J Tree & Red Rocks
The road trip continues, and after our jaunt at the Grand Canyon, we put the running stuff away and headed towards Joshua Tree.
In keeping with our plan to prolong summer as long as possible, we made a trip to the desert climbing mecca in Southern California– something we had long had on our list. Its legendary status as a “bucket list” climbing destination had something to do with it, but because Christy’s Uncle Curt lived there, we figured as Superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park he might be a good guy to show us around. Plus, with his retirement just a few weeks ago, he had some free time.
J Tree’s a pretty interesting place. There’s a whopping 6,000+ climbing routes on the cracked granite outcroppings in the park, and the trademark Dr. Seuss-like Joshua trees sprout up everywhere amongst them.
We were grateful for the abundance of routes too, because as a general rule, the climbing’s hard in J Tree. It’s known for run-out sport lines or wide cracks, and has a reputation for “soft” ratings (routes that feel harder than the published rating), so we appreciated being able to shop around for routes that were fun, in a not-so-scary way.
We found plenty that fit the description and had a great time. And after a few days, we packed up once again and moved on to our next destination, Red Rocks.
Five hours north from J Tree is Las Vegas, and 15 miles west of the Vegas Strip lies the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. This wilderness-like park with a desert/canyon feel has been completely preserved and well maintained despite it’s proximity to the consumptive, urban metropolis. That it hasn’t been over run with golf courses or water parks is refreshing, I guess that’s a testament to the NCA protection.
Red Rocks has about 2,000 published climbing routes, all of which seemed more true to their rating than those in J Tree and covered all the bases– from easy, over-bolted sport routes to all-day multi-pitch alpine trad routes. And the fact that you can base out of the Hardrock Hotel or Four Seasons in lieu of camping (which we did) is pretty nice.
Actually, we did camp one night at the sole BLM camp site in the area, if only to get the complete Red Rocks experience, which in our opinion left much to be desired. If anything, it met our expectations of what camping on the outskirts of Las Vegas would be. It was much nicer to wrap up the day on the beach at Mandalay Bay’s wave pool instead.
After three days of climbing all sorts of routes in Red Rocks it was time to head home.
Time for winter.