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.

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Welcome to Joshua Tree National Park.

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.

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That assessment still stands. Many pointy things abound.

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.

The other lady in the far right corner is starting Chuckwalla V6, a much tougher problem than what I’m working on.

In the U.S. routes are rated using the Hueco scale.ย Problems start from V0 and go all the way up to V16.ย 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!

On the aptly-named Dragonscales boulder.

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.


16 thoughts on “Bouldering at Joshua Tree

    1. My heart beats strongly when I’m up that high. Coming back down the boulder was probably scarier than going up.

      I like Joshua Tree a lot. We didn’t get to see the stars at night; next time I’d like to try and stay for that or better yet camp overnight.

  1. That looks fantastic and you’re lucky you’re near somewhere like this. I’m not an exercise lover myself and am seriously impressed that you are able to scale even what you say is an “easy” climb. I know who would be fab at this though – my 8 year old. He went to a climbing wall and shinned up everything and we’ve taken him climbing up a little waterfall before. Well impressed with you Special K. Did you know that’s my new name for you?

    1. I quite like my new moniker, thank you Sue!

      You’d be amazed at the other climbers–they make it look so easy! Dragonscales was considered a “warmup” boulder for those guys! T_T

      For your little one, see if he takes to it! The gyms here in the US have children’s programs that incorporate play with teaching them climbing techniques. Also it is a lot easier when you’re young and still unafraid.

      I go because I’m a scaredy-cat in my real life, and I want to challenge and change that part of me. If I can scale a wall or a boulder and survive, then surely I can go into an interview or meeting and come out fine.

      One hopes.

  2. That looks fun – a good workout and a sense of satisfaction afterwards! I’ve never actually tried rock climbing or bouldering myself (maybe abseiling this one time at school camp).

    1. I’ll have to look up abseiling. I bet there’s some impressive outdoors sites in Australia (admittedly, I don’t know of any at the moment, but Google should fix that.)

  3. WOAH! As someone who is intensely afraid of heights and possesses little-to-no upper body strength, this looks terrifying. BUT I 100% admire your strength – physical and mental – and general ballsiness.

    1. Give it a try sometime, should you feel courageous! There’s quite a few gyms springing up across Southern California not to mention we live close to (relatively) some great outdoors sites. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I go precisely because it’s a bit terrifying. I would rather climb than watch a horror movie if that says anything. (I don’t know what that says about me, btw.)

  4. Oh wow, I’m positively impressed. That sounds like a lot of fun, and somehow it seems to suit you very well. Made me want to do some sort of trial session now. Next June in LA? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. That looks seriously fun. And what a view! But oh, there’s being outdoors and then there’s Joshua Tree. Always wanted to visit – might have mentioned this before in another comment! I tried indoor climbing but my palms tend to sweat a lot – without gloves I’m pretty useless at anything that requires grip.

    1. Does Australia have a similar type of place? I’m not very familiar with the geographical features of your continent. The US has a lot of varying landscapes; California alone has both mountains, desert and sea.

      Did you try some climbing chalk? I’m not sure about other sports, but for climbing some chalk on the palms and fingers can be useful. The only thing about this sport is it wrecks the skin on your hands. I’m building some lovely (and necessary) calluses!

      1. Yeah we do. Australia is mostly desert in the middle but there are some nice mountain ranges and a lot of sandstone cliffs along the coast. So pretty similar to CA.. except for the cool trees you guys have out there ๐Ÿ™‚ We also have NZ next door which is literally straight out of the LotR movies (or maybe it’s the other way around!)

      2. Probably the other way around. I think AUS has good surf too, right?

        To be honest, the pictures and videos of bugs and creepy-crawlies from your country kind of terrify me. Must be a haven for naturalists!

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