Dow leading the Podium, 5.10b**
In my quest to lead a thousand routes in Joshua Tree National Park, I often find myself back in Wonderland South, North or somewhere in between. Two of my favorite 5.10- trad routes in the entire park are located in Big Horn Mating Grotto
: Dangling Woo Li Master and Caught Inside a Big Set.
Once you have reached this remote destination in the depths of Wonderland South, Mystic Cove
is just a short hike/scramble north. The Mystic Cove North Tower
, as described in Miramontes guide, is the “tallest/thinnest spire”
in the park. It is a true fin of granite that sits atop Mystic Cove and contains three of the four established (2017) routes in this area. Mystic Cove is less of a cove and more like a platform of massive boulders surrounding two spires.
The Podium, 5.10b**
, is the only moderate route on the North Tower. It is relatively well protected via four bolts through 40’ and climbs the sunny southeast arête. Zen, 5.12b*, climbs the shady northeast arête through four bolts (vs three as in the guide). Movers and Shakers, 5.11a*, a top rope, climbs the northwest arête. There are no real walls or gear routes in Mystic Cove.
Via a map, Mystic Cove looks to be a quick jaunt north from Big Horn Mating Grotto. However, the guide suggested that we continue west in the main wash beyond Big Horn Mating Grotto, to where the color of the granite dramatically changes darker
. Then cut right into a hidden wash where the obvious North Tower comes into view and then back east scrambling through large boulders to the base of the north tower. From the south side of the north tower, we returned east and found our way back to the entrance of Big Horn Mating Grotto. This return no doubt makes for a shorter approach as well, but might be hard to discover on your first trip.
Route Description (s)North Tower
The Podium- 40’-5.10b**/ This is one of the more photogenic climbs/formations in all of Joshua Tree. Commit to laybacking the start off the arête to the first clip. There was a solid move at the grade above the 2nd bolt and maybe again below the final clip. You do not grab the arête again until after the last bolt, which becomes more 5.9. The 5.10b face moves, two or three, are quite thoughtful but with sport climbing type rests between moves. There are cold shuts (2017) that rap down the north face along with a belay bolt on the summit. Dow
Movers and Shakers- 40’-5.11a*/ (top rope)
Karma, - 55’-5.12d**/