Joe's Valley is one of the most gym-like areas I've ever visited. While the problems can vary widely from boulder to boulder, most share a common theme- long moves between generally positive holds on an otherwise blank sea of gorgeous sandstone. In this way, Joe's lends itself to a very dynamic style of climbing. Luckily for me, this is one of the forms of climbing that I'm least accustomed to, at least outdoors. My first week in Joe's was an abrupt adjustment, especially after my past month on the very static, precise granite of Bishop. While this gave rise to some frustrations and growing pains, I gained a deeper understanding of movement and had a great opportunity to refine and address some of my weaknesses.
My first days in Joe's were very tough and somewhat discouraging. Everything I got on felt hard and I was struggling to climb problems that should have been well within my range. Because I grew up with very crimpy, technical face climbing crimping has become my go-to grip. This was a huge aspect of my climbing that I had to evolve while in Joe's because many problems just don't center around that kind of strength. Rather, I was forced to open-hand everything and use more shoulder leverage to make moves, a skill that is not nearly as well developed. This played a massive role in deciding which problems to climb and, given my early struggles to wrap my head around the style, eventually led me to abandon chasing big numbers and instead try to get on problems that would be instructive or help me grow as a climber.
With an excellent group of people cycling through Joe's over the course of the month we managed to hit most of the classics. I was lucky to have a nearly endless stream of psych to draw from. This was particularly important because at times I definitely felt drained, either from my perceived climbing performance or just being worn down from the road. Having that support system made all the difference and because of that I was able to muster the motivation to visit and finish a wide range of problems.
On the last days of the trip I found myself on the stellar crimp line Prince of Thieves (V11). Although I had checked it out during my first days there, it was filed in my memory as a great looking climb but also one that probably wouldn't teach me very much because it played to my strengths. This was one of the factors that came into play when I returned to it, searching for a great line that I could do quickly and wrap up the trip with. Unfortunately, like everything in Joe's things didn't exactly go as planned and I ended up with a bit more than I bargained for.
My initial tries were very encouraging, having all but one of the opening moves and the top-out sussed by the end of the first session. I had been able to reach the lip that first day but wasn't able to muster the commitment to try and pull the lip. Reaching and retreating a couple times, I couldn't find more than one decent top-out hold and with only one spotter it seemed like a bad idea to keep trying. Unfortunately, the problem tops out to a 20' slab, making it difficult to sort out the top without a rappel.
Returning with a rope the next time out, I rapped in and found the holds I needed to get over the top. I had dialed in all but one move and was keen to link everything before heading out. Sadly this wouldn't be the case. I was close, but with a throbbing ring finger and weather that was only getting warmer it seemed like staying for another session wasn't in the cards. Figuring out when to call it quits is one question that I've wrestled with on each leg of the trip. It seems like there's always one more project that's almost done or one more great problem that I've wanted to get on all trip. In this case I had a hard time making that call, especially since I was right there, but ultimately no problem is worth a hand injury.
I now have another reason to return to Joe's, as if I needed more reasons. With incredibly beautiful rock, comfy skin-friendly sandstone features, and endless hillsides covered in unexplored boulders I can't stop thinking about going back when the cool temps return. Whether developing, repeating, or just hiking around you can't lose in Joe's. This place is a must.
Joe's Valley Tick List:
Resident Evil (Flash), Death Scream (Flash), Trent's Mom, Beyond Life, Nerve Extension, Fingerhut, Dunkin' Donuts, Big Joe (Direct Exit), Jitterbug Perfume.
Worm Turns, Hydrogenated Oil
Ghost of War
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