So the morning of Day 1 at Joshua Tree saw me getting up and wandering around this weird landscape. I met Dan, Rob’s son (top bloke – cooks great, will do anything for you and climbs like a demon!) as well as Angela and Malcolm (friends of Dan’s) who had come in a crazy self-contained truck.
I say “crazy” because the truck had a refrigerator, DVD player, large bed, pop-up roof etc – I mean the bloody thing actually started it’s engine to recharge the batteries on it’s own accord if it needed to!
I stuck with Yenyi and Jason that day and watched them do a couple of easy warm-up climbs before borrowing Rob’s harness and giving it a go myself. Without ‘rock shoes‘ it was damn hard!
Yenyi and Jase, showing me how it’s done
Me, just hanging around
After warming up we headed to another climb on a boulder known as “Headstone”.
Jason and Yenyi planned to climb to the top of that puppy. It may not look big in the photo but if you can make out the people near the base of the headstone boulder (the big rock on top) you may get a sense of scale. It’s big enough!
Although the headstone climb isn’t particularly difficult (5-7 in the American scale I think) there’s some serious psychological issues to overcome because at the start there’s a sheer drop to certain serious pain (and likely death). It’s a lead climb which means that the first person has to bolt in the belay rope as they climb – and they have very little protection before they reach the first bolt. Without getting too technical it means that the first person has to be pretty ballsy, especially for the initial section of the climb.
Jase went first and, with his heart in his throat, made the first bolt and then progressed up the rest of the headstone. Was great to watch – and must have been a fantastic view from the top! I wouldn’t know – without climbing shoes I wasn’t even going to try.
The tricky first bolt
On top of one overhang and up another
Holding on tight & climbing up the back of the Headstone…
…to the top!
Yenyi went next and, while she didn’t make it all the way – she got past the tricky first section. Awesome effort.
“I’m not nervous!”
It starts OK but then gets ‘exciting’
Climbing well but it just gets damn hard…Next time Yenyi!
Silhouette shot – one of my favourites
Looking back as we leave Headstone, another silhouette
After seeing all that I had to get some gear! We headed to the (somewhat) local climbing shop and I bought my very own shoes and harness. Compared to Australia the cost of gear here is much cheaper. At least that’s how I justified it. 😉
That evening we were treated to a lovely sunset. Jason and I scrambled up some boulders to get a nice view.
Pretty sunset over the desert
And before the sun disappeared entirely I managed to shoot a nice photo of Yenyi and Jase.
After some glorious Mexican food cooked by Dan, some fun banter around the campfire (particularly by Rob “Bloody Smokey Wood!” Rowland) it was time for bed. Thankfully Dan had a spare sleeping bag that I could borrow; I slept warm and deeply!
[To be continued…]