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!