Walk on the Wild Side (5.7+), Joshua Tree National Park, California
Three pitches of sunny so cal slab-surfing bliss
Holly came from Miami, F.L.A.
Hitchhiked her way across the USA
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she
She says, Hey babe
Take a walk on the wild side
Take a walk on the wild side
As one of the largest climbing areas in the world, with about 5,000 routes to choose from, Joshua Tree could keep you busy for a lifetime, though it hardly registers as a place to go for longer routes. One notable exception is Walk on the Wild Side, a 600-foot beeline up the right side of Saddle Rock, the largest stone in the Monument. This southwest-facing slab soaks up the sun, making a perfect climb for those brisk Joshua Tree winter afternoons.
Many a budding climber first tastes the adventurous world of multi-pitch climbing on this beautiful, featured line. But, moderate or not, Wild Side deserves some respect: Runouts and route-finding conundrums add that classic element, and many parties have inadvertently found themselves on the 5.10 R/X routes that lie to either side.
Usually, routes with the plus rating climb extra solid for their grades, and Walk on the Wild Side proves no different (many consider it 5.8). For your smearing pleasure, set yourself adrift in a sea of amazing patina and endless sloping dishes carved by the magic of erosion. Climbing Wild Side will hone your under-vertical technique, teaching you how to grit through J-Tree sloper loaves as your burning calves beg for mercy.
While many J-Tree routes call for the full trad rack, you only need a set of draws for Wild Side … and some slab skills. Expect to clip about 10 bolts per ropelength, with bolted belays. The climb begins at the very toe of the formation and moves more or less directly to the free-standing summit in three glorious, airy pitches. The first pitch (crux) will grab your attention with its committing moves leftward after the third bolt. Leave the bolt behind you. Test your focus and commitment, but don’t get too psyched out: All the cruxes have great protection, and the runouts cover easier ground. Two ropelengths (and a little bit of third class) later, you’ll find yourself on the exposed, free-standing summit — a great place to take in the vast landscape of endless, surreal, quartz-monzonite domes. A single-rope rappel and a lot of scrambling bring you back to your pack.
If you happen to find yourself in the Park during the full moon, take part in an oddball Joshua Tree tradition by climbing Walk on the Wild Side by moonlight — a great way to enjoy the high-desert environment. With the full moon, you can’t see the exposure … or the bolts, far beneath your feet.
FIVE CLASSICS NEAR WALK ON THE WILDSIDE, JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
by Cedar Wright
Room to Shroom 5.9 A mega mega-classic with uncharacteristically smooth stone for the abrasive nature of Joshua Tree. Hands and Finger sizes … pieces you could hang a truck off of. A beautiful setting with plenty of room to shroom.
Double Cross 5.7+ Another super classic, with the dubious grade of 5.7-plus. Certainly feels everybit of 5.8 when your on it. Be mindful of the protectionless start. It’s not ridiculously difficult, but a few people have taken it lightly and ended up in the hospital.
Busioneer 5.7 This beautiful rock tests your ability to hand jam and fingerlock, but don’t forget to layback … this is a great way to break into the stout world of J-Tree 5.7.
Geronimo 5.7 This 5.7 roof climb has a wandering approach but is well worth the effort as the roof encounter is one of the coolest on the planet. Looks more like a 5.12 from below, but hidden jugs appear in all the right places. This is yet another tespiece for the grade of 5.7.
The Flu 5.8 This is a beautiful and varied route with a nice mix of face and crack climbing. Get ready for commitment out of the gate with some sporty and tricky face moves, then hang on for the ride as you tiptoe up funky feet, with mostly solid hand jams.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place 5.9 This beautiful off-width crack just eats up the number four camalots, and requires a weird mix of off-width and chimney moves out a gaping maw of a bombay slot. If you can climb this 5.9, you can climb any 5.9.