Saturday 22nd April – Toe Jamming

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Thanks to our late night, we slept in until nearly 9am. Even with the side door open, the van was hotting up. We both still felt pretty average so didn’t have any climbing on the agenda for the morning, instead starting our day off with nothing much at all. We definitely had to head into town so that we could go off water rations, not an ideal situation for a couple of sickos. We were also pretty much out of food so needed a shop too. Just as we made plans to buy some breakfast in town, Paul wandered over to say hi and we ended up sitting in the shade and chatting. Since breakfast was looking a long way away, I put together some yoghurt, apple and granola for Jon and I (a breakfast that didn’t require any water in the making).

We sat with Paul under the shade of a Joshua tree for a good hour or so until we finally went off into town. The town of Joshua Tree was only twenty minutes away and our first stop was at Coyote Corner, a small little shop with showers out the back and a tap for filling up with water. Many people inside the park had told us about this place and it was a hot tip. I went inside and paid $4 each for a 7.5 minute shower. Only one of the stalls was free so Jon got first dibs while I filled up all of our water containers. I chugged a bunch of water straight away, it was good not to be on rations anymore. The second shower freed up so I got my turn before Jon was done. Not a bad deal, I didn’t really know what to do with the 7.5 minutes in the end, doing two rounds of my body to use up the time. We both felt clean and much healthier after a hot shower.

Seeking coffee, we crossed the road to the café attached to the National Park Visitor’s Center where I got myself a Pina Colada smoothie, Jon a coffee and a sandwich. I declined to pay the stupid prices so didn’t get anything to eat. Since there was a wait for the sandwich, I ran back across the road to get my laptop and managed to upload one blog on the café’s Wifi (never miss an opportunity). The sandwich and service was disappointing, but the drinks good enough.

We drove into Yucca Valley, another ten minutes away, to the Walmart right on the main road. Jon got a photo next to a huge lifted truck parked in a disabled spot before we went in. ‘Murica! We trolleyed up and hit the isles, getting all the regular stuff then spending a good while in the pharmacy isles stocking up on cold drugs to kill our sicknesses. I got another round of my trusty Zicam and some Vitamin C while Jon got some nose spray and cold & flu tablets. Surely armed with all this, we’d be cured in a day?! It was a big shop, but we made it all fit into the fridge and milk crates successfully. On the way out, I got a bag of potato wedges that served as my lunch for only $3. Thanks Walmart.

Back into Joshua Tree, we made another stop at the café for another coffee, a double shot this time. Back at camp, some of the band mates and their friends were around, but most were out climbing with Paul. Paul had offered us to join them but not being able to pinpoint where they were, we racked up and head through camp to one of the most popular climbs around the campground. Jon wasn’t quite convinced he was well enough to climb, but I’d had enough sitting around watching climbers and wanted to be one myself.

At the base of “Toe Jam”, graded 5.7, we politely asked the campsite occupants if they minded us climbing behind them and they had no issue. My lead, I racked up, tied in and got my shoes on. The short climb followed a zig-zag crack that moved left, then right, then straight up with a featureless friction scramble at the end. The start was a bit sketchy with no gear and uneven ground to fall on, but Jon spotted me well and gave me advice where I needed it. Knowing I couldn’t be a pussy with this climb in full view of every campsite, I got over the base and put my first piece of gear into the crack. After the crack turned right, the climbing was ok and the gear just the same. The transfer to the vertical crack was fun, getting over a small bulge to put even more gear in. The vertical crack is where the climb gets its name. At the very top of it, after putting in two pieces of bomber gear, the only feet options were right in the crack and so, my toes was jammed in. I took an inward breath and with Jon’s encouragement, pressed on my feet through much pain and over the top. Safe!

I built my anchor pretty easily and sat myself down on the edge of the rock to bring Jon up. Happily, he had quite a bit of work to do in getting some of the gear out. It was a great spot to watch the goings on in camp below. There were people doing tricks with hula hoops, the bachelor party next to us were playing Frisbee, the two players standing under their own canopy so they weren’t in the sun. Jon was happy with my gear and with the anchor. Happy climbers! As we sidled across the ledge to the rap point, Jon found a free carabiner at the anchor. More winning! We rapped down without issue and I got into a huge guzzle of water to wet my parched throat. It was a reminder to me that I was still sick.

Both thoroughly satisfied with that climb, we meandered over to Intersection Rock to check out the “Upper Right Ski Track” (5.3). We’d seen heaps of people ascend this route over the last few days. Before heading up it, we went around the back of Intersection to suss out “Mike’s Boots”, a 5.6 that Daniel, our previous camp neighbour, had told us about. We found a group with a guidebook on this side and with that were able to have a look at it. We decided to stick to the Ski Track because we weren’t too sure about how to get down and we knew that there was a rap point on the easier climb. We scrambled up to a ledge about ten meters off the ground to the start of the climb. Jon’s lead, we laid out the gear for him to rack up.

While the climb was in shade, unfortunately the belay position was in full sun and completely blind. Before ascending, we figured out a communication system with rope tugs that meant we wouldn’t have to hear each other. Sure enough, three pieces of gear into the climb and Jon was out of sight. Nothing left to do for me but sit and watch the world go by from my little crevice.

Earlier that day, we’d started playing a game of Astro vs. Odyssey. Jon travelled around America in a van a few years earlier and had chosen a Honda Odyssey as his home for two months. Because of this, he is convinced that the Odyssey is far superior to the Astro and is therefore more popular, so he started pointing them out every time he saw one. I used this game to entertain myself while Jon climbed since I could see the road from where I sat. Before the climb, the score had been 6-2 in the Odyssey’s favour, but by the time I felt three firm tugs on the rope signalling that I was safe to start climbing, I’d seen two more Odyssey’s bringing the score up to 8-3. Bugger.

I gave three firm tugs on the rope to indicate to Jon I was starting to climb and he belayed me up the wall. The climbing was easy, following a big crack the was creviced into the wall, making it feel very safe. Perfect for a first trad lead in years for Jon. The view from the top was perfect, another great view into camp, but atop Intersection Rock, we could see 360 degrees around us, but neither of us had a camera. By the time we’d set up our rapel down on the anchor points nearby, another climber was at the top of the crack preparing to belay his partner up. When shouting down to his partner didn’t work, as we’d discovered, we offered to let her know she was right to climb. Poor preparation on their behalf!

Back on the ledge, there were a few girls waiting their turn to climb up the rock after their friend. One of them was guidebook girl from around the corner. We talked and laughed for a bit as we sorted out our gear and re-hydrated. We laughed a lot about the hole that was growing at the back of my pants, especially when I leaned over to pick up my chalk bag (I did not pose for this photo at all).

Back at the bottom of the rock, we felt like badasses clinking along with our climbing gear, me with my shirt off, it made me realise this was a stark contrast to the dress-wearing Astro chick of a week ago. Jon took a photo of me for comparative purposes.

We ditched our gear back at camp but Jon hadn’t had enough climbing yet, so we took our shoes and chalk and wandered around the boulders at camp. Jon was better at spotting problems than me, so I followed him around, topping out on some while he topped out on others. Around the side of the boulder, I had a go at a problem that required a big step up. I never finished the climb because as I made the step, we both heard a huge ripping sound as the hole in my pants made it to irreparable status, stretching right through to the front. How embarrassing, good thing I didn’t care! I couldn’t carry on due to laughter so Jon got on it and showed me how it’s done. My feet not able to bear any more, I gave it away and Jon followed.

Feeling quite chipper despite our illnesses, we collected a couple of beers and a bag of chips and head up the rock near camp to join some others in watching the sun set over the valley. The bachelor party kindly let us walk through their camp to get there. We found ourselves a sweet possie lower down than most people but with a great view. Beers cracked and our fingers into the chippies, we admired the bright sun turning the rocks red before dipping below the horizon. The temperature dropped, but not as much as it had on previous nights so I didn’t miss my shirt too much.

When we head back down to camp, we had the place to ourselves since Paul and our neighbours were in town for Desert Magic’s gig at the Furst Wurld art gallery. I got cooking with sausages and potatoes for dinner, dropping huge amounts of food on the floor and forgetting to drain the potatoes, but otherwise having a successful time. Meanwhile, Jon busies himself tidying the bed that had climbing gear all over it and fraternising with the illegal campers across the way. We’d found out on our drive into town that this weekend was a free weekend for Joshua Tree so of course it was packed full of people, many of which were on the hunt for a camp. Jon kindly offered the illegal campers next door that they could pitch a tent on our site but we couldn’t offer them any parking (only two allowed per site and Paul was coming back).

Over dinner and after dinner, we spent the night shooing away people from our neighbour’s camp. Both cars were in town for the show and their tents were sheltered among bushes so it looked potentially vacant. Jon must have walked over to at least three people who parked there and informed them that the site was taken. Only one guy gave him some argument but he eventually left. The rangers rolled in at 9pm, blue and red lights blaring, reprimanding people for having too many cars at their sites. This stirred up fresh drama with a group of people coming over to us seeking a spot to park their car for only a couple of hours while they did a night hike. So desperate they were, in the end, we let them park in our site but they left us with their keys so that we could move their car in case Paul came back before them.

Not long after that piece of drama, I was ready for bed (it was about 9pm) and so got into bed while Jon was still faffing about with the dishes. That meant the car movements were left to him. No energy to write but I had enough to play a bit of Tetris on Jon’s gameboy before finally closing my eyes in frustration at such a stupid game. I didn’t even hear Jon move the car or get into bed beside me.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Clara says:

    Sarah, I discovered I took a picture of your windshield and blog address during all the Coachella fun! So happy to read about your adventures, you’re a great writer! – Clara

    1. admin says:

      Thanks Clara! Hope you enjoyed the rest of your Coachella weekend, I know I did. Keep having fun, maybe see you again some time 🙂

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