jtree 2012

Joshua Tree, climbing in the sunshine

I drove down in 28 hours, which inludes a 4 hour nap in a rest stop. Because I had no partner for the first 5 days, I put on my painter hat. I'd planned to paint Big Sur but it was raining there. Figuring I'd end up at jtree anyway, I headed straight there and began painting, ignoring all the climbers. While I was painting, I began to meet the local climbers, who would stop to admire my work. Soon, I had some friends to climb with. By the time I met AJ and Brian, I was having so much fun painting I really didn't care about the climbing. So I'd climb a day, then paint a day, then paint half a day, and climb half a day. It was lovely mixing hobbies. I get no respect at all as a climber. I'm just not very good. I climb ok for an old guy, but I get way more respect as a painter. Not that I need respect. I can paint in a vacuum and be perfectly happy, but it's nice to have people admire my work. It's sort of a validation in a way, that what I am doing is worthwhile.

A rest morning. Dave and Brian playing chess, me working on a painting, AJ organizing some boxes.

Dave is quite the chess player, I overheard tems like: "The Ivonich start, leading with the kings pawn." I shot this at f 1.8, with my 50mm lens on my Canon 7D.

Brian, contemplating a chess move

Brian following AJ up the Flake 5.8 Intersection Rock.


A. J. belaying Brian up the flake.

Brian and A.J. top of the flake

A.J. leading double cross

A.J. in his thrift store finery


My first painting of Chimney Rock, Joshua Tree. Worked on this until Brian and A.J. showed up and invited me to go climbing.

Three hours into a 10 hour painting of Chimney Rock, Joshua Tree.

Day two, 7 hours into a 10 hour painting of Chimney Rock, Joshua Tree. The feeling I get when I have a painting going this well is similar to being a kid in a candy store. I'm totally focused, lost in the magic of color and form. There is a peace and serenity that cannot be described with words. Taking pictures with cameras can be fun, but I suspect there is something in our genes that gravitates toward drawing with fingers and paints. There are cave paintings in France that are 10,000 years old, drawn with pigments and charcoal just like this. They knew this feeling. I know this is pop psychology, but I think our minds are programmed to understand this kind of imagery differently than the way we respond to photography. Otherwise, why would people pay so much for an original painting? I feel honored to have the gift of picture making.

My second painting of the trip, finished after about 10 hours. 15" x 20", pastel on Rives BFK.

This is what my camera saw...funny how I see it so differently with paint. I have the painting in my "studio" today, and I'm doing some finishing touches.

Craig belaying Ryan on Double Cross

Craig playing my beater camping guitar


Sue and Nick

Sue hiding from the camera, Nick joining in

Nick, who is a friend of Micah, who is a friend of Craig, Toby, Dianna and Christine. The interwoven web of climber friendships can be confusing. The climbing community is very small.

Jtree in the evening

Old Woman rock, toe jam on the left

Our campsite,#7 is the group of 4 cars, and the yellow tent at the bottom of the photo. I painted Chimney rock from that parking lot. There are 3 great routes on Chimney, we climbed them all.

Chimney at moonrise. You can just barely see the tape gloves of a climber sitting crosslegged in the space station.

This hippie store offers showers to climbers and tourists. That piano has been weather proofed and is offered free to the public.

Toby at Indian Cove. She is an architectual engineer in the bay area. She specializes in the lighting systems in commercial buildings. She was Micahs college roommate.



Micah, plotting how to wake up Craig, who was sleeping in. Sue and Ryan in the background

John G. and Lynn, our neighbors in campsite 6. They got dressed up with thrift store clothes for a New Years eve party in town.

John G. and Lynn. Both were very supportive of me as I worked on my two Chimney paintings. Lynn is also an artist, and had painted Chimney in the past.


These two were a lot of fun. J seemed to know all the regular climbers. Some of their friends camped in our site, including a young man I'll call O. My favorite quote of the trip came from O as we were leaving: "So, Sue, can I roll you a joint for the road?". It was hilarious because neither Sue nor I smoke, and I'm certain O knew that. But he offered anyway. I'm going to miss the smell of weed in the morning :-)

It snowed on January 30th. We climbed anyway. Ryan led me up Papa Woolsey 10B in a light snow shower. It was 32 degrees.

Craig with his unfinished portrait. We have been plotting this for a couple years. It's boring sitting around the campfire all night, and it's night at 5pm. We concocted a plan last year where he would knit while I painted him by campfire light. It never happened last year, but this year we made it happen. There were about 8 people around the fire while I painted this. We had two coleman lanterns, and the fire for light. My hands froze repeatedly to the point I had to unthaw them by the fire.

There was a lot of red in the firelight. I have no idea how his beard ended up green, it seemed the only color that would work.

Craig by the firelight, jtree 2013.

Craig bouldering Hobbit Hole crack.

Topping out, Micah still waiting to catch him if he falls.

30 second time exposure, Stoners Ledge top of the Chasm of Doom, Jtree. Ryan, Nick, Micah, Craig, Dianna. Craig is looking at his camera.

30 second time exposure, Stoners Ledge top of the Chasm of Doom, Jtree. Ryan, Nick, Micah, Craig, Dianna.

Top of Chasm of Doom, 30 second exposure by moonlight. These guys are a lot of fun.

Craig leading Pocket Pool 5.11d. Ryan followed it this year, last year was my turn...it is way to hard to be what I consider fun.

Craig on Pocket Pool, Indian Cove.

Me with the cam I won in a Secret Santa gift exchange Christmas morning. It was supposed to be a $10 limit. The cam was used, but not very. Photo by Craig

Sue and I, Indian Cove, Photo by Craig

34 years earlier, Sue and I, 1979, top of Intersection Rock