Winter climbing at Joshua Tree


Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

Week of October 24-30, 1996
Best of Costa Rica in nine days
Winter climbing at Joshua Tree
A pop Civil War trivia quiz
Sunny January hiking on a budget
Canadian adventure, minus the boys

Winter climbing at Joshua Tree
Question: I have just started rock climbing, and I would like to know a little about Joshua Tree, specifically what kind of temperatures I can expect this time of year, if there is a lot of bouldering there, if there’s water by way of streams or springs, and which is the best part of the park to go to for either backpacking (three to four days) or
climbing and bouldering. Thanks.

Doug Dornelles
Santa Barbara, CA

Adventure Adviser: California’s Joshua Tree has become a winter outpost of sorts for top American sport climbers as well as wet-behind-the-ears novices. And it’s no wonder, considering the not-so-cold temperatures (50s and some 60s during the day); smooth, steep-sided granite outcrops; and plenty of challenging, technical routes. Many of
the most popular climbs are in the Hidden Valley area, between the north and west entrances. Renowned route pioneer Bob Gaines runs a four-day Rockcraft Seminar in early January in the Sheep Pass area. This is a course you’d be wise to consider, as it could have you leading carefully supervised 5.9s by the last day. Food, water, and accommodations are BYO; most clients camp
with the instructors at the Sheep Pass group site. The class costs about $285 per person. Call Bob at 714-854-6250 for details.

As for backpacking, unless you’re willing and able to schlep in all your water–and I mean all your water–I’d steer clear of a three- to four-day backcountry trek and opt instead for a shorter day hike, of which there are many. What little stream and spring water there is in Joshua Tree is strictly off-limits to humans. Thanks to minimal annual rainfall (so far this year
there’s been a measly 1.035 inches) all water must be saved for the resident animal population. All this explains why there are only two multiday trails in the park: the 38-mile California Hiking and Riding Trail from the north entrance to Blackrock, and the 16-mile Boy Scout Trail from Indian Cove to Quail Springs. Call the visitor center at 619-367-7511.

Search the archives | Ask the Adventure Adviser

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.