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



The Crack Routine

17 11 2008

Since J-Tree season started I have been thinking about Equinox. A pure line, a hard crack, a test of mental and physical perseverance.

I have been aware of Equinox since Lizzy found out about this crack about 3 years ago. Fresh off sending my first 5.12 sport routes I thought I had a chance when I first attempted to Top Rope this it 2 years ago October. The biting pain, the constant jamming, the non-existent feet was too much for me. I bitched, fell, and was relieved when I finally made it to the anchor cursing this climb. I was far from committed or ready.

Almost every weekend this season I have tried Equinox. This Sunday, on my 6th day of attempts I did it clean on TR. I arrived at the anchors without a pump and free from pain and doubt. I had relaxed, hit all the locks and made my way to the top unclipping the gear that I would use for a lead. I was hoping that it was the day, my day, to lead the route, abet on pre-placed gear. This would be a powerful first step to a future redpoint.

I had finally sequenced the first section and knew every lock, each body lean and powerful move. I knew the exit traverse, the foot holds and the bite of this vertical fissure. While my body was prepared my mind had yet to mature. I was afraid of falling on the gear, I clipped too early and I pumped out after repeatedly missing a clip. I tried again and again tearing much skin from my fingers but to no avail. In truth I was not ready.

The next three weeks I will replay the moves through my head, train hard on the campus board and wait with excitement for our next trip out to J-Tree. While I did not send I am moving in the right direction falling on lead and trying as hard as I could. I need to dispel my mental deamons and relax my next time on lead.

Despite the hot weather Lizzy and I had a blast on our quick day trip. Lizzy onsighted Touch and Go and made progress on her crux of Equinox. The rest of the weekend was spent watching movies. Quantum of Solace was mardignal but we had a great dinner out at Buca di Beppo.



Letting the Fall Fly By

20 10 2008

The fall has quickly come and its gaining momentum faster that we can imagine. The stacks of three day climbing weekends have been amazing and this blog has surely been neglected. I have to pack all my work in to a four day week and then we are off on some crazy adventure every weekend. 

Wild Clouds in Idyllwild on Friday

I got a email from one of my cousins a few weeks back so we meet them out in Joshua Tree for some camping. While Lizzy and I were nervous for desert heat we experienced quite the opposite. All of California got hit with a cold front and it was beyond chilly. At the Owens River Gorge, the week before, I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt climbing in the shade. In Joshua Tree we were wearing down jackets in the sun and were still quite cold. This storm signaled the start of the Santa Ana winds which were blowing hard on my drive down to San Diego the following Monday. We saw some crazy clouds in Idyllwild on Friday and were chilled by the wind on Saturday and Sunday in Joshua Tree. Our friends Julie and Josh even got some snow in Bishop. Returning to our cities has not provided much respite. San Diego is a bit chilly and parts of the LA area are on fire, fueled by the wind. 

Lizzy getting to belay me on Insomnia Crack

Lizzy did a good job summing it up and I will add some of my perspective. The following is a quick rundown of our weekend two weeks ago. My vacation hours had been burning a hole in my pocket so I decided to take Friday off to enjoy some of the fall weather. This started with a viewing of the Reel Rock tour in Riverside. This showing, at the Threshold Gym, was a bit unconventional and only featured part of the tour. Even though we were looking forward to seeing more films we still got to see the Sharp End and the Big UP dose from South Africa. I was impressed by the number of young people in attendance at the showing. It seems that Threshold, which is located close to UC Riverside, is able to draw a much different crowd than Vertical Hold. At Vertical Hold there seems to be a lack of college age students which is odd since UCSD is nearby. Perhaps they go to the smaller climbing wall at the university or the nearby Solid Rock gym. Before the movie started I had a nice chat with Louie Anderson who was in attendance and got some route beta for our upcoming Red Rocks trip which ended up being helpful.

The Sharp End was fun and it was great to see everyone putting it on the line. Like others have mentioned there was a lot of non-climbing footage and I would have liked to see more climbing action. Seeing Ammon on El Cap was nice but short and the section of climbing in the Czeck Republic really stood out. Overall it was a great collection of stories and I want to watch it again to see more of the details in regards to the specific climbs. 

Lizzy on the super thin crack of The Pirate 12c/d at Sucide

As previously mentioned the weekend at Jtree was cold. We did a frigid ascent of the Left Ski Track which was quite hard and a bit awkward. We hung out with my cousin, her husband and their two daughters and we spent a bunch of time out at Equinox.  I worked Equinox on TR and found a bit of an easier way to do my crux. I was able to re-sequence and do a series of smaller moves which should be easier when fatigued. Lizzy had a go and unlocked a bit more beta, finding a finger stack to get her through the wider top section. After doing the top section clean a few times I was able to do the whole route on TR with one fall, removing the gear as I went up. Since it was my third try my fingers were quite torn up and I was happy with my progress.

Luke and Cousins in J-Tree

My cousins departed after breakfast on Sunday to continue their road trip to Scottsdale, AZ so Lizzy and I relaxed, waiting for Equinox to come into the sun. We were a bit unsure of the correct time so we decided to hike out and see how cold it was. For reference the route came into the sun slightly after 2pm. The wind had picked up from the day before and it was really cold at the base of the route. Stubbornly I scrambled to the top and had Lizzy lower me over to work the moves and place all the gear for a lead attempt. While I was not quite ready to redpoint the route I thought that climbing it on pre placed gear would be a good first lead attempt. Lizzy suffered in the cold as she patiently waited for me to work out the moves.

Putting in some gear on Equinox.

After heating up in sun for a while we pulled the rope and I tied in. I had my best link on the first section and it felt great. I hit all the jams and in no time I was right before the crux. I was a bit intimidated so I hung and shook out to get the energy back. It took me a few tries to get through the middle section and I had to hang on gear to work through the moves. Eventually I made it to the last section but half way across the final traverse I ran out of confidence and hung again. Next try I committed to the moves, placed a few more cams and topped out. I felt good with the first and last sections but was pretty worried about the middle. Hopefully I can get a bit more confident by working more on the moves and try it again next weekend.

This past weekend we hit up Red Rocks for a few hard multi-pitch routes. We were afraid of cold weather but it ended up being perfect. We climbed in the shade in pants and had no wind. On Friday after our drive out we did Only The Good Die Young, 11c – 5 short pitches. On Saturday we had a long day on Cloud Tower, 11d 7 long pitches that ended in darkness and a stuck rope. Sunday we did a bunch of easy sport climbs in the Black Corridor. I was trying to work some endurance so I ended up doing 9 routes 10d or easier. It was a crazy gym like environment but the routes were quite fun.

We had a great weekend despite a bit of silly traffic on our drive back. Lizzy or I will have a formal trip report in a few days. 



An Equinox Day in Photos

16 10 2008

Chillin’ in JTree

8 04 2008

We tend to be pretty non-stop down here in SoCal – what with my school and ultimate frisbee, Luke’s work, and our constant chasing of “The Right Season” at all our local climbing areas, we’re pretty much busy every single weekend.

But we did have the weekdays to “rest” (haha, school=rest, yeah right…) after our Indian Creek trip, which if nothing else did help my knuckles heal a bit and stop oozing whenever I touched something.

The agenda for this weekend was to take my sister Maddy to do some fun outside rock climbing, as she was visiting for a couple days after her junior year college tour trip with my dad. She’s stuck in the gym most of the time up there in Bremerton, so visiting SoCal at this time was a perfect opportunity to return to JTree, which she’d been to a couple years ago (3?).

We were going to drive out and camp on Friday night, but when we left at 7:30, traffic going out of Pasadena still seemed a little heavy and Luke and I were worried about reliving our previous Friday night experience – small campsite wedged between very noisy neighbors. So we went back home, watched a movie, and resolved to get up early (5:30am) the next morning.

We did manage to get up, so we arrived at the Split Rocks parking lot at around 8am. We walked out to the Future Games Wall to climb Bendix Claws (5.11a), which Luke and I had both done on TR before. Everyone toproped it – Luke and I were both thinking about going for the lead, which I didn’t because I wasn’t quite feeling my granite mojo after a week on IC sandstone. Luke, however, did go for the lead and got the redpoint! A cool route for sure – I still want to redpoint it some day.

Then we headed out to a boulder problem we’d seen walking back from Equinox last time – Slashface (V3) – a tall, nice-looking problem with a series of horizontal crimp rails (that look like slashes) running across it. Luke sent the problem, while Maddy and I struggled with the crux – a long reach off a pretty crappy crimp.

Maddy and Luke working Slashface:

After this we went over to the Rusty Wall so I could try to onsight Wangerbanger (5.11c). Unfortunately, there were a bunch of people already over there, with the route in question occupied for several more climbers. Luke and Maddy TRed O’Kelley’s Crack (5.10c) and then we decided to go work on Gunsmoke since it seemed silly to waste Maddy’s singular day in JTree waiting in line for a route I could come back and do any time.

So, to Gunsmoke we went. Luke did some laps, Maddy fought with the short person crux (she’s a little shorter than me, so she was trying some different beta) and I got the closest to sending I’ve ever been. I got through the short person crux and to the corner (before jumping off to save energy) after starting not at the beginning, then linked the short person crux through the normal crux before falling – so close to the send! But by then I was getting tired, so the send will have to wait for another day.

On Sunday, I had to go play in a frisbee tournament with my team, so Luke and Maddy went to Stoney Point with Julie to do some more bouldering. I think they had a lot of fun and I hope Maddy enjoyed the taste of SoCal climbing that we were able to give her in the short time she was here.

Maddy and Julie bouldering at Stoney Point

Next weekend will probably find us in Tahquitz climbing some more granite cracks!

Relaxing in JT

11 03 2008

Luke and I recently realized that before this last weekend, we had traveled at least 5 hours away for 4 weekends in a row. Needless to say, this has been pretty exhausting and we agreed that a relaxing weekend (including some rock climbing) was in order.

So we headed out to JT on Friday night. We got in a little late, around 10pm, to find that Hidden Valley and Ryan campgrounds were already full. So we kept driving on to Jumbo Rocks and cruised around until we spotted an unoccupied campsite wedged between several other filled campsites. It wasn’t exactly ideal. We were near 2 groups of people who found it necessary to have loud conversations while most likely high and drunk, so it was hard to sleep, even though we were both exhausted. Then, in the morning, our other neighbors watched TV at 7am. TV while camping?!?! We really didn’t get that.

But we got up anyways and headed out to go climbing. I’d forgotten the guidebook in Pasadena, so we went to Intersection Rock to find someone with a guidebook to get directions to Perpetual Motion, which was our first goal of the day. We headed out Geology Tour Road and hiked off in search of the route with a little map scratched onto a scrap of paper. But we went the wrong way, apparently.

After wandering around for a while, we decided we should just go to our real objective of the day, Equinox (which, in case you didn’t read my last post about it, is the the most beautiful crack in Joshua Tree). So we headed over there. It was just as beautiful and striking as I remembered it.

We climbed it on toprope since we’re still not awesome enough to try to lead it. We both worked on figuring out the right sequences and jams and I think we both made some good progress. We both managed to climb from the ground up into the steep section without falling!

On Sunday, after a late start, we went to climb Coarse and Buggy (5.11b), although we had to wait for a party that was toproping it to finish. Luke onsighted the route and we both followed it. I thought the steep exit moves were the hardest part, mostly because they were very awkward. Also, the climb and belay had gone into the shade by the time we got to start, so the belay was really cold!

Since the weekend was about relaxing, we decided to head home for dinner and a movie. We ended up watching a movie called Brick, which was very good.

Next weekend we’ll be headed to Mt. Woodson to do some more jamming before our big Indian Creek trip.

Happy Holidays

21 12 2007

2007 has been an amazing year for climbing and this will most likely be my last post of the year. Moving to a new place has allowed me to climb more often and at a whole bunch of amazing areas. I look forward to 2008 and many months of exploration and climbing! I thought I would add some photos to for a bit of spice, hope you enjoy!

Lizzy is already in Seattle for Christmas and I will be flying up there tomorrow. We will be in Seattle until the 28th visiting family and friends.

Climbing has been winding down recently as the temps have been a bit colder. Our only trip in the last three weeks was to Joshua Tree this past weekend. We had some really warm weather which was nice and unexpected! We did a bit of trad, sport, bouldering and multi-pitch. The mix of everything was nice and I even hopped on Iron Resolution (photo above/right) which was really cool despite the fact that it is way too hard! We also got to climb the Headstone at sunset which was fun(photo below). I had never lead before in my down jacket and it ended up being a good decision. It probably dropped 20 degrees in the hour and a half before sunset.

We are going to try to head to Arizona for a short New Years climbing trip. I will be posting up a trip report when we get back.

Thanks to everyone that reads our blog. It has been a great experience writing these blogs!

If anyone has questions or topics there are interested in let us know via comment or email. DreamInVertical at rockclimbing.com


– Luke