Category: California
Trip Report #: 236
Partner: Jason Cullum
Rock Type: Granite
Elev: ~3,000 ft
at Joshua Tree
(5.5 days and 40+ climbs)
My first trip to Joshua Tree. I should make this a Winter Break tradition.

As a teacher, I have over three weeks of holidays around Christmastime. I was itching to climb. Granite. Outside. In the sun. Joshua Tree (where I had never been) seemed like the perfect destination. Now I just needed a partner.

My friend Jason was easily convinced to join me. We decided to drive rather than fly so we could take our gear and be more flexible with dates and weather. We also decided to rent a car rather than drive on of our own; as shown in the table to the right, the better gas mileage and avoiding wear and tear on one of our own vehicles more than offsets the cost of the rental. By taking shifts, we managed the 1400-mile drive in a 27-hour push, averaging almost 40 mpg in our little Hyundai rental car and stopping only at a Starbucks, a Subway, a Powells Books, another Subway, a Carl's Junior, a McDonalds, 5 more Starbucks, 3 gas stations, and a 3-hour nap at a reststop. And then we were there! We had also decided to splurge and stay at an airbnb in Twentynine Palms — it was was well worth the $33/night to have a warm place to hang out during the long chilly nights, plus the additional bonus of a shower, kitchen, and (most important to me) wireless internet. 

We climbed for five and a half days in Joshua Tree (we had planned on six, but the final day it started to rain around noon). With thousands of routes scattered on rocks throughout the park, it was a bit overwhelming to choose what to climb. So our mode was to experience as much of the surreal landscape as possible by climbing at a different area each day. We climbed a total of 40 different routes, mostly moderate trad leads with the occasional toprope climb; by doing laps on some of the routes, I got in about 10 pitches of climbing each day. Although the air temperatures were chilly, there sky was cloudless (until the final day!) and as long as we climbed in the sun we were comfortable. Jason was an awesome partner, putting up with my climb-all-day-every-day-and-we-better-not-sleep-in-who-cares-about-chilly-mornings style, and being enjoyable and entertaining company the entire time.

This was an awesome way to spend a week of Winter Break. I'll be back for sure (2017 update: Christmas 2017 at Joshua Tree trip report!). Thanks Jason for joining! The following page gives a list of the climbs we did and some photos from each day.

Climbs We Did
(favorites are marked with a *)

 Indian Cove   (Day 1 - Dec 16)
 1  The MikadoFeudal Wall, 5.6, 55', trad (led by Jason)
 2  DuchessFeudal Wall, 5.6, 50', trad (led by Steph)
 3  Duchess RightFeudal Wall, 5.7, 50', trad (TR)
 4  The CastrumFeudal Wall, 5.10a, 50', trad (TR)
 5  MarchesaFeudal Wall, 5.2, 50', trad (TR)
 6  SwishbahFeudal Wall, 5.7, 50', trad (led by Steph)
 7  Coyote in the Bush, Feudal Wall, 5.10a, 50', sport (TR)
 8*  Tranquility, Moosedog Tower, 5.6, 130', 2p, trad  (P1 led by Jason, P2 led by Steph)

 Lost Horse Area   (Day 2 - Dec 17 / Day 6 - Dec 21)
 1*  Frosty ConeDairy Queen Wall, 5.7, 75', trad (led by Steph)
 2  ScrumdillyishusDairy Queen Wall, 5.7, 80', trad (TR)
 3*  White LightningHemingway Main Wall, 5.7, 121', trad (led by Steph)
 4*  Poodles are People TooHemingway Main Wall, 5.10b, 110', trad (TR)
 5*  OverseerHemingway Main Wall, 5.9, 120', trad (TR)
 6*  Overseer DirectHemingway Main Wall, 5.10a, 120', trad (TR)
 7  Hernie Hernie Hernie, Hemingway Main Wall, 5.8, 100', trad (TR)

 Wonderland North Area   (Day 2 - Dec 17)
 1  The Chief, Reggie Dome, 5.5, 50', trad (led by Jason)
 2  Pops Goes HawaiianReggie Dome, 5.7, 50', trad (TR)
 3  Fender BenderReggie Dome, 5.8, 100', trad/sport (TR)
 4  Love ShackB52 Rock, 5.8, 60', trad (led by Steph)

 Hidden Valley CG Area   (Day 3 - Dec 18 / Day 5 - Dec 20)
 1*  Mike's BooksIntersection Rock, 5.6, 160', 2p, trad (led by Steph)
 2*  The WaterchuteIntersection Rock, 5.10b, 70', trad (TR)
 3*  Underpass (/w Overhang Bypass finish)Intersection Rock, 5.6, 120', 2p, trad (led by Steph)
 4*  Hands OffThe Wall, 5.8, 50', trad (led by Steph)
 5*  Double CrossThe Old Woman, 5.7, 80', trad (led by Steph)
 6*  Toe JamThe Old Woman, 5.7, 80', trad (led by Steph)
 7*  The FlakeIntersection Rock, 5.8, 140', (2p), trad (P1 led by Steph, "P2" led by Jason)
 8  The EyeCyclops Rock, 5.3, 100', trad (led by Jason)

 Jumbo Rocks Area   (Day 4 - Dec 19)
 1  GemConan's Corridor, 5.8, 60', trad (led by Steph)
 2*  SpidermanConan's Corridor, 5.10a, 90', trad (TR)
 3*  Colorado CrackConan's Corridor, 5.9, 110', trad (TR)
 4*  BoulderadoConan's Corridor, 5.10d, 95', sport (TR)
 5  Fool's GoldConan's Corridor, 5.8, 60', trad (TR)

 Sheep Pass Area   (Day 4 - Dec 19)
 1  Take FiveWailing Sax Wall5.8, 75', trad (led by Steph)
 2  The Morning AfterWailing Sax Wall5.8, 55', trad (TR)
 3  Maiden VoyageWailing Sax Wall, 5.10a, 100', trad/sport (TR)

 Quail Springs Area   (Day 5 - Dec 20)
 1*  Popular MechanicsWhite Cliffs of Dover, 5.9, 90', trad (led by Steph)
 2*  Ace of SpadesWhite Cliffs of Dover, 5.9, 100', trad (led by Steph)
 3  Card ChimneyWhite Cliffs of Dover, 5.5, 80', trad (TR)
 4*  Jack of HeartsWhite Cliffs of Dover, 5.9, 80', trad (TR)
 5  Unnamed (crack branching left off Ace of Spades)White Cliffs of Dover, 5.9ish, 100', trad (TR)

Photos from the trip

The drive, arriving in Joshua Tree
Photo descriptions:

The drive, arriving in Joshua Tree
1.  Goodbye winter.... (-14°C/7°F when we left Bellingham)
2.  ...and hello spring (20°C/68°F as we approached Joshua Tree — although this didn't last, since a cold snap arrived in Joshua Tree and temps were around freezing for a couple of days). 
3.  Roadrunner outside the entrance to Joshua Tree.
4.  Joshua Tree.
5.  Jason by the Joshua Tree.

Day 1 - Feudal Wall & Moosedog Tower (Indian Cove)
6.  The Mikado, our first climb of the trip. A fun and easy 5.6 crack.
7.  Wide crack climbing on Duchess Right.
8.  Toproping The Castrum.
9.  Jason leading Pitch 1 of Tranquility (with a variation at the top via Direct South Face) of Moosedog Tower.
10.  Jason blowing away in the 45mph gusts at the top of Moosedog Tower. It was a windy day, but the temperatures were pleasant.
11.  View looking out towards the town of Joshua Tree from Indian Cove.

Day 2 - DQ Wall (Lost Horse), Reggie Dome & B52 Rock (Wonderland N)
12.  Approaching Dairy Queen Wall in the morning. Sunny but cold! (On that day, temps were hovering just around freezing and it was pretty windy.)
13.  Panorama taken by Jason on the approach to Dairy Queen Wall.
14.  Dairy Queen Wall.
15.  Rappelling from the top of Frosty Cone on Dairy Queen Wall. I lasted 2 routes before begging to go climb in the sun. But the two routes we did here were excellent — fun juggy crack climbing.
16.  Looking down while leading Frosty Cone on Dairy Queen Wall. 
17.  Cool dike feature of Pops Goes Hawaiian on Reggie Dome.
18.  Another photo of the cool dike feature.
19.  The view from Reggie Dome, Wonderland North.
20.  The view from B52 Rock, Wonderland North.
21.  Reggie Dome as seen from B52 Rock.
22.  Jason photo-bombing my photo of some Joshua trees.
23.  Joshua trees.
24.  Hiking back to the parking lot from Reggie Dome.

Day 3 - Intersection Rock, The Wall, The Old Woman (Hidden Valley CG)
25.  Sunny east side of Intersection Rock. We started the day on Mike's Books, a popular moderate route to the top of the rock.
26.  Looking down from the start of Pitch 1 of Mike's Books.
27.  Looking down further up on Pitch 1 of Mike's Books.
28.  Looking down the top of Pitch 2 of Mike's Books. I appreciated the bolt.
29.  The view of Hidden Valley CG from the top of Intersection Rock.
30.  On top of Intersection Rock, summit photo.
31.  The Waterchute, which we toproped when rapping Mike's Books.
32.  Looking up Underpass. A very interesting (and not trivial) 5.6 route to the top of Intersection Rock.
33.  Tunneling behind a large flake on Underpass. 
34.  The roof below North Overhang (left) and Overhang Bypass (right). We went right. Neither option seems particularly trivial.
35.  Looking down on the intersection from Intersection Rock.
36.  Jason photo-bombing my photo of The Wall, where we climbed Hands Off, a great 5.8 crack.
37.  Starting up Hands Off.
38.  Looking down Hands Off. I really enjoyed this climb.
39.  Double Cross is a 4-star 5.7 that climbs the crack in the center of the photo. A J-Tree-must-do.
40.  Leading up Double Cross. Super fun crack climbing. No pro until the ledge (although you can place a yellow alien for a move and then remove it to avoid rope drag further up).
41.  Looking up Toe Jam. Another Jason photo-bomb.
42.  Late afternoon light. (Intersection Rock on right.)

Day 4 - Conan's Corridor (Jumbo Rocks) & Wailing Sax Wall (Sheep Pass)
43.  Hiking to Conan's Corridor. Careful not to miss the inobvious turnoff into the gully leading to Conan's Corridor...(the turnoff is only about 5 min along the trail).
44.  Slot canyon at the entrance to Conan's Corridor.
45.  Looking up Conan's Corridor.
46.  Looking down Conan's Corridor. Jason is sitting on top of a boulder below Spiderman.
47.  The 100' walls at Conan's Corridor.
48.  Leading up Gem, a nice 5.8 crack and our first route of the day.
49.  Looking down from the top of Gem.
50.  Spiderman. Awesome burlyish crack climb.
51.  Colorado Crack, one of the best 5.9's in Joshua Tree (according to our guidebook).
52.  Gear anchor at the top of Colorado Crack (takes larger cams).
53.  Boulderado, a 5.10d sport route featuring near vertical dishes and a technical lieback. I really enjoyed this route, and was happy to be able to toprope rather than lead it.
54.  Fool's Gold.
55.  Cool pockets on Fools Gold.
56.  Panorama of Sheep Pass area on the hike to Wailing Sax Wall.
57.  Take Five on Wailing Sax Wall.
58.  Looks like my rope needs a bath when I get home.
59.  Make sure to park in the established parking area in Sheep Pass CG rather than alongside the campground road....

Day 5 - White Cliffs of Dover (Quail Springs), Intersection Rock & Cyclops Rock (Hidden Valley CG)
60.  The White Cliffs of Dover as seen from the parking area.
61.  Joshua trees in the morning sun.
62.  White Cliffs of Dover.
63.  Looking down Ace of Spades (right) and Popular Mechanics (left). Both of these were excellent climbs reminiscent of High Sierra climbing I've done.
64.  Looking down while climbing Card Chimney just left of Ace of Spades. The first 50 feet would be without gear so I was glad to have a toprope.
65.  The fist crack at the start of Jack of Hearts.
66.  Looking down while climbing Jack of Hearts. I feel this excellent climb deserves more stars.
67.  Looking back up at the Jack of Hearts / Ace of Spades / Popular Mechanics area. Excellent climbing in this area, similar to Sierra granite.
68.  Looking up at The Flake on Intersection Rock.
69.  The upper slab on The Flake. I set a belay at the top of the flake just below the final slab and would recommend doing this for communication and minimal rope drag on the final slab which is a bit spooky (to a crack climber like me at least).
70.  A climber on the final part of North Overhang on Intersection Rock.
71.  West side of Cyclops Rock.
72.  Jason leading The Eye, a popular easy climb to the top of Cyclops Rock.
73.  Steep juggy climbing on The Eye.
74.  Looking out of the eye at Hidden Valley area.
75.  Rappelling from the top of Cyclops Rock.
76.  Late afternoon light on Hidden Valley.
77.  Late afternoon sun.
78.  Jason's daily line of Vitamin pain no gain!

Day 6 - Hemingway Main Wall (Lost Horse)
 The short approach to Hemingway Wall.
80.  Hemingway Main Wall. White Lightning goes up the right crack splitting the face.
81.  White Lightning, a fun 100 ft 5.7 crack.
82.  Gear anchor at the top of White Lightning (don't expect bolted anchors at the top of routes in Joshua Tree!).
83.  A 70m rope just makes it to the ground for a toprope belay on this wall.
84.  Jason belaying me up Hernie Hernie Hernie in the rain. In Washington, this is just a typical day of cragging weather....
85.  The top of Hemingway Wall. This was not going to be a quick rainshower, so we took this as a sign our trip was over and got a head start on our drive...but what a fun 5.5 days!

Back home...
 Had to stop at In-and-Out at least once before we left California!
87.  Washing the Joshua Tree grit out of the rope in my parents' bathtub.
Day 1 - Feudal Wall & Moosedog Tower (Indian Cove)
Day 2 - DQ Wall (Lost Horse), Reggie Dome & B52 Rock (Wonderland N)
Day 3 - Intersection Rock, The Wall, The Old Woman (Hidden Valley CG)
Day 4 - Conan's Corridor (Jumbo Rocks) & Wailing Sax Wall (Sheep Pass)
Day 5 - White Cliffs of Dover (Quail Springs), Intersection Rock & Cyclops Rock (Hidden Valley CG)
Day 6 - Hemingway Main Wall (Lost Horse)
Back home...