Disclaimer: Although this is a Climbing Trip Report only a small amount of climbing is covered.
Although I highly value climbing, there are times when it is the person on the other end of the rope that makes the experience memorable.
I had been Jonesing for it. Just the thought of sticking my hand into a sharp crack brought about an eruption of emotion so strong it caused me to let out the loudest monkey call the suburban jungle of sunny Southern California had ever heard. "OOUGGHHHH!" I couldn't help myself. Weird looks meant nothing, as I'm used to being an outsider as a climber in a superficial metropolis. I could feel nothing but the purest form of elation.
Two, going on three years ago I had a peculiar experience. I had just started working at REI and was still as green as the vest I wore everyday. During my first week a co-worker who went by Cass said to me "I'm going on an ice climbing trip to Ouray with other co-worker (I'm still unacquainted with everyone in the store at this point). I'm can't handle him for a week so you really need to come along to make this trip fun." I hesitantly agree. I was psyched on an ice climbing trip but was also pretty sure she had me completely mistaken. After all, I hadn't even met her yet. This experience describes the rest of our friendship. There was no get-to-know-each-other phase or small talk/ease into hanging out period. We immediately considered each other great friends. All too soon after we met Cass and her boyfriend Mark, who I can't say enough good about, moved to Montana. As it happens communication decayed.
It had been two years since I had seen Cass when I received a call she was coming out to California. A wedding she was attending was only an hour and change from me and even less than that from Joshua Tree. Guess where we were headed? On Thursday afternoon I we met in Palm Springs, CA only a short distance from Joshua Tree National Park. I only got lost a few times. Not like me but things were backwards this trip. We darted to the park in separate cars as she could only stay until Friday afternoon and I had the whole weekend free. We booked it with my '98 Ford Ranger redlined at 50 mph thrutching up the last hill into park.
"Let's leave you're car at a motel and I'll drive you back tomorrow afternoon."
"Just pick the least sketchy looking place around."
I had a place in mind that was just passed the park entrance. It wasn't. 15 miles later we get there. Oops. There's mistake #2 in my navigation for the trip. W/e we are close. We blast into the park from the completely opposite direction and I tell Cass about the history and characteristics of the park.
"What does a joshua tree look like anyways?"
"Oh. I'll show you the tree when we drive out. It's on the other side of the park. There is only one you know. That's why it isn't called Joshua Trees National Park."
"Really?! What happens if it burns down?" (bless her heart)
"Then the only thing left will be rocks and rattlesnakes"
"Snakes? Are there a lot"
"Yeah. You can feel them crawl under your tent at night to absorb body heat"
"What the Fuck"
(I would do anything to have free reign running a Yosemite Tour Tractor aka Green Dragon)
. . .
"Well we're here"
Started the day around 5:30 pm in Echo Cove. Decided to try out Touch and Go 5.9. A cool stemming corner to hand crack. I darted off before she could put me on and ended up unknowingly pulling the crux onsight free solo. Top section was a little funky. Another fun josh route that proved to be over hyped. Next we drove out the the Rusty Wall. I had been on Wangerbanger (5.11c) a few weeks before and really thought I would be able to get it this time out. Turns out I did worse than last time. The crux involves tight hands to ring locks and off fingers on an over hung wall. A fall and 2 or 3 hangs and I was through it and to the top. I had trouble getting my mind back into lead mode after the fall. TR'ed the climb after Cass wouldn't lower me and was able to hike through it. It was all mental. All that draws me to climbing and frustrates me to no avail at the same time. Everything just felt wrong and my confidence was suffering. I'll be back strong and get the send next season.
Spirits and energy were still high as we made the hike back to the car without headlamps. The moon was so bright there was no need the whole trip. Cass and I head over to Hidden Valley Camp Ground to look for the unpublicized park secrets like the Space Station, Iron Door, and Chasm of Doom. As we sat in the space station I realized one of many things this trip. Cass and I have very little knowledge of each other's past. Our conversations just don't drift from future plans to personal past, rather they focus on enjoying the present and not having a desire to deviate from it. This is something I experience with my closest friends. It's a relief to see we haven't drifted apart over the years.
After a night of cuddling with snakes and a morning of coffee, we darted off to Double Cross (5.7+). No line. If you climb in Josh much you'll be able to appreciate that. We also ran into the legendary Jim Bridwell. Enough said. The day gets even better when we walk up to Sail Away (5.8) and spot a draw in the crack. "BOOTY!" I climb up to it. clean a perfectly placed cam without the use of a nut tool. Wow, I must have done good. I look up to start climbing again and see ANOTHER draw that couldn't be seen from the ground. "BOOTY!" Perfect alien. Can you say Christmas? We climb another 4 or 5 pitches and call it a day as Cass has to make it back to the rehearsal dinner and her car is 30 miles in the wrong direction. Unfortunately this means goodbye between the two of us.
Back in the park it's time to get into NIAD shape. I make my way to Hercule's Crack (5.11d) to stash gear and try to get in as many laps as possible the next day. After a long hike I couldn't find a way to the top w/o aiders. Remaining day went like this:
>Drive to Intersection Rock
>Shoot the Sunset
>Bouler and Pigpen
>Send Pigpen (V4)
>Dead Car Battery
Solo life on the road wouldn't be exciting without this kind of stuff. Thankfully I was in the campground at a reasonable hour. Hiked to the bivy spot and went to bed, sort of. The moon was so full I had trouble sleeping.
I was almost back to my car the next morning, I could taste the coffee as I was within the 5 minute marker. I trail runner begins to walk in the distance. It's Cass. GAME ON!! Another day of climbing together. Apparently she just couldn't keep herself away. I personally thought she had enough of my antics like not letting her tape for the unforgiving cracks of Josh. Clearly this partnership is meant to be and I'm not about to complain. We shared 7 pitches up to 10d in under 4 hours and called it a day.
Eventually we said until next time. Plans have been made for me to get out to Maine this Fall to climb with her and potentially El Potrero Chico this winter (Probably going to happen w/ or w/o Cass). I'm happy to leave with the feeling that our history of climbing together has only begun. There is no doubt Cass will be featured in many more Trip Reports written here.