The azure sky is so clear we can see a jet stream from a passing plane for miles. The crisp November air and the warm sun, sand and rock are perfect for a climbing lesson for my two sons. We are at Trashcan Rock in Quail Springs, Joshua Tree National Park.
My brother Dean scrambled up the backside to set up the anchor and belay rope and then helped the young men get their shoes and other equipment together. We watched my over-50 brother give us a climbing demonstration. With great concentration and arm muscles tense and bulging, he climbed up the face using his feet and hands. We all mentally compared his physical exertion with our own fitness, and I found myself lacking.
Marcos climbed first. Marcos called out “Climbing,” and Dean replied “Belay on.” Marcos made it look relatively easy. He has climbed before but always in an indoor climbing gym, not on an actual rock. Before too long he was approaching the top.
Tevis climbed next and he worked harder in the beginning to find a way to use his feet more effectively. Learning to climb on a 5.6 face is challenging and each climber took breaks by “falling” and letting the rope hold them.
We relied on Bob Gaines, Best Climbs Joshua Tree National Park in the “Where to Climb Series.” The first climbs were on the east face, “Filch”, which Bob Gaines suggests, “Begin off a boulder. Climb the wide crack to thinner jamming.” Then one of the other routes opened up so we moved around to the west face.
There are 13 routes on the west side. We had time to eat fried chicken while Dean moved the anchor rope, or static line. Tevis climbed B2 next. He worked to stay out of the fissure while still using the crack to help him climb to the top.
Joshua Tree attracts climbers, hikers and picnic eaters from around the globe. Two Belgians were free climbing (no ropes) on other routes near us. A variety of people stopped to watch. It is a calm, relaxing sport to watch—opposite of the intensity felt by the climbing team.
The biggest risk of rock climbing for the spectator is sunburn. Do not be like me—remember your sunscreen. The most common injury to a climber is scraped knuckles, called a gobie. Pack bandaids.
Joshua Tree National Park is 140 miles from Los Angeles and the nearest airport is Palm Springs. Accommodations are more limited and more affordable in Yucca Valley than greater Palm Springs. The park entrance is $15 for a 7 day vehicle pass (bargain!).
Nomad Ventures in the town of Joshua Tree rents shoes and some gear; not harnesses or ropes. I googled “rock climbing lessons, Joshua Tree” and 7 schools came up, so if you do not have a big brother who can teach you, check one of these out.