Saddle Rock, North Face, 5.8-5.13a

Saddle Rock, North Face, 5.8-5.13a

Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Lat/Lon: 33.99458°N / 116.13945°W
Activities: Trad Climbing, Sport Climbing
Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter


Exhibitionist, 5.10a*
Dow leading Exhibitionist, 5.10a*

Some of the climbing walls and destinations at Joshua Tree collect hordes of gym like climbers whilst leaving many others, with as good if not better climbs, unaffected.  Climbers from large cities are a bit like sheep that way.  Saddle Rock is no exception.  They line up for Right On, 5.5***, and Walk on the Wild Side, 5.8****, whilst routes around to the north and northeast of Saddle Rock are just as good if not better and some at the same grade.  Orange Flake, 5.8*, is the first to come to mind in the same grade range.  It is ever bit as good as Walk on the Wild Side if not better at teaching a variety of climbing skills for a budding trad leader.  Santa Cruz, 5.8**, Unicorner, 5.8*, and Wanna Bong, 5.9*,  are all better routes than Orange Flake or Walk on the Wild Side.   Space Mountain, 5.10a***, is one of the more unique and better 5.10- climbs in the park.  The same can be said about Where Have All the Cowboys Gone, 5.10d***,  at the 5.10+ range.  Bottom line is that there is a ton of good climbing on the north facing walls of Saddle Rock.  This is also the largest collection of tall routes in the entire park outside of South and North Astro Domes.

Park at the Hall of Horrors paved trail-head parking lot and cross the road at the pedestrian crossing and continue on the trail towards Saddle Rock.  On the topo photo, I have Right On marked which consists of a large distinctive chimney.  Everything to the left is considered north or northeast facing and typically receives morning sun and in some cases even afternoon sun as some of the routes face west higher up.  Directly to the left of Right On are three fully bolted climbs along with Orange Flake.  Orange Flake follows the only dated bolts (2018)  on its first pitch and then turns pure trad to the top of the formation.  Do Rein Me, 5.9*, Gaucho Marx, 5.9*, and Kid Caligula, 5.10a*, are all modern (2018) bolted face climbs that share the same anchor.  Further left and up the hill are three stellar climbs located together:  The Exhibitionist, 5.10a*, Santa Cruz, 5.8**, and Where Have All the Cowboys Gone, 5.10d***.  Exhibitionist and Santa Cruz actually cross each other in the middle.  The first pitch of Santa Cruz and the second pitch of the Exhibitionist combine the best of both routes.  All three can be rapped from the top of the crux pitch on Where Have All the Cowboys Gone.  If you have ever rapped from atop the formation, you rapped The Unicorner, 5.8*.  Space Mountain and Unicorner shared the same start.  All the way to the top of the hill on this north (left) side of Saddle Rock is Wanna Bong, 5.9*, an exceptional wide crack climb.

Routes Listed Right to Left as you face the Walls and Progress up the Hill to the East

Orange Flake, 5.8*
Dow leading Orange Flake, 5.8*

Do Rein Me- 115’-5.9*/ First bolted line to the left of Right On.  Well done fully bolted route.  Miramontes has this as a sport climb, but has many fully bolted routes marked as mixed throughout his guide.  I thought he did this because they were not closely bolted routes in the traditional sense of sport climbing.  And in that regard this route has a long run-out from the top bolt arcing way left to the shared rap with Gaucho Marx.   Well below the grade mind you, but typically the guide would have this as a red route vs blue one.  Guide says 8 clips through 100’ but I believe there to be one or two less and more like 115’ to the anchor.  Do Rein Me and Gaucho have modern bolts (2018) that cross Orange Flake’s first pitch which are the rusted bolts (2018).  Dow

Gaucho Marx- 100’-5.9*/ Next route left, more of the same, just like Do Rein Me except more fun as the crux crosses through Orange Flake’s first pitch at the Orange Flake with a cool slab mantle.  Dow

Orange Flake- 3 Pitches- 5.8*/ Worthy multi-pitch 5.8 in Jtree, not sure why it only gets one star vs Right On getting a three star recommendation in the guide.  Guide says 3-4 pitches but it can easily be done in two with a 70m rope.  At the same start as Kid Caligula (modern bolts 2018) start up and then follow well-spaced rusted bolts (2018) to a ramp that runs underneath the orange flake that you pull for Gaucho.  Stay on the ramp trending right and up a short water chute and continue into the wide crack above and continue up the crack on medium gear to a comfortable gear belay on a small ledge about mid-way.  If you extend your first pitch to this ledge, you can do the route in two pitches without any simul climbing on a 70m rope.  Continue up the fun, mostly hand crack and finish on the same final meters of slab as Right On to the fixed rap atop the formation.  Bolted up the initial face, then standard single rack from there with shoulder length slings to avoid rope drag.  Dow

Kid Caligula- 90’-5.10a*/ The guide has Caligula at 300’ but that is if you continue up Orange Flake which more than likely you just climbed since they share the same starting point.   Rather this route is only 90’ tall to the shared fixed rap with Do Rein Me and Gaucho.  Not any more difficult than those two routes despite being listed at 5.10a.  Fully bolted, seven vs six bolts as of the guide in 2018.  Dow

Six Shooter- 80’-5.11a/

The Posse- 80’-5.10b*/

The Exhibitionist- 2 Pitches-5.10a*/ This route should be obviously paired with Santa Cruz (5.8**).  Their first pitches climb the same pillar to a shared fixed rap.  Santa Cruz runs up the middle of this pillar and the Exhibitionist ruts up the wide right side which offers some pretty cool chimney climbing.  Whatever ground you cover to get to the wide right side is uneventful, but it becomes a wide crack under a flake.  The rock is a bit chossy but offers fun and physical climbing.  Start with a hand piece at the bottom and then get a bomber C4#.3 in an underling on the main wall about half way up this right side of the pillar.  By then you should be facing out and will turn around after the bomber pro and easily stem/climb up to the shared fixed rap atop the pillar.  The guide references “follow another ramp” for pitch two, but it is more fun to climb up the steep juggy run-out face (well below the grade) slinging a feature or two.  At the top, climb the steep finger crack (crux) up through a roof placing finger gear at will.  Sporty moves off the deck (ledge) and then it eases way off once through the small roof.  Can build a medium gear belay at the next ledge for bringing up the 2nd and then scramble down skiers right to a fixed rap above Where Have All the Cowboys Gone, rap skiers left and stop at the previous fixed rap atop pitch one with a single 60m rope for two raps total.  Standard single rack with extra finger pieces and shoulder length slings.  Dow

Santa Cruz- 190’-5.8**/ Fun route up the middle of the pillar in which Exhibitionist runs up the right side.  Same anchor atop the pillar (small ledge) and then continue up and right through bolts in lieu of the large jugs on Exhibitionist to its own fixed rap.  Two single rope raps to the ground. Dow

Where Have all The Cowboys Gone- 180’-5.10d***/ Climb the first pitch of Santa Cruz and then up the well bolted arete flake up and left.  Exceptional exposure via fingers to a fixed rap.  Pitch 3 in Miramontes guide (2018) is something that is better utilized with other routes more in line with the grade (5.8 crack) up to the top.  Two single rope raps to the ground.  Dow

Iconoclast- 55’-5.13a**/

Raging Bull Dike- 160’-5.11d**/

The Narwal- 200’-5.10b*/

Space Mountain- 110’-5.10a***/ Rated 5.10b at other sources than Miramontes guide, and it was stout for the Jtree grade.   I found it best not to supplement the bolts with gear on this route to avoid rope drag, there is a bolt on top of the sloping ledge you traverse right on. The move from that bolt to the face is the first crux (awkward). Then traverse back left over the ledge/pod is a reachy crux face move. A third cruxy edge move awaits near the top.  A sustained, long and pumpy face climb. Rap with a 70m.  Dow

Unicorner- 100’-5.8*/ Fun route.  I placed a #6 (needed it for Wanna Bong), but could have gotten by without it. You pop out of the off-width to easy stem-face climbing to the same fixed anchor used for the second rap off the summit of Saddle Rock.  How Miramontes guide has this route at 70’ I have no idea?  Dow

I Smell Rat- 70’-5.10b/

Pinnacle Aerobics- 40’-5.11a/

Wanna Bong- 110’-5.9*/ A fantastic route, off-width just does not get its due at Jtree for some reason. I used two C4#3's, and a #4-#6 for the upper portion. This pitch is fantastic how it starts out .75 and goes to #6 at the top. As the off-width starts to get a bit burly, face the left wall and stem and chimney up the rest of the way. We moved a slung rap off the east side to the very top of this route (keep going up left) and slung a feature there, 70m to the ground no worries. Dow