Climbing Joshua Tree National Park

A Trip to Wonderland
By Jonathan Copp

Wander out into the Wonderland of Rocks and find the Big Horn Mating Grotto, a unique amphitheater of climbs. The Wonderland of Rocks is the most expansive Mecca of domes and walls within Joshua Tree National Park. Days can be spent simply wandering through the formations, catching sight of bighorn sheep and coyotes, and eyeing peerless crack systems up grand walls.

Destinations within the Wonderland can be accessed via different trails. The Big Horn Mating Grotto lies in the southern part and is normally approached from the Barker Dam parking area. (The Grotto can be somewhat elusive, but Vogel's guidebook gives good directions.) This trek can take 45 minutes to an hour. The approach passes some standing water, rare in this desert environment, and meanders through wild formations like the Freak Brothers Dome, an enormous rock reminiscent of the Easter Island head carvings. The Grotto itself is a spacious enclosure graced with trees and vegetation. Once inside the arena, challenge the Dangling Woo Li Master. This circuitous 5.10a up amazing red rock varies from finger crack to face holds to hand and fist crack. Next, get Caught Inside on a Big Set, linking crack systems with a 5.10b crux. If you're not out of breath, do "The Book of Changes," a 5.10b with a few pins and a bolt protecting crux moves. And finally, if you feel like Zeus, send Morning Thunder, a 5.10d overhanging system requiring a bit of attention toward protection. When the day is done, having climbed all these spectacular routes within 80 feet of each other, look out into the Wonderland and . . . remember how to get back to the car. (Vogel p. 316)

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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