This weekend I took my suburban self out of the concrete jungle into the desert park known as Joshua Tree.
Last year I took up bouldering after my friends encouraged me to try it at least once. I got hooked pretty easily. Bouldering is rock climbing without the use of special gear; just a pair of climbing shoes with rubber soles suffices. There’s traditional rock climbing with rope and harness which is more common and more well-known. I enjoy bouldering because of the low start-up costs (not as much gear) and because it doesn’t require a partner (a belayer, someone who holds the tension for a rope climber.) I’ve come to enjoy the sport quite a bit, so when I was offered a chance to go bouldering outdoors I was excited to try it out.
I am fortunate to know some amazingly buff and excellent people from my local climbing gym. We headed out to Joshua Tree (or JTree as I’ve heard people call it) early on Saturday morning. It’s about two hours from my home, but it was a nice clear day with hardly any traffic. I hadn’t been to JTree since I was nine, so I didn’t have much context heading in. I just remembered it was hot and dry and full of spiky things that can hurt you.
Since I went with a fairly advanced group, there weren’t many routes I could really climb. I’m not quite as strong or as skilled as the others just yet, though someday I’d like to be. Still, I managed to finish two routes (climbers say “to send a route”.) I sent two routes. The first one was an unmarked warm-up problem in The Outback area.
In the U.S. routes are rated using the Hueco scale. Problems start from V0 and go all the way up to V16. At the easier end of the scale, some use the designation “VB” (sometimes said to designate “basic” or “beginner”) for problems easier than a V0. I’m definitely at this beginner level!
Dragonscales in the Planet X area was really fun. It is about 20 feet tall and the many cracks and grooves make it an easy climb. Of course “easy” is a relative term–for me, the starting move was a few inches out of my reach. Luckily my spotters were there to pile some crash pads underneath me to boost me up to a good height. Crash pads (the mattresses on the ground) are essential to providing some measure of fall protection. Of course, it is still advisable to climb within your limits and always go with a group of people.
I’m really glad to have gone bouldering outdoors–it was one of my goals that I wrote down for this year. Now that I’ve accomplished it, I can’t wait to go back and go outdoors more. It gives the gym workouts a purpose if I know what moves I’m practicing to get better for outdoors. As free-spirited as it sounds, you really can’t beat being out in nature and fresh air.