It has been raining in Santa Barbara since forever now. It seems like every time the local sandstone dries out enough to be climbable it rains ago. With the wetness pretty much blanketing the entire western hemisphere Joshua Tree has been the only climbable place within a days drive. Needless to say we have been making the trek south quite a bit lately.
The first few trips were pure magic. I thought this latest adventure would be the same. Why wouldn't it? The drive down should have tipped me off. Five hours stuck in LA traffic. 85 miles without getting the Focus out of third gear. How do people do this for a living? Once I got to JTree all the good campsites were full of RVs and out of shape tourists trying to convince themselves they were convening with nature. Right. Fortunately we found a spot at Jumbo rocks, only about 30 miles out of our way.
I was greeted with a blazing fire, a welcoming beer, and temperatures in the teens. It was bloody freezing! The weather report had predicted temps at night around 38. Doable certainly. 15 degrees is a little less fun. To put things in proper perspective we later learned that the all time historical record low was 10 degrees. Well hey at least we almost broke a record...
After a quick dinner of rigatoni and Italian sausage we decided to have us a little night climbing. How else would we stay warm? Besides after such a long boring bumper to bumper drive I really needed to stretch my legs. At first things went really well. Despite the cold I was feeling great. My fingers felt strong even though the granite felt like a cheese grater. We climbed really strong for an hour or so. I was making great progress on this fun little problem behind the tents. I had figured out the early moves on the lower portion of the rock. I was stuck for a bit in the middle but pushed through. As I was finally ready to throw for the top the gritty rock exploded in my hand. Down I went. Hard.
My only memory before impact was the crumbled bits of hand hold arcing into the sky above me illuminated by my headlamp. The orange crystals of granite were eerily beautiful against the dark purple night sky. Then impact. Then nothing. Total blackness. I barely touched the crash pad as I landed on my back. I smashed my head against the rock behind me and forgot for a sec where I was. The cold earth against my shoulder blades shocked me back to earth. I gashed my skull pretty good. I tore the crap out of my fingers making any more climbing that night out of the questions. I skinned (literally) my leg from my knee to my ankle. All in all it was pretty dismal. The 15 degree cold didn't help my mood much.
That was just the first day. One down, four to go.