Monday, May 24, 2010

Joshua Tree National Park - Part 1 - Bouldering

Awesome. There is no other word to describe this place. For us it is undeniably a 5 star destination. With incredible trad climbing and awesome bouldering in a gorgeous setting, it has been the best destination so far on the trip (Horse Pens 40 being a close second).

Check out the boulder in the bottom right, that's Kristal on Pinhead V1...

I won't speak too much for the trad climbing, other than the fact that there is an awful lot of it and it is awesome. The bouldering is equally as awesome, and the variety is stunning. You can find everything here. It's like Joshua Tree took all the climbing from all the destinations we've been to and rolled them into one. The painful crimps from McKenzie Pond. The ridiculous mantle topouts from Horse Pens 40. The Huecos from Hueco Tanks. Add in a healthy dose of friction climbing, painful (!!) rock texture, highballs and mostly flat landings and you have one awesome collection of problems.

Me on Yabo Roof V3...

As usual though, with anything this good, you have to pay a toll. Looking in the guidebook you might initially laugh at the fact that problems graded easier than V0- get distinct YDS grades (5.9, 5.8, etc - where most destinations lump these all together under the V0- or VB moniker). Until you come across a V0 that you can't pull off the ground, or a V0- that you can barely grovel up (both of which happened to us). To say that Joshua Tree is sandbagged is a little too simple. In the end we figured it out. By using the grade in the guidebook as a base, then adding (or in rare cases subtracting) based on the following, we were able to get a reasonably good idea of what problems we could climb.

Conditions - Has your friction problem been baking in the sun? Add 1.
Try and do this in the sun - me on Streetcar Named Desire V6/7...

Beta - Do you know how to climb an offwidth? A roof crack? A dihedral with no holds? Add 1.
Here is Hobbit Hole Offwidth V0-, which wouldn't be out of place as the crux of a 5.11c. The hardest V0- I have ever sent...

Length - A problem with 30+ V3 moves is still graded V3. Add 1.
Kristal on Gunsmoke V3, your typical 75 foot traverse...

Height Dependance - Some problems are heavily height dependant. Add or subtract 1.
Kristal just before the crux of High Noon V5. The next move is a 'bit' reachy...

General Sandbagging - Generally add 1.
Me on The Chube V2, actually a quite reasonably graded problem, except that on the east coast it would probably be V3.

It was pretty funny running into two kids from Colorado on their first outdoor road trip, saying they could climb V1-V3 in the gym, looking for White Rastafarian V3. When we later caught up with them, Kristal turned the corner and burst out laughing. Unfortunately I don't have a picture of the problem, which is beautiful. You'll just have to come check it out for yourself.


  1. What guide book did you use? Would you recommend it?

    1. Well, it's been over 6 years since we were bouldering there. You probably can't even get the guidebook we were using anymore. I know there are new ones out, but I haven't looked at them.