The Visionquest of Jeremy and Gary
Day 1: Today I’m sitting in a bizarre little hotel in Twentynine Palm California after a day of amazing climbing in Joshua Tree National Park. It all happened so fast that I can hardy believe I’m here. I finished work on Thursday, packed up and Friday evening I flew to Palm Springs with good friend Gary Kaufman. We’re here to explore some of the best moderate routes in Jtree and our first day was an example of things working out the best they possibly could. Our flight journey was a late night adventure filled with delays which we thought would doom our timing catching our connection or missing our bags or not being able to rent our car because the place was shut. We ended up getting into Palm Springs at 2am having made every connection even with delays, our bags arrived and our car was rented. We got 6 hours sleep and hit the park. Low and behold, it was shoe demo day from La Sportiva, Scarpa and 5.10 so Gary and I tried 5 different pairs of shoes for the whole day in JTree. So FUN! We climbed 5 pitched of the best 5.7-5.9 cracks you could imagine, and as many of us have already learned,Gary now knows that JTree is SANDBAGGED. The day was super hot, sunny, we forgot sunscreen because we’re Canadian. I fell on the first move of the first route of the day, Doublecross 5.7! I haven’t fallen on a 5.7 ever, in my entire climbing career, ever. Ever. I raced into it over excited, unfocused, and with new shoes and KERPOW!!!! I fell on my first piece and Gary saved my life, now that’s partnership. You really can just slip, really can just whip off right near the ground, be caught by your hurriedly placed first piece on a route I would have soloed. It was an interesting lesson in how much control you have over your situation, and how simply you can lose that control, maybe even without knowing it. I think about my best of friends who climb without ropes and I hope they have a better handle on this mix of confidence and connection to the hear and now physical world than I did that one moment. All I have as a regret is that I can’t put Doublecross on my 8a card……hahahahah, no actually I have some pretty heinous rope burn so that’s a stinging reminder. Day 2 awaits us.
Day 2: It was when Gary and I realized we were truly on a Vision Quest. It was incredible, walking into the Wonderland of Rocks area in JTree, passing the dilapidated remains of Uncle Willie’s Health Food Store and on into the surreal canyon towards our second day of Granite tutelage, climbing on South Astro Dome. Sun and high cloud, drooping Joshua Trees everywhere making you feel like you had entered Theodore Geisel’s The Lorax. As we walked we realized that every act and action of our trip had happened fr the best of all possible consequences and reasons. Was it a quote from Jean Jacques Rousseau? Maybe it’s just a fundamental tool for personal happiness but believing faithfully that every act and action, every decision and consequence happens for the best of all possible reasons, for the most perfect of all ends. And so it went, our day climbing on a deserted desert dome, no people for miles, blue sky and perfect stone. The 3 routes we climbed, all 2 pitch multipitches, were the height of why climbing is a useless and important game that puts a context around life itself. The quality of the stone was so great, the setting so surreal, the movement so ready to be discovered, the features connecting seamlessly and the history of the routes and the place mixing so fluidly that every few minutes Gary and I had to laugh and shake our heads. We climbed Breakfast of Champions 5.8, Solid Gold 5.10a and My Laundry 5.9. Solid Gold in particular was our most memorable route, pitch one climbing a gold water streak up a full 30 meters of sharp, perfect incut edges. Pitch 2 connected a sparse picture of connect the dot knobs into a mixed bolts and gear work that twisted your mind how bizarrely creative it was. We hiked out, minds blown by the incredible climbing and magical setting that was South Astro Dome.
Day 3: With the Vision Quest flying high and strong it was time for Gary to get on the sharp end. We headed to The Real Hidden Valley, directly across from the Hidden valley Campground. Gary charged cautiously forth leading his first 5.6 of the trip and his first route in Joshua Tree proper. Leaping Leanne was a pretty stiff 6 and just brought home the point that JTree is heinously sandbagged. Sandbagged = consistently undergraded routes in my opinion because J Tree was so close to the center of the birthplace of the YDS. Without a stutter, Gary and I sped to the Hidden Tower where he climbed Sail Away, a **** star 5.8 that finishes on a small tower with a summit no larger than a park bench. By this time the wind had picked up and was gusting to 50 m/hr. We toproped a route beside, Wild Wind 5.9 and headed determinately for Illusion Dweller, the first ***** star 10b of the trip. At the West face of the Sentinel, standing below Illusion Dweller the wind was gusting to 80 m/hr!!!!!! For anyone not familiar, this crack is 30 meters of leaning hands, foot holds and a roof crux right at the end with the entire route spilling out below you. I was getting blown off my feet at the belay on top but Gary floated to the crux, slipped once and then figured it out. His climbing had come a long way in only 3 days on the Quartz Monzonite of JTree. After this, with wind ragged nerves, we headed for Intersection Rock in Hidden Valley to climb the **** star 5.7 Overhang Bypass. Slabby grooves and handjams deposited up on the pitch 1 ledge. the second pitch, the final of the trip, surfs out a right leaning handrail with smears for feet, mantles a bulge and then pads easy friction to the top. Sitting on top we reflected on how our Vision Quest was giving us some clear realizations on how important this useless activity really was. Sun, wind and a rappel off…
The adventures home were similar to our journey to JTree. Confusion, stress, bad drivers and winding up the rubber band of our rental car to make the plane, if we had to jump it right into the door of the craft. We got home to Vancouver at midnight, wasted but very changed by our Vision Quest.