Since I won’t be planning or taking any climbing trips in the foreseeable future, I figured I’d take this opportunity to look back at a trip I took last year, before To Defy Gravity existed. And, before we get going, I want to say thanks to one of my best friends, Veronica Beman ,for all the pictures. Most of the ones you’ll see in this post are from Veronica, and you can see even more on her Flickr. Go check it out, she’s an absolutely fantastic photographer!
A year ago at this time, I was right in the middle of a much-needed and much-anticipated trip to Southern California – specifically, Redlands, Joshua Tree, and San Diego. The trip was to serve a few purposes, including a college visit for Veronica, catching up with friends, and, of course, climbing.
After spending Wednesday night packing and re-packing and packing some more, Veronica and I left super early for the airport on Thursday the 11th, and after a layover in Chicago, made it to Ontario, CA, by noon. A shuttle ride later, we were waiting on the sidewalk in front of my good friend Leah’s dorm at University of Redlands.
We spent two days and change in Redlands and got to visit the Five Ten Underground (heaven on earth?), see the town, and explore campus. I also got to climb at the two local gyms, Threshhold and Hangar 18 and meet some friends from the climbing community on tumblr. Good times for sure, and it all definitely made me miss college!
Finally, we were off to Joshua Tree on Friday the 13th. The weather didn’t look great, but we decided it was worth the risk. Daniel, a good friend from Earth Treks, picked up Leah, Veronica, and myself from Redlands, threw our stuff in his Mustang (a classic craggin’ wagon, no doubt), and off we went.
We had some heavy rain on the way out, but it cleared up by the time we stopped at Food 4 Less for, well, food for less. A short while later, we made it into the Park and to our campsite at Hidden Valley where Eli, another friend from Maryland, was waiting for us.
We spent a little bit of time unpacking, pitching tents, and exploring the surrounding area when it started to rain. And hail. Hard. We took shelter under a large rock formation at the site (Daniel’s little cave), but with the wind blowing like mad (and it rainin’ sideways!), we eventually took solace in Eli’s van.
We spent a few hours waiting in the van, snacking on food, going through guidebooks, and discussing the climber on the Clif Bar wrappers. Finally, the rain and wind let up a bit, and we looked out the van door to see a guy walking down the street, looking pretty lost. Turns out it was the final member to our party, Aldo (a friend from San Diego)! So we helped him move his stuff into our site, and with the skies clear again, cooked up whatever deliciousness we had for dinner.
We built up a nice campfire and just spent the night catching up, sharing stories, and making s’mores…that is, until it started snowing. Just a few flakes at first, but it eventually ramped up into some pretty heavy sideways snow, which is when we decided to go to bed and pray for good weather in the morning.
Leah, Veronica, and I all crammed into my little REI two person tent, which ended up working out perfectly because: a) it kept us nice and warm; b) we’re all child-sized adults; and c) it kept the tent from blowing away. It was a restless night because we all thought the tent was going to blow apart on us, but in a testament to the quality of REI products, it held together wonderfully.
We woke up the next morning to less wind, no rain, and lovely sunshine. A delicious breakfast, “sun’s out, guns out”, and we headed off to the boulders in and around Hidden Valley. We spent that and the next day sessioning on boulders around the area. I didn’t tick off anything too difficult, but I did enjoy my sends of False Hueco Traverse (V2) and Torquemeister (V3+/V4-). I projected Caveman (V6/7) for several hours over the span of both days, but I couldn’t put it all together.
Otherwise, we had a lot of fun working on Roof Romp (V4), napping around the MannX boulders, and letting Daniel and I look silly on Slam Dunk (V4), a climb that neither of us got. Oh, and Veronica and I made a squirrely friend.
There were plenty of other climbs that I just couldn’t do as well, and it was a humbling experience. At the time, I was consistently bouldering around V6/7 inside, but I was getting shut down hard at JTree. The rock was amazingly textured and featured, and the climbs were thin and technical. I definitely struggled, but I’m so excited to go back at some point in the future.
Our adventures in JTree finished off with a little expedition to find Oyster Bar on Mt. Ryan. Leah needed to be home by Sunday night to study for finals, so we started out around 3pm, hoping to get to Oyster Bar by 4, get some climbing in, and be on our way by 6pm.
Of course, we got horribly lost, underestimated the approach, and ended up within shouting distance of the wall – but below it with no way to get there. With the sun going down quickly, choice words coming from some of our mouths, and us all sitting around some rocks wondering how the heck we ended up there, Daniel spoke the magic words, “so…Mexican food?”.
With that, we sped down Mt. Ryan, threw our gear in the cars, took a hot minute to snap a photo of us jumping in the air, and then it was onto Santana’s Mexican Food, right outside the Park entrance. I’m sticking with my story that it was a good decision!
From there, we dropped off Leah on campus, Eli headed back into the Park, and Daniel, Veronica, and I headed back to Daniel’s place in San Diego. We spent the next few days hanging out at the beach, eating delicious food, and hitting up Mesa Rim Climbing Gym. After that, back to Maryland for Veronica and I.
This was the first time I’d ever really traveled for climbing, and though I didn’t spend as much time in Joshua Tree as I would have liked, it was still an incredible experience from start to finish. There’s nothing quite like spending time with good friends in amazing places doing fantastic things – regardless of the duration.
My trip came at a time where it felt more necessary than it probably should have. In the end, I felt as if I spent the perfect amount of time away from the DC area, allowing me to remain (somewhat) grounded for the immediate future.
Now with my impending move to California in August, I hope that I get many more chances to explore and climb in JTree. There are areas left unexplored, boulders left unclimbed, and projects left unsent. But for right now, I’m content to look back and remember that first trip so fondly.
I feel more restless than usual right now. No climbing, no trips planned, so much to do before I move. I feel like I won’t be able to see all the people, visit all the places, and do all the things I’d like to before California. It’s stressing me out a bit more than it should, and without any real escapes in the near future, it’s been weighing heavily on me.
But looking back on trips like this one, it makes me remember and realize that there’s a reason why I love to travel and a reason why I feel so drawn to adventure. No matter how long I may feel stuck for, it’s never permanent, and there’s always a next thing.
Stoked for whatever adventure comes next!