Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Holiday Weekends at Joshua Tree NOT for Everyone

Well if THAT is true, why was EVERYONE there ??

We pulled in on Black Friday just after lunch to find every campground FULL and the day lots looking like an LA freeway at 5pm.  Being the young, near 60 somethings that we are,  we decided to climb first and worry about where to sleep later. Because that's the way we roll.  Dodging strollers and big bus loads of tourists at The Real Hidden Valley we finally parked at Intersection Rock and walked back. There the guys got to put their hands in the Broken Glass that was keeping Steve busy in his dreams.

The atmosphere created by the after Thanksgiving family traffic was very Disneyland like.  Constant chatter wafted up as Steve, Jim and Brian worked their way up the 5.10 split crack route.  We saw a ranger around 4pm.  Knowing we had no campsite we asked him about overflow camping.  He had the beta we needed.  Just outside Joshua Tree (the town of) is a BLM space where camping is permitted free.  Pulling in as night fell, we parked in the middle of the playa (aka: sort of a dry lake bed) and quickly set up a mini camp.

FREE Camping on the Playa
BLM land outside Jousha Tree, CA
Morning revealed we might have chosen a better spot on the outskirts of the playa, as it appeared we were in the center of "the spot" for motocross and ATV fun. Good thing we were on the move anyway.

Up early we hit the McDonalds (in the WalMart on Highway 62) for coffee and breakfast then drove back into the park hoping Karma would help us find a campsite.  Trolling through Jumbo Rock we found what we needed.  A family, clearly packing up to leave, was kind enough to leave our stuff at the site when they left and we took off looking for a lesser traveled crags. There may be crowds, but people who love our National Parks are usually good, trustworthy sorts. My kind of folks.

Once again Steve's vast knowledge of all things JT paid dividends as he navigated us to just what we wanted. A warm, quiet spot. He knows (because I've made it pretty clear) I'm a wimp when it's cold. It was one of those days where you see people (like me) bundled in 3 layers and a stocking cap, while others walk around in shorts and flip flops.  68 degrees, colder in the shade, warmer in the sun and don't get me started on the wind ;)

So where do you go to beat the crowds and bask in the sun at JT?   Echo Rock, SW Face (aka the Solarium) where we put in a 5.7, 5.9, 5.10+ and a fun little 5.3 for good measure.  A couple of leads, a couple of Top Ropes and there's something for everyone on this wall.  There were harder routes and we could have spent more time, but the rest of JT was calling.

AND where do you go to guarantee a waiting list to get on the route?  The Headstone Rock at Ryan's Campground.  Why then, you might ask.  Because it's a classic and worth the wait!

GREAT Beta: Did you know there are two little ground level cracks (The Headstone Cracks - right and left) for you to pass the time, waiting for your turn at the classics above you.  Here's a link to a little more beta (and some photos & videos) on these cracks.

ME on The SW Corner of The Headstone Rock.
This is THE place to get that classic photo
of yourself to scare your mother.....
mine is 80 and can not understand this at all ;)
The Headstone Rock makes for great photos for everyone who braves the step off over big air (only a 5.6 and again, a LOT easier on the bottom end of the rope ;) Even though the wind added its intimidation with its cold temperatures, we did it and I got the first ever "really cool" photo of myself to show my kids, parents and Facebook friends.

As I said, there's always a line and we climbed on the left while another party was on the right. Topping out together we all quietly waited our turn to rap off the other side and out of the relentless wind.   AND like I said, crowded or not these are my kind of folks, as we each took photos for the other and they lent us the use of a long sling to clip to as the crowd progressed down off of The Headstone and back to our packs.
I stood up ONLY for this photo.
Clipped in to the anchor of course, but
even THAT is scary from up there. 

Brian stayed on the ground to get these great summit shots from down there as well as a few good rappelling shots too.  Oh Headstone Rock you provide so much validation for this obsession we have.    Usually climbing photos are but shots or selfies at the base before you put the camera phone safely away.   But this rock and the people we met on it have made for a great batch of digital memories.

Thanks Brian for some GREAT shots.

THANKSGIVING thoughts.....This year and every year, I am Thankful for my Husband, our family (you know who you are but are likely not reading this anyway) and our climbing partners.

Steve Smelser (see you on Thursday at the gym) Brian Anthony (you'd better get your butt to the gym with us or number 1,000 might have to be a TR;) and Bill who had other plans this past weekend but attended via stories around the campfire and all of the others who came before and will be in the future.

Left to Right: Brian Anthony, Steve Smelser,
Jim and Kay Zahn.
I'm thankful for the sun (and the wind) and the rocks.

These same rocks that have been here for generations waiting for our fingers to touch our shoes to stick and our memories to build around them.  This trip we shall name JumboPlaya. Steve, Jim, Brian and I will remember what that means.

Until next time, as Brian would say, "go get yourself some of that."  Stay safe and love your neighbors on and off the rocks.

submitted by: Kay Zahn
Mountain Project Link to ME

Headstone Cracks at JT - Photos from my phone

Like I said in the earlier post, the Headstone Cracks are a great place to stay pumped (warm) or simply awake while waiting your turn at the Classic Routes above.

Here is a sequence or two from the day we were there. This is Jim starting the lead on The Right Crack. Followed by a sequence or two, placing protection and moving up.


Followed by a little live action video :) Maybe?  If I can get it uploaded...
And the Summit Shot ;)
NOW THE LEFT CRACK, as lead by Steve

And some video of Steve....again, IF/When....

Followed by Brian.  The best shots were of Brian (IMHO) with the moon rising over his head.

JIM is photo bombing this one!

Moonrise over Brian Anthony.
I swear Roxanne (whom I've never met, but will someday)
he usually does wear his helmet!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A JT Local from Phoenix is Bomber Protection against being in over your head.

Oh my gosh, I could write a lot here....but for now, let me post these photos of our climbing partner, gym buddy, and JT local from Phoenix.  A Joshua Tree Local by virtue of having done over 1,000 climbs in JT over the past 3 decades, but embellished by this man's ROCK solid memory for all things Rock (and Roll by the way....don't play Name that Tune with him, unless you are very very good) Name a climb.  If he's been there, and likely he has, there will be sincere and excellent "beta" on the route.

We have just returned from a 4 day trip with Steve Smelsser (aforementioned local rock savant) and friends Bill Golightly and Brian Anthony in Joshua Tree National Park.

Here's a sequence of Steve showing everyone how to do The Hobbit Roof 5.10d.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Rock Lounge and Durango, CO

The Rock Lounge in Durango is an eclectic place that will fool you from the front side.  It doesn't look TALL enough to be a rock gym.  But once inside you quickly see that the building goes DOWN, making a second floor basement extending up to the main floor.

Rock Jim at The Rock Lounge
When we arrived on a Tuesday morning Kids Camp was going on (it is summer after all).  We listened a bit while the leader talked to the kids.  What a great day camp instructor.  He made sure all the kids were introduced and comfortable with each other, talked about some climbing goals (games maybe ;) and about a potential "outing" to the park later that day.  I am always impressed when I see or hear adults who KNOW how to talk to kids. These kids were lucky and their parent's money seemed very well spent.  

We peeked into the bouldering areas and the yoga room (looking out at the river walk on The Animas River that snakes through Durango) and talked with one of the owners (or the wife of ;) and were told that later in the day, hubby Marcus Garcia would be back and he'd have the beta we needed on how to get to climbing areas in town. NOTE:  She was not without excellent beta herself.  She helped us find our next stop by looking it up online and giving us directions.  We were looking for the Ska Brewery, and with her help, we drove right to it.

Our favorite beer of late has been Modus Hoperandi. Oh the HOPS! When we discovered it was brewed in Durango and we were GOING to Durango, it was a no-brainer.

Pizza and a Crowler.  YUM!
I love my 4" camp pad.
Lunch, which included 2 beers... and a short nap later ;) we had managed to kill enough time. 

We returned to The Rock Lounge around 4pm that afternoon.  This time the place was teaming with the climbing team, but they didn't mind company. Of course the youth of today's climbers always reminds us of how old we are getting.  Then again, we KNOW that we are staying young by even being there.
Looking Down at the trad climbing area.
So we climb on.  The roped climbing in the Rock Lounge is not too plentiful (and if you know ME, I like to be on the bottom end of the rope) but Jim got his fill of Bouldering and did his part belaying me on a couple of 5.7s and 5.8s.  Some of these routes go right over the windows.  Really.  Steel bars straddle the plexiglass windows and holds are placed onto the bars.  There's plenty of shoe rubber on the plexiglass so it must hold up fairly well.  It's just a little weird, climbing on the window.

After onlhy an hour we were done.  Maybe it was the altitude, or maybe those beers had a little more to do with it that we thought. The climbing team was finishing up their workouts and the owner Marcus was available to draw us a map to the area we were looking for.  He's actually working on a revised guide book to the areas, as his first one was out of print.  See Rock Gyms are always a great place to start.  We thought we'd buy a guide at the local outfitters, but they had none either.  Later in the week, we met up with a couple at X-Rock who had their own "well worn" copy of Marcus' first guide.  But for this trip, we found Durango routes on Mountain Project, and his hand drawn maps were a great help as we drove right to the East Animas Climbing and the Watch Crystal Wall.

For your reference: Off of 550 (the MAIN road through town) take 15th Street North - it goes Uphill and splits at Florida (go left)   fyi: Florida might be a state on the east coast, but this is FLO-Reeda to the locals.

Continue on FloRida as it snakes up the hill.  Watch for and Turn LEFT onto Hwy 250 (there's a light, and it's a sharp/weird left turn - so slow down) you then continue on 250 as it goes further up.  This road will cross 32nd Street (which btw is another route from/back to Main Street, further north)

Sign at East Animas Parking
The parking area for East Animas (or East "A") is a RIGHT turn, if you've followed my directions, but obviously toward the rock.. and the area is Marked with a sign but it's inside the parking area (ie: not on the road) So look at turn offs that are NOT driveways, and you'll find this sign (image on right)

The trail uphill is obvious and you go by a memorial marker, then over a bridge that crosses a small side creek and continue up, Up, UP... (when you reach the base of the rocks, you are likely right at Yellow Pages - a 5.6+ classic crack)

The approach is only a half mile or so, with good switchbacks but I was huffing and puffing when we got there anyway.  The altitude was not my friend that day (came up from nothing to 9,000 feet less than 24 hours earlier) and gravity was working harder against me than ever.

I can see our tent from here!
Interesting note: After we choose a campground (United Campgrounds - with showers and water) and then found the Rock Gym, drove up and out to the climbing areas, our camp site was exactly below (and across the valley) from the base of Yellow Pages, where we started. Oh if I could fly...

This 5.6? trad route is said to be an easy first lead. Wasn't going to be mine that day ;) and even on the friendly end of the rope, I found a couple of the moves harder than 5.6.  The first move alone would make a first time leader nervous, even if he or she had pre placed protection above.  But maybe I missed something.

Yellow Pages crack on
WatchCrystal Wall
Rock Jim (hubby) of course made it look easy and even though I was feeling the effects of the altitude, I followed and cleaned it.  A guide book would have saved us a lot of time however because I lowered down from the top of the climb and Jim rappelled, only to find out later that the gully just to our right, is the common down climb area.  No wonder the girls on what looked like Double Exposure Direct a 5.12+ were looking at us funny.  The easiest climb at on the Watch Crystal and we're rapping down to boot!

Storms rolled in later that day and if you know me, you know I HATE lightening when I'm climbing....who doesn't? So, with both the weather and the altitude pushing me we took a quick (obligatory) selfie and we made our way back to town.
First Durango Route - CHECK
 The next day we went bouldering, then drove to Historic Silverton, Co on the Million Dollar Highway.  It lived up to its name and then some.

With the monsoon storms getting earlier each day, we spent our last day bouldering and scoping out X-Rock and others in the area.  We found it toproped by a cute couple from WI, who incidentally were the ones with the well worn guide book. We watched for a while and decided to get come back later. But not to much later, the skies were turning darker and so we headed to the car to beat the storm..
X-Rock Pinnacle

...back to our tent.....OK OK we went to a bar to wait out the rain... but it was on the way back to our campsite and just seemed like more fun at the time.  We had plenty of time in the tent later that night to play Scrabble and because we United had WiFi, we were able to watch John Stewart and The Daily Show before going to sleep.  Or trying to sleep.  The WIND was relentless and one night snapped a tie down on the rain fly, and we were out in the rain doing the fix it thing!

All in All we found Durango, CO to be a pretty cool place to acclimate for a few days on the way to Telluride or Boulder.  Too bad we weren't on our way to Telluride or Boulder.  Too bad we had to go home.  A long weekend is all we will get until the dogs, cats, horses, chinchilla all move on the better places.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Ape Index - Peoria, AZ

July may not be the best time to check out new Rock Gyms in Arizona and if not, Sunday at Noon is probably the worst time, but that's what we did anyway.

Sundays are usually our day at Focus (it brings out the OLD folks, and the kids are not up yet :) so we get the gym pretty much to ourselves.  But this week we headed over to the west side and met Steve Smelser at Ape Index in Peoria.  Rather "low key" from the outside, the inside is painted in bright colors and they have a 30' Roof wall in the image of the earth.  Climb from California to New York in the same day !!

We went online to get the address of the gym, and was immediately offered up a Groupon (not sure how I'd feel about that if I were Ape Index, because Groupon was right on top of them in the search results....selling discounts) so it looked like the daily rate was $20 with gear rental, but they had a $9.99 Groupon for one visit and another for three visits for $30.  So I bought the $30 Groupon thinking that we all 3 could use it that day.  BAD idea (though we didn't mind) it was for one person, 3 visits.  Steve had an old Climb Free coupon he won at a contest last year.  It was expired, but they honored it anyway (good people) and since we have our own gear, Jim got a better day rate.  Since I have the Groupon I can go back if I want (too bad it's way across town)

OK so how is the gym?
In need of a little upkeep I'd say, but it's fun to be in a new place. So I know it's humid these days, but the routes were marked with tape that was falling off, rolled up and or just plain hard to follow.  AND (here's one of my pet peeves) we don't like Brown tape right next to Drab Green, or Neon Pink next to Neon Orange (especially with bad lighting) Remember we are OLD... hard to tell the difference sometimes.

Additionally many of the walls are soft(?) so when you grab a hold the whole wall flexes and in a few places the sheet rock? was broken.  At least I'm talking about the Belay'd routes, so it's not so concerning when the holds flex and creak .

Friday, June 13, 2014

Jack's Canyon, Winslow Arizona

Selfie while "locked on belay"

5.9 where everyone but ME hung on belay.
I didn't finish the route -lowered down-
but that was before I learned SPORT Climbing
is all about hanging and trying again.
Not in MY day....not in my day.