A Lesson in J-Tree Friction

31 03 2009

I’ve been lucky enough to go to J-Tree each of the last two weekends. I had not been back since sending Equinox in December and it was nice to be in the park without the pressure of a project. Two weekends back I put my Indian Creek fitness to good use and nabbed my hardest onsight in J-tree with an ascent of Wanger Banger. I had been waiting to try this climb for a while and enjoyed doing such straight forward jamming in Joshua Tree.


The Hemingway Buttress is the wall in the center of this photo.

This weekend hosted a plethora of social events with a going away party for Felix and Sonia on Saturday night and a day trip visit with Julie, Josh and Lizzy on Sunday. Despite living in the LA area for the last 1.75 years Julie had not yet been to J-Tree. With a ride to the park setup I convinced Lizzy, who had just gotten back to SoCal the night before, to come and hang out even if she was too tired to climb.


Luke starts up Overseer.

Before driving to J-Tree I called Jamie and found out that by chance he and Nikki  had been in the park since Thursday! Jamie’s friend TJ was visiting and after hanging out with them on briefly on Saturday night I arranged to meet them at Hemingway the next day.  Lizzy, Josh and Julie made good time from LA and our group united just as the wall was going into the shade late Sunday morning.


Luke leads through the high crux.

When we arrived there was no one on the ever popular Overseer so I hopped on and set up a top rope.  Despite having been to Hemingway previously I had not done this classic 5.9. The start was a bit exciting but the climbing was fun and the crux crack at the top was enjoyable.


Julie works through the slabby start of Overseer.

Julie was excited to climb in Joshua tree and hopped right on and despite a lack of crack climbing experience made her way to the top without falling! Once you learn to trust your feet on the small edges the climbing becomes a bunch easier and she proved this with her send.


Julie working through the hard top moves.

In order to set a friction free top rope anchor that was no more than 30m off the ground I had to stop shy of the top. To clean the route I ended up climbing it again and setting a new anchor so we could  top out and walk over to the rap station.  I couldn’t see who chose to follow me from the belay was pleasantly surprised to see Lizzy come around the final bulge since she had said that she wasn’t going to climb today.


Luke checks out the protection on the start of Prepackaged

The time re-climbing Overseer was well spent as a party had cleared off Prepacked allowing me to get another fun onsight.  Not wanting to ruin my onsight Lizzy waited until after  I climbed to tell me that I had  missed a large edge that would have made the crux easier, oops! This made sense in retrospect since Lizzy told me that Prepackeaged wasn’t too hard and I found the first few moves to be a bit tricky.  Overall the route was quite enjoyable with good finger locks  at the start and bomber gear followed by a nice hand crack.  Jamie and TJ were climbing Overseer  and Julie and Josh had gone to cook lunch so Nikki followed my lead cruising this fun line. Lizzy, content to be relaxing, found nice rock in the sun for her lunch and watched us from below.


Finger lockin’ good!

The rap station for the right side of Hemingway is located above  The Importance of Being Earnst. This climb links various crack features through a set of roofs and was a good bit harder than what we had tried so far on Sunday. I happily set a top rope and almost everyone took a turn on this unique climb.  Despite the 10c/d rating the climb was hard with some tricky sequences and technical footwork. Once my fingers are back to full strength I would like to give it a go on lead, despite the small and somewhat spaced protection.

I wanted to get Julie up one more climb so we went to the nearby Dairy Queen wall. The wind was picking up so Julie and I quickly did Leap Year Flake and then rapped off. After a tricky and technical start you move left to a slabby face with a huge thin flake. The angle is quite low and it feels really good to lay back up this unique feature.

Lizzy gained some motivation when I mentioned Gunsmoke so we drove over to Barker Dam to show Julie this Joshua Tree classic. Gunsmoke has been a project of Lizzy’s for a while now and has been a good challenge for her due to the very long moves and required endurance. On Sunday Lizzy made her longest link yet getting through both the reach crux and the technical crux before pumping off in the corner. This first and best go left her quite pumped and she got a day ending  flapper when she fell off the crux reach on her second try.


Lizzy sets up for the the crux reach on Gunsmoke.

After Gunsmoke we drove to town for the mandatory dinner at Crossroads Cafe to complete Julie’s J-Tree experience. Despite another tasty dinner we had a pretty long wait for our food which was not so good since we were starving. It made me wish I had payed a bit more attention to this thread on Mountain Project about good places to eat around Joshua Tree.

The next month or so is booked with trips to further away areas and I don’t know if we will be back to J-Tree before it gets too hot. If we manged to come back in late April or May we will surely be chasing the shade. It was nice to hang out with friends and it was not as crowded as I expected for spring break season.

Photos thanks to Julie, Josh, Nikki, and Lizzy





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