in Joshua Tree
Our family just returned from a two day trip to Joshua Tree National Park. Although we loved so much about the unique high desert landscape with the strange Dr. Seuss-like trees, the highlight of the trip was our rock climbing adventure with The Climbing Life Guides.
When we made plans to visit this national park and started researching activities to do, we soon realized that Joshua Tree is a world-class rock climbing destination. We wouldn't call ourselves rock climbers, but we do like adventure, and we were excited about the opportunity to try something new. Like always, we went straight to Tripadvisor to find the perfect guide. There are many options in the Joshua Tree area to choose from, but The Climbing Life Guides stood out because of their excellent reviews. And many reviewers had mentioned how family-friendly they were. Indeed they were! And we’re so glad we chose them.
The booking process was easy! A few emails was all it took and we were scheduled for a half-day climbing adventure. We were also provided with a "what to wear and bring" list that included comfortable clothing, water, and snacks. The Climbing Life Guides would be providing everything we needed for climbing.
We met our guide, Stephen, at the home office in Yucca Valley around 8:30 am. The entrance to Joshua Tree National Park can get backed up in peak seasons and so it’s recommended to get an early start. We were outfitted with helmets, climbing harnesses and shoes. We talked about our experience (nada) and what our interests were for the day. Although Stephen had some ideas in mind, I appreciated that he specifically catered our day to our interests, experience and comfort level. Then we loaded up into our cars and headed to the park.
Note: There is a fee for entering Joshua Tree National Park (just like all NPs). You can purchase a single park entrance (which is good for seven days) for $25 or buy the annual pass for $80 which works for all national parks. These fees are per car and not per person.
Our first stop was at a rock formation called Lizard’s Hideaway. We parked along the road and walked out to an area that was just a short distance away. We waited and explored the area while Stephen climbed up and attached all the necessary ropes. This type of climbing is called top-rope climbing. Top-roping involves anchoring the climbing rope to a location at the top of the rock formation. Stephen anchored three lines and then tethered them together. He even showed us how the ropes were anchored by demonstrating the process on a crevice near the ground. That helped us to understand the process and also put our minds at ease, sort of! We would be climbing toward that anchor (one at a time, of course) while Stephen stayed on the ground and kept the rope taut. This type of climbing is the most basic of rock climbing and very safe. Because the rope is tight and being held by a professional, should you slip, you will only fall a few inches.
Then it was time to climb! Our 14 year old decided to go first. Stephen showed him how to attach the climbing rope to his harness and gave him a few other instructions. As he made his way up the side of this first climb, Stephen provided pointers for how to use his hands and feet to ascend up, all while keeping the rope taut. He did great and had fun repelling back down when he was done. Then our 11 year old went next, then my husband, then me. I soon found out that it's harder than it looks and had, even more, admiration for my family members that went before me. Finding just the right places in the rock to get a hand-grip or toe-grip was challenging. Plus, the higher I got the shakier I became as I’m not a big fan of heights. I loved how Stephen continually offered tips and encouragement to keep each of us moving upward.
Then we moved to another area on Lizard’s Hideaway that was a bit taller and more technically challenging. But we were ready for it with a little experience under our belts now. It was exciting to come to a new task and face it with enthusiasm.
With the water and snacks we had packed, we enjoyed sitting back on the nearby boulders and cheering our family members on!
Stephen had noticed how much our boys enjoyed “bouldering” so he had a fun idea for our next stop. We headed over to a rock formation called The Blob. Stephen attached the boys to his harness with a short rope and the three of them set off to climb the Blob. It was a combination of bouldering and climbing and they loved it. My youngest son was hesitant at first, not knowing what he was agreeing to by going along. But like with every other experience that day, we learned to trust Stephen knowing that he had our safety in mind.
Both boys felt a great sense of accomplishment when they made it to the top of The Blob and back down again. I wished I had been able to tag along just to snap a few pictures! This type of climbing is called short-roping and reminded us of a book we read earlier this year called, Banner in the Sky. It's wonderful book of adventure that takes place in the Swiss Alps about a team that climbs the Matterhorn.
Before we knew it, our half-day rock climbing adventure had come to an end. We can now say we have experienced rock climbing and add that to our list of adventurous activities. We learned so much about this incredible sport and have new admiration for the professionals and recreational climbers who are passionate about it.
Although our family received a discount from The Climbing Life Guides, all opinions expressed are our own.
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