One of the best 5.10 crack climbs in all of Joshua Tree is Dangling Woo Li Master in Bighorn Mating Grotto located deep in the Wonderland area of Jtree. This Grotto is truly an oasis in the desert, full of grass as the surrounding walls shed water into the walled-in alcove. It actually takes a short 5th class bit of climbing to even enter the grotto. As magical as the grotto setting is, the Dangling Woo Li Master route (5.10a) is just as unique involving micro and slung placements, hand and finger jamming, chimneying and stemming, resulting in a full body work out. This gem was established in 1985.
There is no other climbing wall in all of Miramontes guide that yields as high a percentage of coveted (starred) routes as Bighorn Mating Grotto. They all get at least two stars from Miramontes and I concur. Woo Li gets his highest accolades of four stars; Caught Inside the Big Set (5.10a) three; Sanctuary (5.10b), Morning Thunder (5.10dR) and Euphrates (5.11c) two each. These are exclusive crack/trad routes. Euphrates and Woo Li Master are the only two offering much sun during winter afternoons. A single rope fixed rap is located above Sanctuary.
We actually combined Sergeant Rock, Surprise Rock, Disneyland and Big Horn Mating for a full day out of crack climbing. From the Pink House Ruins, continue west past Foolproof Tower on the left (High Strung, 5.9). The Astrodomes (north and south) are in the distance to the southwest. Lenticular Dome is straight ahead. Keep in the rightward washes that pass Surprise Rock and the unique Freak Brothers Dome on the right. After Freak Brothers Dome, Disneyland Dome becomes visible to the northwest. Continue in this wash passing Diarrhea Dome close to the right. This is a true grotto, so you will not see the routes from the wash. Look for a faint climber’s trail that cuts through a small opening in Diarrhea Dome and lands you into a bushy canyon to the right. Continue northwest to a similar slot on your right that allows you to slip in to a much smaller canyon that leads northwest to the base of an obvious mid-5th class crack that once you climb and descend on the other end, lands you in this small, lush and well protected (from wind or enemy) grotto.
Routes Listed Left to Right as you Face the Wall
- Euphrates- 5.11c**
- Dangling Woo Li Master- 5.10a**** One of the better trad pitches in Jtree, not to mention one of the top two settings in the whole park (Valley of the Kings being the other). This is a thoughtful lead. On 2nd it goes much easier versus worrying about pro. Due to the early awkward traverse, placing gear can get pumpy. A couple of small/micro pieces protect the traverse. Next up a slung horn was key for me. Then stem up to a restful hand jam up and right in the black rock. Then traverse left again and mantle up to the fist/large hand flaring crack. Eases way up after that. Rap is to the right. One fixed bolt with quick link above the route as well. Dow
- Sanctuary- 5.10b** Sanctuary, aka Book of Changes-dispute regarding the name by the FAers, is a full on lead for the grade. Off the deck, climbing at the grade, the only pro is a short slot for a C4#.3 or .4 that most 5.10 leaders would need to use as a side pull vs gear. After that it mellows out with quite a bit of stemming and sustained climbing until just below the lone bolt on the route. A crux move (wide stem for me) here gets you to a chimney rest up the right side. Then a cool stem across left to a reachy jug and fun overhanging moves up to run out slab above to a fixed rap. This is the same fixed rap you can reach for descent when topping out on Dangling or Caught Inside. Dow
- Morning Thunder- 5.10dR**
- Caught Inside On a Big Set- 5.10a*** Dangling Woo Li Master and Caught Inisde, in my opinion, are the best "pair" of 5.10a's in the entire park. They are located right across from each other and are both pure trad leads. The discussion on MP.com indicates most consider Caught Inside to be a more difficult lead, but I saw little to no difference. I also did not need or use the C4#4's recommended on MP.com. A single #3 comes in handy, otherwise just the same standard rack that works for Dangling works for Caught Inside, mostly a single or double rack of cams from fingers to hands. The start is a bit overhanging but with jugs. The crux is mid height of the first pitch, stemming blindly from the left crack to the right crack, but hands await. The upper portion of this first pitch is run out flair but on lower angled terrain. Comfortable ledge to build a medium gear belay. I soloed the 2nd pitch, maybe 5.7 hands. With a 70m rope, I was able to walk over to the rap tree, to the northwest, and bring up the 2nd from there. Rap the tree down to the next level. Scramble down southwest and then walk back back east to the fixed rap atop Sanctuary. Dow