Castle Rock, North Face, 5.0-5.12a

Castle Rock, North Face, 5.0-5.12a

Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 34.00171°N / 116.02015°W
Activities Activities: Trad Climbing, Sport Climbing, Toprope
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Sign the Climber's Log


Junction Chimney, 5.2
Dow soloing Junction Chimney, 5.2
Chimney Sweep, Count Dracula and Diagnostics
Chimney Sweep, Count Dracula and Diagnostics

Belle Campground is normally the best choice you will have for peace regarding camping choices in Joshua Tree National Park.  It also has three climbing formations:  Castle Rock (with End Block), Short Cake Rocks and Half Rock.  Castle Rock is by far the largest of the formations and boasts 16 established routes on its north face (non-camp site side) along with another seven on its south side and an additional three on End Block which is detached from its west end. 

Obviously the north side is preferable in that you do not need to ask permission to access any of the climbs through camp sites.  One of the featured climbs on the north face is a bolted 80’er named Count Dracula, 5.10d** although the bolts and hangers are past old as of 2018.  On the easier scale is Diagnostics, 5.6**, a spectacular climb to teach trad leading and/or for the budding new trad leader to lead. It is a left facing corner with fantastic rock that takes good gear.  There are a lot of solo opportunities as well, with a 5.0, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, and two 5.4’s, two of which are easy, but fun, chimney climbs.

When you pull into the campground proper, End Block is what you are looking at with Castle Rock located directly behind it.  Castle Rock, as the name implies, is by far the largest formation in the campground and has broad south and north faces.  You can park at the entrance to the campground and the wall will just be meters away.

Route Descriptions, Left to Right Facing the North Wall

Half Crack- 60-5.3/ Stout for the grade.  Much longer than a local guide has it. A secure solo as long as you have off-width skills.  At the top of the route, climb a short crack up and right and scramble down the formation to climbers right. These are good cracks to teach on (left side).  Good rock.  Dow

One Point Crack- 80’-5.4/ Again, much longer than a local guidebook suggests and plenty stout for the grade (I have soloed many Jtree 5.6’s that felt no more difficult).  Not the most secure solo as it is wide and/or flared in places but face features on the left keep it relative.  Eventually becomes low angled slab.   Scramble down climber’s right.  Dow

Two Point Crack- 35’-5.1/

Music Box- 80’-5.8*/ Most all of these routes are much taller than a local guidebook suggests.  This is a great trad route to teach the grade on.  Steep hand and fist sized left facing corner crack.  Can build a medium gear anchor at 80’ or continue to the top of the formation.  Single to #4.  Scramble down climber’s right.  Dow

Bella Lugosi- 55’-5.11c**/

That Old Soft Shoe- 90’-5.10d**/ Very similar to Count Dracula, 5.10d**, further to the right, steep slab on flakey edges.  Fully bolted (6) .  The crux is after the first clip.  Thin edges for the feet, not much for the hands.  Fun and sustained.  Gets easier the higher you get.  Eventually traverses right through the bolts to a medium gear belay in a horizontal.  Dow

Bride of Frankenstein- 55’-5.12a*/ Top Rope

Transylvania Twist- 55’-5.10dR*/

Junction Chimney- 60’-5.2/ This solo is worthy of a star but does not receive one in Miramontes guide. It is much more interesting then Chimney Sweep which is on the other side of this flake with a cool pull out of the chimney move mid-way. There is one rap station (95’) that serves everything from this route to the furthest route to the right, Diabetics. Dow

Reckless Abandon- 55’-5.10a/ Top Rope

Ground Finale- 40’-5.10a/ Top Rope

Chimney Sweep- 60’-5.0/ A true easy solo chimney, back against the right wall to the top where you angle up and right to the fixed rap on the summit. Dow

Count Dracula- 70’-5.10d**/ Most cruxes on this formation are at the start and this route is no exception. Hard balancey smear moves reach edges after several meters of being spotted. From that point on, it is mostly 5.10- edging and eases to 5.9 for the finish. Continue up to the summit for the shared fixed rap. Fully bolted even though the guide has it as mixed. Dow

Diagnostics- 70’-5.6**/ A beautiful varnished left facing hands/finger corner to jugs. A great lead for the budding trad leader. As with other routes on this side of this formation, the crux is the start. Then jugs and hands take you the rest of the way. Continue to the summit for the shared fixed rap. Angle up and left to reach it. Dow

Love at First Bite- 50’-5.8/ Top Rope

Diabetics- 70’-5.4*/ A solo attraction to this wall. A nice hand crack to large patina jugs. Angle up and left to the summit for the shared rap. Dow





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