Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 34.05148°N / 116.20411°W
Additional Information County: Riverside
Activities Activities: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Elevation: 4000 ft / 1219 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Left Vagmarken ButtressLeft Vagmarken Buttress
Vagmarken HillVagmarken Hill seen from the road

Vagmarken Buttresses are located on the Vagmarken Hill area of Joshua Tree National Park, California.

As you drive into Joshua Tree from the west entrance, you pass by a number of non-descript mounds and hills. It’s very easy to ignore all of these hills and head for the more popular and often visited formations and hiking trails several miles further along Park Boulevard. Vagmarken Hill is just one of those highly ignored hills. Only a few people bother to apply the brakes and take a look at what is actually there, but when they do, they are treated to the view of four rock formations hidden in plain sight. These are the Vagmarken Buttresses blending into the background hill.

Vagmarken Buttresses are comprised of three separate formations high on the hillside facing in the westerly direction. The left buttress is the largest and the most impressive of the three, and it’s the first formation to be climbed in this area. The history of climbing on the Left Buttress dates back to the early 1980s when Herb and Eve Laeger were very active bagging peaks on their days off from putting up first ascents on Joshua Tree’s rock formations. This couple, along with yours truly, were members of a peak-bagging club called Vagmarken, hence the name of the hill, the buttress and the first route to be climbed there. These rock formations may have gotten past other climbers' attention, but not past the Laegers’; it took nearly ten years before more routes on these buttresses were established. Even to this day, some thirty years later after the first ascent, you hardly ever see anyone climbing on these rocks.

There are actually four separate formations on the Vagmarken Hill. Starting from the left these formations are, Intimidator Rocks, Left Buttress, Wrong Buttress and finally, the Right Buttress. Since this page is mainly on the Vagmarken Buttresses, I choose to not say much about the Intimidator Rocks at this time.

Routes of Vagmarken Buttresses

Right and Wrong ButtressesRight and Wrong Buttresses
Left ButtressLeft Vagmarken Buttress

The most obvious and probably the first route you may want to climb is none other than the original route on the Left Buttress which is called Vagmarken Buttress, rated 5.7. This route takes the face and occasional cracks up the middle of the buttress past one bolt. To the left of Vagmaken Buttress route, there is a bolted face with dubious rating depending on which holds you choose to use, I guess.

To the right of Vagmarken Buttress route, you can do a 5.8 called Vagabonds. Vagabonds climbs up a dihedral and eventually moves onto the face on the left. On the far left side of the formation, you will find one of the best routes on the entire Buttress. This is The Wind Tower, rated 5.7, and it follows a series of face and crack sections.

To the right of the Left Buttress you will find, Wrong Buttress and Right Buttress with two or three routes on each. The most challenging of all the routes are on the Right Buttress and they both follow, more or less, the two white dikes on the right side of the formation. For the names and ratings on those two climbs refer to the “Select Routes diagarm and list.”

Joshua Tree LandscapeJoshua Tree Landscape
A Joshua Tree

How to get there:

Getting to Vagmarken Hill and its rock formations couldn’t be easier. From the west entrance to Joshua Tree National Park drive 4.8 miles to a pullout on the right hand side of the road and park. Looking in the easterly direction, you will see the boulder-filled Vagmarken Hill. Weave around the boulders to the base of each of the buttresses.

List of the select routes

List of the climbs of The Vagmarken Buttresses
AThe Wind Tower, 5.7, Standard Rack
BThe Podium of Indecision, Rating ?, bolts
CVagmarken Buttress, 5.7, 1 bolt, Standard Rack
DVagabonds, 5.8, Standard Rack
EThin Spin, 5.8, Standard Rack
FCaw Caw, 5.6, Standard Rack
GJames Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party, 10b, bolts and gear, Standard Rack
HThe Right-Handed Dyke, 10a, Standard Rack

Camping and Environmental Concerns,

Joshua Tree landscapeTypical Joshua Tree landscape

Protecting native plantsprotecting native plants

Please tread lightly. The Access Fund has gone to great lengths posting trail marker for approaches to many of the more popular crags. Do your best to stay on these trails, and where you are forced to use a different path, choose the ones that rain can mend in time. Drainages make for good trails where there are no established trails.
Avoid stepping on native and fragile plants, and do not feed the coyotes. Coyotes are very much used to people and often hang around picnic areas and camp grounds in hopes of getting a hand out. It’s better to let them live their natural life.


Scrub Jay on the base
There are nine campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park. At the entrance to the park you are always asked if you would care to have a map and a brochure. The brochure will have plenty of information on the campgrounds and the map will guide you to many of the pleasant hikes throughout the park. You may even get the latest information as to availability of campsites. During the peak season (mid winter through spring) finding a campsite may become a major task. It is highly recommended to use the following link to get more information in advance.

Joshua Tree Camping

Noise considerations

When you are camping with friends and sitting around the fire, it is easy to forget that there are other people trying to sleep in the nearby campsites. It is important to put yourself in their shoes. Keep the noise and music to a minimum and certainly not too much past 10 p.m. Your neighbors will smile at you in the morning instead of giving you dirty looks.

Fees and Food

Entrance station...
The best Thai food...
My wife and I have had Thai food in many different restaurants and cities. This Thai place beats them all. In November when the number of visitors to Joshua Tree reaches its peak, this restaurant puts on a Thai buffet, all you can eat for 10.95$/person. But, you must get there early, or be prepared to wait by the door for a table. The latest information indicates that the buffet style will be terminated by the end of February and will resume in November of 2010.