Friday, December 12, 2008

Indian Cove Turkey Days

Trip Report - Joshua Tree National Park
Indian Cove area
November 27 - 30, 2008

The park is named for an abundance of these goofy-looking trees

Climbers' Holiday

Earlier this year, Amber and I decided that since it wasn't a good time to go to Texas this year for the Holidays, we'd spend one holiday with her family, and for the other, do something for ourselves. As it turned out, we'd be doing our own thing over the break for Thanksgiving, and in October, got invited along to Joshua Tree with the D.O.A. and some of their friends.

Kenenth, also invited, rode down with us and we met up with everyone in the Indian Cove area of Joshua Tree National Park. Indian Cove is a sheltered nook in the rocks just south of Twenty-nine Palms, outside of the 'main' park road. It's a good spot because the campsites are reservable, and Indian Cove is lower elevation and more sheltered from the wind and cold. There is a lot more climbing in the 'main park' but Indian Cove still has boulders and walls as far as the eye can see; more than enough to keep you busy.

Landscape typical of Indian Cove

We thought at first the place might be pretty empty, but, as it turns out, Thanksgiving is a popular climbers' holiday in Joshua Tree. There was a large proportion of climbers camped all throughout the campground, and the group areas were full of climbing clubs of varying degrees of formality. Luckily it had just rained the day before, so some people still bailed on their plans. It was close to full but not packed, and it was never too hard to get on a climb.

After arriving post-sunset on Thanksgiving Day, we feasted on stove-top stuffing, gravy, and foil-packet chicken. The we headed over to the Rock-Rendevous (a Bay Area club) group site, to share and feast on delicious pies. Throughout the weekend we had an excess of pie. Never before has there been so much pie consumed on a camping trip. If you like pie, I suggest going camping at Thanksgiving. Everyone will bring pie.

Our campsite, nestled amongst the rock

Lazy Lead

Feeling a little blown out from the drive, and not wishing to repeat the depletion of the last few trips, Amber and I decided to take it a little easier, since we were "on vacation". We went for a scrambling hike partway up rattlesnake canyon, which really helped loosen me up. Later we were ready to start climbing, but everyone had taken off so we had to find something the two of us could handle on our own.

Joshua Tree is primarily a trad climbing area, so we looked for something easy enough for me to lead. The rock there is awesome, similar Quartz Monzonite as you find in the Alabama Hills. Its a rock with great friction, but rough on clothing and skin as it has huge, sharp quartz crystals. The main difference to the Alabama hills, besides some differences in weathering, is the lack of bolts at Joshua Tree. There are few bolted climbs, and even fewer with top anchor/rappell bolts. It's important to scope out the descent before you head up and always take enough gear to build an anchor.

So we found this 5.3 "Double Crack" on the short wall that seemed easy enough, but turned out to be awfully awkward. It tested my skills as a leader, and even though I've worked leads on harder routes, was the hardest lead I've done to date. The main issue was awkward stances, and me spending a lot of time trying to get solid placements in the irregular rock. Amber also had some difficulty while cleaning. She slipped onto the rope a bit at one point, but that's no big deal when you're roped from above. Just as we finished, our friends showed up from their climb, and Amber and I really enjoyed the notion we had done that short climb "all by ourselves".

Kenneth leading the 'Double Crack' the next day

Leading ate a lot of my mental and physical energy up, and I was a bit shaken by how difficult that climb had seemed for a 5.3. As we later learned, no one takes the numbers too seriously for the low-grade climbs at Joshua Tree; turns out they're extremely inconsistent (for a variety of reasons). Obviously we eyed up the crack ourselves and we're comfortable with it but some of the harder rated climbs on the same wall may have been easier. Enough frustration (and joy) for the day, it was time to head back to camp and recharge with a belly full of chili and wine.

Rocky Relaxation

After a great nights sleep on our new 'car camping' pads, we were ready to go at it again. We tried to find some friends of Kenneth's in the main park. They didn't show, but we found the war zone aftermath of the CHAOS (Berkeley club) campsite. The wind had thrown their chairs in the fire and the stragglers that morning looked a bit shell-shocked. We took some pictures of the park, grabbed a snack and firewood at the gas station, and headed back to Indian Cove were the weather was much, much nicer (i.e. not windy and cold).

Stunning view of San Gorgonio from inside the main park

We did a couple more climbs on the short wall with Kenneth (he didn't lead much the day before so he wanted time to play with his gear). One was a fist crack that turned out to be super fun, and not nearly as awkward as the day before. It was a good mixture of climbing and relaxation for the weekend and I was glad I didn't beat myself up too much.

Belaying attentively, with the not so bad 'crowds' in the background

Amber giving it to a fist crack... Look at that awesome fist jam!

Since we'd had a late lunch, we screwed around a long time at camp that evening. Kenneth, Amber and I made up a gear placement practice drinking game. Well it wasn't much of a drinking game, but it was still fun. Our campsite was surrounded by features and boulders, flakes and cracks, and we were able to find placements for almost everything we pulled off the racks. It was fun and we all learned a little bit by having each other test the placements.

Kenneth cleaning up after all the fun

That night around the campfire, all the climbers traded the days stories, and shared thoughts and tips about climbing (and a lot of beer and wine). It was a great trip, but we'd wished we could have stayed a little longer. Especially as that would have helped us avoid the horrendous holiday traffic on I-5 the next day. Despite the fact it took almost 11 hours (3 hours extra) to get home, we stayed cheerful and upbeat as we rode out of a near-perfect holiday weekend.

Photo Gallery:
Indian Cove (Joshua Tree)


Katie said...

Wow, your photos are awesome!! Geez, think I need to get out of Texas more ... I'm jealous of your adventures!!

Eric said...

There's plenty PLENTY of adventure in Texas too. Rock Climbing and hiking at Enchanted Rock in the hill country. And if Dallas feels too flat and you want to see some mountains... just head a few hours north (really not that far) to the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma.