Joshua Tree, November 5 2015 - Mark Rafferty
Climbing Joshua Tree 2015

After an amazing experience in Yosemite, I had to choose where to go next. Tyler, a climber I met through Dakota, asked if I would want to join him to go to Joshua Tree. Without a hesitation I said yes. Luckily the time when we left Yosemite was somewhat perfect. A huge storm was rolling in estimating the dump 19 to 25 inches of snow above the Valley. Which either meant a whole lot of rain or airless bit of snow. Either way we did not want to get stuck in that mess.

Driving out of Yosemite was stunning. All the fall colored leaves dangling from the branches really made the drive go by a lot faster. After traveling for about 5 hours we were still in the rain storm. Lucky for me, my back doors in the van leak... a lot. I wanted it to be over. You can only handle leakage for so long. Pulling out of the headwall of the rainstorm was gorgeous. I had no idea where I was really but behind me was this super cell like storm with the sunset lighting up the brim, and the front seeing the California desert with the Joshua Trees all over the place. It was a new type of beauty.

Arriving into the town of Joshua Tree I met up with Tyler and his van in the best free hotel you could ask for, Walmart Supercenter. Instantly we rushed inside to stock up for the week. At the end of it all I was to tired to cook so I went across the parking lot to a Panda Express. Knowing in the back of my head that I needed to budget I couldn't resist. With the regret of about to drop $10 on dinner the girl at the checkout said "No worries I got it." In the back of my head I'm like "Thank God I don't have to pay!" However by good manners played the polite role saying "You don't have to do that." After the check dance I got a free meal from Panda Express! Whoop whoop. I've never been so happy to eat orange chicken and rice.

The following day Tyler and I set out to get some climbing done in Joshua Tree. Not really knowing where we were going we went where we saw the most cars, which was in the Hidden Valley Campground Area. Our first climb was Pinched Rib located on the west face of Chimney Rock (5.10b). Which was super fun has really fun static face moves that end in a low angled crack. Myself itching for a sustained crack hopped onto its neighbor called Damper. Which is a 5.9 hands/fist crack which had some amazing fists that you could hang forever on.

Tyler then suggested we moved over to a different formation called The Wall. Tyler lead first up a 5.10a friction slab route called Chalk Up Another One. I found this being the most difficult. My second slab climb ever it was hard for me to really trust my feet. Leading up to the crux section where it gets a lot steeper I couldn't seem to find the sequence. Having Tyler show me again I gave it another go behind and got it. Even though I got it on top rope I would still like to head back and get it clean on lead. Slab climbing isn't the best climbing but it's apart of climbing in general. The best climbers are the all around climbers. Slab climbing is another technique I'll need to master.

Our second day in Joshua Tree today was a lot colder. The wind was stronger and the temps lowered. Luckily for our first climb the sun was out and we were blocked by the wind in an area called Steve Canyon In the Outback. First climb we chose was a classic in the area. A 5.10a three star called Sidewinder. Both Tyler and I itching to climb first we "rock papered sissored" for the lead. I won. Being a little nervous but also excited is such a cool/weird feeling. Your mind is playing so tricks and feeling into your head that you have to push away and ignore. Getting into the crack I felt better than ever. The crack had great fists for resting my arms and great protection to keep my mind game at ease. The best part of the route was the slab traverse. Even though I don't like slab, the traverse was amazing. Following a dike like feature with micro crimps to keep myself from blowing off. At points I felt as if I was holding on my a single finger. With this section being technical it's also runout to the top. Made it super exciting. Conquering and looking over those bad thoughts of "I don't know if I can do this." is the best feeling. That goes for times outside of climbing as well.

As Tyler followed up he agreed that this was by far the best route thus far. At this time the weather was still looking good so we heading to hop on an even harder climb but an all time classic called Hot Rocks. Back in the day this route was routinely free soloed by John Bachar. With it being set a 5.11c on tiny fingers you really do respect John and his talent back in the day. Because I got to lead the previous it was Tyler's turn. Making it about 15 feet up Tyler fell again and again. At this time the temps dropped what felt like 20 degrees and myself in sandals was freezing. I'm sure Tyler's fingers weren't feign much better. About to give up Tyler pushed through the crux and sent the route. Following him I stuggled just as bad as Tyler did. Once I reached him we both decided that this will be a project climb here in Joahua Tree to get clean.

Sitting in the van writing this blog in the visitors center parking of the park I have only one thought. "Why the hell doesn't everyone do this?" Traveling solo not only is cool to say that you've done it but the places, experiences, and people you meet along the way will change your life. I've only been on the road a few months and have had some of best times of my life and my adventures have just began!

Many people will respond to my question using some sort of excuse and wishing they could do it too. Granted I'm only 18 but I feel that if you keep telling yourself the same thing long enough then you'll eventually live out that statement. So saying that I'm smart. I'm beautiful, I'm gonna pass my test, I'm going to save up money, I'm gonna travel the world, I'm gonna be rich, I'm gonna go to college, or I'm gonna travel. If you keep saying it long enough it will come true. For myself recently my biggest thing I keep telling myself is that I have the ability to to this, to conquer my fear and to focus. I've been finding myself on top of these rock formations completely satisfied and full of happiness. That's something I'm going to have for the rest of my life to look on and to look forward too.