North Astro Dome is a rock formation in the Wonderland of Rocks region of Joshua Tree National Park, California.
Although not as symetrical or prominent as its sibling to the south, South Astro Dome, North Astro Dome is the other giant dominating this area of the Wonderland of Rocks. Depending on the direction of the approach, North Astro Dome is more or less hidden behind its big brother to the south and looks much smaller than South Astro Dome. But as you hike and scramble further up the approach valley, North Astro Dome changes its shape going from tall and slender to wide and more and more dome looking. It’s truly a treat having these two giants sitting side by side greeting your arrival into the Wonderland of Rocks.
North Astro dome is located in an area far from any paved or dirt roads. Your chances of running into ordinary tourists are very slim. But, you may run into climbers looking for a bit of solitude away from the hustle and bustle of the main parking lot attractions such as Hidden Valley Campground and surrounding rock formations. Or, if you are a serious back country sightseer and photographer, the hike into the Wonderland of Rocks to see the two Astro Domes is definitely a worthwhile endeavor. To see North Astro Dome you need to allow a minimum of two hours. If it’s your first time in this area, you may be over-whelmed by the variety of rock formations all around, and you may even feel that you are getting lost. It’s best to keep a positive outlook until you see South Astro Dome from a distance. North Astro Dome is just a short hop further.
History of route development
Although somewhat remote, North Astro Dome did have its share of route development during the golden age of climbing in Joshua Tree. The first routes were established in the late seventies when routes were being developed on South Astro Dome. It was during this period that one of the best routes in all of Joshua Tree was climbed on North Astro Dome. The name of this route is “Figures On a Landscape,” rated 10b/c. As it is with most famous formations in Joshua Tree, there is at least one climb that defines that entire formation. If you consider “Solid Gold” a route that defines South Astro Dome, then it’s easy to accept that “Figures On a Landscape” defines North Astro Dome.
Being tall, by Joshua Tree standards, the northeast face of North Astro Dome is best done in at least two pitches. Figures On a Landscape is three pitches long and climbs to the right of the prominent orange streak on the northeast face. The first pitch is mostly bolt protected face climbing on steep rock. After clipping several bolts you will see a bolt anchor to your right. It’s best to go past this anchor to a second set of anchor bolts. The crux of the route is in between these two anchors, and you may prefer to include the crux in the first pitch. The second pitch climbs straight up to a ledge and the thirst pitch goes up a left facing 5.9 crack in a dihedral to the top. And, of course, the route is peppered with 5.10 sections to keep your attention at all times.
Needless to mention that Figures On a Landscape is not the only route on North Astro Dome. You will find a large variety of routes, mostly face climbing, on the west face as well as the northeast face. One of the most saught after routes on the southwest face is a Herb Laeger route by the name “Lead Us Not Into Temptation,” rated 5.9. And, of course, for those looking for a greater challenge, there are a number of routes in the 5.12 range such as “The Gunslinger, 12b.”
To descend you can use at least two sets of anchor bolts on top. You can find these two anchors one on the south end and another on the north end of the formation. If you are rappling with two ropes it’s best to use the north end anchor and make it to the bottom with just one rap. If you are using one rope, you can get down with two raps off of either one of the two top anchors. This will bring you down roughly half of the way down to your next rap/belay anchor.
Driving and Hiking directions
From the western entrance to Joshua Tree National Park drive on Park Boulevard, formerly known as Quail Springs Road, for about nine miles to a major rock formation called “Intersection Rock.” Intersection Rock is a major landmark on the north side of Quail Springs Road with ample parking for visitors and climbers alike. This rock, true to its name, sit at the cross roads to “Hidden Valley Campground”, Barker Dam Road and the road to “Day use and picnic” area. Take the road toward Barker Dam.
To get to the trailhead to Wonderland of Rocks and South Astro Dome, drive about quarter of a mile past the Barker Dam parking on Big Horn Pass Road. This is a dirt road with a dirt parking area and a bathroom. From the east end of the parking area hike on a well worn trail for a hundred yards to a fork in the trail. Take the left fork and within a few minutes pass by the ruins of an old structure known as "Uncle Willie's Health Food Store."
Past Uncle Willie's, go left to the main wash coming down from the Wonderland area. Follow the trail next to the wash passing by a very small dam. After 25 minutes you will begin to see the two Astro Domes. To reach North Astro Dome locate a very large boulder to your left. This is Don Juan Boulder. Weave around rocks and bushes to get to this boulder. From here, the approach becomes very clear. North Astro Dome is just beyond South Astro Dome. From a distance, North Astro Dome looks pointy and slender, but as you go up the valley it begins to look much wider. This is the approach to the northeast face of North Astro Dome.
Camping and environmental concerns
Please tread lightly. The Access Fund has gone to great lengths posting trail marker for approaches to many of the more popular crags. Do your best to stay on these trails, and where you are forced to use a different path, choose the ones that rain can mend in time. Drainages make for good trails where there are no established trails.
Avoid stepping on native and fragile plants, and do not feed the coyotes. Coyotes are very much used to people and often hang around picnic areas and camp grounds in hopes of getting a hand out. It’s better to let them live their natural life.
Joshua Tree Camping
When you are camping with friends and sitting around the fire, it is easy to forget that there are other people trying to sleep in the nearby campsites. It is important to put yourself in their shoes. Keep the noise and music to a minimum and certainly not too much past 10 p.m. Your neighbors will smile at you in the morning instead of giving you dirty looks.