I like Joshua Tree. Who knew? Gritty, crumbling granite slabs in the high desert of inland California… sounds like hell, right? In some ways it is. There’s just something about the bold leads, perpetually good weather, infinite rock and gnarled old-school locals that make the park characteristically classic. My formative climbing years were spent in Seattle gyms, sport redpointing at Smith Rock, bouldering at Squamish, and now, Owl Tor. Though classic in their own right, and destination worthy no doubt, neither Squamish nor Smith are representative of traditional American climbing like Joshua Tree. And I’m ordinarily not one to romanticize climbing’s history in the States. In fact, it’s really only the new generation of steep, powerful, pocketed lines that interest me, the exact opposite of Joshua Tree’s low-angle style. But I think it’s been good for me to work out a new technique, the kind of friction intensive skill requisite on J-Tree’s runout slabs. These runouts really are changing my climbing. Having to stick to the rock as if your health depends on it, because in fact it does, is common here – not something I’m used to, so it has to be good.
The weather was sunny and cold – maybe 60s during the day and 40s at night. Cold is good. If I had not been nursing a cold I like to think I would have climbed hard. I did not. Puss ‘n Boots (5.11c) was the most significant thing I got on. About 10 degrees off vertical, thin and a little spicy up top, she got too heady for me at the end. I’d like to finish what I started here, maybe in a couple weeks.