Western Saga is located on the east face of The Sentinel in the the Real Hidden Valley of Joshua Tree National Park. This is one of those climbs that got lost in an ocean of Joshua Tree 5.9s. Western Saga hardly ever gets much traffic, and that alone makes it a very desirable climb. Added to that is the quality of the climb and the fact that it is north east facing and in the shade most of the day. For all these reasons Western Saga is one of the best 5.9s in Joshua Tree. Western Saga is, in fact, a jewel of a climb.
The climb begins on easy crack and face moves to about half way up the face to a ledge. You will find many possibilities to protect the climb. Once you reach the layback dihedral, the difficulties begin. Plan your protection for the layback section here, and have the pieces handy. Some people prfer the jam this section, but I found laybacking much more practical.
Climb and protect the layback to a roof where the crack becomes to about hand and fist size.
Using a long sling, place a piece of protection in the corner before starting the overhang. The long sling keeps the rope from falling into the crack and cause drag. This overhang is the crux of the climb. The crack above the 5.9 overhang is only 5.8 and solid. This hand crack leads to a great ledge and the end of the climb. From here scramble to the top of The Sentinel. To descend, walk down the south east slabs, and smile knowing that you have not had to sit on the base of Pope’s Crack waiting for your turn.
Essential GearStandard rack up to 3.5 inch pieces. Carry two 3 inch, and at least one 3.5 inch, draws and slings
Camping and Noise Considerations
There are nine campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park. At the entrance to the park you are always asked if you would care to have a map and a brochure. The brochure will have plenty of information on the campgrounds and the map will guide you to many of the pleasant hikes throughout the park. You may even get the latest information as to availability of campsites. During the peak season (mid winter through spring) finding a campsite may become a major task. It is highly recommended to use the following link to get more information in advance.
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.
Please tread lightly. The Access Fund has gone to great lengths posting trail marker for approaches to many of the more popular crags. Do you 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.
How to Get There[img:504704:alignright:medium:Cactus found on the base of The Sentinel.]
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.
Turn right onto the road leading to day use area with a large parking lot and bathrooms. The Trail to “Real Hidden Vally” is obvious and starts here. This trail leads to “Nature Loop Trail” and “Real Hidden Valley.”
When you get to the Loop Trail take the left fork. After a few minutes you will come to the largest formation in the area. That is Sentinel to your left and it’s mostly east facing.