last extended trip we had finally been successful in finding the Chasm of Doom, something I had done once years ago but that K had started to think was a myth. This time around I was able to lead us right to another interesting place, the Iron Door. We also found a Hobbit Hole and a bunch of cool boulder problems. Eventually though we left for town. We checked the weather once there and found a dire prediction of 80 mph winds for the next day followed by a chance of snow for the weekend!

We both agreed that it might be neat to see and photograph snow on the weekend but it wasn’t worth sticking it out for the rest of the rainy day and then have to survive crazy winds for another whole day after it. We were going to get our “real rest” day after all, it would be spent driving home.

Conclusion

I didn’t really push myself grade wise at all during this trip, but I felt it was great mentally. My very first climb of the trip was an on sight, one that none of us even knew its name or rating. Though it was probably a 5.8 or maybe even a 5.7. I think it was a good thing for me to do (despite getting bitten on it) because it helped put me in a leading mind set for the rest of the trip. It was great meeting other climbers too who helped me see that it’s not all about modern grades and that one can keep climbing and finding adventure everywhere… which was definitely proven by “Right On”. It may have once been called “just a 5.5” but it was definitely an old school route and needed knowledge of many types of climbing to climb it well.

I came away from this trip both humbled and encouraged; and with photos and fond memories of old and new friends. What more can you ask from a trip to Joshua Tree?

~ Eileen

I have trip photos up here and here’s a video I put together with some of my pics and some pics taken of me by my friends.

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?

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 Through New Eyes

Friday, October 15th, 2010
Part of the Thursday crowd on Friday morning

Part of the Thursday crowd on Friday morning

Joshua Tree Fall season has started off with a bang for me. I went out this past weekend, Thursday night through Sunday and had a blast. Why do you say? Was it because I did my hardest red point ever? Was it because I crushed it non stop 3 days in a row? Nope, it was mainly because I got to hang out with old friends and with climbers who mostly had less than a year of experience but a lot of enthusiasm.

I think I’d nearly forgotten what it was like to go out with a large group of new climbers. Sure K and I had taken out a group of 3 new climbers last year but that’s not the same as a group of around 20 which is what we ended up with on Saturday. A ratio of about 4 veterans for every 5 new (or new to outdoor climbing) climbers.

Some highlights:

  • Fabulous weather! Daytime temps were around the 70s then went as high as the low 80’s by Sunday (we climbed in the shade that day).
  • Being able to get 3 sites in Hidden Valley Campground because on Friday morning we decided to just cruise by to look (we spent the previous night in Ryan). We just happened to find that 3 cars worth of folks were leaving for their group reservation for a wedding in Indian Cove. 3 sites in Hidden Valley campground all close to each other on Friday is something unheard of since pre National Park days.
  • Also on Friday, onsighting a route at Atlantis to put up a rope. I also got to demonstrate “Elvis Leg” while I tried to find pieces for a flaring crack. The route was 2 cracks over from Vorpal Sword (5.9) so according to two different books it was either Minotaur (5.8) or in the other book it could have been Grain for Russia (5.8) or Grain Surplus (5.7). I really doubt it was Minotaur though as I and others understood that to be a crack on a nearby wall which finished with distinctive “horns” at the top (I led it last season as a flash).  So if it’s not Minotaur than I guess it’s Grain Surplus though I really thought it was harder than the one next to it and my friend Peter even thought it was harder than Vorpal Sword, which he lead. I’m not sure I agree with that but I will say it was not as straight forward.
  • Going up to the Space Station on my own at sunset.

    space-station-chimney-rock-joshua-tree

    Sitting in the Space Station - Chimney Rock

  • Teaching the new folks about  “catch the end of the rope, get a beer”. Having the new folks adopt, “put up a rope, get food” on Friday evening as they fed me 🙂
  • Watching folks eyeball a climb and decide they wanted to do it and could do it. This happened all weekend. One new friend even said she was done but with some more beta she made it all the way to the top of Spaghetti and Chili (5.7)
  • Giving beta that helped folks.
  • On Sunday, climbing in the Hall of Horrors area and cruising The Exorcist (5.10) crack on my second toprope try on it that day (I had tried it on toprope once last season). K and my friend Peter did their redpoint leads of it, it was K’s first time to do so. I think I’ve figured out a sufficient intermediate step to the part where the crack ends and a big hold is next so I’ll consider leading it next time.
  • Sunday night, having dinner with the same group of folks who came out Thursday (plus K this time) and then our friend Elaine (chief organizer of the big group who were mostly her co-workers) and the 3 guys we climbed with on Thursday surprised Peter, K and I with gift certificates to Nomad’s! My eyes watered, I was so touched.

Some folks say I like to teach. I’ve done it in fencing, music and climbing. But really I’m usually not in a formal position as a teacher, I’m just so excited about something that I want to share it with folks. Also, I believe the idea that “if you really want to know something, teach it”, is true. I certainly find that sharing or teaching gives something back to the giver as well. In my particular case, who knows if I would’ve tried the onsight if I hadn’t had the extra incentive to put up the rope? And having folks cheer you on, I’d almost forgotten what a nice psychological boost that was, it didn’t matter to the cheering folks that you were “only” on toprope. I certainly got back as much if not more than I gave that weekend.

And then to be given a gift certificate at the end, well that was just the cherry on top.

So thanks Elaine (my fellow “E Team” friend who is a fabulous teacher, climber and Unofficial Company Outing Organizer), Alex, Art and Brian! It was a pleasure to have climbed with you all, and in the case of the guys, to be able to say I was there towards the start of your undoubtedly great climbing careers!

Full set of the weekend’s photos.

Video on Space Station view:

Unusual Circumstances – Tuolumne Trip 2010 Part 2

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Whenever someone says it’s always sunny in California, I realize that they’ve never been to its mountains (or lived here). I’ll admit though that it’s not a bad generality to make, I can usually count on climbing outdoors on any given weekend. This Tuolumne climbing trip was one of the few that we changed route plans due to weather.

Friday

After climbing Hobbit Book our group changed again. Jeremy, and two of our friends had to drive home Friday morning and two other friends had not yet shown up. They had run into trouble when they found the 395 closed due to a mud slide but they had said they would show up in the morning.

K and I wanted to be sure our friends found our campsite and a tentative plan was that K and our friend Cliff would pair off for a climb while I took Vina up on a multi-pitch. However by the time our friends arrived they were up for a mellow start of climbing and K and I had decided we’d try the Regular Route on Fairview with our friends Peter and Gabi, they’d be the first party of two and we’d be the second party.

A few yards into the approach hike, K realized he had forgotten something at the car and went back for it. As a result Peter and Gabi got to the base of the route first, with me coming up after. I saw they hadn’t started the route yet (it was the afternoon by now) and that a party was ahead of them. When K arrived Gabi and Peter still hadn’t been able to start on the route. Gabi finally started on the first pitch but didn’t seem his usual lightning fast self (which meant the pitch wasn’t easy), we could also still see the other party ahead of them. After waiting a bit more K and I decided to bail on the route and took off to find our other friends.

On the way to climbing near Murphy CreekWe fortunately got cell service (Sprint and AT&T) so was able to reach them and we all ended up going to Murphy Creek. While on the approach hike I realized it was the same trail I’d been on for a backpacking trip, it was fun to think that this time I was going climbing in the area. After a bit of searching, we eventually found the single pitch wall we were looking for. There wasn’t anyone else around.

The weather had turned a little chilly and we didn’t have much light left. Still we had fun on some interesting crack climbs. One included a strange “ramp/ledge” that you balanced up on before you got to more crack. The same anchor worked for a more straightforward (but a lot harder) dihedral crack climb. K also led up a dirty climb to the right of this system, I believe the name of if even included the word “dirty”. I’d say the wall was worth getting to once you knew the way and could get there directly.

We got back to camp when it was dark. Peter and Gabi weren’t there. “So either they’re still on Fairview or they finished early and went to eat,” I guessed out loud. My bet was that they were still coming back. Sure enough, about 30 minutes later they walked up to our campfire, having come directly from the climb and begging for food. Gabi said, “It’s good you did not follow us.” Apparently though they had not taken a long time on the climb, the late start just meant they were still coming back late. The most important reason it was good K and I hadn’t followed them though was that Peter had knocked down a fairly large rock while he was on the easier 4th class stuff and had watched it tumble down (while he repeatedly yelled, “Rock!!”), brush his rope, fall straight down most of the route (not at Gabi though as they had done a zigzag before this point), smashing spectacularly into pieces as it fell, with its final demise being even more rock explosions at the base of the climb.

Both Peter and Gabi said that if K and I had followed them it would have hit us.

Saturday

Late Friday I thought I had heard Ben’s car pull into camp. Ben was another person I “knew” from Twitter but had not met in person. Sure enough we found him looking sleepy but present. He approached the morning campfire looking expectantly between my friend Vina and I. I said, “I’m Eileen, Rockgrrl” and smiled. Vina and I look a little alike so I think that confuses folks who may have only seen me in pictures on this blog. There were more introductions and some late risers (we had stayed up Friday night, partly seeing if Ben would arrive and because we were having fun). We started to notice the sky. We had heard from more than one person in the park that it was supposed to snow Sunday. We knew the forecast for our trip was to get colder and colder as the days went by. Thursday was supposed to have had a high of 80 but it really didn’t seem to reach that at all and the rest of the forecast for the week was supposed to drop by at least 10 degrees each day. A ranger had said showers were in the forecast. The clouds looked quite grey.

K had been trying to talk Cliff into doing the Regular Route on Fairview while I led Ben and Vina on Western Front or something similar. The weather didn’t look that great for multipitch and the climbs we were thinking of doing were popular, and would probably be even more crowded on a Saturday. We decided to check out the domes anyway. On the way though it started raining. We changed plans and went off to the DAFF dome area to check on West Crack and maybe find some single pitch climbs.

Looking at the guide books from the parking area it sprinkled on us again.

Exploring around for climbs. It was already a little wet.Then we went hiking. We stopped at one formation but it turns out the walk up to set anchors was a bit hairy considering the weather. On our way to another area we suddenly realized it was snowing on us. We pressed on and ended up at Guide Cracks. Where, true to its name, we found a guide with his clients on some of the cracks. Some other climbers were also there. That left a small crack/face climb and a face climb open for us. Cliff led it as the weather shifted from grey skies to greyer and from hail to rain and even another snow flurry. While we were trying the friction climb (very slick as you can imagine) I noticed a gal leading a crack near us that the class had vacated. I asked if it was fun and she said yeah and it was only a 5.6. I was disappointed but decided to lead it anyway since it was there. Once I was on it I realized the angle flattened out fast but I concentrated on just putting nice placements in. Vina did a pinkpoint lead after and cleaned it on the way down. Then Ben decided to lead it, his first trad lead in Tuolumne, he said. It wasn’t a bad end to a day where at times we felt like it could open up and pour on us. I noticed some of the French Canadians who were being guided looked very cold. One even said he was done climbing because he was so cold (he was wearing a jacket but he had on shorts).

We left early enough to buy firewood from the Tuolumne shop so we’d have some at night. It got pretty cold but we had fun. At night it rained a little on our tent and then got quiet, I think we got another snow flurry.

Cliff leading in strange weather

Sunday

Our group had shrunk. Peter and Gabi had left on Saturday. Still we had five climbers left though four us had a long drive home ahead of us. The weather was still looking a little on the wet side in Tuolumne so we headed to Yosemite Valley. We ended up parking along side the road before one of the tunnels that took you down to the Valley. The area was called Five and Dime Cliff. It was a slick leaf walk down to the base of the cliff but it was a definite change of weather. It was sunny and if you got hot if you stayed in direct sunlight, but in the shade with an occasional breeze you could tell the cold snap was still in the air.

Cliff leadingWe found a crack climb. The guide book mentioned bringing a lot of slings to set up anchors from bushes. We decided to try one out first. Cliff started up a likely crack. While we were waiting I read up on Mockery, a four star, “hard 5.8” to the left of where we were. It was bolted and described as “well protected – Yosemite rarity for a climb of this difficulty”. That last bit pretty much made me decide to give it a go. Ben belayed me as I set off on the zig zagging unusual climb. The start was a little stranger than it looked, I had dismissed it contemplating a strange slanting rib of rock a bit later on the route. I managed to get up the first part and do a little traverse and was fine. The rib area looked like I could go left to a crack with a slight overhang (and there was chalk there) or right to a balance move. I went right and did the move, finding a nice handhold. Right before the bolted anchor I found a crux for the climb, there was a bolt at it though so it gave me some confidence. I finished it and came down. I thought it a fair Yosemite 5.8, which is to say, a bit harder than 5.8s at most local crags. Of course I’m sure I had a harder time of it due to nerves, that start had thrown me off, and the little gusts of wind while I was balancing on later parts of the climb also got me going a little. Ben followed up without much trouble. He didn’t seem to have an issue at all with the start and easily reached the handhold I used on the right of the slanted rib rock though he did have more trouble at the crux near the top.

I went off to do the other crack climb while Vina did the 5.8. I topped out on the crack climb that Cliff and K had led and cleaned up the anchor while the others hiked back up to the car. The view was great, mountains, a river far below. I love Yosemite and there is so much to climb there, even the little cliffs are fun.

Me, Cliff, K, and BenUnfortunately it was already time for the Southern California folks to leave. Ben said he would stick around a bit and hike on his own. The rest of us got into our cars and headed to the Valley. I think Cliff planned on looking at El Capitan on his way out. K and I thought about doing the same and stopped at one point where I could see El Cap (and a deer in a small meadow) but then didn’t take the turn to the proper El Cap viewing point. We did stop at the famous pull out near the tunnels for the most photographed view of Yosemite Valley. I got a series of shots there, I had not seen it so clear in a while. I’m making some of those shots available on my photography site and others as calendars, etc in my gift shop.

I was really glad K and I took the way home through Yosemite Valley, I had been awhile since I’d seen that part of the park. I kept my window open as much as I could as we drove by even though the air was a little chilly. I love the smell of the trees. I always have. Sometimes I think I’ve gotten jaded from going to Tuolumne and Yosemite a number of times, but then I realized that I’ve barely even scratched the surface of all you can experience there.

Me leading the last pitch of Hobbit Book. Photo by Jeremy Shapiro

Link to my Tuolumne and Yosemite Climbing Trip Pictures.

Alpine Climbing – Tuolumne Trip 2010 Part 1

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Day 1 – Hobbit Book

“We’re at about 3,093 meters,” Jeremy said. The numbers didn’t really register, we were on top of Mariuolumne Dome having just finished the multipitch climb, Hobbit Book (5.7R). Jeremy added, “that’s over 10,000 feet, the highest I’ve ever done actual rockclimbing”. This was coming from a guy who was not a stranger to altitude, having just weeks ago summited Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Something registered then, I recalled years ago a friend of mine having our party wait while on Cathedral Peak because he was helping another climber down who had altitude sickness. I had been skeptical then, but I was under the impression that altitude sickness could only hit once you hit the 10,000 foot mark, instead of being able to strike at 8,000 feet on up.

This trip I think I felt the altitude a bit though. It made me realize that, yes, we were indeed alpine climbing.

Jeremy, K, and I had just done Hobbit Book, a climb K and I had done back in 2007. I hadn’t remembered the approach being that long or hard, so I was surprised both when I read it described as such in the guide book, and when I found myself out of breath and having to rest a moment during the approach (I usually never stop, just slow down at times). Contributing factors in my feeling the altitude was arriving in Tuolumne from sea level the night before, getting a poor night’s sleep, and having to wake up early (we stood in line to get an extra campsite), also K had been worried about time so had set a fast pace on the approach which I foolishly tried to follow.

When we got to the base of the climb (after a 4th class traverse which I did remember as airy from 2007), I found myself recovered enough at least. There was a party ahead of us on the route. Once we got situated, K combined the first two pitches of the climb, which caused Jeremy to simul up a slope (I clambered up after him to a safe point). Then it was waiting time for me as one member of the party above us was still at the belay near the guys. Once I was on the move, I went up the knobs on the right of a protruding formation, remembering that last time I had gone up the middle. The right side was easier, though it would’ve been a more unpleasant pendulum fall had I come off. Gaining the belay I saw the next pitch (our 2nd, but the 3rd pitch in the guide book). It was the famed 5.7 runout pitch. This was also K’s lead. I had recalled that though the climbing was technically within my range, there were distinct high steps and reaches for a gal of 5’4″ and I didn’t really want to find out how that felt on lead with a 60′ runout. We were also still concerned about time so it made sense for K to take the pitch.

K lead it without a problem (there’s footage of him climbing in the video). Jeremy followed and then myself. Just after K finished the runout pitch we realized we had been making good time so it was my turn to lead the last pitch. I remembered it as crack climbing but when I looked at the printout of our topo I saw that first I had to do some face climbing, either as a traverse out to the left, or up and to a roof crack. The route actually showed a triangle of choices. I decided to do the traverse. Breathing became a little difficult as I did the short, easy, but exposed traverse with the wind blowing my hair around. I could blame it on the altitude but I’ll admit it was nerves. I happily placed a piece in a crack after the traverse and then continued on up and to the right to harder technical climbing that at least had more places to put pro. When I rounded one overhanging part, I was surprised to see the top of the climb in sight, I had remembered it being longer. I was surprisingly disappointed. Topping out was a great feeling though. I had only followed Hobbit Book in 2007 and this time I was finishing it as having led one of the pitches in style. I was also gratified when both Jeremy and Kelly told me, “Good lead” when they came up.

We had made good time and took in the view and took some pictures before looking for the descent. I had left my shoes on because I remembered a small “down step” on rock. It wasn’t as bad as I recalled and put on my regular shoes right after it. We found a few cairns but then had to go on past memory that we needed to go down a gully between tall rock cliffs. We found it and were on the way out. We made to Jeremy’s car while there was still light and nearly made it to the store before they closed (got there at 8:04 pm, they closed at 8:00 pm). Jeremy had decided to crash the night, and drive back the next day.

Campfire was fun, our friends had done Oz. on Mariuolumne as two parties of two, and in fact we had seen them on it as we hiked by. Apparently it was challenging and made for good stories.

I had a better night’s sleep that night.

Hobbit Book – 5.7R Multipitch Trad Tuolumne from rockgrrl on Vimeo.

Desert Climbing Road Trip – Part 1 – Red Rocks and Zion

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Busy Black Corridor“It’s snowing,” a woman to my right called out. I smiled, thinking, “Aha! There’s another climber who showers folks with a light dusting of chalk!”

Then I saw the white flakes floating from the sky. They melted a moment later on my face and hands. What!?! We were in the Nevada desert, I was about 50 feet above the ground on an unknown (to me) sport climb in Black Corridor, attempting an on sight lead of a climb of which I didn’t know the name nor rating. I thought I was heading for the last bolt before the anchor, but I couldn’t be sure as the corridor was so narrow I couldn’t get a straight look at the anchors but had just judged from the height of the climbs around it.

More moisture fell on me. Well, if it wasn’t snow, it was certainly a light sprinkle. I looked again at the small overhang ahead of me and what I thought must be a good hold… but I wasn’t sure. For all I knew this could be the part of the climb that made it 5.TooHard. I decided to back off and asked to get lowered. The white flakes disappeared immediately and even the sprinkles stopped. It was a crowded climbing spot, climbers up and down the corridor, it seemed only the ones on the higher end had seen the brief moment of snow though.

K finished my lead and then I went up on top rope. Coming to the same point as before I found I could have done a temporary move to clip that last bolt and then moved on off to the right to get what was indeed a decent hold before getting to the anchors. Oh well, redpoint next time.

The trip had been surprising so far. For one, our original, though truthfully vague plan had been to make it to St. George, Utah camp and climb. Saturday morning had different plans though and our group of four ended up leaving quite a bit later than planned. That night we made it into Vegas and out to the Red Rocks campground, luckily Cliff and Vina had arrived before us since we had taken a long lunch stop, and had gotten a campsite.

We hiked around a bit from Turn off 1 to basically Turn off 2 to get to Black Corridor, we climbed a bit before the rain started, then pulled on rain gear and retreated to a little cave, everyone else vacated, the rain stopped in just a few minutes but we knew climbing was over for the day since sandstone is pretty delicate. We hiked and scouted a bit then went for dinner.

Sunday we went back out to Black Corridor and focused on the side that hadn’t gotten as wet from the sprinkles the day before. We met a climbing family from Germany who had a toddler with them. We climbed some fun overhanging routes then hit the road.

Zion National Park

“Do you see anchors up there?”

I didn’t know what to expect of Zion National Park. I had a vague idea that there’d be pretty rock formations with rock that wasn’t great for climbing. Zion turned out to be a nice surprise. First off, there was a heck of a lot more greenery than I had expected. Secondly Zion was like a sandstone Yosemite with tall cliffs and dramatic formations which did indeed have climbing opportunities. We spent our time there getting a nice tent campsite by a creek, with no shade but away from most everyone else (yet still conveniently close to a running water bathroom). We spent the most time driving and hiking around with our necks craned for anchors and potential climbs. It really seemed like a playground! It was fairly hot though, so part of our searching was for climbs in the shade. We did a scenic hike to a lookout point where we could see many of the big formations in the park. While we did get beta on a multi-pitch climb where we met a trio of climbers, our climbing highlight was a cliff where we found two crack climbs, one with an aid start where we got to practice using etriers.

Hiking to the lookout point. Photo by Vina Lustado.

Hiking to the lookout point. Photo by Vina Lustado.

Zion Highlights

  • Beautiful scenery. More greenery than I had expected (we also caught many plants in bloom).
    Fun hikes / reconn trips
  • Nice tent campsite away from others (yet near a running water bathroom)
  • Nice shuttle system (I think Yosemite should do this, they’ve been talking about it for years).
  • Nice dinner at a lodge there that served us even though we came in right at 9pm (dark caught up to us unexpectedly as we were on a reconnaissance shuttle trip/hike to the Narrows).
  • Getting the beta on a multipitch climb from some folks who turned out to be guides.
  • Randomly heading towards something that looked like a great crack climb with shade then finding a fixed line and anchors on it.
  • Aid climbing up to the crack climb. Fun!

    Vina on the aid part of the unknown climb

    Vina on the aid part of the unknown climb

  • Beautiful moonrises.

It seems there was also a lot we missed out on at Zion, for one the off trail part of the Narrows was closed due to high water, also we didn’t do any of the longer hikes, and we also really wanted to get on a few lines we scouted out. But… all things in their time right? Road tripping means you gotta move on some time.

Here’s a video mainly of still photography shots covering the trip from CA to Zion National Park: