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Desert climbing 2012   -   08.12.2012

This January John and I drove straight for 34 h to Nevada, only stopping for fuel and bladder relief, for 2 weeks of climbing. Due to a painful sinus infection I was useless so, thankfully, John consumed 2x the lethal dose of Redbull and did most of the driving while I snored/drooled on the centre console.

Upon arrival at the Red Rock Canyon campground, we pitched our tents, racked up and got one climb in before going into town for food, fuel, showers and, most importantly, beer. About 1 min after dinner I went to bed and tried to sleep through the gale ripping at my little nylon tent. For several days we climbed moderate trad and sport routes in the cold wind.

John opting for the free solo rather than following the path that travels under this precariously-perched, building-sized boulder.

John and I then drove to Joshua Tree via Tecopa, California for a rest in a hot spring (actually a concrete tub). Maybe the directions in the guide book should have given us a clue as to what we were in for--drive across the desert towards a lone palm tree. . .if you can block out the surrounding garbage, the view is actually quite nice. . .it’s a well known spot now so don’t expect solitude--but we went anyway. First of all, Tecopa was a hole. And not a hole like Vegas or LA, but a place where caravans and all other crappy things go to die. Oh, and a note to Tecopans: lean-tos and cinder block sheds don’t qualify as ‘resorts’ even if they have a pool attached.

So John and I drove across the desert to the lone palm tree and it was most certainly surrounded by garbage. We were also not alone as the tub already contained several old naked hippies. None of that bothered me too much but John was skeptical about joining the naked hippies for a bath in the desert, in a gun-loving country, in the middle of no where. Anything could happen and no one would even find our bodies.

We headed back through the crap heap of Tecopa then straight to J Tree. We arrived just before a lovely sunset and picked the only campsite left in Hidden Valley with an east-facing exposure. Unfortunately it was next to a loud and obnoxious group of city dirt bags listening to the Super Bowl at 300 decibels. When the game finished the rave music started.

While being kept awake from the noise I took some night photos. The moon was nearly full and it lit up the rocks beautifully while still allowing me to see Orion, Casiopia, Draco, the Ursas, Venus and Neptune.

We climbed easy and moderate trad routes for 4 days at J Tree on good and rotten rock, with and without giant sandbags. It was certainly an experience climbing the ultra classics but I think I’d get more enjoyment out of the place once I can climb much harder.

The view from Ryan Mountain

Split Rock

Arch Rock

The Headstone. I led the classic 5.7 on the arete of this rock that hangs in free space. A fabulous route!!!

After J Tree we returned to Red Rocks via Needles, CA, climbed a few moderate-hard sport routes then picked Graeme up at the airport in Vegas that night.

The Drive In.

When he woke up the next morning Graeme was amazed at how nice the campground was - he thought he’d really be roughing it for a week. And just as he was commenting on the permanent sun/rain shades, picnic tables and benches around the fire pit, the campground host came over and invited us for free coffee and bagels. Not even 5 min later a cute French cyclist wandered over and asked us if we could take his leftover beer as his party was flying back to France that day. Graeme looked at me in disbelief, “What IS this place and why have I never come before?!”

Once we recovered from the shock of the Beer Fairy we did a multipitch in White Rock Canyon in the glorious sun.

Me on last pitch of Ledger. Photo cred: Graeme

Graeme racked up for his 10-m pitch on Ledger.

Quite possibly John’s best day ever when he spotted Burros on the side of the road.

The next day we climbed at Chocolate Cliffs, barely below the snow line, exposed at the top belay, and I froze. I was miserable (though the climbing was superb) and then nearly killed by a grapefruit-sized rock so we got out of dodge quickly.

The Vegas strip from Chocolate Cliffs.

To thaw me out we drove to Tiger Stripe Wall where I finally sacked up and led Fraction of the Action. . .and totally crushed it!

Me on Fraction of the Action. Photo cred: Graeme

John on the same route.

Then we cruised over to Sandstone Quarry for a few more routes and headed to camp for dinner.

John stick-clipping a fork to retrieve the roasted sweet potatoes out of the fire.

My last day before flying home was horrendously windy and cold. We did only a few short sport routes before retreating to the tents for a nap.

Driving into the canyon on my last day.

On the way to Blockbuster Crag.

Searching for shelter at Mild Mecca. There wasn’t any.

John in need of a shower and hair wash.

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