Tag Archives: Multi-pitch

Joshua Tree, March 2019 – Joshua Tree National Park

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Thursday through Sunday, 21-Mar to 24-Mar-2019

Ohh man, we’re going climbing!!!

It’s been ages since Sarah and I were able to go on a dedicated climbing trip together – with the New Year successfully rung in, vacation days saved up, and strength and health in our limbs, it was time to get back on the plane and get some rock under our feet.  I set up flights, rented a truck, and we set off toward Joshua Tree…

This post will be broken up into three sections: Joshua Tree itself, Climbing, and the superbloom.  We took a lot of pictures, so… trust me.  This is for the best.

 

Thursday:

We went full-power on this trip – I took a half day from work, and we got on the plane on Thursday afternoon.  The plan was to fly into LAX, rent a truck, and then drive to Hidden Valley campground in the middle of Joshua Tree, about three and a half hours away.  We’d sleep in the bed of the truck, and be able to get onto the rock early in the morning.

Of course, we flew into LAX.  Ideally we’d have gotten flights to Oakland or something, but… we were a bit too late for that, and all the seats had been booked.  So getting out of the airport and picking up our rental took a bit longer than planned.  Picking up the truck was an adventure all of its own too – We took a bus to a random parking lot, where we waited for an unmarked white van to pick us up and bring us to the rental agency.  Not… quite standard, but we’d been warned about it, so it wasn’t unexpected.

After we drove through a dimly lit industrial park and picked up our monstrously large vehicle, we needed dinner and groceries.  Groceries were found an Winco, and dinner was devoured in the bed of the truck outside of an In&Out burger.  Good start to the trip, if I may say so.

The trip did run into its first challenge as we drove into the National Park though – There was a big sign saying “All campgrounds full”.  Not quite what we were expecting to see late on a Thursday evening (actually early on Friday morning at that point, but who’s counting?)  Where did we end up sleeping?  In the parking lot of one of the back country trails, of course!

Not ideal, but hey – that was the whole point of having the truck, right?  And I’ll admit, it was definitely a comfortable bed after spending almost 4 hours driving…

 

 

Friday:

I woke up on Friday to see that Sarah was already awake.

In fact, she’d been awake for a while, stressfully keeping watch and waiting for the Rangers to show up and arrest us for sleeping in the parking lot.  Possible just shoot us, and save themselves the worry of arresting the two terrible outlaws.

Thankfully, we were able to stay one step ahead of the law, and didn’t get thrown in the pokey just yet.  The trick, you see, is to get to them before they can get to you.  As soon as I was mobile, we headed back to the entrance to pay our park pass and ask about where to camp.  It went really well – they requested that we pay when leaving, thanks to the long line of cars trying to get into the park.  And for camping, they suggested just going into the back country, and camping out in some of the camping-allowed sections of desert.

Simple and easy.  The ranger even told us where to find her favorite section of wildflowers!

 

By now, it was breakfast time.  So we made us up a rather intense amount of oatmeal, complete with blueberries and sausage, and got ourselves onto the rock.

The specific details of the climbs will be in a future post.  Suffice it to say that it was glorious.  And offwidthy.  Which was less glorious.  But still pretty great.

We climbed, we had lunch, we ate cheetos, and I was even told that my… peculiar… style of eating cheetos was (in a full-on Cali surfer accent) a “power move, brah”.  All because I was eating them with tongs and not by hand.  Eating them by hand gets dust all over my fingers, which is gross even when they’re not covered in climbing chalk.  Come on, people.  It’s just smart to use tongs.

 

Anyways, we climbed, we enjoyed, and then we made dinner in the back of the truck – searing up a few steaks, some asparagus, and some mac and cheese.  Yeah, you read that right.  We eat well on the road.  Gotta get those calories for the climbs!

Then, we packed up our gear and hiked into the desert.

We… probably could have packed a little better, as the pictures show, but you know what?  We were only walking in a mile, so we weren’t particularly concerned with the efficiency of our packs.  It was simple, beautiful, and a gorgeous night.  Instead of cinching our backpacks down, we spent the extra time stargazing and enjoying the Joshua trees in the dark.  They were flowering.

 

We laid out our sleeping pads under the desert moon.  It smelled like flowers and dust.  The air was cold.  It was perfect.

 

 

Saturday:

Our main goal for today was to climb, and then get to the camping area that the Ranger had told us about the morning before.  But first, we had to pack up from our desert nest and walk back to the parking lot – which was honestly a really nice task to start the day with.

The desert was vibrant.  I’ve mentioned “superbloom” before, but the backstory is that Joshua Tree had gotten a LOT of rain over the winter.  Maybe not a lot in comparison to Oregon, but it was enough to get the whole desert growing and flowering – and we could absolutely tell from where we were camping.  The whole area felt alive, and you could smell the new growth in the air.  Packing up and walking out was pleasant, and honestly a very enjoyable experience.

The climbing of the day was amazing, I’ll tell you all about it later, but suffice it to say that we both enjoyed it, and what’s more important: Sarah got her first trad lead in post-injury!  She crushed it!

 

After climbing, we stuffed everything into the truck and headed back out onto the open highway.  Our goal was Turkey Flats, the back country area that the ranger had mentioned to us.

On the way, we found flowers.

We stopped, and I am supremely thankful that we did – we thought we’d just seen a small patch, but instead we found ourselves in a massive riverbed full of wildflowers, right at the golden hour.  Again, I’ll talk more about it in a future post… but understand that this was probably the most beautiful place I’ve been.

 

Dinner was at the parking lot for Turkey Flats – we had chili dogs, and hung out with some college kids from LA who’d decided to come out to stargaze.  They were unbelievably cute in their naive, city-kid ways, and made Sarah and I feel like true dirtbag adventurers.

Then, we walked into the desert again, found a perfect little patch of dirt, laid out our bedrolls, and slept under the stars.

 

 

Sunday:

Sunday was our hiking day, the day for Sarah to track down the best photos of the Superbloom possible.  I’ll post all of the pictures in a future post (and trust me, there were more than a few pictures), but suffice it to say that we found some beauty out in the desert.

First, our campsite.  When we woke up and did a bit of exploring, we found that we’d camped in a perfect location – We were fully surrounded by thousands of tiny little white flowers popping out of the sand.  And, in the distance, there was a sand dune that had been scraped off the top of the mountains by a glacier in eons past…

So clearly our first order of business was to hike deeper into the desert and see the dune!

 

The sand dune itself wasn’t quite what you’re probably imagining – instead of a Sahara-Desert style thing, it was just a big long mound of sand with plants all over it.  Honestly, it was a bit hard to see, but looking close we could definitely notice the change in terrain as we explored farther inbound.

From there, we headed back to the truck, and then back again to the place we’d explored the previous day.  It definitely looked quite different in the morning light, but still – endless fields of wildflowers.  You can’t say no to that.

Then, Cholla patch.  Ocatillo gardens, and the Cottonwood ranger station.

The ranger station was the biggest event, to be honest, though the Cholla and Ocatillo were pretty cool too.  I mean, who doesn’t love spiky doom balls with spines that can pierce right through my heavy hiking boots?  Ohh, that’d be me.  It was impressive.  But hey – after a while with the tweezers I was able to pull the spines out, so… that’d good, right?

Anyways, Cottonwood.

 

We needed a nice and shaded place to repack the truck, get ourselves ready to fly, and divest ourselves of all the extra food and water that we’d brought with us.  Turns out, we packed WAY too much extra food and water… but you know what?  I absolutely prefer that option versus the alternative.  Next time, we’ll know how much to bring.  And this time, we were able to help out a push-start VW minibus full of hippies.

Yep, you read that right.  A VW minibus that had to be pushed to start.

Full of every archtype of hippie you could imagine.  It was awesome, watching them pile out of the van and guessing who we’d see next, or what type of tie-dye they’d have on.

 

After hooking the hippies up with some water and cheetos, we headed back to LA through the brutal traffic.  It honestly went pretty well, all things considered.  We made it back in time, hopped on a plane, and careened our way back to the wet Northwest, away from the beautiful desert rocks.

A Halloween without Halloween – also known as a climbing trip to Smith!

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Halloween – Saturday, 31-October-2015
Sarah and I had a few party invites on hand, but… well, none of them seemed quite as fun as going rock climbing down in Smith.
 
So, we went to Smith instead.
Sarah and I drove out to Smith early on Saturday morning – making the drive in her trusty truck.  The back was packed in with climbing gear and camping supplies, and the plan was to hit Moscow, followed up by some single pitch climbs… all dependent on how long the expected rain held off.  We made pretty good time; even though we left a little later than planned (don’t we always?) we still made it before noon, and were on the wall quickly.
Moscow 5.6 (Trad) – We’d done this one before, but I don’t mind re-doing route that I enjoyed.  And I had definitely enjoyed this one initially, so… why not, right?
Pitch 1 – per the last time we climbed this route, Pitch 1 is really fun, clean climbing.  However, this time I took the difficult variation, following a neat layback-crack up to the right, instead of following the traditional climbing line out left.  Definitely made it more difficult, but Sarah beared with my flailing, and I made it through the extra crux.
Pitch 2 – I actually built an anchor at the right spot!  Otherwise, exactly the same as the last time.
Pitch 3 – The longest pitch, and also the most interesting… but yeah, nothing new here.  Long, off-width, fun, super enjoyable.
Pitch 4 (the finish) – I still don’t really agree that this is 4th class… it’s maybe a V0 boulder problem to top off, but that problem is at the top of a ~250+ft cliff.  So we stayed roped in, and went left up a crack to a pair of bolts.
Walk off to the left, following a small path.
After climbing, we got back to the packs, ate some more burrito, and then headed back to the truck… the initial plan was to stay in town, relax, do some shopping, and maybe even visit a dog shelter in Bend on Sunday.  Instead, when we realized that we’d be leaving Smith ~ 6:15, we decided that a comfortable bed was more interesting than exploring Bend… and just headed back to Hood River.
We got some pizza for dinner at a place called “Base Camp pizza”… somehow there’s always a pizza place near climbing walls.  Makes sense – groups of hungry people, right?  We ate, played cornhole, and relaxed.
It wasn’t a simple drive back to Hood River, thanks to a torrential downpour that started around 7:45, but it wasn’t bad either.  Sarah and I kept each other awake for the time, talking and giggling and imaginging our next adventures… but honestly mostly wishing that it wasn’t raining, so that we could have stayed in town and climbed on Sunday as well.
Ce la vie.

Climbing at Cathedral, NUComers 2013

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Saturday, 12-Oct-2013

So on Saturday, Daniel and I left the Loj late.

This isn’t that strange for us, and it was a quite nice way to start the day… a day that wasn’t looking particularly pleasant, if we’re being honest.  See, the whole weekend was blanketed in clouds and a low hanging fog that just coated everything in a thin mist of water.  Not a bad thing for hiking, but for climbing?  Yeah.  Not so ideal.

But we headed to the cars regardless, jumped in the Mustang, and headed toward North Conway to meet up with Cathedral, a cliff face that I’ve grown to know and love.

Our target was a climb called Funhouse, which would be two pitches to what’s called the “Refuse Ledge”, which would then lead to two pitches of climbing called Upper Refuse, after which we’d summit out on a short 45ft climb.  Sounds fun, and we stuck with it nearly exactly… with a few minor exceptions.

  • Pitch 1 = Funhouse – 5.7, 150ft – Daniel took the first lead, and it was quite fun.  I had more trouble than I’d like to admit though… Today was definitely a “high gravity day”, meaning that every move felt harder than it should.  My lack of sleep may have been it, but I’m kind of convinced that it was the thin mist cloying around the cliff.
  • Pitch 2 = Pooh – 5.8, 170ft – I took the lead here, and I regretted it.  We were going to do pitch 2 of Funhouse, but this was simpler to get to, and the line was quite obvious.  And it was very fun, but much harder than I thought it would be.  I went up assuming that my guidebook was right with a 5.7… but I learned recently that it’s since been re-graded as a 5.8.  Oops.  Still.  I finished, and enjoyed myself once I got into the flow of it.
  • Pitch 3 = Upper Refuse – 5.3, 100ft??? – Daniel took the lead on this strange setup… it’s a three pitch route, but Daniel and I only did it in two.  Because three pitches to do 200’ would be silly.  So ratings… not so sure about it.  Either way – seconding was quite fun, and this was a very enjoyable hand-crack system going nearly straight upward.  Well… except for the terrifyingly exposed face / slab move.  Which was done in the mist.  So friction wouldn’t work.  Yeah.  I’m glad Daniel led.
  • Pitch 4 = Upper Refuse – 5.5, 100ft??? – I took the final leg here, and again slightly regretted it.  This time there were a few different options on routes to take, and I ended up floundering between the two for nearly 20min before I finally just sacked up and made the moves.  From there it was nice and easy… until the last slab move of course.  Notice a pattern here?
  • Summit pitch = ??? – 5.2, 45ft – Daniel led this last mini-pitch, and it was a fun and simple way to get to the observation area of Cathedral.

Once we were at the summit we chatted with a few tourists (who of course thought we were the bee’s knees and/or insane), and relaxed with the semi-interesting view of the clouds coming down past the presidential range.  It was nice, and relaxing, and a good reward for the climbing we’d just busted out.

From here we walked down to the access road and started the weary trudge back to where we’d left our gear at the base of the cliff.  On the walk we ran into two cars though – one minivan where the father asked us to explain our gear to his sons, and one tiny accord who offered us a ride back down to our car.  We took them both up on their offers, and the walk down was made nearly as enjoyable as the climb up.

 

Ohh!  And Daniel found a small pink shovel.  That is important to note.