High Desert Miscellany

I can't claim to be any real authority on Joshua Tree National Park but for all the time I've spent there climbing crazy old routes on crazy, weathered 100,000,000 year-old rock formations. The climbing is often typified as being short, difficult, bold, scary, crumbly or any combination thereof. However, all types of routes grace the park, from terrifying crumbling vertical slabs and scary flared nightmare cracks to perfect face climbing on good rock, immaculate cracks and overhanging sport climbs.

I have been pining for Joshua Tree lately and since I can't go right now, have compiled a number of inspiring and classic photos. I excavated these photos from a number of old climbing magazines (as in late 80's and early 90's; they're from a previous century!). As always with photos that aren't my own, I hope no one minds these being posted; if so, they can let me know in the comments field. Any enthusiast of the history of Joshua Tree climbing will love this compilation as much as I do. It certainly features some of the heroes, both widely known and virtually unsung, of difficult climbing on quartz monzonite. Enjoy!

Scott Cosgrove on the immaculate looking Headstone Arete, the prominent formation near Ryan Campground. Cosgrove is responsible for many extreme sport climbs as well as the FFA of the infamous Southern Belle (5.12+ with 5.11+ X mandatory) on Half Dome.

Two images of Randy Leavitt on the steep and beautiful looking Hydra. Leavitts' ascents of this climb, as well as his difficult sport routes on the Ivory Tower (La Machine, at 5.13+, has only seen one or two other ascents since the 1980's) were rather groundbreaking at the time and are certainly both remote enough and adequately difficult to remain legendary.

Randy Leavitt on Hotpants, a rather obscure classic located on the Don Genaro boulder in the Wonderland of Rocks

John Bercaw on Headbanger's Ball

Scott Cosgrove on his rather desperate looking route G-String. Unrepeated in the 90's; has it ever seen a second ascent even today?

Why doesn't this route see as much traffic as the more iconic Equinox? Well, it's either the rugged location (North Wonderland) or the protection (a couple of fixed copperheads at the beginning, perhaps) or both. Randy Leavitt on Five Crying Cowboys.

This route is in a really cool area southeast of Ryan Campground called the Oyster Bar. Troy Mayr on Split Personality.

Although I've never been to Indian Cove, this climb just begs to be investigated. Clearly one of Joshua Tree's greatest. Tom Giljy on South of Heaven.

Another Leavitt special near the Ivory Tower in the North Wonderland area. Pumping Hate appears to climb a short but steep series of undercling flakes.

Rudy Hofmeister on one of the best looking pieces of rock in Joshua Tree: Ocean of Doubt on the Ivory Tower. Good patina rock and a panoramic view await potential suitors of these difficult sport climbs.

We had heard rumors at one point that this climb was mere fable, or at best impossible, but this picture and a recent Sonnie Trotter ascent prove its existence. Also, it looks spectacular! Troy Mayr on the aptly named Iconoclast.

Gnarly gastonderclings and really, really short shorts. Both had their rightful places at the Snakepit, which including linkups once housed the greatest concentration of hard sport climbs in Joshua Tree. Unfortunately, an ethical dispute over some glue reinforcement resulted in many of the routes being vandalized which are now potentially unclimbable in their current state. Randy Leavitt and Rudy Hofmeister in what once was a bad ass sport area.

Last but not least: how about this? Hidetaka Suzuki on what may be the first (and only?) lead of a very obscure toprope climb which I've had the pleasure of climbing. Why the only lead? Well, it would be a rather serious endeavor with some questionable (and crucial) holds, tiny gear in the crux section and a rather horrific landing zone. A bad-ass who, relatively speaking, flew under the radar of the pomp and circumstance surrounding climbing, Hidetaka made noteworthy ascents of climbs like Grand Illusion (perhaps the world's first 5.13), Stingray (a hideously thin overhanging crack only just repeated recently by Sonnie Trotter and most likely 5.14) and countless other climbs. From the obscure oddities like Medusa, a runout 5.12 crack on the Wall of Biblical Fallacies in Joshua Tree to the more prominent like cragging on the Salathe headwall, as featured in footage on one of the Master's of Stone, Suzuki is a rock master of the past who could probably still throw down on some monzonite, although I just read that he's more into kiteboarding these days. Also, extra kudos for this being an old CCH Aliens advert! They're still the most versatile small cam as long as you don't get one with a bad brazing job!