• Gumby vs. The Inquisition, bouldering in Joshua Tree National Park

    The Climbing Life Guides recently made a fun video of Nelson Day sending The Inquisition, a V6 inverted off width bouldering problem, in Joshua Tree National Park. The video is here on youtube:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIZTUINUs7Y

     

    The video stars: Nelson as Gumby, Phu Pham as Pokey, Jan Tarculas as Shakin Bacon, the Twerking Pig, and Elizabeth Wyatt as Evil Oscar, the hotdog.

    Enjoy!

  • What’s new in Rock climbing in Joshua Tree with The Climbing Life

    What’s new this Joshua Tree season with The Climbing Life Guides?

    up and over rock climbing adventure

    This year, The Climbing Life Guides is offering Up and Over type adventures with our multi-pitch trained rock climbing guides. Yes, all of our guides are trained and ready for multi-pitch and short roping/scrambling type adventures!  These adventures are perfect for those interested in a more extreme version of rock scrambling in Joshua Tree National Park.

    Rock scrambling in Joshua Tree

    What exactly is scrambling? It doesn’t involve eggs… it is a more vertical form of climbing up formations, and extremely fun! Participants can be guided up two at a time on the same rope. This ensures that participants are kept safe and able to “get back down” after getting to the top of a radical Joshua Tree formation!

    Rappelling during a scramble session in Joshua Tree National Park

    After summiting a sweet formation, participants can have the option of being belayed on a rappel off of the summit or down climbing with some rope tension/assistance safely back to the bottom of the formation.

    So come check out Joshua Tree’s awesome rock formations with one of our incredible and experienced guides! Scrambling up these formations is absolutely the best way to see a lot of the park, and we are all ready for you to come and have an awesome day with us.

  • New Year’s Intentions Rock and Yoga Joshua Tree Retreat Celebration

    Join The Climbing Life Guides and Wonder Wellness Yoga this New Year’s eve to set New Year’s intentions, practice yoga on a mat out in the beautiful wilderness of Joshua Tree (led by Wonder Wellness’s very own beloved Cassandra Davis), and rock climb (all guiding and equipment provided by The Climbing Life Guides). A raw vegan snack lunch, cacao and tea ceremony will finish off the day. Don’t miss this awesome New Year’s Eve celebration in Joshua Tree!

    WonderWellness Yoga's Cassandra Davis

    WonderWellness Yoga’s Cassandra Davis

    Nelson Day

    Nelson Day

    The Climbing Life Guides

    WonderWellness Yoga

    WonderWellness Yoga

  • AMGA Rock Guide Exam for Nelson Day

    The Rock Guide Exam is the last and most difficult exam in the AMGA rock program. It also signifies a greatly desired standard in the rock guiding industry. My aspirations and motivations in taking this exam were both personal and professional.

    Instructor Vince Anderson on day 4 of the Rock Guide Exam

    Instructor Vince Anderson belaying on day 4 of the Rock Guide Exam

    On a professional level, the exam was an excellent source of feedback and direct exposure to excellent guidance instruction via the AMGA Instructor team. I am continually impressed with the high level of understanding and ability among the members of the instructor team, and this exam offered 5 long days of full exposure to the instructor team’s trained eye. All this led to loads of helpful feedback from the team including “things done right” and “things to be improved on”. A great deal of emphasis was placed on the end of day debrief. I found these debrief sessions to be of excellent value for professional development. Some advice I received included: placing a higher emphasis on guiding clients rather than making a beautiful anchor station; giving clients the best real estate at anchors during climbing and rappelling; discussions on the risk management hierarchy when going down from a route; having clients more involved in chores to be done during transitions; discussions on short roping anchoring (single point anchors vs. two piece anchors); and focusing on client comfort and care (getting clients down from a climb as quickly as possible; focus on lowering when possible). All of this advice was provided in a very engaging manner and introduced as discussions during debrief sessions.

    summit of texas flower tower on day 4 rock guide exam

    summit of texas flower tower on day 4 rock guide exam

    As far as personal development, I hoped to learn more tips, tricks, and methods to provide clients and guides working with me a larger pool of tools to draw from. The AMGA Instructor team didn’t fail to bring these to the table as usual. However, as the exam progressed, I quickly found a new personal area of development and growth opportunity. The critical nature of the test, high expectations of personal performance generated by my perfectionist type personality, and performance anxiety in general added a lot of stress to my test environment. This quickly became the crux of the exam for me. When I mentioned the stress to the instructor team, the feedback was quite helpful. Slow down to smooth out movements when setting up technical systems. My tendency is to rush on a long climbing day, and combined with nervousness, this makes for awkward movement and inefficient use of resources (ignoring clients or their ability to assist with transitions). Avoid tunnel vision during approaches and descents (keep soft eyes focus and awareness of surroundings high), and try to guide in areas I haven’t guided in before to develop on-sight guiding abilities. I’ve noticed a tendency in guiding is to return with clients again and again to areas that worked well in the past. While this ensures a good experience for clients, it doesn’t provide guiding challenges to help me develop my abilities further, and it doesn’t expand my knowledge of the area or options for crowded days. These guiding challenges are experiences that play a major role in personal development outside of the AMGA classroom or exam environment. I am greatly appreciative to the AMGA for their instruction and to Osprey for sponsoring this excellent exam and learning opportunity! Thank you! I’m super excited to have passed this rock guide exam, and excited about my future in guiding! I can now say I am the highest certified guide in all of Joshua Tree!

    Instructor Rob Hess following on day 1 of rock guide exam

    Instructor Rob Hess following on day 1 of rock guide exam

  • Climbing Mt. Conness Southwest Face (Harding Route) car-to-car

    August 30, 2016. The alarm went off at 3:30 AM. Incredibly, I had already been awake for the last 20 minutes; I suppose the anticipation of the alarm in conjunction with an epic day ahead woke me up. I pulled on my R1 hoody, Prana stretch pants, beanie, and socks, rolled over to bid Cass farewell and trekked over to Tyler’s sleeper. He already had the coffee going. Epic.

    After our hasty breakfast (Schatz’s coffee cake, eggs and coffee), we drove over to the Saddle Lake’s campground and started our long long day.

    We decided to go car to car on the Southwest Face (Harding Route) to avoid all the hassle of packing tent, sleeping bag, food, etc. over the cross country trek. We also considered it “better style” to complete the route car-to-car. Our rack consisted of a double set of aliens from blue through red, a yellow, red and green c3, a set of RP’s, a set of nuts, yellow and orange metolius TCU’s, a #6 Wild Country cam, a blue Big Bro, 16 slings and a 60m rope. For those who haven’t done the route, the approach hike puts you close to the summit of Mt. Conness, after which you scramble down steep loose scree to the base of the route, climb the route to the top of the mountain, and then scramble slightly down from the summit back to the trail in. We decided to hike in with our larger more comfortable packs, ditch them at the descent notch, and carry our summit packs the rest of the day until we arrived back at the notch.

    Our hike began at around 4:30 AM by headlamp; nice and cold. Neither of us had done the approach previously, and on-sighting the approach by headlamp was a bit challenging. After cruising through the campsite, we followed the road until there was an option to cross the stream. We passed the Carnegie Institute (dilapidated old building) and continued on the nice hard beaten trail for around a mile. We started to get anxious with the beta of “leaving the trail to cut cross country” as described in the Supertopo approach beta. As I was scanning the sides of the trail for any signs of a climber trail, a pair of eyes glowed back at me from about 150 feet away. Eyes that were about 6″ apart and about 3 feet off of the ground. I pointed them out to Tyler, who confirmed “some kind of large cat”. I yelled a growly yell at the eyes and watched them close and move away. This was quite the adventurous start to our epic day, and we both continued to scan the landscape with our headlamps and look nervously behind us on the trail for the next mile. Mountain lions or cougars are serious animals, and if you end up in a fight with one, you are literally fighting for your life! We were quite thankful to have strength and intimidation in numbers.

    After a while, we found a couple cairns and decided that the cross country trek was at hand. We scanned the dark silhouette of the mountain against the black skyline to confirm the shape of a saddle as shown in a picture from the Supertopo guide book. We headed uphill, scrambling cross country while looking for a light trail. After a quarter mile, we found a trail and continued on more easily. By this time, twilight was bringing in just enough light for us to really start identifying our surroundings, and we were excited to find that we had nailed our approach and were on the right path. We scrambled uphill and through the described notch which consisted of a water run off area.

    Tyler on the approach hike in

    Tyler on the approach hike in

    After we arrived at the top of the notch, we trekked across a quite dry meadow for about a quarter mile before heading steeply uphill, following spaghetti trails and aiming for a ridge line silhouetted against the skyline. Once we neared the ridge, we headed climber’s left for a mile, eventually arriving on a large sandy and rocky plateau. We could now see Mt. Conness looming in the distance, and we hiked towards the summit for a while. At last, we arrived at a concrete rock stack statue. We should have stashed our larger carry backpacks here and donned our summit packs, but instead we carried our larger packs all the way to the descent notch, about 100 yards to skier’s left and downhill from here. A couple large cairns marked the decent notch. For those who have not done this descent on the approach, it is quite important to find the correct descent notch. Most of the descent notches cliff out in steep terrain; an uncomfortable ending to an unhappy “oops” situation. Fortunately I had done this descent once before and remembered the approximate location of the correct descent notch. We ditched our carrying packs and donned our summit packs with our water, food, and alpine clothing and other essentials. We arrived at the base of the route at around 8:30 AM and started climbing around 9. The route was still in the shade, but the temperatures were tolerable.

    looking up at pitch 1

    looking up at pitch 1

    We decided I should lead the first pitch, Tyler would lead the technical crux second pitch (5.10c), and I would lead the off width Harding slot pitch. Other than that, the rest of the pitches would “fall as they may”.

    Tyler coming up Pitch 1

    Tyler coming up Pitch 1

    The first pitch was quite dry for us except for a 20 foot section well up the route. This section was quite easy and the wetness did not prove to add any difficulty. I could imagine that earlier in the season the situation could have been quite different. The first pitch was rated 5.9, and it proved to have two sections of rather sustained 5.9 with an easier section in between. Protection was adequate and soon the 100 foot pitch was over.

    Tyler onsighting pitch 2

    Tyler onsighting pitch 2

    Tyler led off on the second pitch. A 5.10a cross-over move followed by a 5.10 roof and more 5.10 climbing above proved to make this sustained 200 foot pitch quite the undertaking! Tyler onsighted and brought me up. This pitch proved to tire me out quite a bit and I was thankful Tyler offered to lead the next pitch as well. Wild and wandering 5.8 climbing that ended in a chimney with tons of rope drag brought Tyler to the base of the Harding slot, and he set up a belay and brought me up. Now it was my turn to lead the physical crux of the route – the 5.10a off width pitch.

    The wandering 3rd pitch

    The wandering 3rd pitch

    Tyler at the 2nd pitch belay

    Tyler at the 2nd pitch belay

    I was up. I grabbed all the gear from Tyler and headed up the 4th pitch. I climbed out right from the belay at first into what looked like easier terrain. Soon I was well above my gear with ledge fall potential below me and desperately thin and marginal gear. I focused on the climbing, footwork, and breathing, and moved back left into the main crack. The main crack became a beautiful 5.9 hand crack for about 30 feet. This deposited me at the base of the main off width crack.

    looking up at pitch 4

    looking up at pitch 4

    I saw one of the “ancient 1/4” bolts next to the wide crack. It was true, these would be worthless to clip. I was happy to have my big green #6 Wild Country cam. I plugged in the cam discovered that the crack was a terrible size for me. Too big for double fist technique, and too small for a chicken wing. Ugh… After playing around with options, I decided to start stemming on the outside of the crack. The terrain was quite vertical at this point, and the rock quality on the right side of the crack was not great, but I slowly made progress up the crack, bumping my big #6 cam along from solid stances. As I neared the top of the vertical section of the off width pitch, the crack widened and my #6 cam was no longer useful. I scanned a small finger crack on the left wall for any possible gear placement, tried to fiddle in a green alien, and eventually gassed out and took on my tipped out #6. Sad to lose the onsight, but not discouraged with my progress, I fiddled in two marginal blue aliens into the top of the flared crack on the left face. Then I got back into the swing of things, grabbed a decent pinch hold on the right side of the crack and bumped my #6 past the flare and back into “good fit” terrain. From here, the crack eased to maybe 5.8 difficulty and I made good progress with heel to toe jams, body scumming inside the crack, and some marginal smearing on the outside of the crack with my right foot. Toward the top of the pitch, the crack again widened, and this time for good. I abandoned my #6 cam in the last best placement and climbed on. I managed to fit my blue big bro in, and then climbed about 25 feet to the end of the pitch above it. Yay, the pitch was over!

    Tyler coming up the Harding Slot

    Tyler coming up the Harding Slot

    Tyler was pretty tired after following the off width pitch, so I took the next pitch, the last 5.10 of the route. It really came down to an super exposed step across move well to one side of your gear, and then it was over. I linked the 5.10 pitch into the 5.8 chimney pitch (I ran it out pretty far after the step across move to reduce rope drag as much as possible). Despite my efforts at reducing rope drag (extending all the alpine draws, running out gear to reduce rope bends), towards the top of the pitch, rope drag became fairly unbearable. I thankfully pulled out the top of the chimney pitch and arrived at the top of the 6th pitch.

    Looking down from the top of the 6th pitch

    Looking down from the top of the 6th pitch

    Tyler coming up the squeeze chimney

    Tyler coming up the squeeze chimney

    At this point, we had finished all of the “tough” climbing and we were able to take a bit of a sigh of relief and “finish the climb”. The wind also started picking up at this point; extra incentive to get off of this mountain! Tyler led up the next 5.8 parallel crack section and 5.9 stemming pitch. He remarked “This is so fun!”. He was in his groove…

    following the 7th pitch

    following the 7th pitch

    I took the rest of the gear and ran up the 5.8 stemming pitch 8 and across 100 feet of 3rd class. This brought us to the base of the last 5.9 section. After I brought Tyler up, he handed me the little gear I had placed and I ran to the top of the 40 foot 5.9 section (barely felt 5.7 at this point). After bringing Tyler up this, we took off our climbing shoes and got into our “comfies” and summited via the last 150 feet of loose third class terrain. I was super tired at this point and huffed and puffed at the elevation and stress of the entire day. I had also somehow managed to forget my sunglasses at my larger pack at the notch, and my eyes were really getting burned up…

    looking down the third class terrain

    looking down the third class terrain

    burned up eyes

    burned up eyes

    summit shot

    summit shot

    By now, the wind was getting pretty intense with 30 mph gusts and cooler temps. It was 4 PM exactly, and we still had a long ways to go. We ate a quick bite of food and started the trek down the summit ridge to our larger packs. We definitely regretted leaving them at the descent notch rather than at the base of the summit ridge, but trudged down to our packs and retrieved the rest of our gear. We had a quick pull of scotch out of my flask (usually stays in my pack) and headed back. My eyes were burning at this point, and hiking became pretty miserable. We managed to get back to our vehicle 14 1/2 hours after leaving. Success! We then ended our day with Mobil station pizza and beers.

     

  • Come work with The Climbing Life Guides in Joshua Tree as a guide!

    Would you like to work as a full time guide in Joshua Tree National Park with a 5 star reviewed guiding company?

    The Climbing Life Guides is hiring one full time rock climbing guide for the upcoming 2016-17 season in Joshua Tree. The season will begin October 1, 2016 and end June 1, 2017. Applicants need to have an AMGA SPI certification and have passed the AMGA Rock Guide course at a minimum, as well as a WFR certification. Applicants can expect to be guiding in a multi-pitch environment at last part of the time.

    The Climbing Life Guides offers very competitive wages (depending on experience and certification level), worker’s compensation insurance, and payroll services (W-2) for its employees. Interested applicants should submit their resumes to:

    info@joshuatreeclimbinglifeguides.com

    Subject: Resume

    Looking forward to working with you!

     

    Nelson Day, Director

  • Map to free camping area on BLM land near Joshua Tree National Park

    Address is approximate. Near the address however is a very large dry lake bed. Camping is free and is anywhere you want (not already occupied). There is NOTHING out here (you will need to bring your own water, table, tent, no bathrooms, etc.), but it is dry, free, and spacious. Enjoy!

    BLM land near JTree camping directions

    BLM land near JTree camping directions

  • Two slings three pieces

    Good video from the AMGA for anchor building

    Anchor building with two slings and three pieces

  • Trip Report: Temple Crag, Dark Star, 5.10c Grade V Alpine

    The alarm went off at 4 AM. I might have already been awake; the tent was at a bit of a tilt, and I had been fighting rolling off/down hill the whole night. Polly and I were camped at the Third Lake outside of Temple Crag. Our objective: Dark Star, a 2,200 vertical foot grade V climb rated 5.10c.

    Looking up at the route

    Looking up at the route

    The hike in to the Temple Crag area the day before had seemed pretty casual for both of us, even with our heavy-ish packs. Polly and I are not super strong hikers, but the hike had only taken us about 3 hours. Interestingly enough, the hike out took us about 3 hours. The guide book (High Sierra Climbing – McNamara) had mentioned the hike would take 4 hours to possibly 8 hours with heavy packs. Not even close!

    Our rack consisted of a double set of aliens from blue through red, a single black alien, two BD 0.75’s, #1’s, and #2s, a single #3, a 70m rope, a full set of metolius ultralight nuts, and 14 alpine slings. We both agreed later than some micro/offset nuts would have been very useful, as well as a few MORE slings. The #3 got placed a LOT as well. We both wore leader/follower packs and carried about 3 liters of water, a rain jacket, food/snacks and a puffy (standard alpine items).

    The information on this route seemed to be somewhat sparse given the classic status of the route, including Peter Croft’s endorsement as one of the best alpine routes in the United States.

    topo - one of the only ones we could find

    topo – one of the only ones we could find

    The route was 2,200 feet of alpine granite, with multiple pitches in the 5.10 range. Our 4 AM wake up was deemed necessary by both of us.

    After waking up, we ate some coffee cake (from Schat’s Bakery in Bishop – if you have’t been, get off your ass!) and drank some “nootch” – vitamin laced water. We left our camp at 4:30 and hiked to the base of the climb by headlamp.

    Alpine sunrise

    Alpine sunrise from the base of the route

    After what seemed like way too much scrambling this early in the morning, we arrived at the base of the climb at 5:15. We were able to identify the start from some photos we looked at. This photo in particular was of critical usefulness.

    First dihedral pitch. Notice the Right facing aspect.

    First dihedral pitch. Notice the Right facing aspect.

    At 5:30, Polly began leading the first pitch. The first pitch proved to be somewhat sustained in the 5.10 range. Polly linked the first two pitches with our 70m rope and belayed me up from a ledge she stepped left onto above the 5.8 dihedral. The bolt shown on the topo in the upper 5.8 section proved to be a rusty old 1/4″ bolt with home made hanger; not really trust worthy, but Polly clipped it anyways.

    The topo had shown a fixed piton belay, but she had not seen one. As I neared her gear belay, I noticed a fixed piton/bolt anchor up and right from where we were perched. The pitons didn’t look great; I don’t think we would have used this anchor even if she had found it. From where we were standing on the ledge, I went up about 10 feet to a really old rusty knife blade that wasn’t even worth clipping. There was a sloping ledge here and the topo had said to move left a ways until the next crack system could be reached. I ended up moving left about 30 feet before I found a right facing crack system that looked somewhat like what I had seen on the topo. I had noticed on the first pitch that much of the rock on this route was of horrible quality. Gear was suspect, and often loose blocks encountered mid-pitch. I was now 30 feet left and ten feet up from the first belay with no protection, and I was looking at a very committing step across (no feet) to gain a crack system. Don’t mess this up! I took a breath and committed and jammed my left foot into the crack system. I had sprained my left ankle a week prior (it was a minor sprain), and this was quite terrifying for me… I gladly shoved a 0.75 BD cam into the crack and moved upwards to the second belay. This third pitch (our second due to linking the first two) didn’t seem much easier than the first pitch with sustained 5.9 and 5.10 moves the entire length of the 180 foot pitch. After what seemed like  very long ways, and using most of my gear, I looked up and right and found the two fixed pin and one fixed nut belay. Whew. The picture below looks a little messy… I was out of slings and ended up using some lockers (the ones my double length and auto block are stored on) from my harness.

    Second belay (third pitch on topo)

    Second belay (third pitch on topo)

    I backed up the system with a BD #1 I shoved behind a flake to the right side of the anchor.

    Polly came up to the belay and swang through on lead.

    Polly following our second pitch

    Polly following our second pitch

    Polly's next lead

    Polly’s next lead

    The next pitch went up and left at around 5.7 for a ways. Then turned into 4th and low 5th class. Polly ran the rope almost to its end before building an anchor and bringing me up. This seemed to end up being the most practical method on many of the upper pitches. We were aiming for a chimney system above us; I led up about another 100 feet from where Polly had built her anchor before building another anchor and bringing her up to the base of the chimney.

    The pitch below the base of the chimney

    The pitch below the base of the chimney

    The topo showed a 5.8 roof leading up to the base of the chimney. I definitely found this roof… and it was quite sustained 5.8 and climbed through horrible quality rock. Much loose rock, questionable gear and massive exposure made this pitch a bit scary.

    Polly pulls the 5.8 roof

    Polly pulls the 5.8 roof

    The next pitch, the chimney pitch, was probably my favorite on the route. Chimneys are not much fun, but the exit moves from this chimney were quite exhilarating. I led up into the chimney not quite knowing what to expect, other than tagging my pack from my belay loop while I clambered up through it. About half way up the chimney, a lot of broken debris had fallen and wedged itself into the chimney. There was a small hole through the middle of the debris, and at first I thought I might be able to squeeze through this hole. Nope… didn’t fit, even with the helmet off. I ended up going further inside the chimney around this constriction. Then up a ways until I could see the chimney squeezing down. Then out of the chimney on the climber’s right side. This involved stepping out onto big holds with 2,000 feet of air under your feet. Amazing!

    After the chimney, I pushed the pitch up another 100 feet to a small stance. Massive rope drag made this push quite strenuous. I was happy Polly popped out the chimney and onto the face and the rope drag ceased.

    ledge above chimney

    ledge above chimney

    I didn’t put much protection on this pitch; if I had, I think the rope drag would have been unmanageable. I ended up putting two pieces inside the chimney near the top exit (red alien and #2 cam), and the rest of the pieces you can see in the above picture. My anchor here consisted of a green alien, blue alien, and red alien. I’m pretty sure I climbed the 5.8 crack shown on the topo above the chimney (about halfway up the next pitch).

    Polly swung through on lead again and proceeded up the face until easier terrain started.

    Polly nearing the top of the first buttress

    Polly nearing the top of the first buttress

    We were pretty close to the top of the first buttress at this point. For the remainder of the first buttress, we unroped and simul-solo’d up. We considered simul-climbing, but the horrible rock quality and wandering nature of the face made this option unappealing. Simul-climbing with questionable gear in bad rock seemed more dangerous than simply coiling the rope up and simul-soloing and avoiding the inherent rope drag.

    We approached the top of the first buttress and crossed the top of the ridge that separated the first and second buttresses.

    crossing the top of the first ridge

    crossing the top of the first ridge

    The rock quality during the simul-soloing was less than ideal, which made us extra cautious with our footwork and trusting any of the rock along the ridge between the first and second buttresses.

    heading up to the top of the first buttress

    heading up to the top of the first buttress

    the top of the first buttress

    the top of the first buttress

    crossing the ridge

    crossing the ridge

    Crossing the ridge involved massive drop off exposure on either side of the ridge. Probably 2,000 feet straight down. This was the main theme of much of this climb – massive exposure, bad rock quality, and simul-soloing across ridges. In other words, gripping and terrifying ridge romping.

    We headed up to the base of the second buttress. The beginning of the next pitch was somewhat ambiguous, but we clambered up to the high point of the scree on the next buttress face and led off from there. Much of this route requires mountain sense. Or using your head to find the easiest looking line to proceed up. Polly led up this pitch, which proved to be somewhat unprotectable face climbing through loose 5.8 terrain and up through a 5.10 crack section. This was quite enjoyable to follow with really fun movement, but I’m sure it was rather terrifying to lead given the horrible rock quality.

    Second buttress first pitch

    Second buttress first pitch

    This pitch ended up being nearly 200 feet long, definitely 5.10, and Polly ran the rope for as long as she could stand the rope drag. After I arrived at the anchor, I swung through on lead. Polly’s anchor was around 20 feet above the business of the route, and 20 feet above her anchor the face turned back into 4th class. I ran the rope for about 200 feet anyways, placing maybe two pieces of pro. As I neared the top of the buttress, I found a suitable anchor spot and brought Polly up. From here on out, we pretty much coiled the rope up and simul-solod. Polly put on her approach shoes here, while I kept my climbing shoes on for the time being. I was still pretty apprehensive about soloing over horrible quality rock.

    cool passage on top of second buttress

    cool passage on top of second buttress

    The way through the ridge line of this climb is not obvious. It requires a lot of route finding and mountain sense. Just when things are looking extremely dangerous/sketchy, passages like the one above show up. Needless to say, massive exposure while crossing loose rocks and multiple sections of unprotectable low 5th class climbing are required to pass along the ridge line.

    Our path pretty much followed the left side of the ridge line system for the first half of the second buttress. We were looking for a 60 foot rappel that separated the second buttress from the third, and we thought we would never find it. About half way across the ridge line between the second and third buttress, we encountered a bit of a scary section. Well, most of it was scary. So a bit of a “scarier” section.

    scary spot

    scary spot

    This section happened when our “follow the left side of the ridge line” abruptly ended with these two options. A very exposed fifth class down climb section (if you messed it up, you would plummet for 1,000 feet to a rocky death), or a sketchy 5th class traverse move that looked a bit easier. I opted for the traverse move, climbing upwards for a few moves. Chalk could be seen on both options, so I picked the easier looking of the two. I snapped a picture of Polly following my lead on this. After this traverse move, a small down climb climber’s right side led us to ledge. We then climbed back up and over to climber’s left of the ridge system and continued up improbable looking 5th class broken-ness.

    Polly wanting to go through instead of exposed "around"

    Polly wanting to go through instead of exposed “around”

    After this exposed left side, we managed to switch sides to the right side of the ridge system which seemed a bit easier.

    the better right side!

    the better right side!

    After about 40 feet of the right side, we swung around the end of a blocky section and found our 60 foot rappel. A slung rock with double non-locking carabiners. The slings were generally in good shape. Finally, we had reached the 60 foot rappel! We rappelled to the climber’s right side of the ridge line and pulled our rope.

    more ridge romping

    more ridge romping

    After the 60 foot rappel, we crossed a few more sections of 4th and low 5th class along the ridge line. We tended to stay on the right side of the ridge line mostly during this last section. In the picture above, you can see the end of the ridge line system, and also the location of two 80 foot rappels. The rappels originated on the side of the last high “peak” seen in the picture. The rappel station was in decent order. After the first rappel, a bit of scrambling up and climber’s right from the obvious landing zone located the second rappel station. This one was in pretty bad shape. I donated a double length sling to the system and rappelled off the locker. All of the rappels were off of slung rocks/horns; the rock was solid. I would recommend bringing a double length sling with you in case the slings are weathered to an unsafe condition.

    Polly on the last rappel

    Polly on the last rappel

    Our topo mentioned a “red cliff and a yellow lichen area”, and passing between the lichen covered area and red cliff. We scrambled upwards towards the red cliff. From here we had the option for an easier down climb, or climbing up and traversing along the face of the red cliff. Eventually we decided to climb up and traverse along the face of the red cliff. This led us to low 5th class down climb shortly after the climb up and traverse over.

    red cliff

    double rappel station locations (can see both stations)

    After the down climb, we looked up and found ourselves at the base of the last long section before the summit. This section wasn’t nearly as exposed, but contained mostly easy 5th class and 4th class scrambling all the way to the top of the ridge line and end of the route. We simul-solo’d up this last section, taking several breaks to catch our breath. We were now approaching 13,000 feet elevation and we could definitely feel the effects of the oxygen deprived air!

    scrambling up the last long section

    scrambling up the last long section

    As we neared the top, we headed towards climber right and toward the obvious highest point of the formation. This highest point proved to be yet another ordeal in accessing with some serious exposure and more 5th class soloing. However, we both committed to the moves and made it to the summit.

    nearing the summit

    nearing the summit

    Polly stoked at the top

    Polly stoked at the top

    After a few moments at the top, and a bit of discouragement at the lack of a summit register, we headed down. We stopped for a small snack and felt a few rain drops, but the weather managed to stay clear. Perhaps it was Polly’s statement “Zeus, no…” that she muttered under her breath, but mostly I think it was just our lucky day. We arrived at the summit at around 3:00 in the afternoon.

    The deproach followed a scant climbers trail down some loose sand and scree for about a quarter mile. We then veered left and followed the trail (marked now with cairns) down some steepening terrain. Our topo had mentioned to stay away from the enticing gully on the climber’s right side, which we did. Eventually we were again down climbing in near fifth class terrain.

    looking for the rappel station

    looking for the rappel station

     

    Luckily, the rappel station appeared shortly after the down climbing shown in the picture happened. The station was to the right of where Polly is shown in the picture, and down about another 30 feet.

    We did a single rappel to the ground and walked back down to the 3rd lake. This decent took us about 2 1/2 hours altogether from the summit to the camp.

    rappel station

    rappel station

    scree slope

    scree slope

    beautiful columbine flowers

    beautiful columbine flowers

    mandatory river crossing

    mandatory river crossing

    We crossed back over the stream that separated the 2nd and 3rd lakes and got back to our campsite in time to be swarmed by hungry mosquitoes. I was extremely grateful to have had some bug repellent with us. We took off our shoes and soaked our aching feet in the ice cold lake water, filtered some water, drank a lot of water, cooked our dinner and went to sleep. Awesome day.. Our hike out back to the cars took us about 2 1/2 hours (1/2 hour faster than the hike in).

    parting look on the hike out

    parting look on the hike out

    I took this picture on the hike out. You can see the ridge lines rather clearly in this shot; it is always interesting to look at a mountain after having climbed it. Your perception of the intimate details of the mountain always changes. This mountain had let us clamber to the top and back down with no major mishaps and with excellent weather. It was a great day!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Hobbit Roof

    I was out in the park one day guiding a client, and someone from Colorado State approached me and asked if they could shoot some video for a project they were working on with Joshua Tree National Park. I was stoked! This video is what came out of it.

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