I was able to sneak out of work early after an off-site tour on a Friday afternoon, which I was praying meant I could beat some of the dreaded LA traffic as I made my way to Joshua Tree for an amazing weekend camping and climbing with friends. As I made my way onto the freeway, car packed with my camping gear, I realized I wouldn’t be so lucky.
The heavy traffic added two hours to the typical two and half hour drive, and resulted in me pulling into Black Rock Campground a little after 8:30 (checkout my previous J-Tree Camping experience here). Even with a long day of work and driving, I was stoked for what we had planned for the weekend. We would be spending two days rock climbing outdoors for the first time!
Day 1: Learning the Ropes
The first day we spent learning the ropes, literally.
Our start time was 8:00 AM at Cliffhanger Guide’s office, located just outside of Joshua Tree National Park. After some quick office work, we geared up and followed our guide, Roddy, into the park. Once at our first climbing location, Roddy made sure we all felt comfortable tying knots, belaying and back-up belaying. I definitely appreciate all of these safety checks when hanging high in the air off a giant slab of rock. We did four different top rope routes in the morning, and ended the day with the local climbers at an awesome bouldering spot.
Day 2: Top Ropes and Multi-Pitch
We showed up on Day 2 with an increased confidence and ready to tackle some harder climbs. Roddy and Seth (our added guide for the second day who owns Mojave Guides) sensed this, and took us to an awesome spot where we had to scramble up boulders to access the routes. These climbs were much more technical than the first day, and we were able to learn more climbing techniques. I used a few hand and arm jams, and even got pretty comfortable with a foot jam!
After another gourmet lunch of crackers, hummus, an array of veggies, and tofu (thanks Cliff Hanger for being so accommodating!), we were off to climb a multi-pitch!
Mike's Books was by far the most frustrating climb for me. This was the first route I felt hindered by my height and inexperience. However, with a gentle pull from Seth at the top, I was able to get past my struggling (almost crying) point, and climb up the rest of the challenging route. The view from the top was amazing, but short lived due to an oncoming storm. We concluded our day of climbing with an awesome rappel down the face of the rock we just climbed (Intersection Rock)!
1. Do your research when finding a guide.
We checked out a few different guide companies before deciding on Cliff Hanger. We compared prices, read reviews, and went with the one we got the “best vibe” from. Ultimately, we were VERY happy with our choice!
2. Communicate your experience clearly.
As a group, we had pretty limited climbing experience. For the best overall trip, be honest and communicate that with your guides. They want this to be the best experience possible!
3. Challenge yourself and have fun!
Chances are you paid a bit of money for this experience, so make the most of it! These are long, physically draining days. But you’re doing something awesome, so push yourself and you’ll be surprised how much you’re capable of!