So, last week I was scheduled to be in San Francisco on Monday, and LA on Friday, and then at a conference in NY Tuesday - Thursday. After thinking about what FUN two one-day trips to the west coast in one week would be, I modified the plan, and decided to stay out on the West Coast for the week. I carved out two days off, and went dirt biking one day, and climbing in Joshua Tree the other.
The weather in Joshua Tree on Thursday was beyond perfect! 80 degrees in the sun, so perfectly comfortable in either the sun or the shade. Since I made the decision very last minute to go, I hired a guide - Bob Gaines, who runs Vertical Adventure out there. Bob and I met at 8am at Intersection Rock, and since I didn't have a tick list in mind, and had only climbed once before at J-Tree, I basically asked him to pick some of the classic routes between 5.8 and 5.10 and give me a tour!
We started out on a couple of slab climbs near the Hidden Valley Campground to get me used to the rock at J-Tree: Swing Low (5.7), and R.A.F. (5.9+) which is just to the left of it. As the day was pretty cool it was unreal what my feet actually stuck to on the rock! Little dime width edges become great holds.
Since I wanted to do some climbs that were representative of the area, we then decided to do some hand cracks. We hiked over to the "real" hidden Valley and Bob led up Sail Away, a 5 star classic (5.8). Loved it! Really nice rock, terrific view at the top. We also did Wild Wind, which is a 5.9 just to the right of Sail Away - also very nice.
I wanted to try a 5.10, so we walked around to another formation and did Ball Bearing (5.10a). I managed to make it up clean, which was a bit of a pleasant surprise - I haven't been climbing for several months because of a badly sprained thumb (dirt biking tumble). It was an absolutely beautiful climb, I highly recommend.
I wanted to do something a little more moderate after that, so we headed back over towards intersection rock, and Bob led up The Flue - really interesting climb - much trickier than it looked like from the ground. It basically was a "groove" up the rock at a 60% angle right - so you keep your hands in the groove with your feet smearing on the rock below as you traverse up and right. Hard for a 5.8.
We finished up on a nice face climb (5.10a, bolted) called Blind Ambition. It went up through a vertical face with a lot of patina, so although it was pretty steep there were decent features for edging. Crux move was tricky for me and I came off a couple of times before finally getting it!
Logistics: I stayed overnight at the High Desert Motel in the town of Joshua Tree, which was decent for the rate I paid - $65 per night. There's not much in the town, but Yucca Valley, 15 miles west, is much more developed and there are several hotels/restaurants there. Crossroads Deli in Joshua Tree (just outside the West entrance) has a great, inexpensive breakfast and you can order sandwiches to go for lunch in the park.
At any rate, a top-notch day of climbing. I highly recommend Bob as a guide if you're ever out there without a partner!
It's hard to be brave when you're a chicken.