Well we have been busy since my last post and I haven’t had any free internet access up until now. So I am going to try to cover all we have done since Wednesday.
After packing up the car and having breakfast we hit the road and headed east out of Pasadena en route to Joshua Tree National Park. We made a quick stop at Trader Joes to stock up on provisions and made a short detour through Palms Springs before finally arriving in the town of Joshua Tree. In town we got our National Park Pass and rented some climbing gear. It was around 2:00 so we decided we where going to boulder for the rest of the day. For those of you unfamiliar with bouldering, it is a form of climbing in which you focus on really hard moves relatively close to the ground (up to 25′) while using no fall protection other than a 5″ thick foam pad placed under the climber on the ground.
We had a great time and really beat our selves up as the stone is a really abrasive form of granite with amazing friction properties. We finished off the day by scrambling up a nearby rock formation to watch the sunset over the mountains.
We had a really rough night in a campground outside the park (everything was full in the park), we got next to no sleep due to spring breakers partying until 2am and a moon so bright that it made it feel like a car was parked with its head lights on outside the tent all night. But the next morning we made breakfast, packed up camp and headed back to J Tree for a day of climbing, bouldering and hiking. We started off on a rock climbing route called Snitchen Time. This was only my second lead of the season and was not only close to my leading limit but was a totally different type of climbing than we have out east so needless to say things did not go well at first. I will attempt to give anyone not familiar with climbing a brief lesson as you will likely be reading quite a bit about it here in the next couple of weeks. First off when we climb some one has to get to the top of the climb and that person is the leader (usually me). We tie into the rope and start to climb the route placing pieces of protection (small aluminum chocks and camming devices) in cracks and restrictions in the rock. On some routes where there are no cracks you might find preplaced bolts to tie into as you go. The other person belays you from below (feeds out rope through a device called a belay plate and will hold the rope in case of a fall). You place gear at 5-15′ intervals or sometimes more if there is nothing available to protect you in case of a fall. But there is a catch to leading you must not only find appropriate places to place gear and make sure they will hold a tremendous shock load but you must always remember that if you where to fall you are going to fall more than twice the distance you are above your last piece of protection. This fall is usually not fatal but is not something that would be considered pleasant and that is why leading is sometimes refered to as the sharp end. So anyway when you get to the top of the climb you build an anchor and you belay your partner up to your position. This person, the second, is refered to as being on top rope as the rope comes down to them from the top and therefore in case of a fall only falls the distance of the available stretch in the rope. Top roping is a very secure and safe way to climb and on occasion when you can access the top of a cliff by trail you can set up the rope this way and have fun pitching yourself at climbs way beyond your ability and fall all day without fear of injury. Well if the climb is longer than the length of the rope we use, usually 200′, we will climb until we can get to a good anchor position and then bring up the second and begin climbing again repeating this leapfrog process until we reach the top. So that should be enough information to get everyone started so go grab some rope and some bits of aluminum and get climbing. No seriously go try it, it is really one of the most rewarding and amazing things I have ever done but please find someone competent to take you out if you are really interested. So anyway back to Snitchen Time. I started up the climb and clipped the first bolt at 20′ and started to make my way up about 10′ past it until the rock appeared to have run out of any holds. I was a little bit freaked out so I delicately climbed back down to the bolt and lowered to the ground. I then decided that we could try toproping the climb, so the plan was to scramble to the top of the climb by approaching from the back of the formation. This seemed like a great idea until I got to the top of the climb and set up an anchor only to realize that the rope ended 20′ above the ground. So after rappelling down I would up again having to down climb to the base of the route. Well after some deliberation and getting my head together I decided to give it another attempt on lead. So I tied in and began to climb. When I got to the section with what I would call no holds I began to friction climb. This type of climbing relies completely on the friction between your hands and your shoes and the rock as opposed to small edges and cracks, this feels very insecure to say the least and requires a cool head and delicate touch. There was another 15′ of climbing like this before the next bolt followed by what was close to 30 more feet before the third and final bolt from where the terrain eased but continued on unprotected terrain for another 70′ to the anchor. It was absolutely incredible to make it to the top on such a classic route in such a beautiful place and especially because the route looked so improbable from below.
We we followed up this route by climbing a classic on the Cyclops formation called the Eye which goes up this dark gully in the rock for 130′ before finishing up in a cool little cave.
We finished off our climbing in Joshua Tree by bouldering for a little while and then hiking to the top of a really cool peak in the center of the park called Ryan Mountain.
We finished the day off by driving up to Keys View to watch the sunset before heading into town for some cheap Mexican food and then back to the campground for what turned out to be a much better nights sleep.
We spent the morning of Palm Sunday hiking to an Oasis called 49 Palms. It was way back in this little valley and provided a really cool place to hang out in the shade away from the intense desert sun.
After this we drove to loop road through the park before we started to head off to Vegas. The drive to Nevada was spectacular and completely unexpected. We drove through the Mojave desert on pin straight roads passing salt flats and soaring jagged peaks. We stopped for a while and hiked around and area called Kelso Dunes before continuing on to Sin City.
We got to our hotel, the Stratosphere and got cleaned up and planned on heading out for the evening but before we knew it we where both asleep for what would turned out to be a very needed nights rest.
So today we got up and had an all american breakfast at IHOP and then did a little gambling. We spent a whole $4 on the slots and I was up $10 at one point before losing it all. We then went out to Red Rocks Canyon and spent the day climbing on some really cool routes on limestone cliffs followed by scrambling up one of the rock formations around sunset.
We are headed back to the hotel and we will see if we can do a little better tonight and stay up past 10:30PM. We are still unsure where we are going tomorrow so I guess it will be a surprise the next time I post.