Joshua tree for Christmas 2008

James, Heather, Paul and I spent December 19 to January 4 in Joshua Tree

We left Washington during a 4 inch snowstorm, but before the big 9 inch dump. We picked up Heather in Oregon and arrived in Red Rocks shortly after a 6 inch snowstorm. We met Paul down there and climbed for 3 days before the weather turned sour and we headed to Joshua Tree. We arrived at Joshua Tree on the evening of the 23rd and spend the day at Indian Cove. That night (xmas eve) we camped at Hidden Valley which was windy, cold and deserted and once again drove down to Indian Cove for the warmer climbing. When we returned to our site at Hidden Valley that night, we found both our tents shredded. Heather's tent had bent poles but was salvageable. My 24 year old Eureka was completely destroyed and James and I took turns sleeping in the bivy sack/truck canopy for the rest of the trip.

This is Heather and James following birdland at red rocks. I was disappointed in the red rocks rock quality. If you can picture a mud puddle that has frozen, dried out and then crackled up in the sunshine you have red rocks sandstone. You can see it in this picture. The wacos (crackled mud) make for delightful climbing but I couldn't shake the feeling that my protection was less than optimal. I doubt if I'll ever go back. If I want sunny winter climbing, Joshua Tree is a shorter drive with better rock. If I want summer climbing, Yosemite is 8 hours closer, and Yosemite granite is as good as it gets.

This was the first time my old tent got knocked down by the wind. The pole bent in a big gust and we had to pull it down and sleep in bivy sacks. I do realize I need a new down coat...but it has high sentimental value, and marks me instantly as a long time dirtbag climber. Like bell bottoms on a hippie, it's a fashion statement :-)

Heather and I post holing our way toward the Birdland route. My chacos were not the ideal footwear for this hike. I wrapped my socks in plastic grocery bags, but they ripped.

There is a 4 pitch 5.6 route on the left skyline but the snow was too deep to reach it.

Heather belaying on Birdland.

James took this picture of me 2 pitches up at my high point on Johnny Vegas 5.7. My last 3 pieces were one quarter inch wired stoppers placed in gaps between sandstone wacos. They looked like they might have held a small dog. I downclimbed and donated them to the cliff. It was snowing lightly, the sun had set and it was time to bail. We had to drop our line and pull up another rope from James and Paul to get off the the dark. When I got down the only thing I said to James was: "I am *so* done with red rocks"

Heather and I packing up for a climb at red rocks. I still can't believe the three of us drove all that way in my little Toyota pickup.

Here we are in Vegas, eating a smorgasbord off Paul's hood before driving to jtree to escape the frigid weather of Red Rocks. We were going to get a cheap hotel room and explore the Las Vegas strip, but the internet was down so we made the 3 hour drive to jtree.

This is the view from the top of the Bong on the Blob.

This is James rapping. James is an awesome climber and very bold. He has mastered the art of moving fast and light on rock. His rack is one quarter the size of my rack and has funny things on it called tricams which I feel belong in a museum. I on the other hand, have mastered the art of carrying my el cap rack everywhere which provides us with a never ending source of amusing arguments on the merits of light and fast, or slow and safe. He climbs more than I do so I think he's winning the argument.

This cactus was over by Outward Bound slab which is accessed off the boy scout trailhead. There are some nice moderate climbs there and I wouldn't mind going back sometime as we didn't get to finish all of them. This place was deserted, we saw no one at all.

This is Paul B. hamming it up at the base of Pope's crack, 5.9. We were so happy to see sunshine we stripped down to long johns. This guy is a stud, a very bold and competent climber, and awesome partner.

Look at them guns! Did I mention he's funny?

Paul on the crux of Popes crack. It's a stiff nine. We also did Touch and Go that day. I found that to be a much easier lead than Popes Crack.

Who is that old man? DIRTBAG TIP: Note the filty tape gloves. I discovered I can save money on tape by wearing them continuously, even to sleep. I got about 4 days out of each pair. I took a shower with my third pair, on day 4. They got a little soft after the shower, but a fresh coating of nose blow sealed 'em right up and they went another two days.

Paul leading Sidewinder in Steve Canyon 10b. It had a hard start getting past a bolt, a moderate middle section and a desperate end. 15 feet above Paul's head you can just see a horizontal dike. There is a bolt at head height once you stand up on the dike. Then you traverse 20 feet left with nothing but sideways crimpers for handholds (in other words, no hands). The dyke is reasonable foot smears but the wall bulges out toward you, forcing you to topple over backwards as there are no handholds. Did I mention there are no hands? Very very scary, even to follow. A fall there on lead would almost certainly lead to a hospital stay as it's a ledgy landing. Brave lead Paul!

The temp dropped from 80 down to 40 in half an hour. Paul was heading for hypo by the time we rapped off.

One of Paul's climbing buddies found 4 hams in a dumpster diving expedition outside a Safeway. As Paul was on an extended dirtbag road trip, he took one of the hams and shared it with everyone, not telling us it was dumpster ham until after we'd had it for dinner.

Paul friends YaYa and Nick brought down his mail. Here he is paying bills outside the Coyote Corner shower house in Jtree. Paul's dog Bear is standing guard. Everybody loves that darn dog.

Heather and James waiting their turn for the showers.

Eddie Buchanan was camped in the site next to us. He is a very versatile singer/songwriter and offered to sing for his breakfast this morning. I filmed this video using Heather's new Olympus camera.



The guy on the left is the one who found the ham. We'd all gather around in the morning to drink coffee and plan out our day. Thanks to Heather for bring a french press coffee maker.

Heather calls this her new boyfriend. I think it was a back massager. It belonged to the dumpster guy.

Crystal was a friend of Brett and Ondi. I climbed with her for half a day at echo rock on double dip and black tide.


This gal followed Heart and Sole 10a on Echo rock before we got on it. She was lovely to watch: a very smooth and graceful climber.


The feet and hands are almost non-existent on this climb. You have to trust your feet completely and move up on faith.


I love dirtbag (read that as poor) climbers. This guy had done a wonderful job of taping his pants with ductape to make them last another season.

This is me getting ready to lead heart and sole 10a

Brett and I on bottom of heart and sole

Believe in those feet, the bolt is almost in reach!

Brett following me up heart and sole. Once you get to the crack it's much easier.

Brett is an awesome climber. He and James and I drove to jtree together last year. This year he came down with his girlfriend Ondi and her friend Crystal...a regular does he do it?

This is Crystal. She was a lot of fun and had a great smile.


Brett's girlfriend Ondi took these pictures with my camera.

Brett following the 10a to the left of heart and sole.

At the end of this day of friction climbing at Echo I got this crazy idea to lead ebgbs 10c. We didn't get to the first bolt until the sun had set. I fell off the first bolt 4 times, hitting the ledge below harder each time. Finally I thought I might have the move down, but I looked at the sky and it was going to twilight. I grabbed the darn bolt and pulled up onto the sidewalk. I wanted to have a chance at finishing the main route, which was 10 feet left around a corner. The first 3 bolts were only about 5.9, but after that it got very stiff with no hands or feet, just greasy smears and imaginary mantles, with desperately thin smearing moves up to 12 feet above the bolts on almost vertical rock...and it was getting dark. I fell once with a bad sequence but got myself sorted out quickly. At the top I let out a big rebel yell. I've not led that thing in 24 years. I honestly thought those days were behind me. I finished so late that Brett had to put off following the route. As it was, we rapped off in the pitch dark, with one headlamp. I heard later that a bunch of people had watched "that idiot" climb ebgbs in the dark from the parking lot. Joe was one of them. When I met him the next day he said, "Wow, you mean that was you up there, you're getting warmed up dude!"

This was taken inside an 8 passenger chevy van. The owner called it the tikitaxi and uses it professionally in LA as a sort of Hawaiian themed limo service. We discovered it while walking around the campground loop new years eve looking for a good campfire. He invited us in with great fanfare and turned on all the lights and music. There are palm fronds glued to the ceiling. it sounds tacky but it's actually very cool.

There are plastic fish under the glass of the "aquarium". You have to see this thing to believe it, he's done an awesome job.


this is the big campfire with the sweat lodge. Same people as last year.

New years eve festivities.

Crystal raising her sparkler high on New Years eve.

If you got tired of the sweat lodge campfire and the drunken crowds, you could walk to the other end of the campground where John, the tikitaxi guy and friends always had a good fire and mellow live music. John is on the left here, with his girlfriend on the violin. They had 5 drums, a didgeridoo, a violin and 3 guitars. John could play everything. The man is an amazing musician. I joined them with my harp and guitar on a few songs. We made beautiful music! I found out afterward that Jonathan Copp is a big time climber/videographer who has climbed the North Face of the Eiger, done first ascents in the Himalya and has written numerous articles for Outside and Climbing Magazines. Check out his website here. It's amazing who you'll meet at jtree. James and Heather saw Lynn Hill walking around the campground one morning.

I was moping around my campsite new years day, waiting for my partner to sleep off new years when Joe walked up. He was looking for Bill. I asked him if Bill was his climbing partner and he said sort of. When I told him I was also looking for a partner, Joe invited me to join him and his girlfriend Michelle if I would lead the flake route on intersection. That was so awesome, I didn't even have to leave my campsite to find a partner!


This is Joe's girlfriend Michelle following the flake. She was a 5.12 sport climber, but had never followed trad. She was fun to watch and photograph, truly a picture of grace and beauty.








These two climbers are on top of Intersection rock. They had two kids playing around the base.


This is illusion dweller. I thought I was ready to lead this but it spanked me badly. I hung 4 times. James claims I placed 23 pieces. Hmmm, that would be a piece every three feet...he must be exaggerating. Love to get back for a rematch.

That is the dumpster diving ham guy on the guitar. He was very talented and could play time in a bottle, by Jim Croce. Also pictured are Bear, Paul, and Heather doing yoga in the morning before a day of climbing. I love the semi-communal life style at Hidden Valley. Everyone just kind of wanders in and out of each others campsite, looking for a partner, a warm fire, a cup of coffee, or a beer. Gotta love it!

The three Musketeers: James, Heather and me. We are 6 days out from a shower.

James reading science fiction by the pallet fire on our last night in jtree.

Presto logs burn cool.

This was an awesome trip. I finally got my friction skills tuned up after a long, long battle and climbed things that I thought I'd never do again. I hadn't climbed ebgb's in 24 years. To get back on it at the age of 54 was amazing. I guess there is hope for us "over the hill" types after all. Thanks to James, Brett, Heather, Paul, Crystal, Ondi, Joe, John, Eddie and the rest of my fellow dirtbag climbing buddies for an awesome Christmas!

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