Onto the Next One, November 7 2015 - Mark Rafferty
Climbing Joshua Tree 2015

The final days in Joshua Tree has been better than I expected. The quality of the rock is unreal. Reminded me a lot of back home in the hills. The last two days were a big stepping stone in my climbing. Not being familiar with bouldering I grew to love and appreciate the technique and ability bouldering demands. As well as consistent crack systems, the level of endurance and precision is key. Being involved in both of these types of climbing has got me stoked.

The second to last day in Joshua Tree we met up with a friend of a friend names Tamas Carli. Tamas worked at a climbing gym and is also a single pitch guide instructor that lived in Northern California. Meeting up with Tamas in the Visitor Center parking lot just outside the park we set off towards the Pigpen Boulders. The Pigpen boulder is a well known boulder problem that is said to to be the Bachar Cracker of the desert. Bachar Cracker is a V4 problem in camp 4 that John Bacher routinely hopped on. A mega classic for both problems. The Pigpen boulder is a V4 problem that starts off in this mini over hanging cave that makes it way up and out to a horizontal crack. In the cave the crack system starts off with a lie back finger crack. Gaining a side pull you cut feet and get a gnarly toe hook that allows to walk your hand over to the hand crack that lead to the face. From there the finish gets to be about V2 and gets you super pumped. The color of the granite made for some amazing shots of Tyler working the route.

Soon after we suffered through enough burns we sat and talked for quite sometime at the base. Determining where we should go next. Being sore from working the boulder problem we came to the conclusion of free soloing a mega classic 5.3 called The Eye. The eye is 100ft climb that has these granite flakes right where you want them. Enjoying it so much we took a couple laps up it. At the top you can wither finish with a walk traverse or theres a 5.8 finger crack that runs about 10 feet to the upper section of the formation. With perfect finger jams you feel super secure. That was by far my favorite section of the free solo.

Back at the vans we gathered and decided to enjoy some Panda Express. Hoping I would get another free meal the girl that worked the other day that generously paid for my meal wasn't there. Sadly I had to pay. On the drive there Tyler said to listen to an oldies station 101.9. By listening to the classic oldies we felt as if we were back in the golden age of the climbers. Climbing the same routes listening to the same music they did back in the day was a cool experience.

The following day we set off to the Real Hidden Valley area. We found a classic 5.10d route called Clean and Jerk in the guide book that we had to get our hands on. On our way to the formation we stumbled upon a clean 5.8 crack called Sail Away. Rock, paper, scissors for the lead I got to be the first to go up. The route was an amazing warm up. A consistent small hands crack really help build my confidence for the next climb. Every move I felt solid and in control. Being able to feel comfortable is key and once you master that climbing is that much better. Since we now had a party of three I was able to fix a single line and get photos of Tyler leading.

Seeing Clean and Jerk for the first time it looks a little intimidating. The route starts off with a boulder problem like section with no protection for about 13ft. Since I got first lead up the Sail Away, Tyler had the first lead. Onsighting the climb we set up a trad anchor so he could take pictures of myself leading the route. Being a little nervous I tried my best to keep a clear head and stay focused struggling to find the sequence for the boulder section i was able to place however struggled to keep my endurance I fell on my first piece. Making my way into the crack system the hand jams were perfect. Being able to have good rests made the climb that much better. The top section turned into a squeeze chimney and finished with a super bomb finger crack. By far my favorite part.

Its crazy to think that just about 2 months ago I was intimidated to even hop on a 5.9 crack. Now I just lead a hard 5.10d and felt solid on it. Seeing the progress and feeling accomplished after working towards a goal is an amazing feeling. My next goal for when I reach Moab is so lead a 5.11a. Lots of endurance and strength that needs to improve for sure. As for now I'll be spending the next few days hanging out with one of my best friends Evan Henderson. Who lives in LA and is majoring in acting at the New York Film Academy. Being in a city is a whole different feel that I don't get to experience often. I'm excited to see a major city and experience the different lifestyle people pursue here in LA. Tomorrow night I plan to head off towards Arizona to make a few stops on my way to Utah. Hopefully leave around 10:00pm to beat the crazy traffic.