Playing in the Southwest

1/3/2024 - 2/8/2024

Climbing Cochise Stronghold and Joshua Tree

1/3/2024 - 1/14/2024

After vibing in Las Cruces for a few days, I shot off for Arizona. It turned out I had a friend from UNC, Dana, who would be passing through the area for 3 or 4 days that happened to overlap with my visit, so we planned to do a chill multipitch in Cochise Stronghold while we were both around! It took a bit of doing to align our schedules, so I cooled my heels in Tucson for about a day (saw a double rainbow and showed at a free pool shower where I met the cutest dog owned by a homeless person using the same facilities), then headed out to where-ish I would meet Dana to climb!
I was itching to climb, though, so I did some poking around, found an easy to access, sunny crag and drove three hours from Tucson and pulled up to The Biscuit! There were two cars there and I could see climbers way up on the aptly named biscuit, so I packed my gear and blasted my way up the hill to join them! Not to be presumptuous, I packed all the gear I would need to rope solo anything there, but they were incredibly nice and were happy to let me work in on their rotation!
That was my first time climbing on limestone, up until then my only limestone experience had been underground, and the experience was wild. For one thing, the rocks seemed to be holding on to my fingers and toes just as much as I was holding on to them! Furthermore, there were fossils all over the place, I even found some really cool looking ones 100ft off the deck! It was wild to have those views and be warm and dry while looking at limestone fossils.
The climbing was also pretty fun, it was really nice to do some techy face climbing!
We all descended just as the sun was setting and I headed to a Walmart in the town Dana was going to be staying at to spend the night and await when she would be free to climb. I spent a day in the local library ripping it on some schoolwork since the semester had begun in full force, then the next day I whisked her away to climb!
It was super nice to see my good friend again and we had a lot of fun catching up and talking about life on the long drive to the climb, made even longer by the rough, washboarded dirt roads paralleling Cochise Stronghold, since we had elected to do a climb way in the back.
We didn't quite make it to the trailhead because the road conditions got rockier and rockier, so I pulled over rather than bottom out Wells and we walked an extra quarter-mile to get to the actual trailhead, then got on trail and headed to the climb! In the first ten minutes, we spooked a wild coati mundi from a tree and he scurried away! It was insane to see one of these since I believe they're fairly rare, and it was SO FREAKING CUTE!!! They're bigger than you'd think, about 1.5 raccoons, with long, fluffy, striped tails and long wiggly noses. We were freaking out.
Anyway, after seeing the coati mundi, we hiked another 30 or so minutes up a wash to the climb! We got there just as another leader was finishing pitch 1, but they climbed much faster than us so we pretty much had the route to ourselves! We climbed Four Course Meal, and it lived up to the hype! Great for beginners and super approachable. We might have taken our time too much, as the descent took a hot minute and the sun was starting to set, but that made for great pictures! It was dark about 10 minutes after we started driving, I dropped Dana off at her families place for a final dinner before her flight back to North Carolina, then I made for California!
My first stop would be Joshua Tree, but I came down with a brief bug and stopped in Phoenix for a bit to rest up. I spent a good bit of time in a university and public library, then, once I was feeling better, camped just outside Joshua Tree to spend a day climbing!
I camped out in a random BLM spot in the desert, had a chill morning with oatmeal, tea, and piano playing, then shot off into JTree! Because all the climbing is in the North/Northwest portion of the park and I had camped out on the Southeast side, I got the treat of driving through most of the park! The views were incredible, and once I got to the climbing it was a struggle to keep my eyes on the road and not ogle all the rocks; I even saw some climbers scampering about!
The sheer amount of climbing there was quite frankly overwhelming. It was absolutely everywhere. I found a place that looked like it had a lot of climbs, wandered around, and found a tucked away 5.7 Royal Robbins route to rope solo! It went great until a twist in my dead rope got pinched in a rock at the base, effectively preventing me from going any further. Luckily I was close to the top, so I was able to build an anchor, go down to tend to the rope and deconstruct my lead anchor, then follow the climb and scramble down a chimney a short ways away to get down. It wasn't really what I had hoped for, the whole process was a huge pain, so I set about looking for other things to climb and hopefully find a belayer to keep things simple!
My prayers were answered in the form of some boulderers who were about to attempt to put up a 5.9+ with no small amount of trepidation. I was chatting with them and, the next thing I knew, I was eagerly tying in to rope gun for them! The climb was Sexy Grandma and I had a ton of fun on it, it was really nice to just flow up a chill sport route. Afterwards, I was able to sweet-talk one of them into trying a 5.10 trad crack with me on the other side of the formation. We went over there and got to work setting up! It looked like a lot of fun: a 5.6 horizontal crack that was just jugs the whole way to a couple feet of blank rock protected by a bolt that led to the bottom of a vertical crack. Apparently the usual beta is to do a dynamic move from the end of the horizontal crack into the vertical crack! The biggest problem I had was that there were no good footholds below the hand jam on the vertical crack, so it's quite hard to stay in. I hangdogged it a bit, quite thankful for the solid bolt, and scraped up my hands real good scraping out of my hand jams when I fell, but after a few tries I finally got it! The rest of the crack was a piece of cake, then I belayed up my boulderer friend who admitted he didn't use a single hand jam the whole time.
Boulderers, am I right?
Anyway, when we got down, evening was well on its way, so I bid farewell to my new pals and headed in the direction of LA! I have a friend from Highschool who has lived out there for a few years now, and, as luck would have it, she recently got a new house and was planning to move right around the time I was planning to be in her neck of the woods! Even her parents were coming over to help, and her dad was my photography teacher in Highschool, so I was excited to help out! I spent one more night in the desert and had a great time sipping at tea and playing piano while watching the sun rise across a valley before driving into the big city...

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Los Angeles

1/15/2024 - 1/30/2024

Apologies in advance for how this write-up is structured, my two weeks in LA passed by in a weird timeless haze, so I'd be hard pressed to figure out the exact order of events at this point!
I didn't get up to a ton of wild, crazy adventures in LA, mostly because gas is crazy expensive over there and I was busy helping my friend, Maeve, move and catching up with her! Her new house was awesome, she has this old avocado tree in her front yard that's very productive, I'd say it raises the value of the house by at least 10k(not really, but it'd be funny if it did). Maeve works a couple jobs and is working on her acting career, so whenever she was out working or doing actor things, I'd hang around her house or apartment (depending on which point of the moving process we were at) and do homework. Riveting, I know, I know.
BUT, we did go for a really nice hike to a few waterfalls, and we went to a wild, nude hotsprings in the mountains! That trip was awesome, I definitely caught the bug for skinny-dipping in Mexico and it was great to go in water that wasn't absolutely frigid! There were even other folks doing the same in the various pools, so it didn't feel that weird! On the way home from the hot springs trip I also got a totally bomb (as in good) caesar salad, it hit the spot.
At one point, while I was driving Wells through a quiet LA suburb at 4:30am to go to a coffee shop for class, my spare tire just fell plumb off into the street! I pulled over and hopped out ot wheel it back over to Wells, and the only place it would fit was in the livingroom. It was actually not a horrible thing to happen, since I learned it wasn't doing me any good anyway because it was crazy flat! Long story short, I had to get a new spare because the old one was coming on ten years old and the shop refused to plug it for liability reasons (which I dig because I want a reliable spare), and it fell off because the wire in the winch holding it to the underside of Wells rusted through and broke! So I had to order a whole new winch and had it sent to the next friend on my list in Salt Lake City, Utah.
I also worked with Maeve's dad to build a garden box in her new back yard to house some of her plants from the garden she had at her apartment and I'm damn proud of how it turned out! There's a pic at the bottom of that.
One night during the move, Maeve invited a few friends over and the four of us and her parents played this awesome card game from the Getty museum that was a riot. I really want that deck of cards now. They all portray bits of different artworks from the Getty and there are probably a dozen ways to play with them!
ALSO I'm super proud, I made friends with Maeve's three-legged, quite aloof cat, Bagheera. By the end of my time in LA, he would occasionally come to me for some pets and seemed to enjoy having me around!
Maeve and I had actually planned to meet at Joshua Tree, climb together for a weekend, then head back to LA, but she got sick when I did and took a bit longer to recover. Instead of JTree, we took a weekend after she had moved and her parents had returned home to climb around SoCal, at Point Dume and Sespe Gorge in the Los Padres! Fun fact: Point Dume is the real life place where they edited in Tony Starks house, so we technically climbed a cliff up to Tony Starks house! The climbing at Point Dume was pretty meh as far as climbing goes, but the setting totally made up for it, the place was gorgeous! It had also taken us a while to get out there, so we ended up climbing into the night and just donned headlamps. It was Maeve's first time climbing in her adult life, and she did really well with it, especially after I had her keep on climbing after dark fell!
After Point Dume, we continued up the coast to the Los Padres just north of Ojai. For Maeve's second day of climbing in her adult life, we'd be climbing a 3-pitch trad route! It was perfect weather in the gorge, and the cracks were super fun to climb! Despite a crap ton of fire ants at the base, it was an awesome day out. We even arranged to share rops with another party to double-rope rap to the base, which was quite fortunate for them because they had knowingly elected to bring one rope and had intended to do the walk-off and allow us to use their rope for the rappel, but got sketched out by the walk-off and joined us on the rappel!
We climbed one easy route all the way to the top, then romped up just pitch 1 of a slightly harder splitter crack that was just a joy to cruise up with sinker jams the whole way!
Sadly, all great things must come to an end, and the end of our climbing weekend and my time in LA pretty much coincided. I spent one more night in LA and we went to the movies to watch Poor Things (INCREDIBLE, I LOVED IT), and the next day my itchy feet and I had to cruise for Utah!

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Climbing Red Rocks

1/31/2024 - 2/3/2024

After leaving LA, I made a beeline for Las Vegas to climb at Red Rocks. The timing of the weather and my workload were quite poor, though. I had some work I needed to get done before I could climb, so I spent my first day in Vegas in a very pretty library crunching some work watching rain come down through the windows. I'd hoped to climb the next day, but the rock, which is sensitive to rain needed time to dry, so I spent another day in the library... and watched it rain a smidge more. The next day, my birthday, I didn't feel like doing schoolwork and I was ahead enough, so I got Wells spiffied up, read my book in the park, played piano in the park parking lot, took a nice hike up a hill, and treated myself to a tasty birthday dinner and bignets! I had hoped to get myself a slice of cake but for the life of me I couldn't turn one up in walking distance of anywhere I was already at the whole day, so I settled for the bignets. Settling turned out quite nicely though, as the bignet place was pretty slow and I had a fun chat with the folks working there!
Knowing the rock had a while to dry, I got up stupid early the next morning to hoof it to one of the mega-classics at Red Rocks: Birdland (5.7+). I was the first and only person on the route that day, and it made for a wonderful day out! I cruised up the 5 pitches, and even got treated to an aerial show from a stunt plane doing tricks in front of the canyon! The views were spectacular and the route was incredible. The cracks were so fun and every pitch was engaging, exciting, and had it's own character! Even better: there were no rope-soloing related snafus or incidents. Every pitch went smoothly and easily, even the 5 rappels I had to do went off with nary a hitch! The only issues I ran into were that my cache loop would occasionally snag a protrusion and I'd get jerked to a halt partway through a move, then I'd have to free the rope from the protrustion with my foot. Overall, though, it went super smoothly!
On the hike back to Wells, I was treated to ANOTHER aerial show, and this one I was able to pay much more attention to because I wasn't so busy climbing. Somehow, many of the hikers I passed weren't aware of what was going on right over their heads, and only noticed when I told them about it and pointed out the stunt plane!
After getting back to Wells, I found a camp spot a few hours away, just north of St George, Utah, and hoofed it that way.

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I'm now in Salt Lake City hanging out with James, another friend from UNC who's a ski guide out here! I've already gotten up to some dope adventures out here, but I'll write about those in the next post ;)
Stay tuned!

Objective

See friends in the Southwest and have some wild adventures out West!

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TL;DR:

I climb at some world class places in Arizona, California, and Utah, see some friends I haven't seen in a hot minute, and have some exciting solo adventures!

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A song I jammed out to while planning the trip


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