Tag Archives: rock climbing

Joshua Tree, March 2019 – Rock climbing

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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.

 

Just a quick listing of the routes that we climbed on Friday and Saturday, along with a few dozen pictures from the ascents!  We stuck to the fairly easy routes, though next time I think we’ll start into some of the slightly harder lines.  Climbs in Joshua tree aren’t easy – they’re not super hard, but they’re quite different from what we’ve gotten used to here in Oregon.

The rock in Joshua Tree is amazing granite, high friction that allows for a lot more delicate friction movement.  Cracks and friction are just a bit different than the small nubbins and ledges that we’ve got here in the PNW, so it definitely took some getting used to.  And some bleeding… off-width climbs (cracks that are too big to jam your hand in, but too small to shove your whole body into) are rough on the skin.

 

Day 1, Friday

  • SeCoVar (SouthEast COrner VARiant) – 5.5, Trad, 2.5-pitches, Ben leads – This was excellent, and a really pleasant start into Joshua Tree climbing.  A little wandering, a little off-width, and a lot fun.  It even has a tunnel half-way through that you have to walk through!
  • Mike’s Books – 5.6, Trad, 2 pitches, Ben leads – I did the direct start of this, which is a 5.8!  But I also pulled on gear the whole way because it was hard, so… not 5.8.  This was an excellent route, though the top was pretty hefty on lead.  We both loved it.

 

Day 2, Saturday

  • Beginner’s Three – 5.3, Trad, 1 pitch, Sarah and Ben both lead! – Sarah’s first outdoor trad lead post-injury!  This was excellent and pleasant, and Sarah crushed it!
  • Bat Crack – 5.5, Trad, 2 pitches, Ben leads – A very fun route that I remembered from the last time I was in Joshua Tree.  This time I took a variant to the first pitch though, climbing the bottom of “Billabong”, a 5.10 route that has a super-fun and easy start.
  • The Bong – 5.4, Trad, 1 pitch, Ben leads – This route was a ways away from all our other climbing, which is why we made a point to check it out.  Seeing another side of the rock formation was great, and this was a truly spectacular crack to cruise up.

 

 

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.

From 2018 into 2019 – An Australian Adventure: The Blue Mountains, and the end of the trip

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Friday and Saturday, 04-Jan & 05-Jan-2019

As is tradition, Sarah and I spent Christmas and New Years on an international adventure of epic proportions.  This year, the Lydecker clan (including myself and Henry’s girlfriend Leah) met up in the land down under, the magical land of Australia…

 

This last adventure was a bit focused on Sarah and I – You see, we like rock climbing.  It’s a bit of a hobby of ours, if you hadn’t heard, and when packing for our trip we’d included a few pieces of climbing gear… just in case we could escape the city and get a bit of climbing in.

Also please note, and give praise for the fact that… These climbs were Sarah’s first outdoor rock climbs since injuring her leg!!!  Major milestone to recovery!!!

In fact, that was part of the plan – Pack up a car, drive into the Blues, and get ourselves on some rocks.

So that’s what happened.  Please be warned – this section will have some rather specific details about the routes that we did.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy the extreme specifics.

 

Friday, 04-Jan

Let me start by saying that, while inflatable mattresses are excellent… They can have some downsides.  Such as when they pop in the middle of the night. Then we end up escaping and sleeping on the couch.

But that’s A-Okay, because then, once we wake up… well, then we pack up and get on the road!  Roadtrip with Henry and Leah!!!

There was some stress with fitting all the gear into the car, but thankfully success was had, and toward the Blue Mountains we went. The drive was pretty long, but we made it out without too much difficulty. Then Henry and Leah dropped us off, headed out into town, and Sarah and I descended into Blue Mountains climbing…

Even though the day was hot and the sun was bright, we were out of doors, and next to some beautiful rock.  It was good, and we got more than a few routes in, as shown below.  All of them were sport, with the exception of the two top-rope routes, due to the fact that we didn’t bring any trad gear along with us.  Trad is fun… but it’s also heavy.  Which is no bueno for international travel, unfortunately.

  • Captain Pugwash, Lead, 5.6 (13)
  • Three Sheets to the Wind, Lead, 5.5 (11)
  • Roger the Cabin Boy, Lead, 5.3 (9)
  • Until Death do us Part, Lead, 5.5 (12)
  • Manana, Top Rope, 5.7 (14)
  • Go Back to Switzerland, Lead, 5.5 (11)
  • I Only Eat Plankton, Top Rope, 5.8 (17)

The climbing itself was lovely, while being quite different from the States.  The rock was sandstone, and surprisingly weak – Instead of the hard sandstone that I’ve climbed before this almost felt like sand… it was gritty, but not in the same way worn granite is.

As an added challenge, not every “sport” route was open to us.  While “Sport” in the USA means that there are bolts and hangers for us to clip into, in Australia some of the sport routes simply have the bolts – you have to bring the hangers along with you.  Well, we didn’t have hangers.  So, we trusted our guidebooks, and stuck to the routes that came complete with hangers.

Also, another challenge: Australian summer.  It was hot.  Hot enough that we took a nap halfway through the day, in the shade.  We had more than enough water with us, but… yeah.  Hot sun is hot.

After climbing, we hiked all the way out to link up with Henry and Leah… in order to hike back in to watch the thunderstorms roll in from a gorgeous viewpoint above the valley.

After re-ascending (in the rain, this time… In my defense, it was Henry who said “The rain would be refreshing”, not me!) we packed into the car and got into town for dinner!

Since it was full though, we went to the pub first. Beer, calamari, garlic bread, and more beer was followed by going back to the restaurant, having a delicious pizza, and then heading to the AirBnB for some well-earned showers and some deep, deep sleep.

 

Saturday, 05-Jan

Another early morning… but that’s fairly critical when the weather hits the high 90s by noon.  And while the day before had been amazing… it had been a bit toasty, and our goal today was to get our climbing in early so that we could get back to Sydney before it got too late.

We got going, hit a cafe for some pies and coffee, and got dropped off at the trailhead again, lickity split.

Sarah and I descended in, after Henry and Leah headed out, choosing to walk along the cliff base in order to maximize our “gawking like fresh gym gumbies” time. We saw some of the routes that we’d planned on climbing mobbed by multiple groups, and so chose to keep wandering on.

As we walked, we ended up linking up with two other tourists who were heading to the same slab we were, so enjoyed some chatting / commiseration time as we walked – It was neat, chatting with another out-of-country couple who was in a similar boat to us.  They lived in China, but were visiting family in Sydney and had driven out for a few days of climbing before flying back home.  No matter where we live in the world, there’ll always be other people like us, I guess.

Anyways then we dove into the climbing!  Similar to the day before… but a little different.  These routes were more popular, and so weren’t quite as gritty as the previous ones.  They weren’t nearly as polished as climbs back in the States, but you could tell that they’d been loved.

  • Boatbuilding for Clancy, Lead, 5.7 (15)
  • Back to Back, Top Rope, 5.7 (14)
  • The Cat that Fought Back, Lead, 5.7 (14)
  • Statistical Scare Tactics, 5.10c, (20)

Quote of the day, “So the Beta for this is climb up to the crux, get tired, climb down, have a rest, then climb back up and make the move”

After burning out of Statistical Scare Tactics we hiked out via the direct-route, taking a set of fixed lines and rebar steps up the cliff side to the top. Then linked up with Henry and Leah (didn’t climb back down again, thankfully), and made the long drive back to Sydney.

Stopped at a Lebanese chicken place on the way in Palmatta, that had AMAZING chargrilled chicken, then got home to pack, relax, and chill. We didn’t quite stay in the house, though – decided to take a quick adventure down to one of the bars nearby – The Oaks! It was fun, getting a chance to just relax and have a drink in an old-school English-style pub, in the land down under. An excellent send off, from an excellent trip.