Intersection Rock BBQ 2009

23 11 2009

After spending most of last fall projecting Equinox in J-Tree Lizzy and I have not been back in a while  and have mainly climbed in other places. However when a bunch of climbers are going to party in the desert it is hard to say no.

Back in October was the 4th annual Intersection Rock BBQ. A few of my friends, Jamie, Hartley, Whitney and Jake, came down from Santa Barbara and met up with the already large San Diego crew.

Getting all dressed up for the BBQ!

Shay is king of the party with his Roller Skates.

People are still heading up as night falls on Hidden Valley

The weekend plan was to do a bit of climbing, but most importantly have a raging BBQ on top of Intersection Rock. The logistics for this is pretty impressive and I hand it to the guys at Pullharder for pulling it off yet again.  Hartley brought some amazing steak and I grilled a ton of burgers and sausages. There were haulbags full of beer and ice and costumes a plenty. The party was a success and everyone got down safely!

Jamie on his way way up Left Ski Track

In what seems to be a tradition from the year before I followed Left Ski Track so Jamie could get the onsight of his first 5.11 at Joshua Tree. This was an impressive send since he had to downclimb the first crux to retrieve an essential piece of gear. I still think Left Ski Track is pretty hard for the grade and it felt cruxy even though I’ve lead it clean and followed it before.

Luke starts up Hidden Arch.  Photo thanks to Scotty

Jamie with a casual TR flash of Hidden Arch!

Earlier in the day I worked on and sent Hidden Arch a cool mixed climb that has some tough face moves a noticeable distance above two small but bomber nuts. True to it’s name  the crack arches to the left and a fall from the crux could have you hitting a large chock stone. Konstantin, a friend who worked the route, had brought out a pad to cover this block on some of his attempts. I had a spotter to keep me off the block but still couldn’t figure out the moves my first try on lead.  After the failed onsight I lowered from my gear and walked around to set a TR.  I tried the crux moves a few times with the comfort of the top rope and then I went for the lead again even though I had never linking all of the crux moves. On my second lead attempt I committed to the cryptic moves, crimped, stemmed and pressed my way to the finish. Having not done the last 50 feet yet, I slowly worked to the anchor, making sure not to blow the send.

Whitney, our weekend photographer.

Hartley enjoying a bit of the shade by Satanic Mechanic.

The next day I was pretty spent mentally from Hidden Arch so Jamie and I decided on some sport climbing. Despite being a mainly trad area there are a few high quality vertical to overhanging sport routes in Joshua Tree. I had heard things about climbs such as Bebop Tango, Father Figure, Desert Shield and Satanic Mechanic but had never tried them. On our first morning we had warmed up on the classic Loose Lady but despite all the bolts I think of it as a sporty slab and not a true sport climb. Our plan was to warm up a bit and hopefully do Satanic and if we felt good work on to Desert Shield.

Jamie gets ready for some intense belay action…

Luke goes big on Satanic Mechanic.

I got about half way up Satanic before I was confronted with the first crux, a long reach in the photo above. I  just barely latched the hold unable to figure out another sequence. Later on Hartley found some beta using a higher right hold that made this reach more manageable. A few moves later I was at another crux and after many takes and falls couldn’t figure it out. Jamie booted up and tried his hand at the moves but was foiled as well. Up went the stick clip and Jamie made his way to the top working out a few more difficult sequences on the way. Hartley made fast work of the various cruxes using cool beta that Jamie and I hadn’t seen. A few falls later he was at the top, nice work dude! I wanted to try the line on TR and made good progress but couldn’t do the last crux before the final bolt. A combination of heat and bad skin meant that I would have to return on another trip.

Jamie makes good progress on Stem Gem

Before moving on to some more roped climbing Hartley insisted that we try Stem Gem. Hart had mastered this problem a few years before but Jamie and I had yet to send this crazy smearing test piece. Whitney had a great fish eye lens and you can see dramatic appearance it added to the photo above of the crazy shape of the starting scoop. For the first time I figured out how to get on the wall and Jamie, after a few close attempts made it to the top!

Ho Man, this route is fun!

We finally left the Real Hidden Valley and made our way to Barker Dam to catch some shade at Dissolution Rock .  Hartley lead the splitter Life’s A Bitch And Then You Marry One which was very fun for 5.7 though a bit on the short side. I lead Martial Sin which was a bit more exciting than I expected. While the moves were not too hard I thought there would be  more crack climbing than thin edging and had to commit to tricky moves well above gear. It was a good experience and I pulled it off.  We exchanged top ropes, which Jamie, In the photo above, clearly enjoyed.

Luke is psyched to be pulling down

While I was moving the rope around to set up another TR Jamie figured out a cool boulder problem on a small arete. We both sent this climb using some cool bear hug moves and way too much body tension and opposition. You can tell I was excited to grab a downward facing hold in the photo above.

I forget exactly what happened next but I think I was being pushy about getting a belay or had started up the route without a belay. Regardless Jamie taught me a lesson with a wondrous 60 feet of wedgies. Each time I would move up the route Jamie would jump and take in the rope, often hauling me up the climb. My balance was totally off and my feet were useless. We all couldn’t stop laughing as seen in the photo below…

Luke has a blast despite the extreme tension in the rope.

The weekend was a blast and eventually we had to part ways to drive to our respective homes. I’m still a bit behind on trip reports and hopefully should be publishing about Free Rider after thanksgiving break and Lizzy will be doing a post about the #jtreetweetup.

All photos taken by Whitney Freedman except where otherwise noted.



Sierra Adventures, an Attempt on Mount Langley

9 09 2009

As the summer heat reached near record highs two weekends ago I found myself shivering in the cold shade of the Northeast Face of Langley Peak. This summer I have taken a bit more time to explore the Eastern Sierra and this weekend was one of the most adventurous yet.  The goal was to establish a new route on the massive Northeast face of Mount Langley. Currently there is only one other technical route to the summit of this 14,054 foot peak.

Getting ready to hike in carrying a whopping 7 liters of water…

Langley would be my first 14er so I was super excited to try to climb it via a new route. Shay had a handful of maps and semi-useful descriptions that would guide us to our first bivy. The start of the approach was a familiar jaunt up to the Stone House. This trail was nice and Lizzy and I had been there about a month earlier.  We were apprehensive about water so we both packed maximum capacity, carrying almost 2 gallons each.


The stone house complete with new prayer flags to honor the passing of Bruce Binder.

Reaching the stone house we could tell that Tuttle Creek was still flowing strong so we dumped a bunch of water and set out to the unknown. Shay and I had been to the Lone Pine Peak side of the Tuttle Creek drainage but never up towards Mt Langley. A bit of guess work lead us up to a trail behind the metal shack above the stone house. We took this across a big slope and eventually ran into a bigger trail. This well cairn-ed trail continued up hill for many miles and brought us to the Keyhole wall.


Really happy that we were able to follow a trail all the way from the stone house to the Keyhole Wall.

Following the advice from previous ascensionists of Mt Langley, we crossed the stream and headed up the talus making sure that our water source was still flowing. Eventually the sound of the gurgling stream died out and we bivyed 10 minutes or so above where the creek went underground.  On our descent we realized that we could have camped over an hour further but likely at the cost of a good nights sleep. The stream had  gone underground for a half mile or so and appeared in full force higher up the drainage.


Shay looks sharp as we trek on past the Keyhole wall.

Leaving from Pasadena by 10:30 am we made great time to Lone Pine and up the trail to our bivy. There was still daylight but it seemed prudent not to go too far above 10,000 feet. Fresh stream water was easily retrieved unfiltered due to our remote location. A dinner of packet food was sufficient and we opted for an early bed time due to our impending pre-dawn start.


Looking back down canyon from our bivy.

The ridge in the following photo was visible from camp and  our information led us to believe the north face was just around the corner. Hiking up endless talus warmed me up but as soon as dawn broke the wind started and chilled me to the bone. I had to layer up,  very unusual for me while hiking, and we made our way up trying our best to guess the right way.  We second guessed our decisions and likely lost a bit of time traversing a steep slope instead of staying low in the main gully.


Our first look at Mt Langley

Beyond finding the NE face we needed to spot a doable climb and get to it as fast as possible. There was only so much day light and this 2000 foot face would require a lot of pitches. Around the right of the prominent ridge we spotted what looked like a 500 foot long crack system that would give us access to a higher ridge line.  At the time I assumed all of the towers connected to the top and when this route looked too chossy we too easily decided to climb another line.


The wind was killer and I was happy to have a jacket.

We found an easy looking crack system that appeared less choss-tastic and I started up the pretty green and yellow granite. Leading in my jacket with a pack was a bit tricky at first but once I got a few pieces in the climbing started to be fun. I had to be careful of small foot holds since they often were barely attached but I slowly made my way up to the ledge below a wide crack seen in the upper right of the photo below.


The start of the tower we chose to climb.

Shay had the next pitch and decided not to go up the wide crack. We only had a single #3 and the largest BD hex. His lead followed a chossy pair of seams which took the occasional gear and then traversed right to the crack above the offwidth. This was low end 5.10 but very scary and insecure especially with cold fingers on even colder rock.  The next pitch was mine and featured the hardest climbing of the route. I was faced with  splitter finger crack providing the only passage to the top of the next tower.


Heading up the fun first pitch in chilly weather.

I did a bit of cleaning to get out the lichen and loose rock, down climbing to the ledge each time, before committing to the finger splitter. The locks were excellent and the feet exciting (i.e. a bit loose) as I slowly made my way up. It was over before I knew it and I was hugging a leaning pillar making my way past many loose blocks to the next ledge. I saw a scary looking next pitch and happily belayed to give Shay the next lead.


Shay leads an exciting ridge traverse! Notice the awesome slung  pro…

Shay gets bonus points for the next  lead with crazy exposure on both sides of the ridge. He climbed about a 60 meter pitch requiring a bit of simul-climbing on our short 48 meter rope. I took the next pitch and downclimbed into a chimney, which was semi bottomless with 300 feet of air on my left. Squeezing behind a leaning flake our Nuts somehow detached from my harness and fell into the void.  I continued with some easy downclimbing into the gully below.


Shay on top of our tower before downclimbing into the gully.

From this position we could see choss and snow going up towards the summit. Our tower had not connected to a main ridge line and the rock above didn’t look to inviting. We decided that it would be best to descend since the gully we were in seemed reasonable. In retrospect we could have climbed back up on to the ridge line but it would have been at least another 15 pitches to reach the summit. We had gotten a bit of a late start (climbing wise) and it was already noon so we took the safe option, not wanting to get benighted.


Luke descends back to the base.

With 5 new pitches established it wasn’t a waste of a day and we took our time back to camp. We found the upper part of the stream and hiked down past pretty waterfalls and surprisingly lush vegetation for the area. After some more rest at camp we packed up and relocated to the Keyhole wall. Our next bivy site was not as spacious and level but was a bit closer to the stream and had a beautiful boulder with sculpted holds that I happily climbed.


The NE face of Langley showing our route, Unstoppable Tower Tango,  on a disconnected ridge.

We hoped to do a bit more new route action on Sunday and choose the obvious splitter on the left side of Keyhole wall. We knew it had most likely been climbed but hoped to find otherwise.  Shay lead the first pitch following good rock to a nice belay. There were just enough loose blocks and lichen to make us think we were in FA mode. We swapped leads and I headed up towards the roof, the feature that drew me to this climb.

After trundling a few blocks I got into a very nice hand crack and motored up to the roof, running it out a little to save my single #3. At the bottom of the roof I was able to place a small cam and then wiggle the #3 deep into the fissure. A #4 would have fit perfectly on the outside (which had better rock) but we didn’t have one.


A topo of the our  new finish variation (pitches 4-8)  to Somnambulist

Some how there were some jugs on the right side of the crack and I was able to pull over without OW technique. I heel hooked and then mantled the ledge to get established, taking time to bump along my #3. I had cleaned sand out of the holds and fully believed I was the first one up this crack!! To my great disappointment after the next few moves I saw a pair of bolts. This made things much easier for belaying but ended the possibility of an FA.


Psyched to pull over the #4 camalot roof. 5.8+ ??

Shay lead the next pitch, a long fun splitter, to another bolted belay where we considered rappelling. I did not want to lose any gear, since we didn’t have the required 2nd rope, and opted to keep going into unknown territory.  I incorrectly choose to go left and had a sketchy loose lead on really bad popcorn granite. I had to excavate placements and wasn’t sure anything would hold. This lead and the next were most likely new pitches but  forgettable. Fortunately  they allowed us to reach a nice shady belay below the upper head wall. It was my lead again and I was in for some adventure.  The next pitch was the the best on our finish variation and the rock quality was awesome. I followed a nice splitter for 20+ meters before it pinched off and I traversed right onto a knobby face. A bit of creative climbing put me into a wide crack and a few moves past trees had me starting to think about a belay.


Climbing the excellent 6th  pitch on the upper headwall.

My gear was running out and I had to downclimb a little to back clean and re-place a piece. The cracks on the right side were pinching out and I didn’t know what to do. There were a handful of large bushes/trees about 20 feet above me and I knew that should be my belay. With a solid piece above me I stepped down and left to get my feet in a wide crack, crimping on nothing with my hands. I spotted a line of knobs for my feet  and slowly traversed left, hoping they would hold my weight. Gaining a tree I made a few more easy moves and then was able to get in a good anchor. An amazing set of exciting traverses made this a standout pitch. Shay followed clean without the security of the last piece that had essentially given me a TR for the traverse.

Another pitch, some simuling and a bit of soloing led us to the summit and a long grueling descent. After following the gully down we took a risk and choose the left fork. This went down a ways and we did some sketchy downclimbing (we could and should have rappelled using a tree) before another split. Faced with a 30 foot drop we rappelled this time, missing an easy looking downclimb that we saw once we were down. A bit more down climbing put us at another split which we went right. This was our last gully and put us back to the ground. The descent took us between two and three hours and put two very tired climbers back at the base.

Amazing Indian Food filled us back with energy, courtesy of TastyBites, and we packed up and made a quick descent taking less than two hours to get back to the car.

I was impressed with the rock quality on the Keyhole wall and would like to go back with a bit more equipment and check out some of the lines on the face. Even if most of the crack lines have been established there are still many routes to do!



Intersection Rock BBQ, A J-Tree Photo Essay

14 11 2008

This past weekend Lizzy was in the Field studying Geology so I headed out to J-Tree for the 3rd Annual Intersection Rock BBQ. The idea of a BBQ on top of one of the most visable J-Tree features seems like a crazy idea but we had no injuries and no tickets.

Two grills, lots of beer, guitars and burgers were hauled up to the top of the rock and people steaidly made there way up way after the sun went down. At the high point there were at least 40-50 people on top. There was lots of dancing thanks to the two guitarists. 

Many beers were drank, hot wine was consumed, and everyone had a blast.  But what about the climbing? To get the most of out the weekend Shay, Alex and Angelina drove out early Friday morning. We snagged camp sites in prepration for the mass of San Diego climbers coming for the Saturday night BBQ. We then headed out to Geology Tour Road. 


Shay about to start up Knack.

The tick list was Knack and Perpetual Motion and then Equinox.  Angelina and I did Perpetual Motion, which I was able to onsight, while Alex and Shay did Knack. Perpetal Motion started a bit pumpy and then there were some hard moves followed by a super fun hand crack. 


Angelina showing her bloody finger after coming out of the tricky jams of Knack.

Knack was super technical locks. You had to keep your weight on your feet and make sure not to slip out. The cold wind gave perfect temps since the jams were far from locker. After Angelina and Shay lead the route I got on and luckily got a flash. At one point I was slowly slipping out of the crack and was able to pull hard and keep it togeather. 

We headed out to Equinox and I had my best performance yet. After working a few sections on TR I was able to lead it on pre-placed gear in two falls. I had screwed up the gear and that caused my 2nd fall. Everyone top roped the crack and I ended up TRing in the dark with 2 falls. My fitness is increasing and I am hopeing for a send this weekend.

Saturady was a mixed bag of climbing and work and partying. The highlights of the day incude sends of Course and Buggy by both Angelina and Shay. As well Nate CRUSHED left ski track. I followed him clean but could not match his grace. It was very impressive.


On Sunday we woke up to much colder temps and a raging wind storm. We headed to Hot Rocks since it is in the sun.  The crew managed a lot of sends despite the variable weather. 


Ian starts out on his Onsight with a minimal amount of gear beta. 


Starting out the crux. After you get your foot on the crimp its all over.


Ian calmly working through all the hard moves.


Kostas, tights and all, past the crux and about to get into the amazing hand crack.


Nate fingerlocking his way through the crux. 

j-tree-bbq-nov-08-2051Luke working his through the technical finger locks.

It was funny how Hot Rocks went down. Both Nate and I used the crack with different sequences. Kostas, Scotty and Ian used the crimp out right to gain the better holds higher up. I was happy for a 3rd try send. Top roping it twice, with the second time clean, gave me confidence to lead it. 

j-tree-bbq-nov-08-2641Scotty reaching for the Crimp.

We headed over to Sport Challenge rock to work on Leave It To Beaver and Clean and Jerk. I had pumped out on my last try on Clean and Jerk and was happy to get to send it. I climbed the bottom differently than before and the top was a bit easier. Kostas followed me while nate belayed Ian on Leave it to Beaver.

j-tree-bbq-nov-08-279Luke heading up Clean and Jerk, which is on the cover of the new Joshua Tree West.

We all met at the top and Ian had sent! A very proud lead with a very hard crux.  We used both ropes and some of my gear to setup a top rope so we could all try it.  Nate and I both had no problem getting up to the crux. However neither of us could do the move. A long reach to  a jug froma left hand slot with bad feet. I took full advangtage of the TR and cheated through the hard moves and then did the top clean. It was amazing crimping on horizontals for the last 30 feet. 

j-tree-bbq-nov-08-3501Ian, Nate and Kostas 

I was able to figure out the hard move but I started with my feet much higher than I could get on my own. I am anxious to try the route a bit more when I am less tired. 

j-tree-bbq-nov-08-322Lin commiting to the thin crack on Spincter Quits.

We finished the day on the other side of the sport challenge rock with Lin, Scotty and Charles. Too tired to lead Rap Bolters are weak we waited for somone to get to the top and setup a TR for us. In retrospect I should have 4th classed up the decent and setup the rope since by the time we had everything setup everyone was ready to go.

My one try was horrible and made me wonder if holds had fallen off. I had done the route on TR three years earlier without falling. YIKES! After my flailing we packed up and ate some food and made our way back to San Diego. I got a ride back home from Ian and Rick which was pretty uneventful. A great weekend and a ton of fun with the Pullhader crew. 

If you want to see everyone else’s photos be sure to checkout Facebook.