Joshua Tree: the name conjures up a Dr. Seuss tree, waving its arms in the desert; an album that speaks to the spirit; and a climbing area famed for hard granite and even harder bouldering.
It is my first sojourn into the desert, and the second stop on my journey. The boulders appear suddenly—the desert holds many surprises—and are surely the original inspiration for the town of Bedrock. The climbers main camping destination is Intersection Rock, but even arriving on a Thursday finds all the spots taken. Sam, Brie, and I drive on to Jumbo Rocks where we spend the next three days sampling the climbing at Jumbo Rocks, with its HUGE crystals waiting to shred your skin at the first opportunity, and at the nearby Hall of Horrors.
Run-out slab climbing At the Hall of Horrors Turning the roof
Climbing and preparing to climb; eating and preparing to eat; chatting, sleeping, reading, relating the past and planning the future—these are the activities which take up our days. The desert has a way of simplifying life, of stripping away all the unnecessary baggage of a complicated life and forcing a focus on the immediate needs of existence. Water—or rather the lack of—is immediately noticeable and ensuring an adequate supply becomes an important part of the day's plans.
The sand in this part of the desert is large-grained and we stay relatively clean. No sand blowing into the tents or griming up gear makes for happy campers and climbers! As in The Needles, the temperature is about 15 to 20° degrees cooler than average—75 instead of the normal 90° at this time of year, though the temperature rises by a little less than a degree per day. The climbing is awesome, as could only be expected of one of the premier climbing destinations in North America. There is run out slab, boulder problems ten yards from our tents, and clean cracks aplenty.
One day we hike out to The Big Horn Mating Grotto to hopefully find some climbs out of the sun. After a bit of scrambling, we enter into the grotto, and immediately the name becomes clear—relatively lush and surrounded by low cliffs on every side, this is clearly the place the Big Horn come to party! Though the sun beat us to all but one climb, the hike in to find one more desert surprise was a worthwhile outing.
People come and go, we hang out with several different groups of people and the time passes all too quickly. Sam and Brie leave one day to continue on to Las Vegas and a new chapter in their lives, and I continue on bouldering and climbing a few more days.
I've got a few days to kill until I meet up with a friend in San Diego, and I head to the local climbing store to check out guides of other nearby areas to see whether I stay in J-Tree or head to new grounds. By chance I strike up a conversation with a lone fellow traveler/climber just arriving, and the decision is made. I'll climb a few more days in J-Tree.
Ryan turns out to be a great climbing partner and new friend. He is in the process of setting up a non-profit clothing company, www.AmericanClothingExperiment.org, and as part of his mission is putting on a climbing demo day free to anyone who would like to come and learn a little. We ended up setting up some ropes for a group of climbers and spending the day with them. As a show of gratitude, they invited us to join them for their cookout. I can say without exaggeration these were some of the most genuinely nice people I have ever met. I have never heard “Thank you” so many times in one day. There were only words of encouragement and support among them. I would like to meet their parents one day to tell them what wonderful children they have, though I suspect they are already aware of that fact!
Joshua Tree is a place apart, and I know I will return...as it turns out, even sooner than expected!