Joshua Tree National Park, California

April 28 - May 10, 2003

Dave Svilar, Matt Alford



We arrived Joshua Tree with the intent to maximize our time on the rock and to minimize our expenditures.  Crampons and ice axes were purposely left at home, so we wouldn't be tempted by any snow-capped peaks.  We cooked food stolen from our parent's basements with equipment borrowed from our parent's basements.  Camping was free in the beautiful Hidden Valley Campground, so after paying $2/gallon (thanks 'W') our expenses were almost nil upon reaching the park.

From what I could tell, three out of every four people visiting the park were there to climb.  Thousands of short climbs exist on the many large rock piles that make up the park.  At over 4,000' the temperatures remained bearable during the day and became rather chilly during the night.  It didn't take long for us to settle into a routine of rock climbing, running, eating and spooning.  After a few nights spooning between the wheel wells of the Nissan there had to be a remedy.  Finally, we got smart and just alternated laying out on the rocks under the stars.

After three days on the rocks I figured I had already matched my entire life's output of cragging.  I won't go as far as to say that we became good rock climbers, but both Matt and I noticed significant improvements in just the time spent in Joshua Tree.  The allure of Joshua Tree as a rock climbing training ground was obvious as literally hundreds of climbs existed within the campground.

After nearly two weeks spent together two things were obvious: I was a pig, and Matt wasn't afraid to abuse his body.  In the course of an evening I managed to down six peanut butter and honey sandwiches, three heaping burritos, a box of cereal, and one liter of hot chocolate and if I hadn't realized what a gluttonous pig I had become, would have probably ate the Nissan as well.  That same morning Matt had led 5.9's, and 5.10's with ease.  However, trouble struck as we hopped boulders towards our last climb of the morning on a separate wall.  Suddenly I heard an agonizing scream followed by a string of curse words from Matt.  By the sound of his wails I thought I would be carrying him back to the Nissan and the trip was over - broken bones for sure.  When I reached him he was laying in a heap clutching his toes while blood ran down his shin spattering the rock.  Through clenched teeth he declared that two of his toes were broken.  "Matt, do you think you can walk back to the car?"  His response shouldn't have surprised me, "...walk?  I want to climb.  Give me the rack."  Broken toes are a minor annoyance to Matt comparable to a mosquito bite for a person with an average pain tolerance.  When we arrived our intended climb other climbers lounging at the base quickly scattered at the site of the savage, bloody, broken, train-wreck that Matt had become.  The climb was a 5.9 joy... if you were over six feet tall.  Unfortunately Matt stands at 5'10'' and ripped the skin almost completely off the bottom of his ring finger reaching for a hold.  Matt bled profusely, but continued to finish the climb leaving a stream of blood in the crack.

Except for run-ins with our Czech girlfriend Ivana, the days ran together.  For now here are some pictures from the trip.

Matt stares at the 'Bagpiper' who climbed the rocks above the campground at sunset and played to the delight of campers.


Matt sits on 'our' rock in camp while a climber (directly above Matt) climbs one of the numerous three star climbs right in camp.


Matt getting ready to fall off a very difficult 5.10 in the Big Horn Mating Grotto.  Matt fell three times!


Matt 'hanging' out at the belay on super-fun Bird on a Wire (5.10a).


Dave following Overseer on the Hemingway Wall.


This is what happens to redheads when they try to climb.


Committed to the core.  Matt and Dave finish up a run with the aid of an outhouse.


Unidentified climber tops out on J-Tree classic Sail Away.  Matt didn't fall off this climb.


One of the many strikingly beautiful cacti dotting the desolate terrain.  Into cacti?  Click here for a cactus quote from The Power of One.


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