Betsy and I spent five glorious days climbing and biking in Joshua Tree National Park and Owens Valley in November 2021. Here is what we did each day.
Day 1 (Thursday, November 4): Climb in Joshua Tree. Day 2 (Friday, November 5): Bike near Lone Pine. Day 3 (Saturday, November 6): Take Smoke’s climbing course in the Buttermilks near Bishop. Day 4 (Sunday, November 7): Betsy takes a second day of the course, while Wayne bikes nearby. Day 5 (Monday, November 8): Climb in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine.
Here is my blog of our trip with lots of cool photos by Betsy.
Day 1: Thursday, November 4. After driving from Del Mar to Joshua Tree National Park, we hike nearly two miles to the entrance of the Chasm of Doom. The park is incredibly uncrowded. I enthusiastically enter the Chasm of Doom with my headlamp on. Before long I come to the Birthing Canal. To proceed, I wiggle on my back through a skinny passage under the rock at the top of the photo and then shimmy up a chimney. The way opens up briefly to the view in the following photo. This is the sunset view out from under the rock above my head in the previous photo. After that I go back into the bowels of the Chasm. Here I make my way under another giant boulder. Finally I make it through and am coming out!
Day 2: Friday, November 5. After our Joshua Tree climbing adventure we spend the night camped in Betsy’s van on dry Coyote Lake north of the park. Here I am just before sunrise. Then we drive to Lone Pine in Owens Valley where we go for an afternoon out-and-back bike ride. This is near the start on Lubken Canyon Road. Lone Pine Peak stands out behind me. Before long we get to Horseshoe Meadows Road, which goes for miles along the valley floor and then up into the Sierra. Higher up we cross a creek with cottonwood trees in fall color. After nine miles of uphill biking we reach the first switchback and turn around. Owens Lake, which is mostly dry, is behind me in the valley. I whizz downhill just before the end of the bike ride. Afterward we drive to Bishop to check into the Craggin’ Classic climbing festival.
Day 3: Saturday, November 6. Betsy and I take Smoke’s rock climbing course in the Buttermilks, an area of giant boulders west of Bishop. This course commemorates Smoke Blanchard, who was Bishop’s first rock climber. Betsy talks to other students and Doug Robinson, at the far right. Doug organized the course and leads us on routes that he learned from Smoke. At age 76, Doug solos the first climb. The rope is just to belay other climbers once he gets to the top. Note the bush below him. Here I am on the same climb, having just reached that bush! Unlike Doug, I have a belay. I make it to the top of my first climb of the day. Bernd, one of our guides, has me on belay. Next we play follow-the-leader without any belays. Gregory, who is fourth in line, looks over the edge with some trepidation about his next step. I go up my first chimney of the day with a belay from Ryan, our other guide. I apply counterforce to each side of the chimney to move upward. Bernd is on top with a nice view from the Buttermilks to the Sierra Crest. We play follow-the-leader on the last chimney of the day. When the chimney widens near the top I put my back and hands on one side and feet on the other side. Jacob, a photographer for the American Alpine Club, is deep in the crack behind me taking cool photos. Betsy does a hard final climb with a belay. I take an easy alternative route to the top 🙂
Day 4: Sunday, November 7. Betsy takes the second day of the climbing course, while I do out-and-back bike rides up Pine Creek Road and Bishop Creek Road. Here is the van at the start of the first ride on Pine Creek Road. Mount Tom is the massive mountain in the distance. The first stretch of the bike ride up Pine Creek Road climbs gradually across the valley floor to the mouth of the canyon. This herd of deer by the side of the road is unconcerned by my presence. The canyon is narrow at its mouth but opens up here to show snow-capped Sierra peaks with fall color below. I reach the end of the road after nine-and-a-half miles. The tungsten mine shut down 30 years ago. These golden cottonwood trees frame a nice view on the way down. The White Mountains in the distance are on the east side of Owens Valley.
Day 5: Monday, November 8. After we camp overnight in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, Betsy enjoys breakfast next to her van. Lone Pine Peak towers in the background. This area is known as The Candy Store. The big rock on the left is Tootsie Pop, and the one on the right is Rock Candy. We climb two easy routes on the other side of Rock Candy. Betsy is near the top of the Almond Joy route on Rock Candy. I climb it too! We hike the beautiful Arch Loop Trail with Mount Whitney in the background. Many Western movies were filmed here. Betsy stands on top of the Mobius Arch for which the trail is named. What a great trip we had!