Note: all photos courtesy of Seth Iverson (unless otherwise noted)
Fall of 2011. It was a whirlwind. Traveling, climbing, getting married… all while flipping back and forth from an overnight schedule to a ‘normal’ schedule to accommodate everything (and thereby feeling jet-lagged a good portion of the time). It was all fantastic, but it took its toll on me. When it was time to head to Joshua Tree I was so exhausted and overwhelmed that I almost decided to eat the cost of the plane ticket and stay home.
Luckily for me, Seth swooped in and saved the day! He took over, dealt with all of the packing, and got me to the airport. By the time we landed at LAX, I was feeling much better. We had a great time, and plans were immediately made to return next year.
It was a short weekend for us, flying out Friday and heading back into the city on Monday. In that short time, though, we got to spend time with some great people, do a bit of climbing, and experience the beautiful high desert of California’s Joshua Tree National Park.
This was my first time in Joshua Tree, and Seth’s as well. Driving into the park, we entered into a landscape straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. The desert was filled with joshua trees, pom-poms pointed at the sky, and giant rock piles randomly set on the desert floor. I loved the absurdity and strange beauty of it.
We woke up Saturday morning to clouds and rain. It was drizzling on and off, so we took a chance on the weather and headed out to Atlantis Wall to see if there was any dry rock. There was a group there, on top of the rock formation, with ropes set up along the wall, doing some sort of training. Us yelling from the base of the wall to them up top resulted in a bit of miscommunication. Eileen explained that we were a group from Twitter. A moment passed, and then we heard “You guys OWN Twitter?!?”
Leo put up a route on the left end of the wall. Minotaur (5.7). The rock was damp and the rain was threatening once again. A few of us took a turn on it, but we soon surrendered to the rain and swapped climbing for hiking.
We hiked back into Wonderland for a bit and scoped out some routes while we were there. Wonderland is a maze of rock canyons. It’s beautiful back there, but there’s the potential for getting lost, as it all looks pretty similar. We passed the Astro Dome rocks, which I was very drawn to. I looked at the guidebook later, and it looks like Breakfast of Champions may be within my reach someday. I would love to get on that rock!
Sunday morning, we woke up to the sun burning off the morning fog, and clear skies above. There was much rejoicing!
First stop, Headstone Rock. It was a five minute hike from Ryan campground and a short scramble up to the base of the climb. Leo and Josh promptly led Southwest Corner (5.6) and Cryptic (5.8). Southwest Corner was a great route. Really exposed. Even though I was on toprope it got my heart pumping quite a bit! I’ve heard it called “the scariest 5.6 you’ll ever climb,” but I’ll need to climb some more stuff before I can confirm whether or not that’s true. The exposure of SW Corner provided some great photo ops.
Next stop, Hall of Horrors, where we met up with the rest of the group.
We were in a wide corridor of sorts, between two rock pile walls, climbing on either side of us. The ends were open, looking out on the desert, joshua trees dotting the landscape, mountains in the distance. I remember sitting on a warm, sunny rock, eating my lunch, and on the rock around me were my new friends; climbing, laughing, shouting back and forth to one another. I sat there as an observer, soaking it all in, and felt a profound sense of peace and joy. This was a magical place.
I sat there for a while, and then headed over to join folks on Nurn’s Romp (5.8). I had been avoiding it because I don’t have a lot of crack-climbing experience, and my time on rock has been limited compared to my California counterparts. A bit of self-consciousness was keeping me from trying. Luckily, the lovely Tracey (whom I met at the Chicks Climbing clinic last year), gave me the shove I needed and got me over there.
It was a fun route. My favorite of the weekend, along with the Headstone climb. I was very glad to be on top rope, as my technique left a bit to be desired. Friction movements started the route, followed by a short section of dihedral before a chance to practice some basic crack technique near the top of the route. It wasn’t clean and it wasn’t pretty, but I climbed it and it was a lot of fun.
Monday morning, Seth and I got up early and headed over to Ryan Mountain to do the summit hike. It was a great way to start the day. The hike itself was relatively easy. Approximately 3 miles round trip, with 1,075 ft of elevation gain. We were the first people on it that morning, so we got the summit all to ourselves. It was very windy at the top, and quite chilly, but the views of the park were spectacular.
We packed up our things and headed back into LA to finish out our trip.
I would have loved to stay an extra two or three days and really get a sense of the climbing, get a chance to get used to the rock, etc. But what I did do, I really enjoyed. As with the Yosemite Tweetup last year, I found that the people really made the trip. This is a group of passionate, enthusiastic people, and I felt comfortable with them almost immediately. Through the Twitter climbing community, I’ve met some really wonderful folks who have taken me in and embraced me as part of the group. Last year I climbed in Yosemite, Joshua Tree, and Devils Lake, all because of the conversations and connections I’ve made through Twitter.
On the way out of the park I picked up a new guidebook at Nomad Ventures. I’m making a list of routes for next year’s to-do list. I can not wait to go back!
Much, much, MUCH thanks to @Rockgrrl for putting together this Tweetup. Thank you!!!