SoCal Road Triplet

IMG_8066 (1)Blake finishing the long, pumpy crux section of Open Book

I had business in Orange County last week so Blake flew in and we did a SocCal road “triplet” (too short to be a real road trip).  Here’s how it went down:

After my business meetings wrapped up I met Blake at SenderOne Climbing Gym in Santa Ana.  I’ve visited a lot of gyms across the country and the world and SenderOne is my favorite.  I travel to the LA area quite a bit so I’ve become friends with the three owners, Wes C., Wes S., and Alice.  We climbed together for a few hours, grabbed a taco dinner, then Blake and I hit the road for Joshua Tree.

Friday & Saturday:
We hadn’t been to JTree in a couple years.  It’s a great winter climbing destination and a cool little hippie town.  As Blake always says, “the hippies in Joshua Tree make the hippies in Boulder look like posers”.  The climbing at JTree tends to be old school – meaning hard for the grade and sometimes scary.  Climbers often preface ratings with the word “JTree” (e.g. “JTree 5.10”) to indicate it’s not your normal level of difficulty.  It’s always a humbling experience and this time was no exception.  Here’s our tick list:

  • Breakfast of Champions (5.8+, 2p)
  • Solid Gold (5.10a, 2p) – This may be the most sandbagged route  I’ve ever climbed.  The first pitch would be rated 5.11 at most climbing destinations and if you blow the mantle move before the last bolt you’re going to take a 35 foot whipper.
  • My Laundry (5.9, 2p)
  • Overseer (5.9)
  • Poodles are People Too (5.10b) – Punchy, super-thin crux.  I had poor footwork and took a short fall.
  • Tax Man (5.10a) – I blew the onsight last trip but it felt a lot easier this time.
  • Head Over Heals (5.10a) – Powerful bouldery crux.
  • Sail Away (5.8-)
  • Wild Wind (5.9)

IMG_8064Contemplating the crux second pitch of Open Book.
The route follows the wide crack/dihedral to the roof above.

Southern California is experiencing unusually warm temperatures for February so we decided to drive to nearby Idyllwild to climb at Tahquitz, a granite peak that reaches 8,846 feet of elevation.  Our objective was Open Book, the first 5.9 in the U.S.  The weather was incredible – even at altitude temps were in the high 60’s and on the sunny rock it felt even warmer.  Open Book is only 3 pitches long but it feels like a bigger route – probably because it involves a sustained, strenuous climbing and semi-hanging belays.  The crux is a 60 foot section of wide crack in a huge dihedral that most people lieback.  Between the sustained liebacking and placing gear it gets pretty pumpy.  I usually pride myself in managing gear well, but on the crux pitch I left crucial cams either at the belay or low on the route and ended up shuffling my one #4 cam a long way and still had to run it out 20+ feet to the next placement.  And I didn’t have the right gear to set a belay at the best location (past the roof) so we had an uncomfortable hanging belay below under the roof.  One of the reasons I love multi-pitch trad climbing is because of the mental challenge of managing gear.  It takes experience to be good and there’s always something to learn.

After we finished Open Book, we rapped down and did one more single pitch route, Dave’s Deviation.  By this point, after four days of climbing, our feet were pretty tender so we called it a day, grabbed dinner at our favorite restaurant in Palm Springs, and flew back to chilly Dallas the next morning.


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