Wednesday, 12 March 2014

USA Under Way/Living the Life

Hidden Valley Camp Ground Joshua Tree.

So the first leg of our tip has come to a close. What a start it has been.
Warning - I will probably use words and phrases like “Awesome”, “So Good”, “Fantastic”, and  “Beautiful”, a sickening amount in this post. I make no apology for this. And not to rub it in but we are living the life!

We arrived in San Fran to beautiful weather and to be picked up by my mum’s cousin Libby who we were going to stay with while we got the van sorted.
The View from Libby's place across to San Fran
Staying with Libby was awesome it totally got our trip off on the right footing, plus it was lovely to spend some time with Libby who I had known for so long but never really got to spend a lot of time with in the past.  We also caught up with Tanya, Libby’s’ daughter, her husband Andy and meet their one year old son Milo.
Andy, Milo, Tanya, Libby, Me and Paul.
Photo: Cath
Our main mission in San Fran was to buy a van that we would spend the next 10 months or so living in. After not too much searching we came across an old (89) Dodge Ram fully kitted. The owner of the van was the incredible Love Twentytwo. Yes, that is his real name and he is the longest running write in presidential candidate in the USA. Which means his name doesn’t appear on the ballot paper but you can write it in and tick it.  Love, who was now in his 70’s, was returning to Rhode Island to retire.

Love Twentytwo and us buying the Love Boat!
So after getting the van checked out and a little help from Love’s friend Paul with the administrative tasks of buying a van in California, we had bought ourselves a van which we christened “The Love Boat” after Love and the fact that it drives a bit like a boat.

After buying the van we decided to get it serviced which took a little longer than expected and we were again very grateful to be staying with Libby and not paying for accommodation.

The Love Boat ready to sail!
Finally however everything was sorted, much to our great excitement, and we hit the road bound for Joshua Tree.

The drive to Joshua Tree was cruisy, with only a couple of very minor hic ups. That was till we tried to find a free campsite marked on our road atlas which became epic. It resulted in us getting lost for a few hours in the back blocks of nowhere, with Breaking Bad and Deliverance in the back of our minds! ……… eek. Finally, around midnight, we found a lovely spot and collapsed into bed.

Cath Comfy in the Love Boat
The next morning we awoke to a glorious morning in a small state park all to ourselves, having coffee in the sun enjoying the view.
We continued on to JTree where we were lucky enough to get a site in Hidden Valley campground the main climbing camp.

Cath Ready to do battle with
Bird of Fire 5.10a
Wow, JTree is even more amazing then we were told. It is so beautiful, and the climbing is amazing!
We did a couple of easier climbs the first day and realised that the grades here were no give away in the slightest, in fact I almost couldn’t get up a 5.10a (18).
Both Cath and I love the climbing here however and we are getting our granite skills on!

The next day we bumped into our friends Kyle and Leslie from Canada who we met last Feb/March 2013 in the Grampians. Coincidentally Kyle’s parents’ cousin happens to be very good friends with my parents.
Kyle and Leslie are staying in the cutest little camper, called a Trillian built back in the 70’s in Canada.
Van Life - Cath, Leslie and Chris out side our van
and Kyle and Leslie's Trillian Van

Through them we have meet a host of other Canadians, Chris and Pam, Steve and Steve, Sunny and Mike as well as a couple from the U.S. Craig and Ruth, plus 2 west cost Canadians Paddy and Simi. This meant there has been an awesome scene around the fire at night and a lot of fun around the campground - including a night mission through a chasm in complete darkness.
Team Canada - Cath, Ruth, Steve, Craig, Steve, Kyle and Leslie.
Chill'n on the Sun deck at camp with Chris and Pam and Kyle and Leslie.\
Photo: Cath
While in JTree we have had unseasonably warm weather, so much so we have been seeking the shade to climb in. But as all things do it came to an end and what an end, with spectacularly with heavy rains. The team all planned a rest day and to go bowling at the local alley, with a few drinks thrown in for good measure.
Unfortunately just before we were to meet at the bowling alley the van stopped starting and the saga began.
After filling up with fuel we couldn’t get the Love Boat’s engine to kick over and after a few feeble attempts by me to get it started we called AAA (having just joined). Shortly after one of their guys came out and determined that there was no power getting through from the battery to the motor (basically). Unfortunately he had to head off to a large accident down town. However he calls a mate “Leroy” who would come and replace a part that would hopefully get us going.
To say Leroy was a bit special would be an understatement, but after what seamed a very very long time Leroy finish working on the van. Surprise surprise he  couldn’t get the LB going, so he said he would go see his mechanic friend to see what could be done.
Again after some time, it was now about 7pm and we were supposed to be bowling about 3pm, we decided Leroy was not coming back, so we called AAA again.
At this point Team Canada arrived (Yea!) and tumbled into our van full of good cheer and humour. And although they couldn’t help with the van they did keep us company and Steve M graciously bought us dinner, which was greatly appreciated and devoured quickly!
Eventually AAA sent us a tow truck and we were towed to a garage that was supposed to be open the next morning, Saturday.
Being a little nervous about spending the night in the Love Boat out front of the garage and not wanting to fork out for a dodgy hotel Chris and Pam offered to stay with us in their truck, which was greatly appreciated.
Our van with Chris and Pam's where we spent the night on
the Hwy, waiting for a garage that never opened
After sitting up chatting for a while with Chris and Pam we actually ended up sleeping quite well, believing the van would be fixed in the morning. HA!
We awoke to a beautiful morning, but to our surprise no one showed up at the garage, sigh!!!!
Consequently, after a little while we called AAA again (3rd time for one breakdown) and got them to tow us to a garage that was actually open on a Saturday.
Finally someone who could help YEA!!! Although they could not fix the problem completely they got us going and recommended a place that would fix it properly on Monday.

We are super thankful for all the wonderful friends that offered support and help it really made a difference to this little epic.

Shortly after our epic everybody began to head on to new destinations. We also started to feel restless and plan our exit from the beautiful Joshua Tree and further into the desert…..

Team Canada Bouldering Leslie, Chris and Kyle.
Photo: Cath
JTree Climbing Highlight’s

We have been getting an amazing guided tour from Kyle and Leslie, who have both spent many winters here.
Both of us are getting spanked on the granite here at JTree but the climbing is amazing and we are both climbing well and enjoying the trad here. We have discovered that the grade of the climbs more often than not doesn’t include the difficulty of a boulder problem start if there is one. This can significantly bump the grade up on any climb.

Due to the fact that the weather has been so unseasonably warm and beautiful we have had to focus on climbing in the shade so far, it’s been such a hardship! ;)

Significant climbs

Craig Reger on Hot Rocks
Left Ski track 5.11a (22) – This beast took me four shots to get through the crux and then I went to the top. This is still the hardest route I have done here in JTree. This route used to be onsight soloed to be in the “Boys Club” back in the day.

Rubicon 5.10c (20)– wow! Amazing finger crack so much fun to climb!!

Clean and Jerk 5.10c (20)– felt like thunder crack at Arapiles such awesome varied climbing!

Me high up on White Rastafarian.
Photo: Cath
Coarse and Buggy 511.b (23) – I managed to onsight this technical stemming corner and I was super happy with this. Peter Croft has soloed this!!…eek!

Hot rocks 5.11c (24) – This took me 3 shots and is such a sick finger crack. Although I now have small holes in my fingers from the 1 and 2 digit finger locks.

White Rastafarian V3 high-ball. This problem is super fun with some cool moves way off the deck


Bird of Fire 5.10a (18) – Amazing climbing with a steep jamming finish, and a really good fight!

Popular Mechanic 5.10a (18) – An excellent corner that Cath cruised up!

Taxman 5.10a (18) – a thin finger crack with a burly start.

Illusion Dweller 5.10b (19) – A soaring diagonal crack line. Cath fought all the way up this to be thwarted by the last couple of moves. It was a super impressive effort and exciting to belay and watch.

Steve and Kyle in the Space Pod
A road runner that nested near our camp looking for more sticks! These birds where great to watch.

For more Photos please visit:
And Cath has more photo's here:

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