A Dangerous Place to Be

I pulled into Joshua Tree National Park early, finding Galen without issue. I had already nabbed a lucky spot at Hidden Valley Campground, and the day was unseasonably perfect for Joshua Tree in January. The dirtbags were sprawled out in the dirt doing stretches and yoga in the early morning sun, lounging as we can when our only obligations are food and water. Galen wrecked his right leg. He wasn’t able to climb for the entire week. Day 1 of a 5 day trip.

The night prior I rolled awake struggling with bullshit. I never usually sleep well before I leave, even if it’s something simple like going up the road to Joshua Tree for a week. Although, that was not all. I just had a lot on my mind. I may have slept an hour that night; I may have not slept at all and just imagined I did. Walking out of camp with just a bag of chalk and rock shoes has always been a liberating feeling, but this time I just felt off–kind of without purpose. I solo’d up some easy climbs, finishing up on top of the one rock where I know I get service. Yep, after all that shit I wrote in one of my previous posts, there I was, on my goddamn phone in the middle of Joshua Tree.

I laid up on top of dome, partly waiting, but mostly relieved to bask in the sun with nowhere to really be. I was just so off. You know what I’m saying? One of those days. Joshua Tree is a dangerous place to be in that frame of mind. I down solo’d off the dome instead of the casual walk-off. A dangerous place to be.

I threw my headphones in and walked another 10 pitches before grabbing a go bag and walking straight off towards Echo. Another brilliant, kinda short 30ft, finger-to-thin-flaring-hands showed itself, onsight. A brilliant curving crack cut this 200ft dome down the middle, onsight. Walked off the back and saw a big slab running up 150ft and then an option to traverse out and under an imposing roof, looked pretty featured, onsight.

I made my way out towards Barker Dam, still finding these really striking lines and walking up to them. Nope, that looks way too funky. Oh but look there, that looks like perfect 5.9 hands–onsight. I continued without a map, without a book, without really anything, wandering into the South Wanderland of Rocks. Another few pitches and I lost all psych and ambition. Maybe I just woke up to what a dangerous state I was in. I decided to put the headphones up and just hike for a while.

I got back to Hidden Valley and nabbed a cigarette from some gypsy’s, and sat on a rock listening to them talk about energy vortex’s, and then I threw my headphones back in and grabbed my chalk bag and rock shoes. I jaunted up The Bong, a really easy and fun perfect hand crack up a low angled slab,  the crux comes low with a funky jug out left. I’ve solo’d this thing hundreds of times. Above is a big boulder, and an easy 5.5 move up to gain a slab to the top. I stepped up on this big edge, a slightly harder variation, maybe 5.7-5.8 and maybe it was the sleep deprivation, but I swear I heard it creak and felt it flex. And that was it–I heard the pop of my head coming out of my ass. In two days in Joshua Tree I climbed 60 pitches. My record is 41 pitches in a day–my hands are still healing from that one.

I sold my site for full value to a couple travelling across the country, and I drove back home to San Diego to continue my dance with delusion, but it’s better than the unstable dance with death that consumed me in the park.

Time is a flat circle, mid-tide is at noon, and this morning I woke up with a pretty good idea about how this story ends…