Saturday, March 22, 2014

Joshua Tree w/Derek - Day 1

On top of Intersection Rock

All Photos

Derek and I got here at 11 a.m. yesterday. We dropped gear at Opie's house, grabbed the guidebooks Opie left out for us (they were already in the park climbing) and headed into the park, buying a Golden Eagle Access Pass.

We have this book of 69 trad climbs of JT from 5.5 to 5.9 and started to knock them off. We started on a 5.5 crack called The Bong, which went easily and quickly. I left a trad anchor on top, lowered Derek down and then rappelled and pulled the rope. I then tried the crack/slab to the left and it wasn't nicely up to the runout slab section and I didn't like it and didn't feel confident. In fact, I was a bit scared. I tried a couple of options and didn't feel solid. I eventually committed to one option and moved up but then had second thoughts. I was way above gear and the fall would be  awful. It was just our second route of the trip. This was a mistake. I tried to downclimb and couldn't see my feet. I was stuck. I don't know how long I stayed up there. I wasn't panic-ing, but I was very concerned, wondering if the piece below me was solid. If it pulled I could hit the ground and probably perish. While that would suck for me, it would be traumatic for Derek. Seriously, that was my biggest concern.

It took me a long time, but I finally got the guts to blindly step down and hope the friction would hold me.I reversed back to my gear and then headed left on easier ground, clipped a bolt on another route and headed up a much easier slab. Derek followed and observed, "So, I guess you can't use your hands at all..."

We then did a tricky crack through a roof. It was rated 5.7 but it involved full-on jamming. I got out the Spyder Mitts for Derek and reviewed his jamming technique. I walked him through everything I was doing as I climbed it. He got up to the tricky part and paused for awhile. I asked how he was doing and he said, "I just am bad at this..." But he didn't get frustrated and he eventually got a good jam. His face lit up and he was psyched! He got another solid jam and he cruised the rest.

We then headed over to a leaning 5.7 route that I thought was 5.8+. The guidebooks call it awkward, as it leans hard left across a smooth wall and it is very awkward to keep hands and feet in the crack. It was greasy too. I thought it was challenging and told Derek to just move fast on the hard part and don't worry about the rating. Meaning I didn't want him to get frustrated that a 5.7 could be so hard. He cruised it easier than I did! He said the jams left solid to him. I thought the crack was too thin to be solid.

Next we did ToeJam, a 5.7, and we both thought it was pretty easy crack climbing, but super fun. We then went and did Double Cross a steep, wide 5.8 crack. I loved it and cruised right up. Derek paused at one wide section where he couldn't get a jam, but he worked it out and loved it as well.

We took a short break to eat/drink and rest and then headed over to another 5.8 called Hard Up. This was a very cool, tricky climb up a steep crack of all different widths, but with some face holds and stemming to ease matters at the worst widths. I really enjoyed it. Derek worked out all the crux sections until the very top where you have to get a high thumbs-up left-hand jam and pull it clear down to your waist. This was a new technique for him and it fell off briefly before getting it, but once he got it, he executed it perfectly. His attitude continued to be very upbeat and positive. We were having a great time.

It was pretty late now and the sun was fast going down, but we had one more route in our trad guidebook for this area. I wondered if Derek would be up for another or want to pack it in. He was all for getting it done! He had maybe more appetite for the climbing than me!

We raced over the base of the route, Overhang Bypass (5.7 R) and headed up. It is a two-pitch route and we scrambled up to the start, racing the light. I zoomed up the first pitch, which has a very inobvious section at the crux. As I completed this dicey lieback, I asked Derek, "Did you see how I did this?" He did. I set up a belay and Derek came up. He paused at the tricky section and I wondered if he'd figure it out. Moments later he was at the belay. I said, "That's pretty hard there, huh?" He said, "Once I figured it out, it seem pretty easy." Kids.

The next pitch has a burly hand traverse below the roof. It is very intimidating, despite the grade, and quite powerful. I put in two pieces and then cranked the traverse. Above is a slab move protected by a bolt, but it was easy and safe compared to the slab I backed off earlier. Derek followed nicely on the burly section and hardly noticed the slab move.

I lowered him from the top, only to save time, as Derek had been rappelled off Toe Jam and Double Cross without any trouble. He's getting solid on rappelling. There were three other climbers queued for the rappel anchor, so I could get Derek on the ground without waiting for them. The lead guy of the other group was super nice and let me rap their line, so I coiled my rope, put it on my back and zipped down line back to Derek.

We got to the car just before dark and headed to Opie's house. There we met Opie, his local friend Susan, and Dave and Callie from Boulder. Dave and Callie are from Boulder and are out here until Thursday. We ate some dinner, chatted and then watched "The Armstrong Lie," where I fell asleep for part of it and, amazingly, so did Derek! We didn't go to bed until 11:30 p.m. It's now 8 a.m. as I finish this and I've rousted Derek, but he is still prone. Day two starts now!

The Bong 5.5 
Ballbury  5.7 
The Hoblett  5.7
Buissonier  5.7
Toe Jam  5.7
Double Cross  5.8
Hands Off   5.8
Overhang Bypass   5.7

Day 1 Totals: 8 routes, 9 pitches

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