We spent the last 2 1/2 weeks out in Joshua Tree. It was a great spot to build our strength and confidence for the summer. After a winter of skiing, our rock fingers needed a bit of defrosting. We started by leading as many 5.7s as we could find. Soon, we were bored and into the 5.8s. Then the glory routes started calling our names, so we pushed up into the 9s and that's where we basked in the beauty of the aesthetic Joshua Tree cracks. The contrast was startling for us. While we had been fearful of decking and not that impressed with the climbing in the park on 8s, once we got onto 9s, we were literally floored by the splitter cracks we found and comforted by sheer beautiful walls with hardly any ledges on which to shatter an ankle.
In our last couple of days, we decided to really push are limits and hop on some improbable 10s: The Hobbit Roof 5.10d in Hidden Valley Campground and Left Sawdust Crack 5.10c at Trashcan Rock. We top roped both routes and dialed in the moves. We then both red-pointed The Hobbit Roof (a John Long original), which has a convenient bolt right at the slabby crux and a beautiful 10b roof that you have to pull up to the top. While we were pretty stoked about the climb, in all honesty, The Hobbit Roof has only one move of solid 10d climbing. We were pretty nervous going into the Left Sawdust Crack (10c), which is much more sustained at the grade and has no bolts. Rob led it first, taking a couple of falls at the crux. Cristina then took the sharp end and sent it clean after making use of a hand jam that was too small for Rob's big hands. It was a valuable lesson about the subjectivity of climbing. The hand jam at the crux made it possible for Cristina to send it clean while Rob's bigger hands made the crux much more difficult. We left Joshua Tree immediately, so as not to jinx our success. Showers and free food at graduation awaited us in Claremont.
We have already started to become dirt bag savvy and learned some lessons that are worth sharing with our devoted readers. We are compiling these valuable lessons in our "Guide to Being a Dirt Bag."
Guide to Being a Dirt Bag:
#1 Never pay full price for a campsite when there are plenty of unsuspecting campers for you to impose yourself upon. Drive around and pick out the campers most likely to be chill campsite-mates. Avoid campers with NRA stickers on their bumpers. Look for climbing gear strewn about on the picnic table. Also look for a cooler with ice and beer. Be friendly and confident when you introduce yourself - most normal people will gladly accept you into their campsite. Offer to pay half of the campsite fee and have other peace offerings on-hand to sweeten the deal.
#2 Always buy day-old bread. Most super markets have a rack somewhere in a far corner of the store where they sell day-old breads and bakery goods. Buy these. You might have to wander deep into the depths of the store, past the Ensure and tampons, but you will save much cash.
#3 Always stop when driving past a college campus around graduation time. Try to appear socially acceptable in your dress and level of cleanliness and walk around the campus. Free food and champagne flow around graduation, and as long as you stay confident and don't linger in the shadows like a sketch-ball, all will just assume you are either a student or a relative. At night, it is worthwhile to take a peak into the dumpsters around campus. All the students are in the process of moving out and are too pampered and/or drunk to care about throwing their valuable belongings into the trash. In our experience we have found (sealed) packaged food, brand new Arcteryx pants, Patagonia shorts and a jacket and cooking pots, pans and utensils amongst other things. A fellow dumpster-diver who we met actually found a lightly used Mac Book Pro sitting in the dumpster! No joke, you can find some real gems around colleges at the right time of year. Also, keep your eyes peeled for textbooks in dumpsters or in "free" piles around campus. Snag those suckers and lug them up to the college bookstore, where they are most likely buying back textbooks. We recently made $200 in one day by simply pulling textbooks out of the trash at one college!
#4 Always check campsites Sunday afternoon and Monday morning for schwag. Weekend warriors always leave their extra firewood, water jugs, and lighters for us perma-campers to pick up. Some friends of ours actually scored a nice cast-iron skillet from an empty campsite.