Nearing 1000 personally climbed routes in Joshua Tree National Park, I had yet to visit this relatively clustered group of decent climbs located on short walls before the much larger alcove known as Gilligan’s Island. This entire area gets morning shade until noon in April. Facing due west it would obviously be a warm spot during winter afternoons. The routes on Ellesmere offer a great view of Mount San Jacinto.
The first route you come to on approach is its only bolted route (2018) named Arms Are For Hugging, 5.11a*. The name for this route becomes obvious as you climb it. It is on the flat end of a boomerang shaped rock and climbs through four bolts to a fixed anchor. Near the end of the climb, you can grab both arêtes basically hugging the rock, a worthy and fun route. The remaining routes at Ellesmere require gear belays as they have kept these walls clear of bolts even cutting bolts from a route or two making them top rope or solo options. Able I Was Here, I Saw Ellesmere, 5.7, is stacked right on top of Arms Are For Hugging and leads to the remaining climbs on the upper level. The Great Escape, 5.11d*, is easy to spot on the upper wall as a clean left facing dihedral that takes on a roof out left. Of moderate note is Aftermath, 5.10a**, a beautiful tight hands splitter at the left end of the main wall, that turns a roof to a short and clean dihedral. Baby Roof, 5.8*, is an easy lead for the grade by Jtree standards. Most all routes can be scrambled off.
Ellesmere is in a shallower alcove of sorts just south of Gilligan’s Island, only a mile in from the Boy Scout paved parking trail head. Park at the Boy Scout trail head off of the main Park Road. Hike one mile to the left hand turn to stay on Boy Scout trail. In short order you will identify this grouping in a shallow recess of the jumbled rock formation on your right. From the topo photo provided, look for the boomerang shaped rock that Arms is located on and/or the clean cut dihedral that forms The Great Escape. If you are not climbing Arms Are Made for Hugging, circumvent it to the left and boulder hop up a short gully that splits two walls where most of the routes are located.
Arms Are for Hugging- 40’-5.11a*/ I am surprised at just the one star recommendation in Miramontes guide. This is a one of a kind in Jtree: steep twin arêtes that you eventually palm at the same time (“hug”) through four bolts to a fixed anchor. The move off the deck is committing with the first half being the crux of the route. Once the wall narrows and you can use both arêtes, the grade eases. Stellar route. You can continue up Able I Was Here, I Saw Ellesmere, 5.7, and walk off climbers left or rap at the top of Arms which is in need of new nylon as of 2018. Dow
Able I Was Here, I Saw Ellesmere- 30’-5.7/ A right facing finger crack corner that extends Arms Are for Hugging to the upper ledge where the remaining Ellesmere Island routes are located, to the left. Medium gear anchor on top. Dow
Fun in the Sun- 30’-5.9/ A top rope route just to the right of the Made in the Shade left facing corner. Not worth bothering with really, nothing memorable. If you set a gear anchor atop Made in the Shade, it is quick and easy to climb though. Dow
Made in the Shade- 35’-5.9/ I do not solo many 5.9’s in Jtree, but this is a secure and easy climb for the grade by Jtree standards. Mostly hands and chimney vs the off-width mention in the guide. Start out facing right and rotate at least once. Medium gear belay at top. Walk off climber’s right. Dow
The Great Escape- 35’-5.11d*/ The obvious deep and clean cut dihedral that serves as a landmark on approach.
The Houdini Arete- 30’-5.11c/ Top Rope
Foreign Legion- 30’-5.10b*/ Small seam, but protects decent. Like most routes in this area, a bit soft for the grade. Side pulls made it feel more like 5.10a at most. Not sure about the star recommendation in the guide, but worth doing if at the wall. Just right of the wide Math corner. Dow
Math- 60’-5.10a/ Not anywhere close to 5.10a. Just a flaring chimney of sorts that widens as you climb it to the same gear belay as Aftermath. This route starts just right of Aftermath in the obvious wide left facing corner. Dow
Aftermath- 70’-5.10a**/ Not sure this route deserves two stars (as in the guide) vs one, but it is worth climbing for sure. Start in the shaded recess (alcove) at the base of a small hands splitter. Jam and stem up to below a roof up and right. Traverse right and pull the improbable roof in the middle to a short finger crack dihedral. The bottom of the dihedral has a flake that is brittle but it does not take much effort to reach the fingers for the actual pull. Then traverse up and left through a short crack and easy ground to the top. There is an easier variation at the right end of the roof, a varnished finger crack, 5.8/9. This route in general seems soft for the grade at Jtree. Medium to small gear belay. Walk off climber’s right. Single rack. Dow
Gale Winds- 40’-5.9/ Top Rope route. Supposedly they pulled the bolts, but I saw no evidence of where they might have been placed. Just TR from the same gear belay as Baby Roof. Uneventful dishy slab up the right side face of the Baby Roof crack. Worst route of the entire collection here: nothing interesting and soft for the grade. Dow
Baby Roof- 40’-5.8*/ Like most routes on Ellesmere Island, the grade is soft by Jtree standards. This is a nice varnished crack however, through an easy roof to a laid back crack to a gear belay above. A secure solo candidate. I down climbed it but am sure you can walk off as well. This wall gets sun before the others do. Dow
Ellesmere or Land- 35’-5.10c/ Confusing slab/face climb (with an arête just out to the right) through two aging (2018) bolts. If you do not use the arête, which I believe to be the intent (not to use it), it is stiff for the grade. It eases above the 2nd bolt and you can get horizontal pro if you want it. Same gear belay as Gale and Baby. Dow