Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Route Profile: Joshua Tree's Dappled Mare

Route:  Dappled Mare -- 5.8, 3 pitches

Area:  Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Season: October -- May

Climber's pick the right parking spot in J-Tree.  Seth Hobby.
Joshua Tree National park came to light as a real climbing destination decades after Yosemite climbers began to migrate there to avoid the snowy Sierra Winters in the late 1950s and 1960s.  At the time, the Park was considered a great place to bide your time while bad weather kept you off the big walls; this attitude persisted through the early 1970s, when the first climbing J-Tree climbing guide was published.  In the ensuing decades, the park has become a classic winter retreat for climbers of all abilities, and one of the most highly regarded climbing areas in the world.  Visitors to the area are struck by the confluence of Southern California weather, convenient camping, and the high desert landscape, which combine in a breathtaking tableau worthy of time and exploration.

A climber moves up Old Woman Rock, catching
the evening's last sun. Ted Ullman.

From October through May, Joshua Tree’s balmy weather and vast climbing potential draw visitors from their tents out amidst the rock.   Literally thousands of routes are scattered across the landscape of massive boulders and outcroppings, where vast potential for new routes still awaits the ambitious climber. Most of the rock features in the park that climbers favor are composed of crystalline quartzite, the granitic qualities of which turn steep, daunting faces into high-friction playgrounds.  Impossible looking face climbs often turn out to be veritable walk-ups, and the intimidating shallow and flaring cracks of the Park turn out to offer reliably good gear placements for beginning and seasoned climbers alike.

A climber takes advantage of J-Tree's rock to move
up a steep face.  Katy Pfannnstein.
With so much fantastic climbing to be done in one area, the benchmark for routes making the ‘tick-list’ is remarkably high.  Dappled Mare, a 5.8 route on the Lost Horse Wall, makes the cut as one of our favorite routes in the entire park.  The Lost Horse Wall is one of the largest features in the park, and is a great place to be on cooler winter days, with its Southwest orientation and afternoon sun.  Dappled Mare is a full three pitches of excellent climbing, leaving the ground near the center of the formation.  A healthy mix of mid-sized nuts and cams, up to 2.5”, will see you through several fun crack systems and some excellent face moves.  A short walk off to the right will return you to the base of climb, and you'll be on your way to the next formation that catches your eye.

AAI employee Dyan Padagas looks for her placement
while on lead.  Dyan Padagas.
If Joshua Tree sounds like an area you'd like to explore or a place you'd like to push the limits of your climbing, come down and join us for a course or a few days of private guiding this winter.  With courses ranging from our intensive introductory course, Outdoor Rock Camp, to Learn to Lead courses for climbers looking to move into multi-pitch terrain, there’s no better way to push your climbing than joining us for some winter sun.

--Casey O'Brien, American Southwest and Foreign Programs coordinator

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