Joshua Tree Meet – Sep/Oct 2016

Snow over the Sierra from Casa Diablo Mountain

Rules of American Climbing:

  • The first 10 feet of a route don’t count for the grade
  • Just because it is fully bolted does not mean it’s a sport route
  • Just because there is no R or X doesn’t mean falling is safe
  • Don’t believe the grading of routes or access
  • The altitude can be a bit debilitating
  • Autumn may not exist


Grading Conversion

7    =VS
8   =VS/HVS
9    =HVS
9+ =E1 to E4


Mammoth Area (Maximus Press)
New colour guide to the crags between Bishop and Yosemite
Bishop Area (Maximus Press)
A guide to Bishop and south (Alabama Hills). Supposed to say if the lower off is >100ft (30m), this is my second email to the publishers.
New Jack City (Onsite Media)
The name says it all, new B/W guide but clear topos and descriptions.
Joshua Tree Select (Wolverine Press)
Just 2500 of the 8000 routes in JTree, there is a 1000 route bouldering guide by the same author. The pitch lengths are frequently wrong (short), two climbers already have broken ankelss from abseiling accidents
Hidden Treasures East (Glentex Publications)
Big Bear Lake and its surrounding crags, the best crags are south facing so in winter you can watch the skiing below you on the south side of the lake. OOP so use SoCal Select (Maximus) or SoCal Sport (KDaniels)
Shuteye Ridge (Wolverine Press)
New colour guide to the area between Fresno and Yosemite. It is as good as the cover picture looks.

Day 0
Land LAX, drive to Mohave and stay in a Motel

Day 1
Drive to Denny’s, have a full American Breakfast, stagger to car and drive north. Climb at the Alabama Hills, where many movies are still filmed, a “roadside” granite crag with mostly fully bolted routes, climb a 7, 8 & 9. It is looking good.

Go to the fisherman’s campsite in Bishop (which now has a satellite machine for printing camping tickets @ $12 per site per night) and set up camp – we are entertained at night by the local raccoon family.

Day 2
Climb on Casa Diablo Mountain, with care driving up the 4×4 dirt road I could probably have got my Focus there. A 10 metre walk-in. Climb a 4 (UK 5b start), 6 & a really good “udgy” 9 before the weather starts to look worrying, snow is coming over the Sierra Crest at a lower level than we are climbing at.

Nigel leading on Tall Wall, Alabama Hills

Day 3
Climb at the Alabama Hills on Tall Wall. A **** route with 9 bolts and less than 30m does not sound too bad, but lots of blind pulling over bulges on small holds and hollow sounding plates while well above the bolts leaves us both shattered, it was only graded a 7 – the 8 to the right looks easier (and the abseil was 32m).

Day 4
Drive to New Jack City and climb on Valentine’s Wall. NJC is rock but not as you know it, ex-mining site of metamorphic, black rock with lots of small incuts. Two 7’s both with hard starts, have to solo a 6 to check the grading!

Day 5
A 7 and an 8, the 7 had a short blank section, the start of the 8 was desperate and by fifth bolt there were no holds (more UK 5b moves)

Tracey on the mantle finish of Lesbian Lust, Joshua Tree Wilderness.

Day 6
Decide to check out the “Beginners” White wall. Can’t see how to climb the 6 so start of the 7, lots of blind laybacking follows but actually not too hard. As for the 6, even after stick clipping the start, I am not sure how we did not fall off on moves higher up – Tracey led both of these really well. Drive to Joshua Tree and try a new (for us) campsite(@ Black Rock), trees, water and Flush toilets, but no showers, still luxury.

Day 7
A 50 minute walk in the desert leads to Hollywood and the ZsaZsaGabor boulder. I have walked to here before and we are prepared for LL, a **** 9+, even if not how to climb it, a knife sharp arête goes past 4 bolts to a tat abseil-station. The stick-clip comes in useful, but forgot the knife to cut out some tat. Sustained 5b climbing, run out above the first bolt leads to a mantle finish (which the Americans say is desperate and we both thought was the easiest part of the route!). The clouds clear and we stagger back to the car following the GPS track, drinking 4 pints of liquid each. Celebrate with ice-cream.

Day 8
With it now too hot to venture back into JT Park we decide to go 4000ft uphill to Big Bear Lake and the Holcombe Valley. Climbed some reasonable 7’s before going to a new area, no bolts on the topo and less bolts than the guide in the routes, luckily we can still solo 5.3 & 4.

Walked down the 2 wheel drive access road, right between two trees was a rock about 300mm high, that will stop most cars. That explains why there was only 4x4s in that car-park.

Day 9
Drove to the Kern Valley, target Dome Rock/Needles the next day (White Punks on Dope)

Nigel taking on break on the jugs on “Dreamscape”, Shuteye Ridge

Day 10
Rain, drove for 3 hours to Shuteye Ridge, the 2 wheel drive dirt road to the “Green” campsite was full-on. In the parking area were two Subarus two 4×4 “transits” and our 4×4. It was full on rock climbing for cars beyond this point. Walked to Dreamscape and climbed a 7, absolutely stunning, but the snow was coming in so we decided to go down lower for the night.

Day 11
The snow had stayed off but we drove to the “Blue” parking and walked up to the crags up another 4×4 rock climb. Something for another day. Having spent the past ten days at very basic campsites, tonight is going to be “shower” night! Yippee!

Day 12
Too hot to climb on Tollhouse Rock, so up to Sequoia / Kings Canyon early, before the smoke rolled in from controlled fires.

Day 13
Hearst Castle (which proved that money does not buy taste) on the west coast of California

Day 14
Called into the Getty Centre before heading for LAX and home.

Nigel Barry

Posted in Meets, News