We left Phoenix, AZ, on our was to Los Angeles to visit my Dad’s friend. He works on a cruise ship that was docking there at the end of a cruise from Mexico. Dad met him somewhere around India some 30yrs ago, they hitchhiked on a pineapple boat from Sri Lanka to the Maldives where they got blood tested before they could enter. After trying a surprise visit in Mexico earlier in the year, we were making an effort to visit him. It just so happened that Joshua Tree was on the way…

Joshua Tree with Mum and Dad

We camped just outside the Southern entrance, there is a dirt road here just before the park boundary. There must have been hundreds of people camped out along the road. After some bad experiences with inconsiderate motorhomes with loud generators, we made sure we stuck far from them.

In the morning we entered the park and breakfasted at the Cottonwood Visitor Center until it opened. We ended up doing the Mastodon Loop Trail starting at a small desert oasis and up over a small peak with an old mine just below the high point. The Salton Sea was visible on the horizon.
From here we headed to the higher portion of the park stopping at the Cactus Gardens. There were thousands of Cholla cacti here. The short loop through the garden was one of my highlights of the park!

We continued up into the Joshua Trees and beginning seeing the granite boulders that are the reason the park is popular with climbers. We decided to climb Ryan Mountain. I found the views looking North West from the saddle to be the best.

Looking North West from the saddle on the Ryan Mountain hike.

We then explored some of the boulders at the Hall of Horrors.

Climbing with VOC

Photo credit for the photos in this section: Jasmin Vianne Tordenro

Toe Jam 5.7 **
x Bearded Cabbage 10c ?
x Dandelion 5.10a ?
Dogleg 5.8 **
Double Cross 5.7 ****
Papa Woolsey 5.10b ?
West Face Overhang 5.7 *
The Flake 5.8 **

After a couple of canyons in the Gabriels, I returned to J Tree to meet up with some climbers from Canada. I hadn’t seen Nick in over a year and was looking forward to catching up with him again. I’d also hiked the Golden Hinde with Esther when on the island. In general everyone I’d met from the club has been a lot of fun, and I was looking forward to climbing with them. I headed out at something like 4am and eventually found their campsite at the Hidden Valley Campground. This is a climbers paradise with amazing climbing routes, literally at the back of each site. With the park shutdown camping was free, and the campsite(s) where packed!

We started off on Toe Jam. And then moved over to Cabbage head. No one made this one. The crux cut peoples hands up and we ended up moving around to Dandelion. I made it past the traverse but after trying a couple of times couldn’t get the next move. I think if had have tried it later I would have made it. The issue lay in the fact that I hadn’t really done any ‘crack climbing’ before. Crack climbing is literally climbing up cracks and the climber needs to insert their flat hand and then clench it (sometimes to a fist) literally using their hand as a cam. I wasn’t confident at first, but after practicing some cam placement with Jarrod (the ‘owner’ of the site we were sharing) I got some good practice in on Dogleg which proved to be a great way to end the day. The sunset from the top of the rock spectacular!

Nick leading Toe Jam
Me belaying Cathey on Cabbage Head – I didn’t climb this one.

Jesse joined our site and we got a fire going; cooking some food on the grill. Jasmin got some some fantastic night photos.

The next day Nick and I headed around to Double Cross which was super fun. I then joined Cathey and Es on a tricky 5.10b slab: Papa Woolsey. Esther led and then with Jesse spectating, I decided to give it a ‘crack’ (poor word choice?). Following Cathey’s smearing advice, I passed a bare section at the start and struggled up the climb. I was expecting to have to be lowered but actually made it to the top! Trust your shoes!

Me on Double Cross. Nick belaying from the top.

Jasmin then led on West Face Overhang. With a couple of traverses, she ended up deciding to do the climb as two pitches – the drag just ended up getting two high for the rope to feed.

I then went looking for the others who I thought were climbing the Flake, but headed back after I couldn’t find them there… but on the way I ran into Jarrod, Jack, Jesse and ??(dog). They happened to be heading to the Flake – what a coincidence! I asked if I could join them, and they agreed. Jack led, and upon reaching the top belayed us simultaneously on two separate ropes. This climb started with a chimney, a fun flake soon tapering off to a slab to finish. This climb was super fun and my favorite of the trip.

I took a photo of the others hands, I think a lot of the damage was from Cabbage Head.

When I headed back to camp the others had finished and had decided to try driving back to Canada in one push that night! It seemed crazy to me, but I guess they could drive in shifts. I would have liked to join them on their New Year trip to Phelix hut!

It was another windy night by the fire, I was starting to smell pretty smoky by this point. Again I regretting not bringing any pants!

Wonderland of Rocks

The next day, both Jesse and Marty decided to join my on a hiking/canyoning route I’d read about. The route follows Rattlesnake canyon and ends at Indian Cove with a short optional technical section. We parked at the Boy Scout TH and headed off into a horrific wind. Some hikers coming the other way assured us it would relent. Passing numerous turnoffs to climbing areas, we got a brief wind shadow around Outer Mongolia but it wasn’t really pleasant until we reached the point most people turn back at Willow Hole. This is where things got interesting.

After some walking down the wash, the stream was actually running featuring a small waterhole. As the boulders increased in size and number the watercourse actually disappeared blow the rocks in many places. You had to do micro route finding choosing how to climb, and jump over boulders. In places you could also descend into small talus caves. It was definitely more a canyon adventure now than a simple walk.

After a short lunch we realized we wouldn’t be able to do the full loop and were happy Jarrod had offered a potential lift back as he was having a rest day in town.
Passage became easier once we reached the point the watercourse drops perpendicularly into another drainage. We had climbed down so many boulders that you couldn’t even tell there was a junction – probably the reason it was marked with the only cairne we’d seen.

Mary on one of the down climbs.

Eventually we reached the technical portion that cut down through the polished granite. It was very short and the parking lot was visible. The first anchor was a couple of rocks chocked into a crack put the webbing was inaccessible. A chock stone further back was used instead. Taking my shoes off, I dropped down to a small ledge before the pool. From up close, the pool looked even deeper – maybe waist deep. After much umming and ahhing we decided to bail. I climbed back up and we walked around. It wasn’t long before we were at the parking lot, and it was a short wait before our chester arrived.