As I was driving through Joshua Tree National Park I noticed a pullout from the main east-west road for a trail that was not on the map. The main map that you get at the Visitor Center actually is missing a lot of the attractions in the park and I don’t think this is a main draw so I was not surprised, but since it was early in the morning I pulled over to see what I was missing.
The trail seemed short without much explanation or direction except that it was leading to a place called Hemingway Buttress and Banana Cracks that many rock climbers ascend each day. There were a few other people there already getting a closer look at the nature sculpted “classic lines.” Two of those people just happened to be rock climbers complete with backpacks full of gear and helmets and were heading down the path.
Eager to see them climb these giant monzogranite rock piles formed 85 million years ago from magma crystalizing 15 miles below the earth’s surface, then becoming stressed and cracked by earthquakes, being pushed up to the surface by movement where groundwater seeped into the cracks rounding and sculpting and weather continues to erode, I scurried after them keeping my distance as not to be noticed.
Reaching the base of the cliff and a pile of boulders I stopped and picked a smaller boulder to sit on. I patiently waited for the climbers to scamper up the boulders to their final starting destination. They looked like they were talking everything through, equipment, routes, etc. They kept pointing at the rock and nodding. Eventually I got tired of waiting and decided to explore and come back. The wall was huge, at least 20 people tall. There was no way that I would miss them.
I walked down the path one way to basically a dead end. I turned and followed the wall the other way and eventually reached the Hemingway Boulders, or what I thought was them. To be honest it all looked the same to me. I didn’t see a big difference from where I left the climbers to where I decided to stop walking.
I turned back and reach where I had separated from the climbers. They were still in the same spot at the base of the cliffs talking. I realized that I would be waiting all day for them to finally make a move up the wall and headed back to the car stopping and looking back along the way. Maybe next time I’m in Joshua Tree National Park my timing will work out a little better and I’ll be able to see some climbers that are a little more advanced and prepared. Until then, at least now I know that Joshua Tree is a meca for rock climbers with some 5,000 routes described within the park and many more being pioneered every year.