Week 9:

27JAN - 1FEB

27 january 1999 - Joshua Tree

  - snow in the morning
- cross the border easily
- san diego: hooters (return to american culture :-), gear shops
- joshua tree

28 january 1999 - Joshua Tree

 

The night was really cold and very windy, so it is hard to get out of our warm sleeping bags. Eventually we manage to put the kettle on, and a strong cup of coffee enables us to face the cold new day. We are camped in Hidden Valley campground, not a bad place to be for Joshua Tree rock action. Plenty of great looking routes within spitting distance.

We rack up with the new ropes we bought in San Diego, and with a slightly heavier rack due to the new camalot 4 and other bits of hardware we couldn't resist bying yesterday. We have a "selected climbs" guide book and decide to sample some of the action on the South face of Intersection rock, a big chunck of rock just south of the camp ground.

The Flake 5.8

After some debate as to where the hell the routes are at Mathias rack up for "The Flake 5.8". The guide book we have includes some excellent topo diagrams, but unfortunately not for the area we are interested in. Oh, well. Mathias:"We had been wandering around the bottom of the crag trying to figure out which routes fitted our describtions - but the only on which seemed to fit and look doable was the flake - and although this was the hardest of the three we where looking at I got a bit impatient, got the rack on and dug into the seriously looking chimney leading up to the obvious flakesystem above. I had had a look at a chimney just right of the one that I was now struggeling in - it looked easier and a possible alternative start. After some hard work I binned it, went down and started up the other chimney. Felt much better - and I soon found myself up at a massive flake which could be liebacked most of the way up (with easy resting spots). The flake ends some 20 feet from the top in a sea of granite which had been granted two bolts as the only means of protection. I got the up to the first bolt and continued slowly and carefully past it. It was pretty marginal and I couldn't help thinking - shit, I am going to slip of this slab anytime now. But then I remembered Martin and my succesful climb earlier this year in Yosemite - the classic Needle Spoon, which is a feast in marginal slab climbing. If you can do Needle Spoon you can do anything I thought as I climbed past the second bolt. 5 meters left - you can't fall of now. Go on - you haven't been this far before, go on. The angle is easing of and I finally top out happy with some spectators below applauding.

Drawstring 5.7

After feeling the harsh Joshua Tree grades, Fred feels like an easier lead and we find Mike's book, a 5.6, in the guide. Well, we cannot actually find the damn thing, so I end up just selecting a line that looks feasible and head off. It starts in a pleasant little corner that soon bites back with a little overlap about 8 meters up. Further up there is a reasonable looking crack and beyond that, who knows? I set off with confidence - not something I have had lots of the last few weeks, so that is a good sign. The overlap stop me for a bit, though. There is a massive undercling, but then very little above it to pull through. It is hard to get the feet in balance under the overlap as well. I put in a good #0.5 and the good old HB 3.8 fits nicely in the undercling. I put up the right foot on a sloping something and get ready to pull over, but as I put my weight on it the foot suddenly slips and I plummet towards the ground - ok, only for about a foot or so before the rope goes tight on the HB 3.8. Pretty undramatic fall, but a surprise to suddenly slip off and not great for building up confidence for the rest of the route! I quickly try again though, and a little more careful foot placement gets me through the section - although not in a very graceful style.


As I put my weight on it the foot suddenly slips and I plummet towards the ground

10 meters of fun climbing gets me to the base of the crack system I'd seen from below. Dammit!, it's a bloody offwidth. I hesitate for a while considering whether I should find an alternative line by traversing left or right. It is certainly nowhere near the route description for "Mike's book", so I wonder what will happen if I start venturing into this unknown territory. It looks like protection might be a problem, the offwidth continues for 10-15 meters before it narrows suddenly to little corner, but it doesn't look like there is a crack in the corner. Above that, the corner disappears and there is nothing but blank rock, but the angle eases considerably up there, so it will probably be possible to climb up on friction alone - just like the top section of The Flake. With the offwidth experience from El Escalon fresh in my mind, I edge up into the crack with considerable doubt. I get a few bits of pro in at the bottom of the crack - a solid #9 nut, a sling around a bollard, another really marginal sling and a camalot 3. That's it, though. About 6 meters futher up is the only other hope of protection - the crack looks just narrow enough for the newly purchased camalot 4. I pause for quite a while, not wanting find myself up there and discovering that the cam won't fit. No chance of retreat up there, only up or a serious fall down. Ok, here we go. The climbing is not that difficult but it's awkward moving up that bloody offwidth. After some not-so-graceful wiggling up the crack, I find that furtunately the camalot seats itself nicely. What a relief! Man, am I glad we bought this extravagant bit of gear in San Diego yesterday for a mere 80 bucks! I would have paid double up here with no other hope of protection... Anyway, the crack kindof stops at this point but the angle is easing off so it goes with slab climbing on no the blank wall with little bulges on. It gets very scary as I move further and further above the camalot. It is easy, but it is not inconceivable to slip up here on the little pebbles. Hey, a bolt to the left. I run it out further, very very slowly. I clip it with relief. I move up a bit, but then Mathias shouts that I only have a couple of meters of rope left. Shit. After some really delicate wandering on the featureless slab I find another bolt to the right, and -thank god- an anchor a little above. I'm done.

SW corner 5.6

Excellent fun.

And then we went to the bar.

29 january 1999 - Joshua Tree

Double Cross

We are now familar with the Joshua Tree grade and medium as we head of this fine whatever morning to do "Double Cross" - a splitter splitting Old Mother into two. Mathias wins the lead and starts of with the full Willerup rack on his side. Boy this looks good - one continues crack going from 0 meters above Joshua to 25 meters above Joshua. Weather is excellent and here we go. Jam jam, hold hold, jug jug two totally comitting fistjams -yoist- loads of good pro, YOOOOIIIST!

Mike's Book 5.6

We had a peek in the full guide book in the town of Joshua Tree, and this time I think we found the correct line. First up a great little corner, fairly easy. Then it turned to offwidth (as is expected when Fred's leading) but it went with no serious trouble. The second pitch was another corner with another OW (which Mathias avoided by wide bridging) and then finally a slabby section that ended the same place as Fred's lead yesterday. Kuk.

Bussionoer 5.7

Just behind our campspot we decide to tick this mother before our grande lunch. Boy what a tick. A beautiful line swing up the sea of white granite. It's a layback all the way - Mathias' favorite and with excellent gear placements the route is pure pleasure and hurray what a tick.

Hard playing crack

We spend some time checking out the cracks in our littel neighbourghood - and boy do they look good. We spot a short 8m overhanging hand/fistjam which Mathias' agrees to go for. We get the gear and up we go. Yeikes - this is hard. Fist hand, layback ouch! Hang. Place. Go again. Yoist. Ouch. Hang again. Adjust gear. Go. Go. Go. Yoist. The bastard is ticked. Hurraa Hubert.

We spend the evening waiting for Dr. Beale who is driving down from San Jose. We have 18 budweisers to keep us company. Almost out of beer and definitely ready to kip, Martin pulls in to the campground around midnight! Great to see the master of rock again, and we drink the rest of the watery lager...

30 january 1999 - Joshua Tree

 

Martin shows the way - his relentless enthusiasm for rock is inspiring. We decide to do Walk on the Wild Side, a three-star route somewhere, but it has a queue of other parties lined up at its base. Hmm, our late start is not paying off. We spend an hour searching for the climb on the sunny side of the same piece of rock. We scramble with two full climbing racks (Martin's and The Bro's) and three ropes to do a bolted sports route... Well, you never know.

After a focussed attempt at The Boom Boom Room, Martin backs off at the second bolt. It is too desperate... You can see the the third bolt, but beyond that it looks completely impossible, unprotectable and ... well, we'll never know. Instead Martin leads Nuts and Bolts - a really bold lead on a seriously steep slab/arete. Very tentative climbing is called for. The flaky holds feel like they might rip out at any moment.

More climbing, closer to home in the Hidden Valley. Pizza and pitchers in Yucca valley.

31 january 1999 - Joshua Tree

 

Yesterday we spent way too much time scrambling over boulders and too little time climbing rock. So we decide to some focussed climbing in the "Real Hidden Valley" area. What a brilliant day. Mathias starts off with Sail away, a three star route. It goes with little problems - are we finally getting used to the Josh rock? Martin does the line to the left, with Mathias taking pictures from the top - should be some good shots from up there. Another brilliant splitter ticked. Fred has his eye set on a slightly easier climb on Sentinel rock - turns out to be a stunning line through some steep exposed ground, and with a finger crack and school book layback thrown in. We are cooking today. Mathias is pretty nervous before his lead of the next route just to the right - "Western Saga" a fantastic splitter that nevertheless looks bloody steep. Brilliant crack in the middle with fistjams and a "Thank god" layback crack inside the crack. Why does this route only have one star in the guidebook - it is brilliant. Then a roof - delicate but with an extemely useful foothold on the arete. Martin finishes the day by impressing the locals with an ascent of the jamming offwidth testpiece "Damper" close to the campground. He goes up in style, very quickly, and unloading the full rack of cams into the hungry crag. The locals were well impressed especially a fine looking las who was following Martin all the way to the top with big wet eyes.


Another brilliant splitter ticked.

Western Saga - 5.9

After three succesesful ticks from the Three Masters of Stone it was my turn to lead again and the next route on the list was Western Saga - a true splitter going through a fierce looking corner and tackling a sizeable overhang some 30 meters of the ground. I had a slight bit of commitment quarrels with myself - I felt that Fred and I had done our fair share of adrenaline pumping crack climbs during the last month or so. So I had to find some motivation and Dr. Beale provided this when he confronted me "So are you on for this one Mathias?" - Hmm yeah I hesitated, I don't know it looks pretty steep. "Well if you are not on for it I'll give it a go" Martin replied. Argh, why can't we just call it a day I thought by myself but I knew the only acceptable answer would be "Well I guess I might as well give it a shot". So be it - we quickly fired up the monster rack in the increasing freezing weather, and I stepped into the very steep and bouldery kindoff start. Not too much of a problem though and I felt good about the decision as I placed my first bomber piece of pro.

I soon found myself jamming in the crack provided and there was plenty of footholds and I got up to a big ledge where it looked like the serious stuff was starting. Boy - so far the route felt really good - maybe it was tricky but I just felt like I was flowing up the rock, the route that I had led earlier this day had gone without any problems whatsoever which I was very surprised about - expecting the 5.8 crack to give my plenty of troubles. Now I had upped the bet to 5.9 and was definately expecting to be under serious preasure - I was even starting of the route with the "If I can't do this route Martin will be on for leading it instead" kindoff thoughts - so I was really pleased with the first 20 meters below me.

The stuff above me looked familiar - hand sized crack going some ten meters up to a roof and continuing up unknown territory - looked very much like many of the splitters we climbed in Aculco and El Escalone. There is only one way around this stuff as far as I see it. Get some pro in as high as you can reach, look for the first possible restpoint, get comitted and then just f*cking go for it. Once you are doing the jamming/laybacking business there is no way back. To my great surprise the crack had edges inside and it was possible to layback a lot of the way. Cool! I love laybacks so any opportunety and you find me hanging out there "Avoiding the problem" as Martin would put it.

Anyway - I got my cam2 as high as I could reach, spotted a small crimpy ledge on the left and went in for the business. I wasn't more than perhaps one meter of the ledge and I though - this'll never go - than crimp looks shite and there is still 3 meters to the jug looking feature on the right. Go on Matis - this is what we are here for to pull hard and to tick some savage cracks. Yoist! It works - I get myself fired up and start just going for it 100%. Great! Get some gear in, reach the crimp - fine. Jam, Layback bridge with the feet - m I want you. I want you badly. Fire off some more of the rack. Great - the no 4 camelot goes in smoothly, no need for lubricant creme. Get those bloody feet sorted out - there's way to much power on the arms. Yeah baby that's better. Holy rock I am already at the roof - God that looks big but after sticking a superb cam1 in on the edge of the roof there is only one thing on my mind. Sex. I just want to pull out on the roof, get the full exposure and then explore the unknown territory above. I feel good. I have the feeling that the hardest part is over and done with and it's just a matter of pulling up and enjoying the climax.


There is only one thing on my mind. Sex.

Yoooooooooooor! Yoor! Yoor! Yooor! The roof is excellent - a sudden foothold appear from nowhere and it just sits there in the left rib and I use it - first with one foot - then with the other foot and then with both of them. Ahhh, this is great. There hand business in the roof is proving a bit tricky but voice tells me "no, not the left hand, use your right hand and you'll get up". So done and bang everything falls into place as I explode up in one big cresiendo.

The terrain above me is gentle and sweet - the perfect afterplay. I get it over with quickly as one does and at the stance I fall asleep, drained, excited and too tired to belay Martin of Fred up through this Woman of Rock.

1 february 1999 - Home!

Going home

We leave Joshua Tree around noon after sorting out all our gear - one half goes with Mathias and the other stays in Daisy. Mathias boards the plane to London in L.A., and Fred heads north to San Fransisco. A quick over-night stop at the family on Wildwood Av, and then a straight 12-hour drive to Boise. Arrived at Theresa's house at 3am on the 3rd.

And that concludes this trip.


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