Category Archives: Local Beta

Winter Climbing in Joshua Tree- Beta from the Locals

article by Kat Brandt

JT Winter Narrow

Don’t worry! It’s not this cold very often…

Perhaps you drove hours to get to Joshua Tree, or maybe you flew in from a different country.  And now you’re here and eager to climb, but find that, despite the mild winters in So Cal, some of those North-facing routes are a bit cold.  Well, we didn’t want you to waste time hiking around, trying to find routes that get full sun, so we’ve put together a guide to help!

Joshua Tree National Park might be a desert, but it is a high desert, which means that at more than 4,000 ft. elevation, it can get cold in the winter. According to Lost Horse Weather Station, it dipped down to 8 degrees Fahrenheit on the night of January 13th .  The best way to stay warm is to properly prepare before you even start climbing. Here is a list of suggested clothing layers to wear, which you can shed as it gets warmer throughout the day:

  • Beanie
  • T-shirt (not cotton)
  • Long sleeve shirt (not cotton)
  • Long underwear (NOT COTTON!  Notice a theme?)
  • Hoody, Down puffy, or Windproof Layer
  • Jeans or soft shell pants (stretchy enough to climb in, but durable enough for quartz monzonite)
  • Climb in socks! So toasty and stylish!
  • Wind-proof gloves (or leather belaying gloves)
  • Bonus hot tip: throw a Hand Warmer in your chalk bag! You thought you chalked up too often before!!
JT Winter Kris Narrow

Kris layered and warm at the belay.

Now that you’re properly geared, here is a short list of climbs in Indian Cove that will keep you out of the shade and protected from the wind.  This area (aka Indian Stove) is typically 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the main part of the Park. This makes it wretched in summer, but ideal in winter. These routes are all within walking distance of the parking area just West of Feudal Wall. Enjoy!

Indian Cove Topo by Ryan

Topo drawn by Ryan from the Joshua Tree store. Click for larger version.

Pixie Rock
This formation is the first you encounter on the right hand side of the road when you are driving into Indian Cove Campground. Scramble up the North side of Pixie Rock to find the fixed anchors above Who’s First(5.6), which follows the right fork of the obvious “V” crack. Rhythm of the Heat (5.8) can also be top roped.

Billboard Buttress
On the South face of Billboard Buttress is the deliciously fun sport climb Driving Limitations (5.8). This route gets sun all day long.

The Bilbo Buttress
Don’t miss out on El Chivo (5.8+). Well-bolted, but with a spicy shoulder to gain, you will be happy that you jumped on it.

Indian Palisades Corridor (for the sport climber in all of us)
Indian Palisades Corridor goes into the sun in the afternoon during winter. It is not pictured in any guide book (though there is typically a list of routes and their descriptions). This makes it an infrequently visited wall, which means you most likely get to enjoy it without disruption.
One of the first slabs you find on the Western end of IPC is Willit Slab. Some guidebooks call it 5.5, some call it 5.7, I call it slabby and just far enough between bolts to be interesting. This puppy is so toasty in the sun on a chilly day that you will just want to snuggle up against it for warmth. Chain anchors at the top.
Continuing east into the Corridor, you have your choice of leading Eyes of Amber (5.7) or Water Moccasin (5.7) to get to the bolted anchors by the tree.
To your right is Harrell-Turner (5.10b), Serpent Scales (5.6), and Cottonmouth (5.6X). Harrell-Turner is the wide, white water run-off. Serpent Scales is the first patina-plated climb to the right of Harrell-Turner. The bolts are exactly where you want them, till the end, which is run out, but easy climbing. The bolted anchor is located on top of the main wall, just past the juggy finish. I highly suggest you top-rope Cottonmouth, whose last bolt is 20ft or so beneath the anchor. Cottonmouth is one steep 5.6! But it is a phenomenal collection of tiny finger holds and opposing, slabby feet.

Feudal Wall (for the trad climber)
Feudal Wall is nestled between Short Wall (another great, sunny wall) and Indian Palisades Corridor. Not only is it sunny until the last hour of the day, but it also has a magical way of blocking the wind on those blustery days.
Working your way from climber’s left to right: warm up with Duchess (5.6) . It is a short but thoroughly enjoyable trad route with a trad anchor. To the right of Duchess is Monaco (5.11b). Monaco is super thin, with desperately hard face moves at the top. It has five bolts up to ring anchors.
If you want a little spice in your life, jump on The Castrum (5.10a). It is a thin crack (less than 1”) with smeary foot holds. Make sure you bring a cordelette for the extended trad anchor. You can also scramble up the easier right side of The Castrum to build a top rope anchor.
Don’t let The Mikado (5.6) fool you: it is deceptively awkward for the first few moves. Then once you get into it, it is solid. Use the anchors above Mikado to top rope California Crack (5.11a). Or, go for broke, and lead that overhanging monstrosity!
To the right of California Crack is right leaning slab on which you can see three bolts leading up to ring anchors. This is a recently bolted route called Whispering Chickens (5.7). To the right of that is the classic Pet or Meat (5.10c).

Short Wall (beginner trad climber’s playground)
It is called Short Wall for a reason. These climbs are short, but they are fun! To the left of the super-short side you will see a right-slanting crack. This is Right V-Crack (5.10b). The first crack to the right of the chasm with boulders is Double Crack (5.3). The next main crack is Toe Jam Express (5.3). S.O.B.(5.6) is the farthest right (Eastern) crack on Short Wall.

Route Recap

Pixie Rock

  • Who’s First 5.6
  • Rhythm of the Heat 5.8R

Billboard Buttress

  • Driving Limitations 5.8

Bilbo Buttress

  • El Chivo 5.8+

Indian Palisades Corridor

  • Willit Slab 5.7
  • Eyes of Amber 5.7
  • Water Moccasin 5.7
  • Harrel-Turner 5.10b
  • Serpent Scales 5.6
  • Cottonmouth 5.6x

Feudal Wall

  • Duchess 5.6
  • Monaco 5.11b
  • The Castrum 5.10a
  • Mikado 5.6
  • California Crack 5.11a
  • Whispering Chickens 5.7
  • Pet or Meat 5.10c

Short Wall

  • Right V-Crack 5.10b
  • Double Crack 5.3
  • Toe Jam Express 5.3
  • S.O.B 5.6
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