My fingers are crying. They’ve been in pain all week from last weekend’s Joshua Tree excursion. And I’ll be returning to JTree today. I’ve left a project there: Desert Shield. This will be the first time I make the three hour drive two weekends in a row, so I’m hoping for some magic. Realistically though, a redpoint probably isn’t in the cards, but if Colonel Sanders had thought like that, we wouldn’t have KFC now would we? I also want to finish Avant Chain, perhaps the most painful 12a I’ve ever seen – my skin can hardly contain its excitement.
Last night I climbed with Justin and Kristy and Andy and Marcela and Bob and Lala and Tuto at Lizard’s Mouth. It was pretty good. Andy did the sit start to Gangsta Hippie and a couple rad-looking problems on the Top ‘o the World, Ma boulder. He looked strong. Justin and I spent most of our time on Gangsta Hippie – I did it twice but could not motivate for the sit start. It was cold up there, which seemed to suck everyone’s motivation. Afterwards, I drove to the Shed and campused for ~90 minutes. Campusing went alright, certainty an improvement over last week, as my focus was on technique – no more swinging around like a slapper. There’s just no use in squirming your way up stuff, I feel. If I’m going to finish a boulder problem or a campus move, I want to know I arrived there because I pulled harder, not because I lunged more femininely. Anywayz, that’s what I thought about while campusing yesterday, and I feel better for it.
Me peeling off Desert Shield.
Micah getting all introspective on a high-ball in the Hall of Horrors Area.
Justin on Satanic Mechanic.
“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” – Chuck Palahniuk
Tyler Durden would crank at Joshua Tree. Don’t think it takes some kind of supreme discipline to put your mind in a place where climbing dangerous routes makes sense. Joshua Tree’s climb-or-die style can only be mastered by a total dumbass. Forget about everything – your health, the plants at home that need water, the cats and/or dogs that need to be fed, medical bills – and just climb. Be that amoeba, that single-celled, singularly focused creature put here to do one lame thing: to climb this rock in front of you. Maybe then this trip to California’s high desert will be therapeutic instead of traumatic.
There are consequences to falling at Joshua Tree, and the technique needed to scurry up her insecure slabs is no forté of mine. I fully expect my money’s worth for developing this skill. Clearly the park rangers never tire of scraping human sacrifices off the desert floor – they’ve permitted bolting yet banned electric drills. My final opinion on this rationale is yet unformed, but I will say: those who excel at this style of climbing are truly men. Unless they’re women. Now I’m confused about strong women and gay men and how they would fit in to that.
Friday had me traveling from my mom’s place in Washington to Joshua Tree for some winter radness. Climbing in the cold is rad. And cold it was – thirties and forties during the day. Sunny though, and little wind, so a well-insulated belayer can pull on crisp crystals and hopefully achieve some progress on otherwise greasy projects. Marcela was not projecting. She was cranking. “Yay, my first 5.10 trad lead”. Actually, it was a heady 5.10b onsight. The much touted Sidewinder (5.10b) got straight owned by one Brazilian crankmuffin late Saturday. So late in fact, that Justin and I had a mini epic getting down. Though I gotta say, jumping between pillars is less scary in the dark – at least then you can’t see how far down things are. Sunday, we got back to sport climbing business. The three of us pulled around on Desert Shield (5.13a). That’s a rad route. I would like to have made more progress on her, ideally gotten close to a redpoint, but she was having none of it. Those little crimps wore me down too fast and there’s barely any let up over her entire length. She’ll have to go in the project file for now.
Joshua Tree got groped by Jason, Marcela and me last weekend. Temps were a tad on the chilly side, around 40-ish, and the wind brought some ferociousness. Marcela’s tent got shredded the first night, but fortunately it snowed the next evening. My companions weren’t super psyched. I got on Desert Shield and a couple head pieces I want to lead but whose names I forgot. Desert Shield is great. I think I can redpoint that sucker pretty quick. It’s kinda crimpy but steep with long moves so a send should come together after a day or two, I would think.
How appropriate. Halloween and death slabs are a match made in Hell. Yeah, there’s plenty of trick-or-treating in Joshua Tree, stacks of routes to trick you in to running them out until you’re treated to a near death experience. It’s growing on me. I got on this 12d, La Cholla, and had seriously a bunch of fun. It’s a slab problem to a near vertical, maybe a touch more, face route. It’s well protected, got some awesome moves, and I think I’d like to project it. Not my typical fare, obviously, but an interesting climb no doubt.
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.
I spent the Memorial Day weekend at Joshua Tree. It was good. The weather was unseasonably cool, making conditions unusually comfortable. It’s been like 12 years since I was in the park. The group was a bunch of trad climbers… and me. I don’t trad climb. Ever. I think it’s stupid. But whatever, I gave it another chance. And had fun in the sense that walks on the beach are fun. The trip in general was super rad cuz everyone I met was cool and the park is great.
There’s some runout routes at J-Tree. As a friend put it:
“Bachar and Long are assholes.” – Gary
On one hand, it was nice of them to put up these routes. On the other hand, redpointing is way harder when I’m crying. Had my cell phone been with me and had there been reception, which it wasn’t and there isn’t, I probably would have called my mommy in the middle of one 5.9. Three bolts in 50 feet of hell slab is pushing it.