Christmas Climbing

With no more than the federally mandated holidays off from work, our respective families requesting that we be around for Christmas Day festivities, and our zeal to boulder we chose to make an epic weekend out of the holidays. By driving out for two separate day trips on Christmas weekend (Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas), as well as doing a whole bunch of driving on our “off” day by visiting both families, we accepted the inevitable.

Christmas Eve morning we headed down GTR as usual and found that the recent rains had left some very large puddles!

One of three road-width puddles we had to make it past to get to the climbing!

After only a moment’s hesitation, Rob gunned it and sent the Vanagon full-throttle ahead through each successive puddle; stopping was not an option. (Incidentally, the driver of the jeep-like vehicle in the image below jumped out to lock his wheels in 4×4 before finally venturing through the puddles and slowly continuing down the road! I bet he was a bit surprised when the V-dub passed him not long after the following shot was taken!)

plowing through the giant puddle

Water-filled obstacles behind us and hoping that the road ahead wasn’t washed out too badly for us to make it to our climbing destinations, we pressed on and ended up stopping at the first group/formation of boulders. We decided to hike out past what we’ve recently called the Manx Brothers Boulders (on the west side of the road a bit north of Mirage) to see if there was anything worth climbing on. We not only found some great-looking lines, but some strange alien artifacts!

we are not alone?


Just kidding. Upon closer investigation we discovered that it is some kind of monitoring station for seismic activity. Pretty cool!

The placard we found describing the purpose of the odd-looking equipment.

We finished our brief exploration psyched by the lines we found and busted it back to the van for our stuff. Our warmup was this funky-looking boulder that looked like a piece of cow dung, and was therefore named the Cow Pie Boulder.

Rob warming up on Cow Chip Bingo (V1), which sit-starts matched at his left hand and finishes straight up. Meadow Muffin (also V1) starts at the same spot but moves left and finishes far to the left out of frame.

The problems ended up being more fun than we originally thought, with a powerful set of starting moves… although the rock quality definitely worsens as you climb higher, and we delicately avoided grabbing anything that looked chossy at the top (the darker patina appears bulletproof though). We did these problems a few times to warm up and then headed to our next problems, which also ended up being nice warmups.

Step Into Liquid... fun!

Step Into Liquid is only about 5.8, but the starting move requires a committing step onto a far foot with a bad landing about 5 feet down… the ground simply drops away, making the problem taller than it would be otherwise. Rob ran right up it, and it looked so cool I followed right after. Really fun movement, with the holds getting better as you go.

Apertif (V3) is a short but fun problem right next to (just south of) Step Into Liquid.

Apertif, V3, which starts matched on an undercling with a bad foot and moves out to a sloper

Rob doing the sweet heel hook move on Apertif

We moved on to a large boulder to do the two obvious slab lines we’d scoped out, called Horse Feathers and Duck Soup. We agreed that the easier line, Duck Soup, is about V0, and Rob hesitantly calls the steeper slab Horse Feathers V2 (however, he was the only one to climb this one and slabs can be tricky to rate!).

The Filmography Boulder: Rob on the early moves of Horse Feathers. Duck Soup is visible to his left on the obvious blunt arete with the horizontal seams.

Rob on Horse Feathers... technical and delicate!!!

One of the two high high-step moves on the easy but fun Duck Soup

By now the temperature was rapidly dropping but we were still psyched to continue on to the other problems we had scoped out, particularly a decent-sized boulder with slash features that we ended up calling the Babyface Boulder (due to its superficial resemblance to the famous Slashface Boulder, but in smaller form). After sending the most obvious line, and Rob and I shifted our focus to the other variations.

Nearing the top of Slash Babyface (V0), which starts on the prominent large slash at the lower left side of the boulder and is the most obvious line on this boulder

Below are the two left exits: Babyface Nelson (V4) and Babyface Willette (V4).

Babyface Nelson, which follows the main left-leaning slash and goes straight to the arete, and is probably the most pure (and unnerving, with worse feet) variation

Babyface Willette, which follows at the main slash feature and goes straight up by trending just right of the left arete. Rob exited here in the picture where he thought it was the second easiest left exit. The arete could be climbed from the Nelson exit all the way up to the Willette exit too, but is probably the hardest variation (slightly contrived)

Still psyched on the bouldering prospects in this area despite the impending darkness, we continued on to our final boulder of the evening and managed to put up two additional problems! Veggie Chili Sauce (V4) and Vegenaise (V1).

A few moves into Veggie Chili Sauce (V4), which starts matched on a lower set of small crimps and moves up to where Jill's hands are in this image

Vegenaise is really cool little highstep problem that starts with both hands matched on the shelf and next to the left heel.

We returned home for Christmas Day family, food, and festivities and then headed out again the day after Christmas. This time, Jon W. came along and Robert and Christina met up with us out on GTR… so we showed them around the boulders we had sent (and also those we’d only scoped out and not yet climbed) on Christmas Eve.

As goofy as this image is, it shows Jon sending Step Into Liquid while Rob climbs the crack dihedral called Step Through the Wall (VB) to the left. Another new problem called Step Off A Shelf (V3) is located around the left corner on the backside of this boulder (it's too un-obvious to attempt to describe in words).

Just west of this boulder (called the Step Boulder) is another large boulder called the Harpo Boulder where Jon and Rob each established a new line (Jon on the north face shown in the photo below, and Rob on the lieback crack on the west face):

Rob on Harpo Speaks (V1)

Jon climbing Silent Partner (V2 or V3) while Rob begins the careful downclimb. This problem starts right against a bush (we had to carefully hook some branches behind others to do the climb; it would be nice if others can avoid impacting this bush too much)

Jon randomly ran over to a nearby boulder with some discontinuous crack features and sent it… it looked so fun that Rob and I did it too. The rock is a bit grainy, but it’ll clean up with some traffic and the moves are pretty fun.

Jon scrambled up this thing before I could get to my camera, so here is Rob on a yet-unnamed problem

We then showed them the Babyface Boulder and Veggie Chili Sauce, where Rob and Jon worked on the direct finish to that problem. As you can see in the images below, to do the direct finish you do the first moves up to match on the upper crimp, then lock or launch for a hold or holds that I was never quite able to see… yup, there were some mighty big holds up there. 😉 Anyway, this line is still a project.

Jon setting up for the throw

the throw... to some tiny dish up there, somewhere

Some daytime images of Veggie Chili Sauce, which has technical, fun movement:

Robert at the crux of Veggie Chili Sauce

We made our way around to the vicinity of Tips Be Gone, where we’d seen a few lines that we wanted to get on. Rob and Jon did the Liarback Crack, a tall but easy (probably 5.6) crack, and all three of us sent a fun and obvious line on a boulder right next to it that’s likely already been done and is about 5.8.

Rob at the top of Liarback Crack, and yes that is Jon's hand.

Jon on this fun problem (5.8?) that has likely already been done

It was pretty cold and windy at this point, with the sun sinking into the horizon fast, so we called it a productive day and headed back to the van…

The end of another climbing day at Joshua Tree!

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~ by jillc on 2011/02/10.

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