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Best Climbs Joshua Tree National Park: Book Review

Guide Review of Joshua Tree Climbing Guidebook

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Best Climbs Joshua Tree National Park: Book Review

FalconGuides book "Best Climbs Joshua Tree National Park" by Bob Gaines is the best select climbing guidebook available to climbing at Joshua Tree.

Joshua Tree National Park is simply one of the best climbing areas in the United States. The 794,000-acre park, a couple hours east of Los Angeles, offers rock climbers over 8,000 routes on various formations, outcrops, domes, and cliffs composed of rough gneiss and bumpy monzogranite in a high desert environment. Besides offering plentiful rock for climbing, the park’s cliffs are also easily accessed, sunny and warm in winter, and offer a huge variety of routes from beginner slabs to expert crack climbs.

What to Climb at Joshua Tree

This combination of factors makes Joshua Tree, usually called either Josh or J-Tree by climbers, extremely popular but with thousands of routes, it is difficult for climbers new to the area to decide where and what to climb in the national park. Best Climbs Joshua Tree National Park by Bob Gaines, a long-time J-Tree climber and owner of Vertical Adventures Rock Climbing School, makes those decisions of where and what to climb a lot easier.

Book Offers over 250 Best Climbs

Best Climbs Joshua Tree National Park, published by FalconGuides as part of their Where to Climb series in 2012, showcases over 250 routes on selected cliffs throughout the park making it easy to plan out your day’s climbing adventures. Author Bob Gaines draws on his vast experience as a J-Tree climber (he began climbing there in the 1970s and has established over 400 first ascents) to emphasize the best climbs in the national park—not an easy task when you consider all the great climbs there.

Covers Best Routes in the Main Sectors

Joshua Tree easily divides into lots of different groups of rock piles, each forming a specific climbing sector. Gaines picks the best of the sectors and then selects the most worthy routes at each one. The sectors begin with the Quail Springs area and move eastward along the park scenic road to other areas including Lost Horse Road, Hemingway Buttress, Hidden Valley Campground, Real Hidden Valley, Echo Rock area, Wonderland of Rocks, Cap Rock, The Headstone, Hall of Horrors, Saddle Rock, Jumbo Rocks, and Split Rocks on the east side of the park. Indian Cove on the north side, reached by a side road between the towns of Twenty-Nine Palms and Joshua Tree, rounds out the sectors. The directions to reach each sector and cliff by driving and hiking are concise, accurate, and have GPS coordinates for both the cliffs and parking areas that are spot on. The book’s maps are also accurate and easy to use—not an easy task in such a complicated climbing area.

Lots of Routes and Color Photo Topos

Trashcan Rock is J-Tree's most popular top-roping crag.

Bill Springer climbs an off-width crack on popular Trashcan Rock while Brian Shelton belays on the cliff-top at Joshua Tree National Park.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

The best and most popular routes in each climbing sector in the book are described with excellent color photo topos with route overlays, a written description, a suggested rack for each trad climb, and descent information. Most of the route descriptions are succinct and straight-forward—how much do you need to describe routes that are mostly one-pitch long? Gaines also describes a wide variety of climbs, including delicate slab routes, technical face climbs, top-rope routes and sectors, and a broad range of Joshua Tree’s famous crack climbs with an emphasis on easy and moderate jam cracks.

Guidebook Works Perfect for a Week of Climbing

I spent five warm March days climbing all over Joshua Tree National Park with my climbing partners Brian Shelton and Bill Springer. We relied primarily on Best Climbs Joshua Tree National Park to get around and to pick out climbs to do. We also supplemented the Best Climbs book with two other FalconGuides—Rock Climbing Joshua Tree (2nd edition: 2000) and Rock Climbing Joshua Tree West: Quail Springs to Hidden Valley Campground (2006) Both of these comprehensive guides by Randy Vogel, with 624 and 608 pages respectively, have lots more climbing sectors and cliffs if you want to explore off-the-beaten track and find new stuff. For most climbers, however, Best Climbs Joshua Tree National Park will have more than enough routes to thoroughly trash your fingertips on a week-long climbing trip.

Lots of Extra Info and Great Action Photos

You will find at the front of the book lots of extra information including a helpful climb-finder with lists for Best Crags for Toproping, Best Moderate Trade Single-Pitch Routes, Best Hard Trad Routes Single Pitch, Best Hard Multipitch, Best Sport Routes, and Best Face Climbs. There is also info on getting to Joshua Tree, park regulations, camping and other accommodations, climbing seasons, Leave No Trace, a standard J-Tree rack, and how to climb safely at the park. Lastly, the book is lavishly illustrated with lots of superb color photographs by Greg Epperson, simply one of the best climbing photographers over the last couple decades.

Two Thumbs Up! Highly Recommended

Best Climbs Joshua Tree will get you everywhere you want to go in the national park and up a lot of great climbs for several week-long J-Tree road trips.

Buy Best Climbs Joshua Tree National Park by Bob Gaines, FalconGuides, 2012.

Joshua trees are the hallmark plant of the Mojave Desert in southern California.

A joshua tree rises along the park scenic drive in Joshua Tree National Park.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green
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