All the right things in all the wrong places

For various reasons I have found myself doing things in the wrong places lately, such as bagging “peaks” in Joshua Tree and cragging in the Owens Valley. Learning to do ice has been pushed back by a tragic combination of uncooperative weather and other commitments/opportunities. Hopefully I will be more settled and focused after the holidays, and can spend more time on conditioning, skill development, and interesting summits. Look for all that, plus more tips on dirt-bagging in the freezing boondocks, early next year.

“Peak” bagging in J-tree

Mount Mel


I am not normally a desert peak person — too much sand and too many spines — but ticking them off is good aerobic exercise, and sometimes the scenery is interesting. With a bit of encouragement and the right company, I can enjoy desert time, and even learn some colorful slang (e.g. “punch a grub”) along the way. The two most notable peaks were Quail, the park highpoint, and Monument, in its rarely-traveled eastern half. I also tagged Eureka, Warren, Joshua Point, and a few other things, including the fearsome Mount Mel. The Quail day, with 20+ miles and a fair amount of cross-country running, was good training.

Cragging in the Sierra

Classic Alabama Hills view


Joshua Tree may be California’s winter climbing Mecca, but since it is mostly a trad area, I can’t get the most out of it. On the other hand, while the Alabama hills near Lone Pine are colder this time of year, they are mostly a sport area. And with clean showers at the hostel, free camping near the crags, and 300+ cal/$ of hot food at McDonalds, it’s not a bad place to live. My clunky old quickdraws, the Purple Rope, and a (semi-)willing partner will take me far.

This time around I led Burnt Penis (5.7), Paul’s Paradise North Face (5.8), and Paul’s Paradise (5.9), TR’d Ted Shread (5.9) and Paul’s Backyard (5.7), and “semi-soloed” Eye for an Eye (5.7). I also backed off the Slingshot Arete, which had a scary vertical or slightly overhanging step-around crux on the arete; a fall looked like it would have hurt more than I wanted.

Slingshot seemed stiff for a 5.9, while Ted Shread felt pretty easy, and Paul’s Paradise felt like a true 5.9. Penis, Backyard, and Eye all felt somewhat easy for 5.7 — if any of them had a walk-off, it would be a fun solo, comparable to the first flatiron.

My partner did a fine job leading the last two 5.7s, which I believe were his first two sport leads. He also quickly learned, with shouted encouragement from below, to clean and rap off a bolted anchor. Being stuck on top of a rock pillar focuses the mind.

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One response to “All the right things in all the wrong places

  1. Great post. Wonderful terrain.

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