Wailing Sax Wall, 5.7-5.11c

Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 33.99910°N / 116.11934°W
Activities Activities: Trad Climbing, Sport Climbing
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Sign the Climber's Log


Maiden Voyage, 5.10a
Dow leading Maiden Voyage, 5.10a

One of the last areas for me to climb in all of Joshua Tree was the Sheep Pass area. Although there is literally no approach and the climbs are worthy, the fact that these walls are located behind a group campground do not make them inviting. That being said, we had the place to ourselves mid-week in April.
Made in the USA, 5.11a
Made in the USA, 5.11a

Wailing Sax Wall is hidden from the road and the short end you can see from the parking area does not impress you. But once you gain the notch and start descending below this west facing wall, you appreciate the height of these routes as well as the varied difficulty. The premier route has to be considered Made in the USA (5.11a).   It is the only route given more than one star by Miramonte and well deserves it. For the most part it is a sport route. Right next to it is as good a route within its respective grade, Maiden Voyage (5.10a). And again, it is mostly bolted. Miramonte gives single stars to most of the rest except Holy Cross (5.10a) which I thought offered the most interesting trad lead: a RP protected physical roof mantel. At the lower grades, The Morning After (5.8) and Carola’s Hip (5.7) were decent, Take Five (5.8) not so much. Wailing Sax (5.9) has a sandbagged move for the pro offered but is worth doing for the competent trad leader. There are two fixed raps, one above The Morning After/Take Five and one above Made in the USA/Maiden Voyage. Best way to take advantage of the spring shade is to start on the lower right side and climb your way back to the campground (right to left).

There is a parking space next to the restroom at the Sheep Pass group campground. I believe you can park there if it is available without impeding on anyone’s camp site. In any regard, in mid-April, the gate was open and only one other party was in the campground when we climbed at Wailing Sax. There are two notches you can see from the campground that run through the local granite features. You want the left one (east). Scramble up the gully behind camps #2 and #3. Right and then left into the notch. As before mentioned, start on the right side if you want morning shade and work your way back up to the notch. The whole wall goes into the sun by afternoon in the spring time.

Route Description(s)

Routes Listed Left to Right as you Face the Wall

  • Tipples in Rime- 50’-5.10a/

  • Wailing Sax- 50’-5.9*/Within its respective grade, this is the crux lead on the wall. Follow discontinuous seams on the left side of the wall. The lone bolt does not really protect the crux move. The first pro and only pro that does is an off-set medium to small nut and a shallow off-set cam placement right below it. The rock where the cam fits is not of the best quality. I trust the wire more, but of course it could pop out on a fall, it is not of the bomber category. Then a thin smear move, might as well be 5.10-, assisted with thin edge side pulls before you make the clip. A few more meters of climbing at the grade reaches a medium to large gear belay/rap. To rap the wall at the end, use the fixed rap above the two 5.8’s to the right. Dow

  • Jo Mama- 50’-5.8*/

  • Holly Cross- 50’-5.10a/Does not get any stars in Miramontes guide, but just looking at it from below, you know it is better than some 5.10a’s that have received more accolades. Getting up to the roof is mid-5th and why it gets discredited I guess. But the roof pull is very unique from a technical perspective. A bomber RP protects an “almost” right heel hook, then a push up mantel with your left hand, then you have to match your left foot with your left hand. A few meters of fun finger crack above, but at a lower grade. Many could consider the crux roof a 5.10b move. The move is so worth doing the route, trust me. Medium gear belay/rap on top. Dow

  • The Morning After- 55’-5.8*/Better route than Take Five and much more interesting roof pull on solid small gear. Fixed station works for both Take Five and The Morning After. Dow

  • Take Five- 75’-5.8*/The worst of the 5.8’s and does not really deserve it’s star in Miramontes guide. Not sustained, barely a 5.8 move on it. Pull the easy roof via a chimney move. Huge jugs to a fixed rap. The crux would be at an old hangerless bolt below the roof where the pro is shallow. Dow

  • In a Silent Way- 75’-5.11c*/

  • Made in the USA- 90’-5.11a**/Scramble to the top of a boulder left of the line. Traverse right into a seam. Can be treated as a pure sport climb as the bolts are all in the places you need them. Climb the the cruxy shallow seam. The real crux is a thin traverse right to a missing plate creating a tiny edge. The rock is a bit crumbly and the edges sharp on the fingers. Make another crux move up and right palming a small arête like feature to reach much better rock. Easy peasy (in comparison) from there to the fixed anchor. Dow

  • Maiden Voyage- 100’-5.10a*/Serious start on crumbling rock to reach the first clip. Then a couple of trad pieces on more positive ground, a C4#3 and/or a C4#.75 before pulling a fun mantle onto a shallow horizontal to clip. Trend right following the better rock up through two more clips to Made in the USA’s fixed rap. A thoughtful 5.10a lead. Many would prefer a stick clip for the first clip. Dow

  • Carola’s Hip- 100’-5.7*/A positive secure climb for the Jtree soloist. Starts on solid dike rock in a left facing corner. The roof move half way up is fun, but everything felt more 5.6 than 5.7. Trend up and left on the jug arête to reach the fixed rap for Made in the USA. Dow

  • Misha’s Madness- 80’-5.10a/

  • Flakey Puffs from Hell- 70’-5.10c/

  • Birdland- 70’-5.10c/