countin' the days

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

J Tree!

After all these years of living only 135 miles away, I finally made it out to Joshua Tree National Park (or, affectionately, J Tree). I had no idea it was so close to L.A., and what's more, I had no idea how frickin' awesome that place is.

I spent 6 months in Asia this year, and -- as my previous blog posts have made obvious -- a good deal of that time was spent rock climbing. By the time I left a few weeks ago, I had finally crossed over that painful beginner threshold, feeling pretty good about actually being able to climb rocks. Now, this is no way means that I actually know what I'm doing, but rather, that I can figure some stuff out and make it up the rock. Which, after many days of struggling up routes, counts as a huge accomplishment to me.

J Tree is a whole different story from what I'd gotten used to in Asia. The rock in Asia is mostly limestone, and the routes are bolted for sport climbing. J Tree is trad(itional) climbing on towers of quartz monzonite, with lots and lots of crack.(Crack climbing, that is.) You have to learn how to jam your hands, fingers, even entire arms & legs into cracks to make it up the routes. I also had to learn the fine art of taping up my knuckles & fingers to avoid leaving pieces of flesh attached to the rock. Also, unlike Asia, it was damn cold. Winter in J Tree brings low temperatures and high desert winds, with the rock itself sometimes getting so cold that it chills your hands to the bone. This was an entirely new experience from climbing limestone in Thailand in my bathing suit, reaching for the chalk bag every few moves because I was so drenched in sweat from the sticky humidity that I could barely stay attached to the holds.

Fortunately, I was out there with my homies Charley & Tatiana -- yes, the folks who appeared in my blog sometime back in May when we met up with them in Thailand for a couple weeks of killer Ton Sai climbing. They were full of helpful info about how to deal with the gnarly cracks, and answered my many questions about how those funky-looking pieces of trad gear actually work.

All in all, it was a total blast. The weather was perfect, the climbing partners were fun, the routes were challenging and always rewarding. My climbing is rapidly turning into a full-blown addiction and I'm loving it.

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