Dow leading Between a Rock and a Hard Place, 5.10b**
One of the least visited areas in Joshua Tree National Park are the crags located along Geology Tour Road
. That being said, one of the best collections of 5.10 trad lines in the entire park is located on Star Wars Rock
. This includes one of the more unique off-widths in the park: Between a Rock and a Hard Place, 5.10b**
, which is of course what drew me to the area. Light Saber, 5.10b***
and Cedric’s Deep Sea Fish Market, 5.10d**
are not to be missed for the avid 5.10 Jtree trad leader. In fact, this is one of the few crags in Jtree where all the routes are starred up in Miramontes guide, several hard climbs included, Walking on the Moon, 5.12a** and Apollo, 5.12c**.
Dow leading Light Saber, 5.10b***
Geology Tour Road is a dirt (2017) road located off of Park Blvd just west of the north side pull off for the “tallest” Joshua Tree in the park. It is signed and mostly used by tourists in 4x4’s on a self-guided tour of the San Andreas fault and a cinder cone named Malapai Hill. However it is easy as of 2017 to drive most any car down the sandy road. To reach Star Wars, drive approximately 4 miles
on the road and keep an eye out for what they name the East Virgin Isles
on the east side of the road. This is a collection of large boulder fields separated by desert floor. Park at a pull out on the west side of the road across from a trail marker (2017) designating the climbers trail for Star Wars.
Head east on the trail and circumvent the first grouping on its left (north). Once around this mass, you will now have clear visual of the Star Wars area straight ahead. The routes face south and get sun all day.
You sort of enter an alcove or box canyon that also protects you from the wind. Between a Rock and a Hard Place is on a massive boulder in front of the main wall. The rest of the routes are on a 100’ wall behind this boulder.
Route Description (s)Large Obvious Split Boulder in Front
Between a Rock and a Hard Place- 50’-5.10b**/ One of the best off width pitches in the park, despite its short length (50’ vs 30’ as the guide has it). I led it with a single C4 #4 to #6 but if I did it again I would prefer double 6’s. Squeeze in and climb up to where you can place a #6. Then squeeze back down a meter and to the outside. The crux is the next 3-4 meters up the outside edge of the off width/squeeze. It takes a while to get a #5 placed and the climbing gets physical and awkward before that. The climbing style is a hybrid of squeeze chimney and off width technique. At moments I was sideways, both legs in with a chicken wing towards the outside doing most of the work. Eventually you can use a right foot feature out on the arête and come to a loose fist as you turn out of the chimney and into the crack proper. There is a small block to jam into (does rattle) or yard on. After that, typical 5.8 wide lower angled heal-toe off width. I made a medium gear belay under a large block above and extended it over the lip to allow a top rope. Last person up can walk off the back. Dow
South Face, Routes Left to Right
Thumbs Down Left- 90’-5.9*/ A worthy warm up for the two stellar 5.10 routes on this wall. Climb up the short wide crack/corner (chimney move or two) on the left. Gain the ledge above, walk right, to the taller left facing dihedral and climb intermittent hands in twin cracks in the back of the corner to the top. Can set up medium gear belay at top of the crack (left shoulder of the summit) and last person up can clean it and rap Cedric’s Deep Sea. Standard, mostly medium, rack with a single C4 #3 and/or #4 for the start. Dow
Cedric’s Deep Sea Fish Market- 85’-5.10d**/ This route is sustained in the 5.10 realm and is as worthy as its three star neighbor but only gets two stars in the guide, perhaps for being less clean. It consists of a lot of fingers and ring locks via two different seams with intermittent hand pockets. The crux is a third of the way up. The temptation is to go for an obvious ring lock or small hand on the left crack (it sort of turns into twin cracks for the middle). But that premature move screws up the sequence. Instead layback first, getting your feet up higher before using that pocket, otherwise you will be off balance. You get more hands after that until all cracks and seams terminate. Either climb the run out slab above or finish with a cool traverse move left and up a flake to a seam up left. Rap chains above for a 60m rope. Double rack of small to medium gear including off set wires and/or cams for the initial techy placements. Dow
Light Saber- 65’-5.10b***/ Despite getting three stars in Miramontes guide, this pitch is relatively soft for a Jtree 5.10b (usually the high starred routes are sustained at the grade). Climb the finger crack with a plethora of fingers and ring locks combined with chimney style by pressing your back against the left wall and getting your right foot out on the right wall. Eventually you mantle up to a sloping ledge with the crux move above. Small gear and/or off-sets protect the start of the crux which is an awkward high step with one more move to hands. Mostly hands at a lower grade for the final third. There are rap chains for a single 60m rope above Cedrics to the left. If someone is on Cedrics, it is easy to build a gear anchor for a top rope on Light Saber. Standard rack to C4#2 with thin gear and off set cams or wires. Dow
Walking on the Moon- 60’-5.12a**/