Stranded In The Southland

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Climbing in Joshua Tree

Unfortunately, there wasn't time in the WTC class to learn roped climbing. Fortunately, I managed to hook up with a club that'll happily teach me. I missed the first class/campout because of the trip to the Owens Valley, but three of us who missed it got together with an instructor and headed out there Saturday.

I couldn't believe that L. was ready to go back out there again, but he seemed happy about it. He was even happy to leave at 5:30AM so we could spend the whole day at it. I was somewhat less enthuised about the start time, but gave it a shot anyway.

We arrived as the sun was just coming up, and went through some belaying drills. I'd done some climbing at a gym with my buddy D., so I had no problem with the knots and drill. Then we scrambled up into the rocks to set up the top-rope. By hanging a rope over the edge of the rock, we could safely learn climbing without any fear of falling.

We had a great time doing friction climbs, going up nearly featureless granite at relatively high angles, relying on the stickiness of our climbing shoes to give us grip. My LaSportivas, rented for the day, tore up my toes and soles something awful, but they sure were sticky shoes. It was amazing what I could do with them!

We spent most of the day playing with friction climbing, then headed over to Pixie Rock for some more vertical stuff. This was lots tougher -- my hands are weak and soft and I had a heck of a time getting good handholds. I managed to get halfway up the rock, then sort of had an explosion of sweat and exhaustion and really had to dig deep to tough it out the rest of the way to the top.

Fortunately, the climb up from that halfway point was easier, with much of it along a broad crack. I just kinda wedged in my toes and toughed it out, but when I got down I knew I was done for the day. I tried it again after a break, and got maybe three feet off the ground before realizing that my brain and body were just spent and I couldn't get any higher.

Yow, what a day! I had a great time. On the way back, I bought some 5.10 Tennies as climbing shoes. I can't wait to get back next month!


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