Saturday, November 16, 2013

Birthday Challenge 2013

Well, another year has passed, and with my birthday landing on November 10th, it was time for my second annual Birthday Challenge. Last year, I climbed 27 problems in Joshua Tree that I had never climbed before, so naturally I had to continue that tradition this year. I decided a while back that I wanted to go to The Underground, a remote sector atop Queen Mountain, a far hike over rugged terrain, but rumored to have the best rock in Joshua Tree. I had never been to The Underground, so it seemed like a perfect area to attempt to send 28 new problems.
After over an hour, we reached the top of Queen Mt. and climbed a few problems on The Watchtower boulder, officially beginning the challenge.

#1, "Left VNothing" (V0)
#2, "All Along the Watchtower" (V2)

From there we hiked a further 30 to 40 minutes and made it to The Underground proper, where I really set to work. (All photos, Alexandra Fox)

#3, "Kranium R" (V3)
#4, "Kranium L" (V3)

#5, "Misfire" (v6)
#6, "Intruder" (V5)

#7, "V1 Center" (V1)

Putting on the shoes in front of the exit of "The Heart."

#8, "The Heart" (V4?)
Looking up through the hueco on "The Heart."
#9, "4:20 at The Underground" (V4)

#10, "Body and Soul" (V5)

Tell me this rock doesn't look just like Hueco.
For my eleventh problem, after a decent warm up, I decided to try "Dark Matter" (v9), one of the few 5-star boulders in Miramontes' guide. I got lucky with a third-try send, managing somehow not to punt off of the topout.

#11, "Dark Matter" (V9)
Sticking the crux with the SDK and sending by the skin of my teeth on the third go. Kevin with the spot.

We didn't get many pictures after that, but here is the rest of the list:

#12. "Sketch" (V4)
#13. "When Pigs Fly" (V0)
#14. "Fight Club" (V5)
#15. "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" (V3)
#16. "Nicole Face" (V4)
#17. ""Saucer Full of Secrets" (V1)
#18. "Warm Up Problem" (V2)
#19. "Feature Problem" (V3)

Epic View

#20. "V1 Left" (V1)
#21. "V1 Reverse" (V1)
#22. "V1 Traverse" (V2)
#23. "Kranium C" (V3)
#24. "Unnamed V0" (V0)
#25. "Another Stupid Traverse" (V1)
#26. "Brain Teaser" (V0)
#27. "Breezy" (5.7)
#28. "The Swallows Tail" (V0)
I finished the challenge with"The Swallows Tail" for number 28, a V0 jug traverse on the same arch feature as "The Heart," It made for a beautiful view as the sun dipped on the horizon, but we still had close to a two-hour hike out to make in the dark.

Finishing the challenge on top of "The Swallows Tail" (V0).
Needless to say, the hike out was a challenge! Searching for kairns by headlamp, moving slowly from one rock-pile to the next, was definitely type-2 fun, but it made for a truly full-value day.

Of course I owe a huge thanks to everyone who came out and supported. That hike/scramble approach is no cake walk, and I really appreciate your support, pads, and spots. Big thanks to Kevin, who helped us get to The Underground in the first place, as well as for providing beta and psych on "Dark Matter!" Props on your send of it too! Huge thank you as well to Jeremy Meza, who helped us get out of there in the darkness! I also particularly owe a huge thank you to Alexandra, who acted as official record keeper and made sure I finished all 28 problems before the sun went down.

We have lots of day trips and longer trips to Bishop and Red Rocks planned for the coming months, so hopefully I'll be able to share more soon.

Cheers, and climb safe!

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